July 9, 2011

Unstoppable Mexican political juggernaut somehow derailed by apathy again

From the LA Times article on the complete flop of plans to boycott Tuesday's baseball All-Star Game in Arizona to protest SB1070:
Shortly after Arizona lawmakers passed SB 1070, a number of All-Star-caliber players promised to boycott the game if it were held in Arizona. Among the most prominent was Adrian Gonzalez, who was born in San Diego and grew up in Tijuana. Last year, Gonzalez, then playing for the Padres, called the law "immoral" and a violation of human rights that "goes against what this country is built on." 
But recently Gonzalez, who as a member of the Boston Red Sox was voted into the American League's starting lineup at first base, said he was "not big into politics" and that he intended to play in Phoenix.

The Moneyballization of college admissions

Steve Hsu points to an article from Chronicle of Higher Education on how college admissions departments are, like baseball teams in the 1990s and basketball teams in the 2000s, increasingly hiring quants to statistically manage the admissions process. 
Those Tweedy Old Admissions Deans? They're All Business Now 
A profession that once relied on anecdotes and descriptive data now runs on complex statistical analyses and market research. Knowing how to decipher enrollment outcomes is a given; knowing how to forecast the future is a must. Which students are most likely to apply, submit deposits, and matriculate? At what cost to the college? How likely will they be to graduate? Such questions echo in the modern enrollment office, which is often supported by one or more institutional researchers, as well as consulting firms that sell recruitment strategies in various flavors. 
Search the job listings for top-level admissions and enrollment openings, and you will find that many colleges seek a "data-driven" leader, someone who will develop "data-informed" strategies. This past winter, for instance, Pomona College, in California, began a national search to replace Bruce J. Poch, who had stepped down after 23 years as vice president and dean of admissions. Among the qualifications listed in the job advertisement: "an ability to analyze and use data to guide decision-making and measure results." 
David W. Oxtoby, Pomona's president, led the college's search committee. The modern admissions dean, he says, must have a "technical, quantitative facility," the ability to delve into the relationship between a student's SAT score and her subsequent performance in college, or why some kinds of students are more likely to enroll than others. Moreover, Pomona had decided to merge its admissions and financial-aid offices (a change many colleges have made already). So the new dean would need to speak the language of costs.

Poch was the one admissions professional I've met who really impressed me. The lower levels of the business are full of nice young ladies (a large fraction middle class black) and nice young gay guys who couldn't get better jobs, but Poch definitely seemed like The Brains Behind the Operation. 

And clearly there are some brains somewhere, because American prestige education has been one of the big success stories of the last generation, at least at maintaining and enhancing its prestige. Granted, this is awfully easy to do in a business driven by brand names where the older the brand name the better, but only a handful of colleges in recent decades have screwed up so badly that they've fallen notably in prestige.

Digression Alert: I also once spoke on the phone to Poch's boss, David Oxtoby, now the president of Pomona college. Around 1990 in Chicago, I lived in a six-flat that had "The Oxtoby, 1923" carved over the front door. One day I started wondering who or what an Oxtoby was. So, I looked in the Chicago phone book (remember phone books?) and there was only one Oxtoby in Chicago: David Oxtoby, Hyde Park. So, I called the number and a man with superb diction, like a college president's speaking voice, answered. I asked him if his family had built The Oxtoby. He said no, but he kindly gave me a full, scholarly etymology of the name Oxtoby (it means oxen-go-by, kind of like "Oxford" is where the oxen forded the river). 

I never asked Mr. Oxtoby what he did, but I wasn't surprised to read in the newspaper years later that this Hyde Park resident with distinguished diction had been appointed president of a famous liberal arts college.

Being a college president is a tough job. Basically, you need to be Angelo Mozilo on the inside, a pushy Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross-style salesman always always asking for a donation. On the outside, though, you need to come across like Mr. Chips, an unworldly scholar who makes guys who've made a pile of money in real estate or metal bending (and their wives) feel classy by associating with you and giving you money. Elegant diction helps.
Pomona interviewed a dozen candidates before hiring Seth Allen, dean of admission and financial aid at Grinnell College, in Iowa. Soon to occupy one of the premier jobs in admissions, Mr. Allen, 43, represents the next generation of enrollment chiefs. They've ascended during an era of high competition, learning how to market their colleges and massage the metrics that define success in admissions. 
Although idealism may inform their work, they are clear-eyed realists. They are not introverts, for they must collaborate constantly with faculty members and other campus offices. They are diplomats who must manage competing desires: those of administrators who want to enroll more first-generation and low-income applicants, professors who want more students with high SAT scores, trustees who want to lower the tuition-discount rate. "Twenty years ago," Mr. Allen says, "there were not as many wants." 
Drawn to statistics at an early age, Mr. Allen earned a bachelor's degree in economics at the Johns Hopkins University in 1990. He first worked as an admissions counselor for his alma mater, a cutting-edge laboratory in the then-burgeoning science of enrollment management. Mr. Allen learned how predictive modeling could project net tuition revenue, how many biology majors would enroll, and a hundred other outcomes. 
Later Mr. Allen became the university's director of enrollment planning, research, and technology, a title that captured the profession's increasing sophistication. While most colleges were still operating in a pen-and-paper world, he helped create the university's first online admissions application. 
In the 1990s, selective institutions intensified their recruitment of prospective students, and Dickinson College was no exception. As dean of admissions at the Pennsylvania college, Mr. Allen oversaw a surge in applications that enabled it to become increasingly selective. Average SAT scores rose, as did enrollments of minority students.

Dickinson did two smart things. One, it made submitting SAT/ACT scores optional but reported to USN&WR the scores not of all freshmen but just those who felt like submitting their scores. So, it could let in more rich dumb kids and the like without taking a hit in the USNW&R rankings. Also, Dickinson appears to have a policy that any time a reporter, especially one from the New York Times, needs a quote about college admissions, a high-ranking Dickinson official will supply one at any hour of the day or night.

What's not mentioned in this rather starry-eyed article is that holy grail of admission moneyballers: alumni donations. Which type of applicant is most likely to donate the most to his alma mater? As far as I can tell, the big givers tend to be whites and males and legacies and jocks -- i.e., basically, the same kind of people they were most likely to admit back in the Bad Old Days. Ironies abound.

Moneyball turned out not to be a very big deal in baseball. A few underdogs did a little better for awhile, but ultimately the Yankees wound up back on top. I doubt if better statistical analyses of college applicants will change much in the visible world. When all the dust settles, Harvard will still be on top. But it would be very interesting to read those confidential analyses.

Have any college admissions moneyball stats ever been released to the public?

