April 13, 2013

Tiger Woods should have withdrawn from The Masters

Tiger Woods, who has been stuck at 14 major championships, four back of Jack Nicklaus's record, since 2008, would likely be tied for the lead in the Masters tonight if his third shot Friday on the par-5 15th hole hadn't hit the flagstick (video) and rolled into the water. Instead, that bad break has cost him four shots (including three penalty strokes, two applied only this morning by tournament officials), and the disdain of many other pros, who think he should have done the honorable thing and withdrawn for signing an incorrect score card. 

Josh Levin protests in Slate against the country club rules-followers and their sick 19th Century Scottish hang-ups about honor and fair play:
In 1968, Roberto De Vicenzo shot a 65 in the final round of the Masters, tying him for the tournament lead. De Vicenzo’s partner, though, marked him down for a 4 rather than a 3 on the 17th hole, and the Argentine golfer didn’t notice the mistake before signing his scorecard. De Vicenzo was disqualified from the tournament, because golf is stupid. 

No, De Vicenzo was stuck with the score he signed for. As the vastly popular Argentine who won the previous year's British Open exclaimed, "What a stupid I am!" Playing partner Tommy Aaron was declared to be the guy you'd least like to have do your taxes.
Forty-five years later, golf is slightly less stupid, and that’s making a gallery’s worth of Bermuda-grass-huffing blowhards very angry. On Friday, Tiger Woods essentially pulled a De Vicenzo, unknowingly signing an incorrect scorecard. Rather than disqualify him—the equivalent of strapping Tiger into the electric chair for driving with a tail light out—Masters officials sensibly slapped him with a two-stroke penalty and allowed him to play on. 
That’s not good enough for CBS’ Nick Faldo. “He should really sit down and think about this and the mark this will leave on his career, his legacy, everything,” Faldo said on Saturday morning, declaring that it would be “the real manly thing” to voluntarily withdraw from the tournament. (Faldo walked back those comments during CBS' Saturday afternoon broadcast, perhaps because men in green jackets were standing off camera with tasers.) USA Today’s Christine Brennan wrote that “Woods' refusal to disqualify himself the moment he found out about his mistake forever changes his reputation, and the game's.” And CNN’s Piers Morgan wrote on Twitter: “Jack Nicklaus would disqualify himself in this situation. So would Arnold Palmer and Gary Player. Come on Tiger, do the right thing.” 
Given the self-evident wrongness of every position Piers Morgan has ever taken, perhaps there’s no need to press my case further. Even so, I’ll move on to a recap of Friday’s events. On the 15th hole, Woods’ ball hit the flagstick and bounced into the water, leading announcer David Feherty to shout that he’d been “royally cheated.” After a penalty stroke was added to his score, Woods took aim again, placing the ball a tiny bit behind its previous spot. A persnickety TV viewer quickly called this in as a possible violation. Masters officials reviewed it, decreed that Woods hadn’t violated any rules, and Tiger signed for a 71 on his scorecard. 
A post-round interview, though, led 19th-hole ethicists to set their Stimpmeters to GOLFCON 1. In that interview, Tiger said that he placed the ball “two yards further back” when he took his fifth shot on 15, acknowledging that he knowingly didn't place the ball "as nearly as possible" to the original spot.

The relevant rules are these:
If a ball is found in a water hazard or if it is known or virtually certain that a ball that has not been found is in the water hazard (whether the ball lies in water or not), the player may under penalty of one stroke: 
a. Proceed under the stroke and distance provision of Rule 27-1 by playing a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played (see Rule 20-5); or 
b. Drop a ball behind the water hazard, keeping the point at which the original ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind the water hazard the ball may be dropped;

This was the very rare situation. Normally, if a ball struck precisely at the flag goes into the cross-hazard at 15, it's because it came up short. In that case, the golfer could choose between a) or b) and either drop it right where he'd played or walk straight backward to give him the ideal length. Woods apparently assumed that subrule b) applied so he walked back two yards so that his next shot would land two yards shorter. And he executed nicely and sank his putt for a bogey six. But b) didn't apply because the ball rebounded to the left off the pin, so if Woods wanted to play a longer shot he would have had to play from well to the left, where the angle was worse. So, he took the advantage by confounding a) and b).

Now, dropping the ball two yards farther back sounds like a minuscule infraction, but the advantage gained for somebody with Woods' stratospheric level of muscle memory is considerable. All he has to do is attempt to replicate the exact same swing and if he does, the result will give him a putt 6 feet shorter.

Clearly, Woods didn't realize he was breaking the rules, or he wouldn't have bragged after the round about the advantage he craftily gained from stepping two yards back. But, ignorance of the rules isn't an excuse at this level of golf.

Levin continues:
According to the chairman of the Masters’ competition committee, “such action would constitute playing from the wrong place”—a violation of USGA Rule 26-1. On account of this violation, Woods was penalized two shots, meaning the scorecard he’d signed immediately after his round was incorrect. So why wasn’t this golf scofflaw banished from Augusta National? Because two years ago, the USGA revised its rulebook, decreeing that a player need not be disqualified when “he has breached a Rule because of facts that he did not know and could not reasonably have discovered prior to returning his score card.”
But Tiger Woods didn’t just touch a few grains of sand with his club. After his round on Friday, he said that he’d moved his ball a couple of yards. This wasn’t just viewers calling him out—even if he didn’t know he was breaking the rules, Woods knew exactly where he’d placed his ball. "Based on the way the rules are written I don't see how he's anything other than a spectator,” former USGA executive director David Fay said before the Masters issued its less-punitive ruling. And even though Woods apparently didn’t know he was doing anything wrong—if he’d been purposefully cheating, why would he talk about it openly in an interview?—“ignorance is not an exception to the rule,” as Brad Faxon said on the Golf Channel on Saturday morning, arguing for Woods’ dismissal from the tournament. He continued: “We know that, and that’s the way it should be. We should know the rules and follow the rules.”

That's how tournament golf is supposed to work. A player is supposed to learn the rulebook (what, Tiger is too busy reading Proust to have read the rulebook?) and then police himself because he will sometimes find himself all alone on the course with only his conscience watching. If he later realizes he broke a rule, he would have up until the moment he signed his scorecard at the end of the round to call a penalty on himself.

If the signed scorecard is to his disadvantage, as in de Vincenzo's case in 1968 when playing partner Tommy Aaron wrote down a 4 when he made a 3, the signed scorecard stands. If the error on the signed scorecard is to his advantage, he is disqualified.

If the player realizes after signing the card that he misrembered the rules, then he should withdraw.

Granted, that's a huge penalty that might, conceivably, keep the 37-year-old Tiger Woods from his life's ambition of breaking Nicklaus's major championship record, but that's how golf is supposed to be played.
That line of thinking might sound reasonable if not for the holier-than-thou attitude that inevitably goes along with it.

