June 15, 2012

Meanwhile ...

As Obama announces his amnesty by executive fiat in the U.S., in NYTimes.com today:
Can a Small Country Have a Big Heart? 
TEL AVIV – A few dozen illegal migrants from a handful of African countries were arrested by the Israeli authorities earlier this week, just as the country was getting ready to deport several thousand other illegal migrants. Government action against illegal immigration is finally noticeable; promises made a long time ago are finally being fulfilled.  A crisis has been averted — or so the government would like Israelis to believe. 
Alas, Israel’s problem with illegal immigration will not go away overnight. 
The numbers are just too high. More than 50,000 illegal African migrants live here, according to official estimates. One recent report says that southern Tel Aviv, with a population of about 100,000, is 25 percent illegal migrants. And these figures seem to be growing, according to Israel’s immigration authority. 
Many migrants come to Israel legally and overstay without a visa extension. But the real problem, which is now in the spotlight, is with the migrants who come into the country illegally through weak spots in the southern border ... 
Even when the migrants are caught at the border, they are often released into the country for a lack of better options. Israel is not well prepared for this wave of Africans. The country does not have many places to hold illegal migrants, so in most cases they are left to roam freely. 
They are, by and large, young, poor, unemployed men. They stay awake late into the night, often drinking on the streets. They make many locals – rightly or wrongly – feel insecure. These migrants have been coming for years, but only recently have Israeli citizens decided they’ve had enough. 
A couple of weeks ago, residents in southern Tel Aviv started demonstrating. Why now? That’s a good question. Why not a year ago, or half a year ago are even better ones. I don’t know. 
Some of the protests became violent and ugly, with racial overtones or outright racism. A handful of elected officials poured oil on the fire by making harsh comments, calling the migrants “a cancer,” blaming them for spreading AIDS, and worsening an already delicate situation. 
The authorities finally took action – resulting in the arrests this week. The government is now hastily striving for a coherent policy. A fence along the Egyptian border is already up, but a second fence on the Jordanian border to the east is under consideration. More deportations are in the works. And there is talk of building a tent city to accommodate those who cannot be currently deported. 
It is heartbreaking, even shocking, to see Israelis making racist comments and taking actions that smack of hate. It is also unsurprising. Israel is a small country, obsessed with the need to guard its Jewish majority. It is also too small to absorb so many poor illegal migrants. 
For the last two weeks Israelis have been debating the many complications of this problem. Questions of morality are naturally raised, coupled with considerations of the unique history of their country with its roots in immigration and persecution of the Jews. These issues have no easy solutions, and can perhaps be summed up in one question: Can a very small country have a very big heart? 
The answer, sadly, is no. Not always, anyway. Given our history, demography, current political circumstances and values, a serious effort to block illegal immigration from Africa – or any other region — is essential. It is essential if we want Israel to remain Jewish. It is essential if we want Israel to remain prosperous.
Israel can and should absorb a reasonable number of refugees, but it should not be expected to be the ultimate destination for Africans escaping poverty and war. Deportation is necessary to convince the next potential waves of migrants that coming to Israel would not be wise. 
Searches and arrests, erecting of border fences, bolstering of guard units, kicking out poor migrants – all these scenes will now become a chapter in Jewish history. Israel has no other choice. 
Shmuel Rosner, an editor and columnist based in Tel Aviv, is senior political editor for The Jewish Journal.

Obama's Amnesty

In the Daily Caller, Neil Munro explains:
Administration officials tried to head off public protest over their June 15 decision to not deport under-30 illegal immigrants by claiming that the de-facto amnesty is not a legal amnesty. 
“This is not amnesty — it is an exercise of [prosecutorial] discretion so that these young people are not in the removal system,” said President Barack Obama’s immigration deputy, Janet Napolitano, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. ...
“Effective immediately, young [foreign] people who were brought to the United States… will no longer be removed from the country,” Napolitano said in the press conference. 
... The administration’s election-year amnesty move may grow far larger than advertised, because it can be used by foreign children who are now in the country when they reach the age of 15. Younger illegal immigrants “will be able to age into the process,” said an administration official June 15. 
It may also be exploited by other immigrants who will use the existing black-market in false documents to fake suitable work histories and ages. 
The new policy may also spur additional illegal immigration by people wishing to see their children immigrate into United States’ relatively high-wage economy. ...  
The potential for campaign-trail damage was highlighted by Napolitano’s June 15 press conference.
She portrayed the amnesty as a cost-saving program, not an amnesty or a bid for Hispanic votes in 2012.
But she did not take questions from reporters. 
Instead, two administration officials answered questions from selected reporters, including from the Spanish-language TV network, Univision and from The New York Times. 
The selected reporters did not offer skeptical questions about the scale and impact of the amnesty. The reporters also did not ask about its impact on American workers, especially low-skill workers whose wages and opportunities have declined for more than a decade amid the inflow of roughly 10 million illegal immigrants.

Neil then made himself the worst person in the history of the world by jumping in toward the end of Obama's speech announcing his amnesty-by-fiat to ask how this will help American workers. A visibly miffed Obama "explained" that "These young people are going to make extraordinary contributions ..." And who could possibly argue with that?

