October 3, 2009

Be my 10,000,000th visit!

According to Sitemeter, the iSteve webpages are coming up on their 10 millionth unique visit since I installed Sitemeter in (I think) December 2002. At the moment, I'm at 9,990,009. (Total Page Views are currently at 16,288,424.)

At a little over 7,000 unique visits per day on average, that means the 10,000,000th visit will happen in the first half of this week of October 4th.

Sitemeter figures are usually considered to be underestimates. Also, these figures are only for iSteve pages, not for my many articles on the websites of VDARE.com, American Conservative, Taki's and so forth.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Legal vs. Illegal Blackmail

A reader points out a problem with free market blackmail without government involvement:
Blackmail does not necessarily end with the original quid quo pro agreed to as a result of the original extortion. The person that receives the benefit of such an extortion through blackmail is nonetheless often able to return to the well, time and time again, based only on the capacity and willingness of the victim to continue to pay.

There's a real market failure when you are trying to pay for exclusive control of information, which is these days an infinitely duplicable product.

Thus, blackmailees murdering blackmailers is a staple of old-fashioned detective shows. These kind of market failures call for government regulation. But what kind?

The legal system helps facilitate some kinds of blackmail by using the power of the state to enforce the contract on both parties, getting around this market failure problem with blackmail. For example, in 1994 Michael Jackson paid $22 million to his blackmailer in return for future silence. Since this was the settlement to a lawsuit, the agreement, including the plaintiff's future silence, was legally enforceable, which presumably increased Jackson's willingness to fork over $22 million. After the settlement, the plaintiff refused to testify in a criminal trial and the prosecution of Jackson collapsed.

On the other hand, the American legal system sent Bill Cosby's alleged natural daughter to prison for five years for attempting to barter her silence for $40 million.

It seems like there is kind of an excessively fine line here between becoming a millionaire or going to prison. I'm sure that somebody out there could persuasively explain the legal distinctions that take one person who knows a celebrity's secret to a life of luxury and another person to a prison cell, but it seems rather hazy.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Not enough exclamation points!

There's something that just doesn't feel right about Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner denying themselves an exclamation point in the title of their sequel to their 4 million-selling 2005 book Freakonomics.

C'mon, Steve and Steve, you deserve an exclamation point:

Heck, you've also earned yourselves one of those upside down Spanish exclamation points in front:

Steve and Steve's new book with the sadly understated and excessively tasteful title SuperFreakonomics will be out October 20. (Maybe they're reserving the exclamation point for the Broadway musical adaptation? I mean, why not? After all, Malcolm Gladwell got $1,000,000 for the movie rights to Blink.)

I'm looking forward to a nostalgic revival of the Freakonomics Frenzy of 2005, back when economists, having solved, once and for all, how to manage the economy had therefore allowed their attention to wander to imperializing lesser fields, such as criminology. Levitt didn't actually have to know boring stuff like crime rate trends in the U.S. over the last few decades before publicizing his abortion-cut-crime theory, because he was ... an economist!

Those were good times, good times ...

Conservation v. Diversity

A long-time reader points to this Daily Mail article on a British brouhaha:
Plan to legalise parakeet shoots branded 'racist' by wildlife experts

A move to shoot ring-necked parakeets to cut their numbers has been branded 'racist' by wildlife experts.

Natural England yesterday announced that from January it will relax rules protecting the exotic birds.

The birds have been blamed for destroying crops and bullying smaller native species in the hunt for food and nesting space.

But London Wildlife Trust said there is 'little evidence' that a cull of parakeets - with their bright green plumage, red beaks and ear-piercing screech - is justified.

It added that parakeets, which originate from the Himalayas, are 'as British as curry' and represent the London's cultural and historical diversity. ...

With up to 40,000 of the wild parrots thought to be in London and the South-East, in areas such as Richmond Park, it feared that they could soon outnumber native species in the way that the red squirrel population has been dominated by grey squirrels.

Matthew Heydon, Natural England’s licensing expert, said: “It’s true that at the present time the scale of this problem is relatively minor.

'That is because the birds are relatively limited in their distribution, but as they spread out of London you can expect the problem to get more severe.

'The closest example is the grey squirrel. Now there isn’t a hope in hell of removing the grey squirrel from Britain, and the red squirrel is hanging on by a thread.'

Mr Heydon warned it was not “open season” on parakeets and said the rules would be tightened if too many were killed. But he said one farmer in Cobham had lost enough grapes in a day to make 3,000 bottles of wine after they were eaten by parakeets.

Yes, but that's merely 3,000 bottles of English wine. ....
About 40,000 parakeets are thought to be in London and the South-East alone. Legend has it the birds escaped from Shepperton Studios in Surrey, during filming of the 1951 movie The African Queen starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn.

The rocker Jimi Hendrix is also said to have released two parakeets as an alternative symbol of peace in the 1960s.

Other species also added to the 'general licence' hit-list include the monk parakeet from South America, which can occasionally be found in the northern Home Counties, the Canada goose and the Egyptian goose.

... Natural England chief executive Helen Phillips said there was a 'vital' need to control exotic and non-native species.

'Non-native species are a major threat to global biodiversity and it is important that licences can operate as an effective tool in helping to tackle the problem,' she said. ...

* No one knows where the UK's wild parrots come from. One theory is that a pair escaped from a container in Heathrow airport.
* Since they started breeding in the wild in 1969, the ring necked parakeet has become London's 15th most common bird.
* They nest so early in the year - often in January - that they use up the good holes and nest boxes, driving away native species such as woodpeckers.
* In Esher, Surrey, one roost has an estimated 7,000 noisy birds.
* Also known as rose necked parakeets, they were kept as pets by the Ancient Greeks and Romans.
* The birds originate from the foothills of the Himalayas - so can cope with the chilly British weather.

