May 5, 2012

Top 3 favorite unreplicated psychology experiments

What are important studies that your field of Psychology gives credence to, but which--as far as you know--have not been replicated in any published follow-up work? (Up to 3 votes per person--see links below to vote for one of the studies already nominated--or nominate & vote for another study of your choosing.) (What is the goal in creating this list?)

RankCitationFindingDiscussion of Study
1Jaeggi, S., Buschkuehl, M., Jonides, J., Perrig, W. (2008). Improving fluid intelligence with training on working memory. PNAS 105(19), 6829-6833.10 - 20 sessions of doing n-back task raises fluid IQ as measured with RavensDiscuss (2 postings)
2Cohen, G. L., Garcia, J., Apfel, N., & Master, A. (2006). Reducing the racial achievement gap: A social-psychological intervention. Science, 313, 1307-1310.Writing brief paragraph on important values improves academic achievement over subsequent yearDiscuss (1 postings)
3Ramirez, G. & Beilock, S. L. (2011). Writing about testing worries boosts exam performance in the classroom. Science, 331, 211-213.Huge exam-score increases resulting from anxiety-reducing interventions deserve replication. IDiscuss
Notice a pattern?

Via David Z. Hambrick in the NYT, IQ Points for Sale, Cheap.

An unnoticed potential legal problem for George Zimmerman

Chuck Rudd at G.L. Piggy points out if this were a sane society that wasn't in a paroxysm of moral panic over "profiling," there's something in George Zimmerman's old MySpace page that would be more of a potential legal problem for him.

Jewish Daily Forward: "Jews Are a 'Race,' Genes Reveal"

From the Jewish Daily Forward, a review of Legacy: A Genetic History of the Jewish People authored by Harry Ostrer, cofounder of the Jewish HapMap, and a geneticist at Yeshiva U. It's reviewed by my old pal Jon Entine:
Jews Are a 'Race,' Genes Reveal 
Author Uncovers DNA Links Between Members of Tribe 
By Jon Entine 
Published May 04, 2012, issue of May 11, 2012.
Legacy: A Genetic History of the Jewish People
By Harry Ostrer
Oxford University Press, 288 Pages, $24.95 
In his new book, “Legacy: A Genetic History of the Jewish People,” Harry Ostrer, a medical geneticist and professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, claims that Jews are different, and the differences are not just skin deep. Jews exhibit, he writes, a distinctive genetic signature. Considering that the Nazis tried to exterminate Jews based on their supposed racial distinctiveness, such a conclusion might be a cause for concern. But Ostrer sees it as central to Jewish identity. 
“Who is a Jew?” has been a poignant question for Jews throughout our history. It evokes a complex tapestry of Jewish identity made up of different strains of religious beliefs, cultural practices and blood ties to ancient Palestine and modern Israel. But the question, with its echoes of genetic determinism, also has a dark side. 
Geneticists have long been aware that certain diseases, from breast cancer to Tay-Sachs, disproportionately affect Jews. Ostrer, who is also director of genetic and genomic testing at Montefiore Medical Center, goes further, maintaining that Jews are a homogeneous group with all the scientific trappings of what we used to call a “race.”

