July 21, 2012

Alexander Cockburn, RIP

The leftwing journalist Alexander Cockburn has died of cancer, age 71. 

He came from an extended family that displayed, over quite a few generations, extraordinary talent and pluck at making a living by writing, both in the Cockburn wing and the Waugh wing.  For example, the Wikipedia entry for Henry Cockburn (1779-1854), judge and man of letters (friend of Sir Walter Scott, Henry Brougham, and Francis Jeffrey), notes:
The authors Alec Waugh and Evelyn Waugh, the journalist Claud CockburnClaudia Cockburn (wife of actor Michael Flanders) and author Sarah Caudwell were all descended from Cockburn, as are journalists Laura FlandersStephanie Flanders,Alexander Cockburn (husband of author Emma Tennant), Andrew Cockburn(husband of journalist Leslie Cockburn) and Patrick Cockburn (son-in-law of BishopHugh Montefiore) and actress Olivia Wilde (former wife of Tao Ruspoli).

(Here's Claud Cockburn's superb essay about his first cousin Evelyn Waugh.)

As an American journalist, it seems almost hopeless trying to compete with that kind of nature and nurture.

July 20, 2012

Norman v. Saxon after 946 years

In Britain, there is still a small but measurable difference in social metrics between people on different sides of the Ivanhoe gap after nearly a millennium. From The Telegraph in 2011:
People with Norman names wealthier than other Britons 
People with "Norman" surnames like Darcy and Mandeville are still wealthier than the general population 1,000 years after their descendants conquered Britain, according to a study into social progress. 
Research shows that the descendants of people who in 1858 had "rich" surnames such as Percy and Glanville, indicating they were descended from the French nobility, are still substantially wealthier in 2011 than those with traditionally "poor" or artisanal surnames. Artisans are defined as skilled manual workers. 
Drawing on data culled from official records that go back as far as the Domesday Book as well as university admissions and probate archives, Gregory Clark, a professor of economics at the University of California [at Davis], has tracked what became of people whose surnames indicated their ancestors had come from either the aristocratic or artisanal classes. 
By studying the probate records of those with “rich” and “poor” surnames every decade since the 1850s, he found that the extreme differences in accumulated wealth narrowed over time. 
But the value of the estates left by those belonging to the “rich” surname group, immortalised in the character of Fitzwilliam Darcy, in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, were above the national average by at least 10 per cent. 
In addition, today the holders of "rich" surnames live three years longer than average. Life expectancy is a strong indicator of socio-economic status. 
Popular names of the medieval elite who were descended from Norman families include Balliol, Baskerville, Bruce, Darcy, Glanville, Lacy, Mandeville, and Venables. 
Popular artisanal names that emerged in the 14th century include Smith, Carpenter, Mason, Shepherd, Cooper and Baker.

So, keep in mind that surnames typically didn't get chosen until about a quarter of a millennium after 1066.

By the way, the kind of British surnames that show up on characters in a P.G. Wodehouse novel tend to be rare in America. The more upper crust sort of Brits didn't emigrate to America much, except in the case of some younger sons. Here's a list of Anglo-Norman names. Some are common here, such as Martin, but many are close to unknown in America, such as Curzon.

For example, here is a list of British Prime Ministers. Until the last century or so, there are lots of names like "Gascoyne-Cecil" (a.k.a., Salisbury) that you really wouldn't expect to see on a U.S. President. Not many artisanal names like Thatcher. (Lately, though, it seems like an awful lot of Prime Ministers have Scottish names: David Cameron, Gordon Brown, Tony Blair, Alec Douglas-Home, and Harold Macmillan over the last half century.)

The Norman invasion is the reason we have pairs of words for living versus cooked animals -- the commoners who raised animals spoke English, and the nobles who ate meat spoke Norman French.  Thus we have cow/beef, calf/veal, sheep/mutton, swine/pork, deer/venison.  (Wamba, the jester in Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe, catalogues these pairs.)

The Prestige of Ignorance

David Gelernter, a professor of computer science at Yale and a prominent neocon, has a new book: America-Lite: How Imperial Academia Dismantled Our Culture (and Ushered in the Obamacrats). In a sniffy review in the Chronicle of Higher Education, UCLA history professor Russell Jacoby writes, summarizing Gelernter:
What [Gelernter] does try to explain is how intellectuals gave "an explosive left hook" to the old elite universities. There was a time when those elite schools were run by a benign establishment, generally white Anglo-Saxon Protestants, who saw their role as civilizing and uplifting. But the WASP's were knocked out by what Gelernter calls PORGI's, "post-religious, globalist intellectuals," who took over and indoctrinated the students. Armed with empty leftist theories, the PORGI's transformed students into PORGI Airheads. The Airheads follow orders "as faithfully and thoughtfully as a bucket carries water." 
Gelernter highlights the role of American Jews as "carbon 14," a way to trace the enormous cultural change and its consequences in higher education. Up through the 60s, the WASP establishment excluded Jews from elite universities.

Obviously, the word "excluded" is a massive overstatement. It's more accurate to say that the Ivy League used affirmative action for gentiles, less at Penn, more at Yale. Quotas holding back Jews at Yale, for example, were eliminated in the mid-1960s.

My late friend Jim Chapin, scion of an artsy old money WASP family (folk singer Harry Chapin was his brother, jazz drummer Jim Chapin their father), was a history professor at Yale at the time. Jim was a nice lefty, long Vice-Chairman of the Democratic Socialists of America. He noted a dramatic change in the intellectual acuity, aggressiveness, and leftism between the class that entered Yale in 1964 (into which George W. Bush had barely slipped) and the class that entered in 1966. (Bush, by the way, found the change in campus atmosphere alienating.)

Think of it as Jewish Liberation on the campuses. Jacoby summarizes Gelertner:
But by 1970, Jews had pushed their way into student bodies, faculties, and administrations.

In reality, the tipping point was considerably earlier than 1970, which suggests that the student radicalism of 1968 was a heavily Jewish phenomenon. Here's famous Sixties radical Mark Rudd's 2005 talk Why Were There So Many Jews in SDS? (Or, The Ordeal of Civility)

This was true even in Paris, where the most prominent student radical of Sixty-Eight was Daniel Cohn-Bendit.

I suspect, as well, that Israel's victory in the Six Days War of 1967 had wide psychological and political ramifications, giving confidence and energy to Jews both on the left and right. (For example, it can be argued that modern Jewish foreign policy neoconservatism originated in a plot cooked up by Richard Nixon and and his chief domestic adviser Daniel Patrick Moynihan to exploit New York Jewish intellectuals' enthusiasm for Israel's 1967 victory by binding Israel and America much more closely together, in the hopes that newfound American Jewish enthusiasm for the Jewish state's military would spill over to the warm feelings toward the American military.)

