February 10, 2012

British Breeding

Here's an obituary from The Telegraph in 2010, which I'm putting up here because it sheds some light on issues in earlier postings below. 
Professor Richard Darwin Keynes 
Professor Richard Darwin Keynes, who died on June 12 aged 90, devoted years to the study of the South American adventures of his great-grandfather, Charles Darwin, and achieved scientific eminence in his own right as Professor of Physiology at Cambridge University. 
As a young neurophysiologist, working with Alan Hodgkin, Keynes carried out experiments with radioactive tracers to follow movements of ions in animal nerve fibres. His discovery that sodium ions rush into a nerve cell and potassium ions rush out when the cell is stimulated supported work on the ionic basis of the nerve impulse for which Hodgkin and Andrew Huxley won the Nobel Prize in 1963. Later on Keynes worked out how electric eels project huge electric charges to stun and kill their prey. Jared Diamond recently nominated Hodgkin and Huxley's discovery as his favorite scientific explanation.

Nobel Laureate Andrew Huxley was the grandson of Darwin's Bulldog T.H. Huxley. His half-brothers were the more famous biologist Julian Huxley and the novelist Aldous "Brave New World" Huxley. Andrew's more literary half-brothers were descendants of Thomas Arnold, the reforming Rugby headmaster portrayed in Tom Brown's Schooldays, and related to Thomas's son Matthew Arnold, the famous critic whose 1851 poem "Dover Beach" is kind of the mood music of Darwinism. (Here's a Huxley-Arnold family tree.)
... Richard Darwin Keynes was born on August 14 1919 into two illustrious Cambridge dynasties. His father, Sir Geoffrey Keynes, was a prominent surgeon, bibliophile and younger brother of the economist John Maynard Keynes. His mother, Margaret, was the daughter of Darwin's son, the astronomer and mathematician Sir George Darwin, and sister of the artist Gwen Raverat. 

Three of Charles Darwin's sons were knighted for services to science.

This guy's uncle, J.M. Keynes, was ridiculously smart. Bertrand Russell, who didn't particularly like the economist, complained of:
a certain hard, glittering, inhuman quality in most of his writing. ... Keynes’s intellect was the sharpest and clearest that I have ever known. When I argued with him, I felt that I took my life in my hands, and I seldom emerged without feeling something of a fool. I was sometimes inclined to feel that so much cleverness must be incompatible with depth, but I do not think that this feeling was justified.”

Keynes' sister Margaret married Archibald Hill in 1913, who won the Nobel in Physiology in 1922.

To continue with the obituary:
In 1945 Richard Darwin Keynes married Anne, daughter of Lord Adrian, thereby adding another great Cambridge dynasty to the family DNA. She survives him with three sons. Another son predeceased him.

Edgar Adrian won the 1932 Nobel for Medicine and Physiology.

I wonder if poor Richard Darwin Keynes went through life feeling like a complete flop because he was practically the only man he knew who didn't have a Nobel Prize or launch an ism like Darwinism or Keynesianism? And if he had come up with a whole new and permanently controversial perspective, what would it have been called? His last name and middle name were already taken. I guess it could have been called Richardism. 

38 points for Jeremy Lin

The Taiwanese-American kid from California scored a career high tonight in a win over the L.A. Lakers. He has averaged 28.5 ppg over the last 4 games, on 57% shooting.

Overall, a pretty lousy game for both teams, though. The Laker strategy mostly involved having Kobe shoot fall-away jumpers over double-teams. He made some of them, but we've seen him do that once or twice before, so it's not as interesting as watching Lin play. The Lakers' point guard Derek Fisher is a great guy, the last player remaining in the NBA who played on the famous '71 Knicks squad (if memory serves), but he is getting on in years and can't really keep up anymore with all the Chinese Harvard talent in the NBA these days. Andrew Bynum continues to be a very large person, but he seems less like a Lakers center (Mikan, Wilt, Kareem, Shaq) and more like a Clippers center (Benoit Benjamin, Michael Olowokandi).

Okay, the Lakers did have one interesting play where Kobe got trapped by a double team at the top of the key, and to keep from getting whistled for traveling (assuming traveling is still illegal in the NBA) intentionally slammed the ball off the backboard from 20 feet away. Since nobody on the Knicks had any idea what was going on, Kobe had no trouble grabbing the rebound of his intentional miss at the free throw line, and passing it out to a teammate for a wide open basket.

This concludes my commentary on the 2012 NBA season. See you in 2013!

Why does Britain have so many yobs these days?

Everybody is talking about Charles Murray's book Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010. My review is in the February issue of The American Conservative, where I mention a comparison that isn't getting much talked about: if you think the American white working class is deteriorating, what about their British distant cousins?

When British center-leftists like John Maynard Keynes and William Beveridge were planning the post-war welfare state, they were worried when the eugenics-inspired rules they'd wanted were left out by Parliament at the last moment. Keynes and his friends feared that without eugenicist limitations upon welfare, within a few generations the country would be overrun by chavs. From "How Eugenics Poisoned the Welfare State" in The Spectator in 2009:
A century ago many leading leftists subscribed to the vile pseudo-science of eugenics, writes Dennis Sewell, and the influence of that thinking can still be seen today...
William Beveridge, later to emerge as the midwife of the post-1945 welfare settlement, was also very active in the eugenics movement at this time. Today, Beveridge is generally portrayed as a kindly, avuncular figure, one almost dripping with compassion and benevolence. But his roots were in a particularly hardline strand of eugenics. He argued in 1909 that ‘those men who through general defects are unable to fill such a whole place in industry, are to be recognised as “unemployable”. They must become the acknowledged dependents of the State... but with complete and permanent loss of all citizen rights — including not only the franchise but civil freedom and fatherhood.’ And that, except for the loss of fatherhood, has effectively been his legacy.  
Eugenics was no quickly passing fad. The Eugenics Society reached its peak, in terms of membership, during the 1930s, and the cusp of the following decade saw the zenith of its prestige. The economist John Maynard Keynes served on the society’s governing council and was its director from 1937 to 1944. Once again, this was no casual hobby. As late as 1946 Keynes was still describing eugenics as ‘the most important and significant branch of sociology’.

The most likely reason Keynes stopped giving pro-eugenics speeches after 1946 was because he was dead.
Working alongside Keynes at this time as the editor of Eugenics Review was Richard Titmuss, soon afterwards to become an influential professor at the London School of Economics working on social policy, and who would ultimately be dubbed ‘the high priest of the welfare state’.  
It was during the late 1930s that much of the detailed planning for the welfare state was carried out. And a good deal of it was undertaken at meetings of the Eugenics Society. On the evening that the House of Commons met to debate the Beveridge Report, Beveridge himself went off to address an audience of eugenicists at the Mansion House. He knew he was in for a rough ride. His scheme of family allowances had originally been devised within the Eugenics Society with a graduated rate, which paid out more to middle-class parents and very little to the poor. The whole point was to combat the eugenicists’ great bugbear — the differential birth rate between the classes. However, the government that day had announced a uniform rate. Beveridge was sympathetic to the complaints of his audience and hinted that a multi-rate system might well be introduced at a later date.

Of course, today we all know that welfare couldn't have dysgenic and/or dyscultural effects. In fact, Science tells us that welfare state Britain couldn't possibly wind up after a few generations with lots of anti-intellectual yobs who think that studying is only for toffs and poofters, that toffs are poofters. How pseudoScientific Keynes was! He must have been a poofter toff himself to be so pseudoScientific.

In further fact, we all know from reading nice people like Paul Krugman who worship Keynes that Keynes and his friends were nice people too and couldn't possibly have ever had such thoughts. Keynes' head would have exploded from the not-niceness if this idea had ever even occurred to him.

Is the white-black cognitive / achievement gap smaller in the U.K.?


