December 15, 2012

Women's media

Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds has a suggestion in the New York Post on what rich Republican donors can do with their money:
In her 2004 book, “Spin Sisters: How the Women of The Media Sell Unhappiness — and Liberalism — to the Women of America,” Myrna Blyth (a former Ladies Home Journal editor) explained in considerable detail the variety of “Mean Girls” feminism that the women’s media aim at their readers with every issue. 
The message: There’s one way that women should think; people who don’t think that way are bad and stupid — and if you think the wrong way, women won’t like you. 
For $150 million, you could buy or start a lot of women’s Web sites. And I’d hardly change a thing in the formula. The nine articles on sex, shopping and exercise could stay the same. The 10th would just be the reverse of what’s there now. 
For the pro-Republican stuff, well, just visit the “Real Mitt Romney” page at, or look up the time Mitt Romney rescued a 14-year-old kidnap victim, to see the kind of feel-good stories that could have been running. For the others, well, it would run articles on whether Bill Clinton should get a pass on his affairs, whether it’s right that the Obama White House pays women less than men, and reports on how the tax system punishes women. 
This stuff writes itself, probably more easily than the Spin Sisters’ pabulum. And opening up a major beachhead in this section of the media is probably a lot cheaper than challenging major newspapers and TV networks head on. 
The only losers will be the political consultants who ate up so much of the GOP’s cash this time around.

Not a bad idea, although a problem that is growing for the Right is that the Left is getting really good at policing advertisers, and the Internet gives a big edge to advertising-supported media over subscription-supported media. Women's publications are particularly advertiser-supported because women spend more money than men do (because men give more money to women to spend than women give to men).

I haven't looked at a paper copy of The Nation magazine recently, but the last time I did, it was crammed with ads. People on the Right tend to sympathize with advertisers, like the idea that "It's just business" and that there should be depoliticized areas of life, so they wouldn't dream of organizing a boycott of, say, Sears (the banner pops up when I went to for advertising on The Nation. 

People on the Left, in contrast, like getting worked up in a moral dudgeon and demanding that advertisers not advertise on the Right. This leads to the few ads on Right sites being pretty non-mainstream, which makes it look like conservatives are non-mainstream fringe folks, which makes them less appealing to mainstream non-fringe folks, whereas, obviously, The Nation is totally mainstream and non-fringe -- I mean, Sears advertises on it!

December 14, 2012

Myers-Briggs: Sensing v. Intuition

The Myers-Briggs personality test is popular with Human Resources departments in the U.S. Extrapolated from the thinking of Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung, everybody gets lumped into one of 16 personalities based on four dichotomies:
Extraversion (E) –(I) Introversion
Sensing (S) –(N) Intuition
Thinking (T) –(F) Feeling
Judging (J) –(P) Perception
I never really got the Sensing v. Intuition dichotomy, but now I've finally understood why. Here's Wikipedia's explanation:
Sensing and intuition are the information-gathering (perceiving) functions. They describe how new information is understood and interpreted. Individuals who prefer sensing are more likely to trust information that is in the present, tangible, and concrete: that is, information that can be understood by the five senses. They tend to distrust hunches, which seem to come "out of nowhere".[1]:2 They prefer to look for details and facts. For them, the meaning is in the data. On the other hand, those who prefer intuition tend to trust information that is more abstract or theoretical, that can be associated with other information (either remembered or discovered by seeking a wider context or pattern). They may be more interested in future possibilities. For them, the meaning is in the underlying theory and principles which are manifested in the data.

It finally occurs to me that I couldn't grasp this distinction before because I like all that stuff: tangible information, hunches, theories, details, facts, abstractions, wider contexts, pattern recognition, analogies, intuition ... it's all good.

But, that's also why I drive a lot of people into rages. They are at one end or the other of this scale, and they like being wherever they are. Somebody at the opposite end of the scale isn't really relevant to them. But I like both ends and flipping back and forth.

Jung tended to see hunches in rather mysty, murky terms: archetypes, collective unconscious, synchronicity, and so forth: a lattice of coincidence. I tend to see my hunches as just facts I have known but have semi-forgotten or facts I've only semi-learned. Jung didn't have Google and Wikipedia to look things up, but I do, so why not use everything at my disposal?

Anyway, even though Myers-Briggs is probably not an ideal framework, most frameworks do have uses.