A flock of about a dozen green parrots, presumably escaped pets, flies squawking over my house frequently. The make a pleasant diversion. On the other hand, a flock of about 200 parrots, said to have escaped when a pet store truck overturned on the freeway, took up residence on my aunt's street in Arcadia in the early 1970s and made life almost intolerable with their dawn squawking.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

October 2, 2009

Why is blackmail illegal?

From The Independent:

ONE morning in December 1824, the Duke of Wellington received an unpleasant letter. 'My Lord Duke,' it began, 'in Harriette Wilson's Memoirs, which I am about to publish, are various anecdotes of Your Grace which it would be most desirable to withhold, at least such is my opinion. I have stopped the Press for the moment, but as the publication will take place next week, little delay can necessarily take place.'

The letter, signed by one Joseph Stockdale, a pornographer and scandal-monger, was a naked attempt at blackmail. The Duke was a field marshal, cabinet minister, national hero, husband and father, while Harriette Wilson was a famous London courtesan past her prime, then living in exile in Paris. Wellington was being asked to pay money to be left out of her memoirs.

His response is famous: 'Publish and be damned!'

If David Letterman's lady friend staffer had threatened to sue for sexual harassment, but her lawyer told Letterman's lawyer that she'd be willing to sign an agreement promising never to say a word about the affair in return for a $2 million settlement, that would be perfectly legal, right? I mean, the law encourages people to threaten to sue their bosses for sexual harassment, right? And the law also encourages the parties to settle out of court, and promises of secrecy in return for money are legally enforceable, right?

What if the blackmailer instead of threatening to write a screenplay about a horndog talkshow host had actually written the screenplay and submitted it to David Letterman as a film to be produced by Letterman's Worldwide Pants production company, and Worldwide Pants could buy up all rights to it for just $2 million. (It probably wouldn't be that much worse a screenplay than the Strangers with Candy screenplay that Worldwide Pants did produce a few years ago.) I kind of seems like Mr. Halderman got himself arrested for being in a hurry to get paid, for not being suave about his approach.

Is the difference in the Letterman deal that a nosy third party is involved? Fair enough, but that doesn't seem to be the principle involved in the Bill Cosby case.

Bill Cosby's image is all very grandfatherly now, but my recollection is that he seemed to spend most of the 1970s hanging out at the Playboy Mansion. But everybody else seems to have forgotten. In the 1990s, a woman was convicted and sentenced to five years in jail for asking Bill Cosby for money in return for not selling her story to a supermarket tabloid that she was (at least according to her mother) Cosby's daughter.

When Autumn Jackson got sent off to prison for five years, CNN reported:
The judge in the case ruled that Cosby's alleged paternity was irrelevant and that the real issue was whether the defendants committed extortion. Cosby testified he had sex once with Jackson's mother but denied being her father.

A 1997 NYT article explained:

At one point during closing arguments, Mr. Baum told the jury: ''Autumn Jackson had a right to sell her story. Autumn Jackson had a right to ask her father to negotiate a settlement of her rights. ''Two rights don't make a wrong,'' he added.

But prosecutors say that two rights do make a wrong, when they constitute a threat to harm someone's reputation, accompanied by a demand for money. The disagreement highlights an age-old legal debate about what one lawyer calls the paradox of extortion and blackmail (the terms are often used interchangeably). [Although they shouldn't be. Extortion is "Give us money or we'll do something illegal to you." Blackmail is "Give us money or we'll do something legal to you."]

''The reason blackmail has exerted fascination for scholars is that it's a profoundly mysterious offense,'' said Leo Katz, professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and author of the book, ''Ill-Gotten Gains: Evasion, Blackmail, Fraud, and Kindred Puzzles of the Law.''

''What makes it mysterious is that you are threatening to do something which you are perfectly entitled to do, and you are asking for a benefit in return for not doing it,'' he said.

James Lindgren, a law professor at Northwestern University who has written extensively on blackmail and extortion, said: ''It's hard to see when you're doing things that individually are not wrong. It's not wrong to go to the tabloids, not wrong to make public claims about someone being your father, not wrong to ask for money.

''What's wrong,'' he said, ''is when you use the explicit leverage of public disgrace to get what you want.''

Some economists and lawyers have debated why blackmail and extortion are crimes in the first place. Paul Shechtman, a former top Federal prosecutor in Manhattan who performed an economic analysis of blackmail with Douglas H. Ginsburg, now a Federal Court of Appeals judge, found an economic rationale for keeping it a crime. Legalizing blackmail, he said, would spawn an entire industry that would dredge up secrets to conceal again for a price.

''As a general matter, it's not in anybody's economic interest to have people dig up dirt and rebury it,'' Mr. Shechtman said.

In any case, the extortion and blackmail riddle has not given prosecutors much pause. ''Prosecutors have been prosecuting, blissfully ignorant of the debate,'' Mr. Shechtman said. And they have been winning convictions as well.

Take another example: former Bush speechwriter Matthew Latimer is getting a lot of praise and a lot of denunciations for telling backstage tales from the Bush White House. Is he right or wrong? Well, I think it depends on his contract, written or oral. Let's say he's asked to come work as as a speechwriter for X dollars per year, but there's a stipulation that he never write about it. If he asks for 1.5X in return for accepting that stipulation never to profit off backstage secrets of the Bush Administration is he demanding blackmail (in a prepaid form)?

Or, how about this: Let's say your dad is, I don't know, let's pick a name at random ... Barack Obama. A book agent tells you that he could get you a $3 million book deal for the story of your life and, as in Tristam Shandy, your conception, which you have a detailed account about in your late mother's diary, which you've recently inherited.

You'd like the $3 million, but you'd rather not have all the publicity (and you'd rather not have to do the work of writing the book). And you would rather not cause your father, whom you voted for, any political damage (especially if, say, your mom, Natasha Gromyko, was your dad's KGB controller operating out of the Soviet Mission at the UN in 1983-1985, and you'd just as soon not open that whole can of worms. I mean, like, the Cold War is so over.) So, wouldn't it be better for both you and your dad if you came to some quiet agreement where in return for, say, $2 million you'd agree to never tell?

