November 25, 2011

Ron Rosenbaum

Ron Rosenbaum is a mainstream, respected, nearly ubiquitous social commentator who frequently appears to be in the throes of hydrophobia. Here's one of his earlier contributions. Here's another

From the Washington Post's Slate yesterday:
The Unbearable Whiteness of White Meat 
Dark meat is better. Why don't we love it more? 
By Ron Rosenbaum 
Posted Thursday, Nov. 24, 2011, at 7:21 AM ET 
Not being a postmodernist I wouldn't call the overwhelming American preference for white-meat turkey a form of cultural hegemony. More like a mass hallucination. Why, for instance, hasn't white meat shared the same fate, the same cultural disenfranchisement, as packaged white bread? 
Some of you may remember white bread. Not the white bread of crusty baguettes and the like, but the white bread of sliced, standardized loaves of cotton wool, the stuff people ate before everyone switched to baguettes and focaccia and brioche, which are, yes, often "white" but not "white bread" in the old-fashioned, mass-produced sense. I'm talking about Wonderbread bread.
This is what I can't understand: Why does most of America want its turkey meat white? ... 
Why have we broken the chains of the whiteness that bound us to fatally tasteless white bread while still remaining imprisoned in the white-meat turkey ghetto? 
... Do they still associate white meat with refinement? It was enough to make me wonder whether there could be a racial, if not racist, subtext here. Perhaps there is a clue in the shifting fate of the "other white meat"—pork. I'll never forget the moment when I learned the antebellum racial origin of the phrase "living high on the hog." I had driven down the I-5 "grapevine," that fog-shrouded mountainous interior route from San Francisco to L.A. with a couple of Communist Party women who were mothers of death row prisoners (long story). When dawn broke and we arrived in Watts, they guided me to a place called Ray's Redwood City, an all-night, almost all-black joint where the ladies of Saturday night dined with the ministers of Sunday morning (not at the same tables), and my fellow travelers ordered me a dish called "high on the hog," a mountain of scrambled eggs topped by a fried pork chop. 
It was then I learned the etymology of the phrase in America. It hails from the plantation days, when the white slave owners dined on choice pork chops cut from "high on the hog" while the slaves made do with the lower parts of the pig—the ham hocks, the pigs feet, the pork bellies, and the innards. White meat was high on the hog, but not higher on flavor than other (often darker) cuts. Indeed the "other white meat" now available most frequently in lean and tasteless pork chops and cutlets has little more taste than white meat turkey. 
Despite its superior taste, dark meat has dark undertones for some. Dark meat evokes the color of earth, soil. Dark meat seems to summon up ancient fears of contamination and miscegenation as opposed to the supposed superior purity of white meat. I guess it shouldn't be a surprise that white meat remains the choice of a holiday that celebrates Puritans. 
Indeed, the connotations of the pale and darker parts of the turkey constitute a meaty metaphor for the Thanksgiving feast itself. The allegedly more refined and daintier white parts, the wings and breast, have never touched the ground the way the earthier darker legs have done. And you know how dirty dirt is. 
By the way, if you want to read a brilliant poetic embodiment of the real story of our "Pilgrim fathers," a chilling antidote to white bread, white meat, and Thanksgiving treacle, I recommend you take a look at Robert Lowell's amazing, chilling poem "Children of Light" (which could have been called ("Children of White"). 
Its opening lines represent the best unsentimental epitaph for the myth of Thanksgiving: 
Our fathers wrung their bread from stocks and stones
And fenced their gardens with the Redmen's bones. 
Maybe that's why I have a prejudice against the white-meat sacrament of the holiday that covers up the white man's crimes. 
It's Lowell writing about his pilgrim ancestors who began the rolling genocidal slaughter of those nice Native Americans who made the first Thanksgiving possible. 
The real Thanksgiving story is extremely dark, far darker than any leg and thigh meat. 
Could fear of facing our dark history be behind the prejudice against dark meat? 

No comment.