Personality testing: Myers-Briggs v. Big 5

The Washington Post has a fascinating article by Lillian Cunningham on the popular and lucrative Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality test that is widely used by employers but is ignored by academics:
It is a classic chicken-and-egg problem: No major journal has published on it, therefore no elite academic will support it, therefore no major journal will publish on it. 
But there are concrete reasons it was not welcomed in the first place. 
“Carl Jung was a pioneer in terms of really creative and novel theory and ideas, but a lot of his work was done before psychology was an empirical science,” says Grant, the Wharton psychology professor. And the 16 Myers-Briggs personality types, remember, are even a step removed from that — they are an interpretation and recasting of Jung’s theory. Even more compromising, according to Grant, is the fact that Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Myers created the framework in their living room before doing any robust scientific research, rather than the other way around. 
The research that most psychologists today hold up as the best attempt to derive personality types from empirical data is called the Five Factor theory, which emerged from several large-scale independent projects that, conducted over decades, pointed to the same broad set of conclusions. The studies found five core axes that underpin personality, versus the MBTI’s four. They are represented by the acronym OCEAN: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. Of the five, only extroversion closely maps with Myers-Briggs. 
Yet the Five Factor theory has a small commercial problem. 
“There’s no individual or group who owns it,” Grant says. “It’s something that’s collectively owned by the academic community.” That means it’s harder to copyright and package. 
There’s another problem: Not all the personality traits delineated by the Five Factor theory are positive. One of the traits in this framework is neuroticism, for example, which has undeniably negative associations.
One of the major selling points of Myers-Briggs is that it is unequivocally positive. No personality type in its framework is better or worse than any other; each is billed as having unique and constructive strengths. 
This rubric has massive marketing appeal for organizations, especially given that much of the literature and language around talent development in the past few decades has taken a decidedly soft approach. Words like passion, motivation and collaboration have rooted themselves in the corporate lexicon, and they have been part of a larger wave of management theory that has turned its focus to motivating and eliciting best behavior. 
“There’s been a huge wave in positive psychology. It’s been remarkably refreshing,” Thoresen says. “But it’s controversial, and it makes many psychologists nervous because it’s not in their bailiwick.” 
Use of psychological assessments in organizations really picked up in the late 20th century, alongside a growing trend in seeing talent management as a core component of a company’s competitive advantage. Myers-Briggs became one of its first and shiniest symbols. An organization that used the test showed that it recognized people, and their diversity of background and thought, as one of its biggest assets. 
“To raise questions about [Myers-Briggs’s] reliability and validity is like commenting on the tastiness of communion wine. Or how good a yarmulke is at protecting your head,” says Brian Little, a former psychology professor at Harvard University who is now at the University of Cambridge. “It’s simply the wrong question, from their perspective." 
... And yet the psychological community has been reticent to speak up too vocally against it. The fact is, many psychology professors do lucrative side work as organizational consultants. And as taboo as it is to praise Myers-Briggs in U.S. academia, it’s equally taboo to disparage it in corporate America.

The Myers-Briggs typology doesn't sound too bad: the extravert-introvert contrast is extremely useful, and the others don't seem terribly destructive.

I've never been all that excited by personality testing. It would seem like there is some potential to correlate personality traits with the usual identity politics categories, but I haven't heard of too much work along those lines. For example,
The Big Five factors are:
  • Openness (inventive/curious vs.consistent/cautious)
  • Neuroticism (sensitive/nervous

Off the top of my head, I would guess that, relative to white Americans, the the three main minorities would look like this (all else being equal):

Openness: East Asians lower than whites, blacks pretty high, Mexicans lower

Conscientiousness: Asians higher, blacks notably lower, Mexicans somewhat lower

Extraversion: Asians lower, blacks much higher, Mexicans somewhat lower

Agreeableness: Asians variable (Chinese lower, Japanese higher at least in terms of politeness, Indians very high), blacks higher (except when they are lower), Mexicans middling

Neuroticism: Asians higher, blacks lower, Mexicans middling

But my impression is that personality testing tends to become less reliable as it crosses cultural borders. I vaguely recall finding years ago a global report on Big 5 scores for dozens of countries. This seemed like it would be wonderfully enlightening, until I noticed that Swedes and Danes scored as having extremely different personalities. I suspect what was going on was something like people in those two countries like to think: "We are Swedes/Danes and we are different from those horrible Danes/Swedes."

Nobel laureate economist James Heckman's big project these days is to get the government and society to focus on bashing some conscientiousness into blacks. Historically, this doesn't sound impossible to pull off. From the historical record, you can see the Prussian state bashing conscientiousness into Prussians, and then all Germans, to help them stop losing wars. But it's practically impossible to state clearly in public what the goal of Heckman's project is, so it tends to wander off into more popular sidelines like denouncing Charles Murray.

Feminism: Making children cry on Christmas since 1969

If you'd asked me a couple of years ago, "Steve, your preoccupation is the quality of intellectual discourse, but, really, is there any hope? Does anything ever improve?" I would have answered: "Look how nobody believes in feminist dogma anymore. When I was a kid, a lot of people really believed that the reason little boys liked to play with trucks and clubs while little girls liked to play with baby dolls was because of social conditioning. But, generations have gone by and after a lot of children's tears, we've all learned how silly that was."

Of course, I might have said that in the late 1980s, too.

Remember 1991, when Bush I nominated a young black conservative to the Supreme Court? 

Desperate to block Clarence Thomas's ascent, Democrats played their trump card: Anita Hill, a spinster black lawyer who had worked for Thomas after his divorce, when he was one of the most eligible black bachelors in Washington. Back in those palmy days, there had apparently been a little sexual frisson around the office between those two, who seemed so well-suited in terms of education and race that a trip to the altar seemed plausible. But nothing much had come of it, and Thomas eventually married a white woman. 

Years later, Hill, still a spinster, announced that she had been the victim of Sexual Harassment, and it was the biggest news in the history of the world for awhile, propelling obvious sexual nonharasser Bill Clinton to the Presidency the next year, The Year of the Woman. (In 1992, I wrote an essay predicting that Bill Clinton would get himself in serious trouble over a case of sexual harassment during his Arkansas gubernatorial years -- as turned out to be true in the Paula Jones case that set off the Monica Lewinsky case -- but I couldn't find anybody to publish it.)

This Year of the Woman mania briefly made intellectual superstars out of a couple of nice-looking young feminist ditzes, Naomi Wolfe and Susan Faludi, before the whole thing collapsed under the weight of its own vapidity.

So, move ahead 20 years to 2012, and the Democratic candidate is just about the least feminist President in recent times. He treats his Harvard Law School wife the way Harry treated Bess, runs a can-you-believe-that-game-on-ESPN-last-night workplace atmosphere, hires Larry Summers, and only favors a tiny number of women (Valerie Jarrett, Susan Rice) because they come from the Jack & Jill Club paper bag test Afro-American upper crust. 

