March 24, 2012

Meanwhile ...

While America has been riveted on that single low-rent fiasco of a shooting in Florida the previous month, the Chicago Tribune ran their weekly round-up of all the mayhem in Chicago over the previous weekend:
Weekend of violence claims 10 shooting victims across Chicago 
March 19, 2012 
By Liam Ford, Peter Nickeas and Rosemary Sobol 
At least 10 people were killed, including a 6-year-old girl, in shootings over the weekend in Chicago. 

March 23, 2012

The New Cold War: The Axis of Ice Cream

Hugo Chávez, right, with Cuba's president, Raúl Castro, last week.Chávez Strengthens Cuban Ties With Plan for Ice Cream Factory 
Venezuela, one of Cuba’s closest allies, announced a plan to produce a favorite brand of Cuban ice cream domestically.

Alert Rick Santorum to this new strategic threat!

The missing M word in the George Zimmerman story

Lately, the press has started to wake up to the fact that the shooter in the sad Trayvon Martin case doesn't look like the image conjured up by the initial reports of him as "white." But what is he?

If you go to Google News and type in 

you get exactly one hit: a blog at the leftist Catholic magazine Commonweal by Eduardo Peñalver, an American-born Cornell law professor, that makes this commonsensical point:
The Trayvon Martin case has justifiably generated an enormous volume of commentary.  One of the most interesting aspects of this commentary is the difficulty people have had in grappling with how to categorize George Zimmerman, the shooter.  At first, he was described merely as “white.”  This allowed the case fit nicely into the paradigm of Black-White race relations.  A black teenager is shot and killed by a gun-toting, white vigilante, and the white police chief leading a police force with a troubled racial past declines to recommend charges against the shooter. 
Then it came out that Zimmerman’s mother is Latina (she’s Peruvian).  His photo (at least to me) reveals a man who looks mestizo.  And yet commentators are reluctant to give up the white label.  In an article this morning, the New York Times describes him as a “white Hispanic.”  James Fallows says the case “involves the shooting of a young black man by a young white man, and the failure of the white-run Southern police department to take any action against the killer.”  Others emphasize Zimmerman’s white half and suggest that it’s the half that matters more.  These efforts show how confusing the Latino category is to traditional American racial tropes, particularly when we are talking about a case like this one that pushes all of our pre-civil rights buttons. ...
I get that Zimmerman’s supposed “whiteness” is part of what sells this story as a cause celebre for a great many people.  And I’m not trying to insert myself into a debate about how people ought to be describing Zimmerman.  As a Latino, what I find interesting about the case is what it reveals about the resilience of the black-white racial paradigm in our culture.  Several decades into the explosion of the Latino population, and we are still trying to figure out what to do with Latinos and, for the most part, still struggling to shoe-horn Latino racial identity into those two boxes. 

It's hardly surprising that a left-of-center Catholic Latino intellectual would be aware of the increasingly useful term "mestizo" because of the long awareness of his movement with Latin America, liberation theology, and the rest. What's striking is how ignorant the rest of the American commentariat is. 

Look, we have over 50,000,000 self-identified Latinos in the U.S. Now that we're multicultural, we're are supposed to be sensitive to their culture, but a crucial part of their culture consists of terms like mestizo, mulatto, Indio, and so forth. But instead we're just dumb as a box of rocks because we're terrified that employing useful Latin American terms is raciss.

Calling all screenwriters: Hot white defendants!

From the BBC:
Brazil police hunt 'blonde kidnap gang' in Sao Paulo 
Brazilian police say they are hunting a gang of mostly blonde young women who have committed a series of kidnaps and robberies in Sao Paulo. The criminals have been targeting wealthy women in shopping centres, Sao Paulo's anti-kidnap police unit says. 
The victims are followed to their cars, where they are robbed and held captive at gunpoint while the gang uses their credit cards to make luxury purchases. Police said the "blonde gang" consisted of young, educated, middle-class women. Sao Paulo civil police anti-kidnap division chief Joaquim Dias Alves told BBC Mundo: "One or two speak more than one language, and some have been educated overseas. 
"They are really pretty girls, well-dressed and made up," he said. The gang tend to target women who look similar to them, so they can assume the victim's identity while they use their credit cards. 
They are thought to have been operating for three years, and to have robbed at least 50 people.