How about, instead, if you were thinking about writing a book entitled, My Dad, Barack Obama, and he got wind of it and called you and offered you $2 million not to finish it? That's legal, right?

How about if you sent him a birthday card mentioning you were thinking about writing your autobiography (precocious autobiographical tomes run in the family!) and he called back and offered $2 million if you wouldn't publish it? That's legal, isn't it?

How about if you called him and told him your plans to write a book, and then said, "But, I'm thinking about a number ..." And then he said, "Let me guess, two million dollars." And then you said, "Dad, you can read my mind!" Is that legal?

What if you weren't thinking about writing a memoir at all, but one day in December 2007, Valerie Jarrett knocks on your door with a satchel of cash and a contract to never write your memoirs. Is that legal?

Kind of seems like the law is "Don't mess with popular celebrities."

But wouldn't that be backward? It would seem like there would be a public policy interest in the public learning more about the personal character of highly influential people like Bill Cosby, David Letterman, or the Duke of Wellington, just as the libel law since 1964 makes it harder for public figures to win a libel suit. It would seem like that's the answer to Shectman and Ginsburg's critique: that the legal distinction between public figures and private figures be extended from libel law to blackmail law. The public has an interest in learning more about the those who play major roles in public life, while those public figures also have a private interest in not having facts be learned. Between the two interests, the law should be neutral. Let the marketplace reign.

Or maybe it's just that the law frowns on people who try to cut out the lawyer middlemen and deal directly with their opposite numbers.

P.S. What if your book, My Dad, Barack Obama, happened to contain the true stories of how both of your dad's main Democratic and Republican rivals in the 2004 Illinois Senate race happened to have their scandalous divorce papers publicized, forcing them to withdraw?

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Rio over Chicago for the 2016 Olympics

Since the International Olympic Committee owns a monopoly on the Olympics, a popular sports festival in which the stars don't get paid, IOC members, especially ones from poor countries, sold their votes in return for bribes in the wake of the profitable 1984 LA Olympics. There was a big crackdown after the Salt Lake City winter Olympic shakedown scandal, so I really don't know what goes on behind the scenes anymore.

There's a lot of speculation on why Obama's lobbying trip to the IOC vote failed so spectacularly (Chicago finished last out of the final four), but who knows the real reason? Was Obama's lobbying too overbearing? Or was Obama in person underwhelming after all the hype? Or maybe Rio showed up with more hookers and blow? Who knows how it works these days?

Something you won't hear elsewhere, but may well have been going through the less venal IOC members minds when Obama arrived in Copenhagen is: "Yes, yes, I'm sure that African-American political triumphs, such as Obama's, are well worth handing out an Olympics to celebrate ... but we just did that 20 years ago when we gave the 1996 Olympics to Martin Luther King's hometown, Atlanta. The Atlanta Games were supposed to be a celebration of black political power (e.g., Mayor Andy Young) in alliance with American corporate power (e.g., Coke), in other words ... Diversity! ... but it was kind of a dud of an Olympics due to Atlanta being less than a bedazzling world class city, the typical hot and humid summer weather, and the widespread incompetence that accompanies diversity."

Here's just a part of Olympics spectator Ronald DuPont Jr.'s account of his experience in Atlanta:

"On my first night at the [1996 Atlanta] Olympics, the bus driver taking me and about 35 other people back to our cars got lost. Our half-hour trip took 1 1/2 hours, and we joked that we got the "scenic route." On my second night, another bus driver prepared to get on the wrong highway until a chorus of Atlanta natives on the bus yelled in unison, directing him to the correct road. Last night, on my way to the Olympics, our bus took the sideview mirror off a merging Jeep. (We pulled over to the side of the road and sat for a half-hour while police filled out their reports.) Then, when we got on the bus to head back, an Olympics representative got on the bus and publicly asked if there was anyone who could give our driver directions on how to get to the drop-off point. On the same night, a bus driver pulled to the side of the highway and promptly quit, saying the job was too dangerous. The lines to get on the buses are often thousands of people deep, and I've waited as long as an hour in the sun to board a bus. Welcome to what is being called the Glitch Games. The transportation problems have gotten so bad here that many foreigners and the foreign press are calling this one of the worst-run Olympics in terms of logistics. Take a look:

London Daily Mail -- "Olympic Chaos."
Mexico City News -- "Atlanta Reels"
Los Angeles Times -- "Bum steers in Bumfuzzled Atlanta"
France-Soir -- "Africa has been deprived of the Games since their creation with the pretext that African countries don't have the necessary infrastructure. After Atlanta, any country in the world can apply to host the Games."

(In contrast, the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics were widely questioned by the media beforehand for a lack of diversity, but those non-diverse white people in Salt Lake City turned out to be -- amazingly enough -- well organized and ran a competent Olympics.)

So, you can understand why somebody on the IOC might think of Chicago's bid as just Atlanta All Over Again. In contrast, nobody is going to call us racist if we snub Obama but give it to Rio, and Brazil seems to be getting their farming act together and they just found offshore oil, so, who knows, they may be in better financial shape than America in 7 years.

I would have gone to the 2016 Olympics in Chicago for old time's sake, but I probably wouldn't have wanted them if I still lived and paid taxes there. Chicago has enough problems without them. LA in 1984 was the sports facility capital of the world, and Mayor Tom Bradley was the only mayor in the world with the guts to bid for the 1984 games, so all LA had to do was take old reliable venues like the Coliseum, Rose Bowl, Dodger Stadium, Forum, Pauley Pavilion, Sports Arena, Santa Anita Racetrack, and countless others, and drape them in some color-coordinated "festive federalism" temporary decor and, by the low standards of 1984, put on a great Olympics.

