June 4, 2011

The Latino Political Juggernaut in Action

As we've all been told, the vast growth in the number of Latinos makes them an unstoppable force in American politics. Anybody who stands against illegal immigration, such as the Republican upstarts in Arizona who passed SB 1070 in 2010, will be crushed beneath Mexican-Americans' implacable will, relentless focused energy, and superb organizational skills.

From today's LA Times, an article about how all that is working out in the Los Angeles of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa:
What happened to L.A.'s boycott of Arizona? 
By Kate Linthicum | 7:12 p.m. 
A year after the City Council approved the sanction, little has changed. There's not even an ordinance specifying how the boycott should work. 
In May 2010, Los Angeles was a part of wave of cities that voted to boycott Arizona after lawmakers in that state passed a controversial law targeting illegal immigrants. 
City Hall staffers were ordered to review contracts with Arizona companies for possible termination, and official travel to Arizona was supposed to be suspended. 
But a year later, little has changed in the way Los Angeles does business with the state next door. 
The city still buys street sweeper parts from one Arizona firm and has a contract for emergency sewer repairs with another, officials say. The Harbor Department alone has four contracts with Arizona companies that total nearly $26 million. 
A similar pattern can be seen across California. Boycotts in Oakland, San Francisco and Los Angeles County made headlines last year but have since delivered little punch. 
None of those jurisdictions has canceled a contract with an Arizona-based company because of the boycott — leading some immigrant-rights activists to dismiss the high-profile calls for economic sanctions as empty symbolism. 
The disappointment is especially felt in Los Angeles, where Latino elected leaders strongly backed the sanctions. 
"This is a moment of hypocrisy if the city of Los Angeles says one thing and does another," said Rabbi Jonathan Klein, executive director of the Los Angeles chapter of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice.

I suspect that someday some genius will figure out how to politically organize Mexican-Americans. But it probably won't involve issuing press releases and all that old boring stuff. My guess is that the secret to organizing Mexicans politically will have to involve buying pouffy dresses, renting tuxedos and stretch limousines, and dancing. Lots of dancing.

June 3, 2011

Golf Summit

From the Washington Post:
After months of public anticipation [really?], President Obama and House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) have settled on a date to play golf together: Saturday, June 18.... 
Boehner is widely considered the much better player, having started playing when he was in his 20s. Later in life, as a successful businessman, he joined Wetherington Golf and Country Club outside Cincinnati. Obama didn’t really become a regular player until he became president, when he started using golf outings to maintain a level of normalcy to escape the intense life inside the presidential bubble. Of late, however, Obama has been improving his game as Boehner’s has deteriorated. 
According to Golf Digest, Obama is now a 17-handicap. That means that he usually shoots about a 90 on a course with an overall par of 72.

Not really. Handicaps are calculated, or at least they were 17 years ago when I wrote an article for Golf magazine on them, using only the better half of your last 20 rounds. And the handicap makes up only a majority of the gap (85%?) -- the idea is that the lower handicap golfer should win the majority of bets (because he's better), but at least it should be interesting. 

If somebody lists their handicap without a decimal point, they probably don't maintain an actual handicap. 
Boehner’s handicap has drifted up from about 5 or 6, before he became the GOP leader in 2007, to an 8.5, according to an official handicap site. Boehner has not broken 80 at his home course, Wetherington, since last May — at which point his campaign for Republicans to win the majority in the November midterms shifted into high gear.

On the other hand, the Christian Science Monitor reported in January that Boehner "hit the links some 120 times last year."

That's a lot. Considering that the guy lives in Washington and Ohio, that means about four months of the year are too cold for golf, and it rains a lot the rest of the year, so he must have been playing golf over half the days when the weather is reasonable. I'm glad he's got a job that's not too demanding.

Guys always tell you that you should play golf to become rich and powerful, but my sneaking suspicion is that a lot of guys become rich and powerful in order to play more golf.

June 2, 2011

"The Tree of Life"

From my movie review in Taki's Magazine:
The movie industry cares only about money, not art. Right? Yet Terrence Malick’s four-decade-long career demonstrates how much money and talent film folk will lavish on an occasional prodigy. 
The exquisite middle section of the 67-year-old director’s new movie, The Tree of Life, an autobiographical memoir of his adolescence in 1950s Waco, Texas, finally fulfills the hopes Hollywood has invested in Malick since his memorable 1973 debut, Badlands, featuring Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek as a thrill-kill couple. Malick is the Red State Coleridge, the philosopher-poet of the Oil Patch.

Read the whole thing there.

A few extra notes on The Tree of Life:

- The idea of Sean Penn playing (in the present) the son of Brad Pitt and and the gorgeous Jessica Chastain (who appear as the parents in the 1950s section of the movie) sounds implausible, but the redheaded starlet has the kind of strong facial features that could, conceivably, be responsible for Sean Penn.

