March 19, 2011

Britain and France in North Africa

Obama has reiterated frequently that America is not leading the war in Libya, Britain and France are. Because, historically, Britain and France have never made anybody but friends in North Africa. They have clean hands and no track record in the region of trying to pull anything. Whoever heard of Britain and France trying to, say, steal the Suez Canal from Egypt in 1956, or de facto ruling Egypt for 60 years, or ruling Tunisia and half of Morocco, or letting a million Europeans settle Algeria and fighting an eight-year long war to hang on to it?

America's New Strategic Allies

Obama's Jonah Goldberg War

In April 2002, in "Baghdad Delenda Est, Part Two," Jonah Goldberg declared:
“Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.”

Goldberg attributed this to a speech by his friend Michael Ledeen.

Whatever happened to Congress declaring war?

When was the last time Congress declared war on anybody? 1942?

The Solution for Everything

From the Washington Post:
Japan’s shrinking labor force could constrain the country’s ability to rebuild — thus forcing politicians and the public to confront its misgivings about immigration. Japan has long exerted tight control of its borders and makes it difficult for foreigners to live and work in the country. Among leading industrial nations, only South Korea has a lower share of foreigners in its workplaces. The foreigners now in Japan fall into various niches: highly skilled white-collar expatriates; low-skilled, often illegal, laborers; imported rural brides. Economists have long argued that Japan needs to welcome more workers to remain economically competitive. The imperative to rebuild housing and infrastructure on a massive scale could force this immigration challenge into the open.

Clearly, Japan isn't densely populated enough. It needs more people living in tsunami zones.

March 17, 2011

Are we at war with Libya?

From the NYT:
Diplomats said the resolution — which passed with 10 votes, including the United States, and abstentions from Russia, China, Germany, Brazil and India — was written in sweeping terms to allow for a wide range of actions, including strikes on air-defense systems and missile attacks from ships. Military activity could get under way within a matter of hours, they said.  

In theory, this shouldn't be all that hard to blast Gadaffi's air force and tanks in open desert. There's a difference between a land war in Asia and a land war in North Africa. We already won one of those 68 years ago, against a better general than anybody working for Gadaffi.

But, then what happens? I don't know.

Let's say, best case scenario, there's immediately a military coup in Tripoli and the Colonel goes away. Whoo-hoo!

Except, then, whose side are we on? Two weeks ago, the Eastern rebels would have likely taken over following the U.S. Air Force's arrival because they were sort of winning at the moment and they held the oil fields, which is the whole point of Libya, anyway. They had momentum.

So, that would have been a simple solution, except that the rebels would have started fighting amongst themselves over the oil.

But since then, the Eastern rebels have proven pretty incompetent. So, are we going to back the member of Gadaffi's inner circle who tells Gadaffi to go, yet then continues to hold onto the oilfields against the rebels? The promise of oil can motivate a lot of fighting as we saw in Iraq.

Or is this just to save the rebels in Eastern Libya? But what good are they without the oilfields on the east central Libyan coast?

Further, as a commenter notes, if the rebels win, the Libyan people will likely try to ethnically cleanse from Libya the sub-Saharan black immigrants Gadaffi invited in and is using as mercenaries

And what does this imply for Bahrain, where the U.S. Fifth Fleet is headquartered? And what does Bahrain imply for Saudi Arabia?

Should be interesting.

Obama Administration: New Orleans PD not shooting enough whites

The [Department of Justice Civil Rights Division's] report found from 2009 to 2010 all 27 incidents of NOPD deadly force were against African Americans, and in 2009  the department arrested 500 black and 8 white males under age of 17, which diverges "severely" from national data.

Disparate impact, I tell you!

In 2000 (the most recent data I can find), the NOPD was 51% black. I can't find anything in the Obama Administration's report on the racial identity of these NOPD police officers they are criticizing. That seems like a bit of an omission for a Civil Rights Division report, no? How often does that division forget to mention the racial makeup of an organization they are criticizing?

What former Mayor Ray Nagin called "Chocolate City" had its first African American mayor in 1978 and its first black police chief about a quarter of a century ago. A residency requirement for cops worked to discourage working class whites from joining the NOPD.The NOPD, which had always been shady, became notoriously gangsta in the late 20th Century.

This part of the Civil Rights Divisions' report on the New Orleans' Police Department report makes interesting reading in light of the Civil Right Division's requirement that the Dayton Police Department hire more marginal applicants(see below):
NOPD hired hundreds of officers during a relatively short time period; one estimate is that 400 officers were hired during the three year period following Katrina. In its press to hire these officers, NOPD reportedly lowered its recruiting standards, essentially removing the physical agility requirement and asking the Civil Service Commission to score the written portion of the application less vigorously.

