March 23, 2013

Robert Maxwell as Lord Copper

The death of one of the Russian oligarchs in England, Boris Berezovsky, reminds me of the startling life and death of a similar personality, Robert Maxwell, who was a huge figure in the English-language media and marketing industries a quarter of a century ago. Since everybody knows that only conspiracy theorists believe in conspiracies, but since Maxwell's entire life was one conspiracy after another, his entertaining memory Does Not Compute and has largely been forgotten.

"The Bouncing Czech" had, apparently, been some kind of Soviet agent off and on, and the basis of his fortune was the Soviets giving him the copyright of all their scientific journals for publication in English.

Maxwell also seemed to be some kind of Israeli spy. Wikipedia explains:
Shortly before Maxwell's death, a former Mossad officer named Ari Ben-Menashe had approached a number of news organisations in Britain and the United States with the allegation that Maxwell and the Daily Mirror's foreign editor, Nick Davies, were both long-time agents for the Israeli intelligence service, Mossad. Ben-Menashe also claimed that in 1986 Maxwell had told the Israeli Embassy in London that Mordechai Vanunu had given information about Israel's nuclear capability to the Sunday Times, then to the Daily Mirror. Vanunu was subsequently lured from London to Rome by Mossad, where he was kidnapped and smuggled to Israel, convicted of treason and imprisoned for 18 years. 
No news organisation would publish Ben-Menashe's story at first but eventually the New Yorker journalist Seymour Hersh repeated some of the allegations during a press conference in London held to publicise The Samson Option, Hersh's book about Israel's nuclear weapons. ...
The close proximity of his death to these allegations heightened interest in Maxwell's relationship with Israel, and the Daily Mirror published claims that he was assassinated by Mossad after he attempted to blackmail them.[22]
Maxwell was given a funeral in Israel better befitting a head of state than a publisher, as described by author Gordon Thomas: 
On 10 November 1991, Maxwell’s funeral took place on the Mount of Olives Har Zeitim in Jerusalem, across from the Temple Mount. It had all the trappings of a state occasion, attended by the country’s government and opposition leaders. No fewer than six serving and former heads of the Israeli intelligence community listened as Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir eulogized: "He has done more for Israel than can today be said" (Gideon's Spies: The Secret History of the Mossad, St. Martin's Press, 1999).[23]

Or, maybe Shamir was talking about something else. Who knows?

Back in 1994, I watched a C-SPAN Booknotes interview by Brian Lamb of Reagan speechwriter Peter Robinson promoting his book about his misadventures as a writer trying to fit into the business world after he left politics and got an MBA at Stanford. Lamb asked him about how he got personal job interviews with Steve Jobs, Rupert Murdoch, and Robert Maxwell:
Robinson: And so Bill Buckley was a friend of Robert Maxwell, the British media baron, and Bill was kind enough to write a letter of introduction to Maxwell on my behalf. Actually, a business school classmate's father did business with Rupert Murdoch and was kind enough to write a letter to Rupert Murdoch on my behalf. And then a classmate was dating Steve Jobs and has since become Mrs. Steve Jobs ... 
Lamb: Who's Steve Jobs? 
Robinson: Steve Jobs -- that's right -- at his company ... 
Lamb: Who is he? 
Robinson: Who is Steve Jobs? Steve Jobs is the founder, in 1977, of Apple Computer Company. ... 

That was a classic Brian Lamb interview technique. My assumption is that Lamb assumed that viewers, even of C-SPAN, don't know anything about anything, so he asked all these Man-from-Mars questions that frequently rattled his subjects who were used to being interviewed by people who liked to show off how much they already knew, much to the bafflement of viewers. Lamb, instead, would ask the author of, say, a new Lincoln biography:

Lamb: "Who was Abraham Lincoln?"

Author of new Lincoln biography [Baffled]: "Who was Abraham Lincoln?"

Lamb: "Who was Abraham Lincoln?"

Author [Unnerved, but rallying]: "Well ... that's a very insightful question. I'm glad you asked that because that really gets to the heart of what my new biography of Lincoln is all about. We all think we know who Abraham Lincoln was, but do we fully grasp what it was to like to be Lincoln, to be a son of the prairie suddenly --"

Lamb: "Who was Abraham Lincoln?"

Author [Finally sort of catching on]: "He was the President. ... During the Civil War."

I was particularly interested in Robinson's meetings with Robert Maxwell, who jumped off his yacht not long afterwards, about a month before Maxwell's embezzlement of many hundreds of millions dollars of his employees' pension funds was uncovered. I like this long segment because I'd dealt with Maxwell's company, and because Robinson's story sounds so much like how William Boot is hired as a war correspondent by Lord Copper in Waugh's Scoop. (Presumably, Robinson had read Scoop too, and thus his story of his meeting with the press lord is refracted through his delight in literature coming to life.)
Robinson: I had an interview -- in fact, two interviews with Robert Maxwell ... I met him in New York, and he had a suite at the top of the Helmsley Palace Hotel, which was the biggest hotel suite I have ever seen. I buzzed at the door and a little man came, opened the door, in a suit. It was a butler, a real butler, and he bowed to me from the head and said, “Good afternoon, sir.” And then a huge voice from around -- “Ah, that would be Robinson. Show him in. Show him in.” And this gigantic man -- Maxwell must have weighed 300 pounds if he weighed an ounce -- came padding around the corner in khaki trousers and a checked shirt and bare feet. 
He motioned me in, and I was now in a room that was two stories high. A curving staircase went up to the right, and off to the left was a kind of two-story bank of windows looking out on the Manhattan skyline with a grand piano, and if Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers had come high-stepping down those stairs, it wouldn't have seemed out of place to me at all. Maxwell was -- I had been warned that he was abrasive, he was difficult, he liked to humiliate people. He was, in fact, during that half-hour or so, absolutely charming, wanted to know all about me, where was I from, and we just chatted. ... At the end of the conversation, he said, “Well, I would not be averse to continuing this discussion. You must come to see us in London. See so-and-so and she will make the arrangements.” So ...