C'mon, you know this is a lot more promising for a True Crime movie than that scenario you've been kicking around about poor Trayvon Martin. Even your brainstorm of casting Ryan Phillippe as Great White Defendant George Zimmerman isn't going to save that story from boring-and-depressingness.

Bad Men and the new pornography

I can't afford cable TV, so I don't see the big new serial dramas until they come out on, say, Netflix or Hulu for Roku. And then I usually reach the limits of my interest after about six hours: Breaking Bad? Good show! I sometimes wonder what happened to Malcolm's dad after the first six hours of his new life of crime. Well, I guess I'll never know. Downton Abbey? Good show! But not quite good enough to get me to watch more than six hours of it, even though the first season is only seven hours long and the first six hours have gotten us all the way up to England's peaceful summer of 1914 and I have this vague hunch that the season finale has some kind of big historical surprise twist up its sleeve. But six hours is my limit, so I guess I'll never find out what happened in August 1914. Something big, I'm sure!

I realize movies are out of fashion, but I do like to point out that they have one virtue over more 21st Centuryish forms of entertainment: noninterminableness. You sit yourself down in the movie theatre and, then, 115 minutes later, they make you go home. 

Speaking of antinoninterminablebness, Mad Men is back for its 23rd season (note: check this before posting) of soft core porn for women with the better sort of degrees, but with a new purpose: to avenge Trayvon Martin! Or, at least, that's what it appears from this review in the NYT:
There was no question that “Mad Men” would get around to the civil rights movement. From the start, racism was the carbon monoxide of the show: a poison that couldn’t always be detected over the pungent scent of cigarettes, sexism, anti-Semitism, alcoholism, homophobia and adultery, but that sooner or later was bound to turn noxious.
That promise was made in the opening scene of the premiere episode of Season 1. The first face on screen is a black one in profile, that of a waiter carrying a tray of cocktails across a bar crowded with white, mostly male customers. ...
It’s the show’s willingness to put its characters in the context of the times, and not whitewash the white men, that gives it an edge and keeps a drama that in its fifth season has gotten — let’s face it — a little old and soapy, interesting to watch. Particularly at this moment, when the case of Trayvon Martin, the Florida teenager killed by an armed neighborhood watch volunteer, has become a heated cause, the 1960s look a lot like prologue. 
Don and his colleagues are flip, self-centered and oblivious, no different from the many privileged Americans who stood on the sidelines and averted their eyes. They are the ones who ended up on the wrong side of history and whose testimony is usually left out of the textbooks, like the bourgeois Parisians who collaborated — faute de mieux — during the Nazi occupation, the South Africans who welcomed cheap labor under apartheid or the cadets who set fire to the clothes of the first female cadets admitted to the Citadel military college. 


Having watched six and a fraction episodes of the first season of Mad Men, quite enjoying the first 115 minutes before boredom began setting in, allow me to point out that my 2009 review in Taki's Magazine explains it all. For example:
While watching Mad Men, Weiner affords us ample opportunity to congratulate ourselves on how much progress we’ve made. For example, most of the black characters in Mad Men have servile jobs. Today, of course, things are infinitely better. Black men are seldom seen in servile jobs (unless they are African immigrants or gay). In fact, black men aren’t seen in any jobs as much anymore: ten percent of black men were out of the work force in Don Draper’s 1960 versus 24 percent in booming 2000. Indeed, black men aren’t even seen at all as much anymore because a million are now locked away in prison. (The incarceration rate of black male high school dropouts was one percent in the Bad Old Days of Dwight Eisenhower’s last year in office versus 25 percent in Bill Clinton’s glorious finale.) 
The kicker to the joke is that Mad Men, despite being set in New York, is filmed in LA, where Latinos have been imported in vast numbers to fill the servant jobs that today’s upper-middle class whites no longer trust blacks with. Yet Hispanics are even more invisible to the Hollywood elite today than blacks were then.

