February 12, 2005

2003 Movie Reviews

My Film Reviews: First Half of 2003: It was a lousy six months for movies, with the exception of Brazil's City of God, but I suspect there's a negative correlation between the quality of the movie and of my review. Certainly, bad movies give me more room to be funny:

Alex & Emma - Kate Hudson, Rob Reiner, Dostoevsky - 2

Hollywood Homicide - Harrison Ford, Ron Shelton - 5

The Italian Job - Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron - 8

The In-Laws - Albert Brooks, Michael Douglas - 5

The Matrix Reloaded - Keanu Reeves, Wachowskis - 2

Better Luck Tomorrow - Asian-American indie drama - 6

X2: X-Men United - Huge Jackman, teeming freaks - 4

People I Know - Al Pacino, Kim Basinger - 5

A Mighty Wind - Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy - 7

Anger Management - Adam Sandler, Jack Nicholson - 3

Phone Booth - Colin Farrell, Joel Schumacher - 6

Head of State - Chris Rock, Bernie Mac - 3

Bend It Like Beckham - My Big Fat Sikh Heading - 5

The Hunted - Tommy Lee Jones, Benicio Del Toro - 4

Tears of the Sun - Bruce Willis, Monica Belluci - 4

Jungle Book 2 - John Goodman, Haley Joel Osment - 3

Oscar Race 2002 - Wrap-up

Shanghai Knights - Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson - 5

The Recruit - Al Pacino, Colin Farrell - 4

25th Hour - Edward Norton, Spike Lee - 7

City of God - Brazilian gangster classic - 9

Will Sistani Agree to a "Mandela"?

Will the Iraqi election results ever be counted? It has now been over 12 days since the election, yet we've only heard fragmentary results from the national balloting, suggesting that a lot of behind-the-scenes maneuvering is going on. I presume that the U.S. is trying to get the Grand Ayatollah to concede to a "Mandela." In the first open election in South African, back in 1994, Nelson Mandela took the early returns showing his ANC winning a massive landslide to his opponents and said he'd rewrite the results to give his party a smaller majority than they had actually won and allowing the opposition white and Zulu parties to "win" provincial power bases, in return for their cooperation in writing the new constitution. If they didn't, the ANC would just write the constitution themselves. The opposition leapt at this generous offer.

The U.S. is probably hoping for equal statesmanship from Sistani in agreeing to an artificial divvying up of seats, including representation for moderate Sunnis. The voting results would then be fabricated to support the deal. But, I have no idea whether Sistani would go for it, nor what his life expectancy would be if he did.

Old Suburbanists vs. New Urbanists

The Old Suburbanists Strike Back: Readers respond to the New Urbanist defense of Portland (below):

Regarding the preference for a private yard. First I'd refer that reader to an article at Reason on-line entitled Crime-Friendly Neighborhoods by Stephen Town and Randal O'Toole, which will introduces such concepts as "defensible space" to address how private yards help to reduce crime while, for instance, alleys tend to increase crime. I'll let them draw their own conclusions, but I'll suggest that the reason higher densities seem to work reasonably well in Portland is more than likely linked to their point about minorities being pushed to the suburbs. Portland's "gentrification" of older neighborhoods has most likely all but eliminated lower-income areas from around those neighborhoods, which has the (politically incorrect) effect of reducing crime. In short, if you don't perceive that you need a defensible space buffer around your home, you won't feel as compelled to relocate your family from a higher population density locale.


Thanks for writing the Feb. 6 column. That's what we did, we lived in 'Norfeast DC' with our two daughters and when they were 3 and 6 there were 3 murders within two blocks of our house so we skedaddled 30 miles out to the suburban Howard County where everyone is perfect and boring and peeceewhipped, but thankfully ...not a criminal. I have got to say you have a lot of courage saying the things you do in print. You have got to get a lot of grief for it. Thanks for saying the stuff about black crime, I have always been amazed that that little undeniable fact is mentioned as seldom as it is (7x or 9x murder rate of whites).


Regarding your item about why families desire large yards when most children won't use them, well, it seems as if the trend these days is away from large yards - consider the McMansion, shoehorned into the smallest possible lot. In places where new houses are being built with sizeable yards, it may be a result of zoning codes that mandate large lots as a way of keeping property values high. Finally, some people may prefer large yards as a way of showing off their landscaping/gardening skills.


I woulda killed for a big back yard when I was a kid of 12. For one thing, you can put the dog back there. And keg parties.


And when I was a kid in the suburbs, I really envied the kids from reruns of "Family Affair" -- you know, with Mr French -- their New York highrise and neighborhood really exciting to me growing up in suburban Orange County. Seriously, I think it is a shame that many of the youngest kids of professionals are missing out on the museums, orchestra concerts, concentrations of playmates that can be found outside 'structured' activities.

Of course, we all know why young portand couples with kids can stay in the urban environs, it is one of the few in US that is still overwhelmingly white.

The bottom line seems to be that various schools of urban planning succeed or fail mostly because of the two things they don't like to talk about: their impact on the cost of housing, which in turn impacts the quality of residents (e.g., law-abiding or not law-abiding), and the quality of residents is pretty much the whole ballgame. For example, for a few years I lived in a Le Corbusier-style high rise in Chicago that was almost identical physically to the much denounced Le Corbusier-style high rises in Chicago's hellish public housing projects like nearby Cabrini Green. Yet, my highrise was pleasant and harmonious and nobody murdered anybody in it while I was there. Of course, the reason my highrise was 100% less lethal than Cabrini Green's was that mine charged fairly high rents and thus was full of yuppies like myself, while Cabrini Green was free, if you were poor, and thus was full of poor people.

That's one reason I talk about immigration policy so much. That's the single easiest way for government policy to have an impact on the quality of the residents of our country. When we're looking to buy or rent a place to live, we obsess over the quality of the residents of different neighborhoods (that's what "Location! Location! Location!" is all about.) Yet, the Establishment doesn't want to think about trying to influence the quality of residents of our country by picking and choosing the best immigrants.