Robinson then explains why he changed the name of Maxwell's personal assistant to "Wilkes." (Poor Wilkes sounds like the forlorn and battered Mr. Salter, who works for newspaper baron Lord Copper of the Daily Beast, in Waugh's Scoop.)
Robinson: Robert Maxwell was a difficult enough man to deal with, and so I felt some sympathy for this fellow ["Wilkes"]. He was American and I was the one who was in need of a job, but he was trying very hard to sell me. He said, “Oh, Maxwell is -- he's a genius. This company is growing. What would you like to do here?” He just asked me what I would like to do. And then it was clear he kind of would give me any job I asked for, and it suddenly clicked that Maxwell must have told this person to hire me no matter what. 
As we were talking, the windows started to shake -- huge “whoop, whoop, whoop” sound -- and this fellow said to me, “Well, the helicopter's landing. He's here. We'll give him five minutes and go up and see the great man.” Waited five minutes; upstairs we went in the elevator. And there -- the anteroom or hallway outside Maxwell's office was this sort of cavernous place with a huge Maxwell logo, which was a map of the world with a gigantic M imprinted on it. And I noticed in the carpet -- this logo was repeated all through the carpet, stretching off into -- sort of into the distance. And the secretary said, “He's waiting for you.” So this fellow, Wilkes, as I call him in the book, opened the door. Just a gigantic room again -- tall windows looking out on the London skyline, Maxwell seated at a desk, and he stands up and he's wearing an electric blue suit, a hot pink bow tie, a bright blue shirt. He comes padding over to us. “Mr Robinson” -- shakes my hand -- “take a seat,” and he motions to a kind of conference table. 
... And his hair -- I'm sensitive to this. I'm getting gray myself now. His hair was absolutely jet black -- shoe-polish black -- as were his eyebrows. ... He was just a huge, bizarre, colorful figure. And my first impression was this kind of circus bear. 
And Maxwell turned to the fellow I had been dealing with and he said, “Well, what are we going to do with this young man?” And Wilkes said, “Well, Mr. Maxwell, Peter and I have been talking about his career” -- of course, not true. We hadn't been talking in any serious way at all. And he spins out this story about how I should start with the media group -- or the television group -- and after a year or two I could be running a chunk of the business on my own. I thought, this sounds remarkably good -- in fact, surreal. It can't be that good.
I was now 33 years old with not a whit of business experience. 
And Maxwell listens to this, and pauses for a moment and he says, “No. Wrong use to make of Robinson entirely.” Then he said that I would be his personal assistant. Maxwell said, “For example, this weekend I am flying to Moscow. Mr. Wilkes will accompany me. When Robinson joins the company, he will accompany me instead. He will sit in on the meetings, take notes -- notes on the negotiations -- return to the firm, and tell you and others what actions need to be taken as a result of the decisions I have reached.” This is almost exactly the way he talked. And this fellow turned ashen. Suddenly not only was I being brought into the company, I was, in effect, being made his superior. 
And [Wilkes] tried to object and Maxwell said, “No, no, no. Negotiate a starting date with Mr. Robinson and a salary. If he wants to join the firm, good, and if he doesn't,” waved his hand again. And just then the secretary walked in and said it was -- Ariel Sharon was on the line for Maxwell. So he got up and walked back to his desk and I heard him say, “Aric, how is the weather in Tel Aviv?” as we then went out of the office. Now he had flown me to London and he had spoken exactly five words to me: “Robinson, take a seat,” and then discussed me as though I was a kind of side of beef hanging in a shop window, and I decided that whole experience was just a little bit too bizarre. 
Oh, Mr. Wilkes -- we got out and down the hallway we went, and he kind of called me over to an alcove and he said, “You don't want this job. You don't want this job. Why don't you say it right now: ‘I don't want this job.’ Go ahead, say it.” 
Yes, he did. He said, “Maxwell is a madman.” I mean, he took back everything he had told me half an hour before. “Personal assistant -- he'll leave you on a runway in Moscow.” And I had subsequently found out stories -- someone was hired for a similar position by Maxwell, given a two-year contract, and Maxwell fired her the first day, gave her two years' salary, but said he didn't want to see her again. So he was just very mercurial. That was my experience with Robert Maxwell.
Lamb: By the way, the Maxwell estate turned out to be -- what? -- bankrupt? 
Robinson: I don't know that it's ever been decided clearly and for certain. What happened was that Maxwell -- it became clear that he was facing huge debts and it also began to become clear that he had effectively stolen about a billion dollars from his company's pension funds to pay off debts elsewhere in the corporate structure. And he retired to his huge yacht and one night -- it's still a little bit unclear, but it now seems as though he jumped into the ocean. He either fell into the sea or jumped into the sea, and that was the end of Robert Maxwell.

Robinson then had a job interview with Rupert Murdoch:
... And finally, I realized he'd offered me a job. I said, “Well, thank you very much.” He said, “I'd be tempted to make you my personal assistant,” and my heart sank. I thought, “Oh, no, back into the Maxwell problem.” “But,” he said, “I think that would be a disservice to you. I'd like you to come here and learn the company, and I'm hiring some young people to learn various aspects of the company, and in 10, 15 years they'll move up into management positions.” It all seemed very, very plausible to me. And then at the end he said, “By the way, I understand you've also talked to Robert Maxwell. Go to work for anybody else other than me if you want to, but don't go to work for Robert Maxwell. He chews people up and spits them out, and I've seen it again and again.” So that seemed to me the sanest alternative, and I went to work for Rupert Murdoch.

You'll notice that Rupert Murdoch, unlike Robert Maxwell, is still around.

Maxwell is about as forgotten as Armand Hammer, whose great-grandson Armie is now a movie star.

Russian oligarch in exile dies suddenly

From the BBC:
Exiled Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky has been found dead at his home outside London. 
A police investigation has been launched into the death of the 67-year-old - a wanted man in Russia, and an opponent of President Vladimir Putin. 
A former Kremlin power-broker whose fortunes declined under Mr Putin, Mr Berezovsky emigrated to the UK in 2000. 
Thames Valley Police said the death, at a property in Ascot, Berkshire, was being treated as unexplained. 
... Last year, Mr Berezovsky lost a £3bn ($4.7bn) damages claim against Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich.

Mr Berezovsky claimed he had been intimidated by Mr Abramovich into selling shares in Russian oil giant Sibneft for a "fraction of their true worth". 
The allegations were completely rejected by the London Commercial Court judge, who called Mr Berezovsky an "inherently unreliable" witness.

Suicide? Murder? Did Putin have him rubbed out like Berezovsky's colleague who died from polonium poisoning? Am I being a Conspiracy Theorist by thinking Mr. Berezovsky probably didn't just keel over from a heart attack?

Back in 1989, I spent about six hours on a trans-Atlantic call negotiating a business deal with a minion of Robert Maxwell (the press baron initialed R.M. who wasn't Rupert Murdoch). At the last moment, Maxwell intervened to try to cheat on a point already agreed upon, so my boss and I immediately broke off negotiations. Two years later, when I heard that Maxwell had fallen off his yacht, being an inveterate conspiracy theorist I assumed there was more to the story than just the slip in the dark that the Responsible Authorities agreed upon before Maxwell's vast embezzlement of his workers' pensions was discovered.

To the Washington Post, it's always Clarksdale in 1965

Remember a couple of weeks ago when the Washington Post splashed so heavily the ludicrous story about the "mysterious" murder of the black, gay politician in Clarksdale in Coahoma County, Mississippi? The black killer crashed the black victim's stolen car, then confessed to the Coahoma sheriff department, headed by a black sheriff, where he had stashed the body of the black man running against the black mayor's black son. But who cares about the facts of the case when the story gives you a chance to talk about Mississippi's “dark history of racial brutality"?

I eventually surmised:
A theory about this week's Media KKKraziness 
Why has the last week seen the national media break out into a frenzy over the specter of white racism?  
Perhaps it goes back to the February 27th oral arguments at the Supreme Court over whether or not to bid adieu to Title 5 of the Voting Rights Act after 48 years. Justice Scalia's question about the "perpetuation of racial entitlement," about how quickly we glide from a world where affirmative action can't be ended because the beneficiaries are too weak to one where they are too strong, definitely got the press's goat. Scalia suggested that the Supreme Court is the only institution left in America with the independence and the moral backbone to say Enough Time Has Passed. 

From the Washington Post yesterday:
The Voting Rights Act should be left alone 
By Gregory B. Craig, Published: March 22 
Gregory B. Craig, a Washington lawyer, was White House counsel from January 2009 to January 2010. 
On Aug. 6, 1965, I was working in Coahoma County, Miss., trying to register new voters at the courthouse in Clarksdale. ... 
That summer, we persuaded 500 African American citizens in Coahoma County to try to register to vote. ... The summer of 1965 was hot and tense, but it was not as violent as the previous summer, when three workers were murdered in Neshoba County and when the chief of police in Clarksdale, Ben Collins, reportedly shot a black boy in the head in a public playground. Nonetheless, I lived in fear ... on the dusty streets of these small Delta towns ...  
Just before we left Clarksdale to drive out to Friars Point the night of Aug. 6, we learned that President Lyndon Johnson had signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and that the U.S. government would be sending federal registrars to Mississippi. 
That was a moment of real hope and change.

You know how the neoconservatives view the whole world as if it's always Czechoslovakia in 1938? For the Washington Post editorial board, among others, various ramshackle overseas menaces (Iran/q, Hezbollah, etc.) are always the new Nazi Germany that must be crushed now before they blitzkrieg the world with their unstoppable military juggernauts.

Similarly, for the mainstream media when it comes to race, it's always Clarksdale, Mississippi in 1965. It never gets old.

What have boys who are smart at math and science ever done for humanity?