If you are a bad, bad person, you might object that illegal immigrants and their descendants aren't blank slates, that we have many decades of experience with them, and that the evidence from a couple of generations in Southern California is they mostly make wages lower, real estate costs higher, and public schools lousier for working and middle class Americans.

In contrast, they provide almost no competition whatsoever for elite Americans. For example, no Spanish-surnamed person who spent at least some of his or her youth in the United States has earned an Academy Award nomination in any category, no matter how minor, since the 1980s. That is extraordinary. That's something like an 0 for 3000 cold streak for the largest ethnic group in Los Angeles County. The closest thing to a Mexican-American getting an Oscar nomination in this century are the Weitz Brothers, whose maternal grandmother was a silent movie star from Mexico. But their dad was a fashion designer and race car driver from Berlin.

Look, if you find that, on the whole, illegal immigrants make life worse for you and yours, that just shows you are a loser who has failed to "insulate, insulate, insulate" yourself. So, why should anybody listen to a loser like you, or to anybody who speaks up for losers and no doubt has had Loser Cooties rub off on him? If you object to this unimpeachable logic about why you have cooties, that just shows you are incapable of nuanced thought.

Morgan Freeman interviews John Hawks and Linda Gottfredson

Here's a segment of the Morgan Freeman-narrated science show Through the Wormhole on "Is There a Superior Race?" featuring John Hawks in a spiffy hat on a recent evolution, IQ expert Linda Gottfredson, and dog intelligence guru Stanley Coren.

Unsurprisingly, the part with Prof. Gottfredson of the U. of Delaware discussing racial differences in average IQ appears to have disappeared through a wormhole. You can, however, still read the subtitles to the vanished video here.

"How's He Doing?"

Here's a rare Saturday Night Live skit (from last February, running right before the 1:00 am sign-off) that's consistently funny on the question of just why blacks voters are so loyal to Barack Obama. 

I can't find who wrote this particular sketch, but most of what political balance SNL has displayed over the last 35 years displays the fingerprints of Jim Downey, an SNL writer since 1977 (with some gaps). He's the uncle of movie star Robert Downey Jr., by the way.

June 14, 2012

The Fairway Flapper

Nobody ever believes me when I point out that playing golf was considered a hugely fashionable activity for women in the 1920s. How could women have been allowed to even play sports before Title IX, much less to have been encouraged to play by countless magazine covers?

But consider F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1925 novel The Great Gatsby. The girlfriend of the narrator is Jordan Baker, a prominent lady golfer who is in the sports and society pages a lot. Fitzgerald based her on Edith Cummings, one of the Big Four debutantes in Chicago in 1914. Fitzgerald knew Cummings because he fell in love with another one of the Big Four, Ginevra King, who is the inspiration for Daisy in Gatsby.

Cummings won the 1923 Ladies Amateur and made the cover of Time Magazine in 1924. She was known as The Fairway Flapper.

Black women jocks notice Title IX is white plot

From the NYT:
Black and White Women Far From Equal Under Title IX 
... But the focus of Title IX has been gender equity, not racial equity in women’s sports. The most glaring outcome of the legislation is that white women — as athletes and administrators — have been the overwhelming beneficiaries. 
... In Harlem, there was a sense — among some, although certainly not all — that the gap was in some ways a moat designed to protect white privilege, opportunity and power. 
... She said she did not think that the inequities in sports opportunities were an accident. “These white women don’t want us to compete with them,” she said. “They want their kids to get the scholarships. They’re thinking about themselves. They give us all kinds of awards, but when it comes time to distributing the money, it’s a whole other story.”... 

Yeah, pretty much. Upper middle class white people are damn good at figuring out what's in their own children's best interests. It gives daughters something to put on college applications and the best get a few college scholarships. Notice how they keep adding women's versions of white sports like water polo. (The Olympics added women's water polo in 2000.) I'm from L.A., I've played water polo in gym class, I had friends in high school who were star water polo players, and I'm still not interested in water polo.
“But in the grand scheme of things, Caucasian girls have benefited disproportionately well, especially suburban girls and wealthy Caucasian girls.” 
According to a 2007 report by the United States Department of Education, among high school sophomores, white girls had a 51 percent participation rate in sports, compared with 40 percent for black girls. The percentages were lower for Asian/Pacific Islanders (34 percent) and Hispanics (32 percent). 
The lack of access to sports at youth levels becomes manifest at the intercollegiate level, where African-American women are underrepresented in all but two sports: Division I basketball, where black women represent 50.6 percent of athletes, and indoor and outdoor track and field, where they represent 28.2 and 27.5 percent. They are all but missing in lacrosse (2.2 percent), swimming (2.0), soccer (5.3) and softball (8.2). They are an underrepresented rising presence in volleyball (11.6).

And, of course, Hispanic females are far more underrepresented in sports than black females, but my typing fingers are becoming heavy and sleepy as I merely try to grind out a conclusion to this sentence about how virtually nobody is interested in Mexican women athletes, especially Mexican women, and furthermore zzzzzzz ...

Anyway, Title IX's emphasis on women's versions of minor sports has set the clock back a century to a time when most sports mostly consisted of affluent amateurs getting together on Daddy's dime: e.g., back when the annual Harvard v. Yale football game was the 1912 equivalent of the Super Bowl for the small number of people who cared.