An evolutionary psychology domain-specific module

Attention, evolutionary psychologists: Evopsych researchers assume that back in caveman days we evolved various mental modules. I think I've found one that's getting ever more useful as more people talk on the cell phone while they drive.

I try to walk about three miles a day. The big danger in crossing streets on foot is that somebody making a turn just won't see you until he's hit you. This seems to be especially true for people trying to make fast right turns. When they are on the phone they are particularly unlikely to see you stepping off the curb. So, what I do when I see someone coming and I can tell he doesn't have his eyes on me is to raise my arm and point my index finger directly at the driver's eyes. His peripheral vision picks up my motion and some part of his brainssends to his consciousness a Code Red alert: "Awwwwooooggaa! Potentially hostile individual pointing weapon at me!" It gets his attention every time (although I wouldn't recommend using it in parts of town where drivers tend to be well armed and have itchy trigger-fingers). You should recommend it to children and the elderly as a way to making crossing streets safer.

Portland's Secret: Urban Renewal via Negro Removal

The New Urbanists strike back: Readers reply:

Just have to write a quick defense of my home town of Portland. I read that page you linked to with all the transit and planning lingo. Yes it's true Portland is quite insistent about planning and "livability" and defends its "urban growth boundary" to the hilt -- the law that says certain densities shall not exist outside of an arbitrary line, so as to keep growth and density confined to a smaller area.

Does it work? I would say it works for those who are fans of this aesthetic. Portland has experienced pretty good growth over the past few years, attracting an outsized number of young (and yes, usually childless) professionals to it from bigger metropolises all over the country. Thus, Portland has retained a sort of small town European charm, I would say -- it sprawls in places, but there's enough stuff downtown and in inner core neighborhoods that you don't need to go to the sprawl if you don't want to. However, I can attest that a few of these young professionals my age are now starting to reproduce as they hit their early to mid 30s -- but have yet to flee to the suburbs. The main reason is because they have all the amenities they need within a reasonable distance, and hardly ever have to come into contact with minorities. In fact, neighborhood after neighborhood in the 1990s has been "reclaimed" and gentrified and turned from a ghetto-ish situation into a nice "artsy" district. Thus, we now have a small and shrinking ghetto, and any hispanics are largely combined to the suburbs where most of the young hipsters don't go (in fact, most meth use, the city's biggest crime issue, is confined to the suburbs instead of the central city now because the suburbs are so cheap compared to the central city). The biggest visible minority is Asian, which is the "acceptable" minority, as we all know. It's very funny -- as much as Portlanders talk about how much they love "diversity," their city council is composed of five white males!


Why are big yards so important for families, when few children over the age of six would be caught dead in their own? Wouldn't it be better for them to shrink the yards and bring their friends, and everything else, closer, as the Victorians did? Why is a rarely-used private yard better than a giant shared backyard, like Fairmount Park in Philadelphia? And if space is so important, how come my maternal ancestors were more than twice as fecund in Brooklyn, Queens and even Manhattan than their descendants are in spacious Texas and Florida?

The Politics of Loneliness

How Democratic Politicians Encourage Loneliness: Because marriage and children tend to incline people toward voting Republican, Democrats try various ploys to keep people unmarried and childless (i.e., more prone to loneliness as they age). For example, a reader writes:

Current Federal policy (to a large extent based on claims of fighting air pollution) strenuously encourages *increased* housing density [which raises the cost of the single family homes with yards that most Americans consider a prerequisite for having a family]. To the extent that increased density predicts increased Blue-ness (Democrat political success) Republicans might to wish to revamp this policy.

Basically, the Feds withhold highway funds from states and locales that don't use their zoning powers to discourage the construction of detached single-family homes and boost construction of high-density housing. The Feds also--counterproductively--withhold highway funds from locales with excessive air pollution, even when highway-building would help alleviate the very pollution complained-of [by dispersing the population over a larger, less-polluted area].

The Feds also give grants to NGO's, states, and locales to promote high-density development and "transportation alternatives," an ungrammatical euphemism for "wasting public money on little-used light-rail and bike-path systems."

By the way, here's an amusing glossary of planner-speak from Portland, where the basic purpose of its famous urban planning appears to be to keep Republicans from reproducing.

Let my illegal nanny drive my SUV

From SaveOurLicense.com: Debra Saunders writes:

THE AD THAT ran in Daily Variety last week -- signed by the usual members of the "entertainment community," including Ed Asner, Danny Glover and Mike Farrell -- asked Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign Senate Bill 60, a bill to allow illegal immigrants to obtain California drivers' licenses.

Not that the ad ever used the word "illegal." Instead, it used Hollywood award-speak to tell the story of Rosanna Perez, "Nominated: Best Nanny in a Supporting Role," who, because of California law, has to take the bus from her home in East Los Angeles to her job in the Westside.

They should have dubbed the ad: Let my illegal nanny drive my SUV.

"We give them access to our homes. We trust them with our children. It seems absurd to me to not grant them the respect they deserve," Farrell explained to Copley News Service.

For some reason, I'm reminded of what Tonto said in response to the Lone Ranger's comment on being surrounded by bloodthirsty Indians of "Looks like we've reached the end of the line, old friend."

"Who's this 'we' you're talking about, paleface?"

EQ: Contradictory or Banal?

EQ vs. IQ: Without having read the zillion selling book, I've always found this Emotional Quotient stuff to be both highly plausible and a conceptual mess.

For example, you can rank people on a scale of how well and how quickly they understand and can manipulate other people's emotions with displays of your own emotions. Autistics fall at one end of the scale and, say, Barbara Walters and Oprah Winfrey at the genius end. There's some correlation to IQ -- the famous autistic college professor Temple Grandin can figure out other people's emotions to some extent through sheer logic, and I'm sure Barbara and Oprah have quite high IQs, but it's also different enough than it's reasonable to think of as somewhat separate from IQ.

