December 22, 2012

Nothing but the best for us California taxpayers

From a Bloomberg News report on how some government employees in California work the system, especially one psychiatrist:
Mohammad Safi, graduate of a medical school in Afghanistan, collected $822,302 last year, up from $90,682 when he started in 2006, the data show.

I don't think I have to tell you that the Kandahar Klinik is regionally respected. It's a competitive market and you have to pay for kwality.

Pro-Immigrant "Cafe Con Leche Republicans" slam Ann Coulter

From Huffington Post:
Ann Coulter Slammed By Cafe Con Leche Republicans, Conservative Pro-Immigrant Group 
The Huffington Post  |  By Roque Planas  
Latinos aren’t done setting the record straight with Ann Coulter. 
The conservative pundit penned a column earlier this month in which she lashed out at the “deluge of unskilled immigrants pouring into the country” and portrayed Latinos as a lazy “underclass” looking for a government handout. Coulter titles the piece “America Nears El Tipping Pointo,” presumably to make a virtue of her ignorance of the Spanish language. 
The error-ridden piece has riled up the pro-immigrant conservative group Café Con Leche Republicans, who skewer Coulter’s piece in a scathing response, calling the column a “libel of Latino family values” and marshaling data to prove Coulter’s claims are false. 
“The ‘facts’ Ann Coulter cites are either blatantly untrue, or she cherry picks facts in isolation of other relevant factors,” the article by Café Con Leche Republicans’ President Bob Quasius says. 
Quasius takes Coulter to task over her claims that Latinos are less likely to get married, work less hard than non-Latinos, are less religious, have more illegitimate children and others. Quasius cites Pew Center research, whereas Coulter rarely cites published sources.

I hadn't actually heard of Cafe Con Leche Republicans before, so I Googled Bob Quasius's picture. 

Turns out, he's an amiable, Captain Kangarooish-looking fellow. Like so many Hispanic leaders quoted in the press on the subject of immigration these days, he's a lot longer on the leche than the cafe

But what would we do without all this disinterested advice from Leche-Americans, Conquistador-Americans, and Hidalgo-Americans?

Norwegian human sciences documentary "Brainwashed" now with English subtitles

One of the more interesting documentary series of recent years was "Brainwashed," a seven-part Norwegian series having a laugh at the politically correct credulity of Norwegian academics, with interviews with Anglo-American scientific heavyweights like Pinker and Harpending.

It's now available on Youtube with English subtitles.

Obama's eulogy for Obama at Sen. Inouye's funeral

Here's the video and transcript of President Obama's eulogy for Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI), the Japanese-American war hero of the Fighting 442nd. 

If you were in a hurry to compose a eulogy of Inouye, you could do worse than just crib Wikipedia's account of Inouye's WWII service:
In 1943, when the U.S. Army dropped its enlistment ban on Japanese Americans, Inouye curtailed his premedical studies at the University of Hawaii and enlisted in the Army.[6] He volunteered to be part of the all-Nisei 442nd Regimental Combat Team.[7] This army unit was mostly made up of second-generation Japanese Americans from Hawaii and the mainland.[8] 
Inouye was promoted to the rank of sergeant within his first year, and he was given the role of platoon leader. He served in Italy in 1944 during the Rome-Arno Campaign before his regiment was transferred to the Vosges Mountains region of France, where he spent two weeks in the battle to relieve the Lost Battalion, a battalion of the 141st Infantry Regiment that was surrounded by German forces. He was promoted to the rank of second lieutenant for his actions there. At one point while he was leading an attack, a shot struck him in the chest directly above his heart, but the bullet was stopped by the two silver dollars he happened to have stacked in his shirt pocket.[9] He continued to carry the coins throughout the war in his shirt pocket as good luck charms until he lost them shortly before the battle in which he lost his arm.[10] 
On April 21, 1945, Inouye was grievously wounded while leading an assault on a heavily-defended ridge near San Terenzo in Tuscany, Italy called Colle Musatello. The ridge served as a strongpoint along the strip of German fortifications known as the Gothic Line, which represented the last and most unyielding line of German defensive works in Italy. As he led his platoon in a flanking maneuver, three German machine guns opened fire from covered positions just 40 yards away, pinning his men to the ground. Inouye stood up to attack and was shot in the stomach; ignoring his wound, he proceeded to attack and destroy the first machine gun nest with hand grenades and fire from his Thompson submachine gun. After being informed of the severity of his wound by his platoon sergeant, he refused treatment and rallied his men for an attack on the second machine gun position, which he also successfully destroyed before collapsing from blood loss.[citation needed] 
As his squad distracted the third machine gunner, Inouye crawled toward the final bunker, eventually drawing within 10 yards. As he raised himself up and cocked his arm to throw his last grenade into the fighting position, a German inside the bunker fired a rifle grenade that struck him on the right elbow, severing most of his arm and leaving his own primed grenade reflexively "clenched in a fist that suddenly didn't belong to me anymore".[11] Inouye's horrified soldiers moved to his aid, but he shouted for them to keep back out of fear his severed fist would involuntarily relax and drop the grenade. While the German inside the bunker reloaded his rifle, Inouye pried the live grenade from his useless right hand and transferred it to his left. As the German aimed his rifle to finish him off, Inouye tossed the grenade into the bunker and destroyed it. He stumbled to his feet and continued forward, silencing the last German resistance with a one-handed burst from his Thompson before being wounded in the leg and tumbling unconscious to the bottom of the ridge. When he awoke to see the concerned men of his platoon hovering over him, his only comment before being carried away was to gruffly order them to return to their positions, since, as he pointed out, "nobody called off the war!"[12] 
The remainder of Inouye's mutilated right arm was later amputated at a field hospital without proper anesthesia, as he had been given too much morphine at an aid station and it was feared any more would lower his blood pressure enough to kill him.[13] 


But, to Obama, that's kind of boring compared to the really important thing about Inouye: that the young Barack Obama noticed him.
To Irene, Ken, Jennifer, Danny's friends and former colleagues, it is an extraordinary honor to be here with you in this magnificent place to pay tribute to a man who would probably we wondering what all the fuss is about.
This Tuesday was in many ways a day like any other.  The sun rose; the sun set; the great work of our democracy carried on.  But in a fundamental sense it was different.  It was the first day in many of our lives -- certainly my own -- that the halls of the United States Congress were not graced by the presence of Daniel Ken Inouye.
Danny was elected to the U.S. Senate when I was two years old.  He had been elected to Congress a couple of years before I was born.  He would remain my senator until I left Hawaii for college. 
Now, even though my mother and grandparents took great pride that they had voted for him, I confess that I wasn't paying much attention to the United States Senate at the age of four or five or six.  It wasn't until I was 11 years old that I recall even learning what a U.S. senator was, or it registering, at least.  It was during my summer vacation with my family -- my first trip to what those of us in Hawaii call the Mainland. 
So we flew over the ocean, and with my mother and my grandmother and my sister, who at the time was two, we traveled around the country.  It was a big trip.  We went to Seattle, and we went to Disneyland -- which was most important.  We traveled to Kansas where my grandmother's family was from, and went to Chicago, and went to Yellowstone.  And we took Greyhound buses most of the time, and we rented cars, and we would stay at local motels or Howard Johnson's.  And if there was a pool at one of these motels, even if it was just tiny, I would be very excited. And the ice machine was exciting -- and the vending machine, I was really excited about that. 
But this is at a time when you didn’t have 600 stations and 24 hours' worth of cartoons.  And so at night, if the TV was on, it was what your parents decided to watch.  And my mother that summer would turn on the TV every night during this vacation and watch the Watergate hearings.  And I can't say that I understood everything that was being discussed, but I knew the issues were important.  I knew they spoke to some basic way about who we were and who we might be as Americans. 
And so, slowly, during the course of this trip, which lasted about a month, some of this seeped into my head.  And the person who fascinated me most was this man of Japanese descent with one arm, speaking in this courtly baritone, full of dignity and grace.  And maybe he captivated my attention because my mom explained that this was our senator and that he was upholding what our government was all about.  Maybe it was a boyhood fascination with the story of how he had lost his arm in a war.  But I think it was more than that. 
Now, here I was, a young boy with a white mom, a black father, raised in Indonesia and Hawaii.  And I was beginning to sense how fitting into the world might not be as simple as it might seem.  And so to see this man, this senator, this powerful, accomplished person who wasn't out of central casting when it came to what you'd think a senator might look like at the time, and the way he commanded the respect of an entire nation I think it hinted to me what might be possible in my own life. 
This was a man who as a teenager stepped up to serve his country even after his fellow Japanese Americans were declared enemy aliens; a man who believed in America even when its government didn't necessarily believe in him.  That meant something to me.  It gave me a powerful sense -- one that I couldn’t put into words -- a powerful sense of hope.
And as I watched those hearings, listening to Danny ask all those piercing questions night after night, I learned something else.  I learned how our democracy was supposed to work, our government of and by and for the people; that we had a system of government where nobody is above the law, where we have an obligation to hold each other accountable, from the average citizen to the most powerful of leaders, because these things that we stand for, these ideals that we hold dear are bigger than any one person or party or politician. 
And, somehow, nobody communicated that more effectively than Danny Inouye.  You got a sense, as Joe mentioned, of just a fundamental integrity; that he was a proud Democrat, but most importantly, he was a proud American.  And were it not for those two insights planted in my head at the age of 11, in between Disneyland and a trip to Yellowstone, I might never have considered a career in public service.  I might not be standing here today. 
I think it's fair to say that Danny Inouye was perhaps my earliest political inspiration.  And then, for me to have the privilege of serving with him, to be elected to the United States Senate and arrive, and one of my first visits is to go to his office, and for him to greet me as a colleague, and treat me with the same respect that he treated everybody he met, and to sit me down and give me advice about how the Senate worked and then regale me with some stories about wartime and his recovery -- stories full of humor, never bitterness, never boastfulness,  just matter-of-fact -- some of them I must admit a little off-color.  I couldn’t probably repeat them in the cathedral.  (Laughter.)  There’s a side of Danny that -- well. 
Danny once told his son his service to this country had been for the children, or all the sons and daughters who deserved to grow up in a nation that never questioned their patriotism.  This is my country, he said.  Many of us have fought hard for the right to say that.  And, obviously, Rick Shinseki described what it meant for Japanese Americans, but my point is, is that when he referred to our sons and daughters he wasn’t just talking about Japanese Americans.  He was talking about all of us.  He was talking about those who serve today who might have been excluded in the past.  He’s talking about me. ...

And isn't everybody, when you stop and really think about it, talking about, in the final analysis, me? I mean, I'm up here supposedly yammering on about this old coot, but aren't we all really thinking of me? And by "me" I'm not making a point about human nature in general. I don't mean you thinking of "yourself." I mean, you are thinking about me, Barack Obama, the P-O-T-U-S.

I know I am.

Seriously, I (SES, not SES as BHO) have noticed in myself in recent years a growth in the same urge that Obama has to wax nostalgic about our younger years. My younger years weren't all that different from Obama's -- same later baby boomer generation and same SoCal-Hawaii beach bubble. Most notably, both our lives were pleasantly lacking in incident.

For example, my recent string of articles on the Sixties often have their origin with killer personal anecdotes -- e.g., Hey, remember in 1965 when a girl shouted, "Look, a Beatle" but it was actually Herman of the Hermits? Hey, remember in 1967 when my parents took me to see the hippies? -- that turn out to be less intriguing that I thought they would be when I finally put them down in words. (Granted, they are slightly more interesting than Obama's reminiscences in a packed Cathedral about the motel ice machine, but, still ...) So, I wind up concocting some giant theory to justify recounting my musty Baby Boomer memories as semi-relevant illustrations of some vast but heretofore mysterious historical trend.

But Obama has always been a middle-aged bore about his past. At about age 30, he got a six-figure advance to write a book about law and race, then turned it into an autobiography that didn't sell because his life was so lacking in Inouye-like interest, only to later have his narcissism vindicated when it turned out that the world-historical event his life story illustrated was his life story, just as he'd alway kind of figured.

By the way, Obama was recycling his motel ice machine spiel from a speech he gave last summer to show what a down-to-earth regular American he is, unlike that out-of-touch Mitt Romney. He followed up by drinking a beer. From the NY Daily News:
As Mitt Romney continued a family getaway at his multi-million dollar New Hampshire compound on Friday, President Obama recalled riding on Greyhound buses and staying at Howard Johnson hotels on his own childhood vacations. 
During a campaign rally in Ohio, Obama said that as a child he was excited just to play with the ice machine and swim in the hotel pool. “It didn’t matter how big it was,” Obama said.

Pro-Red State policies

Republicans have a greater tendency to drink their own Kool-Aid than Democrats. For example, if you look at a map of where people who vote Republicans live, you'll notice that they congregate (if that's the right word) in the more open parts of the country. The Democrats assiduously try to increase population density via immigration and environmentalist policies, such as declaring large swathes of lands wildernesses. (You might think that immigration promotion and wilderness preservation are contradictory impulses, but in terms of increasing population density and thus Democratic-voting, they're all good.)

An intelligent GOP would tend to promote policies that benefit its own kind of people and make life better for people who choose less densely populated regions over more densely populated ones. But too often Republicans are ham-strung by libertarian ideology. 

For example, consider the pipeline between the Ivy League and Wall Street, which is a major engine in sucking talent out of Red States and bringing it to the northeast. It's much easier to get a job interview with Goldman Sachs if you are an Ivy League senior than if you are a senior, with the same qualifications, at a State Flagship U., so ambitious Red State high school students better try to scramble their way into the Ivy League.

Wall Street firms interview much less outside of the Northeast. What with the price of airfare and hotel rooms these days, they couldn't possibly afford to interview at many colleges more than few hundred miles from New York. Think of how Goldman's thin profit margins would be endangered by the rent-a-car costs alone. The government shouldn't interfere with the free market!

Yet, if I were a Republican congressman from, say, Indiana and were on the House Financial Services committee, I would let Goldman, Morgan, and the rest know that the great state of Indiana has three major universities -- Notre Dame, Purdue, and Indiana -- and I expect you to spend a day at each one interviewing, and sometimes hiring. You will notice from my tone of voice when you call up asking me for favors that I am keeping track of your hiring from my state.

Or, what about high-speed Internet for more rural Red Staters? Generations ago, rural Congressmen got the ATT monopoly to subsidize phone service for people in the country. Now, we're increasingly close to an ATT - Verizon duopoly over telecomm, so why not lean on the big telecomm firms to get more of Red America wired up with fast web access so people don't move out in frustration over being stuck with 20th Century Internet in the wide open spaces? Sure, that would violate libertarian principle and maybe hurt your chances to become a Verizon lobbyist after you get voted out of office, but maybe you should try policies to keep you from being voted out in the first place?

NYT: The Yellow Peril threatening Harvard's campus culture: or why two Wongs don't make a White in the Ivy League

The most interesting response in the New York Times to Ron Unz's demonstration that Ivy League colleges appear to have implemented a quota cap on Asian admissions is "Scores Aren't the Only Qualifications" from Rod M. Bugarin, an elite college admissions professional who identifies as Asian-American. He doesn't deny Unz's charge, but tries to explain the reasons top colleges discriminate against Asians:
From my experience of watching college students learn, grow and develop on elite campuses, I rarely found the skills that are validated by standardized tests to be those that enhance classroom discussions or the interpersonal dynamic when doing research with peers and professors. 

Having been one of those students who "enhance classroom discussions" (obviously, I'm biased, but I don't think my assertion that my presence tended to make class discussions livelier and more intellectually interesting sounds all that far-fetched), and having two sons who do the same, I am sympathetic to this viewpoint.

On the other hand, I am not sure that the college admissions process is at all set up to assess this potential accurately. Some colleges do one-on-one interviews, and most ask for letters of recommendation, but it's not at all clear that these vague instruments are terribly successful at identifying individuals who improve discussions and team projects. For example, I had lavish letters of recommendations from high school teachers and college professors about how much I benefitted the educational community, but then so do lots of applicants. I made sure to get a recommendation from my one high school teacher who had a Harvard Ph.D.. He wrote an exceptionally intelligent endorsement, but did it go over the heads of admissions workers?

What really works, I imagine, is for prep schools that have a long and deep relationship with elite colleges to make confidential assessments: "The faculty here at Groton is in near unanimous agreement that this applicant adds more to classroom discussions than any Groton student since Bill Smith four years ago, whom you will have noticed just became a Rhodes Scholar. As you know, we value our relationship with Harvard's admissions' committee over all others, so we would not steer you wrong when we call your attention to this applicant's intangibles." That kind of thing coming from a top 100 prep school would probably swing some weight, while recommendations from teachers and staff at non-elite high schools probably don't get taken too seriously because of small sample sizes.
Policies like affirmative action give admissions officers the liberty to identify those candidates who surpass expectations of what is “qualified,” bringing talents, interests, skills and perspectives that make learning in the college community an enriching experience for everyone. Without practices like affirmative action, admissions officers are constrained to select only those who demonstrate a very narrow set of skills, which is not necessarily what our nation and economy need. 

Bugarin is conflating the terms "affirmative action" and "holistic admission," which isn't unreasonable.
I believe that all students, regardless of their ethnicity, can take pride that when applying to a highly selective institution that embraces the principles behind affirmative action, each document in your file is scrutinized to find subtle reasons that make you a great fit. 
Asian and Asian-American students should embrace affirmative action because it allows you to present yourself as a complete person instead of reducing yourself to a test score. More important, a campus community composed only of students who have aced standardized tests cannot match the dynamic, diverse ethos that currently exists.

More than three decades ago, a teacher at the most elite prep school in Los Angeles (the one in Coldwater Canyon) told me, with approval, that its admissions department routinely discounted the test scores of Asian applicants to keep classes from being overrun by students who only speak up to ask, "Will this be on the test?"
I’m sure that many students, particularly Asian and Asian-Americans, would not find Ivy League schools as desirable if their campus communities only valued competitive, high-stakes testing where only a few are given the opportunity to succeed. 

And that is likely true.
Yet, the unfortunate reality is that highly selective campuses do not have enough room on their campuses to admit every student they find compelling. Affirmative action is one of many tools that helps my former colleagues make these subjective decisions in the most humane way possible.

Are there quantitative studies showing that current admissions procedures can and do identify students who would add more to campus life than their objective measurements would suggest?

You'll notice that the government applies very different standards to different organizations. For example, the theory of disparate impact is applied often and strictly to fire departments. The FDNY's hiring test -- questions about how to fight fires -- was thrown out by a federal court solely because of disparate impact. Now, here is an insider more or less admitting that elite colleges practice disparate treatment discrimination based on the hunch that a Wong is less likely to speak up in class than a Goldman or a Huntington, but where are the demands that Harvard show us the studies they have undertaken to prove this stereotype? I'm not saying they couldn't do that, but I sure would like to read those secret studies ... assuming they exist, which I doubt.

(A generation ago, Harvard let Robert Klitgaard, a statistically sophisticated social scientist who had worked in Harvard admissions, publish a 1985 book, Choosing Elites, recounting various admissions moneyball studies that Harvard had done, focusing most on the Class of '75. But I haven't heard much since then out of the murky world of college admissions. I'd be particularly interested in Harvard's models of what kind of alumni donate the most to Old Harvard's annual fund drives.)

Asians-make-a-duller-campus is the kind of stereotype that's pretty obvious (white Berkeley in the 1960s v. Asian Berkeley in this century is a historical comparison that leaps to mind), but not particularly easy to quantify, and not easy to defend in public.

But, shouldn't the Harvards be asked to at least demonstrate that they've narrowed their stereotypes intelligently rather than painting with a broad racial brush? I can see South Asians in my readership raising their hands, saying, "Hey, us South Asians aren't afraid to talk. Why do we have to get lumped in with East Asians?" And I can see American-born East Asians saying, "I'm not totally shy like the FOB East Asians like my parents." And I can see East Asian children of American-born East Asians saying, "Hey, I'm pretty much like all the white kids I grew up with in our mostly white neighborhood, so don't lump me in with the East Asian kids born in a high test score ghetto like Arcadia." Or, "Hey, I'm only half Asian, and I got white personality genes." Etc Etc

But, in the long run, Harvard will get away with lots of stuff that FDNY wouldn't dream of trying, because it's Harvard.

Feminists: Still making children cry on Christmas morning

From the NYT:
Guys and Dolls No More?


IMAGINE walking into the toy department and noticing several distinct aisles. In one, you find toys packaged in dark brown and black, which include the “Inner-City Street Corner” building set and a “Little Rapper” dress-up kit. In the next aisle, the toys are all in shades of brown and include farm-worker-themed play sets and a “Hotel Housekeeper” dress. 
If toys were marketed solely according to racial and ethnic stereotypes, customers would be outraged, and rightfully so.

That is pretty much how record stores -- the few remaining, such as the beloved Amoeba Records on Sunset Blvd. -- are organized.
Yet every day, people encounter toy departments that are rigidly segregated — not by race, but by gender. There are pink aisles, where toys revolve around beauty and domesticity, and blue aisles filled with toys related to building, action and aggression. 
Gender has always played a role in the world of toys. What’s surprising is that over the last generation, the gender segregation and stereotyping of toys have grown to unprecedented levels. We’ve made great strides toward gender equity over the past 50 years, but the world of toys looks a lot more like 1952 than 2012. 
Gender was remarkably absent from the toy ads at the turn of the 20th century

Because children mostly got lumps of coal in their stockings. Seriously, poor societies tend to be less sex-differentiated in many ways than rich societies simply because they are poor.

It's pretty much basic Maslow Hierarchy of Needs, with survival at the bottom and self-actualization at the top. In 1900, a nice Christmas present to find in your stocking was an orange. You and your sister both liked the oranges your aunt brought you in 1897 and you've been dreaming ever since about having another orange. Their sweetness showed they were providing needed calories. Oranges even had vitamins.

A century later, you and your sister have, to be frank, more calories than you really need, but their is no end to your feeling that you need more self-actualization via fantasy, so your sister is demanding a Polly Pocket Fairy Wishing World, while you are throwing a tantrum over how much you want a Power Rangers Samurai Bull Megazord Action Figure.
but played a much more prominent role in toy marketing during the pre- and post-World War II years. However, by the early 1970s, the split between “boys’ toys” and “girls’ toys” seemed to be eroding. 

In other words, feminism came to quickly dominate thinking in America after its break out in 1969.
During my research into the role of gender in Sears catalog toy advertisements over the 20th century, I found that in 1975, very few toys were explicitly marketed according to gender, and nearly 70 percent showed no markings of gender whatsoever. In the 1970s, toy ads often defied gender stereotypes by showing girls building and playing airplane captain, and boys cooking in the kitchen.

One thing you can't say about feminism is that it hasn't failed because it's never been tried.

It has been tried.
But by 1995, the gendered advertising of toys had crept back to midcentury levels, and it’s even more extreme today. In fact, finding a toy that is not marketed either explicitly or subtly (through use of color, for example) by gender has become incredibly difficult. 
There are several reasons gender-based marketing has become so prevalent. On a practical level, toy makers know that by segmenting the market into narrow demographic groups, they can sell more versions of the same toy.

Boy and Girl are not exactly narrow segments.

Anyway, this doesn't make economic sense. All else being equal, manufacturers don't want to sell more versions of the same thing, they want to sell fewer versions to keep costs down: "You can have your Model T in any color you like, so long as it's black." They provide more versions because of demand: i.e., boys and girls tend to like different stuff. Just as General Motors outmarketed Ford in the 1920s because Alfred P. Sloan figured out that the country was getting prosperous enough that there was a new mass market not just for the basic transportation Ford's Model T provided, but for allowing customers to self-actualize through car purchases by providing a variety of levels of luxury in cars in multiple colors and with changing fashions in sheet metal, richer societies sell more ostentatiously masculine and feminine toys and entertainment.
And nostalgia often drives parents and grandparents to give toys they remember from their own childhood.

How does that make sense? You just said that toys were degenderized in 1975. Surely today's parents must be nostalgic for the Pat the Androgynous Action Doll that their aunt bought them at the womyn's co-op in 1975?

Oh, wait, you mean nobody remembers the neutered toys from this brief consciousness-raised phase fondly? Now why would that be?
Such marketing taps into the deeply held beliefs about gender that still operate in our culture; many parents argue that their daughters and sons like different things.

If only parents would listen to Elizabeth Sweet instead of their children about what toys their children really want.
But if parents are susceptible to the marketers’ message, their children are even more so. In a study on parental toy purchases led by the psychologist Donna Fisher-Thompson, researchers who interviewed parents leaving a toy store found that many bought gender-typed toys because their kids had asked for them, and parents were a bit less likely to choose gendered toys — at least for girls — on their own. 
Moreover, expert opinion — including research by developmental and evolutionary psychologists — has fueled the development and marketing of gender-based toys. Over the past 20 years, there has been a growth of “brain science” research, which uses neuroimaging technology to try to explain how biological sex differences cause social phenomena like gendered toy preference. 
That’s ridiculous, of course: it’s impossible to neatly disentangle the biological from the social, given that children are born into a culture laden with gender messages. But that hasn’t deterred marketers from embracing such research and even mimicking it with their own well-funded studies. 
For example, last year the Lego Group, after two decades of marketing almost exclusively to boys, introduced the new “Friends” line for girls after extensive market research convinced the company that boys and girls have distinctive, sex-differentiated play needs. 
Critics pointed out that the girls’ sets are more about beauty, domesticity and nurturing than building — undermining the creative, constructive value that parents and children alike place in the toys. Nevertheless, Lego has claimed victory, stating that the line has been twice as successful as the company anticipated. 
The ideas about gender roles embedded in toys and marketing reflect how little our beliefs have changed over time, even though they contradict modern reality: over 70 percent of mothers are in the labor force, and in most families domestic responsibilities are shared more equitably than ever before. In an era of increasingly diverse family structures, these ideas push us back toward a more unequal past. 
Elizabeth Sweet is a doctoral candidate in sociology at the University of California, Davis.

There are two orthogonal dimensions when it comes to how sex roles change as societies get richer, more technologically advanced, and more complex. The first is toward more flexibility because society can afford more flexibility and can exploit it more. 

The second, however, is toward more self-actualization, especially in fantasy / entertainment, which is a growing segment of the economy because we can afford more. And the great majority of people want to self-actualize along the lines of their sex. 

Consider explosions in movies. They used to be rather rare and perfunctory. Jimmy Cagney's "Top of the world, ma!" speech in 1949's White Heat had a huge impact because it was followed by an early example of the kind of fireball explosion that is standard today, as parodied [link fixed] in this year's 21 Jump Street.

December 21, 2012

Gun control down through the decades

The gun issue is a classic example of how what I call the Dirt Gap divides up the U.S. into thinly populated Red Regions and densely populated Blue Regions. I wrote in The American Conservative back in 2004 in "Baby Gap:"
The endless gun-control brouhaha, which on the surface appears to be a bitter battle between liberal and conservative whites, also features a cryptic racial angle. What blue-region white liberals actually want is for the government to disarm the dangerous urban minorities that threaten their children’s safety. Red-region white conservatives, insulated by distance from the Crips and the Bloods, don’t care that white liberals’ kids are in peril. Besides, in sparsely populated Republican areas, where police response times are slow and the chances of drilling an innocent bystander are slim, guns make more sense for self-defense than in the cities and suburbs. 
White liberals, angered by white conservatives’ lack of racial solidarity with them, yet bereft of any vocabulary for expressing such a verboten concept, pretend that they need gun control to protect them from gun-crazy rural rednecks, such as the ones Michael Moore demonized in “Bowling for Columbine,” thus further enraging red-region Republicans.

December 20, 2012

How many homicides is a quarter century of gangsta rap responsible for?

Rap music hit the Top 40 in 1979, but took a new turn around 25 years ago in early 1988 with the introduction of crime-glorifying gangsta rap, which arrived almost simultaneously with crack and an increase in the black youth homicide rate. Black homicide offenders had averaged about 10,000 per year in 1983-87, but then averaged about 15,000 per year from 1990-94.

The general theme of gangsta rap is that to be authentic, black males should follow a code of conduct that increases their likelihood of murdering other black males.

The Rev. Al Sharpton hates gangsta rap and intermittently crusades against it. I wouldn't be surprised that if Sharpton could make a decent living as an anti-gangsta rap advocate, that that would be his first choice of cause. But beyond the Tyler Perry audience of older black church ladies, there's nobody terribly interested in supporting advocacy on this topic. 

To younger white people, well, of course black people make hit songs about poppin' a cap in each other. It's just a thing they do. Haven't they always done this?

It's difficult to explain to anybody younger than a certain age that black people never used to make hit records about such a thing. The closest parallel might be blues songs like Jimi Hendrix's "Hey Joe" about shooting your messing around woman down, but they generally were played as tragedy, not advice.

Has anybody's career ever suffered for having been a gangsta rapper? Ice Cube stars in family movies now and Ice T fights crime on one of the Law & Order shows. How much trouble have media companies gotten into over the years for purveying gangsta rap? A little, but not much.

So, within an order of magnitude, how many homicides could reasonably be attributed to gangsta rap over the last quarter of a century? Let's assume that it has zero affect on non-blacks. Assume blacks commit half of all homicides, and there have been maybe 16,000 total homicides per year over the last 25 years, or 8,000 per year by blacks. 

Now, what percentage of black homicides are due to the existence of a major genre of catchy rhymes advocating thug life?

It's pretty much impossible do disentangle factors with confidence, but I'll say, 5%. How do I know that? I don't, but it seems more plausible than 50% or 0.5%. So, 5% of 8,000 is 400 deaths per year. 

Over 25 years, that sums up to 10,000 murders.

Murder and Media: Bonnie and Clyde and "Bonnie and Clyde"

Noah Millman is appalled that Pat Buchanan implies that back in the good old days, respectable society didn't celebrate criminals, and cites Bonnie and Clyde as an obvious counter-example. 

But the cultural history of Bonnie and Clyde supports Pat's memory. From roughly 1935 to 1965, crime rates were low (the red line above is the per capita homicide rate with the 1950s set as 100). In the exact same time, American elites tried hard to render actual criminals uninteresting and media glorification of criminals not respectable. As I said yesterday, Bill James reports on a newspaper barons' gentleman's agreement after the Lindbergh's Baby trial of early 1935 to cut back on tabloid coverage of crime. Similarly, the Hays Code the movie industry imposed upon itself in the early 1930s  insisted that criminals be portrayed in a disapproving manner.

Bonnie and Clyde (who died violently in 1934) were part of a wave of criminals of the late Prohibition / early Depression era that were given huge news coverage and a fair amount of romantic outlaw spin (John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, Machine Gun Kelly, etc.). That era rapidly closed down around 1935, and with it homicide rates.

Which one is cause and which one is effect? Hard to say, but I can't dismiss out of hand the notion that the elite culture's bias in 1935-1965 against promoting criminals as big deals didn't take the wind out of the sails of various low-lifes who might have acted upon their desires for notoriety in other eras when the publicity machinery was more favorable.

In 1967, Arthur Penn's movie "Bonnie and Clyde" became a huge story and a big box office hit. In the histories of cinema written by the victors, it's portrayed as a morality tale in which the cool new critics (e.g., Pauline Kael) triumphed over the stick-in-the-mud old critics (e.g., Bosley Crowther). 

Crowther had been the chief movie reviewer of the New York Times for 27 years and was the champion voice of serious liberal uplift and respectability. To him, movies shouldn't glamorize two-bit moron criminals like Bonnie and Clyde. He just didn't get that in the new elite culture of the later 1960s, criminals were cool. From Wikipedia:
... the most dogged critic of the film was Bosley Crowther, who wrote three negative reviews, as well as periodically blasting the movie in reviews of other films, and also in a letters column response to unhappy Times readers. The New York Times replaced Crowther as its primary film critic in early 1968, and it was widely speculated that his persistent attacks on Bonnie and Clyde had shown him to be out of touch with current cinema, and weighed heavily in his removal.

I never saw "Bonnie and Clyde" until 1990, at which point it was hard to see what all the hub-bub had been about. From the perspective of 1990, it just looked like a glamorous Hollywood movie of recent years, distinguished mostly by having a ton of Hollywood star power (besides Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway in the title roles, it featured then-little known future stars Gene Hackman and Gene Wilder).

Here's the 2009 essay by Stephen Hunter that makes most of my points better than I could.

Nepotism reinstituted in NYC schools for gifted

A continuing theme at iSteve is: Pay Attention to What New Yorkers Do. I don't emphasize this just to point out hypocrisy, but to furnish lessons for Americans in places where citizens tend to be less clever and less certain that the rules don't really apply to them. 

The decline of NYC in the liberal era of roughly 1965-75 was a self-inflicted tragedy. New York's long climb back has furnished many object lessons in how the world really works, but you have to be willing to read the local news out of New York to figure out what's actually going on as smart white people figure out how to afford to have more than one child in the world's most important city.

Fortunately, the Bloomberg Administration isn't always clear on the concept when it comes to education (as opposed to crime). Bloomberg tends to appoint to education jobs people he and other billionaires consider world class (the guy who prosecuted Microsoft for antitrust, the chairwoman of Hearst Magazines). Billionaires don't get together at Jackson Hole to talk about how to fight crime, so Bloomberg does a good job of that. But his billionaire pals have lots of bright ideas about fixing the public schools, so Bloomberg's more clueless education appointees frequently make illustrative mistakes by taking seriously the ideals they hear so much verbiage about, and fixing systems that aren't broken. Then, the upper crust parents who send their kids to public schools have to rebel, and arrangements that would otherwise remain quiet becomes local news.

From the NYT:
A Policy Shift in Programs for the Gifted Is Abandoned 
In a reversal, New York City school officials on Wednesday said they would continue their sibling-preference policy for gifted and talented programs that have more eligible students than seats. 
Amid an explosion in the number of students who qualify for the seats, the city in October said it would end the policy as part of a raft of new changes to the program’s admissions process. School officials at the time said their move would create a fairer system for its highest-performing pupils.

Silly school officials, thinking that "a fairer system" is what the people who matter in New York want for their kids.
But the idea is being abandoned until it can be analyzed more deeply, officials said, a reflection of just how combustible such tweaks can be for programs that serve just a sliver of the system’s 1.1 million students but that are highly coveted by parents. ...
The announcement came three weeks before the start of admissions testing for the programs. Students must score in the 90th percentile on an admissions test to qualify for a district-level gifted program, and in the 97th percentile for one of the citywide programs, like the Anderson School or the Brooklyn School of Inquiry.  
If there are more students who qualify for a gifted program than there are seats, students with a sibling in the program will be admitted first, as long as they obtain a qualifying score. Any remaining seats go to students without siblings in the program, based on who scores highest. The policy aims to keep young siblings together and avoid making parents take children to separate schools. But it also irked the many parents of students who, for example, scored in the 99th percentile, but lost out to other students who scored in the 97th percentile but had a sibling in the program. 
So in the fall, the Education Department did away with the sibling preference “to make it fairer and more equitable for students scoring most high on these exams,” Robert Sanft, the chief executive of the department’s Office of Student Enrollment, said at the time. 
The change drew equal parts praise and condemnation, as did the reversal on Wednesday. 
... But Rachel Fremmer, who has a 7-year-old daughter in the gifted program at Public School 163, in Manhattan, and a 4-year-old daughter in preschool hoping to enroll there next year, was relieved. “It’s great for us,” she said. “A lot of families were desperate to have their children in the same school.”

The nepotism policy makes New York City more competitive with nice suburbs for upper middle class people with more than one child. And upper middle class people with more than one child are, basically, Who You Want.

The advantage of buying an expensive house in a suburb with "good" schools is that all your children can go. In contrast, a test-based gifted program in a large urban school district is fine for people who have one smart kid, but what if your second child isn't as smart? NYC's nepotism policy means that if you can get your first kid into a gifted program, your second or third will probably get in too. (Scoring at the 90th percentile in NYC isn't terribly hard for upper middle class children -- there are a whole lot of public school students in NYC who don't even know anybody at the 90+ percentile), but competing dog-eat-dog against other upper middle class children is much less certain.)

So, the nepotism rule encourages parents who can get their first kid into a gifted program to buy a home, reasonably assured that younger siblings will be grandfathered in to a "good" school as well. This encourages a higher birth rate among the upper middle class.

This isn't terribly fair, but it's probably good for making the city more bourgeois, which is, on the whole, a good thing. Let me commend this to your attention for adoption in your city as well.

December 19, 2012

NYT debate on Unz's charges of anti-Asian quotas in Ivy League

Here's the debate in the New York Times on Ron Unz's research suggesting Ivy League colleges keep Asian numbers down and Jewish numbers up:
Fears of an Asian Quota in the Ivy LeagueWith a disproportionate number of Asian-American students acing standardized tests, are top colleges limiting the number they admit? Read More »DEBATERS
I haven't read through this yet, but a couple of quick points:

First, this shows the overwhelming importance of the New York Times as first mover in the mass media echo system in determining What Is, and What Isn't, News. College admissions is a topic of tremendous interest to the kind of people who write the news, and of some interest to the kind of people who read the news, but Unz's research wasn't news until the New York Times said it is. If you go to Google News and type in Unz college, you get three articles over the last three weeks before the NYT decided to feature it today:

I devote a fair amount of energy to critiques of New York Times coverage both because of its power, but also because it influence is by no means wholly undeserved. The NYT employs people smart enough to get it, and sometimes they do. For example, Nicholas Wade, the NYT genetics reporter, spent a decade dismantling the Clinton Era myth that Race Does Not Exist. I haven't seen any evidence of anybody apologizing for propagating bad science, but Wade's dogged work has taken a little of the wind out of the sails of the zeitgeist.

Second, the really interesting aspect of Unz's research is his inference that not only are Ivy League colleges discriminating against Asians, they seem to be discriminating in favor of Jews. Now, that's pretty interesting. But, that's only going to leak out as a secondary aspect of the now-approved story of discrimination against Asians.

P.S., I see a rumor that the New York Times will be for sale in 2013. I think it would be nuts for politically dependent billionaires (i.e., most billionaires) to evaluate buying the NYT solely based on net present value of cash flow. Do you think Carlos Slim regrets the money he spent bailing out the NYT in 2008? The Mexican telecom monopolist bought himself years of being not considered terribly newsworthy, while Americans who want to reduce the profits Slim makes on calls to and from illegal aliens were recurrently demonized. And any connection between Slim's bailout and the NYT's virulence against immigration skeptics is simply Not News.

Money well spent.

Shootings and Baby Boomer mythos

A commenter points out that when he was a kid in New Jersey, everybody knew about a guy named Howard Unruh who had killed 13 people in 1949 in Camden, the same number as Charles Whitman famously killed in 1966. As far as I can recall, though, I'd never heard of this shooter.

I think one reason is that "the news" was more localized in the past. You can see various technological changes coming along to nationalize news, such as the telegraph: a large fraction of people in the North heard about the Union's victories on July 3, 1863 at both Gettysburg and Vicksburg on July 4th. Previously, people had used signal fires (as in Aeschylus's account of how news of the victory in the Trojan War was sent back to Greece quickly) or carrier pigeons (Rothschilds and the Battle of Waterloo), but the telegraph made a big change in getting everybody on the same page. 

By the 1920s, newspapers had figured out that you didn't need to wait around for the Battle of Gettysburg to happen to sell papers. Somewhere in the country there was always something sensational going on at any time. For example, Floyd Collins getting stuck in a cave in Kentucky in 1925 became a huge deal in the press, with radio chipping in to the frenzy.

TV was a big deal of course, but I suspect that the use of videotape in the 1960s really amplified the power of TV news to create "iconic moments" by repeating highlights. (As a commenter notes, color TV was a huge addition to during the 1960s in terms of the power of imagery.)

The emergence of 24-hour national cable news, with CNN becoming hugely popular during the 1991 Gulf War, may have had something to do with the wave of high school shootings of the later 1990s that fizzled out in tedium in 2001. Events like Columbine were perfect for filling up many hours per day. Then, 9/11 and the anthrax poisonings came along and that gave us lots of new stuff to obsess about. Perhaps potential high school shooters intuited that not as many viewers would pay attention to them in the wake of 9/11, so why bother?

Another factor in what events make up the national mythology is the numeric power of Baby Boomers (and, of those lucky pre-Baby Boomers who targeted the vast cohort younger than them for manipulation) to make their youthful memories the national currency.

A transitional figure between the localized, forgotten Howard Unruh killers and the Charles Whitman era was Charles Starkweather, who went on a killing spree in 1958 with his 14 year old girlfriend. Starkweather was some small town loser, the dumbest worker at the warehouse next to the junior high school where his girlfriend was a student. But, he tried to comb his hair like James Dean, and thus he posthumously appealed to filmmakers as a murky but potent generational symbol of rock 'n' roll or something. "I know my life would look all right / If I could see it on the silver screen" -- The Eagles, "James Dean."

From Wikipedia:
The Starkweather–Fugate case inspired the films The Sadist (1963), Badlands(1973), Kalifornia (1993), Natural Born Killers (1994) and Starkweather (2004). 

Badlands, with Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek, launched director Terrance Malick's career. In the late 1970s, critic John Simon called it the best movie he'd ever seen. Natural Born Killers was made by Oliver Stone near his technical peak.

A friend of suspense novelist John Grisham was murdered randomly by a thrill kill couple who had been taking drugs and watching Oliver Stone's Starweather-Fugate inspired Natural Born Killers (original story by Quentin Tarantino). Grisham collected a fair amount of evidence of some other couples seemingly inspired to murder people at random by repeatedly watching Natural Born Killers while on drugs, and mounted a lawsuit against Stone. The director eventually won the lawsuit.

Mass shootings, media, and gun control

Mass shootings have been a recognized phenomenon in the US since Charles Whitman went up the tower at the U. of Texas with a rifle in 1966 and entered Baby Boomer lore.  
That’s about as far back as I can remember, so I can’t tell you if these kinds of horrible events happened just as regularly before 1966. Those who have studied the question come to differing conclusions. For example, in 1927 a vengeful Michigan school-board treasurer blew up an elementary school, killing 38 students. But as spectacular as that must have been, that was before television allowed the entire country to watch news stories live. So the bomber didn’t become famous like Whitman. (That phase change in news coverage is one reason that Baby Boomers such as me naturally assume that history more or less began sometime between the JFK assassination and The Beatles.) 
It’s possible that even more horrific mass murders are lost to history: Fires were major killers until not that long ago. For example, the 1958 fire that killed 92 students in Chicago’s Our Lady of Angels elementary school may have been the result of youthful arson.

Read the whole thing there.

The invalidity of I.Q.

A letter to the New York Times;
To the Editor: 
Nicholas D. Kristof (“It’s a Smart, Smart, Smart World,” column, Dec. 13) cites the new book by James R. Flynn on the world’s rising I.Q. scores. Serious education scholars have long abandoned the I.Q. test as a measure of intelligence.  
Instead, Howard Gardner, the Harvard psychologist, has pre-empted the dialogue on intelligence. 
For more than 28 years, we in education have been confronted with Dr. Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. He states that there are eight intelligences, of which I.Q. constitutes but two, language and math. Others include spatial (art) and music. 
Jackson Pollock and Charlie Parker transformed art and music, but they may not have done especially well on the I.Q. test. 
Norfolk, Va., Dec. 13, 2012
The writer is scholar emeritus at Old Dominion University and the co-author of “The End of School Reform.”

Jackson Pollock died at age 44 driving drunk. Charlie Parker died at 34. The police report estimated his age as 65. In Clint Eastwood's Parker biopic, "Bird," Dizzy Gillespie (who died at 75 after a life long in accomplishments and recognition -- he's the voice of Clint in the movie) tells Charlie: They're going to make a movie out of your life because you're going to die young.

December 18, 2012

2011 NAEP vocabulary results by state

The feds' National Assessment of Educational Progress has a table of 4th and 8th grade vocabulary and reading comprehension scores by state. Sample size issues are of concern for smaller states which tend to bounce around, but we can state with a high degree of statistical confidence that the future of the state of California, the traditional State of the Future, looks dumb. Out of the 50 states, the Golden State ranks 48th, 47th, 48th, and 49th on various measures. Here's the bottom six of 52 in the four different tests:
In contrast, Massachusetts is 1st, 1st, 1st, and 1st, while the District of Columbia was 52nd, 52nd, 52nd, and 52nd (in case you are wondering why D.C. is the 52nd state, Department of Defense schools rank 2nd, 5th, 2nd, 6th). Obviously, the problem is all those Republicans in California and D.C. If only D.C. would develop enlightened political opinions like Massachusetts, its test scores would soar.

Perhaps more relevantly, Texas is 37th, 36th, 37th, and 36th. Texas always beats California on the NAEP. Has anybody studied this to make sure this is not just a test artifact (e.g., Texas cares about the NAEP and California doesn't)? If it isn't, why the consistent difference? Texas is pretty bad, but it's not as bad as California, and beggars can't be choosers, so somebody ought to be investigating why Texas beats California.

One obvious objection is that the future isn't as bad as it looks because Hispanics, as new immigrants, are just being held back by the inevitable biases of testing skills in English. 

Indeed, this effect does exist, but how big is it? Here's national 8th grade vocabulary. The first number is score at the 10th percentile, then 25th, 50th, 75th and 90th. 

Let's first compare whites and Asians. At the 10th percentile, Asians lag whites by 8 points. Presumably, a fair number of these Asian 8th graders just got off the plane from China, so their English vocabulary is limited. At the 25th percentile, the White-Asian gap is down to 5 points. At the median, it's 3, at the 75th percentile it's 0, and at the 90th percentile, Asians are out in the lead by a point. 

Now, compare Hispanics to blacks, most of whom grow up speaking English, but as we all know from hundreds of articles, African-Americans grow up in conditions that would drive a Trappist Monk crazy for lack of speech. In black homes, nobody every talks, watches TV, or listens to rap music. So, black scores on language are bad, with unfortunate long-term consequences. 

At the 10th percentile, where many of the Hispanics are newcomers, blacks lead by 2 points. At the 25th percentile, however, Hispanics are out in front by 1 point, by 2 at the median, 3 at the 75 percentile, and 4 at the 90th. 

So, clearly, Hispanics who have all the advantages are, on average, a little smarter than blacks who have all the advantages. In other words, if immigration were shut off for a generation or two, Mexicans would appear, on average, perceptibly more on the ball academically than blacks. Indeed, that was my perception back in the 1970s in L.A., where the Chicanos had mostly been a stable population since WWII.

But, nationally, Hispanics only pick up 6 points on blacks going from the 10th to the 90th percentiles, while Asians pick up 9 points on whites, who are, to be frank, a lot more competition.

Being a little smarter than blacks is, well, good. Or, you could say with equal justice, less bad. On the other hand, Hispanics at the 90th percentile among Hispanics, typically those with all the advantages, are simply not playing in the same league as Asians and whites with all the advantages. They're down there beating out blacks for third place, not being nationally competitive. There's not a lot of high end in the Hispanic population. 

However you look at it, it's still not very encouraging considering that our leadership kind of bet the country on Hispanics.

December 17, 2012

The Sixties: Wilderness v. recreation, educated v. affluent

Continuing to consider the Sixties ... let's take a look at the Sixties through the lens of class, using the long battle in the 1960s over Mt. San Gorgonio in Southern California, which was a harbinger of the coming class wars between the educated elite, the prosperous upper middle class, and, mostly as bystanders, the masses.

The single best place to downhill ski in Southern California would be the north slope of Mt. San Gorgonio, near Big Bear Lake, 80 miles east of Los Angeles in the San Bernardino Mountains. It's 11,500 feet high, and, due to the extreme elevation, about 3,000 vertical feet of skiing would be usable well into spring each year. (Most SoCal ski mountains top out at around 8600 feet, which is about where a San Gorgonio ski complex would start.) And Old Greyback is a more rounded mountain, more like volcanic Mammoth in the Sierras, better suited for non-lethal skiing than most of the alarmingly steep SoCal mountains. 

But, it also has a lovely alpine wilderness below the peak that's well-watered and not too steep, especially around the two natural lakes at about 9000 feet. (Despite the name of Los Angeles's main NBA team, natural lakes are extremely rare in Southern California.) Here's Dry Lake, which actually isn't dry most of the time:

I found this 47-year-old Sports Illustrated article written just before the Ecology Age kicked fully into gear in the late 1960s that discusses the political struggle between skiers and wilderness enthusiasts in the early 1960s. Obviously, this isn't terribly relevant to the latest breaking news out of wherever, but it offers an insight into educated American opinion just before the Sixties broke over everything.
February 01, 1965 
The Battle For A Mountain 
Sportsmen are fighting sportsmen in the conflict over beautiful, rugged Mt. San Gorgonio, a lofty wilderness near Los Angeles which conservationists want to keep wild and skiers long to penetrate 
Coles Phinizy

In southern California, east of Los Angeles, where yellow tongues of smog lick the dusty feet of brown mountains, there is a rocky giant called Mt. San Gorgonio. It is 11,502 feet tall—a half a head higher than the other peaks flanking it in the San Bernardino range. By early spring, when most of the range and the crests of the adjacent San Gabriel range have lost their kiss of snow, big San Gorgonio often still shines white—the one true jewel of the lot. It is also the least spoiled today, because 34,718 acres of it above the 7,000-foot contour have been set aside by Congress as a wilderness area where there can be no road or building, or any use of land vehicles or planes. 
San Gorgonio is a product of dramatic geologic faulting; in its upper faces there are vast cirques that were gored out long ago by glaciers. Although it is today, by law, supposedly a place of emptiness and little noise, for the past quarter century it has been a critical battleground. On and off since the late 1930s skiers have been trying to open up the San Gorgonio wilderness so that tows and lifts for downhill skiing might be built on its hoary upper slopes. As anyone might guess, all manner of conservationists and outdoorsmen have rallied to defend the wilderness against the ambitions of the skiers. It has been a peculiar battle. Both sides feel strongly on the matter, but even in the most crucial moments, there has been little uncontained anger. Indeed, the only thing that has been expended at all recklessly in the long fight has been talk. 
The battle is, in fact, only worth considering at this time because, sooner or later, similar fights will break out in other areas.

That turned out to be true, and in a hurry after 1965.
In the U.S. there have been many quarrels over land before, the miners, railroaders, loggers, cattlemen, sheepmen, farmers, industrialists, sportsmen all scrambling for a proper share. Now for the first time, on the high ground of San Gorgonio, we have sportsmen against sportsmen in a major fight. 

Skiers v. backpackers was something of a class battle of the upper realms, with skiers tending to be affluent and wilderness enthusiasts extremely well-educated Thoreau quoters. The family snow play crowd (see below), in contrast, is mass-market and wasn't much represented in these debates as the 1960s went along. Their interests generally sided with the skiers in terms of making use of roads and other facilities.
The one real reason such a battle is taking place and that others will follow is that the U.S. population is becoming a burden.

Boy, that's something you seldom read anymore.
We are fast running out of room for working, decent living and playing. By present, crowded standards, almost all outdoor sports require an exorbitant amount of space—a large factory and housing enough for all its workers can be built in the same space needed by 18 men to play a game of baseball. In the U.S., east and west, there are wilderness tracts far larger and more precious than San Gorgonio, and there are other snowy mountains better for downhill skiing. San Gorgonio has become the first battleground of sportsmen simply because it is located near greater Los Angeles. In municipal Los Angeles and in the tangle of contiguous cities that lie with it under a blanket of smog, there are now more than 10 million people. The air they breathe on inversion days is only slightly better than the old foul breath of Pittsburgh. The particular virtue of the megalopolis is the complex of freeways by which ordinary men escape in their off time, some of them heading for the water, some for the deserts, some for the mountains, some for the ball parks and horse tracks, and many simply leaving home to find a louder jukebox playing a different tune. 

This passage reflects the Era of the Common Man thinking that would die out as the Sixties went on. Within five to ten years, you'd be hard-pressed to find anybody in the fashionable sporting press extolling freeways for providing freedom to average guys.
... In winter many "go to the snow," as they say, even when there is no snow. They often go to bare ski slopes simply to ride the chair lifts, to hike about, to breathe clean air and to gaze across at Palos Verdes and Catalina Island floating on the distant horizon. 
Any New Englander reared in a cold, nubbly land where belly-flopping, ice-ball fights, tobogganing and bundling were taken for granted would be amazed to see the use southern Californians get out of a ski slope. If the slopes have any meager snow cover at all, the desperate Californians engage in what they call "snow play." For the benefit of old Down Easters who are not hep to modern recreational terms, by "snow play" a southern Californian means all the usual trivial, thrilling and dangerous pleasures of winter. For example, three weekends ago on the Mt. Baldy ski slopes, the highest in southern California, there were about four inches of intermittent glaze and slush on the upper reaches. Although all slopes were closed to skiers, the main chair lift still carried 1,800 snow players and sightseers to the 7,800-foot level. ... at the base of the lift Greg Zemenek, 9, Steve Madison, 9, Ricky Traynor, 9, Dale Traynor, 8, and Darrell Traynor, 7—all of El Monte, Calif.—were battling with brown snowballs. It was not altogether clear who was siding with whom, but all five participants were carefully mixing one part mud to one part snow in their ammunition so that the sparse patches of slush would last for the duration of their small war. 
While these small boys battled, in the main parking lot Darlene Bryan, age 10, of Santa Monica was weeping because her uncle would not let her put a three-foot snowman in the back seat of the car. Some families came to the slopes carrying garbage can tops, inner tubes, crate tops and air mattresses, and when denied access to the lift with such dangerous vehicles, they climbed part way up on foot and slid down tree-studded, rock-rubbled slopes that would have scared any sensible belly-flopper out of his wits. ... 

Not a lot has changed at the Mt. Baldy parking lot other than the ethnicity of the snowball fighters.
On the January weekend when people were having such snowy fun around Mt. Baldy, only six of the 13 ski areas within 100 miles of Los Angeles were open for skiing, and all of these six were using artificial snow to supplement the meager natural fall. ... During the same period, above the 8,400-foot contour on San Gorgonio there was a foot of snow, and the conditions on the fiats and north slopes were good for recreational skiing. 
Quite obviously, for skiing or for any kind of "snow play," Los Angeles needs more room and more reliable snow, and that is why the pressure is on the prize acreage atop San Gorgonio. After a number of smoldering years, the battle for San Gorgonio broke out again about three years ago when a group of southern California ski-lift operators petitioned the Forest Service to open up 3,500 acres between 8,000 and 11,000 feet (see map).

My impression is that in Switzerland, developers typically won most of these battles, so the Alps are covered with gondola lifts, cog railways, tunnels inside the Eiger, hotels, hostels, and so forth. In the U.S., the exclusionary wilderness ethic turned out to be quite a bit stronger than in Switzerland, perhaps because the Alps were always inhabited by the Swiss, so there was a natural alliance between developers for the wealthy and the rural masses.
Although the operators and skiers will argue the point forever, the 10% of the area that they want for trails, lifts, parking lots, restaurants and so forth is an important ecological part, used by cougar, bobcat, deer, bear and bighorn sheep. It is also, from the human point of view, the esthetic heart of the area. ...
Some skiers claim they are ardent conservationists; some of the wilderness defenders claim they are ardent downhill skiers. In their nobler moments, the skiers lean heavily on the late President Kennedy's old pitch of vim and vigor.  In their nobler moments the wilderness defenders fetch up the wisdom of old Henry Thoreau, pleading that city people need the tonic of wilderness to clear their addled heads and fortify their souls. ...

By 1970, Thoreau, the spokesman for New England post-Puritan near-misanthropic elitism, was huge.
While both houses of Congress were weighing a number of different wilderness measures during the past two years, both sides in the San Gorgonio fight took their causes before congressional committees, and ever since there has been a great outpouring of emotion, needless words and confusing figures. No one can surely say how many skiers there are in southern California, but one statistician opposing them claimed that there were 61,010 in 1963. The skiers variously estimate their own strength at somewhere between 100,000 and 300,000. In any case, this means that there are still somewhere around 10 million people in the area who do not ski. According to the Forest Service, last year there were 53,900 visitors who rode horses or hiked into the wilderness (this total includes one lady pushing a perambulator and another carrying a straight-backed chair). 
This means that, despite the publicity the battle for the mountain has received in the local press, there were around 10 million people in the area who did not bother to visit the wild battleground. 
... There is no doubt that if the high ground of San Gorgonio were opened up to skiing, the area would get far greater use than it does now. The sport of skiing flourishes in the U.S. wherever there are slopes, lifts and reliable snow close to heavily populated areas. On their side the skiers have the old and often valid doctrine of the greatest good for the greatest number. But weighed against this are two equally logical considerations. First, the American wilderness is disappearing, and we grieve already at its passing. Second, as soberly put in a committee hearing by a geologist named Barclay Kamb, "It is argued that the principle of the greatest good for the greatest number compels development because the downhill skiing facilities would attract so many more people than presently visit the area in its wilderness state. This claim takes us back to the basic question of values at the heart of wilderness preservation. It is like arguing that we should convert our churches to roller-skating rinks because that would get the attendance up." 
The battle for San Gorgonio will continue—that is the only thing certain about its future. As long as the mountain is wild, it will have defenders, and as long as it shines with snow in winter, there will be skiers wanting it.

It's interesting to see that back in early 1965 a writer felt he had to explicitly argue against majoritarianist utilitarianism -- "the greatest good for the greatest number" as the moral default. One of the key changes of the Sixties was that the default assumption of who was in the moral right flipped from the majority to just about any organized minority.

Since then, the wilderness advocates won completely at San Gorgonio. There has been no development at all of the high country. Backpacking became highly fashionable around 1970, as part of the anti-materialism ethos of the hippie era, although its popularity would seem to have receded much in recent years, perhaps in part because it's hard to get started in it.

A big change since then is the emergence of small but well-networked extreme sport enthusiasts. Individuals will climb San Gorgonio in the dead of winter to ski down once. (My dad would go skiing in the Sierras that way back before WWII, but was quite happy when somebody finally got an old Model T up to the top of the run, flipped it over and attached a rope tow to the engine.

Whereas at one time, if you thought spending 6 hours climbing a mountain to get 15 minutes of skiing was a good idea, you'd pretty much have to be a Caltech student to know similar individuals. (The Caltech Alpine Club has been around for decades.) But, now the Internet helps individuals with unusual tastes get together.

In fact, besides implementing a wilderness permit quota system to manage crowds, wilderness activists succeeded in closing the last three miles of road to the trailhead to make the region less accessible. Back in the 1970s when I hiked to the top of San Gorgonio three times, it was only a six mile roundtrip to Dry Lake with 1200 feet of elevation, which made it an ideal weekend backpacking trip. Now it's a 12 mile roundtrip with 2400 feet of gain. At that altitude, it sounds daunting for a decayed physique like mine.

My guess is that the result at San Gorgonio is fairly representative of the developments of the 1960s: the tastes of the highest class won the legal war over those of the next highest class. 

Meanwhile, the masses get fatter.