April 9, 2011

The Forever War

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is in Iraq dropping big hints that the Obama Administration wants the Iraqis to request U.S. troops stay in Iraq past the end of 2011, the final exit date announced by both Bush and Obama. 

A reader suggests:
The shia/kurd/sunni civil war will probably [re]start shortly after America soldiers depart, which would be smack dab in the middle of Obama's re-election campaign.  Obama wants to extend the occupation so he won't be blamed for "losing Iraq" by his Republican opponent.  

India v. China, Again

From the WSJ:
BANGALORE, India—Call-center company 24/7 Customer Pvt. Ltd. is desperate to find new recruits who can answer questions by phone and email. It wants to hire 3,000 people this year. Yet in this country of 1.2 billion people, that is beginning to look like an impossible goal. 
So few of the high school and college graduates who come through the door can communicate effectively in English, and so many lack a grasp of educational basics such as reading comprehension, that the company can hire just three out of every 100 applicants. 
India projects an image of a nation churning out hundreds of thousands of students every year who are well educated, a looming threat to the better-paid middle-class workers of the West. Their abilities in math have been cited by President Barack Obama as a reason why the U.S. is facing competitive challenges. 
Yet 24/7 Customer's experience tells a very different story. Its increasing difficulty finding competent employees in India has forced the company to expand its search to the Philippines and Nicaragua. Most of its 8,000 employees are now based outside of India. 
In the nation that made offshoring a household word, 24/7 finds itself so short of talent that it is having to offshore. ... 
Muddying the picture is that on the surface, India appears to have met the demand for more educated workers with a quantum leap in graduates. Engineering colleges in India now have seats for 1.5 million students, nearly four times the 390,000 available in 2000, according to the National Association of Software and Services Companies, a trade group. 
But 75% of technical graduates and more than 85% of general graduates are unemployable by India's high-growth global industries, including information technology and call centers, according to results from assessment tests administered by the group. 
Another survey, conducted annually by Pratham, a nongovernmental organization that aims to improve education for the poor, looked at grade-school performance at 13,000 schools across India. It found that about half of the country's fifth graders can't read at a second-grade level. ... 
Others said cheating, often in collaboration with test graders, is rampant. Deepak Sharma, 26, failed several exams when he was enrolled at a top engineering college outside of Delhi, until he finally figured out the trick: Writing his mobile number on the exam paper. 
That's what he did for a theory-of-computation exam, and shortly after, he says the examiner called him and offered to pass him and his friends if they paid 10,000 rupees each, about $250. He and four friends pulled together the money, and they all passed the test.

The Chinese strategy has been to create hundreds of millions of jobs for people to do with their hands, while the Indian strategy has been to create tens of millions of jobs for people to do while sitting on utility chairs tapping on computers and talking on headsets. The Chinese strategy of industrializing first with textiles, moving up to toys, then to industrial parts, and so forth, has worked before in multiple countries over the last 250 years. The Indian strategy of leaping over all that sweaty stuff right to post-industrial jobs appeals to post-industrial Americans, but it's less of a sure thing. 

It's worked fine so far for the right edge of India's bell curve, but nobody is very sure what the left 90% of India's bell curve looks like. Here in America, we aren't even supposed to think in terms of bell curves, so we are unequipped to even think about the question.

On the other hand, with China getting a dozen year head start on India at capitalism, would there have been all that much opportunity for India in industry?

April 8, 2011

Decline of the Bush Hispanic Baby Boom

Audacious Epigone points out the recent fall off in Hispanic fertility after the popping of the Bush Bubbles.

In 2007, at the climax of Housing Bubble and the Bush-Kennedy-McCain amnesty push, the Hispanic fertility rate peaked at 102.2 births per 1,000 Hispanic women 15-44, versus 95.9 in the pre-Bush economic peak year of 2000. By 2009, however, the Hispanic fertility rate had fallen off to 93.3. The Hispanic total fertility rate fell from 3.00 in 2007 to 2.73 in 2009. However, illegitimacy continues to increase, growing from 51.3 percent of Hispanic mothers being unmarried in 2007 to 53.2 percent in 2009. 

In contrast, the fertility rate among non-Hispanic white youngish women was much lower and somewhat more stable, increasing from 57.7 in 2000 to 60.1 in 2006, then falling to 58.5 in 2009. The white total fertility rate fell from 1.87 to 1.78. The illegitimacy rate among whites grew from 27.8 percent in 2007 to 29.0 percent in 2009.

The picture we see is that the Bush Administration's policy of encouraging dubious mortgages to narrow the racial gap in homeownership rates and goose the economy sucked in illegal immigration and boosted Hispanic fertility. How exactly that would help the GOP in the long run is one of those questions that just isn't even conceivable to the GOP's team of crack strategists.

There's an intellectual No Fly Zone over most anything having to do with population beyond the most banal.

Heckman on Terman's Termites

Steve Hsu has a fascinating post on a new paper by Nobel laureate economist/statistician James Heckman on the historic 1921 Terman Project tracking more than 600 California white males with 135+ IQs over seven decades.  You often hear about how this project shows that IQ doesn't matter because, say, none of Terman's Termites ever won the Nobel Prize.

Heckman writes:
This paper estimates the internal rate of return (IRR) to education for men and women of the Terman sample, a 70-year long prospective cohort study of high-ability individuals. The Terman data is unique in that it not only provides full working-life earnings histories of the participants, but it also includes detailed profiles of each subject, including IQ and measures of latent personality traits. Having information on latent personality traits is significant as it allows us to measure the importance of personality on educational attainment and lifetime earnings.

Heckman explains:
4.1 The Total Effect of Personality and IQ on Lifetime Earnings 
We begin by analyzing how personality and IQ influence lifetime earnings. We use the sum of each individual's earnings from age 18 to age 75. ... With this simple regression, Conscientiousness and Extraversion are positively associated with earnings, while Agreeableness and Openness are negatively associated with earnings (although Openness fails to be statistically significant in this very simple exercise). Our measure of Neuroticism does not have a clear association with earnings. It is remarkable that even in this very high-IQ sample, where the range of observed IQs is clearly restricted, IQ still has a positive and statistically highly significant association with lifetime earnings.

This sounds about right from my long observations of highly successful entrepreneurs in a cognitively demanding field (market research): they were Intelligent (probably in the 125-160 range), Extraverted (good salesmen), Conscientious (i.e., hard-working), not too Neurotic (if they worried more about what could go wrong, they wouldn't start companies), and not too Agreeable (they could kick ass when necessary, and were very competitive -- raced yachts, drove imported Porsches that took six months to make street legal in the U.S.). They were probably more Open than average, although that has to do with them being entrepreneurs.