But then a lot of this EQ stuff you read is just advice to think more rationally and coolly about your own emotions, and your ability to do that is obviously highly correlated to IQ. It's good advice, in the mode of Ben Franklin and Alexander Pope, but it doesn't fit much at all with the first, Barbara-Oprah, meaning of EQ.

One-Point Plan for Racial Goodwill

The Sailer One-Point Plan for Racial Goodwill: Readers respond:

There's a kind of White liberal archetype. Like the ultra liberal Vermont/Oregon/Madison, Wisconsin National Public Radio types who are over the top "liberals" on racial issues yet live in the most white bread areas on planet earth.

For them blacks exist mainly as a touchstone to determine their own moral correctness vis-à-vis other White people. It's a variation on the movie theme of the Magical Negro who arrives to sprinkle the pixie dust of joy/wisdom and salvation on depressed/confused or conscience ridden White people.

You're never going to get through to these kinds of White people when discussing racial issues.

Their racially narcissistic ego can't give up on viewing the world as being made up of 3 basic types of people:

1. Bad Whitey = Republicans, right wingers, racists, sexists, homophobes, social Darwinists, Christians, NASCAR lovers, et al.

2. Good Whitey = Democrats, liberals, feminists, gays, "antiracists", et al.

3. Good "People of Color" (unless they're Republicans or cops).

That's it. So once the issue is RACE the issue becomes which category does the speaker/writer/agent fall into.


Your one-step plan to end racism only works for middle-class kids. What about all the working-class white kids who already attend public schools with lots of blacks. Presumably they get into fights lots of times. Do they turn out to be any more racist than their middle-class counterparts in private and parochial schools? Or even better, than their working-class counterparts in rural white areas? Surely there are studies on this?

Darwin's Enemies on the Right and Left

Intelligent Design: Two of my articles from 1999 are highly relevant to the current controversy:

A Miracle Happens Here: Darwin's Enemies on the Right

Equality v. Truth: Darwin's Enemies on the Left

The Dirt Gap

How the Parties Could Manipulate the Dirt Gap: A reader responds:

* Are you sure the Dirt Gap isn't an awkward proxy for population density? I realize the difficulty of teasing the "true" density based on inhabitable land from a reported density which may be calculated with, say, the area of lakes within MSA boundaries in the denominator. Could R's help themselves politically by encouraging the dispersal of urban populations? (For one thing, this line of thought suggests once again that R's should limit immigration, since most immigrants end up in high-density areas. It also suggests that R's should build roads.)

Density is part of it, but it's hard to measure in a meaningful way, as a link this reader sent later points out. For example, this same reader then sent me a link to government density statistics that show, well, that the government has a lot of work to do on density. For example, Los Angeles came out as the most densely populated standard metropolitan statistical area in the country, while Chicago was 20th. Even weirder, Oxnard, CA, an exurb of LA out in Ventura County came in #10, well ahead of Chicago, even though Oxnard still has some farms left. LA (and Oxnard) have almost no urbanized areas comparable to either Chicago's towering high-rise apartment lakefront or its vast stretches of three story six flats. Almost all of LA looks like a suburb, but a dense suburb with a lot of five houses to an acre tracts, whereas Chicago has lots of suburbs zoned to one house per acre.

Anyway, I don't think inner urban density is necessarily related to the Dirt Gap, but is more tied to when the city was built -- i.e., before or after automobiles. Both Cleveland and Cincinnati are very old cities with dense pre-automobile neighborhoods, but the latter's suburbs can expand in 360 degrees and it's more Republican than Lake Erie-limited Cleveland. My reader continues:

I think that Democrat politicians like to make their areas more Blue. They make their electoral districts more blue by gerrymandering. I suggest that they make their geographic areas more blue by zoning.

Water (mountains) aren't the only barriers to housing expansion in the modern political era. For example, I live in King County, Washington near the city of Seattle. Seattle is very much constrained by water, and there are various water and mountain areas in the County. But King County has much unbuilt area close to Seattle which is *politically* off-limits to housing development.

The Democrat politicians elected by high-density Seattle (and its satellites) have literally outlawed suburban- density development in the County, and to a large extent in the State as a whole. This benefits them by preventing the evolution of Republican-voting suburbs of the sort that used to be so powerful politically in California's Orange County. (Political constraints on road expansion are also important here.)

If Republicans wanted to foster populations likely to support them politically, perhaps they could support better compensation for "regulatory takings" (that is, make it harder for state/local governments to outlaw suburban development). They could accomplish that at the Federal level. At a State level, Republicans could support County-splitting (or things like the San Fernando Valley secession from LA) to help free potentially Red areas from the choking grip of slum- and bohemia-based Blue politicians. (Perhaps Republicans could also use Federal power to override local Blue opposition to road building, though that would require big changes in the "Interstate Highway" program.)

I'm mindful of your view of environmentalism in California (especially in the North). It seems to me that "environmentalist" Republicans powerful enough to keep their home areas at very low densities aren't much use to national Republicans, because at those low densities there aren't many votes in a given area. What I mean is, national Republicanss would probably prefer a suburb of quarter-acre homes with a mean of, say, 5 R-voters per acre to a virtual nature preserve like coastal Monterey County with maybe 0.1 R's/acre (which I calculate very roughly from voter registration in the coastal districts--all but district 3 on this map).

Perhaps Republicans could encourage suburban-density housing by manipulating Clean Air regulations. The air is typically much worse in densely populated areas. But current Clean Air rules don't really promote population dispersal because increasing population in a less polluted area makes it more polluted, and any pollution increase is a no-no. But suppose the Republicans made some ratio of population to pollution the Clean Air figure of merit... since the relationship between density and pollution is non-linear, Clean Air regulations could favor suburban-densities to minimize overall population exposure to air pollution. I realize this is a very complicated question, given the problems of geography and weather which factor into air pollution; so I offer it just as an example of the sort of political tactic Republicans could investigate for viability.