Now, though, expectations about new construction have risen so far (for example, I suspect that Chinese pre-Olympic stockpiling of diesel fuel caused in large part the global oil price spike of the early summer of 2008 that killed off home prices in America's exurbs) that it's a mug's game to play.

Chicago does have a reasonable strategy for survival as a city (i.e., not turn into Detroit), which is to finish off tearing down all the public housing and then use Section 8 rental vouchers to drive the welfare class off into the lower rent midwestern hinterlands. Call it Parisification, where the affluent live in the city and poor are warehoused somewhere elsewhere, out of sight, to amuse themselves setting cars on fire without interrupting the good life in the city. Mayor Daley has been studying Paris on numerous visits for 20 years.

There's a quiet Darwinian war going on among American cities to determine who will be the winners (for example, the white population of Washington D.C. went up about 20% just from 2000 to 2007) and who will be the losers (e.g., Baltimore gets some of the poor folks driven out of DC by gentrification). The Olympics were supposed to help Chicago in this struggle by making the city more fashionable with young upper middle class people, but who knows whether that really matters. Barcelona seemed to get a boost out of it, but it's not clear that Atlanta did.

Anyway, Rio is a spectacular site for a city -- imagine Yosemite Valley on the ocean. In 1978, I sat at a cafe on the Copacabana Beach. Four blocks inland, a vertical granite wall rose straight up from a street of boutiques. Five hundred feet above the traffic, three roped up rock-climbers were making their ascent, clinging to the rock by the their fingernails.

August is an excellent time to hold the Olympics in Rio -- 70ish highs and about as dry and sunny as it gets there. Much better than, say, the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta in July-August. Apparently, the locals snookered the IOC members into thinking that Atlanta had mild summers -- perhaps they gave the impression it was at 900 meters altitude rather than 900 feet. Or maybe they just provided the biggest bribes, I don't know.

Good luck with the crime, Rio.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

October 1, 2009

Where are Obama's old girlfriends?

Barack Obama met Michelle Robinson the summer he turned 28, following his first year at Harvard Law School. On their first date, they saw Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing, which was released June 30, 1989, five weeks before his 28th birthday. With her deep roots in the respectable black lower middle class of the South Side of Chicago, she was the perfect political wife for an exotic young man whose intent was to follow Harold Washington as a black mayor of Chicago.

But that raises a question: who were Obama's girlfriends during those first 27 years and 11 months? Did he have any? The public record is curiously sparse.

In Dreams from My Father, he makes references to a serious girlfriend whom he dropped after a year because she was white (although various readers have complained that this character seems more stylized than realistic). He also claims he chose Occidental College because it was in Los Angeles, where a tourist girl he'd met was from.

But we seem to be lacking in outside evidence for the President having a romantic relationship with a human female before about his 28th birthday.

You might think that in this era where seemingly everybody wants to be a celebrity, an ex-girlfriend might want some publicity. I mean, Bernie Madoff's mistress just published her memoirs...

On the other hand, the media's abuse of Gennifer Flowers back in 1992 may have scared women off. The press attacked her virulently because she had sold her story. As everybody in the news business knows, the essence of morality is giving your story to the press for free. You can look it up: it's one of the Ten Commandments. When I finally got around to reading Ms. Flowers' views on the President in the late 1990s, they turned out to be sympathetically insightful. They helped me understand Clinton a lot better.

The press, of course, is even less interested in helping you understand Obama than they were in helping you understand Clinton.

Yet, I haven't heard any credible gay rumors about Obama, either. Having lived from 1982-2000 in Chicago, a big city with a dearth of celebrities, which means that the multitudinous locals have a lot of time on their hands to gossip about each and every one of the few celebrities in town, I got used to hearing gay rumors about seemingly every famous person in Chicago, except maybe Mike Royko, Richie Daley, and Mike Ditka: Oprah? Sure. Governor Thompson? Of course. Mayor Washington? No doubt about it! Practically every single player on the 1985 Chicago Bears? I mean, why not? But the gay rumors I've seen on the Internet and in supermarket checkout racks about Obama just seem like the usual junk.

Nor is there much circumstantial evidence. For example, Obama plays golf a lot, but doesn't much publicize it (the golf magazines I subscribe to just get their President goes golfing news second hand from the AP -- they haven't yet gotten an interview with Obama about his golf game.)

So, the topic is rather puzzling.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Female Conformism

You might think that the question of whether mothers of young children should work full-time, part-time, or stay home, would be considered a personal decision dependent upon family and individual circumstances, one which kibbutzers would respect and wish well. But, that's not how it works. Relative to men, women tend to be more conformist. They want to do what other women are doing, and they want other women to do what they are doing.

Hence, there has been a long cold war in the female side of the press between full-time working mothers versus stay-at-home mothers (with part-time working mothers in the middle). Of course, the full-time working mothers control the means of journalistic production, so the battle in the press is one-sided.

Thus, you get the following kind of article that gleans Census data for evidence of who is in fashion.

From the Washington Post:
Census Dispels 'Opting-Out' Notion for Stay-at-Home Moms
Most Stay-at-Home Moms Start That Way, Study Finds
Many Are Younger, Less Educated, Hispanic

By Donna St. George
Washington Post Staff Writer

A first census snapshot of married women who stay home to raise their children shows that the popular obsession with high-achieving professional mothers sidelining careers for family life is largely beside the point.

Instead, census statistics released Thursday show that stay-at-home mothers tend to be younger and less educated, with lower family incomes. They are more likely than other mothers to be Hispanic or foreign-born.

Census researchers said the new report is the first of its kind and was spurred by interest in the so-called "opt-out revolution" among well-educated women said to be leaving the workforce to care for children at home.

"I do think there is a small population, a very small population, that is opting out, but with the nationally representative data, we're just not seeing that," said Diana B. Elliott, a family demographer who is co-author of the U.S. Census Bureau report.