Notice anything missing?

An op-ed in the NYT:
The Age of the Superfluous Worker 
AMERICA, like other modern countries, has always had some surplus workers — people ready to work but jobless for extended periods because the “job creators,” private and public, have been unable or unwilling to create sufficient jobs. When the number of surplus workers rose sharply, the country also had ways of reducing it. 
However, the current jobless recovery, and the concurrent failure to create enough new jobs, is breeding a new and growing surplus pool. And some in this pool are in danger of becoming superfluous, likely never to work again. 
The currently jobless and the so-called discouraged workers, who have given up looking for work, total about 15 percent of the work force, not including the invisible discouraged workers the government cannot even find to count. ... 
Meanwhile, new ways of increasing surplus labor have appeared. One is the continued outsourcing of jobs to low-wage countries; the other is the continuing computerization and mechanization of manufacturing and of services not requiring hands-on human contact. 
Continuing increases in worker productivity add yet more to the surplus. So does the unwillingness of employers to even consider hiring people who have been unemployed for a long time.

Good points! But, could there possibly be a fifth reason for the increase in surplus labor? I realize that adding roughly 50,000,000 people to the population through immigration policies is totally trivial compared to the four reasons Gans mentions, but I just wanted to toss it out there for completeness sake.
When the jobless recovery ends and the economy is restored to good health, today’s surplus will be reduced. New technology and the products and services that accompany it will create new jobs. But unless the economy itself changes, eventually many of these innovations may be turned over to machines or the jobs may be sent to lower-wage economies.

Not to mention bringing tens of millions of low wage workers to our economy, but it's considered in poor taste to mention that, so forget I ever said it.
In fact, if modern capitalism continues to eliminate as many jobs as it creates — or more jobs than it creates — future recoveries will not only add to the amount of surplus labor but will turn a growing proportion of workers into superfluous ones. 
What could be done to prevent such a future? America will have to finally get serious about preserving and creating jobs — and on a larger, and more lasting, scale than Roosevelt’s New Deal. Private enterprise and government will have to think in terms of industrial policy, and one that emphasizes labor-intensive economic growth and innovation. Reducing class sizes in all public schools to 15 or fewer would require a great many new teachers even as it would raise the quality of education. 
In the long run, reducing working time — perhaps to as low as 30 hours a week, with the lost income made up by unemployment compensation — would lead to a modest increase in jobs, through work sharing. New taxes on income and wealth are unavoidable, as are special taxes on the capital-intensive part of the economy. Policies that are now seemingly utopian will have to be tried as well, and today’s polarized and increasingly corporate-run democracy will have to be turned into a truly representative one.

Maybe this sounds crazy, but we might even try the popular anti-corporatist policy of restricting immigration!

More great moments in 21st Century hyphenated names

A reader sends me a couple of examples from his local newspaper further helping explain why hyphenated surnames are receding from fashion among the educated classes in America:
"Jose Torrez-Gonzales, 28, and Marcos Gomez-Perez, 21, both illegal immigrants from Mexico" were arrested for stabbing a woman to death in a Walmart parking lot.

"A man charged with fatally stabbing a New York woman during an apparent carjacking attempt in a Walmart parking lot has pleaded not guilty.  Luis Rodriguez-Flamenco was arraigned Wednesday in Albion Town Court on a charge of second-degree murder in the death of 45-year-old Kathleen Byham."

The use of a hyphen would appear to be an attempt at assimilation to American norms, since the Spanish tradition is to not use one. For example, actress Helena Bonham Carter, whose maternal grandfather was a Spanish diplomat, doesn't use a hyphen while her distant cousin actor Crispin Bonham-Carter does.

On a more philosophical level than Walmart parking lot stabbings, I would argue that all surname traditions will be inherently unsatisfactory in some sense or another because the reality of sexual reproduction is incompatible with our feelings of individualism and desire to be remembered as an individual. From two-to-the-nth your genes have come, and, if you are lucky, to two-to-the-nth your genes shall return. 

