January 4, 2014

Universal pre-K: the fuel-injected drag racer of anti-inequality policies

New New York mayor Bill De Blasio's signature campaign promise is to fight income inequality with universal pre-K education.

If universal pre-K works as well as the new mayor promises at reducing income inequality, its effects should be statistically noticeable by the 2040s, and be visible to the naked eye by the 2060s. By 2075, universal pre-K's effectiveness at fighting income inequality should be undeniable.

Are we really ready for social change that's that radical and fast-moving?

Seriously, when I mention the role illegal immigration and the like plays in the growth of income inequality in the U.S., I'm often told: But we can't worry about the next generation, we have to do something now that will work fast to fight income inequality!

So, here's the great liberal hope focusing on fighting income inequality one 4-year-old at a time.

The Jewish Journal on "Wolf of Wall Street"

DiCaprio / Belfort
Rob Eshman, publisher of the Jewish Journal, writes about The Wolf of Wall Street:
‘The Wolf’ and the Jewish problem 
... But I do regret that Scorsese chose not to deal with the fact that Jordan Belfort is Jewish. Although some of the characters in “Wolf,” like Jonah Hill’s Donnie Azoff, are clearly portrayed as Jews, even to the point of wearing chai necklaces around their coke-frosted necks, Belfort, with his Anglo looks and Frenchy name, is left to be simply American. I get it: To do otherwise might give the movie a whiff of anti-Semitic caricature. Scorsese feels much safer depicting the Italian-ness of his violent mobsters than the Jewishness of his greedy con men.

Final round of 2010 International
Power Staring tournament
Or maybe it's because these days Scorsese makes Leonardo DiCaprio movies. And DiCaprio appears to be 1/4 Italian, 1/4 German, and, as he told Vladimir Putin in 2010, 1/2 Russian (although his apparently Russian maternal grandparents lived in Germany, where his grandfather was a coalminer). Scorsese could cast his former main man De Niro as Jewish in Casino, but DiCaprio would be a tougher sell.
But, just between us, let’s talk about Belfort-the-Jew — let’s go there. In the movie, you never really understand how someone so gifted can be so morally unmoored. But in his memoir, upon which the movie is based, whenever Belfort refers to his Jewish roots, the diagnosis becomes more apparent.  
He is a kid from Long Island. His dad, Max, grew up “in the old Jewish Bronx, in the smoldering economic ashes of the Great Depression.” Belfort didn’t grow up poor by any means, he just wasn’t rich enough. The hole in him wasn’t from poverty, but from desire for acceptance. The “blue-blooded WASPs,” Belfort writes, “viewed me as a young Jewish circus attraction.”  
Belfort had a chip on his shoulder the size of a polo pony, and so did everyone he recruited. They were, he writes, “the most savage young Jews anywhere on Long Island: the towns of Jericho and Syosset. It was from out of the very marrow of these two upper-middle-class Jewish ghettos that the bulk of my first hundred Strattonites had come….” 
It’s not complicated, really. Poor little Jordan wanted to show those WASPs whose country clubs he couldn’t join that he was smarter, richer, better.

I really am going to have to write about the country club thing one of these days. I've found an Anti-Defamation League report from a half century ago on country clubs that's pretty interesting.
What he failed to understand is that just about every Jew, every minority, shares the same impulses. But only a select few decide the only way to help themselves is to hurt others.    
Belfort, like Bernie Madoff, is an extreme example. These are guys who feel they have nothing, they are nothing, so they will do anything to acquire everything. They cross a pretty clear line and just keep going. 
The question that gnaws at me is whether there’s something amiss in the vast gray area that leads right up to that line. Are the Belforts and Madoffs unnatural mutations, or are they inevitable outgrowths of attitudes that have taken root in our communities? ... 
These days, we are deep in the pit arguing over the American Studies Association’s (ASA) boycott of Israeli academics and whether Jewish students at Swarthmore College’s Hillel should open their doors to anti-Zionist speakers. We have devoted so many smart words and fiery sermons to these issues, you’d think the entire Jewish future depended upon them. Never mind that there are bridge clubs bigger than the ASA, and that the State of Israel, with its history, power and genius, may just survive the withering onslaught of a panel discussion in suburban Pennsylvania. The Jewish world never lacks for turbulent conversations. My only concern is whether they're the right ones. Talking about Israel is easy — talking about money is uncomfortable. 
But these are the conversations we need to be having. What’s the right way to make money? How much is enough? How much must we share, and with whom? We are blessed to be living at a time of unparalleled Jewish power and wealth, and it makes us so uneasy, we prefer to talk about everything but.