Heckman goes on. 
Finally, note that even when controlling for rich background variable [such as education], IQ maintains a statistically significant effect on lifetime earnings. Even though the effect is slightly diminished from the uncontrolled association of the first column, it is still sizeable. Malcolm Gladwell claims rather generally in his book "Outliers" that for the Terman men, IQ did not matter once family background and other observable personal characteristics were taken into account. While we do not want to argue that IQ has a larger role for the difference between 50 and 100, for example, than for the difference between 150 and 200, we do want to point out that even at the high end of the ability distribution, IQ has meaningful consequences.

In other words, people with 200 IQs will, on average, make more money than people with 150 IQs, all else being equal.

For these very smart termites, getting more education increases lifetime income.
One caveat about causality is in order... We partially follow this approach by using early measures of Openness and Extraversion. However, the other personality traits are measured at a time where the men are already in their working lives. Thus, these measures are more relevant to the observed earnings, but at the same time we cannot exclude the possibility that, for example, a high score on Neuroticism is a result of one's position in the workforce. 

In other words, Terman asked personality questions back in 1922 of the youths that map well onto today's Big 5 personality traits of Openness and Extraversion, but the project didn't get around for a decade or two to asking questions that map to the other three Big personality components: Neuroticism, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness. So, maybe their personalities were affected by their intervening careers as well as their careers being affected by their personalities. For example, my dad spent 40 years as a stress engineer at Lockheed worrying about whether the wings would snap off planes. Did he get into that career to start with because he always was a worry wart, or is he a worry wart today because he spent 40 years worrying about how to keep planes from crashing? (I should ask my aunt.)

You can read the whole study here.

Libya: What might have been

A German commenter, Headache, offers an alternative history of the Libyan War, in which it has already been won:
This was France's war, and if the US and EU had stayed out of it, France would have repeated the Toyota war tactics which so effectively crushed Gadfly in Chad: Mirage air cover coupled with Foreign Legion dressed up as nomads on Toyota pickups with AA guns and Milan anti-tank weapons. This would have been over by now, except Sark would have claimed victory and made Uncle Sucker look stupid.  
So instead, coz the US does not want to be seen as a bully, we now have the ineffective and expensive NFZ, make-believe Obamaesque withdrawal of US planes, and musings about partition, arming the incompetent rebels (who include AQ elements) and other blowback which Ron Paul routinely warns against.

April 7, 2011

Birth Tourism explained in actual English

A reader named Matthew Slater has kindly translated into readable English the reasons for "birth tourism" from the website ChineseBabyCare that I included in my last VDARE column. As you'll recall, I used a chaotic Google Translate version. 

From Chinese Baby Care on why pregnant Chinese women should pay the firm $9,000 to $14,000 to have their baby on American soil.
The benefits of US citizenship 
1. If your child is born in America, he will immediately have US nationality and will enjoy the rights of a citizen. When the child is 21, the parents can apply to be sponsored as family members, will have a permanent green card, will not have to wait their turn for the quota, and it will provide the basis for future immigration  
2. In terms of the environment and education, the US is the most advanced state in the world, and your child will be able to attend US public schools from primary school to senior high school without any tuition fees at all. 
3. Your child will pay only 10% of the tuition fees paid by foreign students in state unversities and research institutes, and it will be easy for him to enrol in famous universities. 
4. Your American child will be able to apply for scholarship funds that only US citizens can enjoy and for student loans at a low interest rate of 1%. 
5. Your child will be able to live and work in high-income America unconditionally (the average wage in the US is US$37,363 a year), and will be given preferential treatment in assuming significant leadership positions in the US government, public institutions and large businesses. 
6. Your child will enjoy the right to enter more than 180 countries of the globe without obtaining visas, and and the convenience of crossing borders on the most preferential terms. 
7. Your child will have a US Social Security card and will enjoy access to all American social welfare measures and medical facilities. 
8. If the location your child resides in in the future is disrupted by war, US citizenship and nationality will allow him to benefit from protection and evacuation by the US government.

The Inscrutable Occidental

From the LA Times, a story that cracked me up not because of the politics but because of trying to imagine the puzzlement of the Chinese audience over why they had paid all this money for tickets to see this guy.
At a time when many other American performers have been banned from China, Bob Dylan was allowed to play Wednesday night in Beijing, but with a program that omitted Dylan's most famous ballads of dissent. Conspicuously absent from the program at the Workers' Gymnasium were "The Times They Are A-Changin'" and "Blowin' in the Wind." Dylan's set list had to be sanctioned beforehand by the Ministry of Culture, which in its formal invitation decreed that he would have to "conduct the performance strictly according to the approved program." 
Still, the 69-year-old musician, clad in a white panama hat and drainpipe trousers, sung and strummed before a welcoming crowd of 6,000. He worked his way through a repertoire that included "Tangled up in Blue" and "Simple Twist of Fate." The only time Dylan paused in the workmanlike performance to address the audience was when he introduced the members of his band. ... 
Dylan is so unknown in China that one newspaper, the Shanghai-based Xinmin Evening News, ran a story about his upcoming concerts alongside a big photograph of country music star Willie Nelson. 
During the height of Dylan's popularity in the 1960s, China was entirely closed off to the West. Only in the 1980s did social and economic liberalization allow Chinese to hear rock music. But none of Dylan's albums have ever been officially released in China. 
At the Beijing concert Wednesday, many Chinese attendees admitted they knew little of Dylan's music or legacy. "His music is OK. But I don't speak English, so I can't understand what he's singing," Gao Mingwen said outside the stadium. "I hear he's very famous though."

I saw Dylan 25 years ago when he toured with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers as his band. The pairing sounded good in theory, but Petty's good-natured showmanship just made Dylan look bad. Petty is no giant of American culture, but he works hard to entertain his audience, which Dylan didn't. He just stood there and wheezed. And I can't imagine that Dylan has become a more dynamic performer as he's aged.

"Tangled Up in Blue" from as late as 1974 is a great, great song, but to appreciate Dylan as fully as his American acolytes do, you kinda had to be there in the pivotal year of 1965, which the Chinese most definitely weren't.

Moynihan's Law of the Canadian Border in Action

The Boston Globe reports:
In a report released Wednesday, the Institute for Economics and Peace says Maine is the most peaceful state, while Louisiana is the least peaceful. ... The Australia-based organization defines peace as an absence of violence. The top three states are Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

It's gotta be the ice hockey.