For most of the 3,000-year history of the Jewish people, the notion of what came to be known as “Jewish exceptionalism” was hardly controversial. Because of our history of inmarriage and cultural isolation, imposed or self-selected, Jews were considered by gentiles (and usually referred to themselves) as a “race.” Scholars from Josephus to Disraeli proudly proclaimed their membership in “the tribe.” 
Ostrer explains how this concept took on special meaning in the 20th century, as genetics emerged as a viable scientific enterprise. Jewish distinctiveness might actually be measurable empirically. In “Legacy,” he first introduces us to Maurice Fishberg, an upwardly mobile Russian-Jewish immigrant to New York at the fin de si├Ęcle. Fishberg fervently embraced the anthropological fashion of the era, measuring skull sizes to explain why Jews seemed to be afflicted with more diseases than other groups — what he called the “peculiarities of the comparative pathology of the Jews.” It turns out that Fishberg and his contemporary phrenologists were wrong: Skull shape provides limited information about human differences. But his studies ushered in a century of research linking Jews to genetics. 
Ostrer divides his book into six chapters representing the various aspects of Jewishness: Looking Jewish, Founders, Genealogies, Tribes, Traits and Identity. Each chapter features a prominent scientist or historical figure who dramatically advanced our understanding of Jewishness. The snippets of biography lighten a dense forest of sometimes-obscure science. The narrative, which consists of a lot of potboiler history, is a slog at times. But for the specialist and anyone touched by the enduring debate over Jewish identity, this book is indispensable. 
“Legacy” may cause its readers discomfort. To some Jews, the notion of a genetically related people is an embarrassing remnant of early Zionism that came into vogue at the height of the Western obsession with race, in the late 19th century. Celebrating blood ancestry is divisive, they claim: The authors of “The Bell Curve” were vilified 15 years ago for suggesting that genes play a major role in IQ differences among racial groups. 
Furthermore, sociologists and cultural anthropologists, a disproportionate number of whom are Jewish, ridicule the term “race,” claiming there are no meaningful differences between ethnic groups. For Jews, the word still carries the especially odious historical association with Nazism and the Nuremberg Laws. They argue that Judaism has morphed from a tribal cult into a worldwide religion enhanced by thousands of years of cultural traditions. 
Is Judaism a people or a religion? Or both? The belief that Jews may be psychologically or physically distinct remains a controversial fixture in the gentile and Jewish consciousness, and Ostrer places himself directly in the line of fire. Yes, he writes, the term “race” carries nefarious associations of inferiority and ranking of people. Anything that marks Jews as essentially different runs the risk of stirring either anti- or philo-Semitism. But that doesn’t mean we can ignore the factual reality of what he calls the “biological basis of Jewishness” and “Jewish genetics.” Acknowledging the distinctiveness of Jews is “fraught with peril,” but we must grapple with the hard evidence of “human differences” if we seek to understand the new age of genetics. 
Although he readily acknowledges the formative role of culture and environment, Ostrer believes that Jewish identity has multiple threads, including DNA. He offers a cogent, scientifically based review of the evidence, which serves as a model of scientific restraint. 
... Jews, he notes, are one of the most distinctive population groups in the world because of our history of endogamy. Jews — Ashkenazim in particular — are relatively homogeneous despite the fact that they are spread throughout Europe and have since immigrated to the Americas and back to Israel. The Inquisition shattered Sephardi Jewry, leading to far more incidences of intermarriage and to a less distinctive DNA. 
In traversing this minefield of the genetics of human differences, Ostrer bolsters his analysis with volumes of genetic data, which are both the book’s greatest strength and its weakness. Two complementary books on this subject — my own “Abraham’s Children: Race, Identity, and the DNA of the Chosen People” and “Jacob’s Legacy: A Genetic View of Jewish History” by Duke University geneticist David Goldstein, who is well quoted in both “Abraham’s Children” and “Legacy” — are more narrative driven, weaving history and genetics, and are consequently much more congenial reads. 
The concept of the “Jewish people” remains controversial. The Law of Return, which establishes the right of Jews to come to Israel, is a central tenet of Zionism and a founding legal principle of the State of Israel. The DNA that tightly links Ashkenazi, Sephardi and Mizrahi, three prominent culturally and geographically distinct Jewish groups, could be used to support Zionist territorial claims — except, as Ostrer points out, some of the same markers can be found in Palestinians, our distant genetic cousins, as well. Palestinians, understandably, want their own right of return. 
... Ostrer’s book is an impressive counterpoint to the dubious historical methodology of Sand and his admirers. And, as a co-founder of the Jewish HapMap — the study of haplotypes, or blocks of genetic markers, that are common to Jews around the world — he is well positioned to write the definitive response.
In accord with most geneticists, Ostrer firmly rejects the fashionable postmodernist dismissal of the concept of race as genetically naive, opting for a more nuanced perspective. 
When the human genome was first mapped a decade ago, Francis Collins, then head of the National Genome Human Research Institute, said: “Americans, regardless of ethnic group, are 99.9% genetically identical.” Added J. Craig Venter, who at the time was chief scientist at the private firm that helped sequenced the genome, Celera Genomics, “Race has no genetic or scientific basis.” Those declarations appeared to suggest that “race,” or the notion of distinct but overlapping genetic groups, is “meaningless.” 
But Collins and Venter have issued clarifications of their much-misrepresented comments. Almost every minority group has faced, at one time or another, being branded as racially inferior based on a superficial understanding of how genes peculiar to its population work. The inclination by politicians, educators and even some scientists to underplay our separateness is certainly understandable. But it’s also misleading. DNA ensures that we differ not only as individuals, but also as groups. 
However slight the differences (and geneticists now believe that they are significantly greater than 0.1%), they are defining. That 0.1% contains some 3 million nucleotide pairs in the human genome, and these determine such things as skin or hair color and susceptibility to certain diseases. They contain the map of our family trees back to the first modern humans. 
Both the human genome project and disease research rest on the premise of finding distinguishable differences between individuals and often among populations. Scientists have ditched the term “race,” with all its normative baggage, and adopted more neutral terms, such as “population” and “clime,” which have much of the same meaning. Boiled down to its essence, race equates to “region of ancestral origin.” 
Ostrer has devoted his career to investigating these extended family trees, which help explain the genetic basis of common and rare disorders. Today, Jews remain identifiable in large measure by the 40 or so diseases we disproportionately carry, the inescapable consequence of inbreeding. He traces the fascinating history of numerous “Jewish diseases,” such as Tay-Sachs, Gaucher, Niemann-Pick, Mucolipidosis IV, as well as breast and ovarian cancer. Indeed, 10 years ago I was diagnosed as carrying one of the three genetic mutations for breast and ovarian cancer that mark my family and me as indelibly Jewish, prompting me to write “Abraham’s Children.” 
Like East Asians, the Amish, Icelanders, Aboriginals, the Basque people, African tribes and other groups, Jews have remained isolated for centuries because of geography, religion or cultural practices. It’s stamped on our DNA. As Ostrer explains in fascinating detail, threads of Jewish ancestry link the sizable Jewish communities of North America and Europe to Yemenite and other Middle Eastern Jews who have relocated to Israel, as well as to the black Lemba of southern Africa and to India’s Cochin Jews. But, in a twist, the links include neither the Bene Israel of India nor Ethiopian Jews. Genetic tests show that both groups are converts, contradicting their founding myths. 
Why, then, are Jews so different looking, usually sharing the characteristics of the surrounding populations? Think of red-haired Jews, Jews with blue eyes or the black Jews of Africa. Like any cluster — a genetic term Ostrer uses in place of the more inflammatory “race” — Jews throughout history moved around and fooled around, although mixing occurred comparatively infrequently until recent decades. Although there are identifiable gene variations that are common among Jews, we are not a “pure” race. The time machine of our genes may show that most Jews have a shared ancestry that traces back to ancient Palestine but, like all of humanity, Jews are mutts. 
About 80% of Jewish males and 50% of Jewish females trace their ancestry back to the Middle East. The rest entered the “Jewish gene pool” through conversion or intermarriage. Those who did intermarry often left the faith in a generation or two, in effect pruning the Jewish genetic tree. But many converts became interwoven into the Jewish genealogical line. Reflect on the iconic convert, the biblical Ruth, who married Boaz and became the great-grandmother of King David. She began as an outsider, but you don’t get much more Jewish than the bloodline of King David! 
To his credit, Ostrer also addresses the third rail of discussions about Jewishness and race: the issue of intelligence. Jews were latecomers to the age of freethinking. While the Enlightenment swept through Christian Europe in the 17th century, the Haskalah did not gather strength until the early 19th century. By the beginning of the new millennium, however, Jews were thought of as among the smartest people on earth. The trend is most prominent in America, which has the largest concentration of Jews outside Israel and a history of tolerance. 
Although Jews make up less than 3% of the population, they have won more than 25% of the Nobel Prizes awarded to American scientists since 1950. Jews also account for 20% of this country’s chief executives and make up 22% of Ivy League students. Psychologists and educational researchers have pegged their average IQ at 107.5 to 115, with their verbal IQ at more than 120, a stunning standard deviation above the average of 100 found in those of European ancestry. Like it or not, the IQ debate will become an increasingly important issue going forward, as medical geneticists focus on unlocking the mysteries of the brain. 
Many liberal Jews maintain, at least in public, that the plethora of Jewish lawyers, doctors and comedians is the product of our cultural heritage, but the science tells a more complex story. Jewish success is a product of Jewish genes as much as of Jewish moms. 
Is it “good for the Jews” to be exploring such controversial subjects? We can’t avoid engaging the most challenging questions in the age of genetics. Because of our history of endogamy, Jews are a goldmine for geneticists studying human differences in the quest to cure disease. Because of our cultural commitment to education, Jews are among the top genetic researchers in the world. 
As humankind becomes more genetically sophisticated, identity becomes both more fluid and more fixed. Jews in particular can find threads of our ancestry literally anywhere, muddying traditional categories of nationhood, ethnicity, religious belief and “race.” But such discussions, ultimately, are subsumed by the reality of the common shared ancestry of humankind. Ostrer’s “Legacy” points out that — regardless of the pros and cons of being Jewish — we are all, genetically, in it together. And, in doing so, he gets it just right. 
Jon Entine is the founder and director of the Genetic Literacy Project at George Mason University, where he is senior research fellow at the Center for Health and Risk Communication. His website is

May 4, 2012

WaPo: Watching "Mad Men" means Obama's practically a Medal of Honor winner

From the Washington Post:
Obama’s military connection 
By David Maraniss, Friday, May 4, 3:15 PM 
... On a personal level, Obama seems at ease in the presence of soldiers and sailors ... He is an avid viewer of the television show “Mad Men” and told me that some of the characters remind him of his grandparents, with whom he lived as a teenager.