The report showed that mothering full time at home is a widespread phenomenon, including 5.6 million women, or nearly one in four married mothers with children younger than 15. By comparison, the country's stay-at-home dads number 165,000.

Researchers noted that the somewhat younger ages of stay-at-home mothers could partly explain their lower education levels and that less family income would be expected with just one parent in the workforce.

Even so, the profile of mothers at home that emerged is clearly at odds with the popular discussion that has flourished in recent years, they said.

The notion of an opt-out revolution took shape in 2003, when New York Times writer Lisa Belkin coined the term to describe the choices made by a group of high-achieving Princeton women who left the fast track after they had children.

It has since been the subject of public debate, academic study and media obsession. It has been derided as a myth but has never quite gone away in an era when women still struggle to balance work and family and motherhood's conflicts have been parodied and probed in everything from Judith Warner's book "Perfect Madness" to television's "Desperate Housewives" and "The Secret Life of a Soccer Mom."

The census statistics show, for example, that the educational level of nearly one in five mothers at home was less than a high school degree, as compared with one in 12 other mothers. Thirty two percent of moms at home have at least a bachelor's degree, compared with 38 percent of other mothers.

One of the things I'd point out is that in today's U.S., mothers, especially mothers of multiple preschool children (i.e., those most likely to stay at home), are an awful lot more Hispanic, foreign-born, and poorly educated than the mothers whose deliberations are described in such agonizing detail in the New York Times Magazine. In California in 2005, for example, the the total fertility rate for immigrant Latinas was 3.7, compared to 1.6 for American born white women.

The kind of people who subscribe to the New York Times or Washington Post are an ever-shrinking part of the population, although you won't hear about that fact much in the NYT or WP.

What does seem apparent from the Census report is that the historic female shift from the home to the workplace that began after the Baby Boom ran out in the mid-1960s came to an end some time ago, probably about a decade and a half ago.
In 1986, 59 percent of married couples with children under 18 had both spouses in the labor force. This percentage rose to 68 in 2000 and was slightly lower, at 66 percent, in 2007.

In case you were wondering:
There was an increase in the percentage of couples where only the wife was in the labor force. This was a small percentage of couples but rose from 2 percent to 3 percent from 1986 to 2007.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

They do things better in Spitzbergen

Back when I was a kid in the 1960s, the universal assumption among right-thinking Americans was, "They do it better in Sweden." The blue-eyed utopias of Europe were widely admired for such policies as paying generous welfare to single mothers.

Over time, though, you heard less about Sweden, in part because, outside of places like Minnesota, Swedish-style welfare policies had unexpected consequences in America. Also, increasingly after 1967 in American intellectual life, whose side were you on in WWII became the touchstone of all morality, and, while few quite came out and spoke openly about Swedish neutrality (unlike that of those evil Swiss, who were constantly denounced), American pundits' enthusiasm for Sweden waned.

A new generation of liberal commentators is growing up, however, innocent of all that history, and their enthusiasm for the blue-eyed utopias is growing. Their chief spokesman is young Matthew Yglesias, currently vacationing in Stockholm. (I mean, where else would one vacation in Europe in October? Venice? Florence? Lake Como? Corfu? Siena? Barcelona, or some other brown-eyed dystopia? Don't be silly.)

Matt’s entire political philosophy is like the old joke about the economist shipwrecked on a desert island with a can of beans: “Assume we have a can opener …”

His philosophy of public policy for the U.S. begins: “Assume we have 300,000,000 Swedes …”

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


One reader commented upon my review of Disgrace, the film adaptation of J.M. Coetzee's Nobel-winning novel with John Malkovich as a South African literature professor and aging Don Juan who retires in disgrace to the countryside to write an opera about the Italian adventures of Lord Byron, author of Don Juan:
"OK, that was the most depressing movie review I've ever read."

So, let me recount a happier story.

Coetzee almost certainly found some inspiration for the main character in Disgrace, David Lurie, the Cape Town Casanova, a literature professor who wants to write an opera about a a great lover, in the amusing career of Lorenzo Da Ponte (1749-1838), a rogue who constantly found himself banished in disgrace, only to re-emerge triumphant in a new city. But Da Ponte's life is much too upbeat a story for a man of Coetzee's misanthropic temperament to cite directly. So, Lurie lives out the miserable inverse of Da Ponte's absurdly buoyant life story.

Da Ponte was born Emanuele Conegliano, son of a Jewish tanner in a ghetto in the Republic of Venice. Da Ponte converted to Roman Catholicism and took the name of the bishop who baptized him at age 14. He was ordained a Catholic priest, but, even by 18th Century Venetian standards, Father Da Ponte's piety was suspect: he hung out with Casanova, had three children by a lady of dubious virtue, and opened a brothel. The pimp priest was banished in disgrace from Venice.

He arrived in Vienna and talked himself into the job of royal Poet to the Theaters. He struck up a working relationship with Mozart, and wrote the librettos for The Marriage of Figaro, Cosi fan tutte, and Don Giovanni. (Casanova appears to have offered suggestions to his old friend Da Ponte for this last and greatest effort with Mozart). Although we don't know much about the inner workings of their collaboration, it appears that da Ponte had the good sense to let Mozart take the lead.

With the deaths of Mozart and the Emperor, Da Ponte's popularity in Vienna waned, especially after running off with another man's wife. He wound up in London, where he may or may not have married a Jewish lady with whom he had five children. They presented themselves as Anglicans. Da Ponte went broke in England. To stay out of debtor's prison, he fled to the new American republic, where he went into the grocery business.

But, even in old age in provincial America, he still had a knack for making friends who were culturally influential. Granted, Clement Moore was a less glittering figure than Casanova or Mozart, but the author of "Twas the Night Before Christmas" (which codified the American Santa Clause) got the 76-year-old Da Ponte the job of Professor of Italian Literature at Columbia. Da Ponte is sometimes said to have been Columbia's first Jewish professor and its first professor who had been a Catholic priest. He was definitely the last Columbia professor to share in the creation of Don Giovanni.