But, the point is that Obama's a Democrat, so the Feminist Noise Machine got switched on loud in 2012, and it worked, just like it did in the 1992 election. But do we have to still hear it now that the election is over? Can't we please pack it away until 2016?

For example, in Slate, Hanna Rosin encourages clueless single women to play Feminist Grinch and ruin their nephews' and nieces' Christmases/Hannukahs in the name of Gender Neutrality:
Ultimate Disney Princess Castle: Your Time is Up 
This season’s gender-neutral toys will finally prove that boys and girls aren’t so different after all.

Granted, that's a particularly stupid headline, but any complaints Mr. Rosin has in that regard she should take up over the family dinner table, since she's married to Slate's editor David Plotz. 

Later Ms. Rosin asserts: 
"But in fact this is a false piece of evidence, or at least extremely misleading, since childhood is just about the only phase of life where differences between the genders show up so starkly." 

Ms. Rosin evidently hasn't paid much attention to the nerdier corners of grown-up culture. Gigantic sex differences are evident among, say, advanced baseball statistics hobbyists ("moneyballers" or "sabermetricians") or aficionados of the history of style in golf course architecture.

The general trend is for the Internet to make it easier for each sex to pay attention only to what it finds interesting. Thus, Ms. Rosin, for example, founded a website named DoubleX aimed at readers with two X chromosomes.

December 13, 2012

iSteve visits by state per capita rates

Here are per capita rate of visits to my blog over the last month by state, adjusted for each state's population, on a scale where if the percentage of total America page views coming from state equals that state's percentage of total population, then that state will get a 100. Not surprisingly, D.C. is way, way out ahead with a per capita rate of viewership 13.82 times the national average. Among real states, the differences aren't as vast. The traditionally most highbrow state, Massachusetts, is first among actual states, with 2.25 times as many page views per capita as the national average.

Last is North Dakota at 0.27 times the national average rate of visits per person.

As commenter Anony-Mouse points out, people in North Dakota are busy at real jobs digging holes in the ground looking for oil and gas, while people in Washington are sitting at desks with Internet access.

Not all that much of a Canadian Border Effect here, more of an Atlantic Seaboard Metropolis Effect.

The median states are Rhode Island and North Carolina.

The list appears to be dominated by a handful of metro areas: D.C., NYC, Boston, Chicago, Seattle, Seattle, Minneapolis, and some California metros (I'd guess Silicon Valley in the lead in California, with entertainment industry parts of L.A. in second). Then maybe Denver, Philadelphia/Pittsburgh?, Portland, Phoenix, St. Louis, Atlanta, SLC, and the big Texas cities.

States at the bottom tend to not not have big urban areas (also, sample sizes may be small and unstable toward the bottom). But I do reasonably well in many states and I'm glad to be of service to my readers in those states.

The 49th and 50th states do surprisingly well.

Among states with fairly big cities, I don't do well in Florida, Louisiana, or Nevada. As I wrote about eight years ago, would Edmund Burke have preferred 21st century Las Vegas or 21st century Boston?

Average = 100
District of Columbia  1,382
Massachusetts  225
New York  190
Virginia  181
Alaska  151
New Hampshire  151
Washington  146
Illinois  141
Maryland  140
California  126
New Jersey  122
Connecticut  115
Minnesota  113
Hawaii  108
Colorado  99
Pennsylvania  98
Oregon  87
Arizona  79
Missouri  78
Georgia  77
Utah  76
Texas  75
New Mexico  75
Michigan  75
Rhode Island  74
North Carolina  74
Oklahoma  73
Delaware  72
Montana  68
Nebraska  67
Maine  65
Kansas  64
Tennessee  60
Idaho  60
Ohio  57
South Dakota  56
Wisconsin  54
Alabama  53
Vermont  52
Florida  52
Indiana  48
Louisiana  47
South Carolina  45
Kentucky  44
Nevada  43
Wyoming  43
West Virginia  41
Iowa  41
Arkansas  38
Mississippi  28
North Dakota  27

iSteve readers: Swedes v. Finns v. Indians v. Not Sures

Here are unique visits by top 50 country to my Blogspot blog (i.e., not including my archive) over the last or month or so. Not surprisingly, the top 4 countries are English-speaking, but then  we get to Germany, Sweden, Finland, and India. I make a lot of jokes about all my loyal Finnish readers, but the Swedes are always neck and neck with the Finns in terms of per capita readership. My real weakness is Denmark. 

Unique Visits
1 United States 231737
2 Canada 17942
3 United Kingdom 9521
4 Australia 6259
5 Germany 3389
6 (not set) 3374
7 Sweden 2774
8 Finland 2033
9 India 1905
10 Ireland 1762
11 New Zealand 1577
12 Norway 1374
13 Brazil 1271
14 Netherlands 1203
15 Poland 1028
16 France 984
17 Czech Republic 926
18 Israel 910
19 Japan 903
20 Switzerland 899
21 South Korea 880
22 Hong Kong 810
23 South Africa 708
24 Spain 701
25 Singapore 592
26 Italy 570
27 Denmark 547
28 Thailand 516
29 Portugal 515
30 Philippines 484
31 Turkey 464
32 Mexico 451
33 Greece 394
34 Hungary 390
35 Belgium 349
36 Austria 315
37 Costa Rica 315
38 Malaysia 312
39 Romania 281
40 Russia 267
41 Vietnam 257
42 Taiwan 254
43 Croatia 251
44 Chile 222
45 Bulgaria 191
46 United Arab Emirates 188
47 Argentina 186
48 Colombia 170
49 Serbia 170
50 Lithuania 155

By the way, Google now offers a Fusion Table feature to combine your data on a spreadsheet with public data. I told it to fuse my data on site visits with population by country figures from the CIA World Factbook, so I could get per capita figures. Instead, it just pasted in data in rank order so that the row with my U.S. visits now has China's population next to it, my Canada visits are now next to India's population, and so forth.