Reader responses on "Fight Club"


More on "Fight Club:" The 1999 Brad Pitt - Edward Norton fable about underground bare-knuckle brawling clubs evolving into a private army of anarchist terrorists is one of the more intellectually stimulating movies of recent years. Readers write:

The great James Bowman demolished Fight Club some years ago: for some of the same reasons you now criticize it. He hinted at the most devastating critique, which is that the filmmakers' view of masculinity is totally impoverished, insofar as they seem to believe that the quintessential male feature is animal violence when in fact, as most of our great cultural artifacts attest, the quintessential male feature is the desire to create, the desire for a man to, as Chesterton once put it, impose "his will upon the world in the manner of the charter given him by the will of God."


Bowman makes the usual conservative mistake of throwing out the baby with the bath water: "I think the film is vile, therefore I'm not going to waste any more grey matter wondering why so many young men worship the film."


I think the genius of "Fight Club" is precisely in how it resolves its "revolution": by pointing out how ridiculous it is... I think it actually gives some insight to "movements" like Al Qaeda - Osama Bin Laden's fantasies of a global caliphate, in an Islamic context, have the same attraction to disaffected males that Tyler's [Pitt's] nihilism does in the movie.

In fact, part of the true genius of the movie is the fact that most viewers completely misunderstand it - they see Tyler as a true prophet, and miss the fact that the Narrator has to reject him and his fantasies in order to grow up... It might be the most misunderstood work since "The Catcher in the Rye", in which Holden in the last few pages comes to realize that he can't maintain his adolescent rebellion forever, and that he can't keep kids from growing up by acting as a "Catcher in the Rye" (which image is based on Holden's misunderstanding of a Robert Burns poem - something that is pointed out to him in the novel) I guess any such work will be seen by adolescent fantasists as confirming their view of the world - since, from the fantasist's perspective (like the conspiracists') , EVERYTHING does...


Fight club is the ugliest spirited movie I have ever seen. I didn't buy into the macho teenage crap from the opening scene. It is an evil movie with evil values.

Because there are no acceptable masculine outlets for young men they turn to the most violent and reprehensible ones. If all expressions of masculinity are unacceptable, then why not go for the most violent and ugly.


In regards to your review of Fight Club: While I agree with your conclusion, I'm wondering if one can overlay another theory on top of yours: the growth of the service sector economy. It seems to me that men have an underlying distaste for being service-oriented employees, shall I say, "system administrators." Men seem to prefer "task-oriented" jobs that don't entail endless hours of brown-nosing and hand-holding. Women, of course, seem to love being administrators, which seems to explain why Ed schools are packed to the gills with them.


I saw it a few days after 9-11. For a New Yorker, the ending was a bit tough to take so soon after the WTC was destroyed. Knocking down office towers didn't feel "cathartic" in late September 2001.

But the movie was amazing. And I don't think it was dishonest at all about what these guys are revolting against:

TYLER [Pitt]
If you could fight anyone, who would you fight?
JACK [Norton]
I'd fight my boss, probably.
Yeah, why, who would you fight?
I'd fight my dad.
I don't know my dad. I mean, I know him, but he left when I was like six year old. Married this woman, had more kids. He did this like every six years. Goes to a new city and starts a new family.
He was setting franchises. My dad never went to college, so it was really important that I'd go.
Sounds familiar.
So I graduate, I called him a long distance and asked: "Dad, now what?", he says "Get a job".
Same here.
When I turned twenty five, my yearly call again "Dad, now what?", he says "I don't know, get married!"
I can't get married, I'm a thirty-year-old boy!

We're a generation of men raised by women. I'm wondering if another woman is really the answer we need.

And the guy with the breasts [Meat Loaf plays a bodybuilder who gets testicular cancer from steroids]? It's not like the fact that the movie is a fantasy of masculine revolt against a feminine civilization is exactly hidden under the surface of a movie about hating consumerism. Fight Club is not Supersize Me.

And watching the movie not long after 9-11 was clarifying. Mohammed Atta *was* a Space Monkey, after all: a nerdy little guy who compulsively shaved his body hair, revolting against feminized, alienating modernity in the name of a primal masculinity, and doing so through an act of horrific violence comprehensible only as grotesque theater. Fight Club was prophecy: the goddamned Space Monkeys started World War IV.


Masculine leadership charisma and the young male urge to form hierarchies of purpose, whether for destruction or creation, is one of the most important subjects in world history, but we lack a vocabulary to talk about it these days. So, when a movie comes along that takes on the subject directly, it can be electrifying.

I'm reminded a little of the movie that I tend to think was the greatest film of the 1980s, even though it was one of Steven Spielberg's rare box office bombs: "The Empire of the Sun." It's about the horrors of the Second World War as told from the perspective of a young English boy interned by the Japanese outside Shanghai, to whom the war isn't horrible at all: it's a blast.

Lt. General James Mathis recently got into hot water for saying:

"Actually, it's a lot of fun to fight. You know, it's a hell of a hoot...It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right upfront with you, I like brawling." The general went on to say: "You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway...So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them anyway."

Thank God we have men like this on our side. Too bad the other sides have lots of guys like this as well.

"Fight Club"


"Fight Club" -- I finally got around to seeing the 1999 Brad Pitt - Edward Norton fable about underground street fighting clubs that evolve into a anti-consumerist anarchist/militarist movement under Pitt's charismatic leadership. It reminded me of a conversation with one of my sons when he was three and he was going on and on about Batman and Superman. My wife interjected, "But, do Batman and Superman fight, or are they friends?" My toddler gave her his "Silly woman, don't you understand anything about us men?" look and replied, "They are friends and they fight."