April 6, 2011

Are sports fans tribal or territorial?

In my new column in Taki's Magazine, I briefly look at what we can learn about the origins of political order from our own experiences with being sports fans. This may seem like a weird topic, but it's this kind of analogy to your own life that helps revivify sclerotic thinking about big topics.
In both politics and sports fandom, the fundamental question is: “Whose side are you on?” Exploring who roots for whom affords perspective on the big questions of who is politically loyal to what, and why. ... 
A central question in ethnography is whether a polity is organized by ancestry or territory. For a decade, the US military has used bombs and bribes trying to convince Pashtun tribesmen that because they live in Afghanistan, they should be loyal to the Afghan government, which the American government has gone to great expense to buy and build. 
The Pashtuns find this American assumption of territorialism naive. Rather than trust a government in Kabul or Islamabad—depending upon which side of the Khyber Pass they happen to be on—they team up (and fall out) with each other along patriarchal bloodlines. 
Like modern governments, American professional sports teams, in tandem with local media, strive to demand territorial loyalty. Chicago is the extreme example of geographical rule, with the Cubs dominating the North Side and the White Sox the South Side. (The yuppie newcomer Barack Obama would seem a Cubs fan by class, but his Hyde Park residence made him a White Sox fan.)| 
Like tribal societies, however, college rooting patterns have relatively stronger links to family trees. 

Read the whole thing there

$4 per gallon gasoline

Perhaps one reason for the Obama Administration starting the Libyan War was to avoid a situation like in Iraq from 1991-2003, where international sanctions reduced oil exports, presumably making gasoline prices higher in America. If Gaddafi had won his civil war, the great and the good would likely have voted sanctions on Libyan oil exports, thus tightening world oil markets, with unfortunate effects on unemployment and Obama's re-election chances.

Of course, gasoline prices were pretty low in absolute terms during much of the 1991-2003 period. And as the Iraq War showed, war isn't really conducive to oil production. The presence of oil in the ground can generate civil war over who will control its future stream of wealth, driving down production in the present due to violence and sabotage.

The problem in Libya with this line of thought is that the lightly populated war zone contested between Gaddafi's westerners and the Benghazi rebel easterners is where most of Libya's oil comes from. This Washington Post graphic  of east/central Libya shows the four major oil shipping ports. At present, the westernmost is controlled by Gaddafi, the easternmost by the rebels and the two in the middle are being fought over.

Now, things can change fast in Libya, as the back-and-forth war of 1940-1943 showed. The Obama Administration seems to be focusing on bribing Tripoli insiders to do something with Gaddafi so Obama can declare victory. The Benghazi rebels, however, as they realize how awful they are at mechanical warfare, are making noises about accepting a partition of Libya with them in control of some of the oil.

In Libya, you have a fundamentally tribal culture growing out of nomadism. If you wander around in the desert your whole life, the most effective way to organize your loyalties is into "segmentary lineages" defined by male ancestry. But the oil doesn't wander around in the desert, it just stays in one place. To paraphrase Winston Churchill on the Pashtuns, the life of the Libyan is thus full of interest.

Bill Gates Sr. and Jr.

Jonathan Last points to Michael Kinsley's new oped in the LA Times, in which Kinsley explains that his old boss at Slate, Bill Gates, was a Jefferson Smith-type innocent who didn't understand that the city slickers of Washington D.C. would fleece him unless he hired lots of lawyers and lobbyists. Kinsley asserts:
For many years before the [Clinton Administration's antitrust] lawsuit, Microsoft had virtually no Washington "presence." It had a large office in the suburbs, mainly concerned with selling software to the government. Bill Gates resisted the notion that a software company needed to hire a lot of lobbyists and lawyers. He didn't want anything special from the government, except the freedom to build and sell software. If the government would leave him alone, he would leave the government alone. 
At first this was regarded (at least in Washington) as naive. Grown-up companies hire lobbyists. What's this guy's problem? Then it was regarded as foolish. This was not a game. There were big issues at stake. Next it came to be seen as arrogant: Who the hell does Microsoft think it is? Does it think it's too good to do what every other company of its size in the world is doing? 
Ultimately, there even was a feeling that, in refusing to play the Washington game, Microsoft was being downright unpatriotic. Look, buddy, there is an American way of doing things, and that American way includes hiring lobbyists, paying lawyers vast sums by the hour, throwing lavish parties for politicians, aides, journalists, and so on. So get with the program. 
So that's what Microsoft did. It moved its government affairs office out of distant Chevy Chase, Md., and into the downtown K Street corridor. It bulked up on lawyers and hired the best-connected lobbyists. Soon Microsoft was coming under criticism for being heavy-handed in its attempts to buy influence. But the sad thing is that it seems to have worked. Microsoft is no longer Public Enemy No. 1. 

Okay, I've heard that before, so maybe it's true. But here's what I don't get. In the movie Casino Jack (now out on video, here's my review), Kevin Spacey plays out-of-control lobbyist Jack Abramoff. In the first half of the movie, Abramoff works in DC for a big law and lobbying firm called Preston Gates & Ellis. 

Wikipedia explains:
Preston Gates & Ellis, LLP, also known as Preston Gates, was a law firm with offices in the United States, China and Taiwan. ... Preston Gates was ranked among the top 100 law firms in the United States by both The American Lawyer magazine and the National Law Journal, and was traditionally considered, along with Perkins Coie, one of the two leading Seattle-based law and lobbying firms. 
The "Gates" in the firm's name is William H. Gates, Sr., father of Microsoft founder Bill Gates.[1] Gates retired from the firm in 1998. ...  

The Gates are Democrats, by the way, just like the Clintons.
The firm's Washington, DC office is known as Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds LLP. When it was opened in 1973, partners included Emanuel Rouvelas, former counsel to the Senate Commerce Committee, and former Congressman Lloyd Meeds (D-WA).[3] Among its major clients is Microsoft, which paid PGE over $1,380,000 for lobbying various federal government institutions. During that time the chairman of the firm was William Neukom, who was employed by Microsoft as head of its legal department. ... 
From 1994 to 2001, Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds LLP employed Jack Abramoff, a Republican lobbyist later convicted for his illegal activities. [2] Abramoff was hired by partner Emanuel Rouvelas following the Republican takeover of Congress: according to the Seattle Times (1995), although the firm's representatives were half Democratic and half Republican, they "didn't have a conservative, Christian Coalition Republican with strong ties to the new Republican leadership."

