September 10, 2011

Another successful Indian tribe membership drive

Bob Hope once said of his hyper-exclusive Cypress Point Golf Club in Pebble Beach, CA, "One year they had a big membership drive at Cypress. They drove out 40 members." American Indian tribes, especially since Congress gave each tribe the right to one (but only one) casino, tend to hold similar views of what comprises a successful membership drive. Thus, from today's Washington Post:
One of the nation’s largest American Indian tribes has sent letters to about 2,800 descendants of slaves once owned by its members, revoking their citizenship and cutting their medical care, food stipends, low-income homeowners’ assistance and other services. 
The Cherokee Nation acted this week after its Supreme Court upheld the results of a 2007 special vote to amend the Cherokee constitution and remove the slaves’ descendants and other non-Indians from tribal rolls. 

You'll note that when it comes to defining who gets access to racial/ethnic privileges, Indians behave the opposite of blacks and Hispanics, tending to define access narrowly. Only a handful of blacks, such as Henry Louis Gates and Lani Guinier, have complained about people (like Barack Obama) with no family ties to American slaves benefiting from affirmative action for blacks. (And Gates and Guinier appear to have avoided mentioning their complaints in connection with Obama.)

How come?

Unlike casino benefits, which are extremely finite legally, affirmative action benefits for blacks and Hispanics have no theoretical limits, so black and Hispanic leaders tend to have expansive views of who should be eligible for quotas as being black or Hispanic. The more who benefit from affirmative action, they reason, the more supporters for affirmative action in the political arena.

Of course, if anybody stopped to think about it, they'd realize that the more beneficiaries of affirmative action, then the higher average costs imposed upon each benefactor, which would tend to increase political resistance among nonbeneficiaries. So, conceptually, it's not obvious that the black/Hispanic approach to winning political battles over racial preferences is a clear-cut winner.

But ... that's racist! So, nobody thinks about it. The easiest way to win political debates is to not hold them because you've redefined thoughts you don't like as crimethink.

Ten Years Ago

With the press rehashing everything they can think of about 9/11, allow me to once again recount something that has very much not become part of The Narrative because it is close to unthinkable. Here's an article I wrote for UPI on the evening of 9/11:
Bush had called for laxer airport security
by Steve Sailer
UPI, September 11, 2001