... At the time of our review, the attrition rate for the latest recruit class was nearly sixty percent. Of the sixty-six recruits that successfully completed the recruitment and background investigation, thirty-nine were eliminated from the training class. NOPD expended thousands of dollars to test, train, and conduct background checks on what were clearly marginal applicants, a waste of funds that NOPD could have better used in a more targeted recruiting process. Nonetheless, NOPD’s decision to eject unqualified candidates before they became officers was the appropriate one. In interviews with NOPD officers at all ranks, we heard the consistent complaint that the Training Academy routinely graduated police recruits who were sub-par and not fit for duty.

Meanwhile, the Obama Administration is working to New Orleansize the Dayton Police Department.

Prediction: Nobody in the Obama DOJ will ever notice the contradiction between their complaints about New Orleans police applicants being scored less vigorously on the written test and their simultaneous demands that Dayton police applicants be scored less vigorously.

That would be HateLogic!

Let me add that the politics of this appear a little byzantine. Federal intervention in the police force was demanded by the new mayor, the first white mayor in 32 years, who was elected after lots of poor black voters were flooded out of the Lower 9th Ward. My guess is that the white mayor's intention is to bring the feds in to stage a quiet coup against a black-dominated institution, but to do it in the name of Civil Rights.

Very clever ... but can this kind of double bankshot maneuver be executed adroitly when nobody is allowed to mention in public what the problem is and only vaguely hint at what the solution is? After all, the Civil Rights Division doesn't have much practice at requiring organizations to grade hiring tests more vigorously. Are Obama's DOJ minions  going to be able to remember that the point of this exercise is to hire smarter, less criminal cops -- i.e., whiter cops? That's not exactly what Civil Rights Division lawyers are trained to do, as Dayton shows. From the report, it looks like the best they'll be able to do is force the NOPD to hire lots of Hispanic and Vietnamese cops. As I said, a double bankshot.

We shall see.

The Neverending Story

The ABC station in Dayton, Ohio reports:
The Dayton Police Department is lowering its testing standards for recruits.

It's a move required by the U.S. Department of Justice after it says not enough African-Americans passed the exam.  

Dayton is in desperate need of officers to replace dozens of retirees.  The hiring process was postponed for months because the D.O.J. rejected the original scores provided by the Dayton Civil Service Board, which administers the test. 

Under the previous requirements, candidates had to get a 66% on part one of the exam and a 72% on part two. The D.O.J. approved new scoring policy only requires potential police officers to get a 58% and a 63%.  That's the equivalent of an ‘F’ and a ‘D’. ...

The D.O.J. and Civil Service Board declined Dayton’s News Source’s repeat requests for interviews.  The lower standards mean 258 more people passed the test. The city won't say how many were minorities. ...

The D.O.J. has forced other police departments across the country to lower testing standards, citing once again that not enough black candidates were passing.  

A story on WHIO in Dayton gives a few more (sometimes conflicting) numbers:
Officials with the City of Dayton Service Board announced Thursday that it has accepted the cutoff score for the police recruit written examination administered on Nov. 20, 2010. Officials said a total of 1,083 candidates completed the written portion of the examination. 

The test was administered in two parts, a Test Preparation Manual (TPM) test with 86 questions and a Situational Judgment and Writing Ability Test (SJWAT) with 102 questions.After consultation with the United States Department of Justice, as well as Fire & Police Selection, Inc., the creator of the written examination, the cutoff score for the examination is 50 points for the TPM portion and 64 points for the SJWAT portion. 

This resulted in 748 individuals passing the written examination, which was a pass/fail examination.

Presumably, this means that the top 748 out of 1083 now proceed afresh through the oral part of the hiring process all with equal chances.

So, under the original scoring, 490 of 1,083 candidates for these "dozens" of jobs passed the test. So, you had to be in the top 45% on the written test. Now, they'll go down another quartile. 

March 16, 2011

Change of Address

From the NYT: 
Scientists Project Path of Radiation Plume 
The plume may reach California on Friday, but health officials say it poses very little risk. 

Generally speaking, every single thing that officials and experts have said was highly unlikely to go wrong has gone wrong. So, just to be safe, for the next decade, you'll be able to reach me at the bottom of Carlsbad Caverns. 

Jane Austen v. the Bronte Sisters, II

As some commenters have pointed out, in the endless struggle between witty, sensible Jane Austen and the romantic, hysterical Bronte sisters, the high end of the market for fiction and movies has been, for a couple of decades, in Jane Austen's camp. But the mass market in the 21st Century has been going back to the Brontes. For example, Edward Cullen, the vampire love interest of Twilight, is heavily based on Jane Eyre's Mr. Rochester.

"Jane Eyre"

My review of the new movie adaptation of Jane Eyre is up at Taki's:
What we are left with seems rather like Jane Eyre if Jane Austen had written it. Austen, who died in 1817, was a witty, levelheaded product of the 18th century. She would have gotten along well with Ben Franklin. In contrast, the Brontës were the quintessence of the 19th century’s Romantic mood.