I like baseball statistics a lot, but the amount of public brainpower devoted to analyzing baseball statistics in contrast to real world statistics is striking. Brad Pitt is starring in Moneyball this year, but I've never even seen an economic professor's paper on the topic of what kind of college applicants give the best financial return to the college. These analyses exist, and I bet ambitious parents in Seoul are reading some of them translated into Korean right now, but Americans don't seem very interested in the topic.

Gov. Jerry Brown sides with BAMN

From the LA Times:
Gov. Jerry Brown in Friday added his voice in support of a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of California’s ban on racial affirmative action in public university admissions. 
In a legal brief, Brown said that minorities face too high a barrier in efforts to overturn Proposition 209, which voters approved in 1996, because it is part of the state Constitution and not just a law or university policy. In addition, he noted a 2003 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said race could be considered in state college admissions if it did not involve quotas or carry predetermined weight in decisions. 
Last week, a federal appeals court struck down Michigan's ban on considering race and gender in college admissions, but that matter is expected to continue up the court ladder and does not affect California. A similar case seeking to overturn California’s Prop. 209 is in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the ban in 1997. 
George Washington, a Detroit-based attorney arguing against the affirmative action bans in both states, said Friday that he was heartened by Brown’s opinion and that it would help the case. “It is very, very important,” he said of the governor's action.

July 8, 2011

NYT: Not enough whites murdering blacks

My old college newspaper editor, David R. Dow, op-edizes in the New York Times:
Death Penalty, Still Racist and Arbitrary
Nationwide, blacks and whites are victims of homicide in roughly equal numbers, yet 80 percent of those executed had murdered white people.

Yes, but who perpetrates more homicides? And who gets executed more often? Those facts are the kind of news that's not fit to print, evidently.

The simplified model of how it really works is that white-dominated jurisdictions tend to be more conservative and more pro-death penalty, while black-dominated jurisdictions tend to be more liberal and less pro-death penalty. So, people who commit murders in white-dominated jurisdictions (a mix of white and black perps with mostly white victims) are more likely to get the death penalty than people who commit murders in black-dominated jurisdictions (overwhelmingly black perps with mostly black victims).
Since 1976, Texas has carried out 470 executions (well more than a third of the national total of 1,257). You can count on one hand the number of those executions that involved a white murderer and a black victim and you do not need to use your thumb, ring finger, index finger or pinkie.

Whereas, from watching television shows and reading the crime coverage in the New York Times, we know that whites murder blacks all the time, white lacrosse players rape black strippers all the time, 62-year-old white French presidential candidates are "forcing" 5'-10" black hookers to perform improbable acts, etc. 

(And don't forget all those hot white defendants like Casey Anthony.)

If more whites murdered more blacks, then more whites could be executed for murdering blacks, which would move us closer to racial equality, thus making the death penalty less racist. And that's the really important thing. 

David Brooks explains it all

David Brooks writes in the NYT in another one of his columns with the subtext: Why Steve Sailer Is Wrong, Part LXXVI:
Eldar Shafir of Princeton and Sendhil Mullainathan of Harvard have recently, with federal help, been exploring a third theory, that scarcity produces its own cognitive traits. 
A quick question: What is the starting taxi fare in your city? If you are like most upper-middle-class people, you don’t know. If you are like many struggling people, you do know. 

Uh, most people don't live in places like NYC and DC where taking cabs is routine. Am I upper middle class or am I struggling or both? In any case, I don't know because I never take cabs on my own dime.
Poorer people have to think hard about a million things that affluent people don’t. They have to make complicated trade-offs when buying a carton of milk: If I buy milk, I can’t afford orange juice. They have to decide which utility not to pay. 
These questions impose enormous cognitive demands. The brain has limited capacities. If you increase demands on one sort of question, it performs less well on other sorts of questions. ...
Shafir and Mullainathan have a book coming out next year, exploring how scarcity — whether of time, money or calories (while dieting) — affects your psychology.

Scarcity of time and money and the need to be thinking hard constantly due to those scarcities explain why African-Americans have traditionally watched so few hours of television per day. They just don't have time because they have to make all these careful decisions about what they can afford and what they can't. That's why you see so many black people all the time in public places hunched over a piece of paper with pencil in one hand and a calculator in the other. 

Oh, wait, sorry, black Americans are traditionally the number one consumers of television according to decades of Nielsen numbers:
According to EURweb, in November 2010, when the data were compiled, African Americans used their TVs an average of 7 hours, 12 minutes each day — above the U.S. average of 5 hours, 11 minutes. Asians watched TV the least, at just 3 hours, 14 minutes a day on average. 

Obviously, scarcity is hugely important, but one big form of scarcity is scarcity of intelligence.

Alan Greenspan explains it all

Q. Why are you puzzled over the current U.S. trade debate? 
A. “It is almost completely focused on job creation. But it has never been clear to me why jobs are the object of trade. ... 
Q. Which nation illustrates the folly of trying to create jobs through trade? 
A. “The Chinese. They are manipulating their currency in order to get low-quality, high-labor-content products produced — for maximum employment. They are distorting their economic structure and creating long-term economic damage. I don’t know why we should be attracted to that general principle.” 
"In the United States, the productivity of the younger part of our workforce is declining relative to that of the retiring baby boomers." 
Q. Turning back to the United States, what demographic shift will have major economic implications? 
A. “In the United States, we are in the process of seeing the baby boomers — the most productive, highly skilled, educated part of our labor force — retire. They are being replaced by groups of young workers who have regrettably scored rather poorly in international educational match-ups over the last two decades.” 
Q. What else points to the inability of young workers to compete? 
A. “Most disturbing is that the average income of U.S. households headed by 25-year-olds and younger has been declining relative to the average income of the baby boomer population. This is a reasonably good indication that the productivity of the younger part of our workforce is declining relative to the level of productivity achieved by the retiring baby boomers. This raises some major concerns about the productive skills of our future U.S. labor force.”  
Q. Can the U.S. government counter this trend?
A. “Yes, there are options to combat that decline, but contrary to what many people believe, we do very poorly in opening up our borders to skilled immigrants. Our H1-B visa restrictions are a disgrace. Most high-income people in our country do not realize that their incomes are being subsidized by their protection from competition from highly skilled people who are prevented from immigrating to the United States. But we need such skills in order to staff our productive economy, so that the standard of living for Americans as a whole can grow.” 
Q. What needs to change with respect to U.S. immigration? 
A. “My view is that we should give a green card to every immigrant who gets an advanced degree in the United States. The proportion of those people who will be terrorists is miniscule. That would have a major positive economic impact.” 
A.. "Most high-income Americans do not realize that their incomes are being subsidized by highly skilled people being prevented from immigrating to the United States." 
Q. How could immigration reform reduce income inequality? 
A. “Most of the debate on income inequality correctly focuses on raising the level of low-income individuals. However, it also works by lowering top-level incomes via more competitive immigration. There is much academic research demonstrating that it is the relative position of people in society that fosters views of ‘fairness,’ not one’s absolute status.” 
Q. How else can the United States make itself more competitive? 
A. “History tells us that it is those societies that have the most advanced cutting-edge technologies that have the highest standards of living. That’s always been the case. If the United States is now slipping in this regard, it is basically because of our increasingly dysfunctional primary education system.”

I don't want my flying car

Here's a video of a new flying car.

My dad worked on a flying car in 1938. It was pretty similar to this one in concept, except you had to do the conversion manually, bolting on the wings and propeller. Also it had only three wheels (tricycle style). It really did fly and the company made about 20 of them. But the FAA never approved it, saying that the front wheel mount was too likely to buckle on landing. So, the company sold all the units to the Japanese. 

It's a really, really hard engineering problem, which is why they're still working on it over 70 years later.

One problem with flying your own light plane around is what do you do after you land. Rent a car?

The other problem is that flying is more dangerous than driving, and not that many people are cut out to be pilots. I'm only an average driver, so I've never wanted to be a pilot. I'm not a good quick decisionmaker, and flying seems like a good way for me to turn my bad decisions into my funeral.

For example, my cousin took off once from Oakland with his sister on board the Cessna to show her what a good pilot he'd become. But, on what turned out to be her one and only flight, then a pea soup fog rolled in off the Pacific and they spent the next few hours looking for a hole in the fog with an airport in it. As his sister recounted in detail, they finally found one with about a gallon of fuel left. 

Even with clear weather, uncareful pilots would get lost all the time. It was hard to figure out where you are. William F. Buckley recounts how when he was a student at Yale, he stayed up five days in a row studying for his finals, then, hopped up on speed, he immediately went to airport to take a celebratory flight. (He'd been a flight instructor in the Army during WWII.) An hour later, he started to come down from his chemical elation and realized he had no idea what state he was over. He finally swooped low enough to read the road signs on the highway and got back to the airport that way.

Okay, the take home message would be that piloting and WFB's pill consumption habits don't go together well. But still ...

So, my question is: Has computerization and GPS and weather forecasting and so fort done much too make being a private pilot safer than a generation ago?

Why not show jurors edited videotapes?

During my adult lifetime, there has been some improvement in how potential jurors are treated by court systems. When I was first summoned for jury duty by Cook County in the 1980s, potential jurors were treated like cannon fodder. They're basically free to the court system, so their time was wasted by stupid inefficiencies. By a decade later in Cook County, potential jurors seemed to be treated better. In Los Angeles County, it's still clear that jurors come last in priority in the court system.

Here's a 1992 letter-to-the-editor in the NYT by a citizen named Robert E. Lupinskie suggesting videotaping trials without juries, then showing the juries the edited videotapes without all the disallowed testimony, sidebars, adjournments, and other time-wasting. Serving on a jury takes up a lot of days because the judge and lawyers work on other cases in the morning and afternoon when the trial is not in session. For example, on the trial I served on, we would normally be told to show up at 10 in the morning, but often the judge was conducted a very serious looking hearing with a defendant in a different case shackled to the defense table, so we'd go sit in the jury room until 10:30 or 11:00. We'd take 90 minutes for lunch and be out by 4:00. We didn't work very hard, but we were there a long time. Testimony in that trial lasted something like 9 business days, but we could have watched all the proceedings on edited videotaped in 3 or 4 days, working 7.5 hour days.

I can't think of any obvious reason this would be worse than the traditional system and several reasons why it would be better.

July 7, 2011

"The Other Barack:" New biography of Barack Obama Sr.

Sally Jacobs of the Boston Globe has a biography coming out of the President's dad, the father, such as he was, in Dreams from My Father.

Barack Jr. launched his national political image at the 2004 Democratic convention by making the opening of his keynote address about his parents: "My parents shared not only an improbable love, they shared an abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation."

The part about his parents' marriage being bigamous never seemed to register on the national press. 

Today's Globe has an excerpt about how Barack Sr., when questioned by immigration officials about his having two wives, one with two kids in Kenya, the other pregnant in Hawaii, replied that, in effect, the second one didn't really count because he was going to have his American wife give the future baby up for adoption:
“Subject got his USC wife ‘Hapai’ [Hawaiian for pregnant] and although they were married they do not live together and Miss Dunham is making arrangements with the Salvation Army to give the baby away,’’ according to a memo describing the conversation with Obama written by Lyle H. Dahling, an administrator in the Honolulu office of what was then called the US Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Jacobs' most interesting revelation came in the Boston Globe on September 21, 2008, and has gotten almost zero attention in the U.S.: that Barack Obama Sr. was a witness to the July 5, 1969 assassination of his own mentor, Tom Mboya, Luo favorite son, the likely next president of Kenya after the Kikuyu Jomo Kenyatta, and rumored CIA made man. This remains the great crime in modern Kenyan history. That's kind of like if the father of today's President of Kenya was a major witness to one of the Kennedy assassinations. Obama Jr. left out all reference to the historic crisis of his father's life in Dreams, except for a couple of cryptic references that suggest how much he and his Kenyan relatives loathe Kenyatta, the official father of the country. 

Jacobs' new book fleshes out her 2008 newspaper scoop that almost nobody noticed. At the trial of the gunman, according Jacobs's The Other Barack on Google Books:
The final prosecution witness was Barack H. Obama. According to newspaper accounts of his testimony, Obama said nothing incendiary. He testified only that he and Mboya chatted briefly and he related his own comments about Mboya's parking job. Mboya, he added, "did not say anything to me to indicate that he was frightened." These were hardly the kind of words that would mark a man. But in the politically inflammatory moment, just taking the stand in Njenga's trial was a highly precarious thing to do. Since his provocative remarks about Sessional Paper No. 10 and his liquor-laced public rants, Obama was already known as a critic. Testifying in Njenga's trial was to wave a scarlet flag of defiance in Kenyatta's face. ... 
Obama could easily have chosen not to testify. He could have remained silent and hoped that he would drift under the radar and his career would survive. But staying quiet had never been one of his strong suits. "I told him this was like suicide. If they killed Mboya, they can kill you," said Peter Aringo, shaking his head. "He said, 'No, I have to speak my mind.' He could not stand that Tom had been killed He knew that he might be killed himself if he testified. he knew that Kenyatta wanted that case to die. But he went ahead and did it."