Is there something I don't get about this feature?

iSteve: Coming up on 30,000,000 page views

According to my Sitemeter, my iSteve websites (this blog and my article archives) should hit 30 million page views by this weekend. Currently, it's running at about 15,000 page views per day. 

December 12, 2012

Stanley Fish: "Is It Good for the Jews?"

Researching my current Taki's column, I came upon the following 2007 column by New York Times columnist Stanley Fish, the prominent professor of literature. 

If you ever read David Lodge's old novels about academic life, Fish is the original of the comic character Professor Morris Zapp, an extremely energetic and intelligent (but not terribly self-aware) intellectual:
Some years ago [Morris Zapp] had embarked with great enthusiasm on an ambitious critical project: a series of commentaries on Jane Austen which would work through the whole canon, one novel at a time, saying absolutely everything that could possibly be said about them. The idea was to be utterly exhaustive, to examine the novels from every conceivable angle, historical, biographical, rhetorical, mythical, Freudian, Jungian, existentialist, Marxist, structuralist, Christian-allegorical, ethical, exponential, linguistic, phenomenological, archetypal, you name it; so that when each commentary was written there would be simply nothing further to say about the novel in question. The object of the exercise, as he had often to explain with as much patience as he could muster, was not to enhance others' enjoyment and understanding of Jane Austen, still less to honour the novelist herself, but to put a definitive stop to the production of any further garbage on the subject. The commentaries would not be designed for the general reader but for the specialist, who, looking up Zapp, would find that the book, article or thesis he had been planning had already been anticipated and, more likely than not, invalidated. After Zapp, the rest would be silence. The thought gave him deep satisfaction. In Faustian moments he dreamed of going on, after fixing Jane Austen, to do the same job on the other major English novelists, then the poets and the dramatists, perhaps using computers and teams of trained graduate students, inexorably reducing the area of English literature available for free comment, spreading dismay through the whole industry, rendering scores of his colleagues redundant: periodicals would fall silent, famous English Departments be left deserted like ghost towns. . . .

(Here's Stanley Fish endorsing Morris Zapp's project in the NYT in 2009.)

When he reappears in Lodge's Small World set in the late 1970s, Zapp, in pursuit of his oft-stated goal of becoming the world's first professor of literature with a six-figure salary, has hopped on the fad of European Marxist deconstructionism. But then Zapp gets kidnapped and held hostage by European Marxist terrorists intent on deconstructing society with bombs. After Zapp is finally rescued, he starts to reflect that perhaps the profession of professor of literature does prosper best in a bourgeois society.

So, over the course of a long career, Fish has been exposed to countless ideological currents. But it's interesting to note how strongly his thinking returns to the fundamental question:
Is It Good for the Jews? 
When I was growing up in the '40s and '50s, a single question was asked in my neighborhood of every piece of news, large or small, local or national: "Is it good for the Jews?" We have now learned to identify this question in all of its versions - Is it good for the Catholics? Is it good for the Latinos? Is it good for the gays? and on and on - as the paradigmatic question of identity politics, the politics that is derived not from some general, even universal, assertion of what is good, but from a particularized concern with insular interests. Is it good for us, for those of our kind, for our tribe?  
A community in which this question is central and even natural will be a community with a sense of its own precariousness. (No one ever asks, is it good for the white, male, Anglo-Saxon graduates of Princeton; it's always good for them.)

This attitude may help explain, in the face of the rise of Asians, the decline in white, male, Anglo-Saxon graduates of Princeton and the non-decline in white, male, Jewish graduates of Princeton. Perhaps Anglo-Saxon notions of universal good, stiff upper lip, fair play, sportsmanship, noblesse oblige, and so forth are the real social constructs, while "Is it good for my tribe?" is the human default.
Its members will think of themselves as perpetually under assault (even if the assault never comes), and as the likely victims of acts of discrimination and exclusion. ("No Irish need apply.") As a result it will turn inward and present to the outside world a united and fiercely defensive face.