So, I’m a little skeptical about the notion that Bill Gates Jr. was just a poor rube from the sticks who didn’t know about the importance of lobbying in Washington when his dad was a name partner of the firm that unleashed Jack Abramoff on the world. Moreover, one of the specialties of Preston Gates & Ellis was antitrust defenses of corporations accused of monopoly.

I don't really understand the full story here: it doesn't make sense that Gates Jr. wouldn't understand lobbying. Maybe what happened is that Gates Sr. reassured Gates Jr. that he had D.C. covered for him -- Trust me, son, I'm a pro at this -- but he let his kid down.

Or maybe Gates Jr. held Gates Sr.'s career in contempt? But they seem like they have respectful and pleasant relations. 

That's all just speculation, but it seems like there must be a a human interest story here that I've never heard spelled out.

P.S. Yes, I will pre-emptively admit to commenters that, indeed, it is petty and makes me look bad that I try to find out more about people like Bill Gates, Barack Obama, Muamar Gaddafi, and so forth. I realize that these gentlemen go to great expense to employ PR agents who will tell us all we need to know about them.

What are Libya's tribes?

I'm reading Francis Fukuyama's upcoming book The Origins of Political Order, and I got interested in the differences between family tree-based tribes and territory-based states. For example, in Libya, Gaddafi, normally a modernizing statist, has, in extremis, armed the tribes that are on his side. 

How's that work, anyway? How do you have lineage-based and territory-based polities co-existing? 

I made some notes for a blog post ("Work in Ishi, the last wild California Indian, somehow"), then went to look up the famous Arab saying about "I against my brother ..." And I found this excellent 2008 article by anthropologist Stanley Kurtz in the Weekly Standard, "I and My Brother Against My Cousin." It's great to find something exactly on your wavelength, but by a guy who actually knows what he's talking about. Kurtz's article even begins:
On the morning of August 29, 1911, a half-starved Indian stumbled down from a remote canyon near California's Mount Lassen and surrendered at the corral of a nearby slaughterhouse. Reluctant, in accordance with tribal custom, to divulge his personal name, he called himself simply "Ishi," or "Man."
Kurtz writes:
I thought of Ishi while reading Philip Carl Salzman's new book, Culture and Conflict in the Middle East (Humanity Books, 224 pages, $34.95). ... Salzman specializes in the study of Middle Eastern nomads. He, too, is something of a last survivor of a once proud band. What Salzman has managed is to have preserved, nurtured, deepened, and applied to our current challenge a once-dominant anthropological perspective on tribal societies: the study of tribes organized into "segmentary lineages." It was one of the great achievements of modern anthropology. Yet, over the past 40 years, scholars have largely rejected and forgotten the study of segmentary lineage systems. ...

The anthropological understanding of tribal social structures--especially in Africa and the Middle East--has been shunned for 40 years as exaggerating the violence and "primitivism" of non-Western cultures, discouraging efforts at modernization and democratization, and covertly justifying Western intervention abroad. Decades of postmodern and postcolonial studies have conspired against the appearance of books like Salzman's.  ... 
In the Islamic Near East, however, the term "tribe" has a fairly specific meaning. Middle Eastern tribes think of themselves as giant lineages, traced through the male line, from some eponymous ancestor. Each giant lineage divides into tribal segments, which subdivide into clans, which in turn divide into sub-clans, and so on, down to families, in which cousins may be pitted against cousins or, ultimately, brother against brother. Traditionally existing outside the police powers of the state, Middle Eastern tribes keep order through a complex balance of power between these ever fusing and segmenting ancestral groups.  
The central institution of segmentary tribes is the feud. Security depends on the willingness of every adult male in a given tribal segment to take up arms in its defense. An attack on a lineage-mate must be avenged by the entire group. Likewise, any lineage member is liable to be attacked in revenge for an offense committed by one of his relatives. One result of this system of collective responsibility is that members of Middle Eastern kin groups have a strong interest in policing the behavior of their lineage-mates, since the actions of any one person directly affect the reputation and safety of the entire group. 
Universal male militarization, surprise attacks on apparent innocents based on a principle of collective guilt, and the careful group monitoring and control of personal behavior are just a few implications of a system that accounts for many aspects of Middle Eastern society without requiring any explanatory recourse to Islam. The religion itself is an overlay in partial tension with, and deeply stamped by, the dynamics of tribal life. In other words--and this is Salz-man's central argument--the template of tribal life, with its violent and shifting balance of power between fusing and fissioning lineage segments, is the dominant theme of cultural life in the Arab Middle East (and shapes even many non-Arab Muslim populations). At its cultural core, says Salzman, even where tribal structures are attenuated, Middle Eastern society is tribal society. ... 
If Peters found important exceptions to the classic pattern of alliance and feud along lines of male descent, Salzman showed there was a systematic explanation. He found that when erstwhile nomadic tribes settle down, a given clan's location and its immediate neighbors begin to trump the call of traditional kinship loyalties. Yet even settled tribes preserve the classic kin-based ideology of feuding and alliance, precisely because they might someday be forced by economic necessity--or by war with the state--to pick up and move. The further nomads are from the settled life of a state, the more they rely on kin-based, segmentary, balance-of-power principles to keep order. So even after settlement, Bedouin preserve classic segmentary kinship ideology as a kind of "social structure in reserve" for times of movement, crisis, and conflict.

And that sounds like Libya these days. You have a bunch of former nomads who have settled down with TVs and Fiats, but they stand ready to organize along their ancestors' tribal lines when crisis breaks out. 

President Obama's mom was an anthropologist (she got her Ph.D. in 1992), so he might actually know a little of this stuff. It would be interesting to find out what side his mother took in the ultra-politicized Anthropology Wars and what Obama's views of his mother's views are. Of course, that would involve somebody in the press asking the politician specific questions, and, of course, such things are just not done.