Obviously, Obama Jr. must have discussed these events at some length with his Kenyan relatives during his five week visit to Kenya in the late 1980s. Obama Jr. could have various reasons for not mentioning them in the book, such as not wanting to endanger his relatives, not wanting to confuse nice liberal white people in America with unhelpful accounts of African politics, or not wanting to make his book more interesting. 

Although the Mboya assassination likely means a lot to the current President, I don't know what precisely it means. What lessons, for example, did Obama Jr. draw from his father's drama that would be relevant say to his current attempts to assassinate Col. Gadafi? 

But here's the thing: nobody, as far as I know, has ever asked him. We have a President who is treated by the press as if he were too fragile to be asked basic questions about his life story. Then the media complain when members of the public, rightly sensing how little we are told about Obama, starts getting worked up over birth certificates and the like.

By Any Means Necessary

For a long, long time, the foremost goal of the American educational system has been to close The Gap. This has turned out be kind of like if President Kennedy had announced in 1961 that America was committed to, by the end of the decade, building a perpetual motion machine. From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Investigation into APS cheating finds unethical behavior across every level 
By Heather Vogell  
Across Atlanta Public Schools, staff worked feverishly in secret to transform testing failures into successes. 
Teachers and principals erased and corrected mistakes on students’ answer sheets. 
Area superintendents silenced whistle-blowers and rewarded subordinates who met academic goals by any means possible. 
Superintendent Beverly Hall and her top aides ignored, buried, destroyed or altered complaints about misconduct, claimed ignorance of wrongdoing and accused naysayers of failing to believe in poor children’s ability to learn. 
For years — as long as a decade — this was how the Atlanta school district produced gains on state curriculum tests. The scores soared so dramatically they brought national acclaim to Hall and the district, according to an investigative report released Tuesday by Gov. Nathan Deal.

Yeah, this is bad, but what do you expect? From CBS News:
"We were told that we needed to get the scores by any means necessary, and we were told that our jobs were on the line," former Atlanta Public Schools teacher Sidney Fells said.

The Republican President of the United States and the hereditary dynastic leader of the Democrats, Ted Kennedy, got together a decade ago and made up a law, No Child Left Behind, that said that every public school student in America had to score Proficient (on a scale that runs Below Basic, Basic, Proficient, Advanced) on tests that will be given about 34 months from now.

But, the states could make up, administer, and grade their own tests. 

What else did Bush, Kennedy, and the press expect other than massive fraud?

The whole foundation of education in America is based on lying and punishing truth-tellers (e.g., James Watson), so what else could have happened?

Celebrating diversity

Track and field is interesting because its demands are simple enough that human biodiversity stands out pretty clearly. But after awhile it gets kind of dull because the same old same old demographic patterns keep showing up. (Here's my VDARE article on human biodiversity in track up through the closse of the 2008 Olympics.)

Hence, it's fun when some rare diversity shows up among the top performers.

For example, last year Christophe Lemaitre of France became the first white man and second non-sub-Saharan African to record a time in the 100m dash in the 9.XX second range by running 9.98. (A half Australian Aborigine - half Irishman once ran a 9.93 and a Pole once ran a 9.997, which was rounded up to 10.00.)

Lemaitre is a 21-year-old country boy from Savoy who had never tried sprinting until he was 15, when the French had a national competition to find the fastest 15 year old at 50 meters. He got timed at a fair and it turned out to be the fastest mark in the country.

Lemaitre appears to be the real deal. He's broken 10.00 five more times, including a pair of 9.95s. In 2012 in London, will he become the first man since 1980 not from West Africa or Southwest Africa (Frankie Fredericks of Namibia) to make the Olympic 100m dash 8-man final? Right now, his 9.95 makes him only the tenth fastest man in 2011. On the other hand, most of those who are faster are Jamaicans and one country can only enter three contestants in the 100m. Also, some of those Jamaicans might get caught. 

The Americans used to be very big in sprints (here are some pictures of an American sprinter who used to be very big), but after the 2004 Olympics, they started more rigorous drug testing while the Jamaicans didn't, and now Jamaicans win everything. 

Right now, Lemaitre looks like a very healthy young man. If he shows up in 2012 looking like a plastic action figure with giant biceps, however, and runs a 9.75 to medal, well, it would be a big whoop-tee-doo, but I'd be happier if he showed up looking human and ran in the low 9.9s.

Another candidate to break the West African lock on the 100m finals is a Zimbabwean named Ngonidzashe Makusha, who ran 9.89 at the NCAA finals. Zimbabwe is more or less in Southeast Africa.

In women's sprinting, where the records are out of reach, the big story is, as usual, American Allyson Felix, who lost out on individual gold medals in the 2000 in 2004 and 2008 to Jamaican women with biceps twice the circumference of her own. Felix should be the beau ideal of African-American respectable middle class young ladyhood, so it's always compelling to see whether she can finally win an individual gold medal her way or whether she'll go over to the Dark Side and show up in 2012 massive like her rivals. This year, she's concentrating more on the 400m and has the best time of the year in it. I wish her well.

Meanwhile, in distance running, which is dominated by East Africans and Northwest Africans, Chris Solinsky of Wisconsin became in 2010 the first non-African to run 10,000 meters in under 27:00. Also, at 6'-1" and 165 pounds, he's built like a high school quarterback. He's the tallest and heaviest runner ever to break 27:00.

The endless miles of training for distance running puts a lot of pounding on the knees, so it's usually dominated by short ectomorphs. That's why Parris Island Marine Corp drill instructors aren't usually the intimidating giants seen in movies. Instead, they tend to be feisty little guys whose knees can take all the pounding of the running they do in boot camp. 

The Hunts for the Great ...

A reader writes:
One day, you should compile all the ongoing Ponce de Leon like quests in contemporary America: 
1) The Great White Defendant
2) The Great Bright Illegal
3) The Magic Bullet To Close The Achievement Gap (or Home Ownership Gap or Firefighter Test Scores Gap)
4) The Great Moderate Muslim (I guess this one's more of an international scope) or Democracy Loving Islamic Nations That Love Us Back
5) The Great Black Quarterback
6) The Great Republican African-American
7) The Great Gay Male Athlete (in sports people care about) or The Great Gay Soldier [recent -- there are a lot of them from awhile ago]
8) The Incredible Latino Supervote (as you once called it)
9) The Great Female Movie Director [or cinematographer -- I campaigned for Mandy Walker to become the first woman to get an Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography for Baz Luhrman's Australia but the insensitive sexists in Hollywood didn't listen to me]
10) Green Jobs, Shovel Ready Jobs 
And I'm sure there are dozens more.  You've talked about all these things extensively, but I'm not sure if you've ever threaded what these narratives have in common in a single post.  Or make them chapters for your next book, The Essential Steve Sailer Reader... Just an idea! 
BTW, I've started compiling a list of dangerous flash mobs here: http://violentflashmobs.com/ just to see how many I could find.  I don't know if the country (and specifically certain groups) are becoming more undisciplined or if this behavior has always existed but technology is just making it easier while capturing the crimes on camera.