Tar Heel African American studies scandal

I took a lecture course in industrial and organizational psychology in college, and one student assigned to my study group had just been named the first team All-American quarterback. I looked around for him, but he never seemed to show. Yet, when the grades on the final were tacked up, the QB had scored pretty well, which seemed awfully industrious and organized of him. He must have done a lot of studying on his own. 

From Bloomberg Businessweek:
The Scandal Bowl: Tar Heels Football, Academic Fraud, and Implicit Racism 
By Paul M. Barrett  January 02, 2014
The recent criminal indictment of an African American studies scholar at the University of North Carolina sheds dismaying light on how big-time college sports corrupt academics. This scandal, unfolding since 2011, has the potential to destroy a vaunted football program at a prestigious public university.

North Carolina is a modestly above average football program, having gone to a bowl game six times in the last ten years. (The Tar Heels have traditionally been a famous basketball program instead -- Michael Jordan, for example, was a Tarheel.) What do you think happens at really good football colleges?
The impact could be—and ought to be—far broader than that of the Penn State child-rape debacle.

Don't bet on it. Mr. Barrett should review his Journalism 101 notes on the distinction between Man-Bites-Dog and Dog-Bites-Man stories.
That’s because the deceit in Chapel Hill points to more systemic weaknesses than the failure in University Park to stop one monster coach who preyed on little boys. And the Tar Heels fiasco adds race to the toxic mixture of athletics and rank hypocrisy. 
Last month a grand jury in Orange County, N.C., indicted Julius Nyang’oro for defrauding UNC by accepting payment for teaching a no-show course on “blacks in North Carolina.” The 19 students in AFAM 280 were current or former members of the Tar Heels football team, allegedly steered to the phantom class by academic advisers who sought to help elite athletes maintain high enough grades to remain eligible for competition. AFAM 280 was one of dozens of courses offered by North Carolina’s African & Afro-American Studies Department, formerly chaired by Nyang’oro, that never actually met, according to investigators. Known for rigorous academics, North Carolina allegedly operated a Potemkin department since the late 1990s. ...

Back when Rice U. was mediocre at football despite being the smallest Division I school, it had a Commerce department whose courses were restricted to scholarship athletes. Then, the the school got rid of the mysterious football players' department and the team got really bad, winning just 7 games during my 4 years at Rice.
The scope of the apparent wrongdoing defies belief.

Not mine.
One investigation by a former governor of North Carolina, James Martin, found that as many as 560 unauthorized grade changes were made, often with forged faculty signatures. Nyang’oro, a native of Tanzania who ran the Afro-American department for 20 years, even though he frequently spent extended periods of time overseas, has refused so far to explain himself publicly. His criminal defense lawyer says the disgraced professor didn’t violate the law and is being used as a scapegoat.