After the neo-Romanticism of the 1960s-70s, tastes have moved away from the Brontës and toward Austen. (The name “Emma,” Austen’s second-most-famous heroine, was merely the 448th most popular girl’s baby name in the 1970s. By 2003, it was the 2nd.) Thus, the new movie features much about the Austen-like topics of class and gender battles. Fassbender’s Mr. Rochester comes across more like a bigger, bolder version of Pride and Prejudice’s Mr. Darcy than like Wuthering Heights’ demonic Heathcliff. Yet Jane Eyre is so expansive and lively a source that this rendition remains authentic and entertaining.

Read the whole thing there.

March 15, 2011

My Affordable Family Formation theory tested

The roots of my theory of Affordable Family Formation influencing which states are blue and which are red in elections goes back to before the 2000 election, but it emerged in mature form in the weeks and months following the 2004 election. (Here's my 12/20/2004 American Conservative article Baby Gap and my subsequent 12/12/2004 VDARE article extending the correlation from fertility to years married. Here's a brief summary in 2005, and a fuller treatment in 2008.

Among academics, Andrew Gelman of Columbia has shown some kind interest in my theory. Now a Poli Sci Ph.D. candidate at the U. of Houston has tested my theory and published a paper on it. While I looked at state level voting for 2000 and 2004, George Hawley looked at county level voting in 2000 and Census data from 2000. This gives him a much larger sample size. The correlations I found at the state level in 2000 and 2004 were just ridiculously high, so looking at a bigger sample size of county data gives a broader perspective.

From Party Politics:
George Hawley
University of Houston


This article tests the hypothesis that differences in the housing market can partially explain why some American counties are strongly Republican and others strongly Democratic, and that this phenomenon can be largely attributed to the relationship between home values and marriage rates within counties. Specifically, I test the hypothesis that, in the 2000 election, George W. Bush did comparatively better in counties with relatively affordable single-family homes, even when controlling for other economic, demographic and regional variables. Using county-level data, I test this hypothesis using spatial-lag regression models, and provide further evidence using individual-level survey data. My results indicate a statistically significant relationship between Bush’s percentage of the vote at the county level and the median value of owner-occupied homes, and that at least part of this is explained by the relationship between home values and marriage rates among young women.

Two important developments in American politics in recent decades involve political sorting. In a process that began in the 1970s, political conservatives and liberals have, for the most part, joined the Republican and Democratic Parties, respectively, which, many scholars argue, subsequently led to increasing ideological homogeneity within the parties and higher levels of partisan polarization. The other major sort is geographic in  nature. Many regions of the country have become, to a significant extent, politically homogeneous, with an increasing number of counties consistently giving landslide victories to presidential candidates of one major political party or the other. The first major political sort – which led most individuals to align with the ‘correct’ political party based on their ideological inclinations – has been well examined and explained. The latter political sort has also been well described. However, up to this point, relatively little scholarship has examined the causal mechanism driving the geographic sorting of the population by partisan affiliation. Why do some regions prove a magnet for Democrats, and some draw increasing numbers of Republicans? ...

Specifically, I test the hypothesis that relatively affordable housing was associated with more support for George W. Bush in the 2000 election at the county level. Although the relationship between home-ownership and partisanship has been examined previously (Blum and Kingston, 1984; Verberg, 2000), most such studies consider home-ownership primarily as it relates to economic well-being or incorporation into the community. I offer an alternative hypothesis. I hypothesize that home affordability at the aggregate level is relevant to political outcomes even when controlling for economic variables such as median income and poverty rates. I argue that home affordability is relevant to politics largely because of its relationship with marriage rates within geographic units, which subsequently influences political outcomes because of the partisan marriage gap.

Put less abstractly, I suggest that married couples are more likely than single individuals to want to own their own home. However, there are some areas where home-ownership is prohibitively expensive, especially for younger Americans. If young couples living in those high-housing-cost communities want to own their own house, they have no choice but to move. Thus, I anticipate that the marriage rates within a county can be at least partially explained by the average housing costs within that county. Because, as the political science literature suggests, married voters are more likely to vote Republican than non-married voters, this trend leads some counties to become increasingly Republican, and others increasingly Democratic. ...

The possible relationship between home affordability and aggregate voting trends has largely been ignored up until now by the political science literature, though the topic has been considered by the political journalist Steven Sailer (2008). Sailer hypothesized that ‘affordable family formation’ – which he argued was closely related to housing costs – was a key difference between majority-Republican states and majority-Democrat states. Sailer went on to conclude that the relative affordability of housing accounted for the differing typical political behaviour within various large cities. Sailer suggested that the relative costliness of owning a home in America’s large coastal cities, such as Los Angeles, led to later family formation, which partially explained the greater support for Democratic politicians in those cities and regions. In contrast, inland American cities like Dallas are able to expand outward all-but indefinitely, which keeps housing costs low and subsequently such cities more attractive to young families. ...