- Malick's own father was variously described as an "Assyrian Christian" or "Chaldean Christian." (Thus, the Garden of Eden reference in the title is all in the family.) There aren't many pictures available of the reclusive Malick, but he looks like a heavier-set version of another half-Arab with fine visual taste, Steve Jobs. [P.S., an Orthodox priest writes in to say that Assyrians don't like to be called "Arabs." He says it's very complicated, but I can see their point: as the Book says in Genesis, they were there first, long before the Arabs arrived.]

- In the movie, Pitt's character describes himself as holder of 27 patents. Online, I can only find ten patents held by Emil A. Malick, but double digits is pretty good, anyway.

- You always hear about the wonders of "Director's Cut," but I'd like to see an "Editor's Cut" of quite a few movies. For example, how much more exciting would a 2-hour version of "King Kong" be than the 3-hour drag Peter Jackson released? You could lose about 45 minutes of "Tree of Life" and the overall movie would be twice as good.

- A director with a similar look to Terrence Malick is Carroll Ballard. Both have only made five movies since the 1970s, and both make gorgeous outdoors films without a lot of dialogue (Here's Spike Jonze's commentary on Ballard's "The Black Stallion.") Ballard paid a lot of dues coming up (he was the second unit director on "Star Wars," which sounds like a pretty good credit to me. I think Ballard's dad was a prominent cameraman in his own day, too.) But Ballard has got typecast as a kids' movie director, not as an art house genius, and has had trouble getting financing, while Malick always has powerful patrons. The link between the two directors is cameraman Caleb Deschanel, who was the DP on Malick's masters thesis short at AFI and then was DP on The Black Stallion

Is college too easy?

From the L.A. Times:
College, too easy for its own good 
Colleges have abandoned responsibility for shaping students' academic development and instead have come to embrace a service model that caters to satisfying students' expressed desires. 
By Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa 
As this year's crop of college graduates leaves school, burdened with high levels of debt and entering a severely depressed job market, they may be asking themselves a fundamental question: Was college worth it? ... 
We recently tracked several thousand students as they moved through and graduated from a diverse set of more than two dozen colleges and universities, and we found consistent evidence that many students were not being appropriately challenged. In a typical semester, 50% of students did not take a single course requiring more than 20 pages of writing [i.e., no more than two ten-page papers], 32% did not have any classes that required reading more than 40 pages per week, and 36% reported studying alone five or fewer hours per week. 
Not surprisingly, given such a widespread lack of academic rigor, about a third of students failed to demonstrate significant gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing ability (as measured by the Collegiate Learning Assessment) during their four years of college. 

The interesting analysis would be whether most of the students who aren't getting better at analyzing information are ones whose SAT / ACT test scores would predict that they have about topped out intellectually, or whether they are often just lazy students who would be getting better if they applied themselves.
... Indeed, the students in our study who reported studying alone five or fewer hours per week nevertheless had an average cumulative GPA of 3.16. 
... These trends have all added up to less rigor. California labor economists Philip Babcock and Mindy Marks, for example, have documented that full-time college students' time spent studying dropped in half between 1960 and today. 

My experience at Rice in the 1970s was that, by today's standards, there really wasn't all that much to do other than to study. Almost nobody had a television in their dorm room, the only video game was Pong, and computers were programmed with punch cards, so they were no fun. Not all that many students had cars, either. (On the other hand, their were two bars on campus, a beer cost 35 cents, the legal drinking age was 18, and nobody carded freshmen to see if they were 18.) But researching a paper in the library was a total drag compared to looking stuff up on the Internet, so I'm not sure how productive all those hours of study were.

In contrast, I watched lots of TV in high school. Maybe we're turning into a Japanese system where you work hard in high school to get into a fancy college, where you take it easy.

Rice back then was hard in science and engineering. It wasn't particularly hard in other majors. In contrast, Stanford was notoriously easy back then, which is why Silicon Valley collapsed. Oh, wait, that didn't happen ... 
Moreover, from 1970 to 2000, as colleges increasingly hired additional staff to attend to student social and personal needs, the percentage of professional employees in higher education who were faculty decreased from about two-thirds to around one-half. At the same time, through their professional advancement and tenure policies, schools encouraged faculty to focus more on research rather than teaching. When teaching was considered as part of the equation, student course assessments tended to be the method used to evaluate teaching, which tends to incentivize lenient grading and entertaining forms of instruction.

It's fun to look up student ratings of celebrity professors. For example, Harvard students express their disdain for Alan Dershowitz with impressive vocabularies: e.g., "repugnant." But, mostly it's pretty depressing reading what students have to say about their classes. The reviews of films submitted for free on Internet Movie Database are a lot more intelligent on average than college class reviews.
So how should this academic drift of our colleges and universities be addressed? Some have proposed introducing a federal accountability system. We are against such a move, as federal regulation would probably be counterproductive and include a large set of detrimental, unintended consequences. 
Accountability in higher education rightly resides at lower levels of the system. College trustees have at the institutional level the fiduciary responsibility to begin holding administrators accountable by asking: How are student learning outcomes and program quality being measured, and what is being done to address areas of concern that have been identified?  ... 