The notion that Nyang’oro was defrauding the university for the last 20 years by doing things like not holding classes for some of the most talked about (and largest) individuals on campus sounds funny enough to make the "scapegoat" charge highly plausible.
... The university’s provost, James Dean Jr., told the Times that UNC couldn’t have anticipated or detected Nyang’oro’s 14-year-long reign of fraud. “Universities for a very long time have been based on trust,” the provost said. “One of the ramifications of this is that now we can no longer operate on trust.” 
That’s laughable. I predict that further investigation will reveal that the fraud reached deep into the Tar Heel athletic hierarchy and that senior academic officials will also turn out to have been at least aware of improprieties. Now that he’s been indicted, Nyang’oro has an incentive to tell prosecutors who knew what he was doing and who encouraged him to do it. ... 
• Implicit racism colors this entire episode. One of the most horrifying aspects of the exploitation of high-level college athletes, especially football and basketball players, is the vastly disproportionate impact on African American “students.” Too many black athletes with unrealistic dreams of NBA or NFL stardom arrive on campus unprepared academically and are allowed to depart with little meaningful classroom education.
Walter Byers, the first executive director of the NCAA and now a critic of its practices, has described the “plantation mentality resurrected and blessed by today’s campus executives”—painful words, carefully chosen. Would UNC have tolerated the thorough undermining of an entire academic department other than Afro-American studies? Hard to picture. Could Nyang’oro and those who presumably aided and abetted him have come up with course titles any more likely to please skeptics of black-oriented scholarship? 
The first three classes confirmed to have been fraudulent, according to the News & Observer, pretended to offer students training in the Swahili language. An old-time Carolina Klan member couldn’t have conjured that detail in his most virulent daydream.

The Gaussian distribution says that about 5/6ths of African-Americans have IQs below 100. Should the best athletes among that 5/6th be denied a chance to play football or basketball beyond age 18 just because the genetic lottery that dealt them a winning combination of brawn genes wasn't so generous with the brain genes? On the other hand, should they be hanging around academically-oriented college campuses?

I knew a black kid who was an amazingly bad high school student. He couldn't sit still in class -- he'd be up on top of his desk dancing. But as a cornerback, when the opposing team was marching down the field for the winning touchdown and the defense was crumbling into chaos, he'd become the calmest individual on the field, locked in on the quarterback's eyes and stepping in for game-saving interceptions. He got a "scholarship" to some HBC like Alabama A&M, which seemed nice.

But Alabama A&M doesn't have a lot of rich alumni desperate for cornerbacks, so larger versions of this kid are constantly being recruited to state flagship universities.

January 3, 2014

2013 iSteve blog stats: 13,526,540 minutes viewed

Here are some 2013 statistics just for my iSteve.blogspot.com site -- i.e., not counting outside articles, reprints of my blog, or old iSteve.com writings.

What about RSS feeds? Does Google Analytics count those? No. So, the following are underestimates, but they are still pretty interesting.

1,389 posts = 3.8 per day (365 days per year)

Pageviews: 6,635,426 (18,179 per day)

All Visits: 3,831,881 (10,498 per day)

Pageviews by Old Users: ~5,700,000

Avg. Visit Duration - All Users: 3:32

Avg. Visit Duration - New Users: 2:02

Minutes spent on iSteve: 13,526,540

Man-Years (24/7) spent reading iSteve in 2013: 25.7

Man-Years (40 hour week) spent reading iSteve in 2013: 90.7

New Users: 936,550

This nearly a million "New Users" number in 2013 seems big, but it is less impressive than it looks, since the conversion rate of new visitors into regular readers is low.

I appreciate it when you regular readers say that if only ol' Steve got noticed the whole world would beat a path to his door, but you guys are biased.

The reality is that web searches bring a lot of people to individual postings I've written and then ... it doesn't make much impression on them. They presumably stare blankly for awhile and then they're on their way.

I suspect that my combination of highbrow content without highbrow affectation is a turnoff for the vast majority of random visitors. They can't quite follow what I'm talking about -- I keep drawing analogies they've never heard before, and I keep shifting perspectives and tones and it's hard to tell if I'm being serious or satirical -- but whatever it is, I'm talking about it in this plain Dave Barry-type style, so they figure the reason my ideas aren't recognizable to them as old ideas they are comfortable with must be because I'm stupid.

I mean, what other explanation could there be?

In general:

There's a huge market for non-highbrow content in a non-highbrow style.
There's a large market for non-highbrow content in a highbrow style.
There's a small market for highbrow content in a highbrow style.
And there's a tiny market for highbrow content in a non-highbrow style.