In other words: Who? Whom? Josh Levin doesn't like the people who like golf's 19th Century Scottish Presbyterian ethos.
Golfers fetishize their adherence to the rules of the game, even—especially—the ones that don’t make sense. In 2010, Brian Davis cost himself a chance to win a PGA tournament when he called a penalty on himself for hitting a loose reed during his backswing. After the event, Davis was lauded for his honesty and compared to the great Bobby Jones, who gave himself a penalty in the 1925 U.S. Open when—out of sight of anyone else—he accidentally moved his ball a tiny bit. “You may as well praise a man for not robbing a bank,” Jones said afterwards, deflecting the praise. 
This is a golfer’s sense of proportionality: hitting a loose reed is no different than putting a hit on someone. Golfers are the opposite of conscientious objectors—they do whatever the rule makers tell them, with nary a thought given to what the rule is or why it exists. ...
But this is a sport that too often traffics in self-congratulation, and that prizes tradition over fairness. ... 

In other words, golfers should cheat whenever they can get away with it. Look how that ethos has made Wall Street such a moral exemplar that we all take their advice on things like illegal immigration as well. Americans loves a winner and weird WASP moral compunctions are so out of date. Instead of not praising a man for not robbing a bank, we should praise him for owning the bank and robbing the rest of us.

Hart-Risley Hypothesis: "Somebody grab my m**********' baby!"

The celebrated Hart-Risley Hypothesis that the school test score shortcomings of welfare children stem from their mothers not talking enough -- welfare children are exposed to 32 million fewer words by age four, we are frequently informed -- is back in the public eye with another video in the increasingly popular genre of Poor People on a Bus. As Hart-Risley advise, the mother does verbalize extensively, although those scholars might not fully approve of some of her vocalizations, such as "Somebody grab by m**********' baby." This request to the other transit passengers is intended to allow the mother to make good on her promise to another woman on the bus that "I will thrash you ... for disrespecting me in front of my baby."

Since nobody steps forward to grab her incest-inclined infant from her, at about 1:40 in the video the mother deftly executes a 1970s U. of Oklahoma Sooners wishbone-style pitchout to the surprised lady across the aisle, who, fortunately -- unlike star-crossed Heisman-winner Billy Sims in so many goal-to-go situations -- doesn't fumble.

A number of commenters have wondered why nobody on the bus suggests to the mother that her implementation of the Hart - Risley protocol that welfare mothers should talk more is lacking in a full, nuanced understanding of how best to foster her baby's cognitive development But, the other passengers had probably watched on World Star Hip Hop what had happened to Lefenus Pickett on a Philadelphia bus when he had critiqued a welfare mother's childrearing techniques.

Seriously, the increasing intensity of political correctness in the Serious Media probably has something to do with the spread in the Undernews of cellphone and security camera videos on sites like World Star Hip Hop.

Moreover, the growing conventional wisdom -- that society must, in effect, take poor children away from their blood relations for as many of their waking hours as possible -- may well be secretly motivated by these kind of videos as well.

Big Five Factors of entertainment tastes

Charles Spearman was one of the pioneers of factor analysis, a statistical technique for looking at what correlates with what and then trying to name the smaller number of underlying factors that emerge. He used it to come up with the g Factor theory of intelligence way back in 1904. Factor analysis is an interesting combination of objective and subjective, because the final step of giving names to the most important underlying structures is a creative one.

Here's a study looking at the top five factors in entertainment tastes.
Listening, Watching, and Reading: The Structure and Correlates of Entertainment Preferences 
Peter J. Rentfrow, Lewis R. Goldberg, and Ran Zilca 
The publisher's final edited version of this article is available at J Pers 
People spend considerable amounts of time and money listening to music, watching TV and movies, and reading books and magazines, yet almost no attention in psychology has been devoted to understanding individual differences in preferences for such entertainment. The present research was designed to examine the structure and correlates of entertainment genre preferences. Analyses of the genre preferences of over 3,000 individuals revealed a remarkably clear factor structure. Using multiple samples, methods, and geographic regions, data converged to reveal five entertainment-preference dimensions: Communal, Aesthetic, Dark, Thrilling, and Cerebral. Preferences for these entertainment dimensions were uniquely related to demographics and personality traits. Results also indicated that personality accounted for significant proportions of variance in entertainment preferences over and above demographics. The results provide a foundation for developing and testing hypotheses about the psychology of entertainment preferences.

Staffan's Personality Blog summarizes:
Next, they did their statistical mojo in which correlations between all the 108 genres were compared to see if they clustered into any separate factors, which they did. The major divide was found between what the researchers, surprisingly politically incorrect called Highbrow and Lowbrow. Furthermore Highbrow turned out to consist of two separate factors, named Aesthetic and Cerebral where as Lowbrow was made up of three factors called Communal, Dark and Thrilling for a total of five factors – two fancy and three folksy. To get a general idea of what these factors look like here are some of the major items in each of them,
Aesthetic – classical music, arts and humanities TV shows, art books, opera music, foreign film, classic films, folk music, world music, philosophy books 
Cerebral – business books, news and current events TV shows and books, educational TV shows, reference books, computer books, documentary films, science TV shows 
Communal – romance films, romance books, daytime talk shows, made-for- TV movies, soap operas, reality shows, pop music 
Dark – horror movies, heavy metal music, rap and hip hop, alternative music, erotic movies, erotic literature, cult movies 
Thrilling – action movies, thriller and espionage books, spy shows, science fiction TV shows, films and books, suspense movies, war movies

The name "communal" was chosen to distinguish it from the other two lowbrow factors, which cluster together to form a "rebellious" grouping. "Communal" could probably better be entitled "Relationship" entertainment aimed at women who are most interested in personal relationships.

The Cerebral factor might better be named "Informative." It sounds a lot like entertainment for what I call Frequent Flyers: people with management and technical jobs who travel a lot on business and like information. James Michener rather than John Updike. (My favorite Updike novel is The Coup, which imparts a Michener-worthy load of information about Africa in Updike's deliriously aesthetic style.) Airport bookstores and newsstands cater to their interests. Humorist Dave Barry, who is from Armonk, NY, home of IBM, is the poet laureate of Frequent Flyers. 

It would be interesting to drill down further within this group to see if the nerds and managers can be distinguished. Adding sports would help. Management types tend to like to play team sports and watch spectator sports. Nerds are less interested in watching sports and are more interested in less structured outdoor activities, such as, say, kayaking.

Mark Zuckerberg's cheap labor lobby

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has put together an immigration pressure group entitled fwd.us. A week ago Politico recounted Zuckerberg aide Joe Green's memo:
Under a section called “our tactical assets,” the prospectus lists three reasons why “people in tech” can be organized into “one of the most powerful political forces.” 
“1: We control massive distribution channels, both as companies and individuals. We saw the tip of the iceberg with SOPA/PIPA. 
“2: “Our voice carries a lot of weight because we are broadly popular with Americans. 
“3. We have individuals with a lot of money. If deployed properly this can have huge influence in the current campaign finance environment.”