From the New York Times:
Girls Excel in the Classroom but Lag in Entry to 8 Elite Schools in the City 
In the United States, girls have outshined boys in high school for years, amassing more A’s, earning more diplomas and gliding more readily into college, where they rack up more degrees — whether at the bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral levels. 
But that has not been the trend when it comes to one of the highest accomplishments a New York City student can achieve: winning a seat in one of the specialized high schools. 
At all eight of the schools that admit students based on an eighth-grade test, boys outnumber girls, sometimes emphatically. 
Boys make up nearly 60 percent of the largest and most renowned schools, Stuyvesant, the Bronx High School of Science and Brooklyn Tech, and as much as 67 percent at the High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering at City College, according to city statistics. 
While studies suggest that girls perform as well as boys in math and science classes in high school, their participation in those fields drops off in college and ultimately in careers, a phenomenon that the White House, with its Council on Women and Girls, and the National Science Foundation have tried to reverse. 
The fact that girls are underrepresented in New York’s top high schools, which tend to be focused on math and science, and which have more than a dozen Nobel laureates among their alumni, worries some academics who see the schools as prime breeding grounds for future scientists and engineers. 
“It is very suspect that you don’t have as many girls as boys in New York City’s specialized schools,” said Janet S. Hyde, a psychology professor at the University of Wisconsin who has published research on girls’ performance in math and science from elementary school through college. Individual girls might be losing opportunities, she said, “but it is also bad for society as a whole because in a global economy we need to identify the best scientists and mathematicians.” 
The racial makeup of the schools has been a combustible issue for years — 5 percent of the students accepted this month into the elite schools were black, and 7 percent were Hispanic. Civil rights groups have argued that using a test as the sole basis of admission favors students with means to prepare for the test, and have pushed unsuccessfully to have the schools adopt additional criteria, like middle school grades, for admission. 
The gender imbalance has not generated the same kind of protest. But several academics and analysts said the reliance on the test might also play a role in keeping girls out. While girls outperform boys on an array of academic benchmarks in high school and college, they still trail on standardized tests, like the SAT, according to federal Department of Education statistics. 
This year, of those who took the Specialized High School Admissions Test, 51 percent were girls. But only 45 percent of those offered seats in the schools were girls. 
... Even the specialized schools with a focus on the classics and humanities, Brooklyn Latin and the High School of American Studies at Lehman College, now have a majority of male students. It was not always that way: Girls outnumbered boys at both schools until recently. American Studies has used the specialized admissions test since it opened a decade ago. 
But in the first few years at Brooklyn Latin, founded in 2006, it had a broader admission policy based on grades and exams. Once it was made one of the specialized test schools, its population swung toward males. 
A corollary, perhaps, of the masculine leanings of the eight schools is the makeup of some of the elite high schools that do not use the specialized admissions test for admission. 
At Fiorello H. La Guardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts, which admits students based on grades and auditions or portfolios of artwork, 73 percent of the students are girls. At Bard High School Early College, which has campuses in Manhattan and Queens, as well as at Millennium, Beacon and Townsend Harris High Schools, girls outnumber boys by at least 3 to 2. 

Has Mayor Rahm learned from Israel?

From WBBM-CBS in Chicago:
School Closing Opponents Call Mayor A Racist Liar 
CHICAGO (CBS) – The Chicago Public Schools’ plan to close 53 schools and 61 buildings, mostly in black neighborhoods, has some West Side residents vowing to fight the Emanuel administration until the end. 
As WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports, to hear some tell it on the West Side, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is a racist liar who doesn’t care about the kids. And they’re just getting started. 
“I don’t see any Caucasians being moved, bussed, or murdered in the streets as they travel along gang lines, or stand on the steps of a CPS school,” said activist Wendy Matil Pearson as opponents of the school closing plans protested outside Horatio May Elementary Community Academy in the Austin neighborhood.

... Valerie Leonard, co-founder of the Lawndale Alliance, accused the mayor of trying to drive African Americans out of the city. 
“He says that he wants to turn around the city of Chicago, make a new Chicago. Does that new Chicago mean no black folks?” she said. “Where are people going to go? They’re not going to stay around in the community if there are no schools!” ...
The protesters weren’t the first to accuse Emanuel of racism in his school-closing effort. The Chicago Teachers Union has repeatedly said the school closing plans are racist, as most of the schools that would be closed are in African-American communities. 
On Thursday, CTU President Karen Lewis said the plan was both “racist” and “classist,” ...

I'm not up to date on Chicago, but none of this speculation about the Mayor's motivations sounds hugely implausible to me.

Mayor Emanuel is a worldly man. He's not some dweeb from Lake Forest. His family likes to emphasize how his mother was a civil rights activist for blacks in the American South, but they don't talk as much about his father. Dr. Benjamin Emanuel is an Israeli and belonged to the right-wing terrorist organization Irgun. Those are the the guys who blew up the British headquarters in the King David Hotel and committed the Deir Yassin massacre of an Arab village that did so much to improve Israel's long-term demographic position by terrifying many Palestinians into fleeing.

I'm not saying Rahm's dad was personally involved in either, but he was, by all accounts, a member of Irgun. And Irgun played a crucial role in Israeli history in the 1940s. Irgun was a predecessor of today's highly successful Likud Party. I presume that Rahm Emanuel is personally closer to Israel's non-Likud parties, but he definitely knows where Netanyahu is coming from.

The son remains so emotionally close to Israel that he served as a volunteer in Israel during the 1991 Gulf War. He's vacationed countless times in Israel, from summer camp as a child to recently vacationing there to hold his son's bar mitzvah at the Wailing Wall.

Presumably, the Mayor of Chicago knows a lot about Israeli politics, and the #1 lesson that all parties in Israel understand deep in their bones, much more intensely than American politicians understand, is: Demographics Matter. The basic lesson is: You want more of your kind of people and fewer of the other kind of people. The Israeli statesman's duty is to make that happen.

The basic logic of Israeli politics is that the Palestinians are Arabs and that, while Israel is a small place, the Arab World is a huge place, so there are lots of other places for the local Arabs to move to, away from Israel.

If you are an African-American in Chicago, the suspicion that Dr. Emanuel's son might view Chicago as a small place and view you as somebody who has a big place to move somewhere else in (namely, the rest of America), would be uncharitable but not unreasonable. Deep down, perhaps Rahm feels: "We're not racist: we've got Barack! And Oprah and Michael Jordan are welcome back any time. The rest of you ..."

A reader writes:
I'm wondering if you could do a blogpost in the near future on any future possibility on the next Detroit(or several new Detroits), what time frame and for what sociological reasons.  
As you've written about before, there's a quiet quest by white liberals to chase out blacks. This is happening in NYC, D.C. and perhaps now in Chicago too.

Personally, I think St Louis is a good candidate [to become another Detroit], as is Memphis. Milwaukee is also right there on the list. Basically cities that are 2nd and 3rd tier, often populated by naïve and communitarian Germanics in the Midwest or abandoned by devil-may-care Southern whites like Memphis. Birmingham is another candidate in the latter category.

1st tier cities like Chicago or NYC understand that they could go down that path, which is why they're pricing out, or in the case of Chicago, just zoning people out from their homes. 

I'm not an expert on cities these days. It would seem like a fascinating subject to statistically model as a way of predicting real estate prices. The problem is that a big chunk of the model would involve using Census Bureau race statistics. Somebody would have to come up with a way to launder the racial aspect so that corporations could pay you lots of money for your insights without getting them into trouble.

Another aspect would seem to be airports. Winner cities tend to have airports with direct connections to lots of other cities, while loser cities don't. The arrow of causation points both ways, obviously, but some of it is that frequent fliers want to live near direct connection airports, such as Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago, and, perhaps, Denver. You can have an inadequate airport if you are San Francisco, but don't risk it otherwise.

But it's not really a build it and they will come situation either. I used to fly in to Cincinnati a lot, and the airport was halfway across Kentucky. Presumably, they put it there so it would have a lot of room for expansion, but nobody seemed to be expanding, perhaps because the airport was way the hell out in Kentucky.