In general, our society doesn't seem to really want to know how much value colleges are adding.
Richard Arum, a professor of sociology and education at New York University, and Josipa Roksa, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Virginia, are the authors of "Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses."

June 1, 2011

Turkey's good luck in staying out of the EU

Turkey has been something of a success story over the last decade, and Prime Minister Erdogan's ruling moderate Islamist party is likely to win again in the general election in ten days. 

The irony about Turkey is that Turkish nationalism was largely the invention of cosmopolitan elites far-flung from the Anatolian mainland in whose name they claimed to act. The modern Republic of Turkey as a replacement for the Ottoman Empire was dreamed up largely by Europeans, especially by Salonikans (such as Mustafa Kemal). Salonika is so far west that it's now hundreds of miles within Greece. Turkey is a little bit like Israel in that both are relics of early 20th Century advanced European thinking (nationalism! monoculturalism! secularism!) imposed upon a seemingly unpromising Middle Eastern region. 

Erdogan (who was born in Istanbul, but of a family from the mainland) seems to stand for the idea that the conservative Muslim majority is ready to actually run Turkey itself. In a funny way, this might be seen as the fulfillment of the Kemalist dream, although the Kemalist parties would never admit it.

One much overlooked point about the rise of Turkey is how lucky Turkey was to not be admitted to the European Union due to European anti-immigration sentiment. (I argued in 2004 that admitting Turkey to the EU would be bad for Turkey and bad for Europe.) For a long time, the grand strategy of Turkey's leaders was to stay bound to the U.S. strategically and join the European Union, which would have allowed mass emigration of surplus Turkish workers. But the Turkish parliament surprised Washington by voting down U.S. use of Turkey to invade Iraq from the north in 2003. 

This turned out to make possible Erdogan's foreign policy strategy of friendly relations with its neighbors. For example, Erdogan later decided to dig up a huge strip of unused land along with the Syrian border sown with land mines and farm it. 

Not getting into the EU meant that Turkey kept its separate lira, unlike next-door Greece, which uses the excessively expensive Euro. The Euro is high because BMWs are worth a lot. Greece doesn't play in Germany's league as an exporter, but it uses Germany's currency. 

So, forced to act like a sovereign country, Turkey has been developing its own jobs for its own people.

The past is an unknown country

The New York Times appears genuinely surprised to discover that racial activists like La Raza and the NAACP are teaming up with big mortgage lenders to try to undermine prudent regulation of home loans. Who could imagine such a thing?

From the New York Times: 
Advocates and Bankers Join to Fight Loan Rules 
As banking regulators rewrite mortgage rules, unusual alliances have sprung up to oppose tighter standards
WASHINGTON — The weight of the mortgage crisis fell heavily on lower-income and minority communities, where first-time home buyers often fell victim to the predatory lending practices that resulted in an explosion of defaults and foreclosures. 
That left consumer advocates and civil rights groups frequently at odds with bankers, mortgage lenders and their lobbyists during the debate over the financial regulation act last year, which aims to rein in the subprime mortgage excesses that inflated the housing bubble. 
Now, as banking regulators are rewriting the rules for the mortgage market, unusual alliances have sprung up in opposition to tighter lending standards. Advocacy groups like the N.A.A.C.P. and the National Council of La Raza, a Latino civil rights organization, on the one hand, and the American Bankers Association on the other, are joining together to fight rules they say could make home loans less affordable for minority and working-class Americans. 
The growing alliance between civil-rights organizations and banking lobbyists could extend beyond the current round of financial rule-making. If Congress turns its focus to restructuring Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, for example, the same groups could voice similar concerns over anything that restricts the availability of credit for first-time home buyers. ...
For the uncommon alliance

Huh? It was an awfully common alliance in the 1990s and 2000s.
the first point of attack is on a proposal that would require sellers of mortgage-backed securities to retain part of the risk should a package of loans go sour. The sellers would have to keep on their books at least 5 percent of the value of any baskets of loans they purchase from lenders and then resell to investors. One of the few exceptions to the requirement would be for mortgages on which the home buyer has made a down payment equal to 20 percent of the purchase price. 
“Most people don’t have 20 percent to put down,” said Janis Bowdler, a project director in La Raza’s office of research, advocacy and legislation. “These rules will so significantly deter the ability of first-time buyers to break into the market that we will see a real decline in home ownership.” 
... Any standards that apply to the private mortgage market will have to be reflected in government housing finance entities that help low-income and minority borrowers, said Barry Zigas, director of housing policy for the Consumer Federation of America. ... 
Last year, according to the National Association of Realtors, 96 percent of first-time home buyers made down payments below 20 percent. ... 
 Some regulators  say that the coalition of consumer and industry groups is jeopardizing rules that could, in the long run, protect borrowers from risky lending practices. In private meetings, some top agency lawyers now refer to the partnership as “the unholy alliance.”
But mortgage lenders, consumer and community groups, which are planning a joint news conference in Washington on Thursday to highlight their opposition to the risk-retention proposals, say they are just as certain that the regulations will not prevent risky loans from being made while hurting qualified borrowers. 
“It is more likely that the credit restrictions that result will disproportionately fall on lower-income borrowers,” said Robert R. Davis, an executive vice president for the American Bankers Association. That, in turn, puts banks in a bind, because it gives the appearance of violating fair-lending practices. 
The bonds between the former foes could unravel, in part because the wounds created by the implosion of the housing market remain fresh.