November 24, 2011


Here's a lengthy article by Benoit Denizet-Lewis on problems with the faddishly-popular English bulldogs (the #1 breed in L.A., a factoid that is cited in the article as a self-evidently alarming statistic). 

Back since bull-baiting was outlawed in 1835, English bulldogs have been bred to look like a cartoon of a human baby, with all sorts of unfortunate effects on their health. Back in the bull-baiting days, English bulldogs were vicious beasts, but Victorians quickly bred them for winning personalities. But modern Americans have taken that too far and turned English bulldogs into caricatures of Winston Churchill in senility. 

In general, the 19th Century British were just more effectual at dog breeding than are moderns. I strongly doubt that they had better techniques. They just had better goals. For example, the reporter goes to visit a man who has been breeding a healthier English bulldog for 40 years, but nobody much cares. 

That reminds me that you occasionally read, although less often now than a decade ago, of somebody claiming that genetic engineering of humans will, Real Soon Now, change everything. I pretty much asserted that back in the 1990s. 

Well, maybe, but leaving aside all the technical questions and consider this: humans have near-complete control over dog breeding today, and yet we are lousier at it than a century ago.

The return of patriarchy

I'm reading Charles Murray's 2012 book Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010, about the growth of class divides in America and I think it sheds some light on this NYT article [link fixed] by Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow on the failure of that post-1968 project to have women not take their husbands' names at marriage:
WHEN my parents married in 1977, women’s liberation was in full swing and my mother was a consciousness-raiser. She was about as likely to take my father’s name as she was to sport a veil at the wedding. She would remain Ms. Tuhus. Nine months later, the surname for their new baby (me) was self-evident. My parents yoked their names into a new one: Tuhus-Dubrow....

But this Wave of the Future has washed out to sea:
According to a 2009 study analyzing data from 2004, only 6 percent of native-born American married women had unconventional surnames (meaning they kept their birth names, hyphenated with their husbands’ names, or pulled a Hillary Rodham Clinton). 
I know lots of women, including myself, who kept their birth names at marriage. But according to my anecdotal observations, which others seconded, rates of hyphenation seem to have fallen since my brother and I were born. 
As Ms. Segal-Reichlin said, “At the time I think they thought they were going to be the wave of the future,” but it has not panned out that way. Still, hyphenated names are not entirely a relic of the ’70s, like sideburns and lava lamps: witness the Jolie-Pitts.
Based on my conversations, the verdict on hyphenation was mixed. 
“When I was young I hated it,” said Sarah Schindler-Williams, a 32-year-old lawyer in Philadelphia. “It was long, it never fit in anything. I was always Sarah Schindler-Willi.” 
But most, including Ms. Schindler-Williams, eventually grew to appreciate their cumbersome monikers. Names frequently convey information about their bearers: Weinberg or O’Malley gives you a hint about the person attached to it. But conjoined names, several people mentioned, also say something extra about your parents’ egalitarian values. (Unless you are British; then it means you’re posh.)

Of course, the point of wanting to advertise your parents' egalitarian values is to demonstrate your own hereditary poshness. 

The problem, though, is that egalitarian values, such as a lack of disdain for bastardy, got taken up, in practice, by all the wrong people. 

For example, when reading lists of arrestees in last summer's English riots, I was struck by the many double-barreled surnames. Were Old Etonians running amok, like on Boat Race Night in a Wodehouse novel?

My English readers pointed out, however, that doubled-barreled surnnames in England today are less the mark of friends of Bertie Wooster (e.g., Gussie Fink-Nottle, newt-fancier from deepest Lincolnshire) and more the mark of blacks whose parents didn't marry.

As Murray documents in his new book, the key class divide today centers around marriage and legitimacy. Thus, it's hardly surprising that this innovation has faded out of fashion.