April 5, 2011


From the Washington Post:
Without influxes of Hispanics and Asians, some U.S. cities would be smaller
By Carol Morello and Dan Keating 
More than half of the United States’ 100 largest cities relied on Hispanics and Asians to grow and would have seen their populations decline without them over the past decade, a Washington Post analysis shows. 
According to recent census data, Hispanics accounted for the population growth of Philadelphia, Phoenix, Indianapolis, Omaha and Atlanta. Asians boosted the count in Anaheim, Calif.; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Baton Rouge; and Jersey City. Without influx from the two groups, all of those cities would have shrunk. .... 
Much of the growth can be attributed to recent immigrants, part of a pattern that has determined city size throughout much of American history. Many came in search of job opportunities, making population growth a marker of a city’s economy and vitality. ... 
In many cases, what determined whether a city grew or contracted was the number of Hispanics and, to a lesser degree, Asians it attracted. Among the 100 biggest cities, 26 would have had population losses without an influx of Hispanics, and 11 would have shrunk without Asians. 
Cities that do not attract more new immigrant communities over the next decade will hemorrhage population, demographers predicted. 
“The real energy in cities is going to be from Hispanics coming in,” said William H. Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution. “Cities in the industrial Midwest could use an infusion of new immigrant minorities coming in. Cleveland and Detroit haven’t done well; they’re not attracting enough Hispanics. Clearly, Hispanics were the magic bullet for a lot of cities.”

Thank God that Anaheim was saved from turning into a depopulated wasteland by our leaders' wise immigration policies and the brave foreigners who volunteered to settle Anaheim's jagged, snow-covered wilderness for us. After all, what American has ever wanted to go to Anaheim? Remember how your parents would scare you into eating your vegetables by threatening that if you didn't finish them, they'd take you to Anaheim

Charles Murray: "The State of White America"

There's no transcript yet available for Charles Murray's speech yesterday at the American Enterprie Institute on "The State of White America," so I'll post approximate renderings of some key points from the first half of the video.

Murray's speech (and upcoming book) is about growing class differences in America over the last half century. While Murray is an Emmanuel Goldstein figure to most people who haven't actually read his books, his political orientation is that of a Jeffersonian egalitarian. He likes a middle class society. 

To avoid apples to oranges comparisons, Murray is focusing his analysis of increasing class divides on non-Hispanic whites ages 30-49, contrasting the upper 20% (the upper middle class) to the bottom 30% (the working class), as measured in terms of, I believe, education and occupation.

- For example, the being-married rate among upper middle class whites has fallen only trivially from 88% in 1960 to 83% in 2010. Among the bottom 30%, however, the being-married rate has dropped from 83% to 48%. 

- More data from Murray on the growth of class divides using apples to apples comparisons of non-Hispanic whites in their thirties and forties. Among the bottom 30% of whites, the illegitimacy rate was 6% in 1960 and approaching 50% in 2010.

- Among white men in their 30s and 40s, in 1960 1.5% of the top 20% were out of the workforce (i.e., working or looking for work) and 2% now. For white men in the bottom 30%, looking at the economic peaks in 1968 and 2008, the non-working rate went from 5% to 12%. The out-of-the-labor rate is even worse now during the recession, of course. 

- Among working class men with jobs, the percent working less than 40 hours per week went from 13% to 21%.

- Crime victimizes the bottom ranks of society. One of the dirty little secrets of the last 50 years is that upper middle class suburbs weren't dangerous in 1960 and they aren't dangerous now.

- A substantial majority of the upper middle class retains effective religious involvement, while a substantial majority of the white working class does not. It's another case of data not matching popular impressions. ... Among those with a religion, fundamentalism is increasing. But, actual religious involvement in the working class is plummeting.

- That's the bad news. The good news is that upper middle class is doing pretty well. The bad news is that within the upper middle class, we are developing a new upper class.

- Murray ranks all the zip codes in the DC area on their social class relative to all the zip codes in the country. Georgetown is at the 99.6th percentile, while unfashionable Kensington is at the 96.9th percentile. In other words, Murray goes on, practically everybody in the room at AEI listening to his speech lives in a neighborhood where the average white person is vastly higher in social class than the national average.

Video here.

One bit of good news is that Murray's 1993 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, "The Coming White Underclass," doesn't seem to have really happened yet. In 1993, Murray wrote:
An underclass needs a critical mass, and white America has not had one. 
But now the overall white illegitimacy rate is 22%. The figure in low-income, working-class communities may be twice that. How much illegitimacy can a community tolerate? Nobody knows, but the historical fact is that the trendlines on black crime, dropout from the labor force, and illegitimacy all shifted sharply upward as the overall black illegitimacy rate passed 25%. 
The causal connection is murky -- I blame the revolution in social policy during that period, while others blame the sexual revolution, broad shifts in cultural norms, or structural changes in the economy. But the white illegitimacy rate is approaching that same problematic 25% region at a time when social policy is more comprehensively wrongheaded than it was in the mid-1960s, and the cultural and sexual norms are still more degraded. 
The white underclass will begin to show its face in isolated ways. Look for certain schools in white neighborhoods to get a reputation as being unteachable, with large numbers of disruptive students and indifferent parents. Talk to the police; listen for stories about white neighborhoods where the incidence of domestic disputes and casual violence has been shooting up. Look for white neighborhoods with high concentrations of drug activity and large numbers of men who have dropped out of the labor force. Some readers will recall reading the occasional news story about such places already.

Murray's speech seems to suggest that the growth of white underclass neighborhoods hasn't really happened. There are lots of white people who are basically underclass, but they generally don't form large blighted neighborhoods, but are more dispersed, being propped up perhaps by family members.

I think a few things have happened to head off his prediction. There was the welfare reform of 1995 that removed a lot of the economics subsidizing an underclass life. Another thing is that there has been so much churning of the population that neighborhoods that could go white underclass tend to go Hispanic, or in the case of Charlestown from The Town, gentrify.

I don't really know. In the San Fernando Valley, for example, there is a single middle school that's notorious for white biker types, where parents with prison tattoos show up drunk for conferences with their kids' teachers. But even that school is less than half white these days. In the Valley, the white underclass either leaves or gets Hispanicized (e.g., the diverse California prison gang Nazi Lowriders), so I couldn't really say.

Are there any white underclass neighborhoods that look like The Wire?


Joan Lowy reports in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on something that caught my eye for personal reasons:
Southwest grounded nearly 80 Boeing 737-300s after its jet leaving Phoenix lost pressure Friday, forcing pilots to make an emergency landing 125 miles away in Yuma. 
Friday's incident, however, raised questions about the impact that frequent takeoffs and landings by short-haul carriers like Southwest put on their aircraft and the adequacy of the inspections. 
Cracks can develop from the constant cycle of pressurizing the cabin for flight, and releasing it. 
Since there had been no previous accidents or major incidents involving metal fatigue in the middle part of the fuselage, Boeing maintenance procedures called only for airlines to perform a visual inspection. 
But airlines, manufacturers and federal regulators have known since at least 1988 that planes can suffer microscopic fractures. That year, an 18-foot section of the upper cabin of an Aloha Airlines 737-200 peeled away in flight, sucking out a flight attendant. ... 
Southwest appeared eager Monday to shift blame to Boeing. The airline said it had never been alerted to a potential problem where overlapping panels of aluminum skin are riveted together on the 737-300. 
"This is a Boeing-designed airplane. This is a Boeing-produced airplane," Southwest spokeswoman Linda Rutherford said. "It's obviously concerning to us that we're finding skin-fatigue issues."