"Former foes"??? Mortgage lenders like Angelo Mozilo of Countrywide and diversity mongers like Henry Cisneros of Countrywide's board were best friends from roughly 1994 through 2007. 

"Reckless Endangerment"

Gretchen Morgenson of the New York Times has an important new book out on the role played by Fannie Mae in the mortgage meltdown, Reckless Endangerment. I hope to review the whole thing shortly, but I wanted to quote from a small section of the book:
Fannie Mae did not limit its outreach to politicians in need of photo ops or community organizers in need of money. The company also enlisted the aid of academics whose resarch papers on housing issues helped shape the policy debate that was so crucial to the preservation of Fannie's status quo. ... 
Fannie Mae's financing of academic research on such a large scale meant that few housing experts were left to argue the other side of any debate involving the company. ... 
One bank lobbyist was interested in hiring academics to write papers that might take a different point of view on housing issues. But most of the experts in the area had been co-opted by Fannie Mae. "I tried to find academics that would do research on these issues and Fannie had bought off all the academics in housing," the lobbyist said. "I had people say to me are you going to give me stipends for the next 20 years like Fannie will?" 
The answer was no. The discussion was over.

That reminds me of why you might wish to send me money: because neither Fannie Mae nor any other big money special interest will. The interpretation of the causes of the mortgage meltdown that I came up with in 2007-2008 isn't the kind of spin that benefits any particular set of big money boys. 

It's not necessarily that I'm so incredibly ethical that I would turn down their money. It's that no sensible special interest would try to buy me off.

You can send me an email and I'll send you my P.O. Box address.

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Personnel Is Policy

From the NYT:
In Shift, Justice Department is Hiring Lawyers With Civil Rights Backgrounds
By Charlie Savage 
WASHINGTON — Under the Obama administration, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has reversed a pattern of systematically hiring conservative lawyers with little experience in civil rights, the practice that caused a scandal over politicization during the Bush administration. 
Instead, newly disclosed documents show, the lawyers hired over the past two years at the division have been far more likely to have civil rights backgrounds — and to have ties to traditional civil rights organizations with liberal reputations, like the American Civil Liberties Union or the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.... 
“During this administration, the department has restored the career-driven, transparent hiring process that will produce the most qualified attorneys for the job,” said Xochitl Hinojosa, a Justice Department spokeswoman. 
... Specifically, about 90 percent of the Obama-era hires listed civil rights backgrounds on their résumés, up from about 38 percent of the Bush group hires. (There were about 47 Obama-era hires and about 72 in the last six years of the Bush administration.) 
Moreover, the Obama-era hires graduated from law schools that had an average ranking of 28, according to U.S. News & World Report. The Bush group had a lower average ranking, 42. 
At the same time, there was a change in the political leanings of organizations listed on the résumés, where discernible. Nearly a quarter of the hires of the Bush group had conservative credentials like membership in the Federalist Society or the Republican National Lawyers Association, while only 7 percent had liberal ones. 
By contrast, during the first two Obama years, none of the new hires listed conservative organizations, while more than 60 percent had liberal credentials. They consisted overwhelmingly of prior employment or internships with a traditional civil rights group, like the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. 
Those findings were amplified by a report on Tuesday by The National Law Journal, which analyzed the résumés of nearly 120 career lawyers hired since 2009 across the entire division. Of that group, it reported, at least 60 had worked for traditional civil rights organizations. 
Robert Driscoll, a Bush administration official at the division who left before the hiring scandal, said that a policy of allowing professional civil rights lawyers to make hiring decisions based on civil rights experience was tactically “brilliant” because it would result in disproportionately liberal outcomes without any need for interference by Obama political appointees.

Fighting alumni bias

Here's an amusing NYT article about how Chinese-American firms that mold applications to fancy colleges for hefty fees are expanding into the Mainland China market, where they write essays and create Potemkin extracurricular activities
LuShuang Xu provides an example of that approach. Ms. Xu, who was born and raised in China before emigrating to suburban California at age 9, had high hopes that she would be the first in her family to go to college. But poor results on a practice SAT and a dearth of extracurricular activities convinced Ms. Xu, 17, that she needed a scholastic makeover if she were to make it into a school her parents could brag about to relatives. 
ThinkTank sent her to a public speaking camp, helped her improve her college essay and gave her the e-mail addresses of all the members of the Stanford University history department. At the company’s prompting, she found two internships with department professors. She also enrolled in ThinkTank’s college prep courses, which helped improve her SAT score 410 points to 2160 out of 2400. Next autumn, she will start at Harvard University. 
ThinkTank’s success with students in California’s Asian-American community, which accounts for 90 percent of the company’s American clients, has drawn interest from wealthy parents in China. Mr. Ma opened an office in Shenzhen in 2009 and another in Beijing last year. 
The company entered China at a time when the college consulting industry on the mainland was booming, with numerous agencies promising to make Chinese student’s academic dreams come true, often through questionable practices. 
One company, Best Education, has offices across China and charges clients an average of 500,000 renminbi for writing clients’ essays, training them for the visa interview at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing and providing career guidance. 
“The students just supply their information and we do all the work,” said one representative, who requested anonymity to protect his job. Best Education offers a 50 percent refund if an applicant is rejected by the student’s chosen schools. ... 
Reached by telephone, an agency representative said the company did a lot more than just polish résumés. “If a client’s English is poor, our trained professionals can write the essay to make sure it looks perfect,” she said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to avoid repercussions from her employer. 
Helping students from China clear the college entry hurdles has presented ThinkTank with a fresh set of challenges. Often they have poor English language skills and have done little with their free time beyond homework. Yet their parents often demand the Ivy League. 
“We really have to hold their hand and do everything along with them,” Mr. Ma said, including deliberately leaving spelling mistakes on college essays so they look authentic, training them for the Test of English as a Foreign Language and building extracurricular activities from the ground up. 
ThinkTank has founded Model United Nations groups, built a Web site for a Shanghai student’s photography project to get news media coverage and helped another obtain funding to build a hydroelectric generator. 

This raises the more general question of why anybody, Chinese or non-Chinese, cares so much about getting into a famous American college? Obviously, some of it is sheer social climbing -- bragging to relatives, etc. 

Yet, there is a rational piece of the puzzle, which is that many elite employers, such as Goldman Sachs, discriminate extravagantly based on college attended (see Steve Hsu here and here). Many super-lucrative Wall Street firms won't bother recruiting at non-Ivy League campuses, and some even feel Columbia is a little downscale for them. 

Why? Well, there are various obvious reasons of convenience, but another is sheer self-interest. If you graduated from Harvard, keeping it much easier for Harvard students to get hired by your company than equally gifted graduates of lesser-known colleges burnishes the name Harvard, which is on your resume. Plus, your kids will have some legacy pull when they apply to Harvard so why give outsiders an even break?

In other words, there is a pervasive pattern of hiring bias perpetuated by an old boy's network. When discrimination involves race or sex, government and media go on red alert. But when it involves colleges, well, who cares?

Now, one thing we could do to reduce college admissions mania is make Wall Street a little less lucrative. But, that seems beyond imagining. So, let's think about a direct approach.

The normal solution for discrimination is quotas, explicit or covert. So, why not quotas for, say, Goldman Sachs? GS is not only vastly wealthy, but has been hugely helped out in recent years by the taxpayers (e.g., the AIG bailout, which saved Goldman $13 billion). So, Goldman should publicly commit to doubling the percentage of new recruits it hires each year from public universities.

I'm not sure that this is a great idea, but what's interesting is that it's a rather novel idea. 

May 31, 2011

College football

A reader sends along stats on graduation rates for football players at various colleges. Notre Dame is #1 at 96%, followed by Duke, Northwestern, and Rice and most of the rest of the top ten are private colleges or military academies, with Rutgers the highest ranking public university. (Northwestern recently had a quarterback named Kafka, and it's good to know that at probably at least some of his teammates were amused by that.)

The bottom ten tend to be obscure public schools like San Jose St., along with football-crazed powerhouses Oklahoma and Texas.

The biggest gap between football players graduation rates and all students is at UCLA (52% v. 89%) -- and UCLA isn't even getting very good football players. (UCLA used to have a low graduation rate for regular students because it could take 5 or 6 years to get all the classed you needed to graduate. But I think the spread of Advanced Placement tests in high school, among other reasons, has made it easier to graduate in 4 years.)

The biggest gap between the graduation rates of white football players and black football players was at Auburn. The third biggest race gap was at Oregon. Auburn and Oregon played for the national championship in January, so maybe that's a clever strategy: recruit smart white kids and lower your standards for black athletes.

Bibi and Barack

A reader sends photos of Bibi Netanyahu and Barack Obama as young men, with the implication that these might shed light on why the head of a country of 6 million treated the head of a country of 300 million like his personal dogwalker.

The teeming masses

If you've ever been to Chinatown in lower Manhattan, you'll recall the unbelievable population density, which might be the highest in the U.S. Yet, there is a new set of teeming masses arriving in neighborhoods near Chinatown in such numbers that the newcomers' children have filled all the other local schools and are now being assigned to the less densely packed elementary school in Chinatown: namely, affluent white families.

From the Tribeca Trib in downtown Manhattan:
Waitlisted Tribeca Parents Angry over Assignment Chinatown School Assignment 
More than two dozen Tribeca parents were shocked to learn last week that their children likely won’t be going to kindergarten in the neighborhood. Parents of the 28 children on the wait list for P.S. 234 received letters telling them that their kindergartners will instead be offered seats in Chinatown’s P.S. 130, at Baxter and Hester streets, just north of Canal Street. 
“We’re very concerned,” said Marc Siden, whose daughter, Riley, received wating list number 34 in the lottery for admission in September. “We got blindsided by this and we don’t have a lot of time to make a decision. We don’t know enough about this school. It came out of left field.” ... 
“We’re just so disappointed,” she said. “We didn’t pursue private schools or gifted and talented programs because it’s very important to us to go to a school in the neighborhood.”
Some desperate Tribeca parents have even talked of renting apartments east of Broadway to qualify their children for the Spruce Street school.  
According to the website insideschools.com, 89 percent of the students at P.S. 130 are Asian-Americans, 5 percent are of Hispanic heritage, 3 percent are white and 2 percent are African American. Like P.S. 234, it is academically one of the highest ranked schools in the city.

If you ever wonder why NYC and DC elites don't take immigration seriously, you have to realize that from their personal perspective, the big demographic trend is the ever increasing number of white people with J.D./M.B.A. dual degrees who are crowding into their neighborhoods and forcing their kids to go to school in less fast-growing neighborhoods, like Chinatown.

Monarchism Vindicated

Queen Elizabeth's husband Prince Philip has a job that consists solely of socializing, and he's had Elderly Tourette's Syndrome since he was young. Fortunately, being Prince Consort is one of the few jobs that that won't get you fired from. From the U.K. Independent:

Ninety gaffes in ninety years

From Papua New Guinea to Stoke-on-Trent, Prince Philip has left his mark around the world. As his 90th birthday looms, Hannah Ewan recalls the soundbites that could only have come from one man

1. "Ghastly." Prince Philip's opinion of Beijing, during a 1986 tour of China.

2. "Ghastly." Prince Philip's opinion of Stoke-on-Trent, as offered to the city's Labour MP Joan Walley at Buckingham Palace in 1997.

7. "How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to pass the test?" Asked of a Scottish driving instructor in 1995.

8. "Damn fool question!" To BBC journalist Caroline Wyatt at a banquet at the Elysée Palace after she asked Queen Elizabeth if she was enjoying her stay in Paris in 2006.

11. "We don't come here for our health. We can think of other ways of enjoying ourselves." During a trip to Canada in 1976.

13. "British women can't cook." Winning the hearts of the Scottish Women's Institute in 1961.

15. "What do you gargle with – pebbles?" To Tom Jones, after the Royal Variety Performance, 1969. He added the following day: "It is very difficult at all to see how it is possible to become immensely valuable by singing what I think are the most hideous songs."

16. "It's a vast waste of space." Philip entertained guests in 2000 at the reception of a new £18m British Embassy in Berlin, which the Queen had just opened.

18. "If it has four legs and it is not a chair, if it has got two wings and it flies but is not an aeroplane and if it swims and it is not a submarine, the Cantonese will eat it." Said to a World Wildlife Fund meeting in 1986.

22. "I would like to go to Russia very much – although the bastards murdered half my family." In 1967, asked if he would like to visit the Soviet Union.

24. "Oh, it's you that owns that ghastly car is it? We often see it when driving to Windsor Castle." To neighbour Elton John after hearing he had sold his Watford FC-themed Aston Martin in 2001.

25. "The problem with London is the tourists. They cause the congestion. If we could just stop the tourism, we could stop the congestion." At the opening of City Hall in 2002.

28. "You must be out of your minds." To Solomon Islanders, on being told that their population growth was 5 per cent a year, in 1982.

30. "Your country is one of the most notorious centres of trading in endangered species." Accepting a conservation award in Thailand in 1991.

31. "Aren't most of you descended from pirates?" In the Cayman Islands, 1994.

34. "If you travel as much as we do you appreciate the improvements in aircraft design of less noise and more comfort – provided you don't travel in something called economy class, which sounds ghastly." To the Aircraft Research Association in 2002.

39. "I wish he'd turn the microphone off!" The Prince expresses his opinion of Elton John's performance at the 73rd Royal Variety Show, 2001.

49. Philip: "Who are you?"

Simon Kelner: "I'm the editor-in-chief of The Independent, Sir."

Philip: "What are you doing here?"

Kelner: "You invited me."

Philip: "Well, you didn't have to come!"

An exchange at a press reception to mark the Golden Jubilee in 2002.

51. "Any bloody fool can lay a wreath at the thingamy." Discussing his role in an interview with Jeremy Paxman.

52. "Holidays are curious things, aren't they? You send children to school to get them out of your hair. Then they come back and make life difficult for parents. That is why holidays are set so they are just about the limit of your endurance." At the opening of a school in 2000.

58. "I have never been noticeably reticent about talking on subjects about which I know nothing." Addressing a group of industrialists in 1961.

59. "It's not a very big one, but at least it's dead and it took an awful lot of killing!" Speaking about a crocodile he shot in Gambia in 1957.