He was a popular and influential figure, introducing New Yorkers to the glories of Dante and Rossini. At 79, Da Ponte became an American citizen, and at 85 he was instrumental in the construction of the first dedicated opera house in the U.S.

Although the dying Don Giovanni, like Coetzee's David Lurie at his sexual harassment hearing, had refused to repent, Da Ponte was more prudent. A 1957 Time review of a Da Ponte biography says:
Da Ponte died in 1838 at 89 and his passing was a grand operatic spectacle: with his magnificent head upon a sea of pillows, he lavishly blessed a weeping troupe of opera singers who knelt around his bed. At the very last moment he summoned a Roman Catholic priest, who received the old Jewish-Catholic-Anglican back into the fold.

He was given a huge Catholic funeral at old St. Patrick's Cathedral.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

September 30, 2009

What does fugitive Marc Rich have that Roman Polanski doesn't?

A Presidential pardon.

I reviewed why Bill Clinton gave Marc Rich a pardon here.

I can't help posting this quote from Harvey Weinstein in the LA Times:
"Hollywood has the best moral compass, because it has compassion," Weinstein said. "We were the people who did the fundraising telethon for the victims of 9/11."

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


My review of the new film Disgrace, starring John Malkovich, based on Nobel laureate J.M. Coetzee's 1999 novel about the horrifying fate of white farmers in black-ruled South Africa, is up now at Taki's Magazine.

Read it there and comment upon it here.

It might be amusing after you read my review to read the, shall we say, inexplicit reviews of "Top Critics" on RottenTomatoes.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Tracey Ullman's Death Row weddings

Somebody asked if there's ever been a movie about Death Row weddings.

Here's Tracey Ullman's recent clip in which she plays the current Mrs. Wet Wipe Killer and the future Mrs. Tastee-Freez Rapist.

And here's an earlier Tracey Takes On in which fierce lawyeress Sydney Kross convinces meek bank teller Kay Clark to marry her Death Row penpal so Sydney can make an appeal for leniency.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

September 29, 2009

"Killer Groupies an unexplained mystery"

From the San Francisco Chronicle:
Killer Groupies an unexplained mystery
Stefan Tomik, Chronicle Staff Writer

Even in his death row cell, satanic serial killer and rapist Richard Ramirez, the "Night Stalker,"receives bags of mail. And of the dozens of people who try to contact him each year, officials say, about 90 percent are women.

It's not just Ramirez who gets the attention, nor is Scott Peterson alone in the way he attracted admiring women even after he was sentenced to die for killing his wife and unborn child.

Death row prisoners often join the horde of grooms married in group ceremonies such as the one planned Saturday at San Quentin State Prison.

It's a phenomenon that's little understood and seldom studied: Women who fall hopelessly in love - or at the least become wildly infatuated - with the most feared killers.

"Our high notoriety inmates get the most interest," said Lt. Sam Robinson, a San Quentin spokesman. "I have tried to figure this out, but I don't have an answer."

Ramirez was convicted in 1988 of 13 murders and 30 other felonies, among them rape and sodomy. He had terrified Southern California in the mid-1980s and was called "the Night Stalker" because he killed his victims in their beds.

After he was caught and arrested, he met freelance editor Doreen Lioy. In 1988, the year he was convicted, he proposed. They married in the San Quentin visitor waiting room in 1996.

Ramirez had a choice. Other women had proposed to him, and today there are a handful of women who regularly maintain contact.

Some of them write to him or visit him, including a 30-year-old woman from Washington. The woman, who did not want to be identified by The Chronicle, said most relatives don't know about her relationship with Ramirez, although her disapproving husband does.

She said she started writing to the Night Stalker - a habit that sometimes exceeded 20 letters a week and frequent visits - because she was fascinated with his case.

"He is good looking and I loved his big hands," she said of Ramirez. "The thrill of danger of going up to a state penitentiary made it all worth it because to me it was like a dream come true to face one of the world's most feared men.

"Like my mom used to say, you can love someone but you don't have to like them," she says.

And Ramirez, despite being her "best friend," deserves to die for his crimes, she said.

A reader writes:
I have a few oddball speculations to explain this, such as womens' drive for 'bad-boy' alpha male types, like, say, the Menendez twins, that are willing to break social norms & laws to get ahead. These guys could be seen as ruthless providers of security & money, if a confused woman were inclined to squint the wrong way.

Other draws might be a mixed-up maternal instinct trying to 'mother' them back to the fold, a test of the womens' sexual attraction (Am I hot enough to tame this murderer with my feminine wiles?), or simple lust for fame & noteriety.

Good old fashioned mental illness & female irrationality might explain some of this too, but, if so, then similar #'s of women would be throwing themselves at other norm breakers (homeless) or better providers (accountants) when they are not.

One person quoted in the article suggested that guys on Death Row have more time on their hands to write back than do other kinds of celebrities.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Castro has at least ten children by six women

Fidel Castro has kept his private life intensely secret, but it turns out to be exactly what you'd expect. The Telegraph totes up the numbers uncovered so far in "Fidel Castro's Cuba full of his offspring after years of womanizing by El Commandante."

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Those are going to be some long bus rides!

As you may recall, the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision hinged in surprising proportion on an experiment done by sociologist Kenneth Clark in which black children tended to choose to play with (store-bought) white dolls over (home-made) black dolls, demonstrating (according to the Supreme Court's fearless interpretation) that segregated schools damaged black self-esteem.

From a WSJ article on a Chinese toy manufacturer who is reorienting from the American to the Chinese domestic market:
"The company had some initial hiccups. For the domestic market, the designers' first instinct was to make the dolls with yellow-toned skin and black hair, to match their Chinese owners. The response wasn't so good: It turned out many Chinese girls preferred dolls with pink skin and blond hair."