As Moshe Dayan demonstrated in 1967, however, sometimes the best defense is a good offense.
It will be informed and haunted by a conviction that no matter how well things may seem to be going, it is only a matter of time before there is a knock on the door and someone comes in and takes it all away. 
By all the available evidence, formal and informal, precariousness does not mark the situation of the Jewish community today, at least not in this country. 
Whether the measure is education, wealth, ownership of property, influence in the corridors of power, prominence in the professions, or accomplishments in the arts, Jews in the United States are visible and successful to a degree that is remarkable given their relatively small numbers (around 2 percent of the population). Yet as Professor Charles Small of Yale University reports, "Increasingly, Jewish communities around the world feel under threat," and there are some Jews in this country who share this feeling, not because they are themselves threatened (although that does occasionally happen), but because they fear - in the spirit of Sinclair Lewis's "It Can't Happen Here" or Philip Roth's "The Plot Against America" - that what is happening elsewhere may soon happen here. 
Why should they think that? Part of the answer is to be found in the relationship between three words - Israel, Iraq and anti-Semitism. Much of the world has been opposed to the Iraq war from its beginning, and now after four years 70 percent of Americans share the world's opinion. Some who deplore the war believe that those who got us into it and cheered it on did so, at least in part, out of a desire to improve Israel's position in the Middle East. Those who hold this view (and of course there are other analyses of the war's origins) fear that the same people - with names like Wolfowitz, Pearle, Feith, Abrams, Kristol, Kagan, Krauthammer, Wurmser, Libby and Lieberman - are pushing for a strike against Iran, arguably a greater threat to Israel than Iraq ever was. 
Why, they ask, should our foreign policy be held hostage to the interests of a small country that is perfectly capable of defending itself and is guilty of treating the Palestinians, whose land it appropriated, in ways that are undemocratic and even, in the opinion of many, criminal? 
... One reason the [Israel] lobby is "immune from criticism," Mearsheimer and Walt explain, is that criticism, when it appears, is always re-described as anti-Semitism, and "anti-Semitism is something no one wants to be accused of." 
Their point, and it has been made by many, is that there is no reason to assume that those who criticize Israel and argue that America's uncritical support for a flawed state is strategically unwise and morally wrong are anti-Semitic. 
Maybe so, but there is some empirical evidence to the contrary. Charles Small and his Yale colleague Edward Kaplan have recently published an article in the Journal of Conflict Resolution, the title of which also tells its own story: "Anti-Israel Sentiment Predicts Anti-Semitism in Europe." What Small and Kaplan find is that "Those with extreme anti-Israel sentiment are roughly six times more likely to harbor anti-Semitic views than those who do not fault Israel on the measures studied, and among those respondents deeply critical of Israel, the fraction that harbors anti-Semitic views exceeds 50 percent." The authors conclude that, "even after controlling for numerous potentially confounding factors," "anti-Israel sentiment consistently predicts the probability that an individual is anti-Semitic" and will say things like "Jews don't care what happens to anyone but their own kind" or "Jews are more loyal to Israel than to this country" or "Jews have too much power in international financial markets." 
Small and Kaplan are careful to disclaim any causal implications that might be drawn from their analysis: they are not saying that anti-Semitism produces opposition to Israel or that opposition to Israel produces anti-Semitism, only that the two attitudes will more often than not be found in the same individual: scratch an opponent of Israel and you are likely - 56 percent of the time - to find an anti-Semite. This does suggest that if opposition to Israel increases, there will be an increase in anti-Semitism because the population of the 56 percenters will be larger. Is this something Jews, even Jews living in the United States, should be apprehensive about? 
The answer to that question will depend on whether you think that there is a meaningful distinction to be made between the "old" and the "new" anti-Semitism. Old anti-Semitism, according to Brian Klug of Oxford University, is based on a hostility to and fear of "the Jew" as an alien and demonic figure. In this ancient and much retailed story, Klug tells us, in an article in Catalyst magazine last year, subhuman Jews wander from country to country and "form a state within a state, preying on the societies in whose midst they dwell." This is the anti-Semitism that came to full and disastrous flower in Nazi Germany. 
The new anti-Semitism, in contrast, Klug continues, is rooted not in a hostility to "the Jew" as a vampire-like destroyer of cultures, but "in the controversial nature of the State of Israel and its policies." As such, "it is not a mutation of an existing 'virus,' but a brand new 'bug.'" That is to say, its origin is political rather than racial, and there is at least a chance that if its political source were removed - if Israel's policies were to change - its force would abate. 
So there you have two stories: anti-Semitism is on the rise and it's time to get out those "Never Again" signs. Or, it's not anti-Semitism in the old virulent sense, but a rational, if problematic, response by Middle East actors and their supporters in the West to what they see as "an oppressive occupying force"; don't take it personally. I understand this second story, and appreciate its nuance, but I can't bring myself to accept it, if only because I believe that the viral version of anti-Semitism is always capable of regaining its full and deadly form even when it is apparently dormant or weakened. All it needs is a pretext, and any pretext will do. If the Israeli-Palestinian conflict didn't exist, it would attach itself to something else; but it does exist, and anti-Semitism couldn't be happier. 
Because I think this way, I can imagine a time in the not-so-distant future when American Jews might feel precarious once again. There is a certain irrationality to this imagining, given that at this moment, I am sitting in a very nice house in Delray Beach, Fla., and taking advantage of the opportunity afforded me by The New York Times to have my say on anything I like every Monday. And in a few months I will repair to an equally nice house in the upstate New York town of Andes, where I will be engaging in the same pleasurable activity. Sounds like a good life, and it is. So why am I entertaining fantasies of being dispossessed or discriminated against or even threatened? 
Part of the answer lies in the fact that I spend much of my time in colleges and universities, where anti-Israel sentiment flourishes and is regarded more or less as a default position. And I have seen (with apologies to Shelley) that when hostility to Israel comes, anti-Semitism is not far behind. But the deeper explanation of my apprehension is generational. One of my closest friends and I agree on almost everything, but we part company on this question. He tells, and believes, the "criticism of Israel is one thing, anti-Semitism another" story. I hear it, but I can't buy it. He is 10 years my junior. I remember World War II. By the time he was born it was history. Maybe it's that simple.

Traditional football wisdom is that "The best offense is a good defense." Yet, there is a slowly emerging theory in football that the best defense is to stay on offense. Thus, the number of interceptions thrown is way down versus a generation ago because it's understood how disastrous a turnover is. Granted, football coaches are extremely conservative and hate being exposed to criticism for unconventional strategy, but the idea of not always punting the ball back to the other team on fourth down is slowly gaining popularity among the most assured coaches, such as Bill Belichick. Three years ago, Belichick notoriously had Tom Brady go for it on 4th and 2 on his own 29 rather than punt the ball back to Peyton Manning. Perhaps the next evolution will be more onside kickoffs after scoring. After all, in this era of high powered offenses, does it really matter if you let your opponents have the ball on their own 20 or on the 50? It's best to try to keep the ball in your own hands.