And, you know, maybe that's a good thing.

June 13, 2012

"Do the Jews own anxiety?"

From the NYT: "Do the Jews Own Anxiety?" by Daniel Smith.
And yet who could dispute the fact that, when it comes to unabashed, even triumphalist declarations of collective neurosis, the Jews have had the market locked down for a long time — so much so, in fact, that they are the only ethnic group I know of that members of other ethnic groups will unabashedly declare to be suffering from collective neurosis. The relationship between the Jews and nervousness is by now so widely accepted that it barely registers. The Chosen People, at least in the American consciousness, are the very image of of anxiety.

But there is a fundamental problem here: it isn’t true. That anxiety all-star team, were it actually to be assembled, would contain at least a couple of Jews — Moses at third, say, and Franz Kafka in right — but plenty of gentiles would make the cut, too. As the self-appointed general manager I’d offer contracts to Charles Darwin, who suffered from debilitating insomnia and panic attacks; to Emily Dickinson, who “lived on Dread” and almost never left the house; to William James, who spent a decade paralyzed by uncertainty, and his sister Alice, a nervous invalid (I’d put them at second and shortstop, respectively, so they could talk to each other); and on the mound, Soren Kierkegaard, who made anxiety not only a way of life but also a central philosophical concept, declaring (with suspicious exaggeration), “The greater the anxiety the greater the man.” 
In short, the Jews don’t own anxiety and never have. So why do so many people think otherwise? 
The answer to this question, I think, is that we, the Jews, have encouraged the world to think of us as anxious. We’ve done this by propagating the figure of the Neurotic Jew — our hysterical clown. 
When you think about the personification of anxiety — think quickly, without reflection — whom do you think of? If you are anything like me, what jumps first to mind are the great fretful Jews of American fiction and film: the harmless Tevye, portly shtetl hero of “Fiddler on the Roof,” foreshadowing decades of New World pathology to come with his Talmudic indecision (“On the other hand … on the other hand … on the other hand”); Philip Roth’s Alexander Portnoy, the son of doting Newark Jews, raging to his analyst about his inability to reconcile his id and his superego, begging for help (“… it hoits, you know, there is pain involved, a little human suffering is being felt …”); the Coen brothers’ Barton Fink, a nebbish idealist with a paralyzed will, nightmarishly unnerved by the conflict between his artistic ambitions and the vulgarity of Hollywood; and of course, above all, Woody Allen, in almost any of the 40-plus movies he has appeared in.

"Woody Allen" is a highly successful character invented by Allen Konigsberg, who was captain of his high school basketball team. He was making $1,500 per week in 1954 as a TV writer while still a teenager. (Woody Allen the character is to Woody Allen the entrepreneurial entertainer as Mark Zuckerberg the character in "The Social Network" is to the Mark Zuckerberg the billionaire.)

That Woody Allen churns out a movie per year, good, bad, or indifferent, suggests that his art might benefit from less self-confidence and more nervousness. 

Actually, what distinguishes Ashkenazi angst from that of the Germans and Nordics (we English-speakers have the word "angst" from Danish theologian Soren Kierkegaard) is not greater anxiety, but greater extraversion, energy, humor, and self-confidence. As Smith implies, Woody Allen and Philip Roth don't churn out a movie or novel per year by being paralyzed by neurosis. Bernie Madoff worried less than was appropriate for his situation. 

Instead, acting out feelings of angst in a comically exaggerated fashion is, I would guess, a shtick that Yiddish-speaking or German-speaking Jews picked up from Germans and made funny. Nervousness made Germans better organized, richer, and more powerful than the more lackadaisical Slavs, so Ashkenazis imitated Germans rather than Slavs in this, as in so much else. 

Borat captures how Ashkenazis traditionally viewed Slavs as happy-go-lucky goyishe kops, but the real Slavic problem is excessive inclination toward philosophizing rather than planning. When I was staying in the Russian countryside in 2001, I ran into a situation where I desperately needed to make a call home to my wife. All the locals helpfully suggested courses of action, but each time Plan A failed, they had no interest in generating a Plan B. They saw the failure of Plan A instead as a welcome opportunity to philosophize warmly with me about the inevitable frustrations of life in this vale of tears. Finally, a visiting Dutchman came up with a Plan B that worked. 

In contrast, Sephardic Jews and Oriental Jews in Israel and America are not known for being big worriers. Persian Jews in Los Angeles, for example, don't seem to worry much about Iran getting the Bomb. They're more into planning their next family reunion in Tehran. 

I don't know how far back German worry-wartism goes, but I wouldn't be surprised if Prussians cultivated anxiety as a motivational tool in response to disorganized Germany being kicked around by the rest of Europe during the Thirty Years War. 

In general, the enormous impact of German culture on Ashkenazis is being forgotten, but it's hard to make sense of, say, Freud, Einstein, and Marx except as Herr Professors-types from a German cultural background. 

A stereotype in mid-20th Century American movies was the unworldly professor with the thick German accent, such as the chimpanzee researcher who assists Ronald Reagan in Bedtime for Bonzo: Gentile or Jewish? I couldn't tell. But definitely a product of the German world's famous universities. The last such character I can recall in an American movie is the German-accented UCLA professor of meteorology whom Howard Hughes hires in Scorsese's The Aviator to help him get his WWI airplane movie finished and becomes Hughes' scientific advisor.