November 23, 2011

Illegitimacy rate fell in 2010

The federal government's National Vital Statistics Report on Births: Preliminary Data for 2010 shows the first decline in the percentage of children born illegitimately in many years. In 2010, 40.8 % of all births in America were to unmarried mothers, down marginally from 41.0% in 2009. 

This is in part due to the sharp fall in total births to Hispanics. The Latino illegitimacy rate still grew from 53.2% to 53.3%, but the Hispanic share of total births declined from 24.2% to 23.6%. The non-Hispanic white illegitimacy rate was stable at 29.0%, while the black rate fell from 72.8% to 72.5% and the Asian rate from 17.2% to 17.0%.

The most penetrating insight into how different classes responded to the impact of the Housing Bubble comes from the opening scene of 2006's Idiocracy, where the married yuppie couple with 138 and 141 IQs explain that they couldn't have a child now, "not with the market the way it is." In contrast, Keynes's animal spirits are running strong in Clevon's trailer park. 

High home prices tended to discourage the prudent from marrying and reproducing, while the the availability of subprime mortgages with short term teaser monthly payments, and the accompany construction boom, encouraged the imprudent to reproduce (if not marry). Further, Bush's artificial boom sucked in large numbers of fertility-minded but not marriage-minded people from south of the border. And as recent research shows, nobody has children faster than newly arrived illegal immigrants. 

The economic downturn has discouraged fertility in general, but most severely among the imprudent. 

November 22, 2011

Hispanic fertility plummeting

Corvinus comments:
The 2010 prelimiary birth rate statistics are now available from the CDC.
They revised the birth rates according to the 2010 Census results. Yet again, 2010 continues a trend of the recent recession and poor economy throwing White America into a briar patch. White Americans recorded 1.80 children/woman in 2010; the rates earlier in the decade were revised UP slightly because the Census found fewer non-Hispanic whites than they expected. 
The formerly high-flying Hispanic birth rate continues to tank, down about 0.5 child/woman since 2007, and is now down to 2.35. The absolute number of births to Hispanic women fell from 1,062,779 in 2007 to 946,000 in 2010; the drop in fertility is therefore real. 

Demographer Emilio A. Parrado argues that Hispanic fertility tends to be concentrated in recent immigrants. I interpret his data as showing that foreigners who can't afford to have as many children as they want in their own countries move to U.S. to have lots of children, which they quickly do.

You often hear these days in discussions of the Coming Hispanic Tsunami that immigration doesn't matter any more, it's the high Hispanic fertility that means that the cake is already baked. But, that's not quite as sophisticated a view as its proponents think. A more subtle insight is that high Hispanic fertility is driven in sizable part by new immigration. The current decline in illegal immigration that appears to have begun with the popping of the subprime bubble in 2007 is significantly lowering overall Hispanic fertility.

Without significant immigration restrictions, however, Hispanic fertility will boom again the next time the economy does well because so many of the births are concentrated among recent illegal immigrants.
The rate for blacks has been tracking whites pretty consistently at about 0.2 child/woman higher since 2002. The recession seems to have hit them marginally in 2008, but quite a bit more in 2010, closely paralleling the loss in government jobs (which started later than those in the private sector, and which is continuing). 
Asian rates have been revised to below whites since 1997 by about 0.1 child/woman, except for 2000 (due to the Chinese calendar, I guess; there was a similar spike in 1988). The recent economic troubles have also hurt their rate more than whites'. 
For American Indians, it's down to 1.4 child/woman, although I don't believe this, since births in Indian-heavy states like the Dakotas and Montana suggest a rate of about 2.1.