Jacoby continues with his summary of Gelernter's argument:
The consequences? Again, easy. Jews are both leftist and aggressive. "Naturally, we would expect that an increasing Jewish presence at top colleges" would imprint the schools with those qualities. "And this is just what happened." Colleges and universities became more leftist as well as more "thrusting" and "belligerent." 
Gelernter is Jewish, and it is not likely that a non-Jew would airily argue that obnoxious leftist Jews have taken over elite higher education. '

This seems to be a growing tendency: to boast about how many people are intimidated into silence and to whine about the few who aren't. It doesn't seem terribly becoming to me, but, then, what do I know?
But Gelernter does so with enthusiasm untempered by facts. Aside from quoting Jewish neoconservatives such as Norman Podhoretz as sources, Gelernter does not offer a single example of what he is writing about. Who are these belligerent leftist Jewish professors? Anthony Grafton? Steven Pinker? Richard Posner? Martha Nussbaum? Perhaps Alan Dershowitz?

I'm fascinated by how much pride contemporary mainstream intellectuals take in claiming to be ignorant. Russell Jacoby is a 67-year-old professor of history at UCLA, yet he tries to sound like an ignoramus about the events of his own lifetime. Moreover, the many commenters on this site for academics almost uniformly ignore Gelertner's argument.


Not "Brave," but close enough
Brave, the latest Pixar animated kids' movie, is okay, but doesn't stand up to the Northern California movie studio's long winning streak that climaxed with Toy Story 3 a couple of years ago. 

While Disney was predominantly a girl studio, Pixar has been a boy studio run by nerds. Brave is a half-hearted attempt to break into the princess market with the story of a princess of a Scottish Highland clan. But she's a peevish tomboy who likes shooting arrows more than girl stuff, identifying more with her barbarian dad than with her educated, managerial mom. The Celtic setting is interesting (see next post) but the storyline doesn't make much use of it, instead being a generic suburban tale about a self-absorbed adolescent who doesn't appreciate her mom enough.

Brave is not terribly funny and it's not a musical, so it's not as entertaining as the best cartoon movies. Also, the look of the characters appears to be modeled after those plastic Troll dolls, so they are fairly grotesque to look at. Fortunately, part way through, one of the characters gets magically turned into a realistically rendered bear with a nice fur coat, which is easier on the eyes than all the humans.

Diversity before Diversity: Thomas Babington Macaulay on the Scottish Highlanders

Prince Charles in a kilt
One of the themes of my "Diversity before Diversity" series is that it's simplistic to assume that white attitudes toward blacks in the past also applied to white attitudes toward other races. The reality is much more complex. Attitudes varied both by race and by time and place. 

American Indians, for example, tended to inspire in whites both more fear and loathing and more admiration than did blacks. 

For example, consider the two best-known novels by the major American novelist of the 19th Century, Mark Twain. In Huckleberry Finn, Jim, the runaway slave, is portrayed with affection. In Tom Sawyer, however, the villain Injun Joe, a half Indian-half white, is portrayed as frightening and evil. Twain, being a Westerner, knew Indians and did not like them. 

In contrast, James Fenimore Cooper, born in Cooperstown, New York, wrote The Last of the Mohicans in New York City.

The general pattern was that the more distant a white American was in location and time from large numbers of Indians, the more he admired them. Over time, the Romantic view of Native Americans became predominant in white America as the threat posed by Indians evaporated.

This pattern was not unique to white-Indian interactions. It had previously been observed in attitudes of the English and English-speaking Lowland Scots toward the Highland Scots. 

In 1855, Thomas Babington Macaulay, the British politician and poet, published the third volume of his History of England. It includes a portrait of the Scottish Highlands, home of his ancestors, and of the changing opinions toward Highlanders of the English and the Lowland Scots (collectively, "the Saxons") that is perhaps the most brilliant lengthy passage in the intellectual history of diversity (emphasis on lengthy).
It is not easy for a modern Englishman, who can pass in a day from his club in St. James's Street to his shooting box among the Grampians, and who finds in his shooting box all the comforts and luxuries of his club, to believe that, in the time of his greatgrandfathers, St. James's Street had as little connection with the Grampians as with the Andes. Yet so it was. In the south of our island scarcely any thing was known about the Celtic part of Scotland; and what was known excited no feeling but contempt and loathing. The crags and the glens, the woods and the waters, were indeed the same that now swarm every autumn with admiring gazers and stretchers. ... Yet none of these sights had power, till a recent period, to attract a single poet or painter from more opulent and more tranquil regions. Indeed, law and police, trade and industry, have done far more than people of romantic dispositions will readily admit, to develope in our minds a sense of the wilder beauties of nature. A traveller must be freed from all apprehension of being murdered or starved before he can be charmed by the bold outlines and rich tints of the hills. He is not likely to be thrown into ecstasies by the abruptness of a precipice from which he is in imminent danger of falling two thousand feet perpendicular; by the boiling waves of a torrent which suddenly whirls away his baggage and forces him to run for his life; by the gloomy grandeur of a pass where he finds a corpse which marauders have just stripped and mangled; or by the screams of those eagles whose next meal may probably be on his own eyes. ... 
[The poet Oliver] Goldsmith was one of the very few Saxons who, more than a century ago, ventured to explore the Highlands. He was disgusted by the hideous wilderness, and declared that he greatly preferred the charming country round Leyden, the vast expanse of verdant meadow, and the villas with their statues and grottoes, trim flower beds, and rectilinear avenues. Yet it is difficult to believe that the author of the Traveller and of the Deserted Village was naturally inferior in taste and sensibility to the thousands of clerks and milliners who are now thrown into raptures by the sight of Loch Katrine and Loch Lomond. 
His feelings may easily be explained. It was not till roads had been cut out of the rocks, till bridges had been flung over the courses of the rivulets, till inns had succeeded to dens of robbers, till there was as little danger of being slain or plundered in the wildest defile of Badenoch or Lochaber as in Cornhill, that strangers could be enchanted by the blue dimples of the lakes and by the rainbows which overhung the waterfalls, and could derive a solemn pleasure even from the clouds and tempests which lowered on the mountain tops. 
The change in the feeling with which the Lowlanders regarded the highland scenery was closely connected with a change not less remarkable in the feeling with which they regarded the Highland race. It is not strange that the Wild Scotch, as they were sometimes called, should, in the seventeenth century, have been considered by the Saxons as mere savages. But it is surely strange that, considered as savages, they should not have been objects of interest and curiosity. The English were then abundantly inquisitive about the manners of rude nations separated from our island by great continents and oceans. Numerous books were printed describing the laws, the superstitions, the cabins, the repasts, the dresses, the marriages, the funerals of Laplanders and Hottentots, Mohawks and Malays. The plays and poems of that age are full of allusions to the usages of the black men of Africa and of the red men of America. The only barbarian about whom there was no wish to have any information was the Highlander. ... 
In the reign of George the First, a work was published which professed to give a most exact account of Scotland; and in this work, consisting of more than three hundred pages, two contemptuous paragraphs were thought sufficient for the Highlands and the Highlanders. We may well doubt whether, in 1689, one in twenty of the well read gentlemen who assembled at Will's coffeehouse knew that, within the four seas, and at the distance of less than five hundred miles from London, were many miniature courts, in each of which a petty prince, attended by guards, by armour bearers, by musicians, by a hereditary orator, by a hereditary poet laureate, kept a rude state, dispensed a rude justice, waged wars, and concluded treaties. While the old Gaelic institutions were in full vigour, no account of them was given by any observer, qualified to judge of them fairly. 
Had such an observer studied the character of the Highlanders, he would doubtless have found in it closely intermingled the good and the bad qualities of an uncivilised nation. He would have found that the people had no love for their country or for their king; that they had no attachment to any commonwealth larger than the clan, or to any magistrate superior to the chief. He would have found that life was governed by a code of morality and honour widely different from that which is established in peaceful and prosperous societies. He would have learned that a stab in the back, or a shot from behind a fragment of rock, were approved modes of taking satisfaction for insults. He would have heard men relate boastfully how they or their fathers had wreaked on hereditary enemies in a neighbouring valley such vengeance as would have made old soldiers of the Thirty Years' War shudder. He would have found that robbery was held to be a calling, not merely innocent, but honourable. He would have seen, wherever he turned, that dislike of steady industry, and that disposition to throw on the weaker sex the heaviest part of manual labour, which are characteristic of savages. He would have been struck by the spectacle of athletic men basking in the sun, angling for salmon, or taking aim at grouse, while their aged mothers, their pregnant wives, their tender daughters, were reaping the scanty harvest of oats. Nor did the women repine at their hard lot. In their view it was quite fit that a man, especially if he assumed the aristocratic title of Duinhe Wassel and adorned his bonnet with the eagle's feather, should take his ease, except when he was fighting, hunting, or marauding. To mention the name of such a man in connection with commerce or with any mechanical art was an insult. Agriculture was indeed less despised. Yet a highborn warrior was much more becomingly employed in plundering the land of others than in tilling his own. 
The religion of the greater part of the Highlands was a rude mixture of Popery and Paganism. The symbol of redemption was associated with heathen sacrifices and incantations. Baptized men poured libations of ale to one Daemon, and set out drink offerings of milk for another. Seers wrapped themselves up in bulls' hides, and awaited, in that vesture, the inspiration which was to reveal the future. Even among those minstrels and genealogists whose hereditary vocation was to preserve the memory of past events, an enquirer would have found very few who could read. In truth, he might easily have journeyed from sea to sea without discovering a page of Gaelic printed or written. The price which he would have had to pay for his knowledge of the country would have been heavy. He would have had to endure hardships as great as if he had sojourned among the Esquimaux or the Samoyeds. Here and there, indeed, at the castle of some great lord who had a seat in the Parliament and Privy Council, and who was accustomed to pass a large part of his life in the cities of the South, might have been found wigs and embroidered coats, plate and fine linen, lace and jewels, French dishes and French wines. But, in general, the traveller would have been forced to content himself with very different quarters. In many dwellings the furniture, the food, the clothing, nay the very hair and skin of his hosts, would have put his philosophy to the proof. His lodging would sometimes have been in a hut of which every nook would have swarmed with vermin. He would have inhaled an atmosphere thick with peat smoke, and foul with a hundred noisome exhalations. At supper grain fit only for horses would have been set before him, accompanied by a cake of blood drawn from living cows. Some of the company with which he would have feasted would have been covered with cutaneous eruptions, and others would have been smeared with tar like sheep. His couch would have been the bare earth, dry or wet as the weather might be; and from that couch he would have risen half poisoned with stench, half blind with the reek of turf, and half mad with the itch.
This is not an attractive picture. And yet an enlightened and dispassionate observer would have found in the character and manners of this rude people something which might well excite admiration and a good hope. Their courage was what great exploits achieved in all the four quarters of the globe have since proved it to be. Their intense attachment to their own tribe and to their own patriarch, though politically a great evil, partook of the nature of virtue. The sentiment was misdirected and ill regulated; but still it was heroic. There must be some elevation of soul in a man who loves the society of which he is a member and the leader whom he follows with a love stronger than the love of life. It was true that the Highlander had few scruples about shedding the blood of an enemy: but it was not less true that he had high notions of the duty of observing faith to allies and hospitality to guests. It was true that his predatory habits were most pernicious to the commonwealth. Yet those erred greatly who imagined that he bore any resemblance to villains who, in rich and well governed communities, live by stealing. When he drove before him the herds of Lowland farmers up the pass which led to his native glen, he no more considered himself as a thief than the Raleighs and Drakes considered themselves as thieves when they divided the cargoes of Spanish galleons. He was a warrior seizing lawful prize of war, of war never once intermitted during the thirty-five generations which had passed away since the Teutonic invaders had driven the children of the soil to the mountains. That, if he was caught robbing on such principles, he should, for the protection of peaceful industry, be punished with the utmost rigour of the law was perfectly just. But it was not just to class him morally with the pickpockets who infested Drury Lane Theatre, or the highwaymen who stopped coaches on Blackheath. His inordinate pride of birth and his contempt for labour and trade were indeed great weaknesses, and had done far more than the inclemency of the air and the sterility of the soil to keep his country poor and rude. Yet even here there was some compensation. It must in fairness be acknowledged that the patrician virtues were not less widely diffused among the population of the Highlands than the patrician vices. As there was no other part of the island where men, sordidly clothed, lodged, and fed, indulged themselves to such a degree in the idle sauntering habits of an aristocracy, so there was no other part of the island where such men had in such a degree the better qualities of an aristocracy, grace and dignity of manner, self respect, and that noble sensibility which makes dishonour more terrible than death. A gentleman of this sort, whose clothes were begrimed with the accumulated filth of years, and whose hovel smelt worse than an English hogstye, would often do the honours of that hovel with a lofty courtesy worthy of the splendid circle of Versailles.  
Though he had as little booklearning as the most stupid ploughboys of England, it would have been a great error to put him in the same intellectual rank with such ploughboys. It is indeed only by reading that men can become profoundly acquainted with any science. But the arts of poetry and rhetoric may be carried near to absolute perfection, and may exercise a mighty influence on the public mind, in an age in which books are wholly or almost wholly unknown. ... 
There was therefore even then evidence sufficient to justify the belief that no natural inferiority had kept the Celt far behind the Saxon. It might safely have been predicted that, if ever an efficient police should make it impossible for the Highlander to avenge his wrongs by violence and to supply his wants by rapine, if ever his faculties should be developed by the civilising influence of the Protestant religion and of the English language, if ever he should transfer to his country and to her lawful magistrates the affection and respect with which he had been taught to regard his own petty community and his own petty prince, the kingdom would obtain an immense accession of strength for all the purposes both of peace and of war. 
Such would doubtless have been the decision of a well informed and impartial judge. But no such judge was then to be found. The Saxons who dwelt far from the Gaelic provinces could not be well informed. The Saxons who dwelt near those provinces could not be impartial. National enmities have always been fiercest among borderers; and the enmity between the Highland borderer and the Lowland borderer along the whole frontier was the growth of ages, and was kept fresh by constant injuries. One day many square miles of pasture land were swept bare by armed plunderers from the hills. Another day a score of plaids dangled in a row on the gallows of Crieff or Stirling. Fairs were indeed held on the debatable land for the necessary interchange of commodities. But to those fairs both parties came prepared for battle; and the day often ended in bloodshed. Thus the Highlander was an object of hatred to his Saxon neighbours; and from his Saxon neighbours those Saxons who dwelt far from him learned the very little that they cared to know about his habits. When the English condescended to think of him at all,—and it was seldom that they did so,—they considered him as a filthy abject savage, a slave, a Papist, a cutthroat, and a thief.
This contemptuous loathing lasted till the year 1745 [when Bonnie Prince Charlie, Pretender to the throne lost by the Stuarts in 1688, led an invading Highland army to within 100 miles of London], and was then for a moment succeeded by intense fear and rage. England, thoroughly alarmed, put forth her whole strength. The Highlands were subjugated rapidly, completely, and for ever. During a short time the English nation, still heated by the recent conflict, breathed nothing but vengeance. The slaughter on the field of battle and on the scaffold was not sufficient to slake the public thirst for blood. The sight of the tartan inflamed the populace of London with hatred, which showed itself by unmanly outrages to defenceless captives. A political and social revolution took place through the whole Celtic region. The power of the chiefs was destroyed: the people were disarmed: the use of the old national garb was interdicted: the old predatory habits were effectually broken; and scarcely had this change been accomplished when a strange reflux of public feeling began. 
Pity succeeded to aversion. The nation execrated the cruelties which had been committed on the Highlanders, and forgot that for those cruelties it was itself answerable. Those very Londoners, who, while the memory of the march to Derby was still fresh, had thronged to hoot and pelt the rebel prisoners, now fastened on the prince who had put down the rebellion the nickname of Butcher. Those barbarous institutions and usages, which, while they were in full force, no Saxon had thought worthy of serious examination, or had mentioned except with contempt, had no sooner ceased to exist than they became objects of curiosity, of interest, even of admiration. Scarcely had the chiefs been turned into mere landlords, when it became the fashion to draw invidious comparisons between the rapacity of the landlord and the indulgence of the chief. Men seemed to have forgotten that the ancient Gaelic polity had been found to be incompatible with the authority of law, had obstructed the progress of civilisation, had more than once brought on the empire the curse of civil war. As they had formerly seen only the odious side of that polity, they could now see only the pleasing side. The old tie, they said, had been parental: the new tie was purely commercial. What could be more lamentable than that the head of a tribe should eject, for a paltry arrear of rent, tenants who were his own flesh and blood, tenants whose forefathers had often with their bodies covered his forefathers on the field of battle? 
As long as there were Gaelic marauders, they had been regarded by the Saxon population as hateful vermin who ought to be exterminated without mercy. As soon as the extermination had been accomplished, as soon as cattle were as safe in the Perthshire passes as in Smithfield market, the freebooter was exalted into a hero of romance. As long as the Gaelic dress was worn, the Saxons had pronounced it hideous, ridiculous, nay, grossly indecent. Soon after it had been prohibited, they discovered that it was the most graceful drapery in Europe. The Gaelic monuments, the Gaelic usages, the Gaelic superstitions, the Gaelic verses, disdainfully neglected during many ages, began to attract the attention of the learned from the moment at which the peculiarities of the Gaelic race began to disappear. 
So strong was this impulse that, where the Highlands were concerned, men of sense gave ready credence to stories without evidence, and men of taste gave rapturous applause to compositions without merit. Epic poems, which any skilful and dispassionate critic would at a glance have perceived to be almost entirely modern, and which, if they had been published as modern, would have instantly found their proper place in company with Blackmore's Alfred and Wilkie's Epigoniad, were pronounced to be fifteen hundred years old, and were gravely classed with the Iliad [e.g., James MacPherson's hoax epic Ossian, published around 1760]. Writers of a very different order from the impostor who fabricated these forgeries saw how striking an effect might be produced by skilful pictures of the old Highland life [e.g., Sir Walter Scott]. Whatever was repulsive was softened down: whatever was graceful and noble was brought prominently forward. Some of these works were executed with such admirable art that, like the historical plays of Shakspeare, they superseded history. The visions of the poet were realities to his readers. The places which he described became holy ground, and were visited by thousands of pilgrims. 
Soon the vulgar imagination was so completely occupied by plaids, targets, and claymores, that, by most Englishmen, Scotchman and Highlander were regarded as synonymous words. Few people seemed to be aware that, at no remote period, a Macdonald or a Macgregor in his tartan was to a citizen of Edinburgh or Glasgow what an Indian hunter in his war paint is to an inhabitant of Philadelphia or Boston. Artists and actors represented Bruce and Douglas in striped petticoats. They might as well have represented Washington brandishing a tomahawk, and girt with a string of scalps. At length this fashion reached a point beyond which it was not easy to proceed. The last British King who held a court in Holyrood thought that he could not give a more striking proof of his respect for the usages which had prevailed in Scotland before the Union, than by disguising himself in what, before the Union, was considered by nine Scotchmen out of ten as the dress of a thief.

And yet, while Macaulay's portrait of changing Saxon views of Highlanders brilliantly anticipated changing white views of Native Americans, the accomplishments of the Indians themselves did not follow the trajectory of Highlanders, who rapidly became among the most successful ethnicities in the Anglosphere. A group's history is not just a product of the views of others, but also of their own performance.

July 19, 2012

Nate Silver isn't cynical enough

Nate Silver, a baseball statistics analyst turned electoral analyst, has an article in the NYT Magazine entitled "Let's Play Medalball."
It’s been almost a decade since the publication of “Moneyball,” Michael Lewis’s famous book-turned-movie about how the small-market Oakland Athletics used statistical artistry to compete against their (much) richer rivals. Billy Beane is still the A’s general manager, but here’s a modest proposal for his next act. He could become the head of another budget-strapped sports organization like, say, the Olympic Committee of Kyrgyzstan — or another small-market country with limited resources. Bishkek is nice this time of year! 
How might Beane turn “moneyball” into “medalball”? Channeling him, I’ve identified three measures that, when weighted equally, suggest the sports in which the Kyrgyzstans of the world could direct their energy and resources to maximize their medal count.

The underlying problem with Silver's suggestions is a lack of cynicism. Anybody familiar with Olympic history would realize that lots of countries have tried to maximize medals over the years, often with much success.

The most obvious strategy is one followed by East Germany and China: it's much easier to win medals in women's events. Outside of gymnastics and a few other sports, the number of girls who, deep down inside, really want to do what it takes to win is smaller. So, focus on macho sports for women, such as women's weightlifting.

I recall an interview with a lady shotputter from China at a recent Olympics. She said she'd always wanted to be a veterinarian when she was a child, but a bunch of state athletic experts came to her elementary school, measured all the children in various ways, and then told her she was going to grow up to be a shotputter. She didn't want to be a shotputter, she wanted to be a veterinarian, but nobody cared about her opinion. So, now she was a lady shotputter.

Women's Olympic sports are full of uplifting and empowering stories like that.

Also, as East Germany demonstrated, giving your women lots of male hormones helps more than giving your men lots of male hormones.

For sports, such as "women's" gymnastics that have a minimum age for female competitors, because T&A slows down how fast a girl can spin, lie (as China does).

It also helps to have a totalitarian system. For example, Cuba is a poor country, but it wins lots of Olympic medals. One reason is because the government channels youths into various Olympic sports, instead of letting them all play soccer like in other countries. Cuba is too small to win the soccer World Cup, but it can win gold at less popular sports.

July 18, 2012

NPR: Women scientists find science boring to talk about, so men must be at fault. Or maybe Society.

From NPR:
How Stereotypes Can Drive Women To Quit Science 
It isn't just that fewer women choose to go into these fields. Even when they go into these fields and are successful, women are more likely than men to quit. 
"They tend to drop out at higher rates than their male peers," said Toni Schmader, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia. "As women enter into careers, the levels of advancement aren't as steep for women as for men. ... 
When male scientists talked to other scientists about their research, it energized them. But it was a different story for women. 
"For women, the pattern was just the opposite, specifically in their conversations with male colleagues," Schmader said. "So the more women in their conversations with male colleagues were talking about research, the more disengaged they reported being in their work." 
Disengagement predicts that someone is at risk of dropping out. 
There was another sign of trouble. 
When female scientists talked to other female scientists, they sounded perfectly competent. But when they talked to male colleagues, Mehl and Schmader found that they sounded less competent. 
One obvious explanation was that the men were being nasty to their female colleagues and throwing them off their game. Mehl and Schmader checked the tapes.
"We don't have any evidence that there is anything that men are saying to make this happen," Schmader said. 
But the audiotapes did provide a clue about what was going on. When the male and female scientists weren't talking about work, the women reported feeling more engaged. 
For Mehl and Schmader, this was the smoking gun that an insidious psychological phenomenon called "stereotype threat" was at work. It could potentially explain the disparity between men and women pursuing science and math careers.

The White Jeremy Lin

The Washington Post reports:
Jeremy Lin’s move to Rockets could give team financial windfall from China 
By Scott Soshnick, Published: July 17 
July 18 (Bloomberg) -- Jeremy Lin’s marketing potential is best cultivated by the Houston Rockets, whose experience with Chinese center Yao Ming has them better positioned and prepared than any other National Basketball Association team to reap a financial windfall from Asia.

There's been much talk that the New York Knicks should have matched the Houston Rockets contract offer for point guard Jeremy Lin just on economic grounds alone. The widespread theory is that it would be easy for the Knicks to continue to profit off Chinese racial pride in Lin. I don't know how true that theory is (here's a post that argues that it's hard for the individual franchise, as opposed to the league, to cash in on overseas racial affinity). 

But what strikes me as more interesting is that nobody in the press seems to think that there is anything objectionable about Chinese racial bias in favor of Lin. 

Keep in mind that this isn't Chinese nationalism at work. Lin was born in America and his parent are from Taiwan. This is Chinese racialism. Not that there's anything wrong with that!

In contrast, eight years ago the great Larry Bird mentioned in an interview:
"… as we all know, the majority of fans are white America. If you just had a couple of white guys in there [in the NBA], you might get them a little excited."

In response, sportswriters went berserk:
Mike Vaccaro in the New York Post hyperventilated about "logic-challenged hayseeds like Larry Bird espousing his own strange brand of sociology." 
Other outlets printed stories entitled "Bird's comments leave us at a loss," "When it comes to race, best to shut up," and "Bird comes off looking like bigot."

One interesting question is whether American whites really would be more interested in the NBA if there were more white stars. 

For example, last winter a 21-year-old white rookie had a season fairly similar statistically to the 23-year-old Lin's injury-shortened 2012 season. But, in contrast, it made very little pop culture splash. 

Lin played in 35 games, starting 25, while the Spaniard Ricky Rubio of the Minnesota Timberwolves played in 41, starting 31. They are both big (Rubio 6'4", Lin 6'3"), athletic, energetic point guards. Both seemed to greatly improve their teams (the Timberwolves had been an awful 17-65 the previous season), and both went down with season-ending injuries that appeared to badly hurt their teams, perhaps Rubio's even more than Lin's. Moreover, Rubio is a genius at passing (video here).

For each 36 minutes they played, Rubio (who is two years younger than Lin) was a little better than Lin in assists, steals, rebounds, personal fouls, free throw percentage, 3-point percentage, and was a lot better in turnovers. Lin, in contrast, was a lot better at total scoring and 2-point shooting percentage. Rubio is an awful 2-point shooter, while Lin, for a couple of weeks last February, was a lights out 2-point shooter, although he was regressing toward the mean as his season went on. Whether he can keep it up for a career will be an interesting question.

You could argue that the Lin story was just so much more interesting than the Rubio story because Rubio has been famous in European basketball circles since he was 14. (Here's a 2008 highlight video of Rubio's teenage exploits.) On the other hand, a former child prodigy / living legend finally arriving on the big stage ought to be pretty interesting. But outside of hard core NBA fans, nobody in America much cared about Rubio.

I think a couple of things are going on. While nobody has a problem with Chinese rooting for an American-born Taiwanese out of sheer racialism, practically zero American whites will admit even to themselves that they would find it cool to see a foreign white do well in the NBA just because they are white. 

On the other hand, white Americans in the Obama Age are slowly, quietly getting a little tired of blacks. So, a Chinese-American "victim of stereotypes" makes an ideal proxy for white fans who are horrified by the thought of themselves being even a little bit racialist (but who, deep down, are). The only thing that could have made Lin more perfect for them is if he were also gay.

"Race, IQ, and Wealth"

Ron Unz has a big article in The American Conservative on a perennially interesting and important subject:
Race, IQ, and Wealth 
What the facts tell us about a taboo subject 
By RON UNZ • July 18, 2012 
At the end of April, Charles Kenny, a former World Bank economist specializing in international development, published a blistering attack in Foreign Policy entitled “Dumb and Dumber,” with the accusatory subtitle “Are development experts becoming racists?” Kenny charged that a growing number of development economists were turning towards genetic and other intrinsic human traits as a central explanation of national economic progress, often elevating these above the investment and regulatory issues that have long been the focus of international agencies. 
Although Kenny suggested that many of his targets had been circumspect in how they raised these highly controversial ideas, he singled out IQ and the Wealth of Nations, published in 2001 by Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen, as a particularly extreme and hateful example of this trend. These authors explicitly argue that IQ scores for different populations are largely fixed and hereditary, and that these—rather than economic or governmental structures—tend to determine the long-term wealth of a given country. 
Kenny claimed that such IQ theories were not merely racist and deeply offensive but had also long been debunked by scientific experts—notably the prominent biologist Stephen Jay Gould in his 1980 book The Mismeasure of Man.

Read the whole thing there.

Conspiracies and Connections

From my new column in Taki's Magazine:
The flagrant stupidity of most conspiracy theories popular during my lifetime, as epitomized by Oliver Stone’s 1991 masterpiece/fiasco JFK (in which the entire military-industrial complex plots to murder John F. Kennedy by hiring some flaming French Quarter homosexuals), serves to inoculate the powerful against the suspicion that they have influence (or responsibility) regarding events. 
It wasn’t always like this. Until recently, it was widely understood that numerous turning points in history—such as the assassinations of Julius Caesar, Abraham Lincoln, and Archduke Franz Ferdinand—were the results of conspiracies.

Read the whole thing there.

July 17, 2012

Absolute Nuclear Families

In the New York Times, Frank Jacobs offers a map of Europe based on traditional family structures that fans of HBD Chick will find familiar from the work of French anthropologist Emmanuel Todd.

The "absolute nuclear family" around the North Sea, where parents look forward to being empty-nesters, appears to map pretty closely to the lands of the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes. 

On the other hand, the development of this family structure appears to be post-Beowulf, but pre-Chaucer. British cabinet minister David Willetts wrote in his fine book The Pinch (as I summarized in my review in VDARE):
"Instead, think of England as being like this for at least 750 years. We live in small families. We buy and sell houses. … Our parents expect us to leave home for paid work …You try to save up some money from your wages so that you can afford to get married. … You can choose your spouse … It takes a long time to build up some savings from your work and find the right person with whom to settle down, so marriage comes quite lately, possibly in your late twenties. ... A small, simple family structure not driven by the need to pass on an inheritance or to sustain ties with brothers and cousins in a clan can be more personal, intense, and emotional—a clue to England's Romantic tradition."

This Anglo-Saxon absolute nuclear family structure is conducive to the highest levels of personal freedom and individualism. But, it requires a lot of land and wealth to expect your sons to be able to afford houses of their own when they find their brides. The Anglo-Saxon nuclear family model where young adults are not under the thumbs of their parents or grandparents or aunt's husband thrives, as Benjamin Franklin pointed out, in underpopulated places with cheap land and high wages, but, as Franklin also noted in the 1750s, it gets undermined by high rates of immigration, which drive up land costs and lower wages. Those who follow the liberty-loving Anglo-Saxon model tend to get outcompeted by groups willing to pile an extended family into one house, as is happening across many of the metropolises of America today.

Things Fall Apart: Greg Cochran's new theory of the cause of racial differences in IQ

Over at West Hunter, Greg Cochran has been introducing a a fairly new and potentially important theory of the genetic origins of race differences in IQ.  It's less a theory of evolution than of devolution. The mechanism causing effective differences, he argues, is less selection for higher IQ due to differences in the environment (e.g., winter versus tropics selecting for forethought); instead, a large driver is differential rates in random mutation leading to differences in average level of deleterious genetic load, which tend to correlate with climate warmth.
What would happen if people moved somewhere where the mutation rate was far lower? 
Their genetic load would decrease with time, assuming that they were still subject to much selection. Today, everybody has hundreds of nicked or broken genes:  selection keeps eliminating them, while mutation keeps creating them.  The suspicion is that their effect is quite large.  This hypothetical population would have fewer and fewer.  In a few thousand years, they would lose most of the variants that decrease fitness by 1% or more.

Cochran's next post looks at some data on the rates at which random mutations creep into the reproduction process.
Too Darn Hot? 
Posted on July 14, 2012 by gcochran9 
Several recent papers  give me the impression that there is regional variation in mutational load.   One can slice this a number of ways. Dan MacArthur and company looked for mutations that knocked out genes – loss-of-function or LOF mutations.  Mutational load is the sum of all deleterious mutations – LOF mutations are a clear-cut subset of total mutational load. 
Some of the LOF mutations they are found are common, and are presumably neutral, maybe even beneficial, but most are rare and likely deleterious.  The kicker is that they found significantly more LOF mutations in their African population sample than in their European and East Asian samples – 25% higher.  That was unexpected. 
Population history (and mutation rate) determine the variation you expect to find in neutral genes, but significantly deleterious mutations should be in mutation-selection balance.  A neutral variant might easily be a million years old, but a deleterious variant will  last, on average, 1/s generations, when s is the decrease in fitness caused by that variant.  A mutation that decreases fitness by 1% should disappear in  100 generations or so, about 2500 years.  Ancient bottlenecks should not influence the frequency of such noticeably deleterious mutations. 
Another related paper, by Jacob Tenessen et al,  looked at a large set of coding genes, sequencing many times (average depth of 111x)  for high accuracy. As in in MacArthur’s paper they found that the average person carries many probably-deleterious mutations, mutations which are individually rare.  Each person carried, on average, mutations expected to change function (almost always for the worse, although usually only a little for the worse)  in 313 genes (out of the 15,585 they studied. 
They looked at African-Americans and Americans of European descent, about a thousand of each.  They saw what MacArthur’s group did: there were significantly more probably-deleterious mutations in the 80%-African population.  When they used a loose definition of functional variation, about 20% more : with a more conservative definition,  which should have a higher fraction of truly deleterious genes, about 29% more. 
...    The only simple explanation (that I can think of)  is a higher mutation rate.

One possibility is that heat tends to cause a higher mutation rate.

Henry Harpending then summed up:
Pre-term Births 
Posted on July 16, 2012 by harpend= 
The model that Greg is dancing around suggests (1) that there is variation in mutation rate dependent on temperature or something correlated with temperature, (2) higher mutation rates cause a higher genetic burden in human populations, (3) leading to IQ reduction and other minor dings

Here's my model of this theory (which is probably pretty woozy):

Imagine, say, a factory that builds a complex product, such as a car, according to a complicated set of instructions. But, the instructions on how to build the next car are passed on via the Game of Telephone, with mistakes inevitably creeping in. Sometimes, big mistakes are made, and the resulting car is such a disaster that it can't function at all and has to be scrapped. But, most of the individual mistakes are minor and just mean, say, that instead of delivering 268 horsepower, the engine generates 267. Over time, the Telephone Game build up mistakes until a car is completely unusable and has to be scrapped. At that point the workers go find a better car and get the instructions for that car relayed to them. So, on average, most cars don't come off the assembly line performing at spec, but they perform well enough to make it through a test drive. 

Now imagine two factories making the same car from roughly the same overall design. One is in Nagoya and the other in Lagos. It's so hot and humid alla the time in Nigeria, unfortunately, that the workers get distracted during their Game of Telephone and have a higher rate of errors when transmitting plans from one generation to the next. 

In the comments, commenter extraordinaire Jason Malloy writes:
See these posts from February and April for the conceptual background. 
While not fully or explicitly articulated, this is the first New Big Theory of race differences in quite a while, and an interesting alternative to the reigning sociobiological models available since the 1980s. In the latter models intelligence and reproductive differences are seen as consequences of natural selection in divergent latitudes, but this new model replaces natural selection with accumulated mutational burdens. The differences at lower latitudes are not selectively advantageous, but dysfunctional. 
Dr. Cochran notes that complex adaptive systems, involving the functioning of many genes, should be the most vulnerable to genetic load, so this would obviously be the brain and probably reproductive physiology. So in addition to higher general mortality, dysfunctions associated with mutational burdens might include: 
- Lower intelligence
- Higher retardation
- Higher mental illness 
- Lower birthweight
- Higher premature births
- Higher infertility
- Higher reproductive deformities
- Higher miscarriage (and general obstetric complications)
- Lower sperm quality 
Of course there is a difference between establishing population differences in genetic load, and proving that this is related to population differences in socially valued traits. I’m not sold on this as a replacement for sociobiological models, although there are aspects that make it useful and attractive in different ways. For example, I recently found that ethnic differences in rate of homosexuality are inversely correlated with latitude. Since theories of selectively advantageous homosexuality fall flat, this theory seemed like a better fit.

In the comments to Henry's post, I offer a couple of tentative criticisms, which you can read there.

July 16, 2012

Who says all NPR fans are dweebs?

NPR profiled their own impoverished unmarried white lady with three mulatto kids last week:
Take the case of 29-year-old Jennifer Stepp, who lives in Reading, Pa. Like 14 million other people in the U.S. who live in families headed by single mothers, she's poor. And she faces incredible odds. 
Stepp has three children by three different fathers. The father of her eldest child, 10-year-old Isaiah, is serving 30 years in federal prison for armed robbery. 
"He's met my son one time, when he was a baby. And he decided that he didn't want him," she says. 
Stepp's middle child, 8-year-old Shyanne, usually sees her father every other weekend. But the father of her younger son is also in prison. Stepp says he's been behind bars for selling cocaine since she was pregnant. He has never met 1-year-old Makai. 
"He writes letters back and forth, and he wants to be a part of his son's life," she says. "I'm just waiting for him to get out and get his life together." 
Stepp says she was the victim of youthful optimism. She kept thinking that the next guy had to be better than the last, and that the relationships would last. 
Now, that's all behind her, and she's wiser.

This provoked the following comment on NPR's website:
Big Ern (BigErn77) wrote: 
If I am to pay to support these children, I also want a piece of the action from these broads, every now and then. I mean, I'm basically doing some husbandy duties, puttin' food on the table and all that, I correspondingly deserve a little of the 'ol husbandy benefits package, if you know what I mean. 
Then again, since most of these 'women' are horribly disfigured by obesity, I take it all back - I want nothing to do with them. 

What are the odds?

Jason DeParle's article in the New York Times, "Two Classes, Divided by 'I Do,'" about a white woman who had three kids with her black boyfriend, who has now abandoned his offspring without a penny was interesting for multiple reasons. One is that out of the voluminous comments that were either NYT Picks or Readers' Favorites, very, very few, if any, mentioned that perhaps society ought to try to do a better job of letting young women know that black guys are, statistically speaking, more likely to:

- heedlessly impregnate them
- not marry them
- not support their offspring

Has anybody ever calculated the odds?

Smart girls seem mostly to figure this kind of thing out for themselves, but not so bright girls ... not so much. Women are pretty good at conforming to social norms, but when the smart people keep the norms a secret, the not-smart women (and, more importantly, their children) suffer.

NYT article hurts lady writer's feelings

From Slate:
New York Times, Stop Moralizing About Single Mothers 
No, their households are not always sad and falling apart. 

Yes, but, as sportswriter Damon Runyon said, "The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that's the way to bet."
By Katie Roiphe

It is disheartening to see that the New York Times has run yet another puritanical and alarmist rumination on the decline of the American family disguised as a straight-news story. The piece, in tender, gloomy detail, compares the slatternly home of the single mother, all struggle and chaos, to the orderly, promising, more affluent home of her boss, who is married. The moralizing portrait that emerges is not surprising: The single mother and her children have a terrible life, and the married mother and her children have a great one. 
One of the most laughable elements of the story is that it hinges on the idea that the single mother’s children are suffering because of a lack of extracurricular activities: It lingers on the idea that the swimming class, and Boy Scouts meetings, and trips to Disney that the children of the single mother are deprived of will somehow turn them into dropouts and teenage parents. But surely, after Cheever and Updike and The Lonely Crowd, we have moved on from the facile ’50s, Norman Rockwell fantasy that camping badges can save our children from pain? Who knew that fraternizing with life sized Ariels and Cinderellas was so important, so pressing, in raising your children to be healthy, upstanding citizens? And what is so shocking to the reporter about the terribly deprived, endangered Steavon, the son of the single mother, is that he has to choose one extracurricular, and this year chose football, rather than getting to do karate and swimming and Boy Scouts. 
What makes this particular bourgeois focus especially ironic is that it occurs alongside a contemporaneous cultural discussion of whether college-educated parents are spoiling their children, or over hovering. Apparently there is a very fine line between giving your children enough swimming lessons and too many swimming lessons.

Considering the rate at which African-American boys (such as this white single mother in the NYT's three sons) drown in motel pools, giving your kids enough swimming lessons is important. You can also, no doubt, give them too many. The notion that the good life is typically found somewhere between too little and too much may be too complicated a concept for Ms. Roiphe, but guys like Aristotle and Confucius found it sensible.
The innate self-congratulation of the Times piece, the smug sense that the average college-educated New York Times reader is enriching their children, insuring their mental health, while the sluttish, struggling, single mother is ruining theirs is— whatever the truth of the situation, which I humbly suggest is more complicated than that—extremely repellent. In the guise of writing a well-intentioned liberal piece—oh the poor single mothers! And their poor children!—the New York Times is recycling truly retrograde and ugly moral judgements.The idea that this unconventional, struggling household might sometimes be fine is so astonishing that the piece reports as news that the single mother, Jessica Schairer, sometimes records “happy moments on her Facebook page.” 

The contemporary mind, as illustrated by Ms. Roiphe's, has fundamental problems grasping useful concepts like "on average" and "tends to."
The demographic changes that are alarming the editors of the New York Times are unquestionable: In the middle class the family is breaking down, there is a steep rise in single mother households and women supporting their families, but the judgmental tone is outdated and wrong. The anxious need to assert that the traditional two-parent family is better has outlived its usefulness. It’s time to run a story about the resourcefulness, energy, and intensity of these homes, a fair, open-minded exploration of these new family structures and the independent, tough women who run them, not yet another unimaginative comparison with a family whose dad takes his son to Boy Scouts.

You go, girl!

Shouldn't Roiphe use the word "empower" somewhere?
Moving into the future, the college-educated, traditional families will need to understand that, though of course it is easier to have money, money is not the only thing that matters in raising children well (nor are vacations or swimming lessons). They will also have to understand that they do not have a monopoly on joy or healthy environments or thriving children.

But that's the way to bet.

"Two Classes, Divided by 'I Do'"

The NYT has a long article on two women, one a red-haired single mother with three children, who makes $12.35 an hour as a manager in a day care facility, the other her boss, who is married and reasonably comfortable.

After many hundreds of words, the article finally gets around to explaining something that's obvious from the pictures of the fair-skinned single mother's children:
Although she grew up in the 1990s, Ms. Schairer’s small-town childhood had a 1950s feel. Her father drove a beer truck, her mother served as church trustee and her grandparents lived next door. She knew no one rich, no one poor and no one raising children outside of marriage. “It was just the way it was,” she said. 
William Penn University, eight hours away in Iowa, offered a taste of independence and a spot on the basketball team. Her first thought when she got pregnant was “My mother’s going to kill me.” Abortion crossed her mind, but her boyfriend, an African-American student from Arkansas, said they should start a family. They agreed that marriage should wait until they could afford a big reception and a long gown. 
Their odds were not particularly good: nearly half the unmarried parents living together at a child’s birth split up within five years, according to Child Trends. 
Ms. Schairer has trouble explaining, even to herself, why she stayed so long with a man who she said earned little, berated her often and did no parenting. They lived with family (his and hers) and worked off and on while she hoped things would change. “I wanted him to love me,” she said. She was 25 when the breakup made it official: she was raising three children on her own.

As Dennis Dale once commented, Barack Obama slid through the rapidly closing Novelty Window. His parentage could be sold to a gullible public as representing Hope and Change. Here's the opening to his 2004 keynote address to the Democratic Convention, which set him on the road to the White House:
Tonight is a particular honor for me because, let's face it, my presence on this stage is pretty unlikely. 
My father was a foreign student, born and raised in a small village in Kenya. He grew up herding goats, went to school in a tin- roof shack. His father, my grandfather, was a cook, a domestic servant to the British. 
OBAMA: But my grandfather had larger dreams for his son. Through hard work and perseverance my father got a scholarship to study in a magical place, America, that's shown as a beacon of freedom and opportunity to so many who had come before him. 
While studying here my father met my mother. She was born in a town on the other side of the world, in Kansas. 
Her father worked on oil rigs and farms through most of the Depression. The day after Pearl Harbor, my grandfather signed up for duty, joined Patton's army, marched across Europe. Back home my grandmother raised a baby and went to work on a bomber assembly line. After the war, they studied on the GI Bill, bought a house through FHA and later moved west, all the way to Hawaii, in search of opportunity. 
And they too had big dreams for their daughter, a common dream born of two continents. 
OBAMA: My parents shared not only an improbable love; they shared an abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation. They would give me an African name, Barack, or "blessed," believing that in a tolerant America, your name is no barrier to success. 
They imagined me going to the best schools in the land, even though they weren't rich, because in a generous America you don't have to be rich to achieve your potential. 
They're both passed away now. And yet I know that, on this night, they look down on me with great pride. 
And I stand here today grateful for the diversity of my heritage, aware that my parents' dreams live on in my two precious daughters. 
I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible. 
OBAMA: Tonight, we gather to affirm the greatness of our nation not because of the height of our skyscrapers, or the power of our military, or the size of our economy; our pride is based on a very simple premise, summed up in a declaration made over two hundred years ago: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal... 
... that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." 
That is the true genius of America, a faith...

But now, kids with a struggling white mom and a black dad who isn't around are rapidly becoming just a depressing commonplace.

July 15, 2012

Salon: Detroit now run by unelected white person, and that's a good thing

From Salon:
Welcome to the age of non-profit city government [link fixed]
Can NGOs run cities?

This is a long, laudatory article about some nice white lady named Sue Mosey, who heads one of those quasi-governmental Community Development Corporations invented during the Great Society. Sue is portrayed as the real power in Detroit these days, as evidenced by her getting a Whole Foods to open in the gentrifying neighborhood where she lives.

I must admit I couldn't manage to read the whole article intently, suffering from SWPL overdose, but I didn't see much concern for concepts like democracy, enfranchisement of blacks, and so forth. In the SWPL mind, apparently, Cheap Urban Real Estate + Whole Foods + Unelected Nice White Lady Rulers sounds a whole lot better in 2012 than more Black Self-Rule.

You were lied to by your Penthouse magazines

In the Huffington Post, a lesbian sex counselor, Glenda Corwin, explains that the lesbian long-term monogamous sex glass is, when you stop and think about it the right way, not just 80% empty, but also 20% full!
When I first heard about "lesbian bed death" I was puzzled. What's the point in coming out if you're not going to have sex? Because let's face it -- being lesbian isn't just about having wonderful emotional connections with other women. It's about having sex with them. That's what gets us in trouble with the rest of the world. So how could we walk away from something we fought so hard to have? 
At first I was overwhelmed, and a little depressed, about how many of my lesbian clients and friends were rarely -- if ever -- having sex with their partners. But when I started doing research on this subject, I found reason to hope. There's some evidence that a minority (maybe 20 percent) of long-term lesbian partners sustain sexual intimacy after 10 or 20 or more years together. 

James "Flynn Effect" Flynn: Man Smart, Woman Smarter

The World's Most Interesting Newspaper*, the Daily Mail, reports:
Women overtake men in IQ tests for the first time in 100 years (but is it all down to multitasking?) 
IN the battle of the sexes women have always believed they are cleverer than men.
And now it would appear they are justified in thinking they are superior after psychologists found female IQ scores have risen above men's for the first time in 100 years. 
Women have been as much as five points behind men since testing began a century ago, but that gap has narrowed in recent times. 
This year women finally came out on top - and it may be because they are better at multitasking. The breakthrough has been uncovered by James Flynn, the world-renowned authority on IQ tests. 
He told the Sunday Times: 'In the last 100 years the IQ scores of both men and women have risen but women's have risen faster.This is a consequence of modernity.
'The complexity of the modern world is making our brains adapt and raising our IQ. The full effect of modernity on women is only just emerging.' 
One theory is women's ability to multitask as they juggle raising a family and going to work, while another explanation is that they are finally realising they have a slightly higher potential intelligence than men. 
Flynn will publish his findings in a new book, but said more data was needed to explain the trend because tests have consistently shown differences between gender and race.

A forgotten bit of history is that early 20th Century IQ experts, most notably the endlessly-demonized Sir Cyril Burt and the Grandfather of Silicon Valley and Evil Eugenicist Lewis Terman, argued, based on the results of IQ tests, that males and females were about equal in intelligence. That was quickly established as orthodoxy among IQ mavens in the first half of the 20th Century. You are always supposed to believe that the IQ & Eugenics WASP scientists of the early 20th Century, being the Worst People in History, were mere playthings of the prejudices of their age. This example suggests the opposite, so it has been shoved down the memory hole.

So, Flynn isn't breaking any ground here, he's just upholding the IQ Orthodoxy endorsed by, among others, Arthur Jensen in 1998.

The main heretic in recent years has been Richard Lynn, so this is a Flynn v. Lynn argument. It's important to note that it's not the Evil IQ Establishment v. Flynn, it's the IQ Establishment (including Flynn) v. Lynn. 

Personally, I don't have a strong opinion on the subject. The male-female gap in median IQ, if it exists, is relatively small. The issues in the discussion quickly become highly technical. Psychometrics is a field in which sizable differences (e.g., median black v. white) show up under just about every conceivable measurement approach, but measuring small differences accurately is dependent upon a lot of technical testing issues.

* Not necessarily the World's Most Reliable Newspaper, however ...