It seems like the kind of the thing that technology makes possible and that technology eventually also takes away -- somewhere in the phone company archives, there are text messages incriminating organizers.

Racehorse Haynes

Many decades ago, when I was in high school, I came up with the idea that you should generally trust jury decisions to be right. It seemed like a good idea at the time. But, then I met Racehorse Haynes

When I was in college, I once had a part time job working for the top defense attorney in Houston, Richard "Racehorse" Haynes. (A reader writes to say he saw Racehorse, now in his mid-80s appearing in court yesterday.) He and a professor at Rice, Bill Martin, were planning on writing a book together, so my job was to synopsize all the newspapers articles in Racehorse's scrapbook. There was a lot of good material. For example, from a 2009 article by Mark Curriden in the ABA Journal:
There was a time when Richard “Race­horse” Haynes had his clients thank judges and juries at the end of their trials. But back-to-back cases in the 1970s changed his mind about that. 
First, a Texas jury had just found his client not guilty on all counts, when Haynes told the court his client had something to say. 
“Ladies and gentlemen, I want to thank each and every one of you,” the client stated. “And I promise you that I will never, ever do it again.” 
A few weeks later, another Haynes client was acquitted. Again, the defendant thanked the judge and jury, only to be interrupted by the judge. 
“Don’t thank me, you little turd,” the judge said. “You and I both know you’re guilty.”

His specialty was defending people who shot their cheating spouses or their spouses' lovers.
For instance, he’s represented three doz­en women in what he refers to as “Smith & Wesson divorces,” which are cases where the husband had been abusive, leading the wife to kill in self-defense. 
“I won all but two of those cases,” he says. “And I would have won them if my clients hadn’t kept reloading their gun and firing.”

The law in Texas didn't exactly have an exception that said you could shoot somebody if he had it coming, but most jurors in Texas in the 1950s-1970s felt that some people just deserved some shooting. And Racehorse was the grandmaster at coming up with technical rationales for jurors to use to acquit people who'd shot people whom the jurors felt had it coming.
Haynes has lived by the advice of his mentor, legendary Texas trial lawyer Percy Foreman: “If you can prove the victim abused a dog or a horse, you can convince the jury that the guy deserved to be killed.”  
“For some reason,” Haynes continues, “cats don’t apply.”

Racehorse's most famous advice for defense attorneys was that they don't need to prove anything, so they should keep their options open:
“Say you sue me because you say my dog bit you,” he told the audience. “Well, now this is my defense: My dog doesn’t bite. And second, in the alternative, my dog was tied up that night. And third, I don’t believe you really got bit.” 
His final defense, he said, would be: “I don’t have a dog.”

Speaking of jury selection, I read through many pages of notes Racehorse had made for himself during jury selections. Something I was struck by was that he often wrote down the number of pens and pencils a potential juror had in his shirt pocket. Racehorse explained that men who were ashamed of their blue collar jobs sometimes carried around a lot of pens and pencils in their pockets so that people would think they had white collar jobs, like engineers. Guys with too many pencils for their jobs were phonies and he didn't want phonies on his juries.

That struck me strongly at the time. I was surprised. Since Racehorse's fame rested on his getting obviously guilty people off, I had assumed that he would have, all else being equal, wanted phonies on his jury, so I was surprised by his phony juror aversion. Was I more cynical at 20 than Racehorse Haynes, the most notorious cynic in Texas, at 50? As Cecily says to Algernon in The Importance of Being Earnest: "I hope you have not been leading a double life, pretending to be wicked and being really good all the time. That would be hypocrisy." Perhaps the point is that to be really good at something, as Racehorse definitely was, you have to be a little bit earnest.

Racehorse could teach himself any field of science useful in the law. For example, he won 163 consecutive drunk driving cases from 1956-1968 because he knew more about the biochemistry of intoxication than anybody working for Harris County and could thus tie technicians in knots. Eventually, the government upped its game.

I once asked him about his victory in a lurid murder case that, according to the Houston newspapers, was the first time ever that DNA evidence was introduced in a murder trial. This was a pro bono case where Racehorse defended the guiltiest looking loser you ever saw. It wasn't clear to me from the scrapbook accounts that the cops ever had much probable cause for arresting this guy in this case or whether he was just brought in on a round-up-the-usual-perverts trawl of people who were likely guilty of something.

However, the prosecutors had a surprise: DNA evidence from hairs and so forth found at the scene of the crime were shown by geneticists at Texas A&M to belong to the witness.

So, Racehorse read up on DNA and reduced the expert witnesses to blithering wrecks. I said to Racehorse in 1979, "Gee, you really pointed out some weaknesses in DNA evidence."

He replied to the effect that the DNA analysis in this case was perfect. Yes, his client really had been at the scene of the crime -- but that was because the cops took him there when they arrested him. According to Racehorse, this was standard procedure. Sometimes a crime scene visit induced confessions.

It could certainly help make any subsequent false confession more accurate. Lots of people confess to major crimes, but often their confessions are self-evidently the product of someone who wasn't there. According to Bill James's new book Popular Crime, cops routinely withhold or even lie to the newspapers about some minor detail that only the Real Killer would know in order to throw out false confessors. On the other hand, if you are trying to pin the rap on some guy who is probably a menace to little girls, but might not have done this particular crime, well, then you want him to know all the details in case he gets into a mood to confess.

The funny thing was that there was no mention of the cops taking the accused to the crime scene in any of the reports on the trial. There were many column inches about Racehorse humiliating the DNA scientists, but, as far as I could tell, the part about the cops walking his defendant through the bushes never came up in court.

Maybe it never happened, maybe it couldn't be proved without putting the defendant on the stand. Or maybe Racehorse's view was that you don't burn the local cops and make them look bad. Making fools of out of town professors was fine, but you've got to live and work in Houston, so you don't burn the cops.

I don't know. But the general point is that in trials, there is often all sorts of extremely relevant evidence that the jury never hears about for all sorts of reasons. When you read true crime books about big trials, the amount of important facts that the jury never considered can be astonishing.

Other times, the jury hears about the relevant stuff, but then everybody sort of forgets about it.