71. "It is my invariable custom to say something flattering to begin with so that I shall be excused if by any chance I put my foot in it later on." Full marks for honesty, from a speech in 1956.

73. "In education, if in nothing else, the Scotsman knows what is best for him. Indeed, only a Scotsman can really survive a Scottish education." Said when he was made Chancellor of Edinburgh University in November 1953.

84. "What about Tom Jones? He's made a million and he's a bloody awful singer." Response to a comment at a small-business lunch about how difficult it is in Britain to get rich.

86. "I'd much rather have stayed in the Navy, frankly." When asked what he felt about his life in 1992.

May 30, 2011

Hispanics grow by 15 million in 10 years

According to the Census, as reported in the WSJ, the Hispanic population grew by over 15 million from 2000 to 2010: from 35.3 to 50.5 million. That's 43% in ten years. The Mexican-American population alone grew by 11 million.

How much is the Hispanic population going to go up in this decade? 20 million? 25 million?

According to the conventional media wisdom, this growth in population is hugely relevant to elections, but were utterly irrelevant to the house price bubble in the middle of the last decade or to increases in carbon emissions.

Why do Republicans hate thinking about race and IQ, too?

Here's my new VDARE essay

It's no surprise why Democrats tend to be so angry at anybody who mentions the race-IQ link, but why do so many Republicans now feel the same way? There are a number of reasons, but one is often overlooked. I explore an aspect of the sociology and psychology of Republican voters.

Read it there.

Panhandling 9

It was another really nice day. I asked for money last night, and money rolled in today. I'm thankful for how generous you all are. And now I'm going to ask again for more readers to send me money.

You can send me an email and I'll send you my P.O. Box address.

Or, you can use Paypal to send me money directly. Use any credit card or your Paypal account. To get started, just click on the orange Paypal "Donate" button on the top of the column to the right.

When that takes you to Paypal, if you want to use your Paypal account, fill in your Paypal ID and password on the lower right of the screen.

Or, if you want to use your credit card, fill in your credit card info on the lower left part of the screen by clicking on the word "Continue" in the lower center/left.


May 29, 2011


The history of most sports is quite woozy before the 19th Century. It's obvious, such as from 17th Century Dutch paintings of daily life, that males played a lot of sports, but most of the rules we are familiar with go back to English-speakers of the 19th Century, or a little earlier. (The oldest evidence of the rules of golf being written down, for example, are from Edinburgh in 1744.)

What were sports like before the Victorian institutionalization? 

My guess from watching little boys play, is that they had traditional rules that varied across time and place, with lots of Calvinball improvisations, followed by lots of arguments over whether that was fair or not. For example, legend has it that in 1823 at Rugby School, schoolboy William Webb Ellis picked up the ball and ran toward the goal, breaking traditional rules and inventing rugby.

Maybe that story is not exactly true, but it's likely that countless incidents like that have happened over the thousands of years -- somebody would do something new, then everybody would argue over it, and it would either become precedent or disallowed. But, then after awhile, something else would happen, and the rules would change some more, endlessly.

But there was a new spirit abroad in the English-speaking world over the last couple of hundred years or so that said rules should be standardized.

The coming of the railroad encouraged sportsmen to compete more around the country, which led to conflicts between local traditions. The railway also allowed older sportsmen to get together and standardize rules. The history of the evolution of American football in the 19th Century, for example, is largely a history of guys getting together in hotels next to train stations during the off season to argue about rules changes.

In contrast, little girls tend to change the rules to make people feel less bad.

How many sports have women invented? I looked up rhythmic gymnastics, and most of the names cited in the history section were men, but the first person cited in America was Catharine Beecher (of the exhaustingly energetic Beechers -- Harriet Beecher Stowe was her sister). 

The institutionalization of sports is a major human accomplishment. But are standardized rules for sports good in the long run, or is it better for young males to get more experience making up, debating, and agreeing upon their own rules ad hoc?

Norman Angell was premature, but right

From Haaretz:
Israel apparently doing nothing to enforce international sanctions on Iran 
Benjamin Netanyahu, who endlessly preaches the need for firm action against Iran to prevent it from acquiring nuclear arms, is not lifting a finger to stop Israeli companies and individuals indirectly trading with Iran. 
By Yossi Melman 
The Ofer Brothers Group [Israeli shipping billionaires] may be scurrying into damage control in Israel, Singapore, London and Washington, after the United States blacklisted it for trading with Iran, but Israel seems to be doing nothing to enforce international sanctions on Iran. 
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who endlessly preaches the need for firm action against Iran to prevent it from acquiring nuclear arms, is not lifting a finger to stop Israeli companies and individuals indirectly trading with Iran. 
Nor is he acting against international companies and corporations that operate in Iran, while maintaining huge contracts with Israeli companies - including state bodies like the Electric Corporation and Airport Authority. 
This incompetence, bordering on grave deficiency, is causing severe damage to the image of both Israel and its prime minister.