Chuck at Occidentalist assembles a bunch of test reports, here and here. It's not as well-studied of a subject as it is in the U.S., so it's hard to make sense of all the data, but most point toward the white-black gap in the U.K. being well under a standard deviation.

I haven't seen a good meta-analyses by a British researcher who knows the ins and outs of all these acronyms like GCSE. (For example, a few years ago a British researcher slipped up on writing about regional differences in performance on the SAT in the U.S. because he didn't know that only the most ambitious students in the Midwest take the SAT instead of the ACT -- so what pitfalls await American kibbitzers among British test scores?) But most of the data seems to suggest a smaller cognitive and/or achievement gap in the U.K. than in the U.S.

It has been apparent for some time now (see this post at Racial Reality) that in Britain, the lads are not all right. In the U.S., we've become familiar with gender gaps on school achievement tests favoring black and Hispanic girls over their brothers, but we see less of this among whites and Asians. This is among the better evidence that culture -- fear of being put down by your co-ethnics for Acting White, etc. -- is depressing NAM performance. 

On a lot of tests, in Britain, there's even a bigger gender gap favoring the distaff side, but it seems to go across all ethnicities, even Chinese. We see weird things like girls whose parents are from Africa outscoring white boys and maybe even East Asian boys on some tests. 

As I pointed out in a couple of articles in 2005, class is the big divide in Britain rather than race. "Class" is a 1500-year-long project to civilize the Conan the Barbarian warlords who inundated the Roman Empire to act like "gentlemen." By the late 20th Century, all that politeness, all that studying, all that self-discipline, was striking young males of the lower classes as pretty gay. Thus, chavism. 

In contrast, there isn't all that much of an oppositional culture among blacks in Britain, since assimilating into the white working class isn't terribly hard: You like 'aving a pint while watching footie on the telly, too? The proportion of mixed race children appears much larger than in the U.S. As historian David Starkey pointed out during the English looting last summer, that blacks were in the lead, but whites were right behind in the looting -- something you don't see in the U.S much at all.

Moreover, blacks in Britain are of immigrant origin: West Indian and African, with the Africans doing better on tests, typically. Some not insignificant fraction of Africans in Britain were brain-drained from Anglophone ex-colonies to work in National Health as nurses and doctors. In the U.S., West Indians and African immigrants tend to outperform native blacks. The Bell Curve found that in the NLSY79 longitudinal study, blacks who were immigrants or the children of immigrants outscored native African-Americans by an average of 5 IQ points. 

But, those are just a few speculations. It's an interesting question that, as far as I know, hasn't been studied terribly systematically.

Update: lots of good stuff in the comments from people who know more about what they are talking about when it comes to Britain than I know.

February 9, 2012

Updated: How to make a grown cop cry

Have you ever noticed how many policemen and firemen will stand up in court and swear that they, personally, are the world's biggest wimps when it comes to suffering endless horrors from psychologically "hostile work environments" down at the station? They make associate feminist studies professors seem stoic. Mostly, of course, it's black cops and firefighters looking for 7-figure payoffs as victims of discrimination, but whites are getting into the act, too. [A reader sends me a new story from Buffalo about white firemen getting $2.7 million for "emotional distress" in a Ricci-style case. I've added it below.]

From the San Francisco Chronicle:
Bizarre behavior recounted in Richmond racism suit 
by Kevin Fagan 
Between tales of one police captain dropping to all fours to yell "don't beat me" and black and white commanders angrily proclaiming they were being discriminated against, jurors got a stark depiction Thursday of a Richmond Police Department consumed with racial tensions in 2006 when Chris Magnus took over as chief. 
The revelations came as Magnus spent a second day testifying in a Contra Costa County Superior Court trial over a lawsuit claiming he had discriminated against seven high-ranking black officers. 
Plaintiffs' attorney Stephen Jaffe tried to make Magnus look like a disconnected leader who revealed racist bents in quips and favoritism, while the chief attempted to portray himself as working to dispel racial tensions that he found when he took the job. 
One of the most bizarre moments came when Magnus described an incident in which then-Capt. Cleveland Brown,

Was his dad a football fan? Isn't "Cleveland Brown" a character on Family Guy?
one of the commanders suing him, came into his office to complain that he didn't want then-Capt. Lori Ritter to become deputy chief.
Magnus said Brown had told him he thought Ritter - who, like Magnus, is white and a defendant in the trial - was a racist, and then had pantomimed his displeasure. 
"I remember him getting down on all fours and raising up his arms and saying, 'Don't beat me, Miss Lori!' " Magnus said. "It was kind of hard to tell if he was joking or if he was acting out a story. 
"I was floored by it," the chief told the jury. However, he added, "that was pretty typical for Cleveland. He was very animated, very loud, very extreme." 
He also said Brown had told him that "an African American captain shouldn't have to work for a white female." 
In their lawsuit, the black commanders contend it was Magnus who made racist remarks, telling plaintiff Lt. Arnold Threets to imagine Ritter standing over Brown, cracking a whip and telling him to dance. 
After the exchange with Brown a few months after Magnus took the job, the chief made Ritter his deputy. He later demoted Brown to lieutenant. 
Magnus also described a hellish staff retreat in Napa nine months into his job, in which he tried to get black and white commanders to discuss racial tensions and cliques in the department.

Napa Valley sure can be hellish. I heard there's this one resort in Napa that once served a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon at 72 degrees, because it thought that "room temperature" means room temperature in a modern American building not room temperature in a drafty old French chateau.
Instead, he said, Brown and others remained hostile and said they didn't want to cooperate with his new, community-minded policing style. 
The chief said he was "upset" by the tenor of the retreat and told his officers that "if you want to engage in bias, engage in cliques, then you need to work somewhere else, or I will make your life a living hell." 
The suing commanders have contended that such statements created a racially hostile workplace.

More from The Cleveland Brown Show ... Richmond Confidential reports
Lt. Cleveland Brown testified that he never heard the Richmond police chief or deputy chief use racial slurs, but that they made remarks that were offensive to African Americans. 
Former Deputy Chief Lori Ritter “told me to tap dance,” Brown said from the witness stand. “That is racially offensive.” ...
As the defense team has during cross examination of all the plaintiffs, Spellberg delved into the allegations that Magnus made racially-insensitive comments about Juneteenth, the holiday commemorating the announcement of the abolition of slavery. 
Brown testified that Magnus asked whether Juneteenth was a “holiday for killing people” during a 2006 deployment strategy meeting with several African American police leaders. 
Brown said he did not express umbrage at the comment, but interjected to briefly explain what the holiday is and what it celebrates. Another officer wasn’t so diplomatic. 
“Lt. Ricky Clark said ‘There goes a lawsuit,” Brown testified.

While it's emotionally grueling to be a black cop in Northern California, it's emotionally distressing to be a white fireman in Buffalo, NY:
Twelve white Buffalo firefighters will get an average of $230,430 each in back pay, pension benefits and damages -- a total of almost $2.77 million -- for emotional distress because the City of Buffalo illegally passed them over for promotions, a state judge has ruled. 
The 12 men sued the city in 2007, contending that the city illegally allowed two promotional lists to expire because minority firefighters had fared poorly on civil service exams. 
The case was affected by a 2009 U.S. Supreme Court decision that said city officials cannot void the results of civil service exams simply because they are afraid of being sued. 
The ruling on damages came 15 months after State Supreme Court Justice John A. Michalek ruled that the city illegally failed to promote based on its 2005 and 2006 tests for racial reasons. 
... Margerum was awarded $30,000 for "emotional damages," and Fahey was awarded $25,000. Each of the other firefighters got $20,000 for that. 
Depending on his years of service and individual situation, each firefighter also was awarded between $49,859 and $528,706 in "general damages." 
... According to Fleming, being passed over for promotions that they had earned was a "nightmare" that caused years of anguish for many of his clients. ... 
Fahey said the case pointed to "the true nature of reverse discrimination: When it happens to blacks, everybody is correctly upset about it, but when it happens to whites, nobody cares." 
In Michalek's ruling, he said some of the firefighters suffered from emotional distress, depression and self-medication issues. The judge wrote that some of the firefighters lost their enthusiasm for their jobs and became "bitter and cynical" because they felt they had legitimately earned promotions but were illegally passed over.