The good news is that for smart people comfortable in their own skulls, that unpopular fourth quadrant offers a high bandwidth.

Having a decent share of a tiny market adds up to some fairly large numbers.

The Google Analytics system isn't set up to deliver the most useful numbers, but after poking around for awhile I'd say that my blog seems to average in recent months a little under 5,000 individuals as daily (or more frequent) readers, while a little under 10,000 are weekly (or more frequent) readers.

Thus, the top 10,000 iSteve readers average perhaps 275 visits and 550 pages per year (many of those pages being the main page, which has multiple postings).

Overall, 13.5 million minutes were spent viewing this blog last year, or 25.7 round-the-clock man-years. (In other words, at any moment, there are an average of 26 people currently reading iSteve.) Working 40 hours per week, it would take a staff of 91 to do all that reading. (Of course, in the real world, they'd have to spend 20 hours per week in diversity sensitivity self-criticism sessions, so make that a staff of 182.) At 91 full-time-equivalents, I'm probably using up $5 or $10 million per year of your time.

Uh-oh. The old marketing man in me says I should probably rephrase that ...

Okay, let's try: Reading iSteve is worth $5 or $10 million per year. 

That's better!


The economics of the Gulen cult's American charter schools

Why does the Gulenist cult of Turkey want to be the largest operator of taxpayer supported charter schools in America? What's in it for them?

One reason is because it allows the cult to build up a caste of Gulenist businesses at taxpayer expense by doing business largely with other Turkish Gulenist immigrants. They appear to be skimming somewhat, but not too much that they get in trouble. Instead they are playing a long game to use American taxpayer money as seed capital to build up Gulenist economic power in America. 

Think of it this way: banks are one of the big gatekeepers to deciding who grows and who fails in run of the mill businesses like construction and food service. Banks like to give loans to companies that have sizable government contracts, such as from schools, because the government's checks are less likely to bounce nor will the government suddenly vanish. So, firms that have cozy relationships with public schools can get loans to grow bigger.

A 2011 NYT article on the big Harmony chain of Gulenist charter schools in Texas more or less explained the strategy:
Other companies scrambling for work in a poor economy wondered: How had they qualified for such big jobs so fast?
The secret lay in the meteoric rise and financial clout of the Cosmos Foundation, a charter school operator founded a decade ago by a group of professors and businessmen from Turkey. Operating under the name Harmony Schools, Cosmos has moved quickly to become the largest charter school operator in Texas, with 33 schools receiving more than $100 million a year in taxpayer funds.
While educating schoolchildren across Texas, the group has also nurtured a close-knit network of businesses and organizations run by Turkish immigrants. The businesses include not just big contractors like TDM but also a growing assemblage of smaller vendors selling school lunches, uniforms, after-school programs, Web design, teacher training and even special education assessments.
Some of the schools’ operators and founders, and many of their suppliers, are followers of Fethullah Gulen, a charismatic Turkish preacher of a moderate brand of Islam whose devotees have built a worldwide religious, social and nationalistic movement in his name. Gulen followers have been involved in starting similar schools around the country — there are about 120 in all, mostly in urban centers in 25 states, one of the largest collections of charter schools in America. 
The growth of these “Turkish schools,” as they are often called, has come with a measure of backlash, not all of it untainted by xenophobia. 