LOS ANGELES, Sep. 11 -- Ironically, in an attempt to appeal to the growing number of Arab-American and Muslim voters, exactly eleven months ago George W. Bush called for weakening airport security procedures aimed at deterring hijackers. 
On Oct. 11, 2000, during the second presidential debate, the Republican candidate attacked two anti-terrorist policies that had long irritated Arab citizens of the U.S. 
At present [i.e., the evening of 9/11], of course, there is no definite evidence that Arabs or Muslims were involved in today's terrorist assaults. Many incorrectly assumed after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that Middle Easterners were involved. Nor is there direct evidence that Bush's attack on airline safety procedures made the four simultaneous hijackings easier to pull off. 
Bush said during the nationally televised debate, "Arab-Americans are racially profiled in what's called secret evidence. People are stopped, and we got to do something about that." Then-Governor Bush went on, "My friend, Sen. Spence Abraham [the Arab-American Republic Senator from Michigan], is pushing a law to make sure that, you know, Arab-Americans are treated with respect. So racial profiling isn't just an issue at the local police forces. It's an issue throughout our society. And as we become a diverse society, we're going to have to deal with it more and more." 
Bush's plug for Senator Abraham was intended to help Abraham in close re-election battle, which he ultimately lost. (Abraham is now the Bush Administration's Secretary of Energy.) More important personally to Bush was the swing state of Michigan's 18 electoral votes, which Al Gore eventually won narrowly. Arab-Americans, centered in Dearborn and Flint, make up about four percent of the population of Michigan, the most of any state. 
In the debate, Bush conflated two separate policies that Arab-Americans and Muslim-Americans felt discriminate against them: the heightened suspicions faced by Middle Eastern-looking travelers at airport security checkpoints and the government's use of "secret evidence" in immigration hearings of suspected terrorists. Yet, despite Bush's confusion, Arab-Americans appreciated his gesture. Four days after the debate, the Arab-American Political Action Committee endorsed Bush. 
The day after Bush's remarks, 17 American sailors died in a terrorist attack in the Arab nation of Yemen. The bombing of the U.S.S. Cole, however, did not stop Vice President Al Gore from echoing Bush's calls to end these two anti-terrorist techniques in a meeting with Arab-American leaders on October 14, 2000. 
According to a spokesperson for a leading Arab-American organization, people of Arab descent are stopped and searched at airports more often than many other ethnic groups. Some refer to this as Flying While Arab or Flying While Muslim. These terms are intended as plays on the popular phrase "Driving While Black," which is widely used to criticize police departments for stopping more black than white motorists. 
This year, both Bush and his Attorney General John Ashcroft have called for an end to racial profiling. 
The Federal Aviation Administration provides airline and airport personnel with the Computer-Assisted Passenger Prescreening system to help them identify suspicious travelers. It relies on a secret profile of the characteristics of typical hijackers and terrorists. 
Bush's Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta has said that "the security procedures are not based on the race, ethnicity, religion or gender of passengers" Yet, the system is widely believed to use other information - such as whether the traveler is going to or coming from the Middle East - that tends to "disparately impact" Arab and Muslims. 
None of the ethnic rights groups, however, has offered any data to dispute the widespread assumption that in the three decades since the Palestine Liberation Organization invented skyjacking, a disproportionate number of hijackers and plane bombers have had Middle Eastern ties. 
Nonetheless, the Bush Administration publicly agrees with the civil rights organizations that even a nonracial airport profiling system that had merely a disparate impact on Arabs and Muslims would be objectionable. Secretary Mineta said, "We also want to assure that in practice, the system does not disproportionately select members of any particular minority group." Of course, if Arabs and Muslims are disproportionately more likely to hijack airliners, and the profiling system does not end up disproportionately targeting them, then system wouldn't work very well at preventing hijackings. 
To ensure that no disparate impact is occurring, the Bush Administration carried out in June a three-week study, first planned by the Clinton Administration, of whether or not profiling at the Detroit airport disparately impacts Arabs. 
The results of the study have not been released. Nor is it known whether the secret profiles have been relaxed - they are kept secret in order to keep hijackers guessing. 
However, on June 6th Attorney General Ashcroft told Congress, "We want the right training, we want the right kind of discipline, we want the right kind of detection measures and the right kind of remediation measures, because racial profiling doesn't belong in the federal government's operational arsenal." 
Besides airport profiling, Arab-American activists long demanded the repeal of the "secret evidence" section of the 1996 Anti-Terrorism Act. To prevent terrorist gangs from murdering U.S. government secret informants, this law allows the government to provide evidence from unidentified moles in the immigration hearings of foreigners suspected of terrorist links. The government has deported or detained a number of Arabs hoping to immigrate to the U.S. due to testimony by witnesses they were never allowed to confront. 
Although Abraham's bill repealing the use of secret evidence died in 2000, during his confirmation hearing, Ashcroft endorsed the ban on secret evidence. He told Congress in June that the Bush Administration has not used secret evidence. 
As the practice has come under increasing attack, the number of Arab immigrants detained on secret evidence has dropped sharply. Hussein Ibish of the American Arab Anti-discrimination Committee told UPI in June, "Two years ago there were 25 in prison," he said. "Now we're down to only one."