Alexander Payne's "The Descendants"

From my movie review in Taki's Magazine:
The Descendants, with George Clooney as a Hawaiian land dynasty’s 1/32nd-Polynesian scion, has fans asking where writer-director Alexander Payne has been since 2004’s Sideways, which dispatched Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church on one last trip to the Santa Ynez wine country. ... In Payne’s new dramedy The Descendants, Clooney plays Matt King, the great-great-great-grandson of a 19th-century Hawaiian princess who, rather than marry her brother in the incestuous royal Hawaiian way, eloped with a Yankee businessman. Her numerous, largely blue-eyed progeny hold in trust 40 undeveloped square miles of lovely Kauai. 
The Descendants had me wondering: Where has Hawaii been since the 1960s? It’s hard to explain to somebody who wasn’t a kid back then just how large the Fiftieth State loomed. For instance, 1966’s top-grossing movie was an adaptation of James Michener’s Hawaii, with Julie Andrews as a New England Congregationalist missionary disembarking in 1820s Honolulu. ... 
Famously, the Protestant preachers came to Hawaii to do good but wound up doing well. They married into the native nobility, then formed an endogamous ruling caste that still controls much of Hawaii’s acreage. 

Read the whole thing there.

Hawaii's social structure is one of the more interesting in America, as Payne noted in an interview. In particular, it's interesting that the ancestry of the old landed gentry tend to be roughly 1/32nd Native Hawaiian aristocrat, 30/32nd Yankee WASP, and 1/32nd miscellaneous. I hadn't realized that Punahou prep school's earliest generations of elites tended to be WASP-Polynesian hybrids. For some reason, that never came up in Dreams from My Father.

Something similar happened in California under Spanish and Mexican rule. Yankee sailors would jump ship in Santa Barbara and Monterey, start businesses, then marry the daughters of Californio landowners. Rich Californios, however, liked to claim to be pure Castilian, which is different from Hawaii.

Similarly, lots of Southern whites claim to be descended from Princess Pocohontas.

Speaking of part-Hawaiian WASP landowners in a Hawaii, the biggest private holding, Parker Ranch on the Big Island, was left to six year old Richard Smart by his 3/4th Hawaiian great-grandfather who had been the last foreign minister of the Queen of Hawaii. He must have been a charming lad to have gotten his great-grandfather to cut most of his uncles and aunts out of the will. Dick Smart grew up to be a charming man, starring in Broadway musicals with Carol Channing and Nanette Fabray. But the gay toast of the great white way was an excellent ranch manager back home in Hawaii, too. He leased his worst agricultural land to Laurance Rockefeller for the landmark Mauna Kea resort on the volcanic Kona Coast.

There are a lot of strange stories like this from Hawaiian history. The Descendants opens a window into this world, but stays a little bland.

Democrat pundit tries to save GOP from terrible fate of winning

In the NYT, liberal commentator Thomas Edsall worries that Republicans aren't following the advice of their wisest and bestest leaders into defeat and irrelevance:
The White Party
In the wake of the 2008 election, conservative Republican strategists like Karl Rove, Grover Norquist and William Kristol warned that their party faced even worse defeats if it continued in its anti-immigrant posturing. 
“An anti-Hispanic attitude is suicidal,” Rove wrote. The decision to “demagogue” the immigration issue was a “totally self-inflicted wound by House Republicans,” Kristol declared. Beating up on immigrants,” Grover Norquist said, “loses you votes.” 
Their advice was rejected. Republicans running for the House and the Senate defiantly calculated that they could win in 2010 with a surge of white voters, affirming the Republican role as the default party of white America. Initially, this approach appeared quixotic. A demographic tidal wave of African-American and Hispanic voters threatened to wash the Republicans out to sea. 
But many Republican candidates — incumbents and challengers — did not budge. They not only held firm in their adamant opposition to immigration reform (despite its crucial importance to many Hispanic voters),

"Crucial" according to various self-proclaimed Hispanic ethnic leaders who, while they may not be very well known to Hispanic voters, always promptly return Thomas B. Edsall's request for a quote validating whatever Thomas B. Edsall wants them to say.
but they also became even more hard-nosed. Former apostates on the issue, like Senator John McCain of Arizona, who had proudly backed immigration reform in 2004 and 2005, saw the light — in other words, read poll data on Republican voters — and moved to the right. 
To use just one particularly egregious example, Senator David Vitter — who admitted that he had “let down and disappointed” family, friends and supporters but refused to answer questions about his connections to prostitutes — used an outspoken anti-immigration ad to win re-election easily in Louisiana.