Also, it helps to have two airports, one for the masses (e.g., LAX or Dulles) and one for the elites (e.g., Reagan or Burbank, which is turning into a high-priced convenience for the entertainment industry. LAX is full of tattooed proles, while Burbank is full of successful-looking middle-aged couples picking up their lovely daughter flying in from Georgetown U., via Reagan).

March 22, 2013

The best defense is a good offense: Quebec

One of the funnier outgrowths of 1960s minoritarianism was Quebec's successful campaign to get speakers of the language of King Louis XIV declared an oppressed minority deserving of as many special breaks from the government as the wounded amour propre of indignant French-speakers could demand. Granted, in picking on English-speaking Canadians -- the nicest, least desirous of trouble people on Earth -- French Canadians weren't exactly banging heads with Menachem Begin.

Not surprisingly, the separatist party in Quebec is upping the ante again. And why not? All in all, it's been a pretty successful ploy.

In the National Post of Toronto, Barbara Kay writes:
Barbara Kay: Quebec’s Bill 14 is a pathological attack on the sin of speaking English 
Thanks to Bill 101, Quebec’s 1977 Charter of the French language, no language in the world is as regulated as French is in Quebec. 
But Pauline Marois’ young minority PQ government was not satisfied with French merely being protected from erosion. This government seeks to establish the primacy of French in a way that will reduce the presence of English in every walk of public and private life. To that end Bill 14, the first substantial revision of Bill 101,  was conceived, written up and prepared for passage. 
Bill 14 contains 155 proposed amendments to the Charter of the French Language. The government considers them necessary because the French language “constitutes a stronger vector for social cohesion…and maintaining harmonious relations.” What Bill 14 is essentially designed for is to elevate the wish of francophones never to speak a language other than French — even the other official language of Canada — to a human right on the same level as the right to medical care.

To this end Bill 14 would co-opt all public institutions, municipalities, school boards, unions, private enterprises and even ordinary Quebecers as participants and – not to put too fine a point on it – occasional spies in the great common project of suppressing English. That the project would radically diminish the freedoms and quality of life of non-francophones seems irrelevant, perhaps even a matter of satisfaction, to this government. 
Francophones’ opportunities to become fluently bilingual would be curtailed.
Some examples of the proposed amendments: 
· A government regulation that allows English-speaking members of the Armed Forces who are in Quebec temporarily to have their children schooled in English would be rescinded. ...
· Officially bilingual municipalities could lose their bilingual status against their democratic will because of slight demographic shifts. 
· Daycares would have to facilitate the acquisition of French-language skills by infants. 
· Employers would be required to justify the need for employees to speak any other language than French. An employee required to communicate in a language other than French would have the right to sue his or her employer for monetary damages. 
The PQ is obsessed with language domination to a degree that is in political terms pathological. The devastation of English school boards; the linguistic hardships imposed on the men and women who protect our country from harm; the cultural and psychological marginalization of fellow citizens for the Original Sin of being anglophone: What we are seeing with this government makes the patriarchy of the Roman Catholic Church in the years before the Quiet Revolution seem anodyne by comparison. 
In throwing off the Church’s domination, and with it all the trappings of their religion, Quebec also divorced itself from its cultural roots. 
The religious metaphor is apt. In throwing off the Church’s domination, and with it all the trappings of their religion, Quebec also divorced itself from its cultural roots. Without roots, there can be no new branches. All Quebec has that may be called culturally unique is language. The moral panic we have seen over the years – first to preserve French from disappearance, but now the push by Quebec’s new high priests to sanctify it and keep it safe from the pollution of other languages – is unjust to non-francophones, but arguably more harmful to francophones, whose aspirations have been appropriated as burnt offerings to the language gods.

Why are they doing this? Well, why is the NCAA holding a basketball tournament right now, even though 67 of 68 teams will end their seasons as losers? Because coming together with your team to fight is fun. Defeating the foe is even more fun. As John Milius phrased it:
Mongol General: Hao! Dai ye! We won again! This is good, but what is best in life? 
Mongol: The open steppe, fleet horse, falcons at your wrist, and the wind in your hair. 
Mongol General: Wrong! Conan! What is best in life? 
Conan: To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women. 

Look, very few people have gotten killed in Quebec's language wars over the last 45 years. And it's not as if Quebec has fallen into ruin because the Québécois have been slowly shoving out the Scots and Jews who used to run Montreal's businesses. Quebec isn't Zimbabwe. The Québécois can run their own country.

Sure, it's annoying to see the winners win by being nasty and the losers lose because they are nice, but such is the way of the world.

Meet the new Bush, same as the old Bush

With apologies to Townshend and Daltrey.

Here's the Derb on Jeb Bush's immigration book.

Gallup: 138 million foreign adults want to immigrate to USA

The Gallup organization just released the results of a poll of 500,000 people worldwide. It turns out that America is the first choice destination for 138 million adult would-be immigrants. (Their children would no doubt add scores of millions more, bringing the total up to around, say, 200,000,000.)

And America Jr. (i.e., Canada) is the first choice of 37 million adults, and America's nephew Australia is the first choice of 26 million. Most of those would likely go to America instead if they could get in.
About 13% of the world's adults -- or about 630 million people -- say they would like to leave their country and move somewhere else permanently. For roughly 138 million people, that somewhere else would be the U.S. -- the No. 1 desired destination for potential migrants. The U.K., Canada, and France also rank among the top choices for potential migrants.
top desired destinations.gifThese findings are based on a rolling average of Gallup interviews with 501,366 adults in 154 countries between 2010 and 2012. The 154 countries represent more than 98% of the world's adult population; 3% of that population would like to relocate to the U.S. permanently. 
Approximately 19 Million in China Want to Move to the U.S. Permanently

Potential migrants who would like to move to the U.S. are logically the most likely to come from some of the most populous countries in the world. Roughly 10 million or more adults would like to move to the U.S. permanently from China, Nigeria, and India.
countries from which the most migrants to the US would likely come.gif
However, other populous countries such as Iran and Pakistan do not have large groups of people who say that they would like to move to the U.S. permanently. Instead, Pakistanis most desire to relocate to Saudi Arabia and the U.K. and Iranians would prefer to move to Jordan or Lebanon. This is not surprising, as Iranians and Pakistanis have some of the lowest U.S. leadership approval ratings in the world. 
The percentage of people in each country who would like to move to the U.S. permanently is perhaps more interesting. A staggering 37% of Liberians say that they would like to relocate to the U.S. permanently. One in four adults or more in Sierra Leone, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti would also like to move to the U.S. permanently. Three countries with the highest percentages of people who would like to relocate to the U.S. permanently are in Africa, seven are in Central America and the Caribbean, with the remaining country, Cambodia, in Asia. 
countries from which the highest percentage of population would like to move to the US.gif
Back in 2005, during Bush's Housing Bubble when their were lots of jobs in the Sand States, Pew found that 22 million Mexicans would like to illegally immigrate to the U.S. and about twice that many would come legally. But, convergence between Mexico and America has, at least temporarily, reduced the desirability of life in America to Mexicans. The way Mexicans look at the situation today, America is just too damn full of Mexicans to bother with.

So, even though it looks like about, say, a quarter of a billion foreigners and their kids would like to move here, that wouldn't actually happen even if America's immigration policy was as ethically sophisticated as our moral exemplars, taxpayer-supported libertarian economic theorists, suggest. Pretty quickly, the advantages of the U.S. as a place to live over even Liberia would start to wash away and the foreigners would go pester, maybe, New Zealand instead.