In the 21st Century, there's a growing tendency to rewrite Jewish history solipsistically, with no outside contributions except persecution. It's all the Golem of Prague and the like. The problem with this is that Ashkenazi culture was self-constricted and claustrophobic until Moses Mendelssohn and a few friends noticed in the later 1700s that the Germans weren't as poor and backwards anymore as Jews traditionally assumed, and thus launched Reform Judaism and the Jewish Enlightenment in imitation of the Enlightenment.


Wisconsin has long been an interesting state, fairly rural but with a high-proportion of well-run family farms. It's usually been an example of D.P. Moynihan's Close to the Canadian Border effect (except for its blacks, who appear to have been largely recruited from the South by the generous European-style social benefits offered post WWII). 

A reader tries to make sense of recent voting changes on a county by county level, using the evenly split 2004 Presidential election as a baseline:
[1] that among conservative Catholics there has been a distinct upswing in favor of the Republicans and [2] that among lax Catholics there has been an equally distinct, albeit not so pronounced upward swing. Specifically, in the 2010 governorship race, conservative 'over-voted' their 2004 baseline numbers by an average of 3.5%. In the 2012 recall election, they 'over-voted' the 2004 baseline by almost 14%. Among lax Catholics the 2010 'over-vote' was about 3%, whereas in the 2012 recall it was almost 8%. 
I suspect that the 2010 shift in favor of the Republican side was, to at least some extent, a referendum on the Obama Administration's economic performance. I further suspect that--again, to at least some extent--that the significant upward swing in 2012 reflects anger with the ham-handed behavior of the Administration in regard to the medical insurance mandate relating to abortifacients. If my data reflect reality and if my interpretation of these data is anywhere near accurate, I believe that Mitt Romney has an reasonable chance to carry Wisconsin in November.

Managing a Coalition of the Diverse is always going to be a challenge, especially if the opposition tries Divide and Conquer techniques on them.

June 12, 2012

Mel Gibson and Lars von Trier

My new Taki's Magazine column covers a lot of ground:
You probably haven’t heard of Get the Gringo, a recent Lethal Weapon-like action movie starring Mel Gibson and directed by his right-hand man Adrian Grunberg. Mad Mel plays Driver, an American criminal who makes a run for the border, only to wind up in one of those Beyond Thunderdome-like Mexican prisons where anything (except freedom) can be had for a price. 
You can watch the first eight minutes of Get the Gringo online here; it looks fun. So far, 9,949 reviewers on IMDb.com have given it a mean rating of 7.4 out of 10, which equates to “not great, but quite good.”  
Although Get the Gringo debuted on March 15, 2012 in Israel, there are no plans to ever let it enjoy a theatrical run here in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Read the whole thing there.

Jeb Bush's conflict of interest on immigration

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush has been getting a lot of the usual Strange New Respect recently for his calls for the GOP to moderate, especially on immigration. Ross Douthat does a good job of puncturing Jeb's conventional wisdom in "The Great Immigration Reform Mirage."

I'm struck though that almost nobody has mentioned something that ought to be completely obvious about why Jeb Bush isn't an unbiased observer on the subject of immigration: Jeb's handsome son, George P. Bush, long designated within the Bush clan as the most likely third Bush President (George W. called his father "41" and George P. "44"), is half-Mexican. It's in Jeb's interest to increase the Mexican share of the vote so as to make his son a more plausible GOP nominee.

I sort of feel for Jeb, who had his shot at the presidency wrecked by his jag-off older brother, and I suppose it would be consolation for him to have his son be made President by having the government elect a new people. 

Still, I'm struck by how these facts about the Bush Dynasty seem too interesting to be of interest to the press.

"Obama’s early Chicago rise brought African-Americans foreclosures, bankruptcies"

A few weeks ago I posted the analysis by Robert Fitch, an old white power-to-the-proles lefty, of Obama's role in Chicago's real estate wars.

Now in the Daily Caller, Neil Munro has a long article shedding light on President Obama's role in Chicago's real estate disaster, using as a focal point the one case in which Obama ever spoke up in court (according to a 2008 Chicago Sun-Times article), a disparate impact discrimination lawsuit against Citibank to get more mortgages for minorities.
President Barack Obama wants his 2012 re-election campaign to focus on Gov. Mitt Romney’s private-sector record, but his own private-sector history shows that he promoted and profited from the nation’s disastrous real-estate bubble. 
One striking example comes from the president’s 1995 housing-discrimination class action lawsuit: It provided him with legal fees, greased his political donations and boosted his role in Chicago politics. 
While he made personal gains, his lead African-American client, Selma Buycks-Roberson, declared bankruptcy in 2001 — and again in 2008 as she received a home foreclosure notice, according to unpublicized federal and city records obtained by The Daily Caller.

Read the whole thing there.