"Fight Club " made only $37 million at the box office, but generated wild enthusiasm in the younger and higher IQ male segment. It's currently rated the 38th best movie of all time on IMDB.com, a poll that's dominated by smart younger guys. The comments on IMDB are of the "Best movie ever, changed my life" ilk.

It's exhilarating stuff for awhile, although movies that hypothesize novel revolutionary political movements typically fall apart in the last act because nobody can figure out how to put the genie back in the bottle. Frank Capra said that "Meet John Doe," with Gary Cooper as the half-witting spokesman for a populist, quasi-fascist mass movement manipulated by corporate bigwigs, was the most exciting movie he ever made ... up until the ending, which completely defeated him. I believe they shot five different endings of "Meet John Doe" and weren't satisfied with any. "Fight Club" somewhat successfully distracts attention from this problem by throwing in a whole new psychological wrinkle toward end.

One thing that stood out was a certain lack of honesty about what all these guys who join Pitt's private army are angry at society over. The movie claims they are rebelling against consumerism, but clearly that's just a politically correct placeholder for their anger at the feminization of society. It's not men who are buying all that stuff Pitt complains about.

Fall 2004 Movie Reviews

My Fairly Recent Movie Reviews: From late last year's American Conservative, with 1 to 10 rankings:

Oceans' Twelve - George Clooney, Steven Soderbergh - 7

Alexander - Oliver Stone, Colin Farrell - 4

Polar Express and The Incredibles - Tom Hanks, Brad Bird - 5, 9

Alfie - Jude Law, Marisa Tomei - 3

Being Julia, Stage Beauty, Team America: World Police - 5, 5, 6

Sistani and Jews

Getting our $200 Billion Worth in Entertainment Value: On Sistani.org, the invaluable website of the Grand Ayatollah whom we've expended $200 billion to put in charge of Iraq, a reader found the following Q&A:

Question: Is purchasing Nokia mobile allowed or not?

Answer: His permissible in it say. But if the prvfic gues to Israel, it is not allowed to purchase it.

I'm not exactly clear what a "prvfic" is [profit?], but I don't think the neocons are going to get Iraq to get in bed with Israel anytime soon, as they had long hoped that Ahmed Chalabi would do (as Douglas Feith's law partner, West Bank settler Marc Zell revealed).

W. James Antle writes in Men's News Daily:

As the votes are tallied and the results continue to roll in, the religious Shiite political party linked to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani appears to be headed for a big win. The ticket associated with U.S.-backed Prime Minister Ayad Allawi is trailing badly. Key Shiite leaders are now speaking openly of imposing some version of Islamic law on the country.

Let’s be frank: This is almost exactly the opposite of what most war supporters intended to achieve in Iraq. Put aside for a moment your affection for President Bush and your enthusiasm for the Republican Party. Would you have wanted to go to war to replace a secular state with one ruled by clerics?

Yes, Dick Cheney insists he doesn’t see any theocracy looming on the Iraqi horizon. Maybe the newly elected government will prove capable of bringing the Sunnis back into the fold. There is some debate about whether Sistani and other Shiite clerics are actually as close to Iran as is often assumed. Hardly anybody, outside the stubborn insurgency, misses Saddam Hussein. It won’t be all that difficult for the new government to be an improvement over the Baathists of old.

None of this, however, adds up to a big picture of what we are trying to accomplish in Iraq or how this intersects with the broader global war on terror...

A lot of conservative thinking in the post-9/11 war on terror has been mired in past conflicts. Norman Podhoretz has described the struggle against international terrorism as “World War IV,” preceded by the Cold War as World War III. And the Cold War seems to be the frame of reference most conservatives use in analyzing the anti-terror war.

The analogy runs roughly like this: Militant Islam, or Islamism, has replaced communism. George W. Bush is reprising the role of Ronald Reagan, the leader who will finally prevail in our nation’s central geopolitical struggle. Bush’s “Axis of Evil” speech was his Evil Empire moment and the stirring rhetoric of his second inaugural address was his “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

This easy appeal to the recent past is one reason conservative Republicans are so reluctant to turn on President Bush even when the rest of the world opposes him and actual events don’t appear to go his way. After all, many of the same liberals and Europeans derided the 40th president as a know-nothing cowboy whose bellicosity put the world at risk of nuclear war...

Conservatives would serve them better with a more thoughtful response than merely re-fighting the last one.

February 11, 2005

Red-Blue Gap Maps: Marriage, Baby, Mortgage Gap

The Gap Map: I've used Mapinator to illustrate on one convenient page my first three articles explaining the red state -blue state vote gap: the Marriage Gap, Baby Gap, and Mortgage Gap. (The Dirt Gap is coming up later.)

I scaled all four maps using the same scaling rule, from the next to lowest to the next to highest states.

February 10, 2005

Jose Canseco: Typhoid Mary of Baseball


"The Typhoid Mary of Baseball" -- The NYT writes:

"According to a report yesterday in The Daily News, Canseco contends in his book, "Juiced," that he injected [70 homer slugger Mark] McGwire with steroids in the bathroom stalls of the A's clubhouse. The two were teammates in Oakland from 1986 until Canseco was traded to Texas in 1992...Canseco had promised to name names in his book, and he did not stop with McGwire. The Daily News reported that Canseco claims to have taught [Ivan] Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro and Juan Gonzalez, who were teammates from his years in Texas, to use steroids."

Back in 1993, a baseball player agent whose brother was a major-leaguer told me that "Jose Canseco is the Typhoid Mary of baseball," because when he'd show up on a team, soon his new teammates started to inflate like him.

You may recall that Rafael Palmeiro came up with the Chicago Cubs in 1986, but was traded to Texas after 1988 when rookie Mark Grace emerged as the Cub's first baseman of the future. Grace enjoyed a fine old-fashioned career, hitting .303 with a career high of 17 home runs. Palmeiro, however, turned into a modern-style monster in Texas, hitting 47 homers in two separate seasons, and now has 551 for his career, 30 more than Ted Williams and 226 more than Joe DiMaggio, all without anybody ever thinking Palmeiro was a great player.