This week, Zuckerberg op-edizes in the Washington Post:
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg: Immigration and the knowledge economy

By Mark Zuckerberg, Published: April 10 
Mark Zuckerberg is founder and chief executive of Facebook and co-founder of Fwd.us. 
Earlier this year I started teaching a class on entrepreneurship at an after-school program in my community. The middle-school students put together business plans, made their products and even got an opportunity to sell them. 
One day I asked my students what they thought about going to college. One of my top aspiring entrepreneurs told me he wasn’t sure that he’d be able to go to college because he’s undocumented. His family is from Mexico, and they moved here when he was a baby. Many students in my community are in the same situation; they moved to the United States so early in their lives that they have no memories of living anywhere else. 
These students are smart and hardworking, and they should be part of our future. 
This is, after all, the American story. My great-grandparents came through Ellis Island. My grandfathers were a mailman and a police officer. My parents are doctors. I started a company. None of this could have happened without a welcoming immigration policy, a great education system and the world’s leading scientific community that created the Internet. 
Today’s students should have the same opportunities — but our current system blocks them. 
We have a strange immigration policy for a nation of immigrants. And it’s a policy unfit for today’s world. 
The economy of the last century was primarily based on natural resources, industrial machines and manual labor. Many of these resources were zero-sum and controlled by companies. If someone else had an oil field, then you did not. 
There were only so many oil fields, and only so much wealth could be created from them. 
Today’s economy is very different. It is based primarily on knowledge and ideas — resources that are renewable and available to everyone. Unlike oil fields, someone else knowing something doesn’t prevent you from knowing it, too.

It's not like the bad old days when some robber baron would get a monopoly and squeeze his workers. Thus, today, not just Facebook but also MySpace, Friendster, and Google + are all flourishing. What's good for Mark Zuckerberg is good for all Americans.
In fact, the more people who know something, the better educated and trained we all are, the more productive we become, and the better off everyone in our nation can be.
This can change everything. In a knowledge economy, the most important resources are the talented people we educate and attract to our country. A knowledge economy can scale further, create better jobs and provide a higher quality of living for everyone in our nation. ...
That’s why I am proud to announce FWD.us, a new organization founded by leaders of our nation’s technology community to focus on these issues and advocate a bipartisan policy agenda to build the knowledge economy the United States needs to ensure more jobs, innovation and investment. 
These leaders, who reflect the breadth and depth of Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurial culture, include Reid Hoffman, Eric Schmidt, Marissa Mayer, Drew Houston, Ron Conway, Chamath Palihapitiya, Joe Green, Jim Breyer, Matt Cohler, John Doerr, Paul Graham, Mary Meeker, Max Levchin, Aditya Agarwal and Ruchi Sanghvi. 

On the new fwd.us webpage entitled "Our Supporters," there are additional names of more tech heavyweights: Bryan Chesky, Chris Cox, Reed Hastings, Chad Hurley, Josh James, Max Levchin, Joe Lonsdale, Andrew Mason, Dave Morin, Elon Musk, Hadi Partovi, Alison Pincus, Mark Pincus, Keith Rabois, Hosain Rahman,  David Sacks, Eric Schmidt, Kevin Systrom, Padmasree Warrior, and Fred Wilson.

That's three dozen names.

Has anybody else noticed that not a single one of those surnames is Spanish?

Silicon Valley is so non-Hispanic that Zuckerberg couldn't even come up with some Conquistador-American to stick on his "Our Supporters" page.

Maybe he should make friends with Eduardo Saverin again?

How many people have noticed that there are virtually no Hispanic tech wizards in Silicon Valley?

The San Jose Mercury-News had to sue to extract the diversity data from big Silicon Valley firms. They found what merely eyeballing the endless business coverage of Silicon Valley ought to suggest: virtually no blacks or Hispanics make it big there.
Of the 5,907 top managers and officials in the Silicon Valley offices of the 10 large companies in 2005, 296 were black or Hispanic, a 20 percent decline from 2000, according to U.S. Department of Labor work-force data obtained by the Mercury News through a Freedom of Information request.

April 12, 2013

Crying Indian crying over Joshua Tree graffiti

Joshua Tree National Park is another rock climbing / bouldering site, a vast version of Stoney Point. I went scrambling over the boulders with my father on New Year's Day weekend 1965-66 when I was 7. From today's LA Times, a perfect illustration of my posts  (first and second) a couple of days ago about graffiti, littering, and racial shaming:
Historic Joshua Tree sites blighted by city's ills 
Vandals are using social media to get others to join in. Rattlesnake Canyon and Barker Dam are temporarily closed.

By Phil Willon, Los Angeles Times

JOSHUA TREE — Along the saw-toothed ridge of Rattlesnake Canyon, crude graffiti invades the crevices that offered shade to nomadic Indians trekking across the Mojave hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago. 
"Skunk,'' "oatmeal cookie" and "punx" are scribbled in black spray paint on giant, earth-crushing boulders where ancient petroglyphs may have been etched by the Serrano and Chemehuevi. 
The damage goes far beyond a few lovey-dovey teenagers carving their initials into picnic tables. Vandalism in Rattlesnake Canyon and at Barker Dam, two of Joshua Tree National Park's most popular hiking spots, has been so pervasive that both sites have been closed to the public. 
The graffiti in Rattlesnake Canyon, which meanders for a mile through the northern edge of Joshua Tree's Wonderland of Rocks, started with just a few markings but quickly became rampant. Vandals bragged of their handiwork on social media sites such as Facebook, attracting their like-minded friends to the same spot, paint in hand, park service officials said. 
In all, 17 areas of the canyon have been defaced by graffiti, including several historic Native American cultural spots. 
... Park service law enforcement agents are investigating the vandalism at both sites, Pilcher said, adding that anyone convicted of defacing a national park could be sentenced to six months in jail and fined up to $5,000. The penalty could be much stiffer for those convicted of vandalizing a historic Native American site, he said. ...
For local Native American tribes, the defacing of historic sites at Joshua Tree just adds to the cultural losses they have suffered since Spanish missionaries first arrived in the 1700s. 
The spring-fed Oasis of Mara, near the park's north entrance, was a popular resting spot for several tribal clans as they journeyed across the desert toward the coast, and Native American rock drawings are scattered across the vast 800,000-acre park. 
"That whole area was Serrano territory," said Jacob Coin, spokesman for the San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians in Highland. "It's a disappointment not just for Native people, but for all of the state."

You can see what the L.A. Times reporter is trying to do: play the racial guilt card -- so successfully played in the 1971 "Crying Indian" anti-littering PSA -- to get Latinos to stop painting their stupid graffiti on beautiful cliffs. I'm all for it, but what a triple bankshot we're stuck with attempting to pull off in 2013! How many of these teenage idiots ever saw that ancient American TV spot? How many of these mestizos care about some myth made up by Burson Marsteller in New York about indio environmentalism?