Four years later, we found out how this had played out:
It was not until 2005 that Michael Tuohey surfaced. He was the veteran U.S. Air ticket agent in Portland, ME who checked in Mohammed Atta, the leader of the 19 9/11 terrorists, and a companion on the first leg of their trip that ended in the World Trade Center. Tuohey was interviewed by Oprah Winfrey: 
Michael Tuohey was going to work like he had for 37 years, but little did he know that this day would change his life forever. On September 11, 2001, Tuohey, a ticket agent for U.S. Airways, checked in terrorist Mohammed Atta for a flight that started a chain of events that would change history. 
Tuohey was working the U.S. Airways first-class check-in desk when two men, Atta and his companion Abdul Azziz-Alomari, approached his counter. From all outward appearances, the men seemed to be normal businessmen, but Tuohey felt something was wrong. 
"I got an instant chill when I looked at [Atta]. I got this grip in my stomach and then, of course, I gave myself a political correct slap...I thought, 'My God, Michael, these are just a couple of Arab businessmen.'" 

Tuohey also told David Hench of the Portland Press Herald: 
Then his eyes locked on Atta.  
"It just sent chills through you. You see his picture in the paper (now). You see more life in that picture than there is in flesh and blood," Tuohey said. 
Then Tuohey went through an internal debate that still haunts him."I said to myself, 'If this guy doesn't look like an Arab terrorist, then nothing does.' Then I gave myself a mental slap, because in this day and age, it's not nice to say things like this," he said. 
"You've checked in hundreds of Arabs and Hindus and Sikhs, and you've never done that. I felt kind of embarrassed." 
It wasn't just Atta's demeanor that caught Tuohey's attention."When I looked at their tickets, they had first-class, one-way tickets - $2,500 tickets. Very unusual," he said. "I guess they're not coming back. Maybe this is the end of their trip."

Indeed, they weren't coming back.

It's fascinating how all of this has disappeared down the Memory Hole. If you search in Google News for

"Arab-Americans are racially profiled" Bush

you find nada, zip, zilch articles quoting what George W. Bush said about air travel security in front of tens of millions of viewers during a Presidential debate eleven months before 9/11. 

September 8, 2011

Just when you start to forget why unions became unpopular ...

From the NYT, on a labor dispute at a port in the state of Washington:
About 500 longshoremen stormed the new $200 million terminal in Longview before sunrise Thursday, carrying baseball bats, smashing windows, damaging rail cars and dumping tons of grain from the cars, police and company officials said.

That reminds me that one of the forgotten efficiencies bestowed by the containerization revolution after WWII in which sealed standardized steel boxes that could be carried by truck, rail, and ship became the norm. Containerization made it much harder for stevedores to steal some of the cargo. Theft had been a traditional perk of working on the docks. Wikipedia explains:
Improved cargo security is also an important benefit of containerization. The cargo is not visible to the casual viewer and thus is less likely to be stolen; the doors of the containers are usually sealed so that tampering is more evident. Some containers are fitted with electronic monitoring devices and can be remotely monitored for changes in air pressure, which happens when the doors are opened. This reduced the thefts that had long plagued the shipping industry.

By the way, as a commenter points out, the American engineer who invented the modern container, Keith W. Tantlinger, just died. Here's his NYT obituary, which does a good job of explaining both the importance of his particular innovations, and how precisely they made an old idea idea a giant success.
Until the mid-1950s, however, seaborne cargo transport had changed little since the day man first lashed together a raft, stocked it with trade goods and set out for distant shores. For centuries, on waterfronts worldwide, goods as diverse as flour, coffee, whiskey and mail were literally manhandled — loaded by longshoremen onto ships in sacks and crates and barrels and, at the other end, loaded off again. 
The method was expensive and took time. In 1954, Mr. Levinson’s book reports, the cargo ship Warrior left Brooklyn for Germany carrying 194,582 separate items. These had arrived at the Brooklyn docks in 1,156 separate shipments. 
Containerization unified the process, letting a single shipper move merchandise across land and sea. In 1958, The New York Times described the new technology this way: 
“A trailer is loaded, for example, in Springfield, Mo. It travels by road to New York or San Francisco, sealed, virtually damage-proof and theft-proof. By ship it goes to France or to Japan, eliminating warehousing, stacking and sorting. Each ship takes on her cargo with a few hundred lifts, compared to 5,000 individual lifts by the old method.”