On the other hand, all three of the Texas Rangers Canseco named were good players before Canseco arrived, so I'm not convinced. Maybe they would have developed without him. But I am suspicious.

There's an interesting political angle: In last year's State of the Union Address, President Bush used his bully pulpit to denounce steroid use in sports. Bush, however, was the co-managing director of the Texas Rangers in 1992 when they acquired Canseco. Bush's partners didn't trust him enough to give him substantive power in running the team, using him as a front man. But, Bush claims, he did have responsibility for signing off on all trades, so he apparently approved the acquisition of Canseco, even though Canseco had been notorious as a steroid user since at least the 1988 post-season when Fenway Park fans showered him with chants of "Ster-oid! Ster-oid" and he responded by striking a Mr. Universe pose in the outfield. (The details on Bush and Canseco are in my "Out of the Park: Baseball & Steroids" article in the April 12, 2004 American Conservative.)

Mapinator: Imprisonment statistics by race


Maps of Imprisonment Statistics by Race: Ethan Herdrick, who is in the data map creation business, has graphed the NCIA's 1997 statistics on rates of imprisonment by state per 100,000 individual whites, Hispanics, or blacks. Some interesting, little known patterns emerge. Each ethnic group is on its own scale of yellow (good) to purple (bad).

The NCIA data is the best effort I've seen to solve the notorious problem with government crime rate data of lumping Hispanics in with whites in order to make the black to white ratio look a little less awful. Still, some of the states don't break out Hispanics at all, so they appear in black, and others don't do a trustworthy job. Still, this is better than anything else you've seen.

UPDATE: Using Ethan Herdrick's EZ-2-Use "Mapinator" program, I created these two maps showing the black to non-Hispanic white imprisonment ratio and the Hispanic to non-Hispanic white imprisonment ratio.

And here's another Mapinator graph showing the three ethnic groups' imprisonment ratios using the same yellow to purple color scale for each.

For Hispanics, you'll notice what appears to be a mulatto vs. mestizo vs. white imprisonment gap, with Puerto Ricans and Dominicans apparently being more likely to be in prison than Mexicans and Central Americans, with the Cubans the least likely. Or that could be related to urbanization.

February 9, 2005

Don't Let Your Kids Get Beat Up by Underclass Minorities

"Sailer's One-Point Plan for Lessening Prejudice Against Minorities" is my new VDARE column.

By the way, I've put my important 2001 article "Imprisonment Rates Vary Wildly by Race" and the incarceration statistics by race by state that it's based on up on iSteve.com. This data originally collected by the liberal National Center on Institutions and Alternatives does the best job I know of fixing the common problem with crime statistics of lumping many Hispanics in with whites (unlike almost all other government statistics, where Latinos are carefully broken out).

One interesting fact is that Democratic-voting Blue States tend to imprison a higher ratio of blacks to whites than Republican-voting Red States. In ultra-liberal black-ruled Washington D.C., for example, blacks are 56 times more likely than whites to be in the slammer. In South Carolina and Mississippi, the ratio is only 6 to 1. This strongly suggests that racial discrimination by whites can't account for the overall 9 to 1 national black-white ratio in likelihood of being in jail.

February 8, 2005

Super Bowl Censorship

The Horrors of Censoring the Arts: Last year at the Super Bowl Halftime Show, we were dazzled by the brilliance of those two Artistic Geniuses for the Ages, Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake. This year, due to the backlash of stultifying red state prudery that Frank Rich has denounced in the NYT about 27 times, we were forced to endure somebody named Paul McCartney singing some song called "Hey Jude" that might not even have a disco remix.

Also, 2005's Super Bowl commercials were better aesthetically than last year's stinkers, almost certainly due to the increased censorship.

As a football game, the Super Bowl was less boring than most. Philadelphia had a small advantage in first downs and total yards, but looked like they got outcoached. Bill Belchik and Tom Brady (IQ of 126 on the NFL's mandatory Wonderlic IQ test) show the uses of matching a smart coach and smart quarterback together.

Here's Colby Cosh on the whole white quarterback - black quarterback thing

Too stupid to flunk their IQ tests

"Inmate's Rising I.Q. Score Could Mean His Death" reports the NYT:

Three years ago, in the case of a Virginia man named Daryl R. Atkins, the United States Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to execute the mentally retarded. But Mr. Atkins's recent test scores could eliminate him from that group.

His scores have shot up, a defense expert said, thanks to the mental workout his participation in years of litigation gave him. The Supreme Court, which did not decide whether Mr. Atkins was retarded, noted that he scored 59 on an I.Q. test in 1998. The cutoff for retardation in Virginia is 70.

A defense expert who retested Mr. Atkins last year found that his I.Q. was 74. In court here on Thursday, prosecutors said their expert's latest test yielded 76.

From my 2002 article "IQ Defenders Feel Vindicated by Supreme Court" on the Supreme Court's Atkins decision:

"One intelligence expert worried that we will end up executing only those killers 'too stupid to realize that they ought to flunk their IQ test.'

Democracy as an impossibly high hurdle

What does "democracy" mean to the Bush Administration? Is the Bush Administration being naively idealistic in seemingly equating the word "democracy" with sugar and spice and everything nice: not just majority rule, but also rule of law, protection of minorities, independent judiciary, federalism, human rights, settled distribution of property, in other words, the whole apparatus of civilized government.

Or is it being cynical? This broad definition of democratic allows it to declare any country's democracy glass to be half full ... or half empty.