The one thing I would add about Mad Men is that it's becoming more apparent, year by year, that 21st Century women of the educated castes who watch Mad Men find themselves increasingly sexually bored by all the pathetic, politically correct weenies of their own class. That's Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner's big conceptual breakthrough: that women these days are aroused by men masterful enough to violate today's thought crime taboos, if the ladies can simultaneously maintain plausible deniability that they are actually shocked, shocked by all the old "racism ... cigarettes, sexism, anti-Semitism, alcoholism, homophobia." Mad Men is not actually a satirical put-down of the past; instead, it's designed to be a titillating turn-on for the present. 

March 22, 2012

Rindermann: Who has highest IQ: left, right, or center?

In the U.S., people who are strongly liberal or strongly conservative tend to be better educated and better informed than moderates. Sure, some moderates are moderate because they understand each sides' arguments perfectly, but many are moderate because they aren't very interested in politics.

But, what happens when you disentangle the effects of IQ and education from each other?

Heiner Rindermann, the German psychologist who has been doing a lot of interesting IQ work, has co-authored a new paper comparing IQ to ideology among Brazilians, after adjusting for other factors. (I don't enough about politics in Brazil to say how well this would map to the U.S.)
Rindermann, H., Flores-Mendoza, C. & Woodley, M. A. (2012). Political orientations, intelligence and education. Intelligence, 40(2), 217-225. 
• Intelligence is an attribute of a “burgher” worldview and lifestyle.
• Intelligence works via insight, self-interest, and ethical and cultural effects.
• Intelligence had a positive impact on having a political opinion.
• Intelligence had a positive impact on political centrality.
• Education promoted orientations more to the left. 
The social sciences have traditionally assumed that education is a major determinant of citizens’ political orientations and behavior. Several studies have also shown that intelligence has an impact. According to a theory that conceptualizes intelligence as a burgher (middle-class, civil) phenomenon – intelligence should promote civil attitudes, habits and norms like diligence, order and liberty, which in turn nurture cognitive development – political orientations should be related to intelligence, with more intelligent individuals tending towards less extreme political orientations. In a Brazilian sample (N=586), individuals were given the Standard Progressive Matrices (SPM) and a questionnaire measuring age, sex/gender, income, education and political orientations. Firstly, intelligence has a positive impact on having any political opinion. Among persons with opinions those with the highest IQ’s were found to be politically center-right and centrist respectively. The relationship held after correcting for gender, age, education and income. In a path-analysis, only intelligence had a positive impact on political centrality, whereas education promoted orientations that were farther from the center. These results are discussed in the context of results from other studies in different countries and in the context of different theoretical models on the relationship between political attitudes and IQ.

So, at a given level of IQ, more education pushes people either to the left or, less often, toward the right. At a given level of education, more IQ pushes people toward a point a little right of center.  At least in Brazil ...

Whit Stillman's "Damsels in Distress"

From my movie review in Taki's Magazine:
Metropolitan, the 1990 dramedy about a group of chivalrous preppies whose debutante ball after-parties are so articulate and decorous that they might have driven J. Alfred Prufrock to throw a TV out the window like Keith Moon trashing a hotel suite, earned auteur Whit Stillman the appellation “the WASP Woody Allen.” Stillman, who wrote for The American Spectator when young, developed a cult following among rightist intellectuals because of his out-of-the-closet political and cultural conservatism....
Since Metropolitan, however, the indefatigable Allen—who famously claimed that eighty percent of success is showing up—has released twenty films versus the defatigable Stillman’s two. Finally, though, Stillman’s first movie in almost fourteen years, Damsels in Distress, will be arriving in NY and LA on April 6th. 

Read the whole thing there.

Extra points for recognizing the mathematically correct classic rock lyrics reference in the last quoted sentence above.

By the way, Stillman found an astonishing location for filming his campus comedy just a few miles from lower Manhattan. I'd never heard of, nor can recall seeing in any film, Snug Harbor Botanical Garden in Staten Island, an old Old Sailor Rest Home with its delirious Greek Revival architecture on 83 landscaped acres. 