I put this up because this is a lot of what my Dad, now 94, did during his four decades as a stress engineer at Lockheed: stare at pictures of microscopic cracks in airplane metal and try to figure out whether to tell the airline or the Air Force, "You know, funny thing, this plane turns out not to be quite as safe as we told you it would be when you bought it from us, so you'd better ground this expensive asset while we work out an expensive fix," or, "No problemo! No way is this plane going to rip apart in flight, sending everyone on board plunging to their deaths. Trust us."

Aeronautical stress engineering is a stressful job.

April 4, 2011

Barone: "GOP Shouldn't Panic If Whites Become a Minority"

Michael Barone writes about the Census results:
Finally there is an assumption -- which is particularly strong among those who expect a majority "people of color" electorate to put Democrats in power permanently -- that racial consciousness never changes. But sometimes it does. 
American blacks do have common roots in slavery and segregation. But African immigrants don't share that heritage, and Hispanics come from many different countries and cultures (there are big regional differences just within Mexico). The Asian category includes anyone from Japan to Lebanon and in between. 
Under the definitions in use in the America of a century ago, when Southern and Eastern European immigrants were not regarded as white, the United States became a majority non-white nation sometime in the 1950s.

That's just the kind of myth that springs up as people forget what really happened. Jim Crow never applied to Italians or Poles. Anti-miscegenation laws didn't apply to southern and eastern Europeans. Black people should get upset about all this "How the Irish Became White" mythmaking.
By today's definitions, we'll become majority non-white a few decades hence. 
But that may not make for the vast cultural and political change some predict. Not if we assimilate newcomers, and if our two political parties adapt, as we and they have done in the past.

Barone is vaguely picking up here on some of my arguments over the last few years that the GOP could take a number of steps to redefine the government's race/ethnicity categories to their advantage. All over the world, people (especially women) want to be described as fairer than they actually are. But in America, the government rewards ambiguous people for declaring themselves nonwhite. And you get more of what you pay for. I've argued, in short: concede that the descendants of American slaves and American Indians will always be legally privileged, but nobody else should be. So, either get rid of the category of ethnicity, which is currently reserved for Hispanics, or open it up to everybody. Don't let South Asians be a protected group. Etc.

But the first thing you've got to do is pay attention to how the race rules work. For example, Barone writes, "The Asian category includes anyone from Japan to Lebanon and in between." No, the Asian category currently ends at the Khyber Pass. It used to end in the hill country of Burma. That Barone, who has a tremendous memory for detail, can't remember stuff like that shows how outgunned Republicans are intellectually in this area because they never pay attention to it. You can't begin to win at this game if you don't know the rules.

You can't get much richer and whiter than Matt Ridley

Matt Ridley, author of The Red Queen, is a distinguished science journalist in the Anglo-Darwinian tradition of Richard Dawkins. He's a good example of the trend toward the name "Matthew" being what "Steven/Stephen" was for the previous generation.

But, Matt Ridley also has another identity besides science writer with a Oxford Ph.D. in zoology that I've been looking for an excuse to point out, so I'll grab this one. I'm not particularly interested in the policy controversy below, I'm just using it as a launching pad for some fun details.

Statistics professor Andrew Gelman blogs in "Irritating Pseudo-Populism" that he is annoyed by Ridley's assertion in a WSJ op-ed "Free-market solutions for overweight Americans," that:
Education vouchers, they point out, are generally disliked by rich whites as being bad for poor blacks--and generally liked by poor blacks.

Gelman replies: 
First, I'm sick and tired of all the rich-white bashing. I mean, what's the deal? Matt Ridley is a rich white, I'm a rich white, so are lots and lots of the readers of the Wall Street Journal. If you got a problem with rich whites, maybe you should start writing for a publication associated with a different income stratum and a different ethnic group.

A good point in general. And in this specific case, it's worth noting that very, very few people are quite  as white and rich as Matthew White Ridley VIII, the future Fifth Viscount Ridley. He lives in the family pile of Blagdon Hall on an 8,500 acre estate in Northumberland (see above). Here's a picture of his elderly father, Matthew White Ridley VII, fourth Viscount Ridley and former Lord Steward of the Household. (The journalist's grandfather on his mother's side was the 11th Earl of Scarbrough.) The Blagdon Estate's website says:
The Families of Ridley and White 
Blagdon has been home to the same family since 1700. The first three generations of owners were all named Matthew White. The next nine generations of owners have all been named Matthew White Ridley. For more than 300 years Blagdon has been owned by somebody called Matthew.

In general, the Darwinian tradition has tended to be pushed forward by country boys who grew up around nature. Wealthy country gentlemen like Darwin, Galton, and Ridley may sound like P.G. Wodehouse's parody of the type, Gussie Fink-Nottle, newt fancier from deepest Lincolnshire, but science owes them a lot. 

Closing the trade deficit

This MSNBC article by Michael Isikoff was pretty ho-hum for awhile:
As he prepares to launch a campaign for president, Newt Gingrich is counting on the backing of an unusually powerful behind-the-scenes donor: a billionaire casino mogul whose business empire stretches from the Palazzo on Las Vegas’s famous Strip to the Chinese gambling hub of Macau.

Gingrich’s financial angel is the publicity-shy Sheldon Adelson, chairman of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., and the fifth wealthiest man in America as recently ranked by Forbes Magazine. 
Adelson, who has an estimated net worth of over $23 billion, has personally pumped $7 million over the past five years into Gingrich’s main political advocacy organization, American Solutions for Winning the Future. His contributions account for more than 10 percent of all the organization's funds and have helped the former speaker promote his conservative causes and stay in the public eye.      
But while Adelson’s backing could prove a big asset for Gingrich in his presidential bid, it could also create fresh problems for the former House speaker — especially among the constituents he is courting the hardest these days, evangelical Christians. 