Not getting the joke ...

As I was saying about David Brooks' recent "Flood the Zone" column, much of what appears in the New York Times these days is a lot funnier and makes more sense if you read it as if it were a parody that I had written. For example, this op-ed is full of facts straight from the pages of iSteve but processed through a terminally SWPLest mindset. If you read it as a covert anti-illegal immigration essay, it makes a lot more sense.
Designing a Fix for Housing 
RECENT efforts to fix the housing market — including Thursday’s $26 billion settlement with five of the nation’s biggest banks — have focused purely on the financial aspects of the slump. A permanent solution, however, must go further than money to address issues that have been at the core of the crisis but have been wholly ignored: design and urban planning.
... Take Cicero, Ill., a Chicago suburb that we studied as part of a new exhibition on the housing crisis at the Museum of Modern Art. The town may be infamous as the base of Al Capone or the site of anti-integration protests in the 1950s and ’60s, but today 80 percent of its residents are Latino, half of them foreign born. 
Cicero is representative of a suburban transformation that went little noticed during the housing bubble and bust: suburbs have replaced inner cities as the destination of choice for new immigrants. 
Indeed, nearly half of all Hispanics now live in suburbs, and new arrivals favor them over cities by two to one. Immigrants are one reason the number of suburban poor climbed 25 percent nationwide between 2000 and 2008. They’re also why Cicero was hit so hard by the housing crisis, with 2,049 foreclosures in 2009 alone — the second highest in Illinois, after Chicago. 
Here’s where design comes in. Most of Cicero’s housing is detached, single-family homes. But these are too expensive for many immigrants, so five or six families often squeeze into one of Cicero’s brick bungalows. This creates unstable financial situations, neighborhood tensions and falling real estate values. 
Too often, we see such mismatches as a purely financial issue. But instead of forcing families to fit into a house, what if we rearranged the house to fit them? 
This doesn’t mean bulldozing Cicero’s housing stock. Instead, it means using existing, underused properties that might be renovated to provide a better fit. In Cicero’s case, that might mean turning to the scores of abandoned factories around it. 
Such buildings are often no man’s lands thanks to fears of industrial contamination, which have left older suburbs pockmarked by blight while jobs and homes sprawl outward. But new techniques like “phytoremediation” — using plants like poplar and willow trees to absorb toxins — open the door to safer, less-expensive rehabilitation. 
What remains is a wealth of steel, masonry and concrete that could be recycled into flexible live/work units. Rather than force Cicero’s residents to contort themselves to fit the bungalows, their homes can expand or shrink to fit them. 
There’s one problem with such a plan: it’s illegal under Cicero’s zoning code. The town’s rules are typical of most suburbs, including the segregation of residential, commercial and industrial facilities; prohibitions on expanding and reusing buildings for new homes and businesses; and tight restrictions on mixed-use properties. Cicero’s code also defines “family” in a way that excludes the large, multigenerational groupings now common across the country. 
... But new housing forms also demand new types of financing. Starting in the 1990s, subprime lenders targeted low-income and minority suburbs like Cicero, even when many residents would have qualified for prime loans. Latino homeowners tend to disproportionately invest savings in their homes, and as a result they lost two-thirds of their wealth between 2005 and 2009. 
Jeanne Gang and Greg Lindsay are, respectively, an architect and a visiting scholar at the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management at New York University.

If Cicero is full of abandoned factories, why does Cicero need more immigrants to not work in them? If five or six immigrant families crowded into a single Cicero bungalow can't generate enough income to pay back the mortgage, is "design" really the big problem here?

Coming next? Perhaps Tyler Cowen will revive his call for America to be covered by vast Latin American shantytowns because they are so creatively vibrant.

Maybe we've got this whole Neanderthal thing backwards

Neanderthals are popularly associated with brutishness, so it was interesting when anthropologist John Hawks wondered what current population, subnational-level, apparently has the most Neanderthal ancestry. 

Try to guess. Answer after the break.


We all know that Prohibition was the worst idea of all time, but some Indian tribes disagree, and with good reason. Like most aboriginal peoples who weren't exposed to alcohol until the last few hundred years, they haven't had time yet for evolution to develop genetic defenses against the effects of firewater. (Along those line, in the Book of Genesis, you can read about early scandals caused by the Patriarchs Noah and Lot getting falling down drunk, but alcoholism seems to have become less of a problem as the Bible goes on.)

So, some American Indian tribes try to keep alcohol off their reservations. For example, in 2001 I played golf on the lovely Barona Creek course on Barona Nation land northwest of San Diego. When we were done, our foursome stopped to get a beer in the clubhouse, but only non-alcoholic beers were for sale. Then I wandered through the adjoining casino, which also was Dry. That's impressive: keeping gamblers sloshed is standard operating procedure in most casinos, but the Barona Indians apparently were so averse to having liquor on their reservation that they passed up this sizable revenue source. The other Indian casino I've been to, San Miguel in San Bernardino, had small bars inside the casino, but the casino didn't seem to push drinking much. I bought a beer and the bartender talked my ear off for five minutes because he was bored and I had been his only customer for about a half hour.

The huge Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota is officially Dry, I believe, but right over the reservation / state border in Nebraska a few yards away are giant white-owned liquor stores with inebriated Indians from the reservation lying around all over the place dead drunk. From the AP:
LINCOLN, Nebraska — An American Indian tribe sued some of the world's largest beer makers Thursday, claiming they knowingly contributed to devastating alcohol-related problems on South Dakota's Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. 
The Oglala Sioux Tribe of South Dakota said it is demanding $500 million in damages for the cost of health care, social services and child rehabilitation caused by chronic alcoholism on the reservation, where alcohol is banned. 
The lawsuit names Anheuser-Busch InBev Worldwide, SAB Miller, Molson Coors Brewing Company, MIllerCoors LLC and Pabst Brewing Company as defendants. 
The lawsuit says one in four children born on the reservation suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. The average life expectancy is estimated between 45 and 52 years, the shortest in North America except for Haiti, according to the lawsuit. The average American life expectancy is 77.5 years. 
The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court of Nebraska also targets four offsite beer stores in Whiteclay, a Nebraska town that despite having only about a dozen residents sold nearly 5 million cans of beer in 2010. Most of its customers come from the reservation on the town's border.
Leaders of the tribe blame the Whiteclay businesses for bootlegging on the reservation. The lawsuit alleges that the beer makers supplied the stores with "volumes of beer far in excess of an amount that could be sold in compliance with the laws of the state of Nebraska" and the tribe.

I don't know about the legal case, but I think the tribe has a strong moral case that these liquor stores should be shut down.

Great moments in neocon strategizing: Bomb Paraguay!

From an old Newsweek article:
Days after 9/11, a senior Pentagon official lamented the lack of good targets in Afghanistan and proposed instead U.S. military attacks in South America or Southeast Asia as "a surprise to the terrorists," according to a footnote in the recent 9/11 Commission Report. The unsigned top-secret memo, which the panel's report said appears to have been written by Defense Under Secretary Douglas Feith, is one of several Pentagon documents uncovered by the commission which advance unorthodox ideas for the war on terror. The memo suggested "hitting targets outside the Middle East in the initial offensive" or a "non-Al Qaeda target like Iraq," the panel's report states. U.S. attacks in Latin America and Southeast Asia were portrayed as a way to catch the terrorists off guard when they were expecting an assault on Afghanistan. 
The memo's content, NEWSWEEK has learned, was in part the product of ideas from a two-man secret Pentagon intelligence unit appointed by Feith after 9/11: veteran defense analyst Michael Maloof and Mideast expert David Wurmser, now a top foreign-policy aide to Dick Cheney. Maloof and Wurmser saw links between international terror groups that the CIA and other intelligence agencies dismissed. They argued that an attack on terrorists in South America—for example, a remote region on the border of Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil where intelligence reports said Iranian-backed Hizbullah had a presence—would have ripple effects on other terrorist operations. The proposals were floated to top foreign-policy advisers. But White House officials stress they were regarded warily and never adopted.