This article suggests that the geographical sorting of the United States along partisan lines results, at least in part, from differences in housing markets. Specifically, these results indicate that, in the 2000 presidential election, George W. Bush typically received a smaller share of the vote in counties where home values significantly outpaced incomes, and that this was, to a meaningful extent, due to the relationship between home affordability and marriage rates.

Hawley could likely replicate this finding for 2004, an election that was virtually identical to 2000, just shifted a few points in Bush's direction. 2008 was not as similar, however, in part because of different turnout rates brought about by Obama's candidacy. 2010 looked a lot like 2004, although there are methodological problems with dealing with midterm elections.

March 14, 2011

Tidal wave or meltdown?

The tragic events in Japan have answered a question I have had since I went camping at the spectacular Montana del Oro state park south of Morro Bay on the Central California coast in 2007. 

The one jarring note in the idyllic beach and tidepool scene was a tower with a siren on it. Was that to warn about a tsunami or a meltdown at the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant a few miles to the south? Or both?

Say you were woken up in your tent in the dark by an earthquake and the siren going off. What's your number one priority? Getting as high up the hill as fast as possible or getting as far north away from the nuclear power plant as possible along a road that frequently dips to sea level?

Well, now I know. Tsunamis can happen faster than meltdowns.

The "2001: A Space Odyssey" theory of human evolution

Nicholas Wade writes in the NYT in "The Supremacy of a Social Network:"
It was a tool, in the form of a weapon, that made human society possible, in Dr. Chapais’s view. Among chimps, alpha males are physically dominant and can overpower any rival. But weapons are great equalizers. As soon as all males were armed, the cost of monopolizing a large number of females became a lot higher. In the incipient hominid society, females became allocated to males more equally. General polygyny became the rule, then general monogamy. 

But did it take a black monolith suddenly appearing among the apes to give them the crucial idea of hitting each other with weapons? Did it help if Thus Spaketh Zarathustra was playing in the background?

More seriously, I'm a little vague on what constitutes a weapon. If you and I are chimps, and I pick up a heavy rock and hit you with it, is that not a weapon? Do I have to chip a sharp edge onto the rock to make it a hand axe weapon? 
This trend led to the emergence of a critical change in sexual behavior: the replacement of the apes’ orgiastic promiscuity with the pair bond between male and female. With only one mate, for the most part, a male had an incentive to guard her from other males to protect his paternity.

On the social level, the presence of both parents revealed the genealogical structure of the family, which is at least half hidden in chimp societies. A chimp knows who its mother and siblings are, because it grows up with them, but not its father or father’s relatives. So the neighboring bands to which female chimps disperse at puberty, avoiding incest, are perceived as full of strange males and treated with unremitting hostility.

In the incipient hominid line, males could recognize their sisters and daughters in neighboring bands. They could also figure out that the daughter’s or sister’s mate shared a common genetic interest in the welfare of the woman’s children. The neighboring males were no longer foes to be killed in sight — they were the in-laws. 

The presence of female relatives in neighboring bands became for the first time a bridge between them. It also created a new and more complex social structure. The bands who exchanged women with each other learned to cooperate, forming a group or tribe that would protect its territory from other tribes. Though cooperation became the norm within a tribe, tribes would wage warfare just as relentlessly as chimpanzee bands. 

I think there is room to merge the theories that the evolution of cooperation among humans happened via kin selection versus via long-term reciprocation. Both were helped by increased intelligence. In turn, both selected for more increases in intelligence.

Something that is frequently forgotten is how complicated knowledge of blood and marriage relationships can be.

Say I get smart enough to realize that my mate's brother (i.e., my brother-in-law) is the uncle of my child. Thus, has a nepotistic interest in aiding the welfare of my child. Therefore, he might make a more trustworthy hunting partner for me. Moreover, he has a brother-in-law, too, so maybe the three of us would make a good team that wouldn't be as likely to fight amongst ourselves over splitting up the catch or to turn on each other or abandon each other in a tough spot.

And if I'm smart enough to recognize something like that, maybe I'm smart enough to remember that this fourth fellow who isn't, as far as we can tell, related to any of us seems to have a track record of being a good guy, so maybe the three of us should bring him along on our hunts. And if he does prove a good guy on the hunts, maybe I'll let him hang around the campfire with my younger sister who doesn't have a husband yet.

So, kin selection and reciprocal economic cooperation both are aided by higher intelligence, thus, in turn, selecting for more intelligence and more cooperation. A virtuous circle.

David Brooks's "The Social Animal"

I have a long review of David Brooks's new bestseller combining fiction and brain science up at VDARE.