Racehorse won a number of spectacular murder cases that were made into miniseries or TV movies, like 1981's Murder in Texas with Farrah Fawcett as the mistress of his client (Sam Elliott), a wealthy plastic surgeon whose horsewoman wife (Katharine Ross) mysteriously died. The dead lady's superrich dad was sure his no-good son-in-law had injected her with poisonous bacteria. Racehorse got a mistrial, but before a retrial could begin, a hit man killed the doctor at the door of his River Oaks home. The dead woman's father was implicated but never convicted of hiring the killer.

But Racehorse's ultimate Great White Defendant was T. Cullen Davis, a possible model for J.R. Ewing of Dallas. Cullen was white, extremely rich (said at the time to be the richest man ever tried for murder in America), and guilty as sin. And Racehorse defended him twice. (Dennis Franz played Racehorse in 1995's Texas Justice with Heather Locklear as Priscilla Davis and Peter Strauss as T. Cullen Davis.)

In 1976, Cullen snuck into his hilltop mansion on his 180 acre estate where his estranged wife Priscilla was living with her new boyfriend, waited for hours, and then shot both when they came home, killing the boyfriend and badly wounding the wife, who crawled off into the bushes and survived. Two teenage friends of the family were with them. Cullen shot the boy and the girl ran off down the hill in opposite directions. In terror, she told the first car she flagged down that Cullen was shooting everybody up at the mansion. Her boyfriend identified Cullen's picture when he came out of surgery.

Now, maybe you could say that the estranged wife and her boyfriend had it coming, and therefore be receptive to all of Racehorse's gyrations, such as his 13-day cross-examination of the wounded wife about her affairs and her Percodan addiction.

But ... there was another murder victim that I didn't mention. You see, Cullen's 12-year-old stepdaughter was at home. And when she stumbled upon him hiding in the house, the multimillionaire executive murdered his own 12-year-old stepdaughter rather than call off his plan to murder his wife.

That's about the evilest thing I've heard of.

Witness-murdering has been a pet peeve of mine for a long time, at least since the 1993 suburban Chicago Brown's Chicken massacre of 7 fast food workers because one or more of the workers recognized the robbers, but probably since I read about this case in Gary Cartwright's Blood Will Tell in 1979.

I think deterring witness murdering is the main justification for the death penalty. Say you carefully plan to shoot your wife, but a stranger sees you doing it, so you shoot him as well to to shut him up about whodunnit.

A general, widely-advertised policy of always going for the death penalty in cases of witness-murdering might deter a few witness-murders. (But I've seldom heard anybody else say anything like this, so the deterrent effect is probably minimal. For some reason, Americans don't really seem to think much about witness-murdering as something that ought to be deterred. It just doesn't come up much in arguments over the death penalty.)

But what Cullen did was far worse than that example. When his stepdaughter found him, he hadn't shot his wife yet. He could have bluffed his way out of the situation by claiming he was just there to get some of his things or whatever, and walked away. His breaking-and-entering would have hurt his position in the divorce trial. But he chose to pre-emptively murder his own stepdaughter.

But, the killing of the little girl, while it came up early in the trial, kind of got lost in all the hoopla about the wandering wife. The prosecutors got worked up over going mano-a-mano with the great Racehorse Haynes in defending the honor of the party girl wife and the whole trial became about the wife rather than about the dead little girl.

The jury acquitted Cullen.

The next year, Cullen was back in jail, this time on attempted murder charges. He had offered a man $25,000 to murder the judge in the Davis's still ongoing divorce trial. The man immediately went to the FBI, and the Feds talked the judge into climbing into the trunk of a car, closing his eyes, and getting ketchup poured all over him. The would-be hit man handed a photo of the ketchup-covered judge to Cullen in return for an envelope with $25,000 in it. The FBI recorded both video and audio of the exchange.

Racehorse spent about a full month of the trial raising technical quibbles about synchronization of video and audio. Then, however, he put Cullen on the stand, and Cullen admitted the videotape was completely accurate. See, Cullen said, somebody purporting to be from the FBI called me and asked me to put a sting over on the prosecution's chief witness by trying to entrap him by offering him $25,000 to kill my wife.

Now, many people assume that defense attorneys make up the crazy stories that their clients tell in court. But, my impression is that that doesn't happen much. Trust me, Racehorse Haynes, one of the great storytellers in Texas, could have come up with a better story than that.

After a hung jury in the first trial, on retrial, the jury acquitted Cullen again. 

More on juries

A lawyer writes:
As a basic rule, a prosecutor's ideal juror is a conservative white person without a college degree.  They're generally pro-prosecution, but unlike conservative, educated white people, they're not smart enough to sniff out a bogus prosecution.  Liberal, educated white people can go either way -- it depends a lot on the case.  On some crimes, they're a prosecutor's nightmare, but on, say, DWI, they're generally favorable.  And, if you're talking about liberal, educated white women, they can be a defense attorney's nightmare in something like the Scott Peterson case (or a rape case.) 
A defense attorney's ideal juror is poor, uneducated, and a minority -- i.e., somebody who will probably sympathize with the defendant.  Also, while uneducated white people aren't smart enough to sniff out the b.s. that a prosecutor feeds them, uneducated minorities tend to go the same way for the defense -- they'll believe almost any alternative theory that the defense attorney feeds them, no matter how bogus it might seem to a smarter person.. 

July 6, 2011

Casey Anthony

I had actually never heard of Casey Anthony until reading Bill James's book Popular Crime a few weeks ago. So, I have nothing to say about the verdict in her case except to make a general observation. As Dave Barry once explained: "the Sixth Amendment states that if you are accused of a crime, you have the right to a trial before a jury of people too stupid to get out of jury duty."

My experience having been on the jury in what should have been an open-and-shut tax fraud case is that 9 out of 12 jurors were too dimwitted to grasp what had happened even after I had explained it to them. Only the Chinese-American accountant understood the situation after I'd explained it to the jury, and the Bulgarian immigrant used car dealer was smart enough to figure it out, but his biases were all on the side of the accused, an Iranian immigrant used car dealer.

Have there ever been any studies of jury performance based on selection rules for the juror pool? For example, I sat around several times at Cook County courthouses waiting to be called, and the evident quality of potential jurors was pretty decent: a lot of guys in business suits reading the WSJ. Among potential jurors in LA County courthouses, however, you have a lot of people sitting around staring blankly. My impression is that this is due to where names were drawn from at the different periods in different places: voter registration roles in Cook County in the 20th Century, Department of Motor Vehicle rolls in Los Angeles County in the 21st Century. There are a lot of opportunities for social sciences studies here, such as natural experiments of the impact when the source of the jury summons gets changed.

In general, however, most Americans don't seem to want to think about just how badly juries often perform.

It's okay because she's an immigrant. Also, did I mention she's black? And female? And Muslim?