As far as I can tell, there's no grand, carefully plotted, centrally controlled neocon conspiracy. There is just a small, somewhat loose network of energetic and overly excitable intellectuals who continue to have far more influence than their track record would suggest they deserve, and far more immunity from criticism of their network and their tendencies than is wise. They have a number of tendencies -- a love of international Rube Goldberg schemes; a love of conspiracy theorizing; dual loyalties; a strong willingness to play the anti-Semitism card to bully skeptics into silence; an aversion to leave well enough alone, to let sleeping dogs lie, and to try to fix things that aren't all that broken; an unhealthy love of violence in the abstract; and so forth. Not all of the neocons share all these tendencies, but there is plenty of overlap. And these problems generally get worse over time, because not only are they backed by powerful and wealthy interests so that they don't suffer much from their world-historical screw-ups like pushing the Iraq Attaq, but they aren't even exposed much to more than piecemeal criticism.

Let me go back to an incident I blogged about in 2005:

You may recall that prominent neocon Francis "End of History" Fukuyama jumped ship awhile ago and criticized Charles Krauthammer in The National Interest for his lack of realism about the Iraq War. Krauthammer responded, predictably, by playing the anti-Semitism card. Here is part of Fukuyama's rebuttal:
"Krauthammer says I have a "novel way of Judaizing neoconservatism", and that my argument is a more "implicit and subtle" version of things said by Pat Buchanan and Mahathir Mohamad. Since he thinks the latter two are anti-Semites, he is clearly implying that I am one as well. If he really thinks this is so, he should say that openly."

A little late, perhaps, Francis? "First they came for Pat Buchanan, but I was not Pat Buchanan, so I said nothing. Then they came ...". But better late than never. Fukuyama continues:
"What I said in my critique of [Krauthammer's] speech was, of course, quite different. I said that there was a very coherent set of strategic ideas that have come out of Israel's experience dealing with the Arabs and the world community, having to do with threat perception, preemption, the relative balance of carrots and sticks to be used in dealing with the Arabs, the United Nations, and the like. Anyone who has dealt with the Arab-Israeli conflict understands these ideas, and many people (myself included) believe that they were well suited to Israel's actual situation. You do not have to he Jewish to understand or adopt these ideas as your own, which is why people like Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld share them. And it is not so hard to understand how one's experience of Arab-Israeli politics can come to color one's broader view of the world: The 1975 "Zionism is racism" resolution deeply discredited the UN, in the eyes of Jews and non-Jews alike, on issues having nothing to do with the Middle East. This is not about Judaism; it is about ideas. It would be quite disingenuous of Charles Krauthammer to assert that his view of how Israel needs to deal with the Arabs (that is, the testicular route to hearts and minds) has no impact on the way he thinks the United States should deal with them. And it is perfectly legitimate to ask whether this is the best way for the United States to proceed."

Well said. America's foreign policy blunders since early 2002 have less to do with the fact that so many highly influential people in Washington and New York, like Krauthammer, think about Israel and its welfare all the time, as to the fact that it has become extremely dangerous to one's career to point out that they do. People like Feith and Krauthammer like to believe deep down that are tough sabras, who would do whatever it takes. Feith wasn't acting on orders from Tel Aviv, he was fantasizing about what his Israeli heroes would have done. Similarly, Krauthammer wasn't acting on orders from Ariel Sharon when be demanded America invade Iraq. Sharon was a smart, fairly realistic guy. Iraq was way down the list of countries he'd like America to attack. The Iraq Attaq was something neocons dreamed up themselves and the Israelis said, in effect, "Iraq? Well, okay, sure, go for it if that's what you want to do."

As Gene Expression blogged:
And I'm sorry, but ethnicity will and should legitimately be a topic brought up in the ensuing debate. Consider an analogy. Suppose that Wolfowitz, Perle, Shulsky, Feith, Ledeen, and all the rest were South Asian Americans rather than Jewish Americans and had names like Ramachandran, Patel, and Choudhury. Again they'd be selected from a highly educated group that was less than 2% of society (there are about 2 to 3 million South Asian Americans, about 1/2 to 1/3 the number of American Jews depending on how you count).
Now suppose they were pushing the US to invade Pakistan, and talking about how the Islamic terrorists killing Indian citizens in Kashmir were the same ones bombing the US on 9/11. Assume that they did this whilst having relatives, extended families, and significant contacts in India. 
Now, their arguments would not - and should not - be dismissed out of hand. After all, it is probably more accurate to say that Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and the ISI are/were more closely involved in Muslim terrorism in Kashmir than they are with anti-Israeli terrorism in Palestine. (As far as I know, Al Qaeda has never directly attacked Israel.) 
But while their arguments would not be dismissed out of hand, clearly their visible ethnicity would figure into the debate. Plenty of people would take their opinions with a grain of salt, knowing that humans tend to be ethnocentric on the population level if not the individual level. It would be scurrilous to dismiss their arguments simply because they were of Indian ancestry, especially if they were born in America. But it would be foolish to think their ethnicity wasn't impacting any of their arguments, and to rule out mention of their ethnicity as "anti-Subcontinental."

What we need, now more than ever, is free discussion. Policing the "bounds of public discourse" helped get us into Iraq.

February 8, 2012

The Big Money behind Rick Santorum

Back in 1993, President Carlos Salinas of Mexico held a private dinner for Carlos Slim and 29 other rich Mexicans to whom he had sold various government monopolies. They all knew he was going to ask for campaign contributions to the ruling PRI party's 1994 presidential run, but Salinas's request for 25 million from each was kind of startling. 750 million is a lot of pesos, some grumbled. The president of Mexico replied that he wasn't demanding 750 million pesos from his guests, he was demanding 750 million dollars.

From the NYT:
A Wealthy Backer Likes the Odds on Santorum 
Many more Republicans are taking Mr. Santorum seriously now, thanks to his victories in Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado on Tuesday — and perhaps none more than Mr. Romney, for whom Mr. Santorum’s unexpected rise poses another threat from the right. 
Few people played a more pivotal role in Tuesday’s turn of events than Mr. [Foster] Friess.

Is this guy named after the old Foster Freeze ice creams stands? Maybe he was conceived in the parking lot out back of one ... (No, it turns out that Mr. Friess is a few years older than the California chain.)
An investor who made millions in mutual funds and now lives in Wyoming, he is the chief backer of a “super PAC” that has helped keep Mr. Santorum’s candidacy alive by running television advertisements on his behalf. 
His role as outside funder — one that Mr. Friess indicated he would continue to play in the contests ahead — escalates the battle among a few dozen wealthy Republicans to influence their party’s choice of a presidential nominee. 
They are exploiting changes to campaign laws and regulations that have allowed wealthy individuals and businesses to pool unlimited contributions into super PACs that in turn have inundated the airwaves with negative advertisements. 
Mr. Friess’s chosen outlet, called the Red, White and Blue Fund, provided critical support for Mr. Santorum as he successfully sought to resuscitate his campaign with victories in Tuesday’s contests. At a time when Mr. Santorum could not afford to pay for a single commercial of his own, the Red, White and Blue Fund focused in particular on Minnesota, where the super PAC supporting Mr. Romney, Restore Our Future, broadcast a last-minute blitz of advertising against him, according to an analysis from Kantar Media/CMAG. 