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Failing Upward

A reader writes regarding the video of the gang fight in a Chicago school in which a 16-year-old passerby was killed.
This is where I grew up.

What's sad is, the crime was a lot higher when I was in elementary school (900 murders a year versus 400 murders a year today).

However, the media attention is greater today since:
1. this crime happens on the south side of chicago
2. Barack Obama lives on the south side of chicago

The Drudge Report and Rush Limbaugh are sending the message to Obama and Rahm "fix your house before you try to fix mine".

This is actually the neighborhood Barack Obama "organized" as a community organizer. If you read his books, he talks about helping people in the Altgeld Gardens community, and one of the gangs in this fight lived in the Altgeld Gardens community.

Obama's career consists largely of Failing Upward. It's nice work if you can get it. (That said, Obama's lightweightness compares favorably to our last President's, who would have lost in a Presidential election in which the only other candidates were his siblings and the only voters his parents.)

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Questioning both kinds of liberalism

A friend emails:
The discussion of Left and Right always assumes underlying agreement on liberalism. Left-liberal social democrats and Right-liberal free-marketeers define the acceptable boundaries of "ideological discourse".

But liberalism is the thing that is causing ideological confusion and conflict. Liberalism, the philosophy of untrammelled individual autonomy, is not compatible with cohesive institutional authorities such as families, churches or states. (And maybe even companies, going by the self-destructive tendencies in financial markets.)

Liberalism also tends to lead to natural dysfunction, at the micro-level with obesity and macro-level with global warming.

But its sacred tenets are never questioned.

I think that liberalism has a narcotic effect on its victims, inducing a life-long intellectual stupour when it comes to examining its own assumptions.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

September 27, 2009

"Immigration Reform and America's Unchosen Future"

From my review in VDARE.com of historian Otis L. Graham’s big book, Immigration Reform and America’s Unchosen Future:

Immigration is probably the single broadest, deepest, most intellectually challenging topic in all of public policy. There’s no knottier or more significant question you can ask than: When the government elects a new people, how many and whom should it elect?

Not surprisingly, the sheer cognitive challenge involved in having an informed and intelligent opinion on immigration is one reason why immigration is the least favorite major issue among mainstream public intellectuals. ...

To conceal how far in over their heads they are, Main Stream Media (MSM) staffers often vilify anyone well-versed on immigration as “ignorant” and motivated by “hate”. No matter how thoughtful and judicious your insights on immigration, no matter how respectable your curriculum vitae, you’ll just be smeared directly or by association by the hucksters at the $outhern Poverty Law Center, whose word will then be taken on faith by the press.

The endless ramifications of immigration are closely analyzed in historian Otis L. Graham’s just-published big book, Immigration Reform and America’s Unchosen Future It’s a combination of memoir, insider history, and analysis by a scholar who was “present at the creation” of much of the organized resistance to immigration expansion....

One evening at a 1983 Witan in San Diego, attendees watched several hundred illegal aliens swarm across the border in a mass rush intended to overwhelm the Border Patrol: “During our weekend there, BP officers arrested people from ninety-six foreign countries …”

One attendee at that particular Witan was Theodore H. White, the world famous author of The Making of the President bestsellers. White, who had been Time’s star reporter in China during WWII—where he had become a close friend of Chou En-lai, the dazzling Communist diplomat)—was not a fan of overpopulation. Graham writes:

“White had spoken passionately in our meetings about the negative consequences of losing control of the border between a population-stabilizing developed country and a population-exploding Third World country sharing a 2,000 mile frontier.”

But when John Tanton asked him to publish his views,
“White recoiled, almost frightened.

“‘My New York friends would never forgive me. No, you guys are right, but I can’t go public on this.’ ”

At that point, the 68-year-old Teddy White was probably the single most respected print journalist in America in 1983. White’s fear shows you how severe are the penalties in the media business for questioning immigration. ...

But, as Graham recalls,
“Hearing White’s agitated response, I had my first glimpse of the especially intense emotional Jewish version of that taboo [against immigration skepticism]. His whole heritage, and his standing with all his Jewish friends, was imperiled (he was certain) if he went public with his worries about the state of immigration.”

To show how buried away from public discourse this crucial aspect of modern America is kept, note that Graham, at that point a 47-year-old tenured professor of American history, was only then becoming aware of it!

Graham continues:
“I did not suspect it then, but this would become an important subtheme of our experience as immigration reformers. American Jews were exceptionally irrational about immigration for well-known reasons. They were also formidable opponents, or allies, in any issue of public policy in America.”

Indeed, on 2009’s Atlantic 50 list of most influential columnists, bloggers, and broadcast pundits, almost exactly half are Jewish, even though only about 2 percent of the population is Jewish. In particular, white Jewish males are represented at rates more than 50 times higher than the average American.

What Graham calls the “filiopietistic” urge (“of or relating to an often excessive veneration of ancestors …”) is particularly strong among Jewish media figures. (Italian-Americans, in contrast, tend to approach the immigration policy question by thinking about the future rather than by obsessing over the past.) This anti-rational emotional reflex about immigration contributes to the kitschy quality of MSM discourse on the topic.

The best solution? Raising awareness.

Why shouldn’t citizens know the facts?
Read the whole thing.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

"When Writers Speak"

Arthur Krystal reflects on how many good writers aren't good talkers. Nabokov, for instance, insisted on having interview questions submitted days early, and then merely read his answers to the interviewer off his famous note cards.
Am I disappointed? I am at first, but then I think: writers don’t have to be brilliant conversationalists; it’s not their job to be smart except, of course, when they write. Hazlitt, that most self-conscious of writers, remarked that he did not see why an author “is bound to talk, any more than he is bound to dance, or ride, or fence better than other people. Reading, study, silence, thought are a bad introduction to loquacity.”