"Liberation as Death Sentence"

In the NYT, Jennifer Schuessler, who might be a closet crimethinker, writes about historian Jim Downs' new book on the huge death-by-disease toll that Emancipation took upon freed slaves:
To understand the [Civil] war’s scale and impact truly, Professor Downs argues, historians have to look beyond military casualties and consider the public health crisis that faced the newly liberated slaves, who sickened and died in huge numbers in the years following Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. 
“We’re getting ready to celebrate 150 years of the movement from slavery to freedom,” he said in a recent interview at a cafe near his apartment in Chelsea. “But hundreds of thousands of people did not survive that movement.” 
“Sick From Freedom,” at 178 pages (not counting 56 pages of tightly argued footnotes), may seem like a bantamweight in a field crowded with doorstops. But it’s already being greeted as an important challenge to our understanding of an event that scholars and laypeople alike have preferred to see as an uplifting story of newly liberated people vigorously claiming their long-denied rights. ...
Professor Downs, 39, is part of a wave of scholars who are sketching out a new, darker history of emancipation, Professor Blight said, one that recognizes it as a moral watershed while acknowledging its often devastating immediate impact. And the statistics offered in “Sick from Freedom” are certainly sobering, if necessarily tentative. 
At least one quarter of the four million former slaves got sick or died between 1862 and 1870, Professor Downs writes, including at least 60,000 (the actual number is probably two or three times higher, he argues) who perished in a smallpox epidemic that began in Washington and spread through the South as former slaves traveled in search of work — an epidemic that Professor Downs says he is the first to reconstruct as a national event. 
Historians of the Civil War have long acknowledged that two-thirds of all military casualties came from disease rather than heroic battle. But they have been more reluctant to dwell on the high number of newly emancipated slaves that fell prey to disease, dismissing earlier accounts as propaganda generated by racist 19th-century doctors and early-20th-century scholars bent on arguing that blacks were biologically inferior and unsuited to full political rights. 
Instead, historians who came of age during the civil rights movement emphasized ways in which the former slaves asserted their agency, playing as important a role in their own liberation as Lincoln or the Union army. 
“For so long, people were afraid to talk about freed people’s health,” Professor Downs said. “They wanted to talk about agency. But if you have smallpox, you don’t have agency. You can’t even get out of bed.” 
As he developed the topic into his dissertation, Professor Downs recalls sparring with his adviser, Eric Foner, the author of the classic book “Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Business, 1863-1877.” 
“He would joke: ‘Look in my index. You don’t even see smallpox,’ ” Professor Downs said. 
... He is also not shy about drawing out his work’s contemporary relevance. His dissertation included an epilogue about AIDS, another epidemic, he said, that broke out shortly after a moment of liberation (in this case of gay people), was blamed on the victims and was largely ignored by the federal government. (He dropped the point from the book, which instead ends with an epilogue showing how policies developed in the post-Civil War South were exported to the Western frontier, with similarly devastating health consequences for American Indians.)

"He dropped the point from the book ..." Good thinking. Maybe in another century historians will be ready to acknowledge gay liberation's role in causing the American AIDS crisis. But, not yet, not yet ...

14th Annual White Privilege Conference

I got an email invitation from WhitePrivilegeConference.com. Here's some of the website:

14th Annual White Privilege Conference

The Color of Money:
Reclaiming Our Humanity

April 10-13, 2013

Seattle, WA


Heidi Beirich
Director of Research, Southern Poverty Law Center
The Rising Tide of Hate in America

Professor Kimberle Williams Crenshaw/AAPF
Professor of Law at UCLA and Columbia Law School
Meeting the Challenge: Thinking Intersectionality in the Age of Post-Racialism

Jane K. Fernandes
University of North Carolina at Asheville
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs
White Privilege and Power in the Deaf Community

Mary Romero
Professor and Faculty Head of Justice Studies and Social Inquiry at Arizona State University
Revealing Intersectionality: Privilege and Power in the Immigration Discourses and Law Enforcement

Charlene Teters
National Coalition on Racism in Sports and the Media
Chair, Studio Art Dept. Institute of American Indian Arts
Perceptions and Portrayals: The Education of Charlene Teters


3rd Annual Presidential Luminaria Awards and Diversity Celebration Dinner
featuring keynote
Wednesday, March 28th

Dear White Privilege Conference: 

Thanks so much for the invitation. I get in free, right? Because I'm, you know, white. Also, seeing as how I'm white, don't forget to send the Official White Privilege limo for me. The driver can scan my White Privilege Card, so that will take of the paperwork. 

Best wishes,

David Brooks on why can't we get an Ike memorial built

David Brooks writes:
The monuments that get built these days are mostly duds. That’s because they say nothing about just authority. The World War II memorial is a nullity. It tells you nothing about the war or why American power was mobilized to fight it. 
As Michael J. Lewis of Williams College has noted, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial transforms a jaunty cavalier into a “differently abled and rather prim nonsmoker.” Instead of a crafty wielder of supreme power, Roosevelt is a kindly grandpa you would want to put your arm around for a vacation photo. 
Frank Gehry's CAD proposal for the Eisenhower Memorial
The proposed Eisenhower memorial shifts attention from his moments of power to his moments of innocent boyhood. The design has been widely criticized, and last week the commission in charge agreed to push back the approval hearing until September.  ...
Why can’t today’s memorial designers think straight about just authority? 
Some of the reasons are well-known. We live in a culture that finds it easier to assign moral status to victims of power than to those who wield power. Most of the stories we tell ourselves are about victims who have endured oppression, racism and cruelty. 
Then there is our fervent devotion to equality, to the notion that all people are equal and deserve equal recognition and respect. It’s hard in this frame of mind to define and celebrate greatness, to hold up others who are immeasurably superior to ourselves. ...
But the main problem is our inability to think properly about how power should be used to bind and build. ... The old adversary culture of the intellectuals has turned into a mass adversarial cynicism.  