The EB-5 Visa ripoff of Americans

From the Washington Post:
They looked like any other family here in rural Michigan, but they are Dutch citizens. And they are faces of a fast-growing U.S. visa program in which foreigners can gain permanent residence by investing $500,000 in a U.S. project that creates at least 10 jobs. 
Through the program, known as EB-5, the Dekkers have a half-million-dollar stake in the Marriott Marquis Hotel rising in the District next to the Washington Convention Center. 
In return for their investment — and filing a foot-high stack of documents that includes bank and tax records, criminal background checks and even syphilis tests — they got five shiny new green cards in November. 
The cards, emblazoned with their photos and an image of the Statue of Liberty, give them temporary residency that will become permanent in two years — so long as the Marriott project succeeds. 
The Dekkers need it to keep their family together. Although they have lived on their farm off a country lane called Bad Axe Road since 2000, they had temporary visas that required their children to leave the country upon turning 21. Investing in the Marriott was their way to prevent that . 
“We love our life here,” said Judith Dekker, 48. “We have invested so much money because we want to live here in Michigan. And we don’t want to split up our family.” 
The EB-5 program is booming in popularity, driven largely by a struggling U.S. economy in which developers are searching for new sources of capital. It is also fueled by rising demand from foreigners looking for access to U.S. schools, safe investment in U.S. projects and — in the case of China, where most of the investors are from — greater freedom. 
The program has broad bipartisan support in Congress, and key senators who are negotiating an overhaul of the immigration system have said they are leaning toward expanding visa programs that provide an immediate boost to the economy. 
But others argue that the EB-5 program amounts to buying citizenship, and that it unfairly allows wealthy foreigners to cut the visa line ahead of others who have waited for years. ...

Nobody notices the most cogent objection that citizenship is being sold too cheaply. This is the direct analog of the huge violation of fiduciary duty when a corporate executive creates new stock in a publicly traded company and sells it too cheaply. But economists are largely impervious to grasping this analogy.
 Three-quarters of all those visas have been issued since 2008, when the recession hit and developers started having trouble finding capital. 
The program also provides cheap financing for U.S. developers. EB-5 investors are offered very small returns on their investment — usually about 1 to 3 percent — rather than the much higher rates developers would have to pay for traditional financing.

In other words, these foreigners didn't pay $500,000 to the U.S. Treasury to reduce our tax burden in return for diluting the scarcity value of U.S. residency. Instead, they invested $500,000 with Marriott, which they reasonably expect to get back, just with lower than market interest rate payouts. In other other words, under this plan, you and me are subsidizing Marriott's financing of its hotel by diluting the scarcity value of U.S. citizenship. 

What's the net benefit to current American citizens in general? Nobody seems to know, but it would appear that Marriott shareholders pocket the great bulk of the financial benefit. Excluding Marriott shareholders, the benefit to the general American citizenry of giving out five greencards is probably in the range of a few thousand dollars. Basically, this program consists of Marriott and foreigners conspiring to benefit each other at the general citizenry's expense.

Is that really the market price for green cards? Couldn't this program, with an annual limit of 10,000, be replaced with an auction that auctions off the same number of green cards per year, with the cash going directly to the U.S. Treasury? What would annual auction of 10,000 green cards net for the Treasury? Maybe a couple of orders of magnitude more benefit for the average American than this program.

Now, you could say that this program isn't as destructive as other immigration programs, but, as you learn in Econ 101, you are supposed to think in terms of opportunity cost. The forgone benefit to the average America taxpayer adds up to many billions per years. But, basic Econ 101 thinking like opportunity cost, supply and demand, and scarcity value is, for never explained reasons, verboten when thinking about the economics of immigration. Instead, you're supposed to just lie there and think about the Statue of Liberty.

Surprise: Obama Administration not actually trying to keep out future Democratic voters

From the New York Times:
Officials Still Seek Ways to Assess Border Security 
More than two years after Homeland Security officials told Congress that they would produce new, more accurate standards to assess security at the nation’s borders, senior officials from the department acknowledged this week that they had not completed the new measurements and were not likely to in coming months, as the debate proceeds about overhauling the immigration system. 
Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers were taken aback at a hearing on Wednesday in the House of Representatives when Mark Borkowski, a senior Homeland Security official, said he had no progress to report on a broad measure of border conditions the department had been working on since 2010. The lawmakers warned that failure by the Obama administration to devise a reliable method of border evaluation could imperil passage of immigration legislation. ...
Representative Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, a Democrat and strong a supporter of President Obama’s immigration proposals, was more blunt. “I would say to the department, you’ve got to get in the game,” she said. 
Amid contentious discussions in Congress over immigration, one point of wide agreement is that an evaluation of border security will be a central piece of any comprehensive bill. A bipartisan group in the Senate is working to write legislation that includes a “trigger,” which would make the path to citizenship for more than 11 million illegal immigrants in the country contingent on measurable advances in security at the borders. 
Lawmakers have been pressing Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to devise a measure they can use to judge if the Obama administration’s claims of significant progress in border enforcement are justified. Republican senators in the bipartisan group have said a border standard is pivotal to their efforts.
“We need to have a measurement,” Senator John McCain of Arizona insisted at a hearing in the Senate last week. ...
Obama administration officials said on Thursday that they had resisted producing a single measure to assess the border because the president did not want any hurdles placed on the pathway to eventual citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally. 

This shouldn't be terribly shocking. The President is a loyal member of his party and tries, when he can, to act in the long term interest of his party, which is to have the government elect a new people.

Can the same intelligent partisanship be attributed to the Republican grandees?

March 21, 2013

Learning from NYC: Only frisk "the right people"

As part of an ongoing series at iSteve trying to explain to clueless flyover folk how their moral betters in New York actually manage things, here's a funny news story out of New York about the class action discrimination lawsuit against the NYPD's highly effective policy of stopping and frisking huge numbers of shifty-looking young black and Hispanic males. An underperforming, malcontent Hispanic cop secretly taped his Irish sergeant trying to explain to him that he needed to make more stops on his South Bronx beat, and make them of "the right people." Officer Serrano succeeded once in goading Sergeant McCormack into spelling out who "the right people" are:
The commanding officer, Deputy Inspector Christopher McCormack, urged the officer to be more active, emphasizing the need to conduct more street stops. “We go out there and we summons people,” Inspector McCormack said. The way to suppress violent crime, he said, was for officers to stop, question and, if necessary, frisk “the right people at the right time, the right location.”
The officer, who surreptitiously recorded the conversation last month, began pressing Inspector McCormack about who he meant by the “right people.” The conversation grew heated.
After an exchange about Mott Haven, a particularly crime-prone neighborhood, the inspector suggested that the police needed to conduct street stops of the people creating “the most problems” there.
“The problem was, what, male blacks,” Inspector McCormack said. “And I told you at roll call, and I have no problem telling you this, male blacks 14 to 20, 21.”

But that's the only time:
... The question of what commanders mean by “the right people” is central to the trial. 
Civil rights lawyers have long maintained that the term “right people” is police code for young black and Hispanic men, who make up an overwhelming share of those stopped. But the police, on the other hand, say that they use this phrase to describe habitual lawbreakers, and that by focusing on the “right people,” they are trying to avoid giving tickets to the construction worker drinking a beer on his way home or the couple strolling through a park that is closed for the night. 
The officer who made the recording, Pedro Serrano, 43, testified on Thursday that he believed his supervisors used the expression to pressure officers to stop blacks and Hispanics without reasonable suspicion. 
... When he went to Inspector McCormack’s office last month to complain about his work evaluation, he immediately came under criticism for having reported only a couple of street stops for all of 2012. 
“It seems like you are purposely not doing anything to help prevent the shootings, the robberies and the grand larcenies,” Inspector McCormack said. To conduct so few stops in a year, amid so much crime, he said, was “not fair to the public.” 
“I could see in Central Park maybe that would be fine, but this ain’t Central Park,” Inspector McCormack said. 
Officer Serrano explained that his interactions with the public did not always rise to stops, as a matter of law, and so he rarely filled out the UF-250 form, which officers are supposed to fill out each time they conduct a stop. 
At first, Inspector McCormack can be heard lecturing Officer Serrano about how “99 percent of these people in this community are great, hardworking people” who deserve to go about their days in peace. But the citizens, he said, were troubled by crime, and he went on to describe how a woman in her 60s was shot coming out of an elevator at 10 a.m. 
The ambiguity in how the phrase “stopping the right people” is used by police commanders, and how it may be interpreted by patrol officers, was evident in the recordings played in court. 
Pressed by the officer on what he meant, Inspector McCormack offered examples of people who should not be stopped, like an elderly person violating a parks rule by playing chess. He also cited the stop of a 48-year-old woman who was intercepted on her way to work as she took a shortcut through a park that was closed for the night. 
“You think that’s the right people?” Inspector McCormack asked the officer skeptically. 
But with Officer Serrano challenging him, the inspector never offered a clear answer. 
“So what am I supposed to do?” Officer Serrano asked, after Inspector McCormack used that expression again. “Is it stop every black and Hispanic?” 
The exchange continues until the inspector brings the conversation to a close, telling the officer, “You’re very close to having a problem here.” 
The inspector continued, “The problem is that you don’t know who to stop and how to stop.” 
In a later passage of the recording, which was not played in court, Inspector McCormack seemed to suggest to others there that Officer Serrano was trying to put words in his mouth. “He’s adding on that I wanted him to stop every black and Hispanic.” 

New Yorkers slowly starting to notice Mexicans aren't Ellis Island Italians

From the NYT:
Mexican New Yorkers Are More Likely to Live in Poor Households 
People of Mexican descent in New York City are far more likely to be living in poor or near-poor households than other Latinos, blacks, whites or Asians, according to a study to be released on Thursday. 
Nearly two-thirds of the city’s Mexican residents, including immigrants and the native-born, are living in low-income households, compared with 55 percent of all Latinos; 42 percent of blacks and Asians; and 25 percent of whites, said the report by the Community Service Society, a research and advocacy group in New York City that focuses on poverty. 
The rates are even more pronounced for children: About 79 percent of all Mexicans under age 16 in New York City live in low-income households, with about 45 percent living below the poverty line — significantly higher percentages than any other major Latino group as well as the broader population. 
While the Mexican immigrants enjoy exceptionally high rates of employment, their salaries are not sufficient to support young families, the study’s authors said. 
“Immigrant Mexicans appear to be having great difficulty making ends meet as they start families here,” said the study, which sought to assess socio-economic trends among young people of Mexican origin in New York City. “Incomes that might support one individual on their own or in a shared household are not enough to support a family.” 
“The result could be a cycle of poverty that will pass down from generation to generation,” the authors warned. ...
The study was commissioned by the Deutsche Bank Foundation following the publication of an article in The New York Times in 2011 about extraordinarily low educational achievement among Mexican immigrants in New York City. 

Mexicans tend to make enough to live as singles, but not enough to have families, but our Anchor Baby legal interpretation makes it stupid for them not to have the children they can't afford.

Iraq War Fatalities: The White Man's Burden

With the most spectacular element of the Bush Administration's Invade the World - Invite the World grand strategy now a decade old, it's worth taking a look at the U.S. military death tolls by ethnicity and sex. This is an infrequently covered subject of scant interest to the press because women and minorities were not hit hardest. 

In the mid 2000s, non-Hispanic whites made up about 61% of the 25-year-olds in the U.S. But through this 2009 report by Hannah Fischer of the Congressional Research Service, whites made up 74.7% of Iraq war fatalities, while minorities only accounted for 25.3%. So, whites gave the last full measure of devotion at an 89% higher per capita rate than nonwhites in Iraq.

The sacrifice gap was even larger in Afghanistan through 2009, with whites dying at a per capita rate 146% higher than nonwhites.

And, of course, the white man's rate was even higher compared to the rest of the population of young adults of both sexes: roughly 500% higher in Iraq, and over 650% higher in Afghanistan.
Take up the White Man's burden--
Send forth the best ye breed--
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild--
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child. 
Take up the White Man's burden--
In patience to abide,
To veil the threat of terror
And check the show of pride;
By open speech and simple,
An hundred times made plain
To seek another's profit,
And work another's gain. 
Take up the White Man's burden--
The savage wars of peace--
Fill full the mouth of Famine
And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
The end for others sought,
Watch sloth and heathen Folly
Bring all your hopes to nought.

Next time, maybe not?

America's most successful industry ignores diversity

From a CNN special report:
How diverse is Silicon Valley? Most tech companies really, really don't want you to know, and the U.S. government isn't helping shed any light on the issue. 
In an investigation that began in August 2011, CNNMoney probed 20 of the most influential U.S. technology companies, the Department of Labor, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, filing two Freedom of Information Act requests for workforce diversity data.

A year and a half, a pile of paperwork, and dozens of interviews later, we have a little more insight -- but not much. 
Most of the companies stonewalled us, but the data we were able to get showed what one might expect: Ethnic minorities and women are generally underrepresented, sometimes severely so -- particularly in management roles. 
White and Asian males often dominate their fields. 
Our investigation demonstrated how difficult -- and sometimes impossible -- gaining any insight into Silicon Valley's employee diversity can be. It shows a general lack of transparency in an industry known for its openness.

It's not clear why Silicon Valley, like Hollywood, gets special treatment. Big campaign donations? Or a genuine fear of killing the goose that lays the golden egg?

Anyway, I thought Diversity Is Our Strength ... so, how come the celebrated supermen of Silicon Valley, like the late Steve Jobs, don't agree? Do they know something we don't know?

March 20, 2013

The Harry Dexter White Award for Economists' Ethics

There should be an award given each year to the taxpayer-supported American economist who most lives up to the high standards of cosmopolitan morality established by economist Harry Dexter White (1892-1948).

From the New York Times:
A Profession With an Egalitarian Core 
ECONOMICS is sometimes associated with the study and defense of selfishness and material inequality, but it has an egalitarian and civil libertarian core that should be celebrated. And that core may guide us in some surprising directions. ...
Economic analysis is itself value-free, but in practice it encourages a cosmopolitan interest in natural equality. Many economic models, of course, assume that all individuals are motivated by rational self-interest or some variant thereof; even the so-called behavioral theories tweak only the fringes of a basically common, rational understanding of people. The crucial implication is this: If you treat all individuals as fundamentally the same in your theoretical constructs, it would be odd to insist that the law should suddenly start treating them differently. ... 
Often, economists spend their energies squabbling with one another, but arguably the more important contrast is between our broadly liberal economic worldview and the various alternatives — common around the globe — that postulate natural hierarchies of religion, ethnicity, caste and gender, often enforced by law and strict custom. Economists too often forget that we are part of this broader battle of ideas, and that we are winning some enduring victories.
So where will a cosmopolitan perspective take us today? 
One enormous issue is international migration. A distressingly large portion of the debate in many countries analyzes the effects of higher immigration on domestic citizens alone and seeks to restrict immigration to protect a national culture or existing economic interests. The obvious but too-often-underemphasized reality is that immigration is a significant gain for most people who move to a new country. 
Michael Clemens, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development in Washington, quantified these gains in a 2011 paper, “Economics and Emigration: Trillion-Dollar Bills on the Sidewalk?” He found that unrestricted immigration could create tens of trillions of dollars in economic value, as captured by the migrants themselves in the form of higher wages in their new countries and by those who hire the migrants or consume the products of their labor. For a profession concerned with precision, it is remarkable how infrequently we economists talk about those rather large numbers. 
Truly open borders might prove unworkable, especially in countries with welfare states, and kill the goose laying the proverbial golden eggs; in this regard Mr. Clemens’s analysis may require some modification. Still, we should be obsessing over how many of those trillions can actually be realized. 
IN any case, there is an overriding moral issue. Imagine that it is your professional duty to report a cost-benefit analysis of liberalizing immigration policy. You wouldn’t dream of producing a study that counted “men only” or “whites only,” at least not without specific, clearly stated reasons for dividing the data.

I constantly read studies about how policies are good or bad for blacks or women or immigrants or gays or Jews. The fact that I don't see many studies about how policies affect men or whites has more to do with Who? Whom?.
So why report cost-benefit results only for United States citizens or residents, as is sometimes done in analyses of both international trade and migration? The nation-state is a good practical institution, but it does not provide the final moral delineation of which people count and which do not. So commentators on trade and immigration should stress the cosmopolitan perspective, knowing that the practical imperatives of the nation-state will not be underrepresented in the ensuing debate. 
Economics evolved as a more moral and more egalitarian approach to policy than prevailed in its surrounding milieu. Let’s cherish and extend that heritage. The real contributions of economics to human welfare might turn out to be very different from what most people — even most economists — expect. 
Tyler Cowen is a professor of economics at George Mason University.

As time goes by, the brighter sort of economists are less often promising that mass immigration is good for Americans and have turned instead to insisting that submitting to mass immigration is Americans' moral duty to Mexicans. Otherwise, they'd starve!

Mexicans illegally immigrate to avoid starvation

I'm now thinking the striped shirt wasn't a good idea
From the McClatchy Newspapers:
Mexico facing a diabetes 'disaster' as obesity levels soar 
By Tim Johnson | McClatchy Newspapers 
Last updated: November 21, 2012 06:41:34 AM 
MEXICO CITY -- With each bite into a greasy taco and slurp of a sugary drink, Mexico hurtles toward what health experts predict will be a public health crisis from diabetes-related disease. 
A fifth of all Mexican women and more than a quarter of men are believed to be at risk for diabetes now. It’s already the nation’s No. 1 killer, taking some 70,000 lives a year, far more than gangster violence. 
Public health experts blame changes in lifestyle that have made Mexicans more obese than anywhere else on Earth except the United States. They attribute changes to powerful snack and soft drink industries, newly sedentary ways of living and a genetic heritage susceptible to diabetes, a chronic, life-threatening illness. 
... Somewhere between 6.5 million and 10 million Mexicans now have diabetes, the Health Secretariat says. While the numbers are fewer than the 20 million who suffer from diabetes in the United States, Mexico carries the seeds of an unfolding tragedy linked both to soaring obesity and shifting demographics that will heavily burden health systems. 
... The once-languid pace of Mexican life has undergone radical transformation in recent decades. Crowded urban areas force long commutes on workers, and public security concerns keep them cooped up at home. 
Workers who once would return to their homes for long lunch breaks, eating freshly prepared foods, no longer can do that. 
“It is practically impossible to go home to eat lunch now,” said Dr. Gabriela Ortiz, a department director at the National Center for Preventative Health and Disease Control. “We ask for food to be delivered to our office. Some employees go out to the taco stands on the corner or to the street markets.” 
Since tap water is widely considered unsafe, and public drinking fountains rare, most Mexicans swill a sugary drink with their meals. The average Mexican consumes 728 eight-ounce sugary drinks from Coca-Cola per year, an average of two a day, far more than the 403 eight-ounce drinks that are consumed per person annually in the United States. 
“Coca-Cola is a great villain, but it is not the only one,” Avila said, adding that some 30 of Mexico’s 500 largest businesses produce snacks or other types of junk food, carbonated or sugary beverages. He said their total annual sales top $80 billion and their advertising and lobbying budgets easily trump public health campaigns. 
A 2012 federal health and nutrition survey found that 64 percent of men and 82 percent of women in Mexico were overweight or obese. Obesity levels have tripled in the past three decades. 
“I’m looking out my window,” said Dr. Stan De Loach, an American-certified diabetes educator who has lived most his life in Mexico, “and I see two, three, four, seven, eight people out of maybe 20 people who are obese.” 
Mexico now has higher obesity rates among children ages 5 to 11 years than any other country. According to a 2012 health survey, 34.4 percent of children are obese, Ortiz said. The comparable figure in the United States is 16.9 percent, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. 

WaPo completely unbiased on immigration

From the Washington Post tonight:

Visas for high-skilled foreign workers could double under Senate plan

Visas for high-skilled foreign workers could double under Senate plan
Bipartisan plan would be major win for tech industry which argues visa limits impede qualified employees.

"The Most Hated College Basketball Players of the Last 30 Years"

With the NCAA basketball tournament underway, Grantland has a feature entitled "The Most Hated College Basketball Players of the Last 30 Years." It's a bracket of 32 (apparently) hated players, divided up into four sectors: the 1980s, the 1990s, 2000s, and Duke U.
"Name someone you hate." 
... It's Wojo. 
Yes, Wojo. Hardcourt-slapping, charge-drawing, pass-and-cut-awaying Steve Wojciechowski, the honorable-mention All-American who played point guard for Duke from 1994 to 1998. I'm probably not alone in feeling this way — the Washington Times called him "the most reviled 6.6-point scorer in NCAA basketball history." ... In the moment, however, few things make my blood boil like some ACC pretty boy or deadeye shooter or egregious flopper or hard-nosed defender — or some unholy amalgamation of all these qualities. ...
The 32-player competition has four regions — one each for players from the 1980s, 1990s, and 21st century, and another for Duke Blue Devils. Before Coach K and the Cameron Crazies get too worked up about being singled out, let me explain the decision to turn part of this bracket into a mini-tournament of Duke hate. For starters, imagine the alternative. Think of all the Dukies who didn't make the cut: Carlos Boozer, Kyle Singler, Trajan Langdon, Brian Zoubek, Ryan Kelly, the Brothers Plumlee, Chris Collins, Thomas Hill, Alaa Abdelnaby, and many, many more. If Duke weren't confined to its own quadrant, half the athletes in the competition might be Blue Devils. And if they were peppered throughout all the regions, an all-Duke Final Four wouldn't just be a possibility — it would be a likelihood.
... There's not much mystery to what turned us off about Bill Curley and Eric Montross — they were white stiffs with terrible haircuts. And does anyone bring it all together in one package better than Tyler Hansbrough? Psycho T had it all — accolades galore, 4,000 percent effort, and those bugged-out, demonstrative, lunatic eyes. Plus, during an era in which few players with serious NBA futures spend more than two years in school, it felt like Hansbrough never left.

Much of the anti-Duke hate, of course, is the twisted mirror image of Chinese people liking Jeremy Lin for being Chinese: Duke hate is a phenomenon of white fans hating a mostly white team for being mostly white and winning at the black man's game. Six of the eight Duke players are white (and Shane Battier has a white mother. Update: so does Austin Rivers). My vague recollection is the inflection point in Duke Hate came in the early 1990s when Duke upset a black-dominated U. of Nevada Las Vegas team that the press had been extolling as the greatest college team ever.

Much of the hatred seems to be directed at the more genetically inferior players who succeed in college basketball based more on work ethic and character.

Judging from the racial makeup of the three decades, anti-white hatred appears to be a growing phenomenon. Only one (Danny Ainge) of the eight widely hated players from the 1980s is white. Only two of eight from the 1990s are whites. But of the 2000s, six are white (and Joakim Noah has three white grandparents).

P.S. Here are the results among Grantland readers (not a particularly vibrant bunch):

Most hated: Christian Laettner (white)
Runner-up: Tyler Hansborough (white)
Semifinalist: Eric Montross (white)
Semifinalist: Rick Fox (half-white half-black, good-looking)
Quarterfinalist: J.J. Redick (white)
Quarterfinalist: Danny Ainge (white)
Quarterfinalist: Mateen Cleaves (black)
Quarterfinalist: Joakim Noah (3/4th white 1/4th black, oddly feminine-looking)

So, one of the eight Most Hated has two black parents, two have one, five have none. Not exactly representative of the racial demographics of college basketball stars.

Human beings enjoy hating other human beings, but they are sensitive to the messages their society sends them about whom it is okay to hate.

WSJ: Good news on Hispanics: Argentine immigrants assimilating! (Bad news: American-born Mexicans not so much)

South Americans, including Argentines and Venezuelans, have the highest levels of education and are the least segregated from other ethnic groups in the U.S., even if they are more recent arrivals, according to the study
Every group except Mexicans has experienced a substantial decline in residential segregation from whites since 1990, according to the most common measure of segregation, the "dissimilarity index," which measures the distribution of two groups in a neighborhood and how much one group is over- or under-represented in relation to the other. 
"One would have thought that the newer groups, which are faster-growing, would be the ones maintaining boundaries and that Mexicans, with so many second and later generations, would be dispersing," said John Logan, co-author of the report, "Hispanics in the United States: Not Only Mexicans."

March 19, 2013

Who should be blamed for the cult of microaggressions: women or men?

From my new Taki's Magazine column:
While reading up a couple of weeks ago on the Oberlin College KKK fiasco, I became fascinated by the various Web pages at colleges such as Oberlin, Smith, Scripps, and similar progressive, lesbian-heavy institutions for the documenting of “microaggressions.” Since the Ku Klux Klaxon can’t be sounded every week (at least not yet), in the meantime young people are encouraged to fondle and document for posterity the subtlest of slights they feel they’ve suffered. 
As I pored over the microaggressions endured by victims/students at expensive liberal-arts colleges, it struck me that this ongoing dumbing down of America is a joint project of both sexes, with men and women each contributing their own special something.

Read the whole thing there.

Chait: "GOP Candidates Form Pro-Immigration Cartel"

From New York magazine, via Ross Douthat:
GOP Candidates Form Pro-Immigration Cartel 
By Jonathan Chait
The Republican Party’s leadership has collectively decided that its political future requires the party to support immigration reform. Republicans made a similar calculation under George W. Bush, but a conservative grassroots revolt killed the legislation. Now the party elite is attempting to tamp down a potential revolt and allow a bill to pass. 
Almost certainly there will be some kind of conservative revolt. Stirring of it could be heard at CPAC, where figures like Jim DeMint, Donald Trump, and Ann Coulter issued fiery denunciations. What’s interesting is that, as of now, anti-reform conservatives have no standard bearer. All of the major 2016 figures — Paul, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Paul Ryan, Scott Walker — support comprehensive reform. Somebody will surely emerge to represent the conservative base in an open field, but so far the political marketplace has not supplied a candidate to fill that anticipated demand. 
Instead, the field looks a lot like a kind of cartel. All of the major candidates support reform, so none of them can undercut each other by appealing to anti-reform sentiment. Whichever candidate eventually emerges to speak for the anti-reform base — and one will; the lure of a mass followership and free time on Fox News is too great to pass up — will probably be a Herman Cain–esque huckster running a protest race rather than a serious candidacy. 
And that potential dynamic, in turn, will shape the prospects for the passage of a bill. The key factor in passing a law is for leading Republicans in Congress, especially Rubio, to stay solid in their support. They’ll continue to support a bill as long as they feel secure that fellow Republicans won’t attack them as an Obama-loving sellout willing to let hordes on Mexicans pour forth over the border. If figures like Rubio look around and see other Republicans edging for the exits, they’ll in turn beat a retreat. 
As of now, though, all the 2016 contenders can support a bill in the anticipation that their major rivals will be locked in to the same stance. The most plausible vehicle for a grassroots insurgent candidacy was Paul, who had harnessed his father’s grassroots appeal with shrewd cultivation of the party elite. With Paul signed up with the pro-reform cartel, nobody is going to make Rubio, Bush, or Ryan nervous, which means there’s little right now to stop a bill from passing the House this summer.

Okay, but the same logic applied in 2006 and 2007, with John McCain teaming up with Ted Kennedy and George W. Bush to push amnesty. Senator Jeff Sessions, among others, stepped up. Overall, though, it was the citizenry that got the job done. 

Latest Breaking KKK Menace News

The 2013 news media KKKraziness kontinues. From the NYT:
Olen Burrage Dies at 82; Linked to Killings in 1964 
Olen Burrage, a Ku Klux Klan member who owned the Mississippi farm where the bodies of three slain civil rights workers were found in 1964, died on Friday in Meridian, Miss. He was 82.

And it goes on for around 1000 words about a farmer.

Who controls the past ...

How teachers think

A Midwestern reader writes:
You are one of the few conservative-leaning authors out there that seem to really understand what that world is about.  Before a career in corporate management, followed by a return to B-school and a third career in academics, I did a stint as a teacher in a public elementary school.   
Although they will not generally say so publicly, every reasonably aware public-school teacher knows the operative rules.  Urban teaching jobs suck, rural jobs suck a little less, and the suburban jobs in prosperous areas are where you want to work.  In prosperous areas the patrons usually love the schools their kids attend and they like the teachers and administrators.  There really are schools out there with little dysfunction, low levels of violence, and where kids really do learn something.   
This is why I find it ironic that many conservatives lump the entire structure together and make [public] education the enemy.  The advocated solutions seem to involve some form of economic starvation combined with higher (and universal) performance standards, and additional requirements to track and report performance data.  This while complaining about the greater number of administrators required to meet these mandates.  I think conservatives are making a huge mistake here.  It's analogous to the phenomenon of everyone professing to hate congress while reelecting the same congressman they have had for 30 years.  They like their congressman, its all the others that they hate.  
It might also be important to note that every state is not like New York, Wisconsin, or California.  Not every teacher is a communist, lazy, a union member, or possessor of a gigantic pension.  There is real risk, especially in more conservative states, of alienating people that are in these professions but generally conservative.  I tell this to my state legislators all time time, but they ignore me.

One thing I try to do is to look at political issues in the news partly from the perspective of property values in my neighborhood. From this angle, the GOP's Randian maker v. taker rhetoric seems strange. Granted, my approach of being sympathetic toward people who would make good neighbors (while being hard-headed about who would make good neighbors) is totally orthogonal to all standard ideologies, but I think the emotion  is widely shared if seldom articulated.

If schoolteachers, firemen, cops, or civil servant bureaucrats move into your neighborhood, is that good for your property values or bad? For all but the top 10% or 20% richest neighborhoods, government employees are fairly desirable neighbors: law-abiding, had to pass some kind of test to get their jobs, stably employed, usually there for the long term, don't work too many hours so they can coach kid teams at the park, and so forth. (I'm just repeating basic Chicago real estate logic.)

In other words, government employees tend to be one core element of the "small c" conservative American middle class. 

Moreover, these are people who tend to have influence with their neighbors and with your children. Teachers talk to children all day long. And they have some influence on other adults in part because they tend to be articulate and outgoing, plus they often have taught people who now vote. Similarly, neighbors who are firemen and cops are listened to at backyard barbecues with some respect and interest because their jobs entail bravery and their jobs make for interesting stories. Even government office paper shufflers can help their neighbors navigate the bureaucracy.

So, Republicans, why demonize them? Republican budget cutters have very legitimate gripes -- firemen and cops have often abused the pension system, for example, with various tricks, and most cities probably employ more firemen than they need -- but the GOP ought to look for carrots as well as sticks. Stand up for government employees against abuse by affirmative action, for instance. 

Little stuff, too: back during Hurricane Katrina, my son's scoutmaster, a fire chief, dropped everything and flew to Louisiana to help rescue people in New Orleans. But before he could be allowed into the field to save lives, he had to sit through a two hour seminar on sexual harassment!

Sure, the Republicans aren't going to win over many votes from members of government employees unions. But, you might win over, say, their in-laws if you treat them fairly on what ought to be Republican issues. But, instead, the GOP has largely given up on Reagan Democrat issues in favor of, say, talking about the estate tax.

Indeed, the Bush Administration went the other way and attacked Reagan Democrats. Alberto Gonalez filed in 2007 a discrimination lawsuit against the Fire Department of New York -- of whom 343 died on 9/11 and who are among the more culturally conservative bloc of voters in the state of New York. Thanks, GOP! I'm sure McCain and Romney did much better among Hispanics and blacks in New York because of this, right?

The new official GOP report on how the party will revive echoes the conventional wisdom of such GOP-friendly institutions as the editorial board of the New York Times: Hispanics! But, if you actually look at the Electoral College map, it's clear that the GOP's biggest Presidential election problem is not appealing enough to whites in the North Central states.