Or, maybe not. Maybe the 21st Century world just isn't really as exciting a life-or-death place teetering on the edge of the precipice as it seems to be on the 24-hour news channels.

Panhandling 8

I skipped a day of asking, and donations quickly dropped off. So, I'm back to imploring.

Please, would you consider giving me money so I can keep on writing?

You can send me an email and I'll send you my P.O. Box address.

If you already asked, please allow me to request that you follow up and put a check in the mail.

Or, you can use Paypal to send me money directly. Use any credit card or your Paypal account. To get started, just click on the orange Paypal "Donate" button on the top of the column to the right.

When that takes you to Paypal, if you want to use your Paypal account, fill in your Paypal ID and password on the lower right of the screen.

Or, if you want to use your credit card, fill in your credit card info on the lower left part of the screen by clicking on the word "Continue" in the lower center/left.


Nobody knows nothing

Karl Smith and Kevin Drum point to a new Gallup Poll asking "Just your best guess, what percentage of Americans today are gay or lesbian?" The mean guess was a ridiculous 24.6%. Only 4% said less than 5%, which is probably the best guess.

Polling companies seldom ask questions on which people can make obvious fools of themselves, since those can raise questions about the value of opinion polls.

Looking at the demographic crosstabs, it's evident that low intelligence people were most likely to wildly overestimate the percentage of homosexuals: 53% of people making under $30,000 annually said that at least 25% of the population was gay, and 47% of those with no more than a high school education. 43% of Democrats versus 24% of Republicans got the question wildly wrong.

In general, people are terrible at estimating or remembering demographic statistics. A 2001 Gallup survey, right after the release of 2000 Census results, found that the average American estimated that 33% of the population was black and 29% were Hispanic. That adds up to 62%, but who's counting? Not most people.

In that 2001 survey, nonwhites estimated that 40% of the population was black and 35% was Hispanic (adding up to 75%). In contrast, people claiming postgraduate degrees estimated that 25% were black and 24% Hispanic (only about double the Census numbers), which proves the value of advanced education.

Here, roughly, is how people think: You ask somebody how many Americans are Hispanic and they think of that guy on Saturday Night Live in the 1970s saying "Beisbol been berry berry good to me." And what's more American than baseball? And there are a lot of Latin ballplayers. But the guy on SNL who said that was black. So that means there are a lot of guys who are black comedians and also a lot of guys who are Hispanic baseball players. 

Something that people almost never do is think about fields in which the group they are being asked about is rarely represented. If you ask people about gays, they think about fashion designers, musical actors, Republican politicians, interior decorators, and the like. They don't think about, say, oil company engineers or baseball players.

Four years ago on iSteve, I asked "Where are the famous old gay baseball players?

Baseball players are extremely famous. I have a book by Bill James that lists his picks of the top 900 baseball players of all time, and I'd heard of the large majority of them, plus most of his picks for the next 225 best players. I could tell you facts about well over 500 baseball players.

I pointed out that while I had heard of two minor major league players were gay, I had never heard of a famous player who turned out to be gay. I said I'm sure I'm not aware of some, but I would suspect that no more than 1.0% of famous baseball players were homosexual. 

This is not to say that baseball players are representative of the general population. I'm just saying that famous baseball players are one intensely studied group, of which very few turn out have been gay.

I'd heard lots of rumors over the years, but most of them were obvious gay fantasies about handsome, manly athletes like Mike Piazza and Sandy Koufax (The elegant and taciturn Koufax, who grew up the son of a rabbi in Brooklyn, has lived most of his post-retirement life in conservative small rural towns with his various wives and girlfriends, which would be an extremely improbable choice of locales for a gay Jewish celebrity.) 

However, a number of commenters pointed to one famous old baseball player as not being publicly out of the closet, but his homosexuality being open knowledge. He's not a Hall of Famer but he's definitely one of the top 500 players of all time. I won't put his name here, but if you are interested, you can make your guess, then go look at the comments to my 2007 post and see if your guess matches up.

The funny thing is that I'd never heard rumors about him, probably because he's not the kind of individual to excite gay fantasies: not a great athlete but instead a highly skilled craftsman. He's a best-case scenario for a stereotypical gay athlete: famously charming, cultivated, fastidious, sociable, does lots of charity work: a gentleman. 

He went straight from high school to the majors, but seems like a college-educated player. I once wrote a spec screenplay for an HBO sports comedy show and modeled a basketball player on this baseball player (I hadn't heard the gay rumors yet). In my little plot, this center from Tulane had dined his way out of the NBA, packing on 20 pounds of solid fat, but was now looking forward to winding up his playing career in the Italian basketball league because of the opportunity to sample Italy's regional cuisines on road trips.

During his long career, this baseball player was fairly famous for being famous. That's because he'd do the kind of socially gracious, media-friendly things that ballplayers almost never do. For example, when traded to Montreal, he learned French, which made him hugely popular with local fans.

But his name doesn't come up much because he doesn't Shatter Stereotypes.