Headlines of upcoming parts of David Maraniss's series:
How Watching "The Sopranos" Makes Obama More or Less Italian 
How Watching "The Walking Dead" Strengthens Obama's Connection to Crucial Zombie Swing Vote

Elizabeth Warren

I've read a lot about the controversy over Massachusetts Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren having apparently been listed as a minority in university reports to the federal government on the grounds that she believes she is 1/32nd Cherokee. 

For example, here's an NYT op-ed "Elizabeth Warren's Birther Moment" by a law school professor who says he too is Native American, but, otherwise, I can't quite make out what he's trying to say other than that Republicans are evil. 

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I was under the impression that, legally, a person either is recognized as a member of a Native American tribe or is not. It's not like being Irish on St. Patrick's Day, it's a legal matter of whether or not one is on the tribe's rolls. It's not even like being black or Hispanic where there is a presumption in favor of self-identification. Legally, being an American Indian is not a matter of asserting one's American Indianishness, it's a matter of being accepted by a federally recognized Indian tribe as an official member.

Each tribe defines membership for itself. It's not a question of whether you think you qualify under those membership rules but whether the tribe agrees that you qualify. You are free to apply for membership, but many who apply are not accepted. Indeed, many one-time tribe members get cast out during periodic purges.

This is hardly a trivial or obscure point, because who gets shares of casino profits depend upon it. Moreover, Indian tribes frequently get in the news for holding Cypress Point-style membership drives in which they drive out members. One Cherokee tribe recently expelled a few thousand blackish members for not being Cherokee enough.

I would expect law professors like Warren and Maillard to understand that. This op-ed never addresses whether or not Warren is an enrolled member of one of the Cherokee Nations. If Elizabeth Warren is an enrolled member of one of the Cherokee Nations then she is legally entitled to claim minority status. If she is not on the membership roll of the Cherokee Nation, she should not have claimed to be Cherokee for purposes of her academic legal career. We're not talking about a romantic schoolgirl or an elderly genealogy enthusiast here, we're talking about a Harvard law professor. It's not a really complicated legal question for a Harvard law professor to get right.

As usual, Republican commentators appear to be exceptionally ignorant about the mechanics of how affirmative action categories work. This is a topic that demands vastly more attention than it gets from Republicans. As a notorious raving extremist, I'm always counseling that we should attempt to understand where all sides are coming from in the major long-term arguments. For example, is race a biological phenomenon or a social construct? Well, it's both, and it's important to grasp the precise reasons for it being both and how they apply to each group.

In determining the future of the country, the usual issues of the day, such as the estate tax or whatever, aren't really that important. The real drivers of the future will be how many people are in America, who they are, and who they think they are. Only the last of the three questions is considered at all proper to bring up in Republican circles, and even then it's kept on this woozy level of how people ought to feel, with little discussion of how government policy influences how people feel about who they are. And the notion that government policies could be adjusted for the long-term benefit of the Republican Party is almost wholly alien to Republicans.

When Republicans do talk about how the government defines race and ethnicity, the level of insight is low, typically based on wishful moralizing about blacks. You'll see assertions that black people only feel black because the government gives them affirmative action for saying they are black. Most people recognize that as a pretty stupid argument, and since few whites care about anybody other than whites and blacks, the fact that this line of thought is less stupid when applied to Hispanics or to South Asians being counted in with Chinese never ever dawns on Republican "strategists."

Hence, almost no Republican critics of Warren fathom what exactly she did wrong.

Dept. of Dubious Damage Control: Norfolk police chief inadvertently issues Vibrancy Alert

From WND:
But at a press conference today, interim Norfolk Police Chief Sharon Chamberlin said the department is not investigating the case as a hate crime. 
“At no time in our investigation or in statements taken from the victims did it appear this assault was racially motivated,” she said. 
... “The streets of Norfolk are safe. We are a vibrant city, we are growing, we are changing each and every day and citizens should not judge our streets in light of this particular thing.”

The Blonds of Guadalcanal

From the New York Times:
In the Solomon Islands, about 10 percent of the dark-skinned indigenous people have strikingly blond hair. Some islanders theorize that the coloring could be a result of excess sun exposure, or a diet rich in fish. Another explanation is that the blondness was inherited from distant ancestors — European traders and explorers who came to the islands. 
A team led by researchers at Stanford University has identified a gene that is responsible for blond hair in 5 percent to 10 percent of the indigenous population of the Solomon Islands. 
But that’s not the case, researchers now report. The gene variant responsible for blond hair in the islanders is distinctly different from the gene that causes blond hair in Europeans. 
“For me it breaks down any kind of simple notions you might have about race,” said Carlos Bustamante, a geneticist at Stanford University. “Humans are beautifully diverse, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.”

For me, it builds up my simple notion that race is less about what you happen to look like than about who your relatives are. We can of course use appearance to guess at who your relations are, but if we have DNA data or long documented pedigrees, as with thoroughbred racehorses, we can skip the classification-by-appearance step.

Ethnic economics of egg donation

From the L.A. Times:
Asian women command premium prices for egg donation in U.S. 
The high prices reflect growing demand and a shortage of willing donors. Asian women can get about $10,000 to $20,000 for their eggs, while women of other ethnic groups typically get about $6,000. 
... Fertility industry experts say there are several reasons Asian eggs are in demand, including a cultural aversion to adoption. If a woman is infertile, they say, many Asian couples would prefer to use the husband's sperm with a donor's egg to conceive a child that carries at least half of the couple's genetic identity than to adopt a baby from other parents. 
Demand is also high among Jewish couples, many of whom put off having kids to pursue higher education or careers, clinic operators say. According to a report from the United Jewish Communities, half of Jewish American women have college degrees and 21% have graduate degrees. They tend to marry later, the survey says, and have lower fertility rates. 
Clinic operators say there has been a shortage of Asian eggs for several years but that the deficit has been exacerbated by two factors: rising Chinese wealth, which has given more couples the means to come to the U.S. for surrogate parent programs, and this year a surge in Chinese couples interested in having babies in the Year of the Dragon, considered the luckiest year in the 12-year zodiac calendar. 
One reason for the lack of supply is that Asian women are less likely to go through the discomfort of egg donations out of financial need. On average, Asian women earn higher salaries and are more likely to be college-educated than their counterparts in other racial groups, according to Labor Department statistics. Asian females out-earn white women by 13%, black women by 31% and Latinas by 52%, the agency said. 
"A lot of young women who elect to be egg donors do so for financial reasons," Vorzimer said. "But many Asian and Jewish donors who are in such high demand are young ladies who do not need that financial compensation. They are financially secure, so they don't need to donate their eggs to fund a college education or a down payment on a first home."