Whit Stillman lines are sometimes more quotable than actable, but they sure can be quotable. A miscellany:

I don't read novels. I prefer good literary criticism. That way you get both the novelists' ideas as well as the critics' thinking. 
Well, the past is gone, so we might as well romanticize it. 
Christopher Eigeman on Disney's Lady and the Tramp: What's the function of a film of this kind? Essentially as a primer on love and marriage directed at very young people, imprinting on their little psyches the idea that smooth-talking delinquents recently escaped from the local pound are a good match for nice girls from sheltered homes. When in ten years the icky human version of Tramp shows up around the house, their hormones will be racing and no one will understand why. Films like this program women to adore jerks.  
On WASP declinism: Take those of our fathers who grew up very well-off. I mean, maybe their careers started out well enough, but just as their contemporaries really began accomplishing things, they started quitting—'I’m rising above office politics,' or refusing to compete and risk open failure . . . or gradually spending more and more time on . . . conservation or the arts, where even if they were total failures no one would know it.”

March 21, 2012

Trayvon Martin, RIP

The fatal shooting of unarmed Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Florida named George Zimmerman is a reminder that way too many people get shot in America for screwed-up reasons or for no particular reason other than adrenaline and testosterone. I don't know what happened in this particular case, but it reminds me of a local case I made myself familiar with that featured a lot of instant decisionmaking that turned out bad. 

A few years ago, I noticed a single paragraph in the local news blotter about a fatal shooting of a teenager in a local parking lot by a multi-departmental law enforcement task force of plain clothes officers who were "debriefing" after a drug raid at 9:30 on a Thursday evening. The police spokesman implied that the parking lot was a notorious drug trade area, and asserted that the dead young man had tried to run over the plainclothesmen while they were brawling with another man they had accosted for peering into parked cars. 

Wait a minute, I thought, that's dubious-sounding. First, I was peeved at the cop spokesman for demeaning local property values by claiming that everybody knows this parking lot is a drug mart. No, it's a nice parking lot with excellent lighting, a private security guard driving around in a golf cart, a constant flow of cars and respectable pedestrians at all hours, especially on a Thursday evening because the lot serves some fairly fashionable restaurants and bars. I've walked through that parking lot maybe a thousand times in my life. I've never seen any criminal activity there, whether drug dealing or breaking into cars, just bad driving. I had never once felt in any danger in that lot from criminals, but I've almost been run over more than a few times there by drivers zooming for the rare open parking space. Fortunately, when that happened, I wasn't packing any serious heat, so none of the bad drivers wound up dead. 

The more I looked into the official story, the less plausible it sounded. The victim / mad dog would-be vehicular murderer was a kid who had just graduated from high school, where he played in the string section in the school orchestra. His friends set up a Facebook page in memoriam and it was full of testimonies to his gentleness of his character from his many friends in orchestra and band, plus his friends' parents, and his teachers. There were zero gang-type testimonials saluting a fallen comrade, as you'll so often read in the comments to the LA Times homicide database.

My wife and I started playing amateur detective, both on the Internet and in person. I emailed the lawyer that the mother had hired to tell him that as a long time resident the official story sounded fishy to me, and gave him leads to look into. I didn't like the idea that I or my family might get shot by cops in the local parking lot with no open investigation or discussion in the press.

Exactly a week after the killing, my wife and I walked down to the parking lot to see what it looked like on a Thursday at 9:30 pm: what I recalled or what the police spokesman said. It looked like a place that cops would choose to debrief after getting pumped up in a drug raid, not because they could be looking for more criminals while they debrief, but because there are a few nice-looking would-be starlets around at that hour to ogle. (In this neighborhood, however, most of them are married.)

While my wife and I were standing in the parking lot, we noticed another middle-aged couple standing in the middle of the parking lot looking around in bewilderment and grief. "Those are the parents, I bet." And they were. They had come to talk to people who worked there at that hour, in hopes of finding out more about what had happened to their child. There were no video cameras recording the parking lot, in part because it's such a low crime area that there is little need for surveillance video. The police had not yet let the parents' lawyer talk to the one certain eyewitness, the man whom the out-of-uniform cops had attacked for looking into car windows.