Eh, a little gambling ... Gingrich will just tell the evangelicals that Adelson is also Bibi Netanyahu's financial angel, so he's helping bring the End Times, and everything will be all right.
Adelson and his gambling company have been plagued by legal troubles in recent months. The Sands recently disclosed that it is being investigated by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission for possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Nevada and Hong Kong regulators have opened their own probes, according to company disclosures.
The inquiries grow out of a wrongful termination lawsuit filed last fall by Steven Jacobs, the former top Sands executive in Macau where Adelson’s Venetian casino has become a major profit center for his company. Jacobs alleged in court papers he was fired because he objected to Adelson's “repeated and outrageous” demands that he use “improper leverage” with Chinese officials to obtain valuable government concessions and that he retain the services of a Macau lawyer who was also a local government official. 
(The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which has been vigorously enforced by the Justice Department in recent years, bars U.S. companies from making payments to foreign officials to obtain favorable treatment.)   

Huh? I'd forgotten all about the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act from the 1970s. Wow, is that still around? Of course Sheldon Adelson had to bribe a bunch of people in Beijing to get his huge Macau gambling concession that made him the third richest man in America for awhile. But I'd forgotten that paying bribes / getting shaken down in China is illegal in America. It's not like Sheldon is the snake in the Garden of Eden corrupting the poor, innocent Chinese of Macau. Forget it, Jake. It's Macautown.

So, how much does the FCPA add to America's trade deficit? Does Japan or Germany have their own FCPA?

Walmart sex discrimination case

Walmart is the biggest private employer in the world, has the biggest annual revenue, and earns the 9th largest profits. 

The Supreme Court is currently considering whether a massive class-action lawsuit claiming to represent all million-plus female employees of Walmart can go forward based on disparate impact statistics. 

The crude view of discrimination is the standard Who-Whom one, which assumes that of course Walmart pays less to women because Walmart is run by white men, who are evil. 

A more sophisticated view is the Malcolm Gladwellian one. Back in the 1950s, Gary Becker wrote his doctoral thesis for his adviser, Milton Friedman, on how discrimination is economically irrational because it costs the employer profits. If you pay below the market rate, you get lousier employees and customers go away. 

In a section in Blink on how car salesmen charge women and blacks more moneyGladwell added a new level to the U. of Chicago theory: Discrimination happens not because business executives are evil but because their consciousnesses about their biased implicit associations haven't yet been raised by expensive-enough guest speakers at their annual sales conventions. Walmart executives, like car salesmen, are, when you stop and think about it, the real victims here. They're leaving money on the table because they don't realize that they don't realize that everybody is equal, which everybody is, of course. That goes without saying.

In my experience, however, Walmart never leaves money on the table. 

The Deserving Dumb

From the Washington Post:
Requiring Algebra II in high school gains momentum nationwide
By Peter Whoriskey, Sunday, April , 7:57 PM 
With its intricate mysteries of quadratics, logarithms and imaginary numbers, Algebra II often provokes a lament from high-schoolers. What exactly does this have to do with real life? 
The answer: maybe more than anyone could have guessed. 
Of all of the classes offered in high school, Algebra II is the leading predictor of college and work success, according to research that has launched a growing national movement to require it of graduates. In recent years, 20 states and the District have moved to raise graduation requirements to include Algebra II, and its complexities are being demanded of more and more students. 
The effort has been led by Achieve, a group organized by governors and business leaders and funded by corporations and their foundations, to improve the skills of the workforce. Although U.S. economic strength has been attributed in part to high levels of education, the workforce is lagging in the percentage of younger workers with college degrees, according to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development.
But exactly how to raise the education levels of the U.S. workforce is a matter of debate. And whether learning Algebra II causes students to fare better in life, or whether it is merely correlated with them doing better — because smart, motivated kids take Algebra II — isn’t clear. Meanwhile, some worry that Algebra II requirements are leading some young people to quit school.

The childishness of elite thinking today ...

You'd kind of hope that state governors and business titans like Bill Gates would form an Inner Party where, like O'Brien in 1984, they discuss policy more realistically than they do in public. But, is there any evidence for that? The education policy recommendations that Inner Party organizations like Achieve come up with sound like they were based in private on the same Oprahtastic thinking that is used to justify them in public.

Granted, if you demand more of young people, you will get somewhat more of what you demand, although probably not as much as you hoped. 

But there are predictable side effects. One problem is that credible demands include sticks as well as carrots, and the stick being talked about here is a big one: going through life as a high school dropout. 

I want to introduce a concept to public discussion based on the old Victorian concept of the Deserving Poor: the Deserving Dumb. There are many millions of children in America who, at least when it comes to passing a non-watered down version of Algebra II, are truly the Deserving Dumb. If you force them to take Algebra II, they will come to class, not disrupt the teacher, ask questions, try to do their homework, maybe get some afterschool tutoring. And they will still bomb the final and, thus, fail to graduate. They'll probably get GEDs later, but they still go through life as high school dropouts. They simply don't have the powers of abstraction necessary for Algebra II. 

In fact, under this system, the cleverer members of the Deserving Dumb will tend to drop out of high school earlier because they can read the handwriting on the wall. 

Moreover, the kids who should be taking Algebra II in public schools are likely to find their classes crammed with kids who just don't get it, thus bogging down the classes and boring the bright kids.

Overall, this Algebra II requirement to graduate has been talked about endlessly, frequently officially approved, but its actual implementation is usually repeatedly postponed at the last moment as the reality of the Deserving Dumb becomes manifest down in the trenches, and thus the Outer Party (e.g., school teachers) pushes back. But that doesn't stop the Inner Party from continuing to issue pronunciamentos about how Come Next Year we will require Algebra II to graduate. The Inner Party never learns.

By the way, very little thought has been devoted to developing carrots for the huge numbers of high school students who aren't going to get into selective colleges. The top quarter or so of teens are motivated to pile up an impressive Permanent Record to get into a fancy college and the bottom quarter or so of teens drop out of high school. But the middle 50 percent, especially the second quartile up from the bottom (roughly, kids with IQs in the 90s), doesn't have much motivation other than fear of not graduating from high school and thus not "walking the stage." Their plans are generally, "Well, I think I'll take some classes at the community college, or maybe get a job." So, they don't face many incentives in high school to try harder than the minimum to keep from flunking out. They know employers like high school grads over dropouts, but the usual entry level employers don't care much whether you got a 2.75 gpa or a 2.25 gpa as long as you graduated it, so why sweat it?