Also, now that I'm on the topic of longshoremen, one of the odder economic facts is that America's busiest port is Los Angeles / Long Beach, despite LA being a high cost urban area, traffic for trucks being bad, and the port being notoriously unionized and corrupt (e.g., the scene in Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs where the head gangsters get the vicious ex-con Mr. Blond a job at the port that he doesn't have to show up for as a reward for taking the rap and not ratting them out). And LA / Long Beach isn't even a real harbor -- it's just created by breakwaters. I guess the other potential dominant ports are even worse. San Francisco used to be the dominant West Coast port due to its superb natural location, but I guess Harry Bridges, the San Francisco-based Communist boss of the ILWU, permanently wrecked San Francisco Bay.

But even with the extra costs imposed by the LA / LB port, the cost of intercontinental shipping is a minor aspect of the cost of imported goods today. Tantlinger's invention broke down the natural tariff barriers of oceans that protected American manufacturers. 

The latest crises besetting affluent white women

Kevin Drum is upset by an LA Times article:
The financial industry, long known for its boys-club environment, has only a small fraction of women as top executives. And that small cadre has been thinning out in recent years, with the most recent example Krawcheck's departure as BofA's president of global wealth management. Her departure is part of a broader trend in the financial industry in recent years: Female employees are losing their jobs at a faster clip than men. ... 
....The finance industry has not historically been known as a welcoming place for women. The cigar and strip-club reputation was confirmed by a lawsuit against Smith Barney in the 1990s, which accused it of turning a blind eye to raunchy, sexist behavior. The lawsuit later became the subject of a book called "Tales From the Boom-Boom Room." 
The attention brought by the suit spurred wide-scale changes that helped stamp out overt discrimination and open up hiring. A decade ago, the number of women in finance was rising.

Similarly, on Forbes:
Public-relations executive Richard Edelman writes in his blog this week that he wants women to occupy half of the senior roles in his company by 2016. 
"Our goal is simple—50% of those on Strategy Committee, Operating Committee, GCRM and practice leadership will be women by 2016," he writes. "They will have earned the positions; there will not be a quota." 
Edelman, who is president and CEO of Edelman, the world's largest independent public-relations firm, acknowledges that his industry has no problem attracting women. Some two-thirds of his workforce is female, he writes. But the ranks of women start to thin in leadership roles.

Wall Street, as seen in the works of Tom Wolfe, Michael Lewis, and Oliver Stone, is a notoriously competitive, macho, insensitive environment. 

Other industries are less so, but, still, as you climb the corporate ladder, the environments often get more macho. 

For example, I worked for a successful start-up in market research, which was, at the MBA entry level, very yuppie and pretty gender neutral (we went out to restaurants in mixed sex groups and then talked about other restaurants, since food was one topic that appealed to both sexes). The market research industry as a whole is pretty genteel and sedate. One marketing research tycoon I knew, an old B-17 bomber pilot, liked to point out, with a little contempt, that most of his competitors had been started by college professors or housewives. (I suspect PR is even more feminine and much more gay at the MBA entry level than is Marketing Research. But, the top dogs even in big PR firms tend do be masculine guys.)

But the founders of my company, which revolutionized the market research industry in the 1980s, were high testosterone guys who were into importing Porsches that had to be customized for six months just to be street legal in the U.S. One morning in 1983, after about six months on the job, I was standing on a street corner in Lincoln Park waiting for the bus to work, when the CEO pulls up in his TurboPorshe and offers me a ride. "Sure!" But, the stoplights on La Salle Street heading toward the Loop are not optimized for a CEO who floors it at every green light and thus gets caught by every single red light. So, every block consisted of us going 0-60 in five seconds, with my head being shoved back into the headrest, followed by 60-0 in five seconds (with my forehead just about bouncing off the dashboard). When we got to work, the CEO offered to pick me up every morning on that corner, but, feeling pummeled by G-forces and whiplash from the ride, I went back to taking the bus.