What they would care about is being called out as Mexican vandals. These are some of the same folks who drive drunkenly around the Rose Bowl honking their horns for three or four hours after every Mexican national soccer team victory over the American team. They are proud of being Mexican and might even feel a little ashamed of the shame they are bringing on Mexicans with their bad habits ... if anybody were ever to mention it. But of course to mention how Mexicans mess up the American environment like this would be Racist Hate. To even notice this is evil and to prove that you didn't notice it, you have to want to import millions more Mexicans.

Where it really matters

The Washington Post editorial board has drawn a line in the sand against anti-white black solidarity, at least where it really matters: Washington D.C. city council elections.
Anita Bonds’ misguided focus on race 
By Editorial Board
D.C. COUNCIL member Anita Bonds (D-At Large) is not the first District official, nor sadly is she likely to be the last, to try to use race to her advantage. But her awkward comments about the role that race will play in the city’s upcoming election and voters wanting their “own” should not go unchallenged. 
Ms. Bonds appeared Monday on WAMU-FM’s “Kojo Nnamdi Show” with the five other candidates vying for the citywide seat in the April 23 special election. She was asked about recent comments by a union official endorsing her. The official said there is a strong desire within the black community that the seat be held by an African American. 
“Happy to hear that,” was Ms. Bonds’s response. She said, “People want to have their leadership reflect who they are” and longtime residents “fear” being pushed out by the city’s changing demographics. “The majority of the District of Columbia is African American. . . . There is a natural tendency to want your own,” she said.

The horror, the horror. Seriously, that's a perfectly reasonable thing for any politician to say. But, it's not okay with the Washington Post editorial board. This stuff's personal. If they help push blacks out of power in Washington D.C. their lives will be a lot better, so they are going to be as anti-black as they gotta be to get the job done.
Ms. Bonds, The Post’s Tim Craig reported, appears to be trying to rally black voters to her bid by noting that the council, now with seven white and six black members, has never had eight white members. 

But, it will soon, at least in the Washington Post editorial board's dreams of cashing in big on their real estate investments.
Ms. Bonds told us she is aghast that anyone would interpret her remarks as a plea to vote for her solely because of her race; she said she was merely expressing appreciation about having received the union endorsement. Her spokesman stressed that the campaign has never used race as a basis to garner votes and that the council member was simply responding to a direct question that should not be taken out of context. ... 
 But the failure of Ms. Bonds to make clear that a candidate’s skin color should not be the determining factor was disappointing, particularly since the council on which she hopes to continue to serve will have to deal with challenges confronting a city undergoing dramatic demographic change. 

Translation from Editorialese: Challenges to include blacks not letting the doorknob hit them on the butt as they leave D.C. for places where the locals don't have their hands on The Megaphone like we do here at the Washington Post.

April 11, 2013

NYT: Black people don't talk enough

That's why so few poor black youths grow up to be rappers. Society must do whatever it takes to close the Rap Gap.

From the New York Times, an extract of straight 2013 Conventional Wisdom, 99 and 44/100ths percent pure:
The Power of Talking to Your Baby 
By the time a poor child is 1 year old, she has most likely already fallen behind middle-class children in her ability to talk, understand and learn. The gap between poor children and wealthier ones widens each year, and by high school it has become a chasm. American attempts to close this gap in schools have largely failed, and a consensus is starting to build that these attempts must start long before school — before preschool, perhaps even before birth.

Up to eight months and 29 days before birth, but not a day sooner!
There is no consensus, however, about what form these attempts should take, because there is no consensus about the problem itself. What is it about poverty that limits a child’s ability to learn? Researchers have answered the question in different ways: Is it exposure to lead? Character issues like a lack of self-control or failure to think of future consequences? The effects of high levels of stress hormones? The lack of a culture of reading? 
A poor child is likely to hear millions fewer words at home than a child from a professional family. And the disparity matters. 
Another idea, however, is creeping into the policy debate: that the key to early learning is talking — specifically, a child’s exposure to language spoken by parents and caretakers from birth to age 3, the more the better. It turns out, evidence is showing, that the much-ridiculed stream of parent-to-child baby talk — Feel Teddy’s nose! It’s so soft! Cars make noise — look, there’s a yellow one! Baby feels hungry? Now Mommy is opening the refrigerator! — is very, very important. (So put those smartphones away!) 
The idea has been successfully put into practice a few times on a small scale, but it is about to get its first large-scale test, in Providence, R.I., which last month won the $5 million grand prize in Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge, beating 300 other cities for best new idea. In Providence, only one in three children enter school ready for kindergarten reading.

When I entered kindergarten, not only was I not ready for kindergarten reading, but there was no reading in kindergarten. At some point during kindergarten, I learned how to read at home, and happily read for a couple of weeks. But then I got bored with reading and went back to poking things with sticks or whatever it was I found more fascinating. When I started first grade, the educationally system started to teach me how to read, and I picked it up within a couple of weeks.
The city already has a network of successful programs in which nurses, mentors, therapists and social workers regularly visit pregnant women, new parents and children in their homes, providing medical attention and advice, therapy, counseling and other services. Now Providence will train these home visitors to add a new service: creating family conversation.

The Providence Talks program will be based on research by Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley at the University of Kansas, who in 1995 published a book, “Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children.” (see here for a summary.) Hart and Risley were studying how parents of different socioeconomic backgrounds talked to their babies. Every month, the researchers visited the 42 families in the study and recorded an hour of parent-child interaction. They were looking for things like how much parents praised their children, what they talked about, whether the conversational tone was positive or negative. Then they waited till the children were 9, and examined how they were doing in school. In the meantime, they transcribed and analyzed every word on the tapes — a process that took six years. “It wasn’t until we’d collected our data that we realized that the important variable was how much talking the parents were doing,” Risley told an interviewer later. 
All parents gave their children directives like “Put away your toy!” or “Don’t eat that!” But interaction was more likely to stop there for parents on welfare, while as a family’s income and educational levels rose, those interactions were more likely to be just the beginning. 
The disparity was staggering. Children whose families were on welfare heard about 600 words per hour. Working-class children heard 1,200 words per hour, and children from professional families heard 2,100 words. By age 3, a poor child would have heard 30 million fewer words in his home environment than a child from a professional family. And the disparity mattered: the greater the number of words children heard from their parents or caregivers before they were 3, the higher their IQ and the better they did in school. TV talk not only didn’t help, it was detrimental. 
Hart and Risley later wrote that children’s level of language development starts to level off when it matches that of their parents — so a language deficit is passed down through generations. They found that parents talk much more to girls than to boys (perhaps because girls are more sociable, or because it is Mom who does most of the care, and parents talk more to children of their gender). 
This might explain why young, poor boys have particular trouble in school. And they argued that the disparities in word usage correlated so closely with academic success that kids born to families on welfare do worse than professional-class children entirely because their parents talk to them less. In other words, if everyone talked to their young children the same amount, there would be no racial or socioeconomic gap at all. (Some other researchers say that while word count is extremely important, it can’t be the only factor.)