One thing that could be done is to make clear to high school students that they can't begin taking community college classes for credit if they get stuck in remedial courses, so expose them to the JC's test that gets you past remedial math and into the real stuff. That might encourage some to study harder in high school and discourage others from bothering with community college, which seems like a win-win to me, but not to the Obama Administration, which wants everybody to take a year of education after high school.

I don't have many other practical suggestions, but it would make sense for the Inner Party to think hard about problems like this rather than about how to sprinkle magic Algebra II dust on everybody.

April 3, 2011

The Cash Value of American Citizenship

In my new VDARE column, I return to the subject of pregnant foreign tourists holing up in America to acquire birthright citizenship for their babies.
Unfortunately, the New York Times' reporter Jennifer Medina couldn’t get much of a grasp on why foreigners would go to all this expense and trouble. It seems to her, to have something to do with passports:
"Immigration experts say they can only guess why well-to-do Chinese women are so eager to get United States passports for their babies, but they suspect it is largely as a kind of insurance policy should they need to move."

... To help the NYT’s puzzlement in case it should ever want to return to this subject, let’s find out what the Chinese themselves say are the reasons. An enterprising reader of mine went to the trouble of looking up a Chinese birth tourism website—the extremely pink Chinese Baby Care. He then had Google Translate render the Chinese characters into approximate English.

And figuring out the motives behind birth tourism is well worth doing. It’s a hugely significant phenomenon—because it makes explicit a topic that is almost never discussed in the American media, but is feverishly analyzed abroad: the scarcity value of the right to live in America.

Read the whole thing there.

Obama at Harvard Law School

President Obama's decision to plunge America into a war with virtually no prior public debate raises inevitable questions about his ability to foresee the future. For several years, we've been reassured about Obama's brilliance, mostly stemming from his record at Harvard. For example, in David Brooks' quasi-novel The Social Animal, the Obamaish character tells the David Brooks-like main character:
"I'm going to be a great president. I have the gifts. I know more about more policy areas than anybody else in the country. ... My attitude is going to be, 'I've got game. Give me the ball.'"

Buried deep in the comments to an earlier post, TangoMan points to a 1999 LA Times article that sheds some light on the mystery of how the President ranked in the top ten percent at Harvard Law School without much intellectually distinguishing himself during most other periods of his life. Most likely, he didn't rank in the top 10% at HLS, as has so often been assumed based on his magna cum laude honors. Only since 1999 has magna cum laude at HLS been restricted to the top 10 percent. 
Honors Grow Scarcer for Harvard Law Grads 
June 10, 1999|Reuters 
When members of Harvard Law School's class of 1999 receive their prestigious degrees Thursday, 36% fewer graduates than last year will be awarded with honors, the school said Wednesday. ... Under a system implemented three years ago that first took effect with this year's class, Harvard Law said it will limit magna cum laude degrees to the top 10% of the class. The next 30% will receive cum laude degrees. Under the old system, 76% of Harvard Law grads earned honors, the school said.

So, more likely, Obama finished in, say, the top 30% or 40% at HLS in grades. 

And, you want to know something? That's really good. He's a very smart guy. He's plenty smart enough to be President.

On the other hand, Obama has been told that he's a genius so many times that he apparently is starting to believe it. Peter Baker reported in the NY Times Magazine last year:
One prominent Democratic lawmaker told me Obama’s problem is that he is not insecure — he always believes he is the smartest person in any room and never feels the sense of panic that makes a good politician run scared all the time, frenetically wooing lawmakers, power brokers, adversaries and voters as if the next election were a week away. 
Emphasis mine.

BHL 2.0

Now that we've learned that the idea for the War in Libya originated with French intellectual Bernard-Henri Levy, it's worth taking a look at this essay in the 12/1/2009 issue of The American Conservative to learn more about this brilliant thinker:
Tracking Tocqueville
God is dead, but my hair is perfect.

... MCLEAN, VA.—The Right. The American Right. In America, the Right does not play around. Today I meet Lewis “Scooter” Libby. A man of the Right. A true-blue “neoconservative.” And though I expect to find a man quite different from me, I am struck by our similarities. He is obviously an idealist. He has a luxuriant mane of hair despite his age. He wears an elegant YSL white shirt and has the charming effrontery to wear it open-neck. He comes enveloped in a fragrance that, I am not embarrassed to say, is delicious and intriguing. Whenever I flick my hair out of my eyes with my left hand, he does the same—only with his right hand. And when I scratch myself fleetingly, he does the same, perhaps to put me at my ease. Or does this “neocon” mock me? Oh-ho, now I see. I am on to you, my dear Scooter. Congratulations. You and your hallway mirror have won the first round. En garde.

MCLEAN, VA.—When the real Scooter Libby leads me into his study for conversation, he is not the American right-winger I had expected. He does not pass me a snake and babble in tongues while firing a machine gun into the air. He does not burn a cross on a neighbor’s lawn while petting at my groin. Not at all. In fact, he immediately impresses me with his courageous zeal to ensure the dignity of Afghan women by sending hundreds of thousands of young soldiers into their villages. ... And yet, as a man of the Left, I cannot help but think of all the things that separate this man’s views from my own. It’s just that I cannot seem to think of them right now.

PORTLAND, ORE.—A sign in a Starbucks café: “No shoes. No shirt. No service.” This totalitarian pseudo-syllogism is repugnant to me.

Americans, heed the lessons of Sarajevo. Do not let this Stalinist dress code lead you into the Gulag. They shall not stifle our toes with boots nor even with Lycra. And so I remove my loafers and heave a foot onto the counter, wiggle my toes deliciously, knock over a painfully hot cup of tea, and hop out. There comes a time when responsible intellectuals must take a stand for liberal values, no matter the price.

DEARBORN, MICH.—At a mosque, I am asked by a middle-aged woman at the entrance to remove my shoes. Can she be serious?

“Excuse me, dear Madame, but I prefer to keep my shoes on— both of them.” Yet she asks again: “If you don’t mind, hon, take them off.”

Ah, but you see, I do mind. Islamofascism. Fascislamism. Take your pick. It can happen here. To my antitotalitarian friends in America, I can only say, keep your shoes on! Let us sit on the floor and clap our shoes together! Wear shoes on your hands! Or at least socks! Hang more shoes on your ears, perhaps the lightweight sandals called “flip-flops.”

Oh no, my fascislamistotalitarian friends, we are sorry to disappoint. I am afraid we must insist on wearing our shoes, in fact a whole panoply of footwear, at all hours, in all places. The alternative, as the 20th century shows, is a path straight to the Gulag. A path trod with bare feet.

—As told to Chase Madar