Then, luckily for me, when the founders started pushing 40, their recreations downshifted from the Need for Speed to becoming fanatical golfers. This worked out well for me socially at the office, because, being a lower testosterone guy about a decade younger, I'd transitioned earlier from playing contact sports to being a golf fanatic at about age 25. So, by the time the bigshots' hormone levels had dropped enough to move on from racing sports to golf, I was already an expert on all the best public golf courses in the Chicago area. So I played a lot of golf with the top dogs while they were getting started in the game. (One boss got so into my hobby of golf course architecture that he went on to build his own fine golf course in Wisconsin, and then singlehandedly revamped, without a professional golf course architect's assitance, it to make it more interesting.)

Very few women feel the urge to, say, drive around the Chicago suburbs visiting golf courses to rate them for quality. It's a good thing to know for career networking purposes, but it really only appeals to individuals with a nerdy turn of mind and a fairly average level (for a man) of male hormones. It's not utterly unknown among women -- one very friendly, slightly tomboyish woman golfer in Accounting was a popular choice for golf foursomes, but she wasn't really into finding new, good golf courses to play (but she liked to arrange golf resort trips, with more emphasis on quality of accommodations than on the course itself -- a more feminine version of this urge). But caring a lot about golf courses is fairly rare among men and extremely rare among women.

Returning to these complaints about disparate impact on women in the executive suites, let me point out that one mechanism that thins the ranks of women in the executive suites is that as young women climb the corporate ladder, they come into less and less contact with the dweebier guys down the ladder and more and more contact with the most powerful and ambitious men at the top. Women don't generally love working in the macho atmospheres found higher up, but a lot of them do fall in love with individual macho executives, whom they often marry. And then they tend to downsize their own careers (since their husbands make so much money) to concentrate on helicopter mothering their children. 

I recall one young woman at my old company who was shooting up the corporate ladder until she became a direct report to the single most brilliant youngish executive. After awhile, he left his wife and kids to marry her, and then she started concentrating less on her own career and instead on the promoting the career of her very high income, very high potential new husband.

So, here's a different model of what might have happened on Wall Street: Affirmative action pressure to hire women at Wall Street banks to avoid disparate impact lawsuits led to a lot of women getting hired, who then found that they don't really like trading, with its macho atmosphere, but they do like macho traders. In fact, they like them so much they want to have their babies. So, they tended to marry a rich male colleague, then downshift careerwise to being a Tiger Mother for their offspring.

I can't say that I'm terribly outraged by any of this.

Infectious disease and national IQs

Christopher Eppig is back, this time in Scientific American, with his study showing a high correlation between average national IQs around the world and infectious disease burden. I would hardly be surprised if this were partly true (for example, in some Third World regions, various public health measures undertaken in the U.S. in the 20th Century, like hookworm eradication and iodine and iron staple supplementation, remain low-hanging fruits). But I can't say I've found Eppig's evidence highly persuasive yet that the arrow of causality doesn't mostly run in the opposite direction: e.g.,  that high average IQ Singapore has used its smarts to cut infectious disease more than low average IQ Lagos has managed to do so, despite both being at similar latitudes and altitudes.

Eppig claims that evidence from the U.S. backs up his international correlations:
Despite the strength of our findings, our study was not without its limitations. We did our best to control for the effects of education. But what we really needed was to repeat our analysis across regions within a single nation, preferably one with standardized, compulsory education. The nation we chose was the United States. Average IQ varies in the states. (Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont are at the high end, for example; California, Louisiana, and Mississippi are near the low end.) Again, infectious disease was an excellent predictor of average state IQ. 