This is all fascinating, but I'm most interested in how much Foster Friess has put up. America in 2012 is a lot richer than Mexico in 1993, so it's got to be a big number, right?
But Mr. Friess’s help could prove even more vital in the weeks ahead, as Mr. Santorum tries to capitalize on his upset victories on Tuesday to mount a more assertive challenge to Mr. Romney and to Newt Gingrich, who has an even more deep-pocketed supporter in the billionaire casino executive Sheldon Adelson, one of the richest men in country.

Okay, swell, but enough foreplay. Tell us how much?
... He is relatively rare among the major backers of super PACs for his close association with the religious conservative movement. His Web site quotes Scripture, and he often says that God is “the chairman of my board.” 
He is also rare for his willingness to speak openly about his political giving, a break from Mr. Adelson, who has not spoken publicly about his donations of $10 million, with his wife, to the super PAC supporting Mr. Gingrich.....

Show me the money number!
Campaign filings show that Mr. Friess has given the Red, White and Blue Fund more than 40 percent of its financing as of Dec. 31, or $331,000. He said he had subsequently given more. But he would not say how much, or how much more he may give in the future, joking, “If my wife finds out how much I put into the campaign and Santorum doesn’t win, you’re basically talking suicide.” 
And he played down the significance of his giving, crediting Mr. Santorum with his own victories and noting that another donor — whom he would not name — had chipped in $1 million to the fund and was talking about giving more as of Wednesday morning.
Asked what compelled him to give so much, he said: “No. 1, I think of all the guys that strap a gun on their backs and head to Afghanistan and Iraq to keep us free and safe and maintain what America has stood for. If I put up a million bucks or whatever, it doesn’t seem like much of a sacrifice.”

Microsoft spent $700 million on marketing the introduction of Windows 95. Today, a million dollars would get you about 8 seconds of Super Bowl commercial airtime.

From Wikipedia on Phil Knight, founder of Nike, which spends approaching $2.5 billion on advertising annually:
He is believed to have contributed approximately $230 million to the University of Oregon, the majority of which was for athletics. On August 18, 2007, Knight announced that he and his wife, Penny, would be donating an additional $100 million to the University of Oregon Athletics Legacy Fund. This donation is reportedly the largest in the University's history. 
His significant contributions have granted him influence and access atypical of an athletic booster. In addition to having the best seats in the stadium for all University or Oregon athletic event, he has his own locker in the football team's locker room.

So, I'm reading that as Phil Knight giving a minimum of $215 million to U. of Oregon sports teams, primarily the football team, which made the BCS Bowl a year ago. Granted, that's over a long number of years. Still, $215 million seems like a lot compared to what it apparently takes to get your boy into the hunt for a major party Presidential nomination. Sure, there are lots of rules limiting political contributions, but there are lots of rules limiting amateur athletics, too, and that doesn't seem to stop the Phil Knights and T. Boone Pickens from spending hundreds of millions to win at college football. And from a hardheaded return-on-investment point of view, surely having your own President has to be more profitable than having your own locker in the football team's locker room.

The only conclusion I can draw is that a lot of rich American businessmen just care about college football more than they care about politics or political power. Overall, I guess that's a good thing.

The Neocons' Ultimate Enemy

Back to the well for one more college football analogy ...

Charles Krauthammer and some guy who used to run Mossad have been trumpeting in the Washington Post and the New York Times, respectively, how crucial it is for the U.S. to overthrow the Alawite minority regime in Syria in order to throw a spanner in the works of the Iranian juggernaut, which would be good for America, the whole world, and all intelligent life forms in the galaxy (plus Israel).

But would regime change in Syria bringing the Sunni majority to power actually be good for Israel?

Now, the Assad dynasty in Syria are from the weird quasi-Shi'ite (and perhaps crypto-Christian) Alawite sect. Being surrounded, both in their own country and in the Arab world, by Sunnis, the Assads have taken multiple steps to stay in power and keep their necks attached to their heads: they run a nasty secular Baathist police state, they insist that Alawites are Shi'ites, they've formed an alliance with the Shi'ites in Iran, they've transformed Alawite worship into an imitation of Sunni orthodoxy, and they tried to get some kind of secret nuclear facility, which the Israelis blew up in '07 in an incident that neither side wants to talk about.

They got beat by Israel in '67 and '73, losing the well-watered Golan Heights, and have since maintained a hostile but largely quiescent posture toward the dominant Israelis ever since. They know Israel can crush them like a bug, and so they try not to provoke Israel, and don't let anybody within their police state provoke them either. All in all, not as good a neighbor for Israel as Egypt was under Mubarak, but things could be a lot worse for Israel. Syria has been less trouble for Israel for the last 38 years than, say, chaotic Lebanon.

As a weak minority-run regime concerned only with staying in power at home and out of favor with other Arab regimes for sectarian reasons, Syria has hardly been one to make a lot of trouble for the regional superpower. But, unlike Lebanon, the Syrian regime has been strong enough to keep aggrieved locals from firing missiles into Israel, which would provoke Israel to come smash up the Assad family's shiny military weapons that it uses to keep the Sunnis down. 

Now, with the overthrow of Mubarak's secular regime and the rise of democratic ideology in Egypt, which, not surprisingly, has turned out to mean the rise of Sunni fundamentalists, why would Krauthammer and Mr. Mossad want to risk the rise of another Sunni regime on the opposite direction of Israel's suddenly worrisome border with Egypt? As you may recall if you were a stamp collector as a kid, back in Nasser's day in the 1960s, Egypt and Syria were briefly united into one country called the United Arab Republic. Not surprisingly, that didn't last long, but it was more worrisome for Israel than Syria being on the outs with the Sunni Arabs. Compared to Syria being allied against Israel with Egypt, Syria being allied against Israel with far-off Iran is a piece of cake for Israel. Moreover, the main complaint Israel has had against Syria is being a conduit for weapons for anti-Israeli forces in Lebanon and the West Bank, but we've seen the Arab Spring in Egypt bring more enthusiasm in Egypt for helping Gaza Strippers get missiles to fire off in the general direction of Israel, so it's not clear that bringing the majority to power in Syria will help even with that.

So, why can't the neocons leave well enough alone? Why the urge to meddle, to play the great game even when the risks for Israel seemingly outweigh the rewards? 

Because that's what neocons do. It's like asking a college football fan if they want their team to go to a bowl game. Of course they do! They want more action, they want something to look forward to. 

For example, my neighbor gave me a ticket to a UCLA game at the Rose Bowl last fall. It was immediately obvious that the Bruins were a terrible football team. They fumbled the ball, they had a hard time getting plays off before the clock ran out, their defensive backs fell down a lot: just a bad team. But that night, everything happened to bounce right for them and they somehow beat a much better Arizona St. team by a point. 

This was very exciting to Bruins fans because it put the team in position to go to not one but two postseason games. Now, rational bystanders might have said, "Oh, no, please, dear God, don't make UCLA play any extra games this season. Twelve is enough." 

But that's not how college football fans think. They want their team to keep playing. Since USC, which then beat UCLA 50-0, was ineligible for the post-season for flagrant USCishness, UCLA wound up in the Pac-12 championship against Phil Knight of Nike's Oregon, where they only lost by about 20. And then, their 6-7 record somehow or other got them into the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl against another woeful team. And they lost, which made them the first 6-8 team in the history of college football. Woo-hoo.

Because UCLA qualified for two additional games, probably one or two players got seriously injured and, no doubt, a few flunked classes because they had to practice rather than study. But, from the perspective of the general welfare of the human race, war games like football are an improvement over war. A few crippling injuries and some concussions are a pretty small price to pay to give us non-lethal outlets for male combativeness.

Much like college football fans, just vastly more expensively in terms of lives and money (as the absurd Iraq Attaq demonstrated), for the neocons, banging the war drums and scheming, no matter how stupidly, are all part of the fun of being an Israel fan. 