Yale anthropologist Mike McGovern opines in the NYT on DSK's accuser:
Before you judge, stand in her shoes: 

I suspect that if I tried to stand in her shoes, I would probably topple face forward. It could be informative to see a picture of the shoes in the closet of DSK's accuser. Average heel height might be a relevant datapoint.
REVELATIONS about the hotel housekeeper who accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault suggest that she embellished claims of abuse to receive asylum, fudged her tax returns, had ties to people with criminal backgrounds, had unexplained deposits in her bank account and changed the account of the encounter she gave investigators. Yet those who would rush to judge her should consider the context. 
Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s accuser is from Guinea, also the home country of Amadou Diallo, the street peddler who was shot to death in the doorway of his Bronx apartment building by four New York City police officers in 1999. ... 
Immigrants share tips and hunches about ways to outwit the system, even as immigration judges try to discover the claimants’ latest ruses. But I can say from experience that for every undeserving claimant who receives asylum, several deserving ones are turned down. So few Africans gain access to green cards through legal channels that the United States government grants about 25,000 spots annually to Africans selected at random through the diversity visa lottery. 
Just as Mr. Diallo’s death resonated because it made the tribulations of many West African immigrants public, the case of Mr. Strauss-Kahn and his accuser has the aura of a parable. Many Africans feel the International Monetary Fund, which Mr. Strauss-Kahn led, and the World Bank have been more committed to the free flow of money and commodities like bauxite than to the free flow of people and the fulfillment of their aspirations. 
Guinean press accounts, and recent conversations I’ve had with Guineans, suggest that they disapprove of the deceptions by Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s accuser. But given the poverty and systemic violence in their country, they understand the circumstances in which such deception could occur — and we should, too.
As the case against Mr. Strauss-Kahn seemingly disintegrates, he is enjoying a political renaissance at home, yet I keep asking myself: does a sexual encounter between a powerful and wealthy French politician and a West African hotel cleaning woman from a dollar-a-day background not in itself suggest a gross abuse of power? 

Meanwhile NYT reporter Jim Dwyer "reports:"
What is so wrong with the original plan to hold a trial for Dominique Strauss-Kahn to decide if he committed an act of sexual violence against a hotel housekeeper? ... 
“She wants to testify to the world what Mr. Strauss-Kahn did to her, and she is willing to be hammered on cross-examination,” Mr. Thompson said. “You don’t have to come over on the Mayflower to be the victim of a crime.”

July 5, 2011

"Transformers: Dark of the Moon"

In my Taki's Magazine column, I review Transformers: Dark of the Moon:
I had long wondered why critics loathe the Transformers movies about giant alien robots more than they hate any other summer blockbuster series. 
On the other hand, I’d never wondered enough to see one. Unlike reviewers who have to watch every movie that comes out, my policy is: If it sounds stupid, don’t go. 
The Transformers were a 1980s Hasbro line of toys for little boys: robots that convert into cars. That a lot of big boys are excited to see these films says more about 21st-century audiences than about the series. If the audience for childish subjects has grown, which it has, how much of that is the fault of director Michael Bay and how much of elites encouraging mass uneducated immigration? 
Last weekend, however, there wasn’t anything better opening, and I was looking forward to the robots demolishing Chicago, a city of which I’m quite fond. 
Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the third in Bay’s franchise, turns out to be ...

Read the whole thing there.

Federal court hands By Any Means Necessary victory over Michigan voters

On the Friday before the long weekend, a three federal judge panel released a 2-1 decision to override the landslide majority Ward Connerly won in his 2006 initiative in Michigan banning racial preferences.

None of the handful of news reports that I saw mentioned that the lawsuit was brought by the group By Any Means Necessary. There's a reason for not mentioning that this is a huge triumph for BAMN.

My new VDARE column begins with a 2005 video of BAMN trying to intimidate the Michigan Board of State Canvassers into not letting Connerly's initiative on the ballot.    

July 4, 2011

New autism findings

From the NYT:
New Study Implicates Environmental Factors in Autism 
A new study of twins suggests that environmental factors, including conditions in the womb, may be at least as important as genes in causing autism. 
The researchers did not say which environmental influences might be at work. But other experts said the new study, released online on Monday, marked an important shift in thinking about the causes of autism, which is now thought to affect at least 1 percent of the population in the developed world. 
“This is a very significant study because it confirms that genetic factors are involved in the cause of the disorder,” said Dr. Peter Szatmari, a leading autism researcher who is the head of child psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at McMaster University in Ontario. “But it shifts the focus to the possibility that environmental factors could also be really important.” 
... Other experts have cited factors like parental age, multiple pregnancies, low birth weight and exposure to medications or maternal infection during pregnancy. 
... In the new study, the largest of its kind among twins, researchers looked at 192 pairs of identical and fraternal twins whose cases were drawn from California databases. At least one twin in each pair had the classic form of autism, which is marked by extreme social withdrawal, communication problems and repetitive behaviors. In many cases, the other twin also had classic autism or a milder “autism spectrum” disorder like Asperger’s syndrome. 
Identical twins share 100 percent of their genes; fraternal twins share 50 percent of their genes. So comparing autism rates in both types of twins can enable researchers to measure the importance of genes versus shared environment. 
The study found that autism or autism spectrum disorders occurred in both twins in 77 percent of males and 50 percent of females. As expected, the rates among fraternal twins were lower: 31 percent of males and 36 percent of females. 
But surprisingly, mathematical modeling suggested that only 38 percent of the cases could be attributed to genetic factors, compared with the 90 percent suggested by previous studies.
And more surprising still, shared environmental factors appeared to be at work in 58 percent of the cases. 
“We, like everyone else, were very surprised because we didn’t expect it to be that high,” said a senior author of the study, Neil Risch, a geneticist and epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco. 
In siblings who are not twins, the rate of autism is much lower, suggesting that the conditions the twins shared in the womb, rather than what they were exposed to after birth, contributed to the development of autism. 
A second article in the same journal found an elevated risk of autism in children whose mothers took a popular type of antidepressant during the year before delivery. But the authors reassured women taking these drugs — so-called S.S.R.I.’s like Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa and Lexapro — that the risk was still quite low: 2.1 percent in children whose mothers used them in the year before delivery, and 2.3 percent in the first trimester of pregnancy.

Autism is another one of those medical syndromes, like schizophrenia, that seems implausible to explain wholly genetically, since full-blown autistics don't have many children, so why wouldn't it die out?

You could make the argument that autism might be like sickle cell anemia, a hereditary disease that is fatal without medical care in people with two copies of the gene, but one copy makes you more likely to survive the most lethal form of malaria. 