The fever swamps of California? The swarming hordes of malarial mosquitoes in Compton? I don't really get this idea that Californians have their high infectious disease burdens to blame for their stupidity. The climate in California is famously healthy: dry, sunny, few mosquitoes or other insects, and low humidity. Health nuts have been moving to California for 125 years. For example, my grandfather was a health nut and he moved to Altadena in 1929.

A reader points out:
It is hard for me to believe that infectious disease is by far the most important cause of IQ variation.  If this were so, I would expect to see significant numbers of very high IQs even in low-average-IQ regions (asymmetrically long high-end tails of IQ bell curves for these regions), because even in high-infectious-disease areas (I assume) the number of uninfected people is significant.  In reality, the IQ bell curve is shifted to the left for low-IQ regions, but retains its symmetrical shape.  Only if everyone in low-average-IQ regions had been infected with IQ-lowering disease does the infectious disease hypothesis predict that normal distribution curves will be shifted to the left without the shape being affected.

For example, Kenya has high rates of infectious disease, infant mortality, crippling accidents, and so forth. Yet, the Kenyans who avoid all that sometimes do extraordinarily well in Olympic running events.
Also, the hypothesis doesn't square with the fact that people have lower IQs in any region when their family origins and genetic pedigrees originate in low-IQ areas.

September 7, 2011

Paging Doctors Herrnstein and Murray!

From the Washington Post:
Many in U.S. slip from middle class, study finds 
By Michael A. Fletcher, 
Nearly one in three Americans who grew up middle-class has slipped down the income ladder as an adult, according to a new report by the Pew Charitable Trusts. 
Downward mobility is most common among middle-class people who are divorced or separated from their spouses, did not attend college, scored poorly on standardized tests, or used hard drugs, the report says. 
... The study focused on people who were middle-class teenagers in 1979 and who were between 39 and 44 years old in 2004 and 2006. It defines people as middle-class if they fall between the 30th and 70th percentiles in income distribution, which for a family of four is between $32,900 and $64,000 a year in 2010 dollars. 
People were deemed downwardly mobile if they fell below the 30th percentile in income, if their income rank was 20 or more percentiles below their parents’ rank, or if they earn at least 20 percent less than their parents. ... 
Overall, African American men have a particularly hard time clinging to middle-class status. Thirty-eight percent of black men who grew up middle-class are downwardly mobile, nearly double the rate of white men, the report says. Hispanic men are slightly more likely than white males to fall down the economic ladder, but the difference was not statistically significant.
Among African Americans and Hispanics, men are more likely to slip than women, although the reverse is true among whites. 
The racial gap in mobility has perplexed researchers at Pew since a 2007 report that said nearly half of African Americans born to middle-income parents in the late 1960s plunged into poverty or near-poverty as adults. That report underscored the feeble grip many African Americans had on middle-class life, prompting researchers to probe deeper, said Erin Currier, project manager of Pew’s Economic Mobility Project. 
The new report called the performance of blacks on a key standardized test a factor that accounts for virtually the entire mobility gap separating the races. Black males scored much lower than white males on the Armed Forces Qualification Test, which measures reading comprehension, vocabulary and math ability. 
“Taking into account differences in AFQT scores between middle-class white and black men reduces the gap until it is statistically indistinguishable from zero,” the report said. 
The findings in the report are drawn from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, a group of 12,000 interviews that researchers have followed since 1979.

Hmmhmmhhhh ... AFQT scores ... the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth ... Where have I heard all this before?

Ideal elevation?

Ever since I was a Boy Scout, I've been fascinated by the effects of altitude on a place's climate, vegetation, and human life. When I reread volumes of my 1971 Encyclopedia Britannica, I appreciate that the standard Britannica format is to put the altitude of a place in the first paragraph.