"Think Like a Man"

A lot of big laughs in this buppie rom-com based on Steve Harvey's advice book for black women looking to get a man to put a ring on it. It's a box office hit, and deservedly so. Kevin Hart, the 5'-2" stand-up who sounds like a cross between Red Foxx and Chris Tucker, is the stand-out, even though he's often hard to understand, but everybody in the big cast is pretty good. 

The black director and the two white screenwriters seem to be following a growing tendency in screenwriting, as illustrated by very different movies such as Inception and Moneyball: redundancy. Instead of slowing down to emphasize key points so that the audience doesn't get lost, come up with lots of entertaining ways to say the same things over and over with small variations really fast. If viewers get 80% of what's said, that's enough to keep them on track. 

May 3, 2012

Weigel on Obama's autobiography

Dave Weigel writes in Slate:
Politico's attempt to clean up after yesterday's botched Drudge-bait* is a thoughtful, odd, meditation on the political impact of David Maraniss's new Obama bio. "This is a dangerous book for Obama," they write, "and White House staffers have been fretting about it in a low-grade way for a long, long time — in part because it could redefine the self-portrait Obama skillfully created for himself in 1995 with Dreams from My Father." 
The oddity is in the assignation of roles -- whose job was it to create a true portrait of Obama? From 2004, when Obama was winning a U.S. Senate race in his state, dogged local reporters like Lynn Sweet noodled about how weird Obama's bio was -- facts mushed up with musings and lessons from un-named or composite characters. But after Obama became a star, the rawness of Dreams got lost. There was no great desire, by most political reporters, to dig into the thousands of words Obama had written about "the almost mathematical precision with which America's race and class problems joined." There was no great desire to dogpile on the first credible black presidential candidate by presenting his decade-old autobiography as a source of controversy. 
"The media have drawn a curtain of admiring incomprehension in front of Obama's own exquisitely written autobiography," wrote the conservative author Steve Sailer in 2009. "Because few have taken the trouble to appreciate Obama on his own terms, the politician functions as our natonal blank slate upon which we sketch out our social fantasies."
Obama's been president for three years now, and the rules have changed.  

I doubt that we'll see much in the way of people finally digging into Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. We're more years down the pike, plus the book is simply too difficult of a read. The prose style is pleasantly trance-inducing and unquotable, plus, it's pretty boring. For example, there are quite a few pages about Rev. Jeremiah Wright, but they are duller than Rev. Wright is in real life.

To understand Dreams, rather than to be just lulled by it, you have to cynically put yourself into Obama's state of mind about his ambitions as of 1995:

He wanted to prove he was black enough to be a black politician in Chicago, and he wanted to impress cultured white people in Hyde Park, but he didn't want to provide many quotes that could someday be used against him from any angle. 

He largely succeeded on the last count. He likely succeeded somewhat on the second in terms of impressing a handful of rich people. (I wonder how many pages of Dreams billionairess Penny Pritzker made it through? Probably enough to become convinced that backing Obama would raise her social standing even higher). On the first goal, I can't imagine the book did him much good in his failed race against Bobby Rush in 2000.

As I pointed out in in 2008, most of the attacks on Obama's background (he's foreign-born, a Muslim, an Arab, the secret son of a Communist poet, etc.) are motivated by the urge to say, "It's not about race," when the whole Obama phenomenon really is about race. If he weren't part-black, he wouldn't be very interesting. 

Obama and Power

Pat Casey writes in the comments:
Ever consider that Obama wanted to be a politician more than he wanted to be black; that he wouldn't have cared about being black if he didn't want to be a politician; that his desire to be a man of POWER is what drove him into an identity crisis because he could never really be the white candidate and figured no one would ever understand him as the mulatto candidate, leaving selling himself as the black candidate the only option he could imagine?  
If that is the actual cause and effect its not surprising he wouldn't be honest about it; much more compelling to talk about an identity crisis than a consuming desire for Power.

I once counted the number of times the word "power" comes up in Dreams from My Father. It was something like 73.

I'd add that Obama doesn't particularly like being a politician per se; he likes power, fame, and adulation, but he's not a political animal the way, say, LBJ was. LBJ was happiest as a Major Player on the political scene when he was Senate majority leader. He then found being Chief Executive got to be a drag. Obama insiders say that being a state legislator or even a U.S. Senator bored Obama.

Something that's not mentioned in Dreams, but must have had a major psychological impact on Obama is that his father was a fringe player in the most famous drama of power in Kenyan history: the rise and sudden fall of Tom Mboya, his father's mentor. Mboya, a Luo, seemed the logical successor to Jomo Kenyatta, a Kikuyu, but Mboya was gunned down on July 5, 1969, moments after talking to Barack Obama Sr. Indeed, Obama Sr. was the final witness called in the prosecution of the hit man. Obama Sr. claimed his career was ruined by his testifying.

That's a little too close to the flame for my tastes, but Obama Jr. seems not to have been discouraged in his pursuit of power by this. Perhaps he was galvanized by it. You might see vague references to this, suitably filtered, pop up occasionally in Michelle's comments about how Barack could be gunned down at any moment by roving white racist gangs while filling his gas tank at the Hyde Park filling station.

Another oddity is that the neighborhood Barack and Michelle chose to buy their big house in is the neighborhood chosen by the friends of the friends of the people who assassinated Barack's boyhood idol, Malcolm X. As he explained to the Chicago Tribune, he chose Tony Rezko to help him out with his buying his house because Tony knows all about real estate in that neighborhood. What the Tribune didn't explain was that the reason Tony knows all about real estate there is because he was long the business manager for the inner circle of the Nation of Islam, and that's where they live. That would kind of weird me out, but of course nobody has ever asked Obama about that.

And, of course, nobody has ever asked Obama about what lessons he learned from his father's role in the Mboya tragedy.