In other words, the best defense would be to never have to play defense. Always play offense. Stay offensive and take offense.

Analogously, my current Taki's column puts forward a theory of historical evolution that I don't recall seeing before:
Before 1967 and the Six Days War, American Jews had typically asked their classic question “Is It Good for the Jews?” about their own conduct. 
Sandy Koufax’s pitching? Good for the Jews. 
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg’s atom-bomb espionage? Not good for the Jews. ... 
After the 1960s, Jews stopped asking the question, “Is it good for the Jews?” about their own behavior and started asking it about everyone else’s.

Proposition Nation v. Preposition Nation

On the White House webpage regarding immigration and amnesty, we read President Obama version of the conventional propositional nation wisdom that emerged a decade or two back to justify de facto open borders:
Fixing the Immigration System for America’s 21st Century Economy 
"We are the first nation to be founded for the sake of an idea—the idea that each of us deserves the chance to shape our own destiny. That’s why centuries of pioneers and immigrants have risked everything to come here…The future is ours to win. But to get there, we cannot stand still." 

The "propositions" are usually taken to be from the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Yet, as Abraham Lincoln and computer scientist John McCarthy have implied, there appears to be typo left in during the rush, and that the Declaration would make far more sense if it read:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, in that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. ...

(It goes on to list a number of other truths.) 

In any case, there are other Founding documents that, for some reason, don't get cited much by the Propositionists, most notably the Preamble to the Constitution, which puts forward a carefully considered explanation of what the United States exists for, one that is hard to reconcile with the current assumption that it exists primarily to take in immigrants:
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Commenter Hundson writes:
America is not a propositional nation, America is a prepositional nation: "to ourselves and our posterity."

December 11, 2012

Hispanic Invisibility: Somebody else notices it

It was sad to read about some Mexican singer lady who died in a plane crash. Flying around in private planes sounds glamorous, but it can be pretty terrifying. American musicians don't die in plane crashes as often as they used to, but the Third World plane crash rate is still pretty high.

But, then, it turned out as I read more that this Jenni Rivera wasn't Mexican, she was a 43-year-old Mexican American born in Long Beach and living not far from me, in Encino. Among her various marriages was one to a pitcher on the Dodgers.

And I had never ever heard of her.

A writer for the Washington Post notices the same thing:
Mainstream media’s ignorance of Jenni Rivera raises image of parallel Americas 
By Paul Farhi, Tuesday, December 11, 5:38 PM 
The Chicago Sun-Times declared Jenni Rivera “a heroine” and quoted an entertainment executive who lauded her “extraordinary gifts.” The New York Times compared her to Diana Ross and Tina Turner. Numerous media accounts labeled her a superstar. 
Chances are, this was news to you. Chances are, you’d never heard of Rivera until you learned that she died in a plane crash in Mexico on Sunday.

The American-born Rivera has sold at least 15 million records — more than many other successful and widely acclaimed singers in the United States. But she did not enjoy much attention from the English-language media. Although she was bilingual, Rivera sang only in Spanish. Her most ardent, record-buying fans reside primarily in the American Southwest and farther south, across Mexico. 
Rivera’s life and death suggest once again that it’s possible to live in parallel Americas, with the larger part only dimly aware of the enormous things happening in the other one. For all our instant connectivity, it’s possible for someone to be hugely famous and perfectly obscure — all at the same time. 
... The Washington Post had never mentioned Rivera’s name until Sunday, nor had the news divisions at ABC, CBS, Fox or NBC, according to Nexis. Rivera’s hometown newspapers in California — she grew up in Long Beach — weren’t much more attentive. The Los Angeles Times name-checked her in about a dozen short pieces over the years; the paper’s most prominent treatment of her was a story about her purchase of an Encino estate. ... 
This degree of cluelessness elicited an acid-laced comment on Monday from the Orange County Weekly’s Gustavo Arellano, who writes the paper’s amusing and often thoughtful “Ask a Mexican” column. Arellano upbraided the mainstream news media for “their pathetic record on reporting on a mega-superstar [who] operated in plain sight under a media that, like usual, didn’t bother to pay attention while she was alive because she was a Mexican and popular mostly to Mexicans — and they never matter unless you can get a diversity grant to cover them. 
“Now that she’s dead? Look everyone: we cover Mexicans!” 
Actually, Rivera was an American who racked up huge record sales in the United States, but point taken. Added Arellano: “For all the racket that the [mainstream media] has made about diversity over the past 15 years, they continue to fail — as if we ever expected them to succeed in the first place?”

For American elites, Mexicans and other Central Americans make an ideal new people to elect because they are so little competition for their own kids.

The Sixties for Italians and Jews

From my new Taki Magazine column:
To continue examining the 60s through an ethnic lens, let’s look at two Ellis Island immigrant groups, Italian Americans and Jewish Americans.

Read the whole thing there.

Mandatory Finnish content

In PISA exams, Finland usually is the top scoring white country. Although I have a large number of brilliant Finnish readers, I had expressed some skepticism: maybe Finns just try real hard on PISA and won't do as well on the other main international tests?

So, how did Finland do in the 2011 TIMSS and PIRLS tests among white countries/regions?

Math 4th Grade: 3rd place, behind Northern Ireland and Flemish Belgium
Math 8th Grade: 3rd place, behind Russia and Israel
Science 4th Grade: 1st place
Science 8th Grade: 1st place

Reading 4th Grade, Overall Reading Average Scale Score: 2nd place, behind Russia
Reading 4th Grade, Reading Literacy: NA

Don't ask me what the difference is between the two Reading tables.