Judging from the readers' comments, Brain Freeze set in for a lot of NYT readers at that point.
The schools, Dr. Tarim said, follow all competitive bidding rules, and do not play favorites in awarding contracts. In many cases, Turkish-owned companies have in fact been the low bidders. 
Even so, records show that virtually all recent construction and renovation work has been done by Turkish-owned contractors. Several established local companies said they had lost out even after bidding several hundred thousand dollars lower.... 
In response to questions, Harmony provided a list showing that local American contractors had been awarded 13 construction and renovation jobs over the years. But a review of contracts since January 2009 — 35 contracts and $82 million worth of work — found that all but 3 jobs totaling about $1.5 million went to Turkish-owned businesses. 
TDM, builder of the new San Antonio school, is one of several companies that stand out — for the size of their contracts, their seemingly overnight success or both. One of TDM’s owners, records and interviews show, is Kemal Oksuz, president of the Turquoise Council for Americans and Eurasians, an umbrella group over several foundations established by Gulen followers. Since TDM was formed in November 2009, its work has involved only Harmony Schools and a job at the Turquoise Council headquarters, according to a company accountant.
Another TDM principal is a civil engineer, Osman Ozguc. 
“Please don’t think that I’m a new guy, inexperienced in this area,” Mr. Ozguc said when asked about the San Antonio project, explaining that he had 26 years of construction experience, mostly on large projects in Turkey. “I provided all the requirements asked in the bid. And when we got the job, we delivered in a very short time period, and with a very economical result.” He did acknowledge that change orders had added about $1 million to the cost. 
Mr. Ozguc said he formed TDM after a split from Solidarity, another Houston company that has done major ground-up construction jobs for Harmony in the past two years. Records show that Solidarity is run by Levent Ulusal, a civil engineer with a prior connection to Harmony: he was a school business manager until March 2009, when he joined Solidarity. 
Since Texas charter schools do not get separate public money for facilities, Harmony’s construction program is financed by bonds that will be paid off over time using regular public payments to the schools, bond documents show. The group has issued more than $200 million in bonds since 2007, making it the state’s largest charter school bond issuer.

And about 98% of that $200 million in bonds appears to have gone to Gulenist cult businesses, plus a very large fraction of the $100 million or so in annual operating costs. And that's just one state!
With public money in play, Texas law requires charter schools to award contracts to the bidder that offers the “best value.” Lowest is not necessarily best, with the schools given leeway. But the criteria for choosing the best bidder must be clear. 
Last year, local contractors questioned the fairness of bidding on two Harmony renovation jobs in the Austin area. On one job, in the suburb of Pflugerville, the low bidder, at $1.17 million, was a well-known Texas company, Harvey-Cleary. The job went to Atlas Texas Construction and Trading, even though its bid was several hundred thousand dollars higher. Atlas, with offices in Texas and Turkey, shows up on a list of Gulen-affiliated companies in a 2006 cable from the American Consul General in Istanbul, Deborah K. Jones, that was released by WikiLeaks. 
A vice president of Harvey-Cleary said Harmony never explained its decision.
The same day Atlas won the Pflugerville contract, it got a job at another Austin-area Harmony school, even though four bidders came in lower. 
Harmony Schools asked two architects to analyze the disputed Austin jobs. Both architects had previously worked for Harmony Schools; both concluded that the jobs should have been awarded to Atlas. 
Atlas has an eclectic business portfolio: for several years, it has also supplied breakfast and lunch at many Harmony schools. The contract is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. 
Two other bidders submitted formal catering proposals. One was Preferred Meal Systems, a national company that undercut Atlas’s price by 78 cents a day, a substantial margin given that the two meals are often supplied for about $4.

So, they are cheating some. But not so much that the buildings fall down. But the point is not just the difference between low bid and what the Turkish firms bid, it's that they get these government contracts at all, which can allow them to grow more via bank loans and buy more from other cult members using our money. Then the firms can et H-1B visas to bring in more cultists.

Taxpayer supported education is essentially a zero sum game fought out among those who wish to be compensated for supplying it. A Turkish takeover of taxpayer schools means less for Americans, both first order (salaries) and, especially, second order (contracting).

There are a lot of analogs to this within the U.S. For example, you probably don't want to be a local businessman in Utah who isn't a Mormon, because Mormon businessmen like to deal with other Mormon businessmen. Still, Mormons are Americans, and these Turkish cultists aren't. 

I've never heard of anybody who isn't Turkish or a Turkic-language speaker from a Central Asian country like Turkmenistan belonging to the cult: Turkic-ethnocentrism is a major component of the Gulen movement.