The poor mother told us the cops hadn't notified her of her son's death for 12 hours. (That would have given them lots of time to get their stories straight, sober up, or whatever.) A week later, nobody had yet released the names of the shooters to her. We did our best to console the parents, and to tell them that as local residents who didn't have a dog in this fight, just a sense that some kind of injustice was going down, we thought they should press their investigation and seriously consider a lawsuit. 

Over time, more facts turned up that I won't go into here, including the only eyewitness, whose story made the cops look bad, but he had some credibility problems of his own. I don't know exactly what happened during the last few seconds of the kid's life, but it sounds like there was a good chance that various kinds of cops closed ranks for a whitewash.

A long time later, the D.A. issued a report exonerating the shooters, and then the mother filed a $10,000,000 wrongful death lawsuit, which hasn't yet been resolved. A year ago, my wife and son marched in a memorial demonstration to remember the kid and to call for a fair civil trial.

I'm keeping this story vague for a variety of reasons, such as not wanting to be tied to annoying about five different law-enforcement agencies. At one point I spent about a half-hour on the phone with an LAPD detective because neither of the shooters was LAPD. I pointed out that as a taxpayer for the LAPD, I wasn't crazy about other agencies "debriefing" on LAPD turf. But he didn't buy my rather blatant attempt at driving a wedge into the general cop fraternity, and got a little hot under the collar. Also, I don't want my quite peripheral participation to be a distraction in the upcoming civil trial of the mom's wrongful death suit. So, just a warning: if you uncover the name of the victim, I won't approve a comment linking to it. I don't mind you looking, but I want to keep the story anonymous for now.

Let's get back to Trayvon Martin for a moment and the question of race. Kevin Drum asserts in Mother Jones that it's a story of a ""black kid in Florida who got shot by a white..." and complains Fox News isn't giving this case wall to wall coverage, unlike less racist networks, because it was "black kid in Florida who got shot by a white..."

Now, in the case I investigated, I wasn't particularly sure from the unusual last name and his picture whether the victim was Anglo (in the L.A. sense of non-Hispanic white) or Hispanic. He was a dark-haired, dark-eyed kid who could have been Anglo white or light-skinned Hispanic. After meeting the mother, I figure he was Anglo. I only today found out the names of the two officers who shot him (the law enforcement agencies kept that covered up for a long time, perhaps in fear that the other members of the victim's string section in the orchestra might try to extract revenge upon them by, I don't know, playing out of tune under their windows). I'm guessing both shooters are whites.

Compared to Trayvon Martin, this shooting got very little initial coverage in the local press and zip in the national press. On the other hand, the kid's classmates from his mostly middle-class high school organized online in a variety of fairly effective ways and kept the story alive so it has kept popping up in the press, although never with a big splash. Online commenters kept prodding the L.A. Times and L.A. Weekly to look into the case more, which they've done in bits and pieces as events unfolded, but never making a big story out of it. You can follow the unfolding of the story with Google but you likely would never have noticed it if you were just a casual reader of the local news. I've never heard of any controversy over the case making the local TV news.

Basically, news organizations are quite dependent upon the criminal justice system to feed them the facts of crime stories, and when the cops want a story to get underplayed, they just keep the flow of facts to the bare minimum.

There has been no national interest in my local story whatsoever, and no outside organizations have taken an interest, presumably because of the lack of a racial angle.

On the other hand, the amount of self-organizing citizen activism has been above average. One black commenter on the web said something like this to the victims' friends, neighbors, and teachers, "Wow, you white people just won't let this go when one of your own gets shot by the cops. If this had happened in the 'hood, it would have been forgotten by now."

White people don't have anybody to stand up for them qua white people, but they are also pretty good at standing up for themselves.

The Trayvon Martin case sounds a lot like this fiasco, although the shooter, being an amateur neighborhood watch pseudo-cop has actually appeared to have gotten less protection in some ways than the professional cops in my local case, whose very names we couldn't learn for a long, long time.