Yet, altitude doesn't come up much in daily thinking, which can cause problems. For example, I knew a man who spent his prime building his retirement dream home at 9,000 feet, but then found that by the time it was finally finished, he was getting on in years and didn't thrive anymore in that thin atmosphere. 

Elevation is an important element in the concept of "Whitopia," a term coined by a black journalist named Rich Benjamin in his genial book Searching for Whitopia: An Improbable Journey to the Heart of White America. Benjamin drove around to various places white people are moving to in out of the way states like Utah and Idaho to discover what white people are up to. He discovered, among other things, that they are up to playing a lot of golf. To burrow deeper into his investigative journalism project, he took up golf. And discovered that golf is awesome. In fact, golfcentric whitopias are pretty cool overall, he found. 

Whitopias tend to be located in the sunny, low humidity inland West.

I think you can divide whitopias into two class categories, by elevation. Elite whitopias like Aspen (7900 feet), Santa Fe (7200), and Telluride (8700) tend to be very high ski resorts. The homes in these elite whitopias tend to be second (or third) homes. For example, I stayed once at my boss's 17,000 square foot house in a highland suburb of Aspen at about 9,000 feet. Personally, I would be leery of buying a house at 9,000 feet, but the kind of people who buy giant homes in Aspen (e.g., my boss's neighbor Chris Evert) tend to have outstanding aerobic capacity. 

Extreme altitude can cause massive health problems. For example, doctors in Leadville, Colorado (10,152 ft.) insist that all pregnant women go down to lower elevations. In Peru and Bolivia, white people have trouble carrying babies to term on the Altiplano relative to Amerindians.

More middle class whitopias like Bend, Oregon (3600 feet), Grand Junction, Colorado (4600), and St. George, Utah (2900) tend to be middling in height. They are often located in the high desert near the base of major mountain ranges, which provides easy access to the highlands for recreation without having to deal with massive snowfalls, and a lot of water for lawns and golf courses in the summer, when temperatures, while warm, are not as insufferable as in low deserts. 

So, has anybody systematically looked at the effects of elevation on real estate?

September 5, 2011


Economist Steven D. "Freakonomics" Levitt reports:
"The fee for a trick varies with the type of sex act, and prostitutes seem to discriminate across clients in order to maximize profit. White men pay $8 to $9 more per trick than black customers, with Hispanic clients paying some amount in between. When bargaining, prostitutes will usually offer a price to a black customer but will make a white man throw out a number first. Repeat customers pay slightly less than new customers."

Too bad prostitutes can't afford to pay for Malcolm Gladwell to address them, because Malcolm would explain to them that, like car salesmen, if only the whores understood that they were unconsciously discriminating, they'd stop leaving money on the table.

September 4, 2011

Glenn Burke: tragic victim of homophobia or his own all-around suckiness?