For neocons in 2012, the true foe is not Iran or Syria or whomever. 

Their ultimate enemy is boredom.

Gays over blacks, Part XIV

A recent trend is prominent blacks like Kobe Bryant getting in trouble over remarks insensitive to gays. For example, somebody named Roland Martin just got suspended from doing something or other at CNN because he jokingly tweeted after watching a Super Bowl ad:
If a dude at your Super Bowl party is hyped about David Beckham’s H&M underwear ad, smack the ish out of him! #superbowl

I don't think this trend is just because gays are more politically organized now and their activists are looking around for something to keep them employed in the Public Indignation business after their inevitable total triumph with gay marriage. I think it reflects a more general impatience with stereotypical black behavior. A lot of straight white people are happy to seize upon a different Official Victim Group as a club to justify finally upbraiding blacks to not be such knuckleheads. 

It's like how a lot of white people were disappointed when Jesse Jackson somewhat shifted from the 1970s to the 1980s from advocating more that blacks clean up their act to shaking down whites. But you weren't supposed to say that, so a lot of white people got very worked up over Jackson once using in conversation the term "H*****town." Unlike whites in general, Jews are an Official Victim Group, so this single word was the biggest loophole in his Civil Rights / MLK's Bloody Shirt armor.

Some gay black could probably make a lot of money by becoming the media's go-to guy for urging blacks to behave in more civilized fashions -- maybe Lee Daniels, the gay black director of the movie Precious?

February 7, 2012

David Brooks' Self-Parody: "Flood the Zone" (A.K.A., Drain the Treasury)

Jodi Kantor notes in The Obamas that David Brooks of the New York Times is "the President's favorite pundit." In turn, I've been told on extremely good authority that Brooks is a regular reader of me. Being a covert member of the Steveosphere makes Brooks perhaps the most interesting conventional wisdom columnist, but also creates a lot of stress for the poor man. After such knowledge, what forgiveness? How do you triangulate your way to something that Obama will nod complacently over without totally boring yourself? How do you stay on TV, mouthing 21st Century platitudes, while knowing that a few people know you know?

This tension usually manifests itself in a couple of columns per year that only make sense under the supposition that I represent the conventional wisdom and that he's the man with challenging new ideas as he tries to dream up new epicycles to refute my Occamite slashes.

But then there's his new NYT column "Flood the Zone," the purpose of which is to eventually get around to gently criticizing Obama for his health insurance contraception stand. But, first, he feels he has to provide air cover for himself by trotting out all the shibboleths of 21st Century conventional wisdom.  

And that part is just brutal self-parody, presumably driven by a certain amount of self-loathing. No, I didn't write this, but if you read it as if I wrote it as a vicious satire on Brooks, it's quite funny. So, there's no need for me to respond to it. It's self-detonating:
The essential truth about poverty is that we will never fully understand what causes it. There are a million factors that contribute to poverty, and they interact in a zillion ways. 
Some of the factors are economic: the shortage of low-skill, entry-level jobs. Some of the factors are historical: the legacy of racism. Some of the factors are familial: the breakdown in early attachments between infants and caregivers and the cognitive problems that often result from that. Some of them are social: the shortage of healthy role models and mentors. 
The list of factors that contribute to poverty could go on and on, and the interactions between them are infinite. Therefore, there is no single magic lever to pull to significantly reduce poverty.
The only thing to do is change the whole ecosystem. 
If poverty is a complex system of negative feedback loops, then you have to create an equally complex and diverse set of positive feedback loops. You have to flood the zone with as many good programs as you can find and fund and hope that somehow they will interact and reinforce each other community by community, neighborhood by neighborhood. 
The key to this flood-the-zone approach is that you have to allow for maximum possible diversity. Let’s say there is a 14-year-old girl who, for perfectly understandable reasons, wants to experience the love and sense of purpose that go with motherhood, rather than stay in school in the hopes of someday earning a middle-class wage. 
You have no idea what factors have caused her to make this decision, and you have no way of knowing what will dissuade her. But you want her, from morning until night, to be enveloped by a thick ecosystem of positive influences. You want lefty social justice groups, righty evangelical groups, Muslim groups, sports clubs, government social workers, Boys and Girls Clubs and a hundred other diverse institutions. If you surround her with a different culture and a web of relationships, maybe she will absorb new habits of thought, find a sense of belonging and change her path.

"The Real Romney"

In Taki's Magazine, I review The Real Romney, the new biography of the candidate:
The Creepily Normal Mormon 
In his new book Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010, master social scientist Charles Murray flavors his statistical portrait of the widening gap between the classes with some human interest by referring to the bottom 30% of American whites as “Fishtown” (after the gritty Philadelphia neighborhood) and the upper 20% as “Belmont” (after the leafy Boston suburb). 
Perhaps coincidentally, Belmont, MA has been home for the last four decades to GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney and his lovely wife Ann, ever since Mitt was at Harvard earning his JD and MBA degrees. 
Indeed, this patrician paterfamilias is almost a cartoon embodiment of Murray’s thesis about elites losing touch with the rest of America ...

Read the whole thing there.

The Corn Bomb Gap

Personally, I think Krauthammer's version of these talking points in the Washington Post was more excitingly written up, but the NYT goes with the Mossad version:

From the New York Times:
Iran’s Achilles’ Heel
THE public debate in America and Israel these days is focused obsessively on whether to attack Iran in order to halt its nuclear weapons ambitions; hardly any attention is being paid to how events in Syria could result in a strategic debacle for the Iranian government. Iran’s foothold in Syria enables the mullahs in Tehran to pursue their reckless and violent regional policies — and its presence there must be ended. ... 
... pave the way for Mr. Assad’s downfall.
Once this is achieved, the entire balance of forces in the region would undergo a sea change. Iranian-sponsored terrorism would be visibly contained; Hezbollah would lose its vital Syrian conduit to Iran and Lebanon could revert to long-forgotten normalcy; Hamas fighters in Gaza would have to contemplate a future without Iranian weaponry and training; and the Iranian people might once again rise up against the regime that has brought them such pain and suffering.
Those who see this scenario as a daydream should consider the alternative: a post-Assad government still wedded to Iran with its fingers on the buttons controlling long-range Syrian missiles with chemical warheads that can strike anywhere in Israel. This is a certain prescription for war, and Israel would have no choice but to prevent it.
Efraim Halevy, a former Israeli national security adviser and ambassador, was director of the Mossad from 1998 to 2002. 

Okay, so the threat Syria's chemical warheads pose to Israel is kind of like the threat that Venezuela poses to Florida. I mean, if Hugo Chavez suddenly decided that life wasn't worth living anymore and he wanted to be blown up by the American military, he might attack America. Maybe with speedboats loaded with WWI-technology chemical weapons. They could roar right up to Key West and wipe out some discos and t-shirt stands. I mean, why not?

In 2010, Oliver Stone made a documentary where he wandered around Latin America interviewing lefty caudillos. Chavez was the star. As Chavez is showing Stone a corn-processing plant built by Iranian technicians, he deadpans: "This is where we're building the Iranian atomic bomb ... the Corn Bomb." But Chavez gets a worried look on his face as if he were thinking, "Oh, crap, this is too serious to joke about. If that camera happened to run out of videotape right before my "Corn Bomb" joke, the USAF might blow us up."

By the way, the CIA World Factbook ranks Venezuela's military spending as a percent of GDP at 118th in the world. Israel ranks 6th, Syria ranks 11th, and Iran 62nd. But that was back in 2005 because the CIA hasn't bothered to update the list in a long time. Back in 2006, during the frightening bout of war fever in Washington caused by Israel's spat with Hezbollah, I wrote a bunch of blog posts citing the CIA's then-current rankings of military expenditures to show that the most of the world outside the Washington-Tel Aviv corridor was losing interest in war (prefiguring Steven Pinker's 2011 book The Better Angels of Our Nature). The CIA has barely updated their list since. And I've never seen anybody complain that this vital information isn't being kept up to date. Nobody seems to care about data. It would just get in the way of all the fun that Krauthammer and the Mossad alumni are having.