Many of the Bush Administration's strategic concepts have come from Israel. Most famously, his recent obsession with "democracy" comes in large measure from reading Natan Sharansky's new book. Sharansky is a former housing minister of Israel, with strong ties to the settler movement. His book saying that the solution to the Israel-Palestine problem is for Palestine to become a democracy is widely seen as idealistic, but a more cynical interpretation is that Sharansky is trying to set the bar so high that Israel will never have to deal with the Palestinians and can continue their settlements in the West Bank indefinitely.

Along very much those lines, Ariel Sharon's closest advisor Dov Weisglass, who is Sharon's point man in dealing with the Bush Administration gave a fascinating interview to Ha'aretz newspaper in Israel last fall where he boasted:

"There will be no timetable to implement the settler's nightmare. I have postponed that nightmare indefinitely. Because what I effectively agreed to with the Americans was that part of the settlements would not be dealt with at all, and the rest will not be dealt with until the Palestinians turn into Finns... With the proper management we succeeded in removing the issue of the political process from the agenda. And we educated the world to understand that there is no one to talk to. And we received a no-one-to-talk-to certificate. That certificate says: (1) There is no one to talk to. (2) As long as there is no one to talk to, the geographic status quo remains intact. (3) The certificate will be revoked only when this-and-this happens - when Palestine becomes Finland. (4) See you then, and shalom."

Obviously, the Palestinians aren't going to turn into Finns, anytime soon, so the West Bank settlements aren't going anywhere. Even though the Palestinians recently held a moderately fair and free election of their new leader Abbas, they are still years, decades, centuries away from Finnish standards of democracy.

Similarly, the Bush Administration can use it's "democracy" crusade to define any foreign government it dislikes as illegitimate. Jim Hoagland writes in the Washington Post:

" Years of American fumbling for a workable approach toward the hostile theocratic regime in Tehran have yielded only a single sentence as agreed Bush policy. The sentence, which Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice delivered in fancy dress to the Europeans during her current travels, comes down to this: The United States will take no action that extends legitimacy to the ayatollahs in Iran."

Iran is not a terribly democratic country, but it's dramatically more democratic than many others that the Bush Administration is copacetic with, such as China. But that's not good enough for the Bush Administration, conveniently enough.

Eagles 20 - Patriots 17

Super Bowl Prediction: Everybody is picking the New England dynasty, but I'll go with Eagles 20 - Patriots 17. (Of course, Super Bowls are seldom that close -- the two week preparation time means that usually one team peaks around last Thursday, comes out flat on Sunday, and gets killed.) Everybody is talking about New England quarterback Tom Brady's great post-season record, but he was only the 9th best passer in the league this year. In contrast, the Eagles' Donovan McNabb finally lived up to the hype and was the 4th best passer in the league.

I don't really believe that post-season success is all that more indicative of talent than regular season performance. For example, even though Jim Plunkett quarterbacked two Super Bowl winners, he really wasn't anything special. The biggest difference about the post-season is: smaller sample size. Thus, in the view of the press, John Elway was a dog for going 0-3 in first three Super Bowls, but then somehow became a god for going 2-0 in his last two. Nah, he was always Elway, which means that he was good enough to reach the Super Bowl so many times that his luck pretty much evened out in the end.

One way McNabb improved this year was by not running much -- his rushing yardage dropped to a career low 220 yards, down from 629 yards in 2000. Running QBs are exciting, but they generally take too much of a beating to throw truly well (e.g., Steve McNair, who had rushed for 674 yards in 1997 was down to only 138 last year, when he was the co-MVP with a great passing year.)

Because passing takes longer to mature in the NFL than running, this means that black quarterbacks, who tend to be much better runners than white quarterbacks, can often get into the starting line-up before they'd ready if they were only passers. For example, Michael Vick is a mediocre passer right now (21st in the NFL), but, because he might be the greatest all-around athlete in the world, he's effective overall because he ran for 902 yards. One interesting question is whether black quarterbacks who start off running a lot before they become good throwers will enjoy as long careers as less adventuresome quarterbacks do. The Falcons recently gave Vick the biggest contract in football, but the risk is that they are hoping he gets a lot better at throwing, and stay good at it over his 10 year contract, because over time, he's going to get a lot worse at running as he ages.

"No more Somozas" by the Wall Street Journal

The WSJ Editorial Board endorses the foreign policy of The Clash:

"The message of Bush's foreign policy: No more Somozas," applauds the Wall Street Journal's lead editorial. Who would have thought that the late Joe Strummer, lyricist of The Clash's bloated 1981 Sandinista! triple album, would be reincarnated, and so quickly, as an editorialist for the WSJ, of all places. (Or as a Bush speechwriter, for that matter?)

Although the WSJ used to be the scourge of Jimmy Carter's betray-our-allies foreign policy that disastrously undermined Somoza in Nicaragua and the Shah in Iran, it has now signed on to Strummer's endorsement of Jimmy Carterism, as enunciated in The Clash's song Washington Bullets, which is, in effect, the title song of Sandinista!:

For the very first time ever,
When they had a revolution in Nicaragua,
There was no interference from America
Human rights in America
Well the people fought the leader,
And up he flew...
With no Washington bullets what else could he do?...


I loved Joe, but I would no more have voted for him than I would have voted for Jimmy Carter. But I guess that means I'm not a real conservative anymore, according to the WSJ.

None of the usual frothing at the mouth

A surprisingly non-rabid article about Francis Galton in The New Yorker.

And the winner is ... in The American Conservative

"And the Winner Is..." -- My movie column in the Feb. 28th American Conservative reviews the Best Picture race. It is available to electronic subscribers. An excerpt:

This year's Oscar nominees for Best Picture comprise one of the weaker slates in memory, yet an enormous audience will no doubt tune in February 27 to watch the Academy Awards.

That the public still cares about the Oscars, or films in general, is curious. Now in its second century, going to the movies is almost as old-fashioned as such one-time rivals for the entertainment dollar as vaudeville and brass band concerts. Yet, although the average American spends over 1,600 hours annually watching television, compared to just 13 hours at the movies, they remain at the top of the pop culture food chain.