Sounds right to me. Like most writers, I seem to be smarter in print than in person. In fact, I am smarter when I’m writing. I don’t claim this merely because there is usually no one around to observe the false starts and groan-inducing sentences that make a mockery of my presumed intelligence, but because when the work is going well, I’m expressing opinions that I’ve never uttered in conversation and that otherwise might never occur to me.

When I was a teenager, I was smartest when shooting baskets in the backyard. I would work out new arguments for debate while shooting hoops. The repetitious but not boring exercise seemed to stimulate my brain.

These days, I don't have the kind of memory left where I can work out a long chain of argument in my head. I have to put my flickering thoughts down on screen right away before they go away. I love going for walks, and I would very much like to rationalize walking as crucial to my coming up with new ideas, but, in truth, it's a much inferior use of time to banging away at the keyboard.

Nor am I the first to have this thought, which, naturally, occurred to me while composing. According to Edgar Allan Poe, writing in Graham’s Magazine, “Some Frenchman — possibly Montaigne — says: ‘People talk about thinking, but for my part I never think except when I sit down to write.” I can’t find these words in my copy of Montaigne, but I agree with the thought, whoever might have formed it. And it’s not because writing helps me to organize my ideas or reveals how I feel about something, but because it actually creates thought or, at least supplies a Petri dish for its genesis.

Typing forces me to confront holes in my arguments. Generally, I come up with better ideas not through changing my mind but through a thesis-antithesis-synthesis process in which I confront my idea with somebody's opposing evidence and look for a better idea that incorporates all the evidence.

In contrast, Nabokov felt that the acts of communicating just poorly replicated the brilliance inside his head: "I think like a genius, I write like a distinguished author, and I speak like a child." But, then, he was Nabokov.

The Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker, however, isn’t so sure. In an e-mail exchange, Pinker sensibly points out that thinking precedes writing and that the reason we sound smarter when writing is because we deliberately set out to be clear and precise, a luxury not usually afforded us in conversation. ... Pinker likens this to mathematicians thinking differently when proving theorems than when counting change, or to quarterbacks throwing a pass during a game as opposed to tossing a ball around in their backyards. He does concede, however, that since writing allows time for reveries and ruminations, it probably engages larger swaths of the brain.

... This rhythm, not so much heard as felt, occurs only when one is composing; it can’t be simulated in speech, since speaking takes place in real time and depends in part on the person or persons we’re speaking to. Wonderful writers might therefore turn out to be only so-so conversationalists, and people capable of telling great stories waddle like ducks out of water when they attempt to write.

Obviously, rewriting helps. Lots of people are best in real time, but writers aren't.
So the next time you hear a writer on the radio or catch him on the tube or watch him on the monitor or find yourself sitting next to him at dinner, remember he isn’t the author of the books you admire; he’s just someone visiting the world outside his study or office or wherever the hell he writes.

One problem I have in conversations with my readers is that when I deliver a witticism, it's usually something they've already seen by me on their computer screens. So, in person, I'm just plagiarizing myself. Where's that spontaneous Sailer wit? Well, that spontaneous wit only comes and goes when I'm writing, and even when it comes it still takes me 5 or 10 minutes to get it down just right.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

FCC Diversity Czar demands more gays in media

From a Washington Times article on Administration official Mark Lloyd:

At another conference, Mr. Lloyd spoke about the need to remove white people from powerful positions in the media to give minorities a fairer chance.

"There's nothing more difficult than this because we have really truly, good, white people in important positions, and the fact of the matter is that there are a limited number of those positions," he said.

"And unless we are conscious of the need to have more people of color, gays, other people in those positions, we will not change the problem. But we're in a position where you have to say who is going to step down so someone else can have power."

He added: "There are few things, I think, more frightening in the American mind than dark-skinned black men. Here I am."

Wait a minute -- "the need to have more people of color, gays ..."

So, there aren't enough gays in the media?

Who knew?

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

AfPak's Dr. Evil moment

Remember how Dr. Evil, who had been cryogenically frozen since 1967, threatened to blow up the world unless he receives One Million Dollars?

From the Washington Post:
The AfPak War
Combating Extremism in Afghanistan and Pakistan
Diverse Sources Fund Insurgency In Afghanistan
Restricting Cash Flow Difficult, U.S. Says

By Craig Whitlock
Washington Post Foreign Service

KABUL -- The Taliban-led insurgency has built a fundraising juggernaut that generates cash from such an array of criminal rackets, donations, taxes, shakedowns and other schemes that U.S. and Afghan officials say it may be impossible to choke off the movement's money supply.

Obama administration officials say the single largest source of cash for the Taliban, once thought to rely mostly on Afghanistan's booming opium trade to finance its operations, is not drugs but foreign donations. The CIA recently estimated that Taliban leaders and their allies received $106 million in the past year from donors outside Afghanistan.

One Hundred and Six Million Dollars! Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ah!

$106 million per year might get you third place in the American League East behind the Yankees and Red Sox.

How much is the U.S. spending in Afghanistan?

This is much like the war frenzy of the summer of 2006 when Hezbollah's military juggernaut, with its inexhaustible $100 million in Iranian funding, was the biggest threat since Hitler. I recall that during the Israel-Hezbollah 2006 war, the Wall Street Journal ran a breathless article called "Why Hezbollah Is Proving So Tough On the Battlefield" about a "fortified, 5,000-square-foot Hezbollah military base with a radio tower, secure satellite communications and a unit of more than a dozen guards."

5,000 square feet is 1/8th of an acre, but who's counting? Not many, that's for sure.

The truth is that the human race is going soft. Fewer and fewer people want to engage in combat, so the enormous U.S. military tax dollar sinkhole has to be all the way over in Afghanistan just to find somebody so backward and barbaric, the Pathans, as to want to fight.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer