October 26, 2012

To defeat Obama, oilman T. Boone Pickens donates one ... MILLION ... dollars!

The Washington Post is up in arms:
The Swift Boaters are back for 2012 
Posted by Dan Eggen at 02:43 AM ET, 10/26/2012

The Swift Boat crew is back for another election. 
Many of the top donors to a group that funded controversial attacks on the military career of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in the 2004 presidential race are now heavily funding a super PAC targeting President Obama, new records show. 
American Crossroads, a super PAC backed by former George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove, received $6 million in October from the key backers of the earlier effort against Kerry, according to disclosures filed late Thursday. Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons gave $4 million; Houston homebuilder Bob J. Perry gave $1 million; and Dallas financier T. Boone Pickens chipped in another $1 million. ... 
Pickens had not previously given to the Rove group ...

According to Wikipedia, T. Boone promised one ... million ... dollars in the 2004 election for proof tarnishing John Kerry's military record, but didn't pay up.

On the other hand, it also says, he has now donated $265 million to Oklahoma State athletics. (That's $100 million more than the last time I checked.)

But, Oklahoma State's football team is only ranked 33rd in the country at the moment, so I guess T. Boone's attention is wandering back to politics.

If Karl Rove were the machiavellian genius everybody claims, he'd figure out a way to covertly get rich liberals more interested in college football.

For example, UCLA football could be a bottomless pit for Hollywood heterosexuals to toss their millions into.

Why should UCLA have to play home games 30 miles away in WASPy Pasadena? Why should Boone Pickens Stadium be so much better than what we've got? What UCLA needs is a billion dollar Jackie Robinson Brooklyn Dodgers Stadium (to be named after the UCLA football player who integrated baseball in 1947 by joining the Brooklyn Dodgers).

What? Are you against Jackie Robinson? Are you against the Brooklyn Dodgers? We in the Industry need to stick it to the red state racists by building the world's finest college football stadium and doing whatever it takes to recruit a national championship team to play in it! Whatever it takes ...

Haim Saban spends a certain number of millions per year to make sure he has a say in who gets to be Secretary of State. It's pretty easy to do: you give some money to the Brookings Institution for a Middle Eastern think tank, you give some to the DNC, and so forth and so on. Not that many rich guys care about who is Secretary of State compared to number who care about who wins the BCS. So what if Saban got obsessed with improving the Bruin's porous secondary? Fixing that would take real money.

Pinker takes a crack at explaining red v. blue states

Steven Pinker takes a crack at explaining the red state - blue state map:
But while these theories help explain why the seemingly diverse convictions within the right-wing and left-wing mind-sets hang together, they don’t explain why they are tied to geography. The historian David Hackett Fischer traces the divide back to the British settlers of colonial America. The North was largely settled by English farmers, the inland South by Scots-Irish herders. Anthropologists have long noted that societies that herd livestock in rugged terrain tend to develop a “culture of honor.” Since their wealth has feet and can be stolen in an eye blink, they are forced to deter rustlers by cultivating a hair-trigger for violent retaliation against any trespass or insult that probes their resolve. Farmers can afford to be less belligerent because it is harder to steal their land out from under them, particularly in territories within the reach of law enforcement. As the settlers moved westward, they took their respective cultures with them. The psychologist Richard Nisbett has shown that Southerners today continue to manifest a culture of honor which legitimizes violent retaliation. ... Admittedly, it’s hard to believe that today’s Southerners and Westerners carry a cultural memory of sheepherding ancestors.  But it may not be the herding profession itself that nurtures a culture of honor so much as living in anarchy.

Okay, but my copy of Fischer says that most of the South was settled not by Scots-Irish but by Southern English, who came from an authoritatively-governed wheat-growing and cattle-raising culture.

You can't talk about why the South today has a lot of white solidarity centering around the Republican Party and the North does not without talking about the, uh, Canadian border. 

Pinker's Massachusetts is 6 percent black, so what's the worst that could happen if the Democrats control the statehouse? A bunch of white Democratic politicians will just steal billions more on the next Big Dig. But, eventually, it will get dug. Every so often the white people of Massachusetts elect a Mitt Romney to cut down on the thieving by white Democrats, but it's really not that big of a deal. 

Mississippi is 37 percent black, so what's the worst that could happen if the Democrats control the statehouse? Well, blacks will make up the majority of the Democrats, so ... Detroit, Gary, East St. Louis. Not surprisingly, almost all the white people in Mississippi make sure to vote Republican. 

You can see the same white solidarity in liberal cities like New York and Chicago in mayor's races. Blacks went one and done in the New York's mayor's office and the Democrats are 0 for 5 in NYC ever since. But New Yorkers will vote overwhelmingly for Obama next month because that's not a real important job like Mayor is, so they can afford to make symbolic gestures of racial enlightenment at the national level.

(Something that's worth bringing up here is that for a few decades now, better educated blacks have been voting with their feet to move away from liberal Northern states to the white-run state of Georgia. That was background for Tom Wolfe's 1990s Atlanta book A Man in Full. Blacks get a small city to run at the center of a vast white-dominated conurbation in a Republican-dominated state, and despite not unexpected problems, the system works fairly well. There's a general pattern that white conservative states like Georgia and Texas tend to be better for blacks and Latinos than white liberal states, which is, in the long run, a very big problem for Republicans: when Republicans are successful at doing what they want to do, such as encouraging building jobs and houses, their success attracts non-Republicans.)

Anyway, there are other reasons red states are red and blue states are blue, as well, such as the dirt gap. A large number of red states are in the upper Louisiana Purchase and surrounding areas and are mostly white. Some are extremely orderly and nonviolent, such as Utah, and others are not. Land availability is the big issue driving them red.

Social psychologists are conformist and discriminatory

I'm not exactly sure what social psychologists do. (Their work doesn't come up all that much in intellectually lively circles.) Search out evidence of conformity and discrimination, I guess. So, as you would expect from the Law of Projection, it turns out that social psychologists are so conformist and discriminatory themselves that I can barely stay awake to finish typing this sentence about them. From Perspectives on Psychological Science:
Political Diversity in Social and Personality Psychology 
Yoel Inbar and Joris Lammers 
Tilburg University 
A lack of political diversity in psychology is said to lead to a number of pernicious outcomes, including biased research and active discrimination against conservatives. The authors of this study surveyed a large number (combined N = 800) of social and personality psychologists and discovered several interesting facts. First, although only 6% described themselves as conservative “overall,” there was more diversity of political opinion on economic issues and foreign policy. Second, respondents significantly underestimated the proportion of conservatives among their colleagues. Third, conservatives fear negative consequences of revealing their political beliefs to their colleagues. Finally, they are right to do so: In decisions ranging from paper reviews to hiring, many social and personality psychologists said that they would discriminate against openly conservative colleagues. The more liberal respondents were, the more they said they would discriminate.

Lee Jussim of Rutgers offers an amusing parody of "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" in regard to Liberal Privilege in academia.

One of Robert Conquest's three laws of politics is "Everyone is conservative about what he knows best." Social psychologists must not know best about much.

October 25, 2012

Historian Jacques Barzun, age 104, RIP

Franco-American historian Jacques Barzun has died in San Antonio at 104. He could recall the sound of the Big Bertha cannon shelling Paris, and met as a child many of the cultural luminaries of the pre-Great War age.

In his 2000 bestseller From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 to the Present, published when he was 92, Barzun suddenly stopped on p. 654-656 to briefly discuss what he's learned from a lifetime of learning:
"... history cannot be a science; it is the very opposite, in that its interest resides in the particulars."

Still, he goes on to list a dozen "generalities" to show "how scanning the last five centuries in the West impresses on the mind certain types of order." Here are five of them (I'll leave it to you to fill in examples):
- An age (a shorter span within an era) is unified by one or two pressing needs, not by the proposed remedies, which are many and thus divide. 
- A movement in thought or art produces its best work during the uphill fight to oust the enemy; that is, the previous thought or art. Victory brings on imitation and ultimately Boredom. 
- "An Age of --" (fill in: Reason, Faith, Science, Absolutism, Democracy, Anxiety, Communication) is always a misnomer because insufficient, except perhaps "An Age of Troubles," which fits every age in varying degrees. 
- The historian does not isolate causes, which defy sorting out even in the natural world; he describes conditions that he judges relevant, adding occasionally an estimate of their relevant strength. 
- The potent writings that helped to reshape minds and institutions in the West have done so through a formula or two, not always consistent with the text. Partisans and scholars start to read the book with care after it has done its work.

A short, stylized dialogue on epigenetics

Me: If you analyze a host of real world outcomes using adoption studies, fraternal v. identical twin studies, twins-raised-apart studies, the history of early childhood intervention research, naturally-occurring experiments, differences between societies, changes over history, and so forth, you tend to come up with nature and nurture as being about equally important: maybe fifty-fifty. The glass is roughly half-full and half-empty.

The Latest Conventional Wisdom: You are so out of date! You see, the new science of epigenetics has proven that genes are even more powerful than you think. It's really three-fourths genes. But, the study of epigenetics also proves that one-third of the power of genes is under control of the environment!

Me: Okay, but that's what I just said: fifty-fifty. Two-thirds of three-quarters is one-half. I mean, whatever the precise mechanism under the hood, it's got to translate into what we see where the rubber hits the road, which is about fifty-fifty nature and nurture.

The Latest Conventional Wisdom: Whatever. Your fuzzy math can hardly shake my faith in the TED talk I saw about epigenetics or that article in the NYT Magazine. Where are your Powerpoints, huh? Where is your heartwarming example of a poor child winning a chess tournament due to epigenetics? Where is your galvanizing anecdote about how epigenetics caused Bob Dylan to write Like a Rolling Stone?

Dr. Betty Hart, RIP: Scientifically proved blacks don't talk enough or watch TV enough

From the NYT:
Betty Hart Dies at 85; Studied Disparities in Children’s Vocabulary Growth 
Published: October 25, 2012 
Betty Hart, whose research documenting how poor, working-class and professional parents speak to their young children helped establish the critical role that communicating with babies and toddlers has in their later development, died on Sept. 28 in hospice care in Tucson. She was 85 .... 
Dr. Hart was a graduate student at the University of Kansas in the 1960s when she began trying to help poor preschool children overcome speech and vocabulary deficits. But she and her colleagues later concluded that they had started too late in the children’s lives — that the ones they were trying to help could not simply “catch up” with extra intervention. 
At the time, a prevalent view was that poor children were essentially beyond help, victims of circumstances and genetics. But Dr. Hart and some of her colleagues suspected otherwise and revisited the issue in the early 1980s, beginning research that would continue for a decade. 
“Rather than concede to the unmalleable forces of heredity, we decided that we would undertake research that would allow us to understand the disparate developmental trajectories we saw,” she and her former graduate supervisor, Todd R. Risley, wrote in 1995 in “Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children,” a book about their findings, which were reported in 1992. “We realized that if we were to understand how and when differences in developmental trajectories began, we needed to see what was happening to children at home at the very beginning of their vocabulary growth.” 
They began a two-and-a-half-year study of 42 families of various socioeconomic levels who had very young children. Starting when the children were between 7 and 9 months old, they recorded every word and utterance spoken to them and by them, as well as every parent-child interaction, over the course of one hour every month. 
It took many more years to transcribe and analyze the data, and the researchers were astonished by what they eventually found. 
“Simply in words heard, the average child on welfare was having half as much experience per hour (616 words per hour) as the average working-class child (1,251 words per hour) and less than one-third that of the average child in a professional family (2,153 words per hour),” Drs. Hart and Risley wrote. 
“By age 4, the average child in a welfare family might have 13 million fewer words of cumulative experience than the average child in a working-class family,” they added. 

Isn't there a giant assumption in this famous calculation: that the one hour per month of child-parent interactions that Hart & Risley recorded are representative of the entire month? Don't some of these non-welfare parents have jobs, during which periods they can't be talking to their children?

Let's try the math. Say the average 0 to 4 year old is awake 10 hours per day, or 3,600 hours per year, or 14,400 hours in those four years. If the working class family talks at the child 635 more words per hour than those famously laconic welfare families, then that comes out to a differential of 9,144,000 words, not 13,000,000 words. So the working class family must be talking at their children not just ten hours per day, but more like 14 hours per day, leaving only 10 hours per day for the poor child to sleep (or to talk himself or to watch TV or to play with his blocks or to watch the cat or to daydream).

Shouldn't somebody call Child Protective Services and report all the non-welfare families in the country for child abuse due to incessant chatter?
They also found disparities in tone, in positive and negative feedback, and in other areas — and that the disparities in speech and vocabulary acquisition persisted into school years and affected overall educational development. 

So, parents with big vocabularies tended to have children with big vocabularies. (Also, I would imagine, parental skin tone, height, and hair color tended to correlate with their children's skin tone, height, and hair color.)
“People kept thinking, ‘Oh, we can catch kids up later,’ and her big message was to start young and make sure the environment for young children is really rich in language,” said Dr. Walker, an associate research professor at Kansas who worked with Dr. Hart and followed many of the children into their school years. 

I recommend taking your preschoolers to Tom Stoppard plays. Start with The Real Thing no later than 30 months and work up to Arcadia by at least the fourth birthday. Also, read to them every night from Nabokov. Pnin is an easy start, but they should be finished with Ada by the time they enter kindergarten.
The work has become a touchstone in debates over education policy, including what kind of investments governments should make in early intervention programs. One nonprofit program whose goals are rooted in the findings is Reach Out and Read, which uses pediatric exam rooms to promote literacy for lower-income children beginning at 6 months old. 
Prompted by the success of Reach Out and Read, Dr. Alan L. Mendelsohn, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician at Bellevue Hospital and New York University Langone Medical Center, pushed intervention even further. He created a program through Bellevue in which lower-income parents visiting doctors are filmed interacting and reading with their children and then given suggestions on how they can expand their speaking and interactions. 
“Hart and Risley’s work really informed for me and many others the idea that maybe you could bridge the gap,” Dr. Mendelsohn said, “or in jargon terms — address the disparities.” ...

I don't see any mention here of experimental research, just tracking of existing differences that are compatible with most combinations of nature and nurture theories.
“Today, much of her research is being applied in many different ways,” said Dr. Andrew Garner, the chairman of a work group on early brain and child development for the American Academy of Pediatrics. “I think you could also argue that the current interest in brain development and epigenetics reinforces at almost a molecular level what she had identified 20 years ago.”


One obvious but little mentioned implication of this popular line of thought is: White professional mothers who hire semi-literate nannies who have smaller vocabularies in English than in Spanish and smaller vocabularies in Spanish than in Mayan to raise their children for them while they put in the hours to make partner or get tenure are dooming their offspring to only getting into State U. You see, by not personally speaking to their small children for much of the day using their high level vocabularies, Hart & Risley's logic says their kids are in big, big trouble.

And, indeed, many white mothers behave exactly as if this were true.

For example, one of my early bosses in the marketing research business was Kathie, a hard-charging, funny, foul-mouthed MBA who let nothing stand in the way of our team making the numbers. Then I heard a rumor that she and her boyfriend, an MBA at a big corporation, were going to take a little time off from each other. Then she started going to the gym at lunchtime, lost ten pounds, and then showed up one Monday morning wearing an engagement ring and a big smile: her ex-boyfriend was now going to be her husband. Marriage and a baby ensued, but she was right back on the job a month after giving birth. Then she got pregnant again, and came back to the job a couple of months after giving birth. But within a week of her return, she announced she was permanently retiring to be a housewife. Management tried hard to talk her into part-time work or taking just a couple of years off or whatever she wanted, but she was adamant that she was done with working: she was a full-time mom from now on.

Of course, Kathie's trajectory was feasible because her husband was making good money. But, her emotions are common.

Of course, this pro stay-at-home-mom implication of the Hart & Risley conventional wisdom is not played up in the press, which is largely run by women who are not stay-at-home-moms and who frequently feel guilty about it if they do have children or resent those women who are mothers, and thus try to put them down by emphasizing how glamorous and politically important it is to be a working woman.

What does the research say on stay-at-home mothers vs working mothers in terms of children's cognitive development? I haven't looked in a long time, but my recollection was that it's inherently uncertain because nobody can run a controlled experiment. Mothers are constantly adapting to what they think is best for their children (e.g., Kathie), trying to optimize a variety of factors that differs for each family and, indeed, for each child.

That moms refuse to follow experimental methodologies when it comes to their own kids is bad for science, but good for children.

The Donald Trump $5 million challenge: Actually, I do know what Obama's college GPA was

I'm not sure if this is really worth $5 million, but I suspect the reason few people seem to know what kind of grades Obama got in college is because very few journalists have ever asked him. It's part of this general pattern where nobody ever asks Obama anything interesting about himself. The people who think the answers would be bad can't get to him to ask him, and the people who can get to him fear that that the answers can't possibly be as good as they led the public to believe back in '08, so ixnay on that.

Yet, Obama strikes me as the kind of guy who would remember what kind of grades he got, and would think it a perfectly reasonable question. 

Indeed, biographer David Maraniss devoted some of the time from his one Oval Office interview with Obama to asking the President how he did in college.

And Obama told him. 

As I wrote in my review of Maraniss's book in VDARE last summer:
Thus Maraniss interviewed hundreds of people (and got an Oval Office interview, in which Obama volunteered that he was a B+ student at Occidental and an A- student at Columbia).

On p. 385 of the incredibly detailed (and dull) Barack Obama: The Story, Maraniss says:
"Two years at Oxy (during which his cumulative grades were 'a B-plus,' he later said) ..."

And on p. 465 Maraniss writes:
"He had received mostly A's in his coursework during those two years [at Columbia], he said later, and finished with a 3.7 grade point average."

So, Obama's total GPA for all four years would be around 3.5. That's assuming the President is telling the truth, but saying that you had a 3.5 GPA in a soft major (International Relations or some such) seems like too boring of a lie to make up. But, what do I know? Maybe this is all part of a vast disinformation scheme targeted and me and the other three people who find Barack boring.

Maraniss does not tell us if he asked Obama about his test scores. My guess is that if Maraniss didn't ask, then probably nobody else has ever asked him that. Somebody should ask him. He's probably got the numbers memorized.

My bet would be that Obama's SAT score was rather like his GPA: fine, but not spectacular. He didn't make either National Merit Scholar or the black version, National Achievement Scholar, so we can assume he didn't ace the PSAT. Maybe he was less stoned the day of the SAT? Say, 690 V, 550 M (pre-1995 recentering).

But, I'm just making that up. Who knows? (Until you ask him.)

I'd bet he did relatively better on the LSAT seven years later, perhaps from de-Chooming.

As for the question of whether Obama benefited from affirmative action, well, he wrote that "undoubtedly" he did. As Obama wrote when he was at Harvard Law:
I must say, however, that as someone who has undoubtedly benefited from affirmative action programs during my academic career, and as someone who may have benefited from the Law Review’s affirmative action policy when I was selected to join the Review last year, I have not felt stigmatized within the broader law school community or as a staff member of the Review.

On the other hand, Harvard Law let Michelle in, and Barack's obviously a lot smarter than his wife. So, he probably didn't need as much racial preference as some of the other black students.

October 24, 2012

The Right Stuff for The Bonfire of the Vanities

Who should have been cast in the notoriously bad 1990 movie version of Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities? These suggestions all assume it's 1990, although pop culture history since then is assumed:

Sherman McCoy (played by Tom Hanks): William Hurt or Steve Martin (Hanks is too likable, lacks WASP hauteur)

Self-hating English tabloid journalist Peter Fallow (played by Bruce Willis; character based on Anthony Haden-Guest): Christopher Guest (half-brother of Haden-Guest), Richard E. Grant, or Hugh Grant

Judge Myron "Jewish Warrior" Kovitsky (played by Morgan Freeman in the movie; based on Judge Burton B. Roberts): Alan Arkin

Kramer the hapless Assistant DA (played by Saul Rubinek): Jason Alexander

Rev. Bacon (John Hancock; based on Al Sharpton): Eddie Murphy

Killian (Kevin Dunn; based on streetwise NYC criminal attorney Eddie Hayes): Mickey Rourke, Alec Baldwin, or Dennis Leary

Detectives (Barton Heyman and Norton Parker): Jerry Orbach and Chris Noth

Elderly Albert Vogel (not in movie; based on hustling radical lawyer William Kunstler): Rodney Dangerfield

District Attorney Abe Weiss (F. Murray Abraham): Dustin Hoffman, Michael Lerner (studio mogul in Barton Fink)

Tall, rawboned, explosively crazy prisoner (not in movie; based presumably on Hunter S. Thompson): Michael Richard

The Mayor (not in movie; based on Ed Koch): Mayor Ed Koch

McCoy's wife and girlfriend (Kim Cattrall and Melanie Griffith): I don't know, but not Kim Cattrall and/or Melanie Griffith

And you can do the same exercise for a hypothetical 2013 remake.

A trillion dollars here, a trillion dollars there, pretty soon you're talking about down the Memory Hole

Today's announcement of the government suing Bank of America for a billion dollars over mortgage frauds committed by Countrywide Financial reminds me of how much one of the key events of the Housing Bubble/Bust remains ignored: namely, Countrywide's January 2005 press release boasting of its We House America initiative to lend One ... Trillion ... Dollars to minorities and lower-income borrowers. (This followed 23 months after Angelo Mozilo's Harvard speech in which he pledged Countrywide to lend $600 billion to minorities and lower-income borrowers.) 

I just did a Google search on 

and got a grand total of about 18 results back from Google. Here they all are. I realize these dozen and a half pages will be boring -- just PR releases, me, and a few random folks -- but that's the point.

About 18 results (0.30 seconds) 

Countrywide sets $1 trillion goal for real estate loan program | Inman ...
Jan 14, 2005 – Countrywide Home Loans today announced an expansion of its We House America initiative to fund $1 trillion in home loans to minorities and ...

Countrywide Expands Commitment to $1 Trillion in ... - PR Newswire
Countrywide Expands Commitment to $1 Trillion in Home Loans to Minority and Lower-Income Borrowers. - We House America Challenge Leads the Industry in ...

Countrywide Bank Announces $770,000 in Financial Support to ...
Among them is Countrywide's $1 Trillion We House America(R) Challenge, an aggressive goal to fund $1 trillion in home loans to minorities and lower-income ...

Countrywide Ups Minority Lending Goal to $1 Trillion
Countrywide Home Loans Inc. has extended its minority and low-income lending goal by $400 billion to $1 trillion over the next five years.

Steve Sailer: iSteve
5 minutes ago – Countrywide Home Loans today announced an expansion of its We House America initiative to fund $1 trillion in home loans to minorities and ...
You shared this

I am shocked, SHOCKED to learn that Countrywide ... - Steve Sailer
1 hour ago – Countrywide Home Loans today announced an expansion of its We House America initiative to fund $1 trillion in home loans to minorities and ...
You shared this

Steve Sailer: iSteve: Obama's Popguns of Singapore
Dec 21, 2011 – Countrywide also steered more than 10,000 minority borrowers into costly subprime ..... The dollar sum of student loans is ~1 trillion dollars.
You shared this

Countrywide Expands Commitment to $1 Trillion ... - The Free Library
www.thefreelibrary.com › ... › PR Newswire › January 14, 2005
Jan 14, 2005 – Free Online Library: Countrywide Expands Commitment to $1 Trillionin Home Loans to Minority and Lower-Income Borrowers; - We House ...

Michael Detwiler's Blog: Totally ridiculous!!
Jan 5, 2012 – Countrywide's Other Bill. When BofA bought Countrywide in 2008, it committed a record $1.5 trillion to minority lending and urban reinvestment.

BofA Must Pay Excess Settlement Funds To Acorn Clones ...
Jan 4, 2012 – When BofA bought Countrywide in 2008, it committed a record $1.5trillion to minority lending and urban reinvestment. The 10-year accord ...

Your Lying Eyes: December 2011
Dec 21, 2011 – Given Countrywide's "$Trillion Pledge," some serious recruitment ofminority candidates was needed. To really ramp up minority lending, you ...

Countrywide sets $1 trillion target for home loans to poor, minorities ...
Jan 17, 2005 – Byline: Gregory J. Wilcox Jan. 17--CALABASAS, Calif. -- CountrywideHome Loans Inc. on... | Article from Daily News (Los Angeles, CA) ...

Top Spot - Tags: COUNTRYWIDE Home Loans Inc. MINORITIES ...
ABSTRACT. Reports the favorite mortgage provider of minority groups is Countrywide.... Countrywide's Mozilo Expects to See a Trillion Dollar Servicer by 2005.

When BOA bought Countrywide in 2008, it committed a record $1.5 trillion to minoritylending and urban reinvestment. The 10-year accord replaced the bank's ...

Countrywide's Angelo Mozilo: He Warned Us—But Washington Didn ...
Jun 22, 2009 – “Anti-Model Minority” Leftists Inventing An Anti-White Pan-Asian Identity.... The roots of Countrywide's catastrophic trillion dollar pledge go back ...

Discuss the ethical issues that caused the downfall of Countrywide
www.solutioninn.com › ... › Business EthicsShare
May 4, 2012 – In 1993, loan transactions reached the $1 trillion mark. Additionally, it was the number-one provider of home loans to minorities in the United ...

BofA Must Fund Acorn 'Clones' - Investors.com
Jan 4, 2012 – Countrywide's Other Bill. When BofA bought Countrywide in 2008, it committed a record $1.5 trillion to minority lending and urban reinvestment.

Battered Bank Syndrome - Investors.com
Jan 6, 2012 – Neither did the record $1.5 trillion minority lending and urban ... pledge it made to such groups in 2008, when it took over Countrywide.

Results for similar searches
$335 Million Settlement on Countrywide Lending Bias - NYTimes.com
More results for countrywide trillion minorities

Please note that the New York Times result at the bottom is for "More results for countrywide trillion minorities." (In other words, the NYT has never mentioned the word trillion in an article with Countrywide and minorities.)

If you do the search for 

you get 23 results instead of 18.

I dunno. I must be nuts. I personally think that a trillion dollars is a big deal, but what do I know? The implications of Countrywide's trillion dollar pledge don't favor one party over the other, they don't favor one ideology over another, and they don't favor the sacred fetish of Diversity, so who wants to know about it?


I am shocked, SHOCKED to learn that Countrywide Financial's loan practices were lax

Here's the top story in the Washington Post right now:
US suit cites ‘brazen’ mortgage fraud at Countrywide, even after Bank of America purchase 
By Associated Press, Updated: Wednesday, October 24, 2:15 PM 
NEW YORK — The latest federal lawsuit over alleged mortgage fraud paints an unflattering picture of a doomed lender: Executives at Countrywide Financial urged workers to churn out loans, accepted fudged applications and tried to hide ballooning defaults. 
The suit, filed Wednesday by the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, also underscored how Bank of America’s purchase of Countrywide in July 2008, just before the financial crisis, backfired severely. 
The prosecutor, Preet Bharara, said he was seeking more than $1 billion, but the suit could ultimately recover much more in damages. 
“This lawsuit should send another clear message that reckless lending practices will not be tolerated,” Bharara said in a statement. He described Countrywide’s practices as “spectacularly brazen in scope.” 
He also charged that Bank of America has resisted buying back soured mortgages from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which bought loans from Countrywide.

A relevant fact that has disappeared down the memory hole is that during the Housing Bubble, Angelo Mozilo, CEO of Countrywide, kept boasting that Countrywide was going hog wild in the name of increasing minority homeownership. For example, here's a press release from January 2005. (I suspect that this immediately followed a meeting between Mozilo and Daniel Mudd, head of Fannie Mae, in which Fannie agreed to buy more mortgages from Countrywide).
Countrywide sets $1 trillion goal for real estate loan program 
Funding aims to help minority, low-income borrowers 

Countrywide Home Loans today announced an expansion of its We House America initiative to fund $1 trillion in home loans to minorities and lower-income borrowers and communities through 2010. 
"The $1 Trillion We House America Challenge, expanded from $600 billion announced in 2003, embodies Countrywide's long-standing commitment to lead the mortgage industry in closing the home-ownership gap for minority and lower-income families and communities," said Angelo Mozilo, Countrywide Financial Corp. chairman and CEO, who announced the initiative at the International Builders' Show in Orlando. 
"For several years now, Countrywide has been a leading lender to minorities and lower-income households," Mozilo said. "I am proud of our lending record and pleased to announce the expansion of our lending commitment to $1 trillion." The We House America program has already placed 2.4 million families into homes, Mozilo said that number should nearly triple by 2010. 
The company will continue to develop innovative programs emphasizing non-traditional lending criteria, according to the announcement, such as calling for improved underwriting systems that eliminate the over-reliance on traditional credit scores that can mask a borrower's true credit-worthiness. 
Countrywide last year launched Optimum Loan, a program that addresses obstacles for hard-to-qualify borrowers, such as allowing for non-occupant co-borrowers, other secondary income, and pooled funds for down payments. ...
"To ensure that this objective is achieved, we intend to expand upon our existing partnerships with specific community groups," Mozilo said.
Henry Cisneros, a Countrywide director and a former secretary of Housing and Urban Development, said, "This company is leading the industry in closing the homeownership gap through ambitious lending commitments, innovative programs, and a strong corporate culture that constantly looks for ways to improve." 
Countrywide formalized its commitment to affordable lending more than a decade ago by launching We House America, an initiative to provide increased homeownership opportunities for all Americans. The previous commitment covered the years of 2001-10 and has provided $341 billion of home loans as of Dec. 31, 2004. The company is now extending the goal to $1 trillion by 2010.

And back in February 2003, Mozilo had given a well-publicized Harvard address pledging $600 billion (with a B) in minority and low income mortgages in support of President Bush's October 15, 2002 call for closing the racial gap in homeownership by freeing up lenders from discriminatory regulations like insisting upon down payments.

And Mozillo had been demanding deregulation in the name of minorities from nine years before that, when Cisneros and the Clinton Administration threatened Countrywide with having the Community Reinvestment Act, with all its paperwork, extended to non-bank mortgage lenders like Countrywide if they don't start lending more to minorities:
Eased guidelines seen as key to boost in minority lending 
AUTHOR(S) Prakash, Snigdha
PUB. DATE October 1994
SOURCE American Banker; 10/13/1994, Vol. 159 Issue 198, p20 ... 
ABSTRACT Presents the guidelines outlines by Angelo Mozilo, chairman of Countrywide Funding Corp. regarding loans awarded to minority borrowers. Recommendation for the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) and Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp.to loosen underwriting guidelines; Presentation of the guidelines during a speech delivered to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

The central thread in the Housing Bubble / Bust was excessive deregulation in the name of increasing minority lending. This all did a lot more for Angelo Mozilo's net worth than it did for minorities' net worth, but, there are simply no interest groups in America who want to hear what really happened. Everybody wants to promote their ideologically congenial fragment of the full story.

Sure, trillions evaporated and trillions may evaporate again in the future because nobody wants to learn this lesson of history, but I guess that's a small price to pay for keeping the embarrassing truth covered up.


Ben Affleck has made himself into a brand name over the last half decade for directing well-made suspense movies for intelligent grown-ups: Gone Baby Gone, The Town, and now Argo. They're not quite Drop Everything and Hire a Sitter movies, but more like When You Get a Chance, You and Your Spouse Will Enjoy This Movie movies. Thus, Argo didn't have a huge opening weekend, but it had an excellent second weekend, down only 15%, indicating fine word of mouth.

Argo is based on the once well-known 1980 "Canadian Caper" in which Canadian diplomats in Iran sheltered and help to extricate six American diplomats who had avoided being rounded up with the rest of the embassy hostages. The CIA side of the extrication was kept secret until 1997, and the movie focuses on the American machinations, somewhat unfairly to the Canadians.

And, most of the last half hour of exciting plot twists didn't actually occur, but they were all plausible enough that they well could have happened.

Also, unsurprisingly, Affleck strives to make the Democratic Administration of the time look as good as possible.

It's interesting to speculate how good Affleck-directed movies would be if he didn't make movies in order to cast himself or his brother Casey as the lead. For example, Affleck has himself play Tony Mendez, who was a CIA expert on disguises and forgery. Mendez called up an old friend, the Hollywood makeup artist who won an Oscar for Planet of the Apes, and they cooked up a fake sci-fi movie production to get Mendez into Iran as a Canadian movie producer scouting for exotic locations. 

Mendez entitled his memoirs Master of Disguise. Affleck is, by the standards of well-known actors, not very good at blending in. He's tall and he had a lot of work done to look like a TV movie of the week version of a Hollywood leading man the way Mitt Romney looks like somebody you'd cast to play the Republican candidate in a movie about the Secret Service trying to stop terrorists from blowing up a Presidential debate.

So, in Argo, Affleck dyes his hair black and grows a huge beard to cover most of his square-jawed, symmetrical face.

Apparently, the real Mendez has outstanding conman skills (he's an expert forger as well as make-up artist), which ought to make him an interesting character. But Affleck's chief trait as an actor is earnestness, so nothing much gets developed along those lines.

One amusing bit of history that was distorted in order to build tension was the secret six's reaction to Mendez arriving with elaborate cover stories about how each was a movie person scouting locations. In Argo, Affleck has to win them over to trust his crazy scheme enough to risk their lives on it. Tense arguments ensue. 

In reality, the six thought it was the most fun idea they'd ever heard. Without prompting from Mendez, they immediately started scrounging up more fashionable clothes and blowdrying their hair to look more Hollywood. When he returned the next day, they excitedly showed off their new looks.

A lot of crime and suspense movies these days are elaborate metaphors for movie-making: e.g., Inception, or The Town's ultra-competent bankrobbers are really a movie technical crew. (Real criminals tend to be screw-ups.) The Canadian Caper was an instance of this movie trope slopping over into real life, and, if anything, Argo underplays this.

Baseball: Is it too soon to go back in the fan pool?

With the World Series on, I'm reminded that baseball has some exciting young players like 20-year-old Mike Trout, who might win the A.L. MVP despite one of the various Cabreras winning the Triple Crown, and 19-year-old Bryce Harper. But are they too exciting? I mean, Harper has looked like he's 30 years old since he was 16. 

Last year, Ryan Braun won the MVP in the N.L., only to immediately get caught for performance enhancing drugs (although he managed to lawyer his way out of the 50 game suspension). This season, the San Francisco Cabrera was leading the N.L. in batting average when he got caught. 

Judging by the depressed overall offensive totals, the game is cleaner than it was a 10-15 years ago. But does that just mean that whoever is racking up standout statistics this year is probably just one of the smaller number of juicers?

A vast amount of analytical talent is devoted to thinking about baseball (statistical talent that might more usefully be deployed upon more significant statistical issues, such as, say, figuring out the long-run impact of immigration policies, but never mind for now). But, the sabermetricians, led by the sainted Bill James, tended to be unenthusiastic in the 1990s and early 2000s about thinking about why exactly all the most famous slugging records were suddenly being broken. 

Have they caught up? Are there websites that, say, explore how much confidence you can have that if you invest some loyalty in rooting for Player X based upon his impressive numbers, you won't suddenly find it's all been a fraud?

October 23, 2012

"How Children Succeed" by Paul Tough

From my book review in Taki's Magazine:
It’s a strange totem of the 21st century that if a brain scan can show us where something would happen inside the skull, we can therefore make it happen in ourselves; and also, hesto presto, we can fix African-American dysfunction by somehow making it happen in their brains. 
We don’t think this way about other organs, though. Consider the stomach. For a century or more, we’ve had a more than adequate knowledge of how the digestive system works. Yet on average we’re fatter than ever. Why? Not because the science of stomach scans hasn’t progressed enough, but because we like eating more than we like exercising.

Read the whole thing there.

Blackface in Berlin

It's always fun to keep up with the adventures of Bruce Norris, Angry White Playwright. He's the author of the best Chicago real estate play since Glengarry Glen Ross, Clybourne Park, which I reviewed for Taki's here. (And here's a real life version of just how far nice liberal white gentrifiers in Chicago will go to clear blacks from Lincoln Park.)

Clybourne Park isn't terribly politically correct, but only a few people have noticed so far.
Playwright Challenges Racial Casting Practices 
The Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Bruce Norris has called for a boycott in Germany of theater productions in which white actors are cast in roles explicitly written for black performers. In a letter addressed to fellow members of the Dramatists Guild, a trade association for writers, Mr. Norris condemned such casting, which he described as widespread in Germany. 
Mr. Norris wrote the letter after his experience with a production of his Tony Award-winning play, “Clybourne Park” at the Deutsches Theater in Berlin, in which a white actress had been cast to play a black character.

Remember those two black German guys in Milli Vanilli? They're probably not busy. Bruce should give them a call, see if one of them will play Bruce's African-American lady in drag.
In the letter, which has been posted on the Dramatists Guild’s Web site, Mr. Norris said that it was his final correspondence with the management of the Deutsches Theater that caused him decide to withdraw the rights to the production.

It's worth noting how much power playwrights have relative to screenwriters. Can you imagine Chris Terrio, screenwriter of Argo, ordering Ben Affleck not to play CIA agent Tony Mendez in Argo because Ben's not Hispanic? It's close to unthinkable in Hollywood for a screenwriter to call off a production because he's unhappy with the casting of his script, but playwrights have had this legal right since 1919. Legally, American playwrights are Ayn Rand heroes who can blow up any production of their work they find displeasing.

Indeed, I have this wacky theory that when New York playwrights flooded out to Hollywood after the invention of the talkies, a reason that so many became Communists was because the movies turned out to be a collaborative enterprise where they didn't have all the power they had had back in New York. All we need, they reasoned, is to collectivize all property to restore me to my rightful property rights as sole arbiter of what happens to productions based on my writing.
“After much evasion, justification and rationalizing of their reasons,” he wrote, “they finally informed me that the color of the actress’s skin would ultimately be irrelevant, since they intended to ‘experiment with makeup.’ ”

"Colorblind casting" has been the approved norm in American theater for a long time. For example, I saw a production of Bertolt Brecht's Galileo at the Goodman Theater in Chicago around 1986 in which a black actor played a 17th Century Italian cardinal. But, it doesn't work the other way. White guys can't play Othello anymore. This isn't much of a burden, though, because there are more black actors than there are roles for blacks in all the plays in the repertory.

In regard to mounting Clybourne Park in Berlin in German, the whole enterprise seems pretty hopeless to me. I get what Clybourne Park is about because, just like Norris, I've stood on Clybourn with other white gentrifiers and tried to puzzle out just how fast The Powers That Be will get around to tearing down the Cabrini Green housing projects and sending the residents away to pester less privileged white people. Will we get rich before we get mugged? But, from reading reviews, I don't think that many other white Americans really get the play. I doubt if Berliners will have much of a clue at all, no matter who is cast.
... An online petition has also started at Avaaz.org to stop this practice in German theaters in reaction to a recent production of Herb Gardner’s “I’m Not Rappaport” at Schlosspark Theater in Berlin, where a white actor played Midge, a black character.

In other words, German theaters sometimes use blackface when putting on American or English plays with black characters. This was tolerated in the English-speaking world until not that long ago: Sir Laurence Olivier directed himself in blackface in his movie version of Othello as recently as 1965. 

On the other hand, Fred Armisen, who is 3/4th white and 1/4th Japanese, played Barack Obama in blackface on Saturday Night Live for several years. Of course, the blackface was a version of offering up a hostage, just to prove that SNL would never, ever make fun of Obama.