In general, immigrants tend to develop these you scratch my back and I'll scratch your back business networks that freeze out Americans. Of course, part of the best defense is a good offense strategy is to complain loudly about discrimination and xenophobia on the part of Americans. It seems very strange for Americans to subsidize this anti-American economic behavior with our taxes.

If you read the comments in the New York Times, you can see why America is such a big fat target for random cults and mafias from around the world: the most common reaction is that the real problem is the racist Christianist Texans. Another popular position is: Sounds better than the normal public schools ruined by unions. (Texas doesn't actually have real teachers unions with collective bargaining rights.)

It's Ibn Khaldun 101. The 13th Century North African sociologist developed a model for cycles of ethnic succession in which the highly solidaristic winner tribes who come out of the desert and conquer the fat lands morally degenerate as they enjoy their conquests, and after a few generations devote all their animus to backstabbing each other, never noticing the hungry eyes watching them from the fringes. 

Of course, the difference is that we invite them in and give them hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.

2 to 3 standard deviation gap in pull-up power between male and female Marines

You've probably heard that the Obama Administration's demand to put women in combat has stumbled upon only 45% of females at the end of Marines boot camp being able to do the minimum required three pull-ups. That's compared to 99% of men, which suggests a z-score difference of two to three standard deviations.

The Marines have always been a public relations juggernaut so they had the cojones to release this data, but they're still going to give in to the zeitgeist and change the requirements for women. But I doubt if they'll actually have many women storm the beaches, just as none of the 343 firepersons who died on 9/11 were women, and nobody has ever seemed to have a problem with that.

Eventually, a couple of decades from now, feminists will be shocked, shocked to discover that women in combat units aren't actually being sent into ground battles with packs full of depleted uranium ammunition, they're just being handed iPads and told to keep track of stuff while the men go do the fighting. This will cause a big hubbub in 2032 and eventually most of the women officers on combat-watching duty will be given promotions, and then the subject will disappear down the memory hole until it becomes the feminist brouhaha of 2052 and then 2072. Democrats have to win elections, you know.

As I pointed out in 1997, if America is serious about narrowing this Gap, the obvious solution is steroids, lots and lots of steroids. If women don't have enough natural male hormones to validate your theories, then just shoot them up with artificial male hormones.

Rajaonarimampianina wins

From Reuters:
ANTANANARIVO — Former Finance Minister Hery Rajaonarimampianina won Madagascar's run-off presidential election, the electoral commission (CENIT) said on Friday, but his main rival claims the vote was rigged. 
CENIT leader Beatrice Atallah said Rajaonarimampianina, the candidate backed by President Andry Rajoelina who ousted his predecessor in a coup in 2009, won 53.5 percent of the December 20 vote. 
He beat Jean Louis Robinson, who ended up with 46.5 percent but has demanded a recount. Robinson's camp has filed almost 300 complaints to the electoral court, which now has to rule on the result. 
The poll, the fist since former disc jockey Rajoelina grabbed power, is meant to end a crisis that has driven out investors, cut aid flows and sharply slowed the economy.

The name "Rajaonarimampianina" is a reminder that many Madagascarenes' ancestors arrived in prehistoric times from the land of multi-syllabic names on the other side of the Indian Ocean, 4,000 miles away. The southeast Asians or Borneoans got to Madagascar before the Africans. Jared Diamond considers that an even more remarkable feat of seamanship than the Polynesian settlement of the Pacific.

Oddly enough, Rajaonarimampianina himself looks like an East African black guy and, judging from campaign rally photos has overwhelmingly black supporters, while his opponent Jean Louis Robinson, or perhaps Robinson Jean Louis, is an Indochinese-looking fellow.

Is Robinson named after Robinson Crusoe? Many people were shipwrecked on Madagascar. It was said to be the site of the Pirate Utopia of Libertatia in the 1724 book A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the most notorious Pyrates, an influential work that introduced such perennials of pirate lore as peg-legs, buried treasure, and the Jