December 8, 2011

Berman v. Sherman

The NYT has an article on the upcoming House primary match between the San Fernando Valley's two incumbent Democratic Congressmen, Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) and former House Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard Berman (D-Hollywood Hills), that completely misses the main news story: Why are two lavishly funded Jewish liberals with 44 years in the House between them having to slug it out for political survival when they had reigned in side by side Valley districts since 1997?

Because of the Hispanic Electoral Tsunami, that's why. I read a half dozen articles per week about how the rising tide of Latinos will doom Republican politicians, but they are also taking districts away from white Democratic politicians, too, including full-time Friends of Israel like Berman and Sherman. But that concept would be too confusing and disturbing for NYT readers, apparently, to be fit to print.

After the 2000 Census enumerated the vast Hispanic population of the northeastern San Fernando Valley, it looked certain that either Berman or Sherman would lose his seat to a Latino. But Rep. Berman hired his brother to redistrict the entire state of California in a giant game of political Tetris. Mike Berman managed to craft two interlocking districts for Sherman and Berman in which there weren't quite enough Latinos in either to mount a serious primary challenge. Sherman got many of the middle class parts of the Valley, amenable to his regular guy retail pol routine. Berman got a hi-lo district of the Hollywood Hills and the poorest, least likely to vote Mexican parts, since Berman's idea of campaigning is a cocktail fundraiser at the Katzenbergs with Ehud Barak as special guest.

It was a brilliant solution to the Latino Threat, but all good things have to come to an end. Gov. Schwarzenegger put an initiative on the ballot handing redistricting over to a nonpartisan commission of citizens, in large part to prevent exactly this kind of insider dealing. It passed easily. After the 2010 Census, the commission said, in effect, "Hey, there are a lot of Hispanics in the northern and eastern parts of the Valley, so they should have their own Representative. And the white people who live in the Hollywood Hills and the western part of the Valley can have their own district. But, they'll have to pick between Berman and Sherman. They can't have both anymore because the Latinos get one seat."

This time, Berman (who is a very smart guy: I tried to stump him with a question when I was 16 and he just swatted me away) and his old frat brother Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) have come up with a new solution: Sherman should move to the exurbs of Ventura County and run in a district that doesn't have an incumbent, but that might go Republican in the fall. Sherman isn't biting. He likes where he lives and doesn't see why the Latino Tidal Wave should drive him to the exurbs.

Original research

Wikipedia hates style, wit, and originality, but occasionally some slips through, as in this Wikipedia article: "Recurring in-jokes in Private Eye" (which is an English satirical magazine). 

Britain combines both stricter libel laws with more hostile, scurrilous, and enterprising journalists than are typically found in America, where journalists tend to be sympathetic and responsible-minded toward the bigshots they write about. Thus, the English have more running gags, such as:
"Tired and emotional" was a phrase used to describe 1960s Labour party cabinet minister and Deputy Leader George Brown, who had a drink problem. It first appeared in Private Eye in a parody memo supposedly informing civil servants how to describe Brown's conduct and state of mind. Due to the near-impossibility of proving intoxication without forensic evidence, journalists came to use the phrase as a way of describing drunkenness without inviting libel charges.
Lord Gnome is purported to be the proprietor of the magazine, and is an amalgam of various different media magnates. Originally modelled on figures including Lord Beaverbrook and Lord Thomson of Fleet, first appearing under the name "Aristides P. Gnome" in the early 1960s, Lord Gnome has since accumulated other characteristics to encompass the likes of Rupert Murdoch. He is portrayed in the magazine as a man of great wealth, greed, unscrupulousness and vulgarity. Lord Gnome rarely writes under his own name, but issues his proclamations, editorials and threats through a fictional underling named Emmanuel Strobes, with reference frequently made to his Lordship's "assistant", Miss Rita Chevrolet. Lord Gnome, as well as being a media magnate, is regularly referred to as having other business interests, frequently mentioned in his opening letter in each issue. Special offers from "Gnomemart" frequently appear in the magazine, which also carries an occasional column called "The Curse of Gnome", chronicling the subsequent misfortunes of those who have in the past taken legal action against the publication. In 1993, during the only televised ceremony for Private Eye's Bore of the Year Awards ("the Boftys"), Lord Gnome (played by Peter Cook) made a brief appearance on a satellite hook-up from his yacht, appearing to fall overboard during the broadcast, in a parody of Robert Maxwell's death. 

In 1989, I conducted a negotiation with Robert Maxwell's firm, via his minion Jack Napier. Maxwell intervened at the last moment to try to cheat my company out of one million dollars. We told him to jump in the lake. That evening I went to see Tim Burton's Batman. Jack Nicholson's Joker character turned out to be named Jack Napier. About a year later, Maxwell fell off his yacht, just before his embezzlement of his employee's pension funds was revealed.
St Cake's School is an imaginary public school, run by Mr R.J. Kipling (BA, Leicester). ... The school's motto is Quis paget entrat (Who pays gets in), though variations on this arise from time to time, such as when the school decided to only admit the daughters of very rich Asian businessmen, and the motto became All praise to the prophet, and death to the infidel. ... 
Neasden is a Greater London suburb which is the location of various parody institutions, and is often given as the origin of fictional letters. ... Stories from the world of football are satirised in "reports" by E.I. Addio (a reference to the football chant Ee Aye Addio) about the mythical and notoriously underperforming club Neasden F.C., with quotes from its manager "tight-lipped, ashen-faced supremo Ron Knee (59)" ... Neasden nearly always lose by a huge margin, often owing to own goals scored by veteran player "Baldy" Pevsner, who often score a consolation "one boot", and in spite of the efforts of their goalkeeper, "One-legged net-minder Wally Foot". Neasden is also the setting for the regular column Neasden Police Log, a fictional log-entry style police report that almost invariably depicts the police as racist, incompetent, and obsessed with observing politically-correct rules at the expense of maintaining law and order. 
... Dave Spart was a parody of the stereotypical left-wing agitator who featured in editions of the 1970s and from time to time since (for example, after the street riots in England in 2011). Occasionally, his sister, Deidre Spart, has offered her views. 
Piers Morgan is referred to as Piers Moron, sometimes Piers "Morgan" Moron 
Capita, a long-term favourite target of Private Eye, is frequently called "Crapita" and "the world's worst outsourcing firm". 
... The Guardian newspaper is generally referred to as "the grauniad", in reference to the paper's reputation for typographical errors and mistakes and its lower-case masthead logo. ... 
The Department of Trade and Industry was often the "Department of Timidity and Inaction". ... 
The Financial Services Authority is invariably referred to as "The Fundamentally Supine Authority" in reference to its reluctance to act and its seemingly close relationship with the industry it is supposed to regulate,... 
At one point the magazine printed many letters from a reader named "Ena B Maxwell", of "Headington Hall, Oxfordshire", the real-life address of Robert Maxwell. The letters were written by the Private Eye editorial team, and the pseudonym was attached to suggest that he was writing to the magazine under an assumed identity. The letters were careful not to make any legally actionable claims, instead containing material that was impertinent or absurd in order to ridicule Maxwell. 
Mary Ann Bighead, a parody of journalist Mary Ann Sieghart, often writes columns trumpeting her own brilliance and that of her daughters Brainella and Intelligencia. 
"(Shome mishtake, shurely? Ed)" is supposedly a blue pencil by the editor, who is slurring a little after lunch. It may have allusions to the late Bill Deedes (Lord Deedes), who did slur that way. Bill Deedes, The late Lord Deedes, was also the eponymous Dear Bill that the fictional Mr Thatcher was forever writing to while his wife was in government. These articles were actually written by John Wells.

Deedes accompanied Evelyn Waugh to Ethiopia in the 1930s and was more or less the model for the hero of Scoop, Boot of The Beast. He died in 2007.
Spurious surrealism 
Towards the end of each issue, the magazine contains increasingly surreal jokes, references and parodies. Many of these have developed over time, and are thus now very familiar to long-term readers. 
The Sizzler – an alleged fried breakfast for sale at extortionate prices on any train journey mentioned. At the first mention of the Sizzler, the article in which it appeared would be sidelined into a recital of the item's deliciousness. 
... The number 94 is used as a generic large number, to indicate that something is lengthy and boring. This originated with some articles ending mid-sentence with "(continued page 94)" - a page which does not exist, as Private Eye is much shorter than that. This has since been extended to anything else involving a number, e.g. "the awards ceremony, in its 94th year", or spoof transcripts of radio broadcasts which end with "(continued 94 MHz)". 
Phil Space is a fictional journalist. He 'writes' articles mainly to fill space on the page, hence his name (and similarly Phil Pages, Phil Airtime (a radio news correspondent) and Philippa Column). The articles are rarely informative or useful and are often completely irrelevant. A supposed continental counterpart, Monsieur Phil Espace, is sometimes mentioned when the story has an international background.

I need a similar list of recurring iSteve in-jokes, acronyms, and obsessions.

December 7, 2011

How many Hispanics listen to NPR?

The ratings of National Public Radio have been doing fairly well in recent years as the huge Baby Boomer audience loses interest in music as they age. NPR likes to publish their audience demographics to attract advertisers or sponsors or whatever they call them (e.g., "NPR listeners are extraordinarily well-educated.") What NPR won't tell us in anywhere I've been able to find online is how few NPR listeners are Hispanic / Latino. This factsheet from NPR implies that 14% of NPR listeners are aren't white, with the largest minority group being blacks at 5% (blacks make up 31% of the audience for NPR jazz shows, which is nice to hear). 

So, my best guess is that the answer to the title question is: Not many.

NPR is kind of a business, kind of an identity politics totem dedicated to making America more NPRish. NPR claims to have 28 million listeners, so how many more will the next 50 million Hispanics add? Maybe a million? Now the way I tend to look at things, adding 50 million people to the country over the next couple of decades and adding only 1 million NPR listeners makes the country less NPRish. But nobody at NPR seems to see it that way. Am I missing something?

Kids These Days

John Blake writes on CNN:
Listening to black music today is depressing. Songs on today's urban radio playlists are drained of romance, tenderness and seduction. And it's not just about the rise of hardcore hip-hop or rappers who denigrate women. 
Black people gave the world Motown, Barry White and "Let's Get It On." But we don't make love songs anymore. 
I asked some of the stars who created the popular R&B classics of the late 1960s, '70s and early '80s. Their answer: The music changed because blacks lost something essential -- something that all Americans, regardless of race, should regret. 
"We had so much harmony" 
Some of what we lost, they say, was an appreciation of love itself. 
Earth Wind & Fire keyboardist and founding member Larry Dunn says a new generation of black R&B artists is more cynical because more come from broken homes and broken communities.

I'm an old codger so my views should be taken with a grain of salt, but African-American music in the 21st Century definitely seems a lot worse overall than in most decades of the 20th Century. In contrast, electric guitar rock sounds about as good as ever, it just sounds the same as ever. I hear new songs all the time that would have been classics if they had come out in 1979. 

One question is whether it's a supply side problem (as Blake, who I believe is black, suggests) or a demand side problem. The EWF old-timer's supply side suggestion makes a lot of sense: 1970s black music stars were raised during the improving era for blacks after WWII and benefited from relatively stable upbringings. (This was also an era when blacks still felt like they needed to prove things to whites, so they worked hard on their crafts to be accepted.)

But, what about demand side explanations? One change is that popular music today is usually aimed at microniches. If you like, say, sludge metal but not industrial metal, well, you don't have to put up with any of that horrible industrial metal on your iPod. You can have 100% sludge metal all the time. 

In the old days, people had fewer channels of music, so you had to put up more with stuff that wasn't exactly to your taste. Earth, Wind & Fire, for example, was a black band that aimed more at women than men and more at 20ish people than teens, but they were widely respected across many demographics. If you were looking around the car radio dial for, say, the Stones or Zeppelin but could only find EWF's September, well, you might listen to it because you didn't have too many other choices and, while it definitely wasn't crafted with you in mind, it was clearly of high quality. So, bands had incentives to be broadly appealing.

I don't listen to black radio stations because I don't like rap, but I've recently listened with some fascination to the big pop station in L.A., KIIS, the one with Ryan Seacrest as DJ. 

The biggest demographic group left today that wants to like what everybody else likes, that wants to be up on the latest fads, are teenage girls. So, mainstream pop music today reflects the tastes of just that narrow demographic. And the music industry has gotten used to catering to their desires, which in turn makes teenage girls more addicted to their urges, more in need of ever stronger doses. 

Commenter Title in Caps calls what they now want narcisso-fascism. As far as I can tell, most pop songs these days by female singers are about "I'm so sexy." Meanwhile, pop songs by male singers aimed at the teen female market are mostly about "You so sexy."

Assimilating in the wrong direction

There's a widespread assumption that assimilation cures all immigrant ailments, but that has long struck me as dubious American chest-beating. As a Los Angeleno, that New York - D.C. view never seemed a particularly good model for Mexican immigration. Lots of other cultures seem better at certain things than Americans, such as getting along with the group. Thus, it's not uncommon for American-born children of old immigrant groups to assimilate toward anti-social American norms. 

For example, the Chicano culture that was visible in L.A. by, say, 1972 after a long era of only modest immigration was largely made up of Mexicans born in East L.A. (to quote the title of Cheech Marin's funny 1980s movie), who had developed a distinctive local culture, proud, insular, and insolent. In many ways, they were highly assimilated, with an enduring affection for the teen culture of 1950s America: 1957 Chevies, doo-wop, greaser hair-dos, etc. Chicanos had both impressive accomplishments (e.g., the beautiful low-rider car) and downsides, such as a tendency to form violent gangs that were a mark of assimilation in America, of confidence compared to the beaten down peons of Mexico. The percentage of Mexican-American who made some some mark on the larger world may well have been higher back then than today after all the enormous influx from Mexico. 

Here's a summary of a new study (don't see the full paper online anywhere) on prevalence of "Conduct Disorder" (as measured by the DSM-IV) among 1) children in Mexico, 2) Mexican children born in America of parents of Mexican birth, and 3) Mexican children born in America to American-born parents. Bad conduct was worst in the kids whose parents were born in America and least prevalent among kids living in Mexico. So, in terms of conduct, we see downward assimilation.

"Conduct disorder" is one of those psychiatric catch-all categories where the symptoms describe the condition:
Children with conduct disorder tend to be impulsive, hard to control, and not concerned about the feelings of other people.
Symptoms may include:
Breaking rules without obvious reason
Cruel or aggressive behavior toward people or animals (for example: bullying, fighting, using dangerous weapons, forcing sexual activity, and stealing)
Failure to attend school (truancy -- beginning before age 13)
Heavy drinking and/or heavy illicit drug use
Intentionally setting fires
Lying to get a favor or avoid things they have to do
Running away
Vandalizing or destroying property
These children often make no effort to hide their aggressive behaviors. They may have a hard time making real friends.

Here's the summary:
The prevalence of conduct disorder (CD) appears to have increased substantially across generations of the Mexican-origin population after migration to the United States, however this increase was observed more for nonaggressive than aggressive symptoms of CD, according to a report in the December issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals. 
"Conduct disorder (CD) is defined in the DSM-IV by persistent patterns of child or adolescent behavior involving aggression or other violations of age-appropriate norms that cause significant clinical impairment," the authors write as background information in the article. "Twin studies suggest that CD is under substantial genetic influence, which is stronger for aggressive than for nonaggressive symptoms. Studies of migrating populations offer an alternative strategy for separating environmental and genetic influences on psychiatric disorders." 
To examine variation in the prevalence of CD associated with migration from Mexico to the United States, Joshua Breslau, Ph.D., Sc.D., of the RAND Corporation, Pittsburgh, and colleagues compared the prevalence of CD, different types of CD symptoms and CD symptom profiles across three generations of people of Mexican origin with increasing levels of exposure to American culture: families of origin of migrants (residing in Mexico), children of Mexican migrants raised in the United States, and Mexican-American children of U.S.-born parents. Data were collected using the same face-to-face interview with adults age 18 to 44 years in the household population of Mexico and the household population of people of Mexican decent in the United States. 
The authors found that compared with the risk in families of origin of migrants, risk of CD was lower in the general population of Mexico (Mexicans living in non-migrant households), but higher in children of Mexican-born immigrants who were raised in the United States. The highest risk of CD was found in Mexican-American children of U.S.-born parents. The authors also found that the association of CD with migration was much lower for aggressive symptoms than for nonaggressive symptoms. 
"The results suggest that there is a large difference in risk for CD between Mexicans in Mexico and people of Mexican decent in the United States. Only 2 percent of people in families of migrants met DSM-IV criteria for CM, but 11.5 percent of U.S.-born Mexican-Americans with at least one U.S.-born parent met these criteria," the authors write.

Let me point out that there are problems with using this methodology to examine nature-nurture questions. The three different groups in the study are not obviously genetically homogeneous. Recent immigrants from Mexico have tended to be more Indian than previously, while people in Mexico who stay in Mexico range from Indians completely out of touch with the modern world to the predominantly white ruling class.

Nonetheless, this study implication that nurture impacts Mexicans over the generations in America, and not always in a socially beneficial direction, seems reasonable to me.

Having traveled a modest amount in Mexico with my father when I was young, it seemed like a not badly behaved place. Mexico under the PRI was a police state, although only a small fraction of the large number of policemen were efficient and formidable. The populace was fairly cowed and meek, at least when sober. Bad driving and accidents were a major problem (presumably originating in Mexican fatalism), and petty graft was an annoyance, but outright crime wasn't a major problem for tourists. One reason was the cocaine trade bypassed Mexico back then, being routed from Colombia to Florida. Over time, the number of cops and private security with 5th grade educations carrying assault rifles increased as Mexicans wrestled the cocaine business into their hands, and the place got scarier. Thus, the weird anomaly that in our interconnected globalist yada yada, white Southern Californians don't drive to Mexico anymore the way they did in the bad old days before we all learned that "diversity" is the most sacred word in the language.

Joseph Wambaugh's book about illegal immigrants crossing the border near San Diego in the late 1970s, Lines and Shadows, confirms this impression: illegal immigrants from Mexico tended to be much more passive than Mexican-Americans. They came from a rural society where the caciques ruled and peons had no rights. The bandits who preyed on the illegally immigrating peons in the no-man's land on the American side of the border were Mexican-American gangbangers or fairly Americanized Tijuana criminals. The heroic San Diego cops who searched out gunfights with the banditos were also assimilated American-born Mexican-Americans.

In general, Americanization seems to make Mexicans less passive, more assertive, more aware of their rights. This has positive and negative implications.

December 6, 2011


I review Martin Scorsese's $170 million 3D kid's movie Hugo in Taki's Magazine:
This children’s film will impress everyone except children. ... 
Scorsese’s new movie fearlessly tackles society’s most tragic problem: celebrities who become unpopular and have to get real jobs. Deep down, aren’t you discomfited, even horrified at the thought that anybody who was once somebody might have to take non-celebrity employment someday? Victorian housemaids felt the same way about duchesses.

Read the whole thing there.

The other Pasadena

The Houston Chronicle reports on the demographic transition of the Other Pasadena, the oil refining town east of Houston that once represented the pinnacle of blue collar prosperity:
In the late 1970s, nationally renowned magazine writer Aaron Latham was captivated by a young Texan who mounted a mechanical bull in the Pasadena honky-tonk Gilley's. A few years later, Hollywood transformed Latham's report into the iconic Urban Cowboy, a film tribute to the culture of the "hard hat days and honky-tonk nights" of that era.

When I was at Rice in 1979-1980, I went to Gilley's when it was America's biggest nightclub. It was owned by country singer Mickey Gilley, who was a first cousin of 50s rocker Jerry Lee Lewis and TV preacher Jimmy Swaggart. My main memory is playing pool on the edge of the dance floor. I somehow managed to knock the cueball clear off the table. It started rolling across the world's largest dancefloor, with maybe five hundred couples on it. I scurried for maybe 50 yards after the rolling cueball trying to pick it up before some dancer fell down on it, as it accidentally got kicked around like the Indiana Jones's vial of antidote in the opening nightclub scene of Temple of Doom. I almost got punched by a few oilfield roughnecks for running into their girlfriends during my chase, and I can't say I blame them.

After that, I wasn't in the mood to ride the mechanical bull.
If Latham returned today, however, he'd have to adopt a Latin soundtrack, swap "vaquero" for "cowboy" in the movie's title and maybe even sub Antonio Banderas for John Travolta.

Funny how, after all these years, the reporter can't think of a Mexican-American movie star. (Banderas is a Spaniard.)
According to a San Antonio judicial panel - not to mention demographic studies - the Texas town that once embodied all things redneck is overwhelmingly Hispanic, a fact that no longer can be ignored in voting districts. 
Last week, two judges, with a third dissenting, adopted a voting district map that divides the city of Pasadena among several Texas House districts, all now represented by Anglo Republicans. But one district, represented by Republican Ken Legler, lost most of its Republican voters and now will be dominated by Hispanic neighborhoods. 
By all analyses, the new House District 144 now can easily be taken by a Democrat, especially if that candidate has a Spanish surname. According to political consultant Robert Jara, the new district backed former Houston Mayor Bill White over Gov. Rick Perry in the 2010 gubernatorial election by a margin of 57 percent. 
Students in the Pasadena Independent School District, he noted, are more than 80 percent Hispanic.
... "No force in the world is going to stop Houston, Texas, from becoming majority Latino," Klineberg noted. In the Houston area, over 70 percent of Anglos are over age 65 [huh?], while 75 percent of non-Anglos are under age 30. Those numbers, Klineberg says, speak to the "absolute inevitability of this transformation."

In contrast, those free enterprise-hating Vermont Democrats with their Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders don't enjoy Texas's economic dynamism. What a bunch of idiots those Vermonters are! Of course, they still get to live in their hometowns near their relatives and old friends, but that just shows how liberal they are. True conservatives know that the essence of conservatism is shattering communities and crushing ties between people and places that have grown up over the years. 

Here's a clever trick

From the NYT, an article that naively recounts a clever trick to play anytime you want to discredit the public. But you have to have deep pockets because polling agencies don't like to do this:
Perceptions of the impact of migration in some countries are so distorted that their citizens estimate that there are as many as three times the number of immigrants living there than is actually the case, a global migration body says in a report being released on Tuesday. 
In “World Migration Report for 2011,” the International Organization for Migration, a 132-member intergovernmental body based in Geneva, warns that misinformation about migration fans “harmful stereotypes, discrimination and xenophobia.”  ...

Your taxpayer dollars at work! This International Organization for Migration spent $1.4 billion dollars in 2010.
People in destination countries tended to significantly overstate the size of the migrant population, the organization said, based on polling from an annual survey, “Trans-Atlantic Trends.” 
The actual percentage of migrants in Italy in 2010 was around 7 percent, the report said, “yet polls showed that the population perceived this percentage to be around a staggering 25 percent.” 
Some surveys in the United States showed that the public believed that immigrants made up 39 percent of the population in 2010. That estimate, the report said, was “a far cry” from the actual 14 percent.

What a bunch of idiots immigration skeptics are!

Okay, seriously, this is a sure-fire ploy because on the rare occasions when public opinion polls ask questions with objective answers, the public always overestimates the share of the population comprised by the group being asked about. For example, a 2011 Gallup Poll found that the mean estimate of the homosexual share of the population was 24.6 percent. Or, as I wrote
A 2001 Gallup survey, right after the release of 2000 Census results, found that the average American estimated that 33% of the population was black and 29% were Hispanic. That adds up the two main minorities accounting for 62%, or a majority of the population, but who's counting? Not most people.
In that 2001 survey, nonwhites estimated that 40% of the population was black and 35% was Hispanic (adding up to 75%). In contrast, people claiming postgraduate degrees estimated that 25% were black and 24% Hispanic (only about double the Census numbers), which proves the value of advanced education.

Of course, another aspect of this trick that the IOM is doing is to not count children of immigrants as immigrants.

The spokesman for the 132-country governmental organization with a $1.4 billion annual budget goes on:
Meanwhile, foreign workers in Europe suffered higher unemployment in 2010 than their counterparts in the citizenry. While Spaniards suffered 18.1 percent unemployment in 2010, the rate for foreigners in Spain was 30.2 percent, the organization’s data show. In Germany, migrants were nearly twice as likely as locals to be jobless (12.4 percent versus 6.5 percent) during the summer of 2010. Europe, for its part, was the generator of new outflows, with net emigration from Ireland reaching 60,000 people at the end of 2010, after 7,800 in 2009.


Facts on Left-Handers

Lefthanded people are interesting, in part because they don't make up a strong identity politics group and thus don't benefit from legal protection. There is no Lefthanders History Month of PBS documentaries on Lefthander Pride. This is despite a stringent period of anti-lefthanded bias in the early 20th Century. Ronald Reagan, for instance, was a natural lefthander converted to writing righthanded accordign to the advanced thinking of his time. At some point, before WWII, I believe, there was something of a Lefthander's Liberation movement that reversed this pattern of oppressing natural lefties to switch, but unlike other such movements, this one has almost completely disappeared from media memory. 

Here are some facts from the WSJ on lefties:
About 10% of people are left-handed, according to expert estimates. Another 1% of the population is mixed-handed. What causes people not to favor their right hand is only partly due to genetics—even identical twins, who have 100% of the same genes, don't always share handedness.
... More important, researchers say, are environmental factors—especially stress—in the womb. Babies born to older mothers or at a lower birth weight are more likely to be lefties, for example. And mothers who were exposed to unusually high levels of stress during pregnancy are more likely to give birth to a left-handed child. A review of research, published in 2009 in the journal Neuropsychologia, estimated that about 25% of the variability in handedness is due to genetics.

Handedness is a form of human biodiversity that is only moderately heritable, which explains much about about their lack of political power as a group. Identity groups are largely constructed from relations of blood and marriage, language (e.g., signing deaf people are a strong identity group despite their problems because they have Deaf Culture, while deaf people who don't sign aren't really politically deaf), sexual relations (homosexuals), and sex.
On average there is no difference in intelligence between right-and left-handed people. But lefties do better on an element of creativity known as divergent thinking.

Six of the last 12 U.S. presidents, including Barack Obama and George H. W. Bush, have been lefties. 
Left-handed people earn on average 10% lower salaries than righties, according to a recent study. Findings of some earlier studies on income have been mixed. 
Despite popular misperceptions, lefties aren't more accident prone than right-handed people and don't tend to die at a younger age. 
Left-handedness has been linked to increased risk of certain neurodevelopmental disorders like schizophrenia and ADHD. Mixed-handedness is even more strongly associated with ADHD. 
Most people's brains have a dominant side. More symmetrical brains of mixed-handed people may explain the link to some neural disorders.

While lefties make up about 10% of the overall population, about 20% of people with schizophrenia are lefties, for example. Links between left-handedness and dyslexia, ADHD and some mood disorders have also been reported in research studies.

Recall, the standard thing nice white people always say about race -- "He just happens to be black." As George Carlin pointed out, if somebody has two black parents, "Where does the surprise part come in? I would think it would be more unusual if he just "happened to be" Scandinavian!"

But, it's much truer to say "He just happens to be lefthanded." But, because it's true, hardly anybody ever says it.

The Good Fence

As we all know from reading the Northeastern press, a fence along the Mexican border couldn't possibly restrain illegal border-crossers. It's a law of physics, or something!

For some reason, however, the laws of physics don't apply in Israel, which, over the last decade, has been industriously building fences that have proven quite successful at keeping out suicide bombers and other highly motivated would-be intruders. Now, to cut down on illegal immigration of Africans passing through Egypt, Israel is building a 5-meter tall razor wire fence on its 140-mile border with Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. The Washington Post complained yesterday about the colossal expense and waste of sending all of 1,200 National Guardsmen to protect America's border, but its recent article on Israel's latest fence is much more respectful of Israeli justifications for securing its border.

Falser words were never spoken: "It's not’s racist if it’s true”

From Wikipedia's article on the annual West Indian Day Parade and Carnival in Brooklyn on Labor Day:
In 2003, a man was fatally shot and another was stabbed in the neck.[4][5] In 2005, one man was shot and killed along the parade route. In 2006, one man was shot and another was stabbed. By the 2007 parade, there was only one report of violence, when a man was shot twice in the leg.[6][7]. In 2011 pre-dawn marches took a violent turn with the murder of one person, five instances of gunshot victims and three instances of stabbings coupled with sporadic shooting at crowds of people.

Two of the five victims this September were NYPD flatfoots who were winged by bullets. 

Not surprisingly, New York cops don't like being assigned to this wingding. A whole bunch made comments on a Facebook page devoted to protesting their having to risk their lives at the West Indian Day event, without realizing the implications of Facebook demanding your real name. The New York Times was properly aghast at what they said:
It offered a fly-on-the-wall view of officers displaying roiling emotions often hidden from the public, a copy of the posting obtained by The New York Times shows. Some of the remarks appeared to have broken Police Department rules barring officers from “discourteous or disrespectful remarks” about race or ethnicity. 
The subject was officers’ loathing of being assigned to the West Indian American Day Parade in Brooklyn, an annual multiday event that unfolds over the Labor Day weekend and has been marred by episodes of violence, including deaths of paradegoers. Those who posted comments appeared to follow Facebook’s policy requiring the use of real names, and some identified themselves as officers.

The NYT's link in the above paragraph on the routine violence among parade-goers goes not to an NYT news story, as most NYT links do, but to a Yahoo News story from the AP. Apparently, the pattern of gunplay at the parade is not news that's fit to print.

One naive soul argued on Facebook:
... “It’s not racist if it’s true,” yet another wrote.

Haven't we all learned by now that that's close to the opposite of today's dominant mindset? Today, the more you get punished for racism the more truth you tell and the more credible of a witness you are.

For example, when America's most prominent man of science said in 2007, ""[I am] inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa [because] all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours—whereas all the testing says not really," James D. Watson got Watsoned for racism precisely because that's what all the testing says and he is America's most honored scientist.

Next month's GOP frontrunner?

After Newt Gingrich's frontrunnership implodes as people get bored for the umpty-umpth time with Newt's incessant yammering, Republicans will need somebody new to fill the Anybody But Romney hot seat. Obviously, Ron Paul is unthinkable, so I've found the perfect modern Republican candidate. He's handsome, he's a successful politician, he has a Spanish-surname to appeal to the Hispanic Electoral Tsunami, and he appears to be as dumb as a box of rocks. 

Granted, he's not, technically, an American, but that kind of nativist prejudice should have no place in our forward-looking GOP. I suppose you could also object that Enrique Peña Nieto is currently busy being the favorite for president of Mexico on the former ruling party's PRI ticket, but clearly the GOP should make him an offer. You don't find a perfect fit like this everyday. From the LA Times:
The front-runner in Mexico's presidential race stumbled in a high-profile way at a world-class book festival on Saturday, when, over several minutes, he appeared unable to correctly name a book that's influenced his life, besides the Bible. 
And even then, Enrique Peña Nieto fumbled, not citing an "author" or a prophet whose biblical verse has particularly touched him. Instead, he merely made a vague reference to "some passages of it." 
He also confused the names of two well-known Mexican authors, Enrique Krauze and Carlos Fuentes, in a four-minute episode that ended with the candidate red-faced, saying, "The truth is, when I read a book I often don't fully register the titles."

He's such a synergistic fit that maybe Peña Nieto could run on both the PRI and GOP tickets simultaneously. After all, as a great man from Texico might have said, "Literary values don't stop at the Rio Grande."

Breaking News: The affirmative action President backs affirmative action

My new VDARE column considers the Obama Administration's new guidelines on racial preferences in education, which the NYT's article considers to be a radical change from the anti-affirmative action Bush policy. The Times writes that in pursuit of diversity:
“Even in addressing the same principles, the framework is practically reversed. 
“Bush guidelines: ‘Before using race, there must be a serious good faith consideration of workable race-neutral alternatives.’ 
“Obama guidelines: ‘Institutions are not required to implement race-neutral approaches if, in their judgment, the approaches would be unworkable.’”

Uh, I’m no logician, but I think those two statements mean basically the same thing in practice: Public educational institutions can use blatant racial quotas (excuse me, blatant racial goals) if more devious ways of hurting whites aren’t workable (or are unworkable).

Read the whole thing there.

December 5, 2011

Can adults pass school achievement tests?

About a half-dozen years ago, the Gates Foundation talked the L.A. school board into passing a rule that nobody could graduate from high school without passing Algebra II (as well as Algebra I and Geometry). Each year since, implementation of that edict has been delayed for a year, although, supposedly, this year's class of high school freshmen will absolutely have to pass Algebra II to avoid going through life as high school dropouts. We're Not Kidding This Time!

It's amusing to contemplate school board members trying to pass Algebra II.

Marion Brady writes in the Washington Post about a wealthy friend who is on a school board. He decided to take his district's test for 10th graders. 
“I won’t beat around the bush,” he wrote in an email. “The math section had 60 questions. I knew the answers to none of them, but managed to guess ten out of the 60 correctly. On the reading test, I got 62% . In our system, that’s a “D”, and would get me a mandatory assignment to a double block of reading instruction. 
He continued, “It seems to me something is seriously wrong. I have a bachelor of science degree, two masters degrees, and 15 credit hours toward a doctorate. 
“I help oversee an organization with 22,000 employees and a $3 billion operations and capital budget, and am able to make sense of complex data related to those responsibilities. 
“I have a wide circle of friends in various professions. Since taking the test, I’ve detailed its contents as best I can to many of them, particularly the math section, which does more than its share of shoving students in our system out of school and on to the street. Not a single one of them said that the math I described was necessary in their profession."

My view is that it's very important that our society identify and educate the kids who can handle the standard algebra-calculus-and beyond math track required to be an engineer or the like. That justifies humiliating and wasting the time of the majority who can't master the standard math track through calculus ... up to a point. But there are huge costs, out of pocket and opportunity, to trying to lead horses to the well of higher mathematics and trying to make them drink.

For one thing, there are other kinds of math, such as statistics, that some people are relatively better at. More broadly, there are lots of  people who can't learn arithmetic at the fast clip necessary to get through calculus by 12th grade. But stuff like fractions and percentages are hugely valuable in life. 

But, does anybody know of a study of what % of jobs require somebody to use Algebra II level math?

Invade the World / Invite the World in a nutshell

Today's banner headline featured as the #1 "news" story on, the company newsletter of Empire, Inc., is:

Critics target cost of Guard troops on border

(Getty Images)
President Obama’s decision last year to send 1,200 National Guard troops to U.S.-Mexico border may have been smart politics, but a growing number of skeptics say the deployment is an expensive and inefficient mission.

Ah, yes, the crushing cost of deploying 1,200 National Guardsmen to the 1,952-mile southern border. Don't you see this vast expense might endanger the Pentagon's budget for deploying over 100,000 troops in strategically crucial Afghanistan in the middle of nowhere on the other side of the world? What's more important to America? Afghanistan or Arizona? Afghanistan, obviously. Those Arizonans are racist.

Furthermore, while you immigration skeptics have been proven right that massive illegal immigration would be bad for the economy and would be cost-effective to diminish with fences and guards, the fact that you were right and we at the Washington Post were completely wrong just goes to prove that everybody should ignore you. Instead, we want America to open up the borders wide so if the economy ever recovers, then there will be another massive influx of undocumented workers just in time for the next recession. What could make more sense than that?

The Costs of Inequality: Pull from the Top or Push from the Bottom?

Economist Robert H. Frank (as Half Sigma likes to point out, there are a whole bunch of commentators named Robert Frank, so it's important to use the middle initial) writes in Slate:
Because many continue to deny that income inequality has been growing, it’s useful to start with a brief review of how income growth patterns have changed since World War II. The three decades after the war saw incomes grow at an almost uniform 3 percent annual rate for families up and down the income ladder. Since the early 1970s, however, virtually all income gains have accrued to those whose incomes were highest to begin with. 
It’s a striking fractal pattern. Most of the gains have gone to the top 20 percent of earners, but the lion’s share of the gains within that group have gone to the top 5 percent. And within the top 5 percent, most of the gains have gone to the top 1 percent, and so on.

Is this new pattern something to worry about? Many decry rising inequality because it makes those who’ve fallen behind feel impoverished. But it’s done much more than that. It has also raised the real cost to middle-income families of achieving many basic goals. 
It’s done that through a process that I’ve elsewhere called “expenditure cascades.” The process begins with the completely unremarkable fact that top earners have been spending at a substantially higher rate than before. They’ve been building bigger mansions, staging more elaborate weddings and coming-of-age parties for their kids, buying more and better of everything. 
... The important practical point is that when the rich build bigger, they shift the frame of reference that shapes the demands of the near rich, who travel in the same social circles. 
Perhaps it’s now the custom in those circles to host your daughter’s wedding reception at home rather than in a hotel or country club. So the near rich feel they too need a house with a ballroom. And when they build bigger, they shift the frame of reference for the group just below them, and so on, all the way down.  
There’s no other way to explain why the median new house built in the United States in 2007 had more than 2,300 square feet, almost 50 percent more than its counterpart in 1980.

Yes, there actually is another way to explain bigger houses. Are people being pulled by the top or pushed by the bottom? Bigger houses, especially when mandated by developers and / or zoning, are not only an attempt to get closer to the top, they are very much an attempt to get farther away from the bottom, to physically escape to neighborhoods and school districts where the bottom can't afford to live.

Neither the pull nor the push explanation is sufficient by itself, but it's obtuse of Frank to ignore the obvious complementary explanation. (There are also other, non-inequality related explanations, but I'll skip over them here.)
Certainly, it’s not because the median earners are awash in cash. (The median real wage for American men was actually lower in 2007 than in 1980.) Nor is there any other way to explain why the inflation-adjusted average cost of an American wedding had grown almost threefold during the same period.

Hint: what proportion of Americans are married in 2007 compared to 1980? Higher or lower?
Middle-income families have also been struggling to meet sharply higher tuition bills and health insurance premiums. To make ends meet, they’ve taken on substantial debt, worked longer hours, and endured longer commutes to work. In the parts of the country where inequality has grown most, we’ve seen the biggest increases in bankruptcy filings and the biggest increases in divorce rates. 
Many have been harshly critical of families that borrowed more than they could reasonably hope to repay. If they couldn’t afford larger houses and more expensive weddings for their daughters, these critics say, they should have just scaled back. But that charge ignores the importance of context in meeting basic goals. 
All parents, for example, want to send their children to the best possible schools.

I see little evidence for that assertion. It would be much truer to say most parents don't want to send their kids to the worst possible schools. Economists have long distinguished between maximizing and satisficing, and it would seem pretty clear that most parents do more of the latter when it comes to schools. For example, how many American parents apply their children to Eton or Harrow? Instead, Americans put huge efforts into getting their kids into good enough school districts, where the public schools are reasonably safe, where classes aren't bogged down by the children of illegal immigrants who don't speak English well, and so forth. Parents have criteria: e.g., If I send my daughter to this school, how likely is she to fall in love with a gangbanger?
But a good school is a relative concept. It’s one that’s better than most other schools in your area.

To some extent, true, but to a perhaps greater extent, parents try to get into a sufficiently good area and then are satisfied with sending their kids to an average or even below average school in that district. For example, I seriously considered buying the cheapest house in the cheapest neighborhood in Lake Forest and Wilmette, IL. I'm sure my kids would have been stuck in the worst neighborhood public school in Lake Forest or Wilmette, but that seemed like something we could live with. No doubt, if we had lived there, over time we would have noticed that our kids' classmates weren't the offspring of the town's creme-de-la-creme, but the urge to go deeply into debt to move from the poorest neighborhood school to a better one in Lake Forest is a lot smaller than the urge to get your kids out of Chicago public school and into a Lake Forest public school. Economists have a concept called diminishing marginal returns. Economist Frank should use it here.
In every country, the better schools are those that serve students whose families live in more expensive neighborhoods. So if a family is to achieve its goal, it must outbid similar families for a house in a neighborhood served by such a school. Failure to do so often means having to send your kids to a school with metal detectors at the front entrance and students who score in the 20th percentile in reading and math. Most families will do everything possible to avoid having to send their children to a school like that.

Exactly. And the growth in the number of billionaires has only the most distant connections with the growth in the population of students who don't read English well. Granted, some billionaires agitate for more low wage immigrants, so they deserve some political blame, but it's not billionaires' kids who are directly causing the need for metal detectors and dumbing down the public school curriculums.
But because of the logic of musical chairs, many are inevitably frustrated. No matter how aggressively everyone bids for a house in a better school district, half of all students must attend schools in the bottom half of the school quality distribution.

Sure, but how bad in an absolute sense is the bottom half of the distribution in quality of students? In Finland, not so bad. In Lake Wobegon, not so bad. In Lake Forest and Wilmette, not so bad.

In Chicago or Los Angeles, not so hot.

Now, most Americans tend to view education through the lens of diminishing marginal returns. Getting their kids out of the 20th percentile school is a high priority. Getting their kids from the 98th to the 99th percentile schools is a lower priority. The least satisficing / most maximizing behavior in education tends to be found among Tiger Mothers like Amy Chua. Professor Frank teaches at Cornell in Ithaca, NY. The Census reports that Ithaca has more Asian residents than blacks and Hispanics combined, so it's not surprising that he doesn't have a realistic view of the country as a whole.
As in the familiar stadium metaphor, all stand, hoping for a better view, only to discover that no one sees any better than if all had remained comfortably seated.

Indeed. So why cram more people without tickets into the stadium?

Parents confront similar dilemmas when deciding how much to spend on a child’s coming-of-age party or wedding. The expenditure cascades spawned by higher spending at the top in those categories have raised expectations about how one should mark important social milestones. Of course, a family always has the option to spend considerably less on such events than most of its peers do. But it can do so only by disappointing loved ones, or by courting the impression that it failed to appreciate the importance of the occasion they were celebrating.

Coming of age parties? My impression is that spending by white Catholics and Protestants on coming of age parties is not enormous. For my son's 18th birthday, we took him to dinner at The Cheesecake Factory and gave him a laptop computer to take off to college.

Further, my impression is that increases in bar/bat mitzvah spending are driven more by Jewish immigrant families from the Middle East or Russia. I can't tell you about high end entertainment industry bar mitzvahs, but in my experience, the celebrations put on by typical American-born Ashkenazi families are not disproportionate to their substantial wealth.

The big money pit in Southern California is Quinceanara parties. My wife has pointed out the strip of shops in North Hollywood that cater to the Quinceanara business. Side by side there is a dress shop, a tuxedo shop, a limousine rental outlet, a beauty parlor, a nail salon, a florist, and a bail bondsman: everything for your Quinceanara needs, other than maybe a payday loan outlet and a gun shop for all your firing into the air Pancho Villa-style needs (fortunately, the LAPD has pretty successfully cracked down on that over the last decade by shooting a few celebratory shooters to discourage the others).

As for wedding costs, one of the mechanisms driving up the average cost of weddings is the decline in the number of first weddings. As marriage becomes more of an upper-middle class phenomenon, expenditures naturally go up. Moreover, weddings are becoming a class marker -- people wish to disassociate themselves in clear terms from the non-marrying classes, and the most obvious way to publicly do that is by throwing a huge wedding. By no means is this the only explanation, but it's one of the explanations.

In Los Angeles among gentile whites, coming-of-age parties are considered kind of de classe because they are associated with Quinceanaras, while weddings are considered classy because they are common only among the upper middle class.
By creating runaway demands for credit, growing income disparities also helped spawn the housing bubble that gave us the financial crisis of 2008 ...

Indeed, but the the great bulk of foreclosures took place in neighborhoods, such as California's Inland Empire, among people who don't even know anybody who is super-rich. A classic driving force in the run-up of home prices was working class people using subprime and Alt-A mortgages to try to get their kids out of the 'hood.

The median home foreclosed in California was about 1500 square feet. Professors and journalists have a hard time grasping the scale of the various factors because they spend so much more of their time around the hugely rich than anybody else in their pay grade. They also try to avoid spending time with the 85-100 IQ working class, so they are pretty clueless.

None of this is to serve as an all-purpose defense of the billionaire class. But, for many social problems such as the poor quality of the student bodies in many public schools, you really can't blame billionaire's kids for being a big part of the problem.

The most general problem is the legitimacy granted to high-low coalitions: e.g., Angelo Mozilo announcing in 2005 that Countrywide is going to loan a trillion dollars to minorities and the poor to fight racial inequality. So, don't get persnickety with questions about whether the borrowers can pay the mortgages back, you racist, you.

This concept of billionaire-NAM coalitions simply doesn't register on the media radar yet.