From, about Glenn Burke, a 1970s ballplayer who died of AIDS:
What most people didn't know was that Burke was gay. Following his retirement, in 1980, he became the first major leaguer to come out. Even though he tried to keep his sexuality a secret during his playing days, there had been rumors in the clubhouse. And as the 2010 television documentary Out: The Glenn Burke Story revealed, Dodgers executives scrambled to squash those rumors at all costs: In the off-season of 1977, team VP Al Campanis offered Burke $75,000 to get married. According to a friend, Burke rejected the marriage deal with a mix of wit and rebelliousness. He told Campanis, "I guess you mean to a woman." 
It was around that time that Burke struck up a relationship with Spunky Lasorda, aka Tommy Lasorda Jr. Spunky was a lithe young socialite who frequented West Hollywood's gay scene, smoking cigarettes from a long holder. A 1992 GQ profile of Spunky portrayed his homosexuality as an open secret. But his father was in staunch denial and remained so even after Spunky's death, in 1991, from pneumonia. GQ reported that the death certificate said his illness was likely AIDS-related. "My son wasn't gay. No way," Lasorda Sr. told the magazine.
Burke and Spunky's relationship didn't become public until years later and remains ambiguous. Burke's sister, Lutha Davis, insists the two men were just close friends. In his 1995 memoir, Out at Home, co-authored with Erik Sherman, Burke went out of his way to leave the true nature of the relationship unclear. "That's my business," he wrote. He also explained that Lasorda Sr.'s homophobia was something he and Spunky commiserated about. Burke described them turning up together at Lasorda's house one night, done up in pigtails and drag, hoping to stage a kind of gay Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. They chickened out before knocking on the door. 
Whatever the case, Burke's association with Spunky marks the point at which his big league career took an irrevocable left turn. Lasorda stopped being amused by the player's dugout antics and, according to Burke, turned on him. "Glenn had such an abundance of respect and love for Tommy Lasorda," says Burke's sister. "When things went bad at the end, it was almost like a father turning his back on his son." Early in the 1978 season, the Dodgers abruptly dealt Burke to the Oakland A's — among the most lackluster teams in baseball — for Billy North, an outfielder past his prime. L.A. sportswriters described the trade as sucking the life out of the Dodgers' clubhouse. A couple of players were seen crying at their lockers.
For Burke the trade had everything to do with his sexuality — though the outfielder sounded off to the press about it in only the most cryptic terms. "I never got a chance here," he said. "I felt I was supposed to kiss ass and I didn't." 
After unproductive years in 1978 and '79, Burke hoped for a fresh start in 1980 under new A's manager Billy Martin. But the gay rumors followed Burke to Oakland. Martin threw the word "faggot" around the clubhouse and didn't play Burke. Some teammates even avoided showering with him. Burke, accustomed to being the heart of the clubhouse, felt crippled by the discomfort he was causing. His unhappiness was compounded by a knee injury and a demotion to Triple-A. After playing just 25 games in the minors in 1980, he abruptly retired. He was 27 years old. "It's the first thing in my life I ever backed down from," he later said.
Burke started hanging around San Francisco's Castro district. He became a star shortstop in a local gay softball league and dominated in the Gay Softball World Series. "I was making money playing ball and not having any fun," he said of his time in the majors. "Now I'm not making money, but I'm having fun." Jack McGowan, a friend in the Castro who has since passed away, once said of Burke: "He was a hero to us. He was athletic, clean-cut, masculine. He was everything that we wanted to prove to the world that we could be." 
In the Castro, Burke's creation of the high five was part of his Herculean mystique. He would flash his magnetic smile and high-five everyone who walked by. In 1982, he came out publicly in an Inside Sports magazine profile called "The Double Life of a Gay Dodger." The writer, a gay activist named Michael J. Smith, appropriated the high five as a defiant symbol of gay pride. Rising from the wreckage of Burke's aborted baseball career, Smith wrote, was "a legacy of two men's hands touching, high above their heads." 
By that time, however, Burke was struggling with a drug habit. It escalated in 1987, when a car plowed into him as he was crossing a street, breaking his right leg in four places and stealing his athleticism. He couldn't hold a job. He went broke. He did some time at San Quentin for grand theft. Then, in 1993, he tested positive for HIV. He passed away on May 30, 1995, after a sharp and grisly decline.

I remember Glenn Burke from when I was an intense Dodger fan in the late 1970s. He struck me then as a useless waste of space any time he got into the lineup. Looking up his statistics, I see I was right: In his career, he had 556 plate appearance, or about one full season's worth. His career stats in MVP form were .237 average, 2 homers, and 38 rbi. He got all of 22 walks in his career. His career on base percentage was .270 and slugging average was .291, for an OPS of .561. His OPS+ on a scale where an average big leaguer is 100 was 57. His career wins above replacement was -3.1, evenly split by being terrible on both offense and defense. The remarkable thing about Burke was not that his promising career was sidetracked by irrational discrimination, but they let him stay in the big leagues so long when there were better players in Triple A.