If the courts are overturning 2008 California initiative votes ...

... as they did today with the Proposition 8 vote against gay marriage on the grounds that majority rule violates minority rights, can they please also throw out Proposition 1A from the same ballot? As you'll recall, California's majority of marching morons voted to borrow $10 billion for a SuperTrain! that would go vroom-vroom between Los Angeles and San Francisco real fast. (It's now expected to cost $98 billion). As a member of California's endangered and oppressed minority of non-morons, I want the $10 billion back. 

It's Naptime in America

"Court Strikes Down Ban on Gay Marriage in California"

Obviously, by hook or by crook, gay marriage is going to happen in America, because powerful people want it to happen. Sure, last time I checked, gay marriage had gone 0 for 31 when presented to voters on ballots, but how can something so inherently suspect as "majority rule" be allowed to stand in the way of what has been defined as a "minority right?" Indeed, the very fact that gay marriage lost 31 straight elections proves that it must be imposed. I mean, when you stop and think about it, holding elections and abiding by the results is downright anti-democratic, because the contemporary understanding of democracy is victory for The Good People (i.e., those poor, powerless victims holding the bullhorn) by any means necessary. 

Will gay marriage turn out in the long run to have unintended consequences? Yeah, probably. Most things do. Has there been a frank, widespread public discussion to try to anticipate some of those unintended consequences? Of course not. That would be insensitive and thus outside the "bounds of public discourse."

Obama running as the "city of Detroit" candidate: Has this been fully thought through?

John Dickerson writes in Slate:
Detroit for President? 
Is the "Halftime in America" ad a preview of Obama's Re-election Campaign? 
Did the first Obama re-election ad run during the Super Bowl? You might have missed it since the president wasn't even mentioned. It was a Chrysler ad, although even that wasn’t obvious. Instead, more than 111 million viewers were greeted by that tough-talking American icon Clint Eastwood as he delivered what amounted to a locker room speech to the country. “It's halftime in America,” he intoned, as the New York Giants and New England Patriots went in for their midgame break. He heralded the auto industry’s revival and said it is a model for a nation poised for a comeback. By the end of the stirring message, pollsters could probably have found a majority of the country ready to elect the city of Detroit president. 
Since the Motor City is not on the ballot, the president would like you to consider him as a possible substitute.

Uhhmm ... Obama running on the theme that he will Detroitify the rest of America sounds like it's got some potential downsides. I dunno, but I'm just sayin ... It's reminiscent of Obama's brainstorm in 2006-2007 when he believed he was going to be the first Democrat since Jimmy Carter to win the votes of white Evangelicals. How? By playing up his long relationship with Rev. Jeremiah "Audacity of Hope" Wright!

Let's try out Obama's victory speech next November:
"This was the moment when the grass began to grow over our cities and the prairie began to return to our streets." 

I'm just not seeing it. But, then, what do I know?

How to sell used cars to African-Americans

Taking Judge Richard Posner's skeptical side in the debate with Malcolm Gladwell over the ethical rectitude of car salesmen, a commenter calls attention to these catchy low-rent commercials from the good old days of the Bush Bubble. Starring Washington D.C.-Baltimore area pro athletes like LaVar Arrington and Ray Lewis, they were hugely successful at increasing sales at Easterns Motors, a D.C. used car lot chain run by cousins Robert and Eiman Bassam:  
At Eastern Motors/Your job’s your credit!
At Eastern Motors/Your job’s your credit!
Fords, Hondas, Chevys, Beamers,/And minivans
Over 600 cars, trucks, SUVs/ Are you listenin’ man?
Let Eastern Motors/Put you in a car today!
Let Eastern Motors/Finance it all the way!

And here is a civic-minded commercial from Easterns educating its black customer base on how to negotiate to get the best price possible. Make sure to act aloof about the car you really want in front of the salesman! 

The commenter adds:
BTW, as you can probably tell from the commercial, Eastern Motors is like the Countrywide of car dealers. The founder and CEO, who is a "gold-chainer" type, sounds like Angelo Mozilo:
The would-be buyers he spoke with were looking for quality used cars, and many had been turned down by area dealerships. For Bassam, the trend was too obvious to ignore. “We realized very quickly that the subprime market was underserved and mistreated,” he says."

Fortunately, these days we all understand that immigration is sacred. What could be more morally uplifting than the sight of people from all over the world -- from the Levant to Korea -- coming to America to outsmart and rip off African-Americans, to reduce black American citizens to debt peonage?

February 6, 2012

Super Bowl and race

A reader writes:
The Patriots have had a lot of success with a lot of white guys on their team. More specifically, they let white players play positions most commonly handled by black players: running back (Danny Woodhead), defensive back / kickoff returner (Julian Edelman), receiver / punt returner (Wes Welker). They're almost the Duke of the NFL.

Those three played at obscure to formerly obscure college programs: Div. II Chadron St., Kent St., and Texas Tech. And they're all under six feet tall, too. They look more like Mark Wahlberg starring in an inspirational sports movie than real life Super Bowl players.

On the other hand Rob Gronkowski, the Patriot's 6'-6" 265 lb. superstar tight end who was hobbled with a sprained ankle, looks like the college football player in a 1940s joke:

Professor of Philosophy [peeved at the intelligence of scholar athletes recruited by the college's football coach]: "Mr. Gronkowski, can you tell us who is the author of The Critique of Pure Reason?"

Big Dumb Football Player [sweating, clueless, and apologetic]: "Professor, I can't ..."

Professor [surprised]: "Correct!"
The Giants, on the other hand, are a prototypical team with black players in black roles (RB, WR, D line) and white players in white roles (line, special teams, QB). They also have pretty good call and response chemistry: 
The racial angle wasn't played up because Eli is white, but the Giants have far superior athletic talent. If you gave a Martian a book about the last 20-30 years of American sport, especially football and basketball, and then showed him the roster of each team, he'd have no choice but to assume the Giants are 2 or 3 touchdown favorites. 
The Patriots came close, but it will be interesting to see which approach wins out over time.

With the exception of Brady and the two young tight ends, the Patriots looked like a team that has been drafting late in each round for most of the last decade due to their winning records. It looked like a roster brilliantly scrounged together from overlooked leftovers. 

Way back in 2005, Inductivist looked for me at the won-low records of NFL teams over the last 2.3 years to see if there was any correlation between teams' performance and their racial makeup. He found correlations around zero for starters, suggesting that teams were not overlooking white starters: i.e., no market inefficiencies caused by racial bias for starters.

On the other hand, he found positive correlations between the number of white nonstarters and wins. Perhaps white second stringers tend to be more versatile, or are less poisonous to the locker room atmosphere when they aren't starting or whatever. I never heard if anybody redid this study to see if the effect remained true. This is just not the kind of thing that people talk about. 

Or maybe NFL coaches had noticed their oversights and rectified this market inefficiency. This year's Patriots certainly looked like their ruthlessly intelligent coach Bill Belichik was trying hard to find cheap but effective football players who don't look like the stereotypes. Over the last 11 years, New England has averaged better than an 11-5 record in the regular season, and 13.5-2.5 over the last two seasons. It's very hard to keep a dynasty going in the NFL where the system is rigged in various ways for parity. It looks like possibly one of the ways they've stayed in the hunt is by exploiting market inefficiencies in utility players. But it's hard to tell without doing another statistical analysis. You might think that in this age of Moneyball that this type of analysis would be done all the time, but then you wouldn't under this age of Moneyball.

Chinese-American guy lights up NBA

Here's a fun story: Jeremy Lin, a 6'-4" basketball guard from Harvard, became the first Asian-American in the NBA awhile ago, but he has mostly sat on the far end of the bench. But, he got into a game for the New York Knicks on Saturday night and scored a career high 25. Tonight, he got his first ever start and scored 28 in a win over Utah, despite all the big money players on the Knicks (Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler) being out.