The dead youth in Florida being black, the story fits the eternal hunt for Tom Wolfe's Great White Defendant, at least until you get a look at the shooter. The shooter's father calls his son Hispanic, and, indeed, he looks a little like the guy who don't need no steenking badges in the Treasure of Sierra Madre

Moreover, in Florida, there's a long tradition of Latinos in positions of authority shooting African-Americans in dubious circumstances -- that set off two or three major black riots in Miami in the 1980s. I don't think anybody remembers these riots anymore.

As Bonfire of the Vanities pointed out in 1987, most day to day routines of the criminal justice system consist of dealing with minority screw-ups brutalizing other minorities. It's boring and depressing work. So, there is a deep hunger for the occasional man-bites-dog story of a white brutalizing a black, which leads to people like Kevin screwing up and getting the race of the shooter wrong. 

Oops ...

From the New York Times on Tuesday evening:
Killings Could Stall Election’s Nationalist Turn 
PARIS — The Jewish school in Toulouse that was terrorized by an unknown gunman on a motorbike will reopen on Wednesday as a statement of courage and continuity. The hundreds of mourners who filled the stone courtyard of the palatial redbrick town hall there on Tuesday morning, joining others across the country in a moment of silence, will return grimly to their daily lives. 
But the political debate around the shootings, and whether the deaths of an instructor and three young children were somehow inspired by anti-immigrant political talk, is likely to continue — both as a weapon in the presidential campaign and as a more general soul-searching about the nature of France. 
No one is suggesting that the French presidential campaign inspired a serial killer to put a bullet in the head of an 8-year-old Jewish girl. The candidates largely suspended their campaigning and uniformly condemned the killings, as well as the murders of three French soldiers — two Muslims and a black man — apparently by the same man.  
But in a period of economic anxiety, high unemployment and concerns about the war in Afghanistan and radical Islam, the far right in Europe has made considerable gains, even in essentially liberal democratic countries like Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands and France. 
And in the middle of a long and heated presidential campaign, with President Nicolas Sarkozy trying to win back disaffected supporters who have drifted to the far-right National Front party, the shootings at Toulouse have raised new questions about the tone and tenor of the debate here about what it is to be French. 
A debate on the role of immigration, assimilation, halal butchering, street prayers, the full veil and other elements of cultural difference is inevitably about French identity — and the nature of tolerance and intolerance. ...

I like Steven Erlanger, the NYT's French correspondent, especially his distaste for Bernard Henri-Levy (here and here). But when you jump the gun due to wishful thinking, somebody needs to call you on it.

I try not to jump the gun because I don't like being wrong. I don't mind when readers comes up with better interpretations than mine. In fact, I like it. But for a big newspaper to get something flat wrong because of bias that they couldn't wait to see if their expectation is confirmed ought to be embarrassing.

From the BBC on Wednesday morning:
Police hunting a gunman suspected of killing seven people in southern France have surrounded a flat in Toulouse. 
The man, named as Mohammed Merah, 24, a Frenchman of Algerian origin, has said he belongs to al-Qaeda and acted to "avenge Palestinian children". 
Police are negotiating with the man, who is still said to be armed but says he may give himself up this afternoon. 
Two police officers were injured in exchanges of fire during the raid and there are reports of a fresh blast. 
The suspect's brother is under arrest. 
The suspect's mother, who is Algerian, has been brought to the scene, but Interior Minister Claude Gueant, who is in attendance, said she had refused to become involved as "she had little influence on him". 
The minister said the suspect had made several visits to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Mr Gueant, at the scene, said the suspect had shot at the door when police arrived
"He claims to be a mujahideen and to belong to al-Qaeda," Mr Gueant said. 
"He wanted revenge for the Palestinian children and he also wanted to take revenge on the French army because of its foreign interventions." 
The man shot at the door after police arrived, Mr Gueant said, injuring one officer in the knee and "lightly injuring" another. 
French media have linked the suspect to a group called Forsane Alizza (Knights of Pride) that was banned by Mr Gueant in January. 
They also say the suspect had earlier been arrested in Kandahar, Afghanistan, for unspecified, but not terrorist-related, criminal acts and also has a criminal record in France.