Let me suggest a simpler explanation: our culture has a problem less with authority than with acknowledging the contributions of white male authorities to our history. Dwight Eisenhnower is the epitome of the competent white male authority figure who got a lot of stuff done. He didn't even suffer in combat or from childhood sexual abuse or whatever, so nobody is interested in him these days. So, Frank Gehry has to emphasize that he was an underprivileged farm boy. It's pretty thin gruel for the Age of Oprah, but you have to work with what you've got.
In contrast, the recently unveiled Martin Luther King Jr. statue on the National Mall exhibits no cynicism about black authority whatsoever. The artistic conception would have appealed to Ozymandias.

Brooks, who isn't stupid, knows that the existence of the new MLK-as-Mike Tyson statue undermines his point, so he tries to hand wave it away:
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. memorial brutally simplifies its subject’s nuanced and biblical understanding of power. It gives him an imperious and self-enclosed character completely out of keeping with his complex nature.

Occam's Razor would suggest, however, that the dominant opinion could be reduced to 

White male authority bad
Black authority good

Whitifyingest Census Tracts

Michael J. Petrilli at the Fordham Institute has a list of Census tracts where the white share of the residents grew the most in percentage point terms from 2000 to 2010. Unfortunately, the population was under 1,000 in some tracts, so ignore the first (Columbia, SC), third (Chicago's Loop), fourth (Roanoke, VA), and eighth (Dallas). But the rest have decent sample sizes.

The diverse aren't interested in diversity

Here's a recent Nielsen ratings for the most popular cable network (not broadcast networks like CBS) shows among blacks. It's not too diverse, except for Keeping Up with the Kardashians, where the sisters keep marrying NBA players of varying degrees of blackness, and pro wrestling, which is quite integrated.

Top 25 Cable Shows in Black Households

   Rank | Program | Network | AA Rating | AA Share | Viewers 2+

I can't find a similar list for white households. The industry seems to report breakouts of data as Everybody, blacks, and Hispanics.

Elinor Ostrom, RIP: Averting the tragedy of the commons

Political scientist Elinor Ostrom has died. In 2009, she became the first woman winner in the four decades of the Economics quasi-Nobel Prize. She worked on the question of the various ways people arrange to avoid "the tragedy of the commons" of over-exploitation of common resources, such as fisheries.

Jared Diamond notes that there are three possible solutions to what Garrett Hardin called "the tragedy of the commons," or the tendency for individuals to over-consume resources and under-invest in responsibilities held in common, leading to ecological collapse.

Government diktat.

Privatization and property rights -- but that's often impractical with some resources, such as ocean fish.

Diamond writes: "The remaining solution to the tragedy of the commons is for the consumers to recognize their common interests and to design, obey, and enforce prudent harvesting quotas themselves. That is likely to happen only if a whole series of conditions is met: the consumers form a homogeneous group; they have learned to trust and communicate with each other; they expect to share a common future and to pass on the resource to their heirs; they are capable of and permitted to organize and police themselves; and the boundaries of the resource and of its pool of consumers are well defined." 

A classic supporting case that that Diamond doesn't bring up: American shrimp fishermen in Texas were universally denounced as racists in the late 1970s when they resisted the government's efforts to encourage Vietnamese refugees to become shrimpers in their waters. French director Louis Malle made a movie, Alamo Bay, denouncing ugly Americans fighting hardworking immigrants.

What got lost in all the tsk-tsking is that fishing communities always resist newcomers, especially hardworking ones, because of the sizable chance that the outsiders who don't know the local rules or don't care about them will ruin the ecological balance and wipe out the stocks of fish.

The evidence Diamond assembles indicates, although of course he never dares to state it bluntly, that the fundamental requirement for dealing effectively with environmental danger is: start with a population that's limited in number, cohesive, educated, and affluent.

A quick Google search finds Nobel Laureate Ostrom also cautiously expressing Doubts About Diversity in her book The Drama of the Commons.
... Alesina et al. (1999) find that ethnic diversity is associated with lower public goods funding across the U.S. municipalities because different ethnic groups have different preferences over the type of public good ... In the kind of rural societies considered in this chapter ... the effectiveness of social sanctions weakens as they cross ethnic reference groups. In this vein, Miguel (2000) constructs a theoretical model where the defining characteristics of ethnic groups are the ability to impose social sanctions within the community against deviant individuals and the ability to coordinate on efficient equilibria in settings of multiple equilibria. With data from the activities of primary school committees in rural western Kenya, Miguel then shows that higher levels of ethnic diversity are associated with significantly lower parent participation in parent meetings, worse attendance at school committee meetings, and sharply lower teacher attendance and motivation. 
If social groups (not solely ethnic groups) are defined as those whose boundaries coincide with the effective monitoring and enforcement of shared social norms ... this is one way of understanding the notion cited earlier of cultural homogeneity, a variant of what many authors have called social capital or social cohesion. ... Irrigation organizations that cross village boundaries can rely less on social sanctions and norms to enforce cooperative behavior ...