So, Finland does quite well on these tests, too, even though there isn't otherwise much correlation within racial groups between the 2009 PISA and the 2011 TIMSS/PIRLS. On both sets of tests, northeast Asian countries did extremely well on math/science and quite well on reading, rich white countries came in the middle, followed by poor white countries, and then the Third World. But, within, say, Western Europe there isn't much consistency about whether a country scores at the top of the pack or the bottom of the pack among the tests. (A big reason is that the packs are pretty similar, so rank order can change easily).

Except Finland.

One reason is that Finland is just about the whitest of the rich white countries. It only recently hopped on the Third World refugee freight train to who knows where. (White American kids would lead all the countries in the world on the PIRLS, unless Asian-Americans had their own country.)

But I guess we should also be taking seriously Finland's laidback educational techniques, which are, on the whole, the opposite of the more obvious way the northeast Asians grind out high test scores.

By the way, the outstanding Russian performance on these new tests (as opposed to the middling Russian performance on the PISA) is ... interesting.

There might be a niche occupation in the future for somebody to be the Unbiased Expert on international testing.

Photos of how rich white Mexicans live

Thank goodness the press has been searching out Conquistador-Americans such as Univision anchorman Jorge Ramos ever since the election to give the rest of us much needed moral advice on immigration. We racist white bread white people must stop resisting the vibrantization of America. We have so much to learn from our superiors, both in ethics and taste.

(Attention Mrs. Morris Dees, I think I've found those interior decorating inspirations you've been looking for.)

I've been trying to point out for a long time that one problem with massive immigration from Mexico is that rich people in Mexico are among the world's worst role models. When the DREAM Act dreamers dream, this is who they dream of becoming. People in Georgetown, Cambridge, and the Upper West Side don't have a clue what they have been getting the country into.

The rich in some some ex-Communist countries may be worse, but Mexican elites are pretty bad. I suspect that rich people in, say, Turkey (a country that is comparable in some ways to Mexico) aren't quite as atrocious, although what do I know.

Perhaps things are getting better in Mexico? These are all pictures of daughters of PRI-connected men taken in 1999, the last year of the PRI monopoly on the presidency. Maybe the rise of the business-oriented PAN brought about a slightly more bourgeois orientation? (Of course, the PRI is now back in power in Mexico.)

By the way, here are pictures of the reputed Putin's Palace built at vast expense for murky purpose in the Crimea. It's got kind of an Enlightened Despot theme going that I would commend to Mexican oligarchs.

Charles Murray responds to Ron Unz college admissions article

Charles Murray writes:
At the Ivies, Asians are the new Jews
I propose this challenge to any Ivy League school that denies it has a de facto quota for Asian admissions. Let a third party—any number of highly respected research organizations could handle this task—randomly select a large sample of applications from which the 2012 entering class was selected. Delete all material identifying race or ethnicity. Then, applying the criteria and the weighting system that the university claims to be using, have expert judges make simulated admissions decisions. Let’s see what percentage of Asians get in under race-blind conditions. I’m betting 25% at least, with 30–40% as more probable. 
None of the Ivies will take me up on it, of course. The people in their admissions offices know that their incoming classes are not supposed to have “too many” Asian faces, and part of their job is to make sure that they don’t. I just want them to admit publicly what they’re doing, and state their rationale, which presumably goes something like this: The Ivies are not supposed to be strict academic meritocracies. They need students with a variety of strengths and personality types. And even 16% Asian students is more than three times the Asian proportion of the American population. 
I don’t have a problem with the need for a student body with diverse strengths and personality types. Harvard is a better place because it does not select a class consisting exclusively of applicants with perfect SAT scores. But a candid statement of the rationale that has led to the 16±2% solution can’t stop there. It needs to say that apart from the need for a variety of strengths and personality types, the Ivies have decided that they just don’t want too many epicanthic folds in their student bodies. Because there’s no getting past the naked fact that students from an ethnic minority are now being turned down because they have the wrong ethnicity. It is exactly the same thing that Ivy League admissions officers did to Jewish applicants in the 1920s, when it was decided that too many Jews were getting into their schools. They too had a rationale for putting a quota on Jews that they too believed was justified. What I don’t understand is this: Why do we all accept that what the Ivies did to limit Jewish enrollment was racist and un-American, while what they’re doing to limit Asian enrollment is not even considered newsworthy?

How much can you trust international school achievement tests?

Commenter TH compares 2011 results on TIMSS / PERLS to 2009 results on PISA:
I calculated some correlations between the PISA 2009 (15-y/o's), TIMSS 2011 (8th grade), and PIRLS 2011 (10-y/o's). 
The correlation between PISA 2009 math and TIMSS 2011 math is 0.87 (n=26). 
In both studies, East Asians are at the top, white-majority countries at the middle, and others at the bottom. 
However, if you look only at white-majority countries, the correlation is 0.19 (n=13). Russia and Israel do particularly well in the TIMSS compared to the PISA. The former is supposed to be a more math-heavy test compared to the latter which is a test of "mathematics literacy".

So, on the big picture, PISA and TIMSS are pretty much in agreement on the global racial hierarchy of math smarts. On the other hand, on the small picture of how white countries are doing, it's pretty much of a mess. There could be a lot of reasons for this, some inevitable (the test has to choose what to test on by a certain grade, which might not be what that country teaches up to that point), some potentially fixable (one country might try really hard to get students to work diligently on the test, another might treat it as just another test, and a lower stakes one than most).
In the US, the racial breakdown of the TIMSS scores in grade 8 is as follows (SD=100, global baseline = 500)
White 530
Black 465
Hispanic 485
Asian 568
Multiracial 513 
Hispanics slightly outscore Norway and Sweden in the TIMSS, while Norway and Sweden score only slightly (0.1 SD or so) higher than US blacks. In the PISA math test, Norway and Sweden outscored US Hispanics by 0.3-0.4 SD and US blacks by about 0.7 SD. 