I don't know about Lin in particular, but as the Ivy League has gotten richer endowments, its sports teams have gotten better. It doesn't give out sports scholarships, but it gives out so much financial aid to middle class families now, that it makes sense for pretty smart and pretty athletic kids to play ball for the Ivy League: "Okay, UT El Paso, Iowa State, and Valparaiso are offering me full rides, or, for $5,000 per year I can go to Yale? Is this a trick question?"

I vaguely know a heavily recruited basketball player who enrolled in the last few years at a Very Famous Ivy League College. It was funny reading the ESPN interviews with him on Signing Day because the questions from the sportswriters were all framed as if all his ambitions were focused on the basketball court (Q. So, are you signing with Very Famous Ivy League College because you think you can help them win its first Ivy League title in 17 years? A. Uh, yeah, sure ... I mean, why not?), when his motivations for signing with VFILC were far more mature: He wants to go through life as a graduate of that Very Famous Ivy League College. It was like when I was at Rice in the 1970s, and the basketball coaching staff was alway scowling about how the 6'-11" backup center was just exploiting them to get a Rice engineering degree, always sneaking off to the library to work on differential equations.

Is Israel the most easterly outpost of Western civilization?

Niall Ferguson, the Scotch historian currently at Harvard, bangs the war drums in Newsweek:
Israel and Iran on the Eve of Destruction in a New Six-Day War 
Jerusalem—It probably felt a bit like this in the months before the Six-Day War of 1967, when Israel launched its hugely successful preemptive strike against Egypt and its allies. Forty-five years later, the little country that is the most easterly outpost of Western civilization has Iran in its sights.

Why is Israel the most easterly outpost of Western civilization? What about Christian countries much farther to the east, like Armenia and Georgia? Not to mention Russia (Moscow is east of Jerusalem -- and if you are making up a list of important figures in Western civilization, it's hard to leave off Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Tchaikovsky, Chekhov, Stravinsky, and Nabokov, right)? 

Here in L.A., there are lots of Armenians and lots of Israelis. I don't think many people here would define Israelis as obviously more members of Western civilization than Armenians. Back in December, I went to an Armenian wedding in the church across the Hollywood Freeway from Universal Studios. Here's their webpage. Seems pretty Christian to me. Moreover, Armenians make up a small but hardly unnoticeable number of eminent figures in the cultural history of Western civilization, such as the composer Khachaturian

Now, lots of Armenian-Americans would like more help from the U.S. government in their struggles with their Muslim rivals Azerbaijan and Turkey. And Armenians are relatively prosperous, intelligent, and energetic. But, truth be told, Armenian isn't a very important country, so, despite a sizable Armenian Caucus in the U.S Congress (overwhelmingly made up of non-Armenians), the U.S. doesn't do a lot for Armenia. Armenian concerns don't take up much space in American newspapers, even in L.A.

Fifty years ago, Israel was culturally an outpost of northern Europe, the late Austro-Hungarian Empire's southernmost province. But my vague impression is that it has been working hard to stop being a neurotic, high-achieving Teutonic culture and become a pleasure-loving Mediterranean culture. The Ashkenazis (and their Russian in-laws) still more or less run the place, but they've ceded a lot of cultural legitimacy to non-Ashkenazi Jews. Israel still produces some classical musicians and chemists, but the Jersey Shoreification of Israeli daily life is ongoing, along with various other trends, such as the Black Hatification of parts of the country, and the Afrikaanerization of the West Bank. Its cultural future seems kind of like Armenia or Lebanon.

Chinese Cheating

Mark McDonald writes in the NYT:
In many cases, according to anecdotal evidence and hard-data surveys, the successful Chinese applicants will have cheated their way into college. 
There are now 57,000 Chinese undergraduates at American universities, as my colleague Tamar Lewin reports. Five years ago, there were just 10,000. And top private universities in the United States now have freshman classes with 15 percent foreign students or more.
... Many Chinese families hire agents to help them navigate the applications process, and an agent’s fee can range up to $10,000, plus an equally large bonus if the student gets into a school highly ranked by U.S. News & World Report, the QS rankings and the so-called Shanghai List. 
Zinch China, a consulting company that advises American colleges and universities about China, published a report last year that found cheating on college applications to be “pervasive in China, driven by hyper-competitive parents and aggressive agents.’’ 
From the survey’s introduction: “Our research indicates that 90 percent of recommendation letters are fake, 70 percent of essays are not written by the applicant, and 50 percent of high school transcripts are falsified.’’ 

I wonder what these rates are in America? I'm not convinced Americans are that ethical about college applications anymore either.
... There might well be a cultural disconnect here. Fudging a transcript, plagiarizing a previously “successful” essay or embroidering your credentials is often seen as common practice in China — a low means to a higher end. 
But not always. 
Jiang Xueqin is the deputy principal of Peking University High School, one of China’s s top schools, and also directs its international division. In a commentary for The Chronicle, he said: 
“To be fair, American college recruiters in China feel overwhelmed by the proliferation of cheating, lying, and fraud: Study abroad is big business in China, and young Ivy League graduates write essays for Chinese applicants while many a Chinese public school fakes transcripts and recommendation letters.’’

Americans should demand better ethics from the Chinese. Criticism makes people better. The world will be a better place in the future if the Chinese are now shamed into having more of a culture of shame, like the Japanese have.

Singapore is an example of where the government has reduced the level of corruption among the Chinese over the last 50 years.

February 5, 2012

Why car salesmen are able to rip off black guys

Law professor Ian Ayres did a study once showing that car salesmen tend to drive tougher bargains with black shoppers than with white shoppers. Malcolm Gladwell explained in Blink that this was only because the car salesmen didn't realize they were being prejudiced, and would stop as soon as they read Blink and realize they are leaving money on the table. Judge Posner and I disagreed, arguing that, in our experience, car salesmen were more cynical than Gladwell assumes. The good folks at Cars.com just spent $3.5 million to buy 30 seconds of Super Bowl air time to settle this long running argument by showing us what car salesmen see when they look at black shoppers.

Are Super Bowls getting better?

I made sure to come home from school on time on Monday, January 16, 1967 so I could watch the entire first ever Super Bowl on tape delay. Super Bowl I had been played the day before in the L.A. Coliseum, but it hadn't sold out, so it wasn't shown live in L.A., just on tape delay the next afternoon at about 3:30 pm. It turned out to be a pretty lousy viewing experience. 

My recollection is that most of the early Super Bowls were either lopsided or inept. For example, Super Bowl VII Miami 14 - Washington 7 was a real bore, memorable only for Garo Yepremian's pass, which was famous for awhile as the worst play in the history of the NFL. The imported soccer player's attempt at a forward pass only goes about 4 inches forward, so he then bats the football up in the air as if it were a volleyball, allowing the Redskins to intercept it and score their only touchdown of the game. 

After awhile, when I was a teenager, I made a rule not to waste time watching the Super Bowls, a rule frequently broken, but one that seemed to be pretty sensible. Conference championship games were often thrilling, but Super Bowls were typically a waste of time. 

At some point in the 1980s I read a theory for why Super Bowls were so bad: the two week layoff between the conference championship and the Super Bowl and the intervening media hoopla posed unusual challenges for coaches. Some coaches made excellent use of the time, while others, unable to restrain their mania, whipped their teams into a game day frenzy by about Day 10 only to have them come out flat half a week later. 

I don't know if that was true, but my impression is that Super Bowls are seldom the stinkers they used to be so regularly. I wonder why that is? Obviously, the skill level is higher, but why do the games seem more competitive? Back in the 1970s, the Rose Bowl was usually more exciting than the Super Bowl, even though the skill level of college players is lower.