There are basically two ways to get people to play nice with a common resource such as shrimp or irrigation water: violence or ostracism. The latter works most effectively regarding marriage -- if you don't play by the rules, nobody respectable will let your kid marry his daughter. But when newcomers who don't ever want their children to marry your children arrive and start exploiting your irrigation system or fishery (or whatever), then the old non-violent traditions break down, and people start turning to violence or its threat, whether anarchic or government-based (e.g., socialism and property rights are based on the threat of the government's monopoly on violence). 

June 11, 2012


In a discussion at Grantland with sportswriter Bill Simmons, Malcolm Gladwell explains it all:
GLADWELL: ... How many people do elite professions miss? I think we assume that the talent-finding in the top occupations is pretty efficient. But what always strikes me is the amount of evidence in the opposite direction. There are huge numbers of people who clearly could play pro sports, but don't want to. (Kingston.) And an even greater number who could, but can't. America has one of the highest incarceration rates in recorded history, for example. (We have six times more people behind bars, on a per capita basis, than Europe does.) That works out to about 2 million people — the majority of whom are young men, and a disproportionate share of those young men are young black men. Surely there must be hundreds — if not thousands — of potential professional athletes in that number, not to mention scientists or entrepreneurs or poets. I'm sure you saw that great piece by Jonathan Abrams in Grantland this week where he quotes Stephen Jackson on growing up in Port Arthur, Texas: "There's been a million basketball players to come out of there and I'm the second one to make it to the NBA." 
SIMMONS: An organic Grantland plug! Nice! 
GLADWELL: And then there is my favorite moment in Michael Lewis's The Blind Side, when Michael Oher says that if everyone from his old neighborhood in inner-city Memphis who could play football got the chance to play professional football, they'd need two NFLs. What he was saying is that the efficiency rate of the football talent-search system in Memphis was less than 50 percent. This is the most popular and most lucrative sport in the United States — and Oher is saying that based on his experience we leave half of the available talent on the table. That's unbelievable!

"A million dollar arm and a five-cent brain" is not a novel insight. 

It's kind of hard to get to the pros if you are headed for prison. Granted, it can be done, but it takes a lot of booster elbow grease (see Tom Wolfe's A Man in Full).

Actually, as I've suggested before, it would be interesting to get data on the height of prison inmates (mug shots are often taken standing in front of height markings) to see if tall black men are underrepresented in prisons because of the advantages they get from being sports prospects. 

On the other hand, it would also be interesting to estimate what percentage of the NBA and the NFL really deserve to be in prison.
SIMMONS: It's a little different than Canada — where they somehow utilize 147.3 percent of the available hockey talent. 
GLADWELL: Exactly right. Not to mention the Kenyans in distance running, and the Dutch in soccer, and the Jamaicans in sprinting. It's the flip side of the same point. In theory, big countries should dominate all sports because they have the biggest talent pool. But they don't, because societies squander their talent. If you are a tiny country you can hold your own against someone 10 times your size just by being slightly more efficient in finding and developing the Battiers and Kingstons of the world.

Because talent-finding and developing in Kenya is so sophisticated. For decades, it mostly involved Brother Colm O'Connell of St. Patrick's High School in Iten having the lads run around while he fended off interviewers wanting to know his secret.
GLADWELL: ... If our talent spotting in basketball and football is so lousy — and those are two areas about which, arguably, we care more in this country than almost anything else — how lousy must it be in journalism? You and I owe our livelihoods to the fact that this country doesn't have its act together.


"It All Comes Down to Race"

From Slate:
It All Comes Down to Race 
Your opinions on health care reform, taxes, and even the president’s dog come down to racial bias. 
By Sasha Issenberg|Posted Friday, June 1, 2012, at 11:03 AM ET 
The wishful scenario many Republicans envisioned after Barack Obama’s change of heart this month on gay marriage—the president’s African-American base, far less supportive of expanding marriage than other parts of his coalition, becomes demobilized or even defects as a result of Obama’s stance—already seems unlikely to be realized. Last Thursday, Public Policy Polling revealed a 36-point swing in black support for gay marriage among Maryland voters, who will have the chance to legalize the practice in a November referendum, since PPP’s last poll on the subject in March. Then, 56 percent had been opposed to the new marriage law and 39 percent supported it. In May, PPP found the numbers nearly reversed: 55 percent supported, and 36 opposed. By all indications, black voters weren’t abandoning Obama over an issue on which they disagreed, but adjusting their opinions to match his. ...
If Tesler was surprised by this, it was only because he believed views on gay marriage would be some of the most stable in politics, deeply anchored in moral values. Since 2009, Tesler has been chronicling what he calls the “racialization” of issues in the Obama era—the extent to which public opinion on topics unrelated to race have taken on a racial cast as Obama has staked out positions on them. Tesler has used polling experiments to identify a series of issues that have become enmeshed in complicated racial attitudes by dint of Obama’s association with them: health care reform, taxes, the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court.
... Tesler’s body of research suggests that instead of delivering what many suggested would be a post-racial presidency, Obama will have polarized corners of American politics previously untouched by race. Not only have racial considerations affected whether voters will support Obama, but they are beginning to renovate the entire architecture of public opinion. 
Tesler’s mentor, UCLA psychologist David Sears, introduced the idea that it did not take policies with overtly racial content—like the Civil Rights Act or affirmative action—for racial attitudes to spill over into political views. In 1987, Sears, along with Jack Citrin and Rick Kosterman, published a chapter in the book Blacks in Southern Politics arguing that the mere fact of Jesse Jackson’s presidential candidacy three years earlier (the first competitive one waged by an African-American) had accelerated the polarization of southern politics. Using National Election Study survey data, Sears demonstrated that Southern whites who harbored racial animus (as measured by their evaluations of blacks and views on welfare and school busing) thought less of the Democratic Party after Jackson ran for president. Race was still shaping their views of the contest between two white men, Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale.