The BBC's Hugh Schofield in Paris says investigators report that the suspect was identified because of an e-mail message sent to his first victim about buying a scooter. 
The message, sent from the suspect's brother's account, set up an appointment at which the soldier was killed, sources told AFP. 
The man had also sought out a garage in Toulouse to have his Yamaha scooter repainted after the first two attacks. A scooter was used in all the attacks.

March 19, 2012

The growth of class taboos

From my new essay at VDARE on the hardening of class taboos:
In recent months, the Left has begun congratulating itself on rediscovering class with its Occupy Wall Street protests. Yet, a glance at the original poster in Adbusters that kicked off the movement should raise doubts. The irony is that this Photoshopped image of a ballerina surmounting sculptor Arthur Di Modica’s iconic symbol of Wall Street, Charging Bull, struck very few protestors as ironic. Ballet is perhaps the most expensive and aristocratic of all performing arts, having attained classical perfection under the patronage of the Czars. Ballet would wither without the rich. 
But that’s the point of much Leftism in the 21st Century: to assert one’s expensive cultural refinement over the hicks.

Read the whole thing there.

How far can you stretch affirmative action-eligibility claims?

Since, as we all know, Race Does Not Exist, that, at least in theory, ought to create problems for the government in allocating benefits and protections according to race. Yet, the system seems to roll onward without too much trouble at a good-enough-for government-work level.

A question often asked is: What prevents Thurston Howell III from self-identifying as black and thus acquiring all the legal entitlements accruing thereto?

A reader has kindly sent me a number of bureaucratic forms that explain the "visual survey and/or other available information" enforcement clause. For example, from the state of Oregon, here are some key excerpts:
If you choose not to self-identify your race/ethnicity at this time, the federal government requires the  state to determine this information by visual survey and/or other available information.   
Then, down in the small print at the bottom:
For agency HR use only:  
_ AV (Asian or Pac. Islander –Visual assessment)  
_ BV (African American – Visual assessment) 
_ HV (Hispanic – Visual assessment) 
_ IV (Native Amer. or Alaskan Native – Visual assessment) 
_ WV (Caucasian – Visual assessment)

As I picture this working, if you self-identify in some self-serving but flagrantly dubious manner, you run the risk of being passed non-committaly along the bureaucratic chain by people who don't want to deal with this tricky problem, until you eventually run into the Person in Charge of Visual Surveillance, who, inevitably, will be a large, self-assured black woman who glares at you briefly, listens to a few of your feeble attempts to sound black, and then replies, "Oh, no, you isn't" and checks the "WV" box and stamps your paperwork "Rejected, with Extreme Prejudice."

I think this would make a pretty good sketch comedy running joke -- L'qisjha Jones, Affirmative Action Arbiter -- as various people try to bluff their way past L'qisjha, each rejected with the same punchline. You could have celebrity guests, like Vanilla Ice trying to be accepted as black, Bjork trying to be Alaskan Native, or Cliff Curtis trying to be upgraded from Pacific Islander to Hispanic. In the final episode, Dirk Nowitzki would narrate for L'qisjha in his Teutonibonics accent his highlight reel from the 2011 NBA Finals of him schooling LeBron James. He'd then put forward the metaphysical argument that since white men can't jump, and since he can jump, he must be black, which L'qisjha decides is inarguable, and stamps "Accepted" on his papers.

March 18, 2012

Kony 2012 guy as Grizzly Man

This Jason Russell, the auteur behind the Kony2012 viral video who had an unfortunate manic episode on Friday, reminds me, for some reason, of Timothy Treadwell, the doomed star of Werner Herzog's documentary Grizzly Man:

Treadwell was a failed Hollywood actor who changed his life by moving to the wilds of Alaska and hanging out with grizzly bears, all the while strenuously publicizing himself. But he had a pretty good time, until (spoiler alert!) a grizzly devoured Timothy and his new girlfriend.