But those researchers are obviously wrong, and probably racist.
While we do know that richer, more educated parents talk much more to their children than poorer and less educated ones, we don’t know exactly why. A persuasive answer comes from Meredith Rowe, now an assistant professor at the University of Maryland. She found that poor women were simply unaware that it was important to talk more to their babies — no one had told them about this piece of child development research. Poorer mothers tend to depend on friends and relatives for parenting advice, who may not be up on the latest data. Middle-class mothers, on the other hand, get at least some of their parenting information from books, the Internet and pediatricians. Talking to baby has become part of middle-class culture; it seems like instinct, but it’s not. 
If you haven’t heard of Hart and Risley’s work, you are not alone — and you may be wondering why. These findings should have created a policy whirlwind: Here was a revolutionary way to reduce inequities in school achievement that seemed actually possible. How hard could it be to persuade poor parents to talk to their children more? ...
Providence has the money to be more ambitious. The city plans to begin enrolling families in January, 2014, and hopes to eventually reach about 2,000 new families each year, said Mayor Angel Taveras. It will most likely work with proven home-visitation programs like the Nurse-Family Partnership. The visitors will show poor families with very young children how to use the recorders, and ask them to record one 16-hour day each month. 
Every month they will return to share information about the results and specific strategies for talking more: how do you tell your baby about your day? What’s the best way to read to your toddler? They will also talk about community resources, like read-aloud day at the library. And they will work with the family to set goals for next month. The city also hopes to recruit some of the mothers and fathers as peer educators. 

And when that fails, what's next? Intensive pre-pre-schools where Brown U. grads will be employed to speak to black babies using words they learned getting their Brown degrees like "intersubjectivity" and "phallocentrism?"
Tina Rosenberg won a Pulitzer Prize for her book “The Haunted Land: Facing Europe’s Ghosts After Communism.” She is a former editorial writer for The Times and the author, most recently, of “Join the Club: How Peer Pressure Can Transform the World” and the World War II spy story e-book “D for Deception.”

Meanwhile, Steve "Freakonomics" Levitt and Roland Fryer of Harvard have finally, after a half dozen years, found a journal to publish their old study showing that black babies have higher IQs than Asian babies at eight months to twelve months. Of course, they don't actually have an IQ test for infants, but their little test of baby liveliness is practically just as good! See the comments on Marginal Revolution for a discussion.

Gang of Eight: Complete Cave-in by RINOs?

Am I being too cynical here? From the NYT:
Broad Outlines of Senate Immigration Agreement Emerge 
WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of senators has largely agreed on a broad immigration bill that would require tough border measures to be in place before illegal immigrants could take the first steps to become American citizens, according to several people familiar with drafts of the legislation. 
But in a delicate compromise worked out over weeks of negotiations, the bill does not impose any specific measurements of border enforcement results that, if they were not met, would stop the immigrants from proceeding toward citizenship. 
Instead, the bill allows a period of 10 years for the Department of Homeland Security to make plans and use resources to fortify enforcement at the borders and elsewhere within the country before it sets several broader hurdles that could derail the immigrants’ progress toward citizenship if they are not achieved.

Does anybody imagine that in ten years, the Castro Administration's Department of Homeland Security will announce, "Oh, wow, I guess we haven't stopped illegal immigration after all. No citizenship for you!"?

This is basically a ploy to delay the switching of Arizona from Republican to Democrat until after Senator McCain is gone, but that's about it. Those of us who have a longer time frame than John McCain, well, too bad, you should have carpe diemed when you had the opportunity.
... The senators’ compromise allows Republican lawmakers, including Senators John McCain of Arizona and Marco Rubio of Florida, to say that they achieved border enforcement advances in the bill as a condition before any illegal immigrants can apply for permanent-resident green cards, the first step toward citizenship. 
But it also allows Democrats to describe the border measures as goals that can be achieved with the resources provided, so they will not become roadblocks that could stop the immigrants from reaching the final stage of citizenship. 

Is this just a good cop - bad cop charade with Rubio claiming to be the good cop who just couldn't stand up anymore to Chuck Schumer's Wall Street zillions?

April 10, 2013

1971 "Crying Indian" anti-littering PSA and racial shaming

After WWII, as Americans became more mobile and affluent, littering started to be a more annoying problem, especially as paper wrappers, non-biodegradable plastic junk and very slowly rusting aluminum cans proliferated. 

Executives from big consumer packaged goods corporations like Anheuser-Busch that manufactured much of the litter founded the Keep America Beautiful organization in 1953. In the mid-1960s, First Lady Lady Bird Johnson made highway beautification, including anti-littering, her pet cause. On Earth Day 1971, Keep America Beautiful debuted its famous Crying Indian public service announcement TV spot (above).

Ginger Strand wrote in Orion:
IF YOU WATCHED television at any point in the seventies, you saw him: America’s most famous Indian. Star of perhaps the best-known public service announcement ever, he was a black-braided, buckskinned, cigar-store native come to life, complete with single feather and stoic frown. In the spot’s original version, launched by Keep America Beautiful on Earth Day 1971, he paddles his canoe down a pristine river to booming drumbeats. He glides past flotsam and jetsam. The music grows bombastic, wailing up a movie-soundtrack build. He rows into a city harbor: ship, crane, a scrim of smog. The Indian pulls his boat onto a bank strewn with litter and gazes upon a freeway. 
“Some people have a deep, abiding respect for the natural beauty that was once this country,” intones a basso profundo voice [actor William Conrad*], “and some people don’t.” On those words, someone flings a bag of trash from a passing car. It scatters at the Indian’s feet. He looks into the camera for the money shot. A single tear rolls down his cheek. 
“People start pollution. People can stop it,” declares the narrator.
Rewind. Replay. Thanks to YouTube, you can watch this ad over and over, framed by excited viewer comments: “A classic!!” “Very powerful.” “Best PSA ever made.” Most YouTubers agree with the trade journal Ad Age, which included the campaign in the century’s top hundred. Some netizens even claim the ad motivated them to pick up trash or chide litterers. The Advertising Educational Foundation declares the spot “synonymous with environmental concern.” Wikipedia says it “has been widely credited with inspiring America’s fledgling environmental movement.” The crying Indian wept for our sins, and from his tears sprang forth a new Green Age.

Of course, the veteran Western movie character actor Iron Eyes Cody was really an Italian American and the commercial was paid for by corporate interests that didn't want disposable containers outlawed. 

But, it more or less worked. White people felt shamed by the crying Indian and therefore littered less.

Racial shaming remains popular and effective, but the only allowable target hasn't changed since the early years of Earth Day: white people. 

Yet, the Hispanic population now numbers over 50 million and represents a major source of littering, but it's difficult to find any acknowledgment in the media of the fact that Hispanics today contribute disproportionately to littering. 

How about: If you want amnesty, you've got to stop littering first? Maybe if somebody ever dared to ask Latinos to stop littering so much, they'd feel embarrassed and knock it off. Who knows? Nobody has tried.