And, why shouldn't Jackson's demonstration in the 1984 primaries of the appeal of his kind of racial spoils system to a large fraction of Democrats impact voters' decisions in the 1984 General Election about which party should be in charge of the spoils?
By the time Obama announced his candidacy two decades later, the country appeared to have changed. The overtly racial issues like affirmative action and busing had largely receded from political debates, and what Tesler and Sears called “old-fashioned racism” of the Jim Crow era had all but disappeared from public life. Yet when Tesler and Sears looked at poll data from 2008, they found what much anecdotal reporting from that campaign had suggested: people’s decisions to vote for Obama were linked to their posture on race. Tesler measured this through a “racial-resentment battery” of questions he could add to any political survey—asking respondents if blacks suffered discrimination and whether the country has gone too far pushing for equal rights.

Of course, this is just a one way survey of whites' skepticism toward blacks -- when blacks express racial resentment they are marked as being low on racial resentment. It's Who? Whom? all the way down...
In the past, black candidates had been elected to lesser posts, especially big-city mayoralties, and had seen racially motivated resistance soften over the course of their time in office. Racial animus had been significant predictors of opposition when these candidates first sought office, but as voters saw pioneers like Los Angeles’s Tom Bradley fulfilling their executive duties, they appeared to replace their race-based expectations with personalized judgments rooted in a politician’s performance.

In cases, such as Tom Bradley in L.A., where the black mayor did his fulfill his duties in a racially fair manner. Bradley, first elected in 1973, went on to win four more terms.

In contrast, in cases where the black mayors ruled like racial chieftains, such as Coleman Young in Detroit, whites fled. Or, in the case of Marion Barry in D.C., got the feds to stage a municipal coup. Or, whites regrouped and stopped electing Democrats, as in the last five mayoral elections in New York City.

In general, the poor performance of black mayors, and, especially, black voters in choosing Marion Barrys (who was re-elected mayor after he got out of jail) has hurt the black brand. How many black governors and U.S. Senators are there at present?
Eight months after the inauguration, Tesler stumbled upon a serendipitous opportunity to see how those racial attitudes were affecting other issues on Obama’s docket. In August 2009, CNN conducted a poll about Sonia Sotomayor’s pending Supreme Court nomination, curiously splitting their sample between two different ways of wording the question. One version mentioned that she had been nominated by Obama, and one didn’t make reference to the president at all. By chance, because the Skip Gates “beer summit” was in the news, in the same survey CNN also asked how common police discrimination was against African-Americans. A respondent’s views on discrimination (on a spectrum of “very common” to “very rare”) was three times more influential on his support for Sotomayor among those who heard Obama’s name compared to those who didn’t.

Politics is about Whose Side Are You On? Supreme Court nominees clam up tight about how they'll vote on issues, so the main ways to assess them are either a deeply technical analyses of their writings or an analysis of who nominated them. The farcical Beer Summit incident was an unscripted look into Obama's basic affiliation: to rich black people, like Henry Louis Gates.
Tesler started looking for “issues that people don’t have strong feelings about, and issues that weren’t already folded into the current partisan alignment,” as he put it. Obama started feeding plenty of them—the stimulus, health care reform, cap-and-trade, all relatively new issues without firmly established loyalties. Tesler began working with the polling outfit YouGov to match how voters’ changing views on them matched up to their answers to the racial-resentment questions. He found a “spillover of racialization” into health care reform: Voters who heard descriptions of the contrasting components of the 1993 Clinton and 2009 Obama proposals were more likely to grow disapproving of Obama’s when they heard the presidents’ names—as long as they demonstrated racial resentment elsewhere in the survey.

The problem here is that whites are the only bloc that aren't allowed to be represented like other blocs, so they are vulnerable to highjacking by well-funded special interests claiming to represent anti-racial ideological principles.

For example, the events of 2009 showed that white voters care a lot about preserving Medicare. Whites tend to be getting on in years, they've paid a lot of Medicare taxes over the decades, and they want the bargain to be upheld when it's their turn to receive.

But, you aren't allowed to discuss what's in the interests of white people, so the Republicans like Paul Ryan go around arguing for big cuts in Medicare. What would Ayn Rand do?