Popular music strongly challenged cinema for supremacy in the Sixties and Seventies, but has since splintered into micro-styles. In contrast, movies have gotten so expensive that only a few are released each week, allowing the studios' expert marketers to concentrate (albeit briefly) the national attention.

Despite television's pervasiveness, it lacks the prestige of film because, to be frank, as an advertiser-supported medium, TV aims primarily at women. A back-of-an-envelope calculation suggests that American men transfer about one trillion dollars annually to women to spend, so television networks (subscriber-supported HBO, the most prestigious network, excepted) pursue female viewers.

In contrast, males buy the majority of movie tickets, so films cater to them. And, as feminists have been known to complain, in our society (as in all societies), renown accrues mostly to things guys like. Men just care more than women do about constructing vast hierarchies of fame, such as the Oscars.

Although female studio bosses are common today, the Academy Awards are still extraordinarily male-dominated. For example, women have picked up only three of the approximately 385 nominations for Best Director, and (alert Nancy Hopkins!) none at all for Best Cinematographer.

Female screenwriters have become scarcer over time. Frances Marion was the highest paid writer in Hollywood's first two decades, but among the 86 individuals with three or more screenwriting nominations, only eight are women, and just three are from the liberated post-1970 era.

The Education of Larry Summers in The American Conservative

"The Larry Summers Show" - My long article in the Feb. 28th American Conservative is available this weekend to electronic subscribers. An excerpt:

The first scientific challenge to academia's traditional assumption that men were smarter than women came in 1912 when pioneering IQ test researcher Cyril Burt announced they scored equally -- on average. Yet, as Summers noted, men are more variable, so they are more numerous among the extremely intelligent, such as Harvard professors and Nobel Prize winners (40 of whom have taught at Harvard).

The Nobel Prize lists show a striking pattern: the fuzzier the field, the better women do. Twelve women have won the most political and least intellectually rigorous Nobel Prize, Peace (13 percent of all individual winners), and ten have been Literature laureates (ten percent). In Physiology & Medicine, there have been seven female laureates (four percent). In Chemistry, three (two percent), and in Physics, the most abstract of the Nobels, just two (one percent).

What about mathematics, that most unworldly of subjects? The Fields Medal for mathematicians under age 40 is the equivalent of the Nobel. No women number among its 44 recipients.

But, surely, the trendline must be turning upwards as discrimination lessens?

That's true in Physiology & Medicine, where women won only once before 1977, but six times (nine percent) since. Yet, by aggregating Physics and Chemistry, we can see the opposite pattern: five women ranked among the first 160 Physics and Chemistry laureates, but over the last 40 years, not a single woman features among the latest 160 winners.

Overall, in the bad old days from 1901 through 1964, women won 2.5 percent of the hard science Nobels. Since then, they've declined to 2.3 percent.

Why hasn't the feminist era fostered more female scientific geniuses? Perhaps feminism persuaded the top women that they could have it all -- romance, children, and career -- rather than just the lonely celibacy society once demanded from them, and they spread themselves too thin. Moreover, feminism encourages women to indulge in self-pity and resentment, which distract from earning a Nobel.

My wife asked, "So why hasn't the Nobel Foundation bowed to feminist pressure and started the usual crypto-quotas to make women feel better about themselves?"

"Because they don't have to?" I speculated. "After all, they're the Nobel Foundation."

"Exactly," she shot back. "And Larry Summers is the President of Harvard. So why can't he too stand up to the feminists who want to make it harder for our sons to get a fair shot?

February 7, 2005

Iraqi-Americans hate Allawi

Our man in Baghdad can't even even beat the Communist Party among Iraqi-American voters! The AP reports:

A Shiite coalition endorsed by clerics won most of the absentee ballots cast by Iraqis living abroad, although the main Kurdish party had a strong showing, according to completed results released Friday. The list led by U.S.-backed Prime Minister Ayad Allawi came in a distant third, despite expectations that the former exile leader — who lived for years in Great Britain — would do well among voters abroad.

The United Iraqi Alliance, which has the endorsement of Iraq's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, received 95,318 votes, or 36.15 percent of the valid 263,685 absentee ballots. It got a huge boost from Iraqis living in mostly Shiite Iran. [Is that a good sign?]

The main Kurdish coalition came second with 78,062 votes, or 29.6 percent, backed by the large Kurdish communities in Britain, Germany and Sweden in particular.
Allawi's "Iraqi List" took 24,136 votes, or 9.15 percent, doing its strongest in Syria and Jordan. [Hey, I thought Syria was our enemy! So how come our boy does best in Syria?] ...

In the United States, where more than 24,000 Iraqis cast ballots, the Alliance was strongest with over 31 percent, while Allawi's list came in sixth with around four percent — coming not only behind the Kurds but also behind two tiny Assyrian Christian parties and a communist-led party. [That's pathetic.]

More than 265,000 Iraqis turned out to vote in the 14 nations, out of 1.2 million eligible Iraqis abroad. [Not a very good turnout. Presumably, a lot of overseas Sunnis boycotted the election.]

Been down so long it looks like up to me

Was the Iraq election a massive defeat for the United States? That lots of Iraqis showed up to vote has been spun endlessly as a huge victory for America, but it's starting to sink in that most of them showed up either to vote against our hand-picked secularist collaborator Allawi or for Muslim fundamentalists, or both. Any of those reasons are a repudiation of America. The New York Times reports:

A second round of preliminary election returns released today by Iraqi authorities showed that 67 percent of the 3.3 million votes counted so far from Sunday's election went to an alliance of Shiite parties dominated by religious groups with strong links to Iran. Only 18 percent went to a group led by Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, a secular Shiite who favors strong ties to the United States.

Been down so long it looks like up to me: Generally speaking, getting our butts kicked in an election is considered a defeat, but I guess we've gotten so used to catastrophe in Iraq that losing looks like winning to us by now.