What about for reading?
The correlation between PISA 2009 reading and PIRLS 2011 is 0.81 (n=36). Among white-majority countries (n=18) the correlation is 0.24. 
In the US, the racial breakdown of the PIRLS scores is as follows (SD=100): 
White 575
Black 522
Hispanic 532
Asian 588
Multiracial 578 
The black average is higher than that of, for example, France, Spain, Norway, and Belgium. In the PISA reading test, each of those four countries outscored US blacks by more than 0.5 SD.

New TIMSS and PIRLS test results

There are new results out from two international school achievement tests:

The U.S. average mathematics score at grade 4 (541)
was higher than the international TIMSS scale average,
which is set at 500.
• At grade 4, the United States was among the top 15
education systems in mathematics (8 education systems
had higher averages and 6 were not measurably
different) and scored higher, on average, than 42
education systems.
•  The 8 education systems with average mathematics
scores above the U.S. score were Singapore, Korea,
Hong Kong-CHN, Chinese Taipei-CHN, Japan,
Northern Ireland-GBR, North Carolina-USA, and
Belgium (Flemish)-BEL. ...
• At grade 8, the United States was among the top 24
education systems in mathematics (11 education
systems had higher averages and 12 were not
measurably different) and scored higher, on average,
than 32 education systems.
• The 11 education systems with average mathematics
scores above the U.S. score were Korea, Singapore,
Chinese Taipei-CHN, Hong Kong-CHN, Japan,
Massachusetts-USA, Minnesota-USA, the Russian
Federation, North Carolina-USA, Quebec-CAN, and
At grade 8, the United States was among the top
23 education systems in science (12 education
systems had higher averages and 10 were
not measurably different) and scored higher,
on average, than 33 education systems.
• The 12 education systems with average science scores
above the U.S. score were Singapore, MassachusettsUSA,
Chinese Taipei-CHN, Korea, Japan, MinnesotaUSA,
Finland, Alberta-CAN, Slovenia, the Russian
Federation, Colorado-USA, and Hong Kong-CHN. 

For example, here is 8th grade math:
Grade 8
Education systemAverage score
TIMSS scale average500
Korea, Rep. of613
Chinese Taipei-CHN609
Hong Kong-CHN586
Russian Federation1539
United States1509
New Zealand488
United Arab Emirates456
Macedonia, Rep. of6426
Iran, Islamic Rep. of6415
Palestinian Nat'l Auth.6404
Saudi Arabia6394
Syrian Arab Republic6380
Benchmarking education systems
North Carolina-USA2,4537
Abu Dhabi-UAE449
△ Average score is higher than U.S. average score.
▽ Average score is lower than U.S. average score.
There are a bunch of different tables like this for different subjects in different grades, so don't take this one all that seriously. I just plunked it in because it was handy.

Here's 8th grade science:

Grade 8
Education systemAverage score
TIMSS scale average500
Chinese Taipei-CHN564
Korea, Rep. of560
Russian Federation1542
Hong Kong-CHN535
United States1525
New Zealand512
Iran, Islamic Rep. of474
United Arab Emirates465
Saudi Arabia436
Syrian Arab Republic426
Palestinian Nat'l Auth.420
Macedonia, Rep. of407
Benchmarking education systems
North Carolina-USA3,4532
Abu Dhabi-UAE461
△ Average score is higher than U.S. average score.
▽ Average score is lower than U.S. average score.

I have no idea how representative the samples are, or how hard the students felt like trying.

These things are a lot of work to set up. Think of how hard it would be to coordinate all over the world in all these different languages. Then try to think about all the things that could go wrong if you were in charge. It's pretty daunting.

Looking at all 53 education systems that participated in PIRLS at grade 4 (i.e., both countries and other education systems), the United States was among the top 13 education systems in average reading scores. The five education systems that had higher average scores were Hong Kong-CHN, FloridaUSA, the Russian Federation, Finland, and Singapore. Seven education systems, Northern Ireland-GBR, Denmark, Croatia, Chinese Taipei-CHN, Ontario-CAN, Ireland, and England-GBR, had average scores not measurably different from the U.S. average score. The United States had higher average reading scores than 40 education systems.

Education system Overall reading average scale score
   PIRLS scale average 500
Hong Kong-CHN1 571
Russian Federation 568
Finland 568
Singapore2 567
Northern Ireland-GBR3 558
United States2 556
Denmark2 554
Croatia2 553
Chinese Taipei-CHN 553
Ireland 552
England-GBR3 552
Canada2 548
Netherlands3 546
Czech Republic 545
Sweden 542
Italy 541
Germany 541
Israel1 541
Portugal 541
Hungary 539
Slovak Republic 535
Bulgaria 532
New Zealand 531
Slovenia 530
Austria 529
Lithuania2,4 528
Australia 527
Poland 526

France 520
Spain 513
Norway5 507
Belgium (French)-BEL2,3 506
Romania 502
Georgia4,6 488
Malta 477
Trinidad and Tobago 471
Azerbaijan2,6 462
Iran, Islamic Rep. of 457
Colombia 448
United Arab Emirates 439
Saudi Arabia 430
Indonesia 428
Qatar2 425
Oman7 391
Morocco8 310
Benchmarking education systems
Florida-USA1,4 569
Ontario-CAN2 552
Alberta-CAN2 548
Quebec-CAN 538
Andalusia-ESP 515
Dubai-UAE 476
Maltese-MLT 457
Dhabi-UAE 424