Nerds are more functional versions of autistics, and nerds are more likely to invent the weapons and other technology that help one tribe conquer another. But then you get into the usual problems with trying to argue the logic of group selection. I'm not saying it can't be done, but it's not easy. 

This article should be commended for at least mentioning the word "infections" as an example of potential environmental influences. I'm not saying that germs contribute to autism or schizophrenia but that there's no reason not to mention it as a possibility. Similarly, the genetic contributions to these kind of syndromes might not be so much positive as negative -- i.e., it might be that your genes less make you autistic or schizophrenic as that your particular genes give you less defense against whatever it is in the environment that causes autism or schizophrenia. Or, autism could be an occasional cost of a defense system, like sickle cell anemia. 

We need a consciousness-raising campaign that infections can possibly be a cause of long term medical problems.

Deserve each other

The latest NY Post revelation into why the DA lost confidence in DSK's accuser is that while the city had her stashed for free in a hotel in Brooklyn, "She was turning tricks on the taxpayers' dime!"

Meanwhile, the story is that she filed the false rape charge because DSK refused to pay her for her extra special service. Is he just cheap, or had he been under the assumption that the sight of his naked 62-year-old body had filled her with instant non-mercenary lust, and thus her asking for money afterwards wounded his amour-propre? DSK's worldview of female motivations sometimes seems learned from 1970s Penthouse letters to the editor, the ones that usually began: "I belong to a fraternity at a small Midwestern liberal arts college, and I'd never believed Penthouse's letters-to-the-editor until one night when I ordered a pizza delivered and ..." How much you want to bet that this real-life Pepe LePew has a prescription for testosterone supplements?

The hunt for the Great Bright Illegal

The hunt for the Great Bright Illegal continues. Everybody who is anybody keeps proclaiming that we are lucky to be getting all these highly talented illegal immigrants from Mexico, but, as the decades and generations go by, it's hard to come up with very many names of high achievers to anecdotally illustrate the bromides.

A couple of weeks ago, the NYT Magazine made a big whoop over a reporter named Jose Antonio Vargas, who won a share of a Pulitzer Prize for being part of a team of Washington Post reporters who covered the Virginia Tech mass murders of 31 students (by an immigrant, of course, but that part usually gets left out). Not surprisingly, Vargas is gay. More surprisingly, he's an Asian, a Filipino. That's pretty weak when you can't even find a Mexican after decades of trying.

Now, the Chronicles of Higher Education has a long article by Amherst professor Ilans Stavans, that might be a hoax because it fulfills so many stereotypes that sophisticated observers have noticed:
Academic Purgatory 
An illegal immigrant earns a Ph.D. Now what? 
By Ilan Stavans 
Jorge Arbusto isn't the type of person who seeks the limelight. In fact, for years he has thrived in the shadows. But ask him today what he wants, and his answer is unequivocal: to be recognized.
A sweet, passionate, steadfast student originally from Mexico, Jorge (his name has been changed for this article)

I'll say. "Jorge Arbusto" is Spanish for "George Bush." That raises questions about whether the whole article is a hoax intended as satire on the cult of the illegal alien, but the tone is so authentically maudlin that that seems unlikely.
may be the only undocumented immigrant to successfully defend a doctoral dissertation in the United States.

Wow. Tens of millions of illegal aliens over the years and a grand total of one Ph.D. from that vast population? Wow. That's such a miserably low a level of achievement that even I can't believe it's true. But, the takeaway lesson is that it's close enough to be true that nobody except me questions it.
Certainly he is among a very small group. Yet his case poses questions that not only affect thousands of undergraduates today—some sources put it at around 50,000—but also challenge our ideas about hard work, the choices that colleges do or should make, the value of education (for students and society), and, yes, that thorn in our political side—immigration and the Dream Act, which is still stalled in Congress.

So, what kind of dissertation did Jorge Arbusto write? Did he solve the problems of fusion energy generation?
Having defended his dissertation on Spanish-language popular culture, Jorge received his Ph.D. in Hispanic studies this past spring.


Not surprisingly, the mystery man is gay:
He left Mexico to escape a dangerously homophobic atmosphere.

This is a weird new theme in Diversity Talk: the assumption that we need to have open borders to protect homosexuals from the homophobia of Mexicans. Your Lying Eyes points to a bizarre NYT article by Sam Dolnick entitled For Many Immigrants, Marriage Vote Resonates that tries to tie together, somehow, the Wall Street-funded triumph of gay marriage in the New York legislature with the Carlos Slim-funded NYT's campaign for illegal immigration amnesty:
Gay Latino immigrants like Gamaliel Lopez, a native of Mexico, came to this country because they could not imagine an openly gay life at home. They found acceptance in some ways — Mr. Lopez says he can express his sexuality without fear in New York — but they also felt as if they entered the country with two black marks: one for being an immigrant, another for being gay.

Uh, are gay/immigration articles not factchecked because it would be heresy to doubt anybody's assertions on such sacred topics? A Google search on the words Gay Mexico brings up 212,000,000 pages starting with a Gay Mexico Map. Mexico City has a population of 18 million -- there's no gay district there? In John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces (set about 1963), Dorian Greene (get it?) of the French Quarter tells Ignatius that Dorian's gay party is going so strong that 
"Several people will be completely ruined after this evening. There's going to be a mass exodus for Mexico City in the morning. But then Mexico City is so wonderfully wild."

The Derb points out in the comments on Your Lying Eyes that Mexico instituted gay marriage in 2009. 

Obviously, Mexico is full of lunkheaded machos, but why importing millions of them into the U.S. makes American gays less likely to be bullied is unclear. If Mexico is full of dim, mean, homophobes, how is letting millions more dim, mean, Mexican homophobes into America going to make America better? (I have a different suspicion: that affluent gays like having lots of poor young men around who come from a culture that says a maricon isn't defined by who he goes to bed with but by what he does there.)

Back to the article by Ilans Stavans about Jorge Arbusto. I had never heard of Professor Stavans, but it turns out that he's an extremely energetic Mexican-American. He's only 50 and he's published 25 books. Granted, I've never heard of any of them, even his The Essential Ilans Stavans, and his career seems mostly testimony to the huge demand among academics for something, anything by Mexican immigrants.

But he clearly shatters the stereotype of Mexican immigrants as unintellectual and unmotivated. Let's find out more about him from his Wikipedia article, which begins:
Ilan Stavans (born Ilan Stavchansky on April 7, 1961, in Mexico City) is a Mexican-American, essayist, lexicographer, cultural commentator, translator, short-story author, TV personality, and teacher known for his insights into American, Hispanic, and Jewish cultures. 
Ilan Stavans was born in Mexico to a middle-class Jewish family from the Pale of Settlement, his father Abraham was a popular Mexican soap opera star.