May 2, 2012

Obama's three white girlfriends

While writing my reader's guide to Barack Obama's memoir, I had a moment of doubt. I thought I understood the basic thrust of the guy's life -- the need to define himself as black to acquire political power, because being seen as African-American would be hugely advantageous to the career of a quite white guy like Barry Soetoro. But what if this was all a smokescreen intended to distract from him being gay -- this would hardly be the first time in quasi-autobiographical literature. For example, Remembrance of Things Past makes more sense if you know that Proust, unlike his fictional stand-in, was gay.  

I spent several hours thinking through everything I knew about Obama, talking it over with my wife. I came up with virtually no evidence, other than a lack of pre-Michelle girlfriends (he didn't meet Michelle until he was almost 28), except for one white serious girlfriend, whom he shoves away because she is white. My wife was even more convinced than I was that the Obama-is-gay theory was a dead-end.

But, it has lived on among people less informed about Obama's life.

Now, Vanity Fair is publishing an excerpt from David Maraniss' latest biography of Obama. It's pretty dull stuff, but it identifies by name two white girlfriends from his New York years, and includes diary excerpts and letters. David Remnick had earlier recounted that Obama had a white girlfriend in his later Chicago years, an anthropology grad student at the U. of Chicago (sounds pretty Freudian!). Obama admitted to Maraniss that the lone white girlfriend in Dreams from My Father is a composite of several. 

So, Obama sounds like a fairly average heterosexual. 

One thing that's clear from the article if you read it with a more hard-headed approach than Maraniss brings is that marrying Michelle instead of earlier white girlfirends was crucial to Obama's ambition to be a black politician. But, we already knew that.

Genevieve and Barack talked about race quite often, as part of his inner need to find a sense of belonging. She sympathized and encouraged his search for identity. If she felt like an outsider, he was a double outsider, racial and cross-cultural. He looked black, but was he? He confessed to her that at times “he felt like an imposter. Because he was so white. There was hardly a black bone in his body.” At some point that summer she realized that, “in his own quest to resolve his ambivalence about black and white, it became very, very clear to me that he needed to go black.”

By the way, I've long been fascinated by the questions raised by this picture:
What if second husband Lolo Soetoro had decided to insist, out of patriarchal amour propre, that Barry was his own biological son? Stranger things have happened in families. It would strike me that the difference in hair would be the main stumbling block to getting away with this. Say he then concocted a story to add plausibility to his claim to paternity that his family had some wooly-haired Papuan ancestors from West Irian in Indonesian New Guinea. 

Assume the story worked and that Barry Soetoro, along with everybody at Punahou, believed he was just some kind of a funny looking white-East Asian-Melanesian mixed race kid. Would he be president today?

Of course not. 

The career of a Barry Soetoro who didn't call himself black would probably have been a lot like that of his half-sister Maya, a semi-employed soft subject Ph.D.

Putting my reductionist hat on, we can conclude from the spectacular career of Barack Obama that in 21st century America, being black is highly advantageous, all else being equal. Sadly, acting black continues to correlate with self-destructiveness.

Barbara Harris: Paying Cash to Crack Addicts for Contraception

From Salon:
Should addicts be sterilized? 
Project Prevention has long paid poor, addicted women not to procreate. Now the far right is helping it go global 

“Don’t let a pregnancy ruin your drug habit,” the slogan on the fliers reads. Another says, “She has her daddy’s eyes…and her mommy’s heroin addiction.” Then: “Get birth control, get ca$h.” 
These are posters that show up nationwide in homeless shelters and methadone clinics, in AA and NA meeting rooms and near needle exchange programs, distributed by volunteers for Project Prevention. Formerly called Children Requiring a Caring Kommunity (CRACK), the controversial nonprofit pays drug addicts $300 to either undergo sterilization or use a form of long-term, “no responsibility needed” birth control. 
“What makes a woman’s right to procreate more important than the right of a child to have a normal life?” Project Prevention founder Barbara Harris told Time magazine in 2010.

There's almost nothing in the Salon article, however, about Barbara Harris, whom I interviewed a decade ago for a UPI article, and who turned out to be quite a lady:
Q&A with Barbara Harris:
Paying Cash to Crack Addicts for Contraception 
by Steve Sailer
UPI, May 9, 2002

When you meet Barbara Harris, it's hard to figure out how old she is. Her youthful looks don't seem to match her eventful life story. 
After a couple of decades of being a waitress at International House of Pancakes while raising her three sons, she spent seven years as a stay-at-home mom for her four new adopted children, all siblings whose mother was a drug addict. Then, in 1997, she founded one of America's most innovative and controversial charities, C.R.A.C.K. (Children Requiring A Caring Kommunity), which pays addicts $200 to use long-term contraception or get sterilized. 
According to her Web site, 584 women (and eight men) have taken Harris up on her offer. Her clients have 1,102 of their children in the foster-care system. Another 231 of their babies have been stillborn or died shortly afterward. The women had also had 993 abortions. 
Long-term birth control was the choice of 57 percent of the women, while the others picked tubal ligation. About half her clients have been white and another one third were black. 
Harris is a large, cheerful woman of impressive energy. Her long, dark blonde hair and almost line-free face suggest she's in her 30s. But then she tells you that she has three grandchildren by her oldest son, who is 30. And her second son, a senior at Stanford, just got married. It turns out she is 48. Perhaps her secret is that she doesn't spend a lot of time fretting over her worries. Instead, she responds with direct, vigorous action. 
Harris, who is often denounced as a "racist," is a white woman who lives with her African-American husband Smitty, a surgical technician, in a non-descript but pleasant section of Orange County, Calif., called Stanton. Mixed-race families are not a particularly big deal in this suburb near where Tiger Woods grew up. 
I met with Harris at C.R.A.C.K.'s three-room suite in a low concrete office building in nearby Garden Grove. While most articles about Harris have concentrated on the ideological arguments that have pitted her organization against representatives of the ACLU and the NAACP, I was more interested in what motivated her.

You can read my interview with her here.

Mayday illegal alien rallies flop 6th straight year

From the Associated Press:

May Day Protests Show Weak Immigration Movement
ATLANTA (AP) — While a black preacher told 100 immigration protesters that incarcerated blacks and detained immigrants faced similar challenges, Jesse Morgan stood to one side of the May Day demonstrators, holding a large sign that read "Radical Queers Resist." 
Although the rally was geared toward illegal immigrants, the 24-year-old Georgia State sociology major said gays can relate, too, because they often face discrimination. 
"And besides," he said. "There are queers who are undocumented." 
Over the last several years, May Day rallies in the United States have been dominated by activists pushing for a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million people in the country illegally. But since 2006, when hundreds of thousands took to the streets in cities across America, the rallies have gotten smaller, less focused and increasingly splintered by any number of groups with a cause. 
In New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland, Calif., May Day protests were dominated by Occupy Wall Street activists, a sign of how far the immigration has fallen off the radar, unable to compete with the economy.

And yet, everybody knows that the only way the GOP can win the crucial Hispanic vote is by caving in on amnesty, because that's what American citizen Hispanics care so much about.

Whiteness Crisis at Obama HQ postponed for the duration

The Official "Girls" Fan Club celebrates another great episode!
Oh, wait ...
Via Untethered, here's a picture of Obama Campaign Headquarters in Chicago from the Obama 2012 Tumblr account. There's definitely one African-American in the back row-center (a large man in a black shirt). There might be another black or two in the back row, but that appears to be about it. Please do click on the picture to see it full size.

In 2011, I blogged:

Will the EEOC apply the Four-Fifths rule to this organization?

From a help wanted ad:
Company: Obama 2012 Presidential Campaign
Location: Chicago, IL
The Obama for America Analytics Department analyzes the campaign's data to guide election strategy and develop quantitative, actionable insights that drive our decision-making. Our team's products help direct work on the ground, online and on the air. 
We are looking for Predictive Modeling/Data Mining Scientists and Analysts, at both the senior and junior level, to join our department through November 2012 at our Chicago Headquarters. We are a multi-disciplinary team of statisticians, predictive modelers, data mining experts, mathematicians, software developers, general analysts and organizers - all striving for a single goal: re-electing President Obama. 
Using statistical predictive modeling, the Democratic Party's comprehensive political database, and publicly available data, modeling analysts are charged with predicting the behavior of the American electorate. These models will be instrumental in helping the campaign determine which voters to target for turnout and persuasion efforts, where to buy advertising and how to best approach digital media. 
Our Modeling Analysts will dive head-first into our massive data to solve some of our most critical online and offline challenges. We will analyze millions of interactions a day, learning from terabytes of historical data, running thousands of experiments, to inform campaign strategy and critical decisions.

If the Obama for America Analytics Department doesn't hire at least four-fifths as many Hispanic females as Asian males, then Eric Holder is going to want to know why!

Or, I guess not.

Here's the disclaimer at the end of last year's Obama quant ad:
Obama for America is committed to diversity among its staff, and recognizes that its continued success requires the highest commitment to obtaining and retaining a diverse staff that provides the best quality services to supporters and constituents. Obama for America is an equal opportunity employer and it is our policy to recruit, hire, train, promote and administer any and all personnel actions without regard to sex, race, age, color, creed, national origin, religion, economic status, sexual orientation, veteran status, gender identity or expression, ethnic identity or physical disability, or any other legally protected basis. Obama for America will not tolerate any unlawful discrimination and any such conduct is strictly prohibited.

Just kidding!

I started working at a Chicago marketing research firm thirty years ago, doing similar work, and we always had a higher percentage of black employees than you see in this Obama Chicago HQ picture. My boss was black in 1986-1988.

People always say, "Who ever imagined a black man would be President?" Well, I always assumed it would happen. I was kind of surprised it wasn't Colin Powell in 1996. But I am surprised by this photo of the black President's campaign staffers. That's not something I would have forecasted a generation ago.

Mark Steyn talks about how 21st Century British pop stars, such as James Blunt, are much posher in upbringing than pop stars were in the Rod Stewart days. Blunt (officially, Blount; "Blunt" is just easier for the proles to pronounce) is an Old Harrovian and graduate of Sandhurst, who spent six years as an officer in the Life Guards, the senior regiment in the British Army. Wikipedia's bio of him features the greatest sentence of all time: "The Blount family has a long history of military service, dating from the 10th century." So, the Blounts are in their third millenium in the officer class.

Anyway, it appears that a lot of the key careers in culture and politics are getting more upscale.

$10,000 First Prize in The Unz Historical Research Competition

Ron Unz, publisher of The American Conservative, announces:
As some of you already know, I recently released a content-archiving website,, which had absorbed most of my time and effort over the last few years. 
The website makes freely available a vast quantity of high-quality content material, including the archives of numerous important publications published during the first half of the 20th Century and earlier. Most of this important source material---millions of pages---has never previously been available to anyone except on the dusty shelves of major research libraries. 
The Wilson Quarterly recently ran a brief description of the project entitled The Periodical Table
As a means of publicizing this new website and the research value of the unique content material which it contains, I am announcing The Unz Historical Research Competition, offering a $10,000 First Prize for the most interesting and important historical research project derived from the website source materials. The competition begins today, lasts until August 31, 2012, and is open to students, academics, independent scholars, or other interested individuals, both in the United States and around the world. 
The exact details of the competition may be found on the Unz Competition website, which includes a partial listing of the periodical archives.

May 1, 2012

A horse of a different color

My Taki's Magazine column is about some broad questions raised by Hansen, a longshot in this Saturday's Kentucky Derby:
Still, the interesting thing about the color of thoroughbreds is that it’s really not that interesting. Sure, some folks bet on their favorite color of horse, but that’s looked down upon by serious plungers.  
Among American humans, however, color is widely thought to be the essence of race.

Why is color less important at the race tracks than when the EEOC tracks race?

Find the answer here.

The "Ironic Racism" Crisis

From the Chicago Tribune:
Trayvon Martin, Kony 2012, L.A. riots -- and now 'hipster racism'
Matthew Pearce 
The Trayvon Martin case, the"Kony 2012" phenomenon, the L.A. riots anniversary.... The conversation about race in America never went away. Now a new discussion about so-called hipster racism has brought the talk to the millennials, and it's gotten a little awkward. 
Among the questions: Is hipster racism real? Is it any different from more traditional racism? Or is all this talk just the byproduct of a generation that barely remembers Rodney King and O.J. Simpson and has no idea how to talk about race? 

Non-ironic racism apparently not a crisis, ironically enough

Two weeks ago, two white reporters for the Virginia Pilot, evidently out on a Saturday night date, on their way home from a Norfolk, VA theater were beaten by a mob of blacks. 

Now you might think that a racist mob terrorizing passer-bys downtown would qualify as local news, especially when the victims were newspaper reporters. But, their newspaper didn't report the incident, until finally an editorial appeared today:
The next day, Forster searched Twitter for mention of the attack. 
One post chilled him. 
"I feel for the white man who got beat up at the light," wrote one person. 
"I don't," wrote another, indicating laughter. "(do it for trayvon martin)"

The Latest Whitopia: the 1890s

These are the Mast Brothers, two guys from Iowa who make extremely expensive "artisanal" chocolate in Brooklyn. And, yes, they do seem to go out of their way to look like the Smith Brothers on the old cough drop boxes.

Here's Benjamin Wallace's witty article using the Mast Brothers to illustrate what's happening in Brooklyn. 

Now, I can't afford to buy $9 chocolate bars, and my taste buds aren't sophisticated enough to tempt me anyway, but I expect that a decade from now I'll buy something at Costco cheap and delicious that incorporates new flavor breakthroughs invented around now by all the artisanal food maniacs like the Mast Brothers who are currently holing up in Brooklyn, Portland, and other growing hipster whitopias.

But the cultural signifiers ... wow ...

Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein launched their fairly amusing sketch-com Portlandia (you'll like it if you don't let your expectations get too high) with a song about how the dream of the 1990s (e.g., grunge) is alive in Portland. It was okay, and you should watch it to get the jokes in this next song, because now they they've topped it with a reprise (via Razib) about how the dream of the 1890s is alive in Portland. 
Remember when everybody was carving their own ice cubes?

Latest girl racist: Zooey Deschanel

Now we're really getting somewhere!

Lena Dunham and Lesley Arfin are cool people to get lumped in with by the Junior Volunteer Thought Police, but the Girls writers can't compete on sheer adorability with Zooey Deschanel, comic actress, singer (above is the video of her singing Baby, It's Cold Outside in the shower in Elf), and daughter of a great artist.

In Jezebel, Lindy West pens "A Complete Guide to 'Hipster Racism,'" which is both as stupid and as stridently pro-stupidity as you'd expect:
When people are trying to be sensitive about race but they don't know what to say, they usually go with, "Well, race is a complicated issue." Except, no, it's not. Race is one of the least complicated issues that there is, because it's made up. It's arbitrary. It's as complicated as goddamn Santa Claus. Oh, that guy's mom was half-black, which makes his skin slightly more pigmented than mine, which therefore means that he's inherently 12.5% lazier than me? Science! Um, no.

What I didn't expect was this:
1. "Tee-Hee, Aren't I Adorable?" 
This category includes things like wide-eyed acoustic covers of hip-hop songs, suburban white girls flashing gang signs, and this Tweet from Zooey Deschanel: "Haha. :) RT @Sarabareilles: Home from tour and first things first: New Girl episodes I missed. #thuglife." See, it's hilarious, because we aren't thugs—we are darling girls, and real thugs are black people who do crime! Oh, hey, can I call you back? I need to sew more ric-rac on my apron. I hope a black person didn't get into my ric-rac Kaboodle and steal all of it! JK, LOL. RIP, Whitney. 
(Now, I'm obv not saying that Zooey Deschanel is some terrible racist. I don't know her, although I did sit next to her at a restaurant once, and she ordered "olives." She seemed lovely, and she didn't call anyone the n-word for the entire meal. But I'm saying that we are all kind of bizarrely cavalier and careless these days, throwing our most deeply-considered morals under the bus for the sake of a few cheap jokes. It's weird, and we owe the world a little more critical thinking.)

OK, so now I see the pattern. For years, I've been talking about those who get the joke and those who don't, and that's what we see being played out, with the clueless going on the offensive. This is like Georgia attacking Russia in 2008.

What we're seeing over the last couple of weeks are the unfunny, unsuccessful, uncool white girls in the media (e.g., Jezebel writers) waging war using charges of racism on the funny, successful, cool white girls in the media (e.g., Dunham, Arfin, Deschanel). 

Wow ... That's awesome. 

In this war, who would you rather share a foxhole with?

April 30, 2012

No Sign Yet of "Girls" Whiteness Crisis Abating

From Salon, a trifecta of 2012ness uniting HBO's largely unwatched new show Girls, whiteness, and neuroscience.
Your brain on white people 
Neuroscience shows the media's overwhelming whiteness really is changing our minds. But we can change them back  
Hello, New York, indeed. This isn’t the first time TV pushed millions of immigrants and people of color to the margins of one of the most diverse cities in the world. Hello, Woody Allen! Hello, “Seinfeld”! Hello, “Friends” and “Sex and the City”! If “Girls” can’t make it there, it can’t make it anywhere. Of course, the rest of TV has been overwhelmingly white, too. Ever since “Father Knows Best” and “Wagon Train,” the medium has long presented a whitewashed version of the way we live. 
That might be why some “Girls” writers take exception to their show being singled out for criticism. Here’s what writer Leslie Arfin tweeted in response to criticisms: “What really bothered me most about Precious was that there was no representation of ME.” (“Precious,” the 2009 film about a mentally and sexually abused teenager, featured a predominantly black cast.) 
Why shouldn’t Arfin and creator Lena Durham be able to re-create their own private girl-world on screen? What responsibility do show runners have to represent diversity? Does it even matter? How do our brains respond when people of color are invisible or stereotyped on TV? 
This is where science can help. I co-edited a book called “Are We Born Racist?,” ... 
The trick is, quite simply, to acknowledge race and racism, and to talk about it. Many white parents avoid the subject like the plague — in one notorious instance, parents pulled out children en masse from a study when they learned it would entail talking about race. But this strategy doesn’t produce colorblind citizens. It creates shows like “Girls,” “Seinfeld” and “Sex in the City.” It perpetuates a society that historically has pretended to be entirely Anglo-Saxon.

Uh ... Seinfeld pretended to be entirely Anglo-Saxon?

Meanwhile, although of apparently minimal interest to the press, for the second weekend in a row, the number one box office movie in America was Think Like a Man. This didactic comedy is based on the self-help bestseller book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man by the socially conservative black comic Steve Harvey. 

The goal of Harvey's book is to help black women get married by teaching them what black men want and need:
Steve Harvey, the host of the nationally syndicated Steve Harvey Morning Show, can't count the number of impressive women he's met over the years, whether it's through the "Strawberry Letters" segment of his program or while on tour for his comedy shows. These are women who can run a small business, keep a household with three kids in tiptop shape, and chair a church group all at the same time. Yet when it comes to relationships, they can't figure out what makes men tick. Why? According to Steve it's because they're asking other women for advice when no one but another man can tell them how to find and keep a man.

Think Like a Man was made on a budget of $12 million dollars, and in its first ten days of release has grossed $61 million. Audiences have given it an "A" grade on Cinemascore's survey. It's directed by Tim Story, a black guy who directed 2002's well-remembered Barbershop, another socially conservative black comedy that was a surprise hit. (The part in Barbershop that got the biggest laughs from black audiences was when Cedric the Entertainer explained:
"I wouldn't be saying this if there were white folks around, but there are three things blacks got to admit: Rodney King deserved to get his ass beat. O.J. did it. And Rosa Parks wasn't that special, just tired.")

But, who cares about discussing in the media a movie like Think Like a Man that black people made for themselves and genuinely like when we can instead worry about the lack of blacks among the four main characters on a show that very few black people would watch?

Was I wrong about the Rodney King riots?

Last week in The Secret History of the 1990s, I suggested that the 1992 Los Angeles riots served as a shameful wake-up call to blacks at the nadir of the crack / gangsta rap era to check themselves before they wreck themselves, and that the relative improvement in black performance in the later 1990s may date from that turning point.

A number of commenters demurred, pointing out, among other objections, that I hadn't produced a lot of quotes suggesting that African-Americans had actually been ashamed of how significant numbers of their younger people had behaved during those three days two decades ago. 

So, I did a Google search on 

ashamed 1992 riots south central

and came up with ... not much. 

A Korean academic claims, "I was embarrassed and ashamed, because many Koreans had established a negative image among the media and the African Americans. " 

That kind of thing ... 

This isn't to say that black private individuals didn't feel ashamed by the riots, but it sure isn't part of The Narrative.

April 29, 2012

Memories, misty watercolor memories ...

It's nostalgia time at the Daily Beast:
L.A. Riots Anniversary: Two Gang Members Remember 
... It wasn’t an unusual anecdote for Townsend and fellow former gang member Alfred Lomas, who shared their memories of participating in the riots with The Daily Beast. The riots were a sudden opportunity to vent frustrations with the police, with a judicial system that favored everyone but them, with limited employment. By taking to the streets and looting, they were only getting what was theirs. The two said that violence on the same scale could spring from those Los Angeles neighborhoods again, and that while fewer residents believe that a riot in the next five years is likely, many of the same problems remain. 
And although Rodney King’s beating mattered to the rioters, it wasn’t their sole or even always their primary motivation for rioting. Townsend was less upset by Rodney King than he was by the shooting of Latasha Harlins, a 15-year-old black girl who was killed with a single bullet by a Korean convenience-store owner who suspected her of shoplifting. That was in March 1991, one day after the four policemen charged with assault in King’s beating pleaded not guilty. Townsend says he couldn’t understand why Harlins’s shooter was let off with a sentence of only five years’ probation. “The liquor-store owner said she had stolen a bottle of orange juice,” Townsend said. “That penetrated my heart.” 
On April 29, when the not-guilty verdicts were handed down in the case of the four LAPD officers who had beaten Rodney King, faith-based groups tried to keep demonstrations peaceful. Townsend, in fact, was on his way to church with his cousin as the first bottles flew. On their way, he said, he saw a Korean liquor store being looted, one of many Korean businesses targeted out of anger over the Harlins shooting. “I went to the church, and while we were in the church everybody’s pager and phone was going off saying it was a riot,” Townsend remembers. 
“None of us needed tires, but let’s fill the backyard up with tires. Now we have tires.”   
As the riots spread beyond Florence and Normandie, Townsend said, it seemed the natural order had gone unhinged. “There was no such thing as a red light,” Townsend said, and the Los Angeles Police Department was nowhere to be seen. When he did see police, “they weren’t making arrests”—not even the cops in two squad cars that pulled up when Townsend’s buddies were robbing a pawn shop. He says the cops shooed them away, got back in their cars, and drove off. 
The gangs were on their own, and they seized the opportunity. “Pretty much we started thinking in terms of what is of value,” Townsend recalled. “Where are the jewelry stores, the television store, the furniture store.” When they saw an automotive store, they “went in and started stealing tires. None of us needed tires, but let’s fill the backyard up with tires. Now we have tires.” ...
Former Florencia 13 heavy hitter Alfred Lomas says that gang members were far from the only participants in the riots. 
“It wasn’t entirely a gang issue as much as people assume,” Lomas told The Daily Beast. “The L.A. riots represented a population that involved all different kinds of ethnic groups, that involved more a population unrest than a gang unrest.” 
Lomas had gotten his start in gang life early, crewing up as a 12-year-old drug addict with the city’s largest Latino gang in 1976, a process that involved him being beaten by the other members of his new fraternity for 13 seconds. A few years later, at the age of 18, Lomas volunteered to serve his country because he “wanted to learn how to shoot and kill people.” 
“My specialty was using that skill set”—skills he acquired at the expense of the American taxpayer—“to further the gang and support my drug habit, and it took me into some pretty high-profile stuff,” Lomas said. “I was part of the introduction of crack cocaine in the area I was from in South Central,” said Lomas, who grew up in the Florence-Firestone neighborhood and helped coordinate his gang’s drug trade. “I’ve been involved in every major gang war in South Central until about 10 years ago.” 
To this day, despite having left gang life, Lomas says that he remembers the simmering tensions that bubbled and bubbled before boiling over in 1992.
“Being a young kid growing up in one of these areas, there’s always a sense of harassment from the police,” Lomas said. “We’re talking about a high-crime, a high-unemployment area, and you grow up and you know you’re disadvantaged.” 
“At the time I was watching the actual riots, the Reginald Denny thing, I was located one block east of South Central in Huntington Park,” Lomas said. He was with other Florencia 13 members; Lomas says the very fact that he was a career lawbreaker seemed to separate him from most rioters. For one thing, his gang was more organized than the neighborhood toughs of the 8 Tray Crips who flogged Denny. Lomas’s gang disapproved of that kind of display, he said. 
“The criminal element, we’re looking at this like, ‘We don’t agree with this beating, that’s obviously wrong, they’re assholes, but where is the LAPD? Where are the illustrious blue lights?’” Lomas said. “It was actually days, one or two days, before we saw any sort of action from law enforcement.” 
After the first day, Lomas said he and his friends had to expand their scope to find fresh shops to loot, driving into Koreatown as well as neighborhoods on the city’s west side, including Hollywood. “Our areas got burnt up pretty quick,” Lomas said. “We’re an equal-opportunity gang, so we drove around looking for other places. I remember seeing some, now we would call them hipsters, with a shopping cart taking TVs, taking clothes, taking furniture.” It’s this last observation that has most stuck with Lomas through the years—what one may call the egalitarian nature of the pillaging and pilfering. 
“Given what occurred then, in the state of mind I was in, it was like, F the police, F the government, F everyone,” Lomas said. “And I think the L.A. riots—I don’t care what anyone says—the L.A. riots represented that kind of catharsis on a mass level.”

Good times, good times ...

Thank God that Ron Paul has finally renounced that disrespectful joke that appeared in his newsletter in 1992 about how the riot ended on May 1, 1992 because the looters stayed home to await their welfare checks. What a scandal. Some things are too sacred to joke about.