It's almost as if Rove, Norquist, and Kristol could be wrong!
The decision to carry the banner for conservative white America paid off in the midterm elections — helped enormously, of course, by a dismal economy under a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress, as well as conservative hostility to the administration’s health care program and economic stimulus legislation. 
In 2010, the Republican white strategy was boosted by the fact that minority turnout traditionally drops in non-presidential years, perhaps especially so without Obama on the ballot. But the scope of success went far beyond expectations. 
The percentage of non-Hispanic whites voting for Republican House candidates in 2010, 62 percent, set a record for off-year contests, beating even the 1994 Republican rout when Republicans got 58 percent of the white vote. In presidential elections, you have to go back to the landslide Republican victories of 1972 (Richard Nixon versus George McGovern) and 1984 (Ronald Reagan versus Walter Mondale) to get white Republican margins similar to those of 2010. McGovern and Mondale carried just one state each, Massachusetts and Minnesota respectively. 
Another way of looking at it is this: fully 88.8 percent of all ballots cast in 2010 for House Republicans were cast by whites, compared to 63.9 percent for Democrats. 

The white share of Republican votes is actually slightly lower than in the past. The Big Change is that it's the Democrats that are slowly turning into the Nonwhite Party.
The degree to which the Republican Party has become a white party is also reflected in the composition of primary voters. For example, on March 4, 2008, in Ohio — where non-Hispanic whites are 81.1 percent of the population, blacks 12.2 percent, and Hispanics 3.1 percent — the Republican primary turnout was 97 percent white. Hispanics were 2 percent and the black turnout was so low it was zero percent, statistically speaking. One percent was described as “other.” 
In the Jan. 19, 2008, South Carolina primary, 96 percent of the Republican turnout was white, 2 percent black, 1 percent Latino and 1 percent other. The population of the state is 64.1 percent white, 27.9 percent black and 5.1 percent Hispanic. 
Now, moving toward what has all the markings of a historic ideological and demographic collision on Nov. 6, 2012, Republicans are doubling down on this racially fraught strategy. 
While the subject of race and of the overwhelmingly white Republican primary electorate are never explicitly discussed by Republican candidates, the issue is subsumed in blatant anti-immigration rhetoric. As Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, learned the hard way, voicing sympathy for the plight of the undocumented is a sure way to lose ground.

November 21, 2011

Jordy Nelson

It's in Wikipedia so it's got to be true:
Jordy Nelson is freakin' awesome.

Everybody is amazed that a white guy is tied for the NFL lead in yards per reception. But Jordy Nelson ran a 4.37 40-yard dash at the NFL combine. In contrast, Jerry Rice, the greatest NFL receiver ever, ran a 4.71.

If I had to guess, I would bet that on average whites peak in speed later and then slow up earlier (the latter was Bill James's finding in the 1980s about white vs. black baseball players who appeared to be equally fast as rookies in terms of triples hit, not grounding into double plays, stolen bases and so forth).

I would also guess that with whites, sprinting speed correlates more with a slender build than it does with blacks. On the playground as a kid, the fast white kids tended to be whippets. But then watching sports on TV, there seemed to be less correlation with shape among blacks. Fast blacks could come in unexpected shapes, like 1964 Olympic sprint star Bob Hayes, who went on to a pretty good NFL career as a wide receiver.

But Nelson was always documentably a terrific athlete -- a multi-event state sprint champion in high school track who is tall and strong. He's also the third string quarterback for Green Bay in case Aaron Rogers and his backup get hurt. 

November 20, 2011

Coals to Newcastle

In VDARE this week, I explore some implications of a recent Washington Post article about how public schools in these difficult economic times are responding to the influx of Hispanic students: by paying a lot to hire teachers who can't speak English to teach the kids from Spanish-speaking families how to speak Spanish.

Read the whole thing there.