Race pretty much overrules everything else these days on who? whom? grounds, even petty nonsense like trashing a natural wonder. 

* William Conrad was the portly star of the detective show "Cannon" (1971-1976). I went to  elementary school with his kid (who liked to unexpectedly knock people down from behind during recess). I called him Cannonball.

Freeman Dyson on Thatcher hate

When I reviewed the Meryl Streep-as-Maggie-Thatcher biopic in Taki's last year, I quoted Thatcher's contemporary Freeman Dyson, the great physicist, on one source of the endless hatred for Thatcher:
In England there were always two sharply opposed middle classes, the academic middle class and the commercial middle class.…I learned to look on the commercial middle class with loathing and contempt. Then came the triumph of Margaret Thatcher, which was also the revenge of the commercial middle class. The academics lost their power and prestige and the business people took over. The academics never forgave Thatcher….

The only thing I'd add is that in reality, a commercial middle class usually breeds its own critics. And I'm using "breeds" literally. Consider the perhaps most prestigious clan in the history of the British intellectual middle class -- the Darwin-Galton-Wedgwood-Benn-Keynes agglomeration. 

This was, in a way, an outgrowth of the Lunar Society of Birmingham that met during the full moon in the early decades of the industrial revolution. According to Wikipedia:
... fourteen individuals have been identified as having verifiably attended Lunar Society meetings regularly over a long period during its most productive eras: these are Matthew BoultonErasmus DarwinThomas DayRichard Lovell EdgeworthSamuel Galton, Jr.James KeirJoseph PriestleyWilliam SmallJonathan StokesJames WattJosiah WedgwoodJohn Whitehurst and William Withering.[8]

Watt was the chief inventor of the steam engine, Boulton was Watt's millionaire business partner, Erasmus Darwin was the most celebrated doctor in England, Samuel Galton was a merchant, Priestly was the great chemist and radical intellectual, Josiah Wedgwood was the owner of the famous dinnerware factory and still valuable brand name. The next generation of Darwins, Wedgwoods, and Galtons intermarried, providing the fortune for grandsons Charles Darwin and Francis Galton to be gentlemen scientists.

The heirs of the Lunar Society continue to be prominent.

For example, one of Margaret Thatcher's archrivals was Labour Party star Tony Benn, the grand old man of the left. "Tony Benn" is, however, the proletarianized version of the name ultimately adopted by Anthony Neil Wedgwood Benn, formerly 2nd Viscount Stansgate. From Wikipedia:
Benn was born in London on 3 April 1925.[6] Benn's paternal grandfather was John Benn, a successful politician who was created a baronet in 1914, and his father William Wedgwood Benn was a Liberal Member of Parliament who later crossed the floor to the Labour Party. He was appointed Secretary of State for India by Ramsay MacDonald in 1929, a position he held until 1931. He was elevated to the House of Lords with the title of Viscount Stansgate in 1941; the new wartime coalition government was short of working Labour peers in the upper house.[7] From 1945 to 1946, he was the Secretary of State for Air in the first majority Labour Government. 
Both his grandfathers, John Benn (who founded a publishing company)[8] and Daniel Holmes, were also Liberal MPs (respectively, for Tower Hamlets, Devonport and Glasgow Govan). ...
Benn's mother, Margaret Wedgwood Benn (née Holmes) (1897–1991), was a dedicated theologian, feminist and the founder President of the Congregational Federation. She was a member of the League of the Church Militant, which was the predecessor of the Movement for the Ordination of Women – in 1925 she was rebuked by Randall Thomas Davidson, the Archbishop of Canterbury, for advocating the ordination of women. His mother's theology had a profound influence on Benn, as she taught him that the stories in the Bible were based around the struggle between the prophets and the kings and that he ought in his life to support the prophets over the kings, who had power, as the prophets taught righteousness.[11] 
Benn went to Westminster School and studied at New College, Oxford, where he read Philosophy, Politics and Economics and was elected President of the Oxford Union in 1947. In later life, Benn attempted to remove public references to his private education from Who's Who; in the 1975 edition his entry stated "Education—still in progress". In the 1976 edition, almost all details were omitted save for his name, jobs as a Member of Parliament and as a Government Minister, and address; the publishers confirmed that Benn had sent back the draft entry with everything else struck through.[12] In the 1977 edition, Benn's entry disappeared entirely.[13] In October 1973 he announced on BBC Radio that he wished to be known as Mr Tony Benn rather than as Anthony Wedgwood Benn, and his book Speeches from 1974 is credited to "Tony Benn".

Tony's son Hilary Benn was a Labour cabinet minister under Blair and Brown.

Somewhat similarly, in New England, some merchant families such as the Eliots got out of business around 1820, and then went into religion, academia, and writing. (In 1818, the Royal Navy began to suppress the slave trade -- did that have something to do with the Eliot clan's career shift into uplift?). The old commercial wealth funded the careers of worthies such as Harvard president Charles Eliot, Harvard historian Samuel Eliot Morison, and poet T.S. Eliot.

Rock climbing and Latino littering

In the summer of 1977, I went rock climbing about a dozen times at Stoney Point in the northwest corner of the San Fernando Valley (on Topanga Canyon Blvd. just south of the Ronald Reagan Freeway, which is, now that I think of it, a very SoCal-sounding intersection). It's a sandstone promontory a couple of hundred feet high that played a historic role in the development of rock climbing in America. It was an early training ground of famous Yosemite climbers like Royal Robbins, Yvon Chouinard (founder of Patagonia), the late John Bachar, and top female climber Lynn Hill. Already by 1974, the city of Los Angeles had declared it a historical landmark.

Here are some videos on Stoney Point. I particularly liked the the 1970s "Eye on LA" segment.

By the end of that summer of 1977, I realized A) I was too clumsy to be a good rock climber and B) I was getting progressively more scared of heights as A) sunk in. So, I gave my climbing rope to my much better and braver friend Joe, who went on to do some big league climbing in Yosemite.

Yesterday, I went back to Stoney Point on a lovely spring day. It's still a beautiful place on a macro scale, but on a micro scale, the graffiti, trash, and broken glass everywhere were a drag.

The remaining rock climbers organize clean-up days (here are pictures).
Some of the trash picked up 9/9/2000
But, despite the altruistic efforts of old-timers, like a lot of particularly beautiful places in Southern California, such as Malibu Creek State Park and the upper San Gabriel River, Stoney Point is inundated by the bad habits of picnicking Latin American immigrants and their kids.

Was it this bad in 1977? I don't recall that it was, and the 1970s video doesn't suggest it either. I did find a photo from the 1950s that showed signs painted on the rock face as advertising for motorists driving by on Topanga. But, a big accomplishment of the rise of environmentalism in the 1960s-1970s was that Americans exerted greater self-discipline against the natural urge to litter and deface nature.

(Rock climbers took this preservationist ethic to an extreme by increasingly rejecting drilling bolts into the rock or even pounding pitons into cracks to secure their safety ropes, or rejecting ropes altogether, an ethos that a number of rock climbers, like local legend Bachar, have paid for with their lives.)

So, maybe in fifty years, Latinos will have caught up with where white Angelenos were in 1977. Or maybe not.

Is there any way to hurry this process along?

Conservationist Progressives of a century ago had multiple strategies for preserving America's natural beauty, including immigration restriction. Another was to publicly shame immigrant groups for engaging in retrograde behavior not up to sophisticated American standards.

This seems to have been fairly effective in inducing newcomers to assimilate to American norms. After all, people don't want their groups exposed to accurate criticism, so one way to avoid that is to stop doing what draws criticism.

The Keep America Beautiful campaign was organized by rich WASPs and corporations in 1953 to shame Americans into not littering. (The rise of non-biodegradable plastics made litter semi-permanent.) As commenters have noted, the biggest breakthrough was the 1971 "Crying Indian" TV PSA commercial that used Iron Eyes Cody to racially shame white people into not polluting their environment.

(Okay, Iron Eyes Cody was actually an Italian-American actor who specialized in playing Native Americans, but the point is that the "iconic" commercial worked.)

The more popular way to quiet correct criticism today, though, is to furiously denounce critics as racists. Any criticism of Latinos for their propensity to litter is a Stereotype demonstrating that you are full of Hate.

For example, if you type Latinos litter into Google, the first two responses are:

  1. Latinos Litter. Who Dares Say That? | VDARE.com

    May 7, 2005 – "An initial proposal that the small group of local artists drafted about the effort described its mission as ''educating Latinos to stop throwing ...

  2. A question on Latinos? - Yahoo! Answers

    answers.yahoo.com › ... › Politics & Government › Immigration
    17 answers - Jun 4, 2008
    I am Latina too (Mexican, to be specific) and I don't litter like you say. I hope you're not using stereotype, and I think you're not. I doubt they're ...
Thus, not surprisingly, Latinos continue to litter.

Almost 100 million people aren't smart enough to enlist in the military

Because the pundit class in America is related to so few people who want to enlist in the military, there's negligible media awareness of how hard it has become to join up. A major hurdle is scoring high enough on the AFQT cognitive test. 

The Pentagon isn't in any hurry to make its intelligence requirements explicable to the media.  The conventional wisdom is that intelligence testing is a racist hoax or it just applies to academia, not the real world, or whatever. The fact that the military is obsessive about cognitive testing is something that simply isn't in the reigning worldview, and the military is fine with that. It likes testing and it dislikes outside interference, so the more convoluted its jargon for talking about its intelligence requirements, the better.

For example, the entrance exam is, in one sense, the ASVAB, a 9 or 10 part 3-hour test. But a 4-part subset of the ASVAB called the AFQT determines whether you'll be allowed to enlist or not. (The non-AFQT ASVAB subtests influence assignments, such as to vehicle repair.)

Are you losing interest in this topic already as you try to keep ASVAB and AFQT straight? The military doesn't mind if outsiders are baffled and bored. In fact, it kind of likes it that way. And if potential recruits can't keep this stuff straight in their heads, well maybe they aren't military material.

The AFQT is a verbal and math test kind of like the SAT or ACT. AFQT scores are so highly g-loaded that they are pretty much interchangeable with IQ scores on a non-culture free IQ test like the Wechsler, according to a retired head of psychometrics for one of the major branches of the armed forces whom I interviewed at length in 2004. Much of The Bell Curve was based on the military's AFQT data that was normalized on the 1979 National Longitudinal Study of Youth. 

The Wikipedia article on the ASVAB gives the AFQT minimum scores to enlist as of December 2012:
AFQT scores are not raw scores, but rather percentile scores indicating how each examinee performed compared with all other examinees. Thus, someone who receives an AFQT of 55 scored better than 55 percent of all other examinees. Maximum possible score is 99 as a person can do better than 99 percent of those who took the test, but he cannot do better than himself, so the high percentile is 99.

From Wikipedia:

Standards for enlistment

AFQT required minimum scores for people with a high school diploma as of December 2012 (unless otherwise noted) are as follows:
Minimum AFQT
Tier ITier II
Branch≥ HS Diploma= GED
Air Force4065
Coast Guard4550 with 15 college credits
*Army National Guard3550
*Air National Guard3550

Also, if you get a GED and complete a certain number of college credits, that lets you use the HS Diploma column. 

So, the lowest percentile you can get into the military with is the Marines at the 32nd percentile (if you have a high school diploma, plus the Marines have plenty of physical and other requirements). With 315 million residents in the country, 31% percent aren't smart enough to join the Marines, so that's over 97 million.

But, with the recession and the winding down of the Iraq meatgrinder, the military now often won't let in kids who just barely make the minimums.

So, the current situation is actually worse for decent young people with 2-digit IQs than the Wikipedia table suggests. 

If you look around enough online you can find PDFs of statistical reports for the government that add even more insight. For example, the Congressional Research Service reported that the military branches have both quantity and quality goals in recruitment. The basic Department of Defense quality goals are that 90% of recruits have high school diplomas and 60% score above average on the AFQT (i.e., have a 3 digit IQ).

In FY 2011, all branches met their quantity goals and exceeded their quality goals. The Army had 99% high school graduates (i.e., not GEDs) with 63% scoring above average on the AFQT. The Marines had 100% grads with 72% scoring at the 50th percentile or higher. The Navy had 99% grads with 89% scoring above average. The Air Force had 100% grads with 99% above average in intelligence ("this would represent the highest “above-average AFQT” accession cohort of any service since the inception of the All-Volunteer Force in 1973," according to the CRS).

So, 150 million people, maybe more, couldn't join the Air Force in 2011 because they aren't smart enough. The Air Force is now Lake Wobegon and the other services are trending in that direction.

The various Reserves and National Guards are also exceeding their quality benchmarks.

The AFQT scores are normed versus the National Longitudinal Study of Youth 1997, the follow-up to the NLSY79 highlighted in The Bell Curve. I haven't looked into, but perhaps there is a Flynn Effect going on, which would making scoring a little easier than it was a decade-and-a-half ago. Also, people who want to join the military no doubt test prep on ASVAB/AFQT, while I presume the NLSY cohort didn't. So, the IQ hurdle to enlist is probably not quite as daunting as these numbers suggest, but still ...

I knew a kid who was working an MacDonalds, dealing a little weed, and then he resolved he was going to turn his life around by joining the Army. He started working out, developing a good attitude, and he impressed the recruiters. But he flunked the AFQT. The recruiters liked him so much that they sent him to a six-week AFQT boot camp where they lived in barracks, wore uniforms, followed military discipline, and studied to pass the AFQT. At the end, the day before they all took the AFQT, the sergeants picked this kid as the best example of the military virtues in the camp.

And then ... he still flunked the AFQT again.

In summary, every effective institution in America works hard to to select better people. But, the fake "immigration debate" going on right now has ruled out all discussion of just what is the quality of illegal immigrants.

Moreover, we have a whole bunch of our fellow American citizens who aren't of the cognitive quality currently necessary to fight for their country. Shouldn't we be worrying more about what kind of living they'll be able to earn before we care about solving Mexico's problems?

April 9, 2013

NYT: All we have to do to fix the schools is make the whole country as rich as the hedge fund capital

From the New York Times Magazine:
Who Knew Greenwich, Conn., Was a Model of Equality? 
... I had long known that Greenwich — with its grand estates — was ground zero for the 1 percent, but I was surprised to learn that nearly 4 percent of its residents live below the poverty line. “It takes a lot of labor to run those estates,” says Bob Arnold, president of Family Centers, a nonprofit social-service agency there. “They need housekeepers, cooks, landscapers.” I figured that many of those lower-income workers commuted from nearby places like White Plains, N.Y., or Stamford, Conn., where the rents are much cheaper. And many certainly do, but Arnold told me that the families who opt to live just on the Greenwich side of the New York border or in the apartments above the stores on Greenwich Avenue, fit a very specific profile: they pay the costs to have access to the schools that Greenwich’s high property-tax base affords.
What Greenwich doesn’t have is an abundance of affordable housing. Megan Sweeney, a director at Family Centers, explained that information about them is often guarded by family members or close friends. The Bonillas (a handyman from Spain) moved to Greenwich only because Veronica’s sister, Mercy Llerena, a manager of a private estate, went there from White Plains after marrying a man in town. ...
The Bonillas and Rozende felt lucky to have children in Greenwich. But historically speaking, researchers haven’t been so sure that it is beneficial to enroll low-income children in wealthier schools. A lot of sociological data, dating to the definitive Coleman Report of 1966, which studied the outcomes of 570,000 students, show that a child’s success in school, more than anything, was determined by her parents’ wealth and education level. So in the decades after the report was issued, attention was lavished on various reforms and integrating schools according to race, not economics. 
New research, however, suggests that economic integration may be the answer. Recently, Heather Schwartz, a policy researcher at the RAND Corporation, began studying the public-school system of Montgomery County, Md. The county, a suburb of Washington, has one of the most affluent populations in America and an innovative housing authority that allows low-income citizens to rent homes alongside wealthier neighbors at steeply discounted prices. The renters are randomly assigned to different parts of the county; some Montgomery County schools have many poor students, others have almost none. In 2009, Schwartz concluded that students from poor families did much better in predominantly wealthy schools than in predominantly poor ones. On average, the poorer children in wealthier schools cut their achievement gap in half compared with their peers in poorer schools. 
The same thing is happening at Greenwich High. Around 13 percent of the school’s students receive free or discounted lunches, a commonly used proxy for low income. And more than three-quarters of those students scored at or above proficiency on the most recent statewide 10th-grade performance tests. At nearby Stamford High School, where nearly 70 percent of students are on the lunch program, almost half the students failed to meet proficiency levels. 
Schwartz still isn’t exactly sure why poor kids do so much better when they are surrounded by wealthier ones, but the stability of wealthier districts probably plays a role. (“High-poverty schools are often lurching from crisis to crisis,” she told me.) As such, there is now a small but fast-growing effort to integrate schools on economic lines.
There is a tricky balance, however. If too many poor students are added to a high-income school, it would eventually become a low-income school; too few, and they may feel isolated. Schwartz says her research suggests that a possible solution is to encourage economic integration across school-district borders: students in the Bronx, say, could be invited to attend New Rochelle’s public schools and bring its low-income population up to 20 percent.

Okay, but New Rochelle has a population of 77,000, while the Bronx has a population of 1,408,000.

The reality is that we're running out of non-low income public school students with which to mix low-income students. Back in 2000, 38.3% of all public school students in the country. were eligible for free or reduced price school lunches. A decade later 48.0% were eligible. So, there's roughly one low income public school student for every non-low income public school student.

Good luck with the magic of Economic Integration with those numbers.

In general, I find that pundits frequently have a model in their head where "minorities," whether racial or economic, must be very minor in numbers. I mean, they're minorities, right? So their impact has to be, by definition, minor. Minorities couldn't possibly have had anything significant to do with the housing bubble, for example, because they are so rare. Thus, it likewise couldn't hurt to mix the minor number of minorities in with the majority of students who are, obviously white and comfortable.

This worldview can easily co-exist in the same skull with the Hispanic Electoral Tidal Wave and the notion that whites are obsolete and dying out and good riddance.

It's not hard to grasp whether something is considered Good or Bad and that's all that counts, not reality.

My Taki's column on Margaret Thatcher

My new Taki's Magazine column puts Mrs. Thatcher in historical perspective.

Gang of Eight announces immigration deal

The Gang of Eight is like the Gang of Four, just with twice as many running dogs.

Lawsuits rotting in the courts in South Dakota

We constantly hear about how there's a shortage of foreign unskilled workers that threatens to leave crops rotting in the fields if Big Ag doesn't get to employ more illegal aliens. Hence, solving the stoop laborer shortage through a larger guest worker program has been a high priority of the Gang of Eight in the Senate.

For some reason, though, politicians are less enthusiastic about importing foreign lawyers to keep lawsuits from rotting in the courts. Instead, in South Dakota where lawyers are scarce in rural areas, politicians have come up with an incredibly brilliant theoretical breakthrough in how to deal with a shortage of workers: offer higher pay!
No Lawyer for 100 Country Miles, So One Rural State Offers Pay 
MARTIN, S.D. — Rural Americans are increasingly without lawyers even as law school graduates are increasingly without jobs. Just 2 percent of small law practices are in rural areas, where nearly a fifth of the country lives, recent data show.... 
Last summer, the American Bar Association called on federal, state and local governments to stem the decline of lawyers in rural areas.
Last month, South Dakota became the first state to heed the call. It passed a law that offers lawyers an annual subsidy to live and work in rural areas ...
The new law, which will go into effect in June, requires a five-year commitment from the applicant and sets up a pilot program of up to 16 participants. They will receive an annual subsidy of $12,000, 90 percent of the cost of a year at the University of South Dakota Law School.

As we all know, the law of supply and demand does not apply to workers, but the Science of Economics will just have to make an exception to its exception in the case of lawyers.

Margaret Thatcher, John Gielgud, and real estate investing

From the website of the Noel Coward Society, a story recounted by Sheridan Morley (son of actor Robert Morley):
Morley recalled an occasion in the 1980s when, walking along Piccadilly with John Gielgud, they spotted Margaret Thatcher, then at the height of her powers, coming towards them. As they both knew her slightly, they stopped. Gielgud asked where she was now living. "No 10, Downing Street," replied the Prime Minister with some surprise. 
"Oh, you women!" exclaimed Gielgud, full of admiration. "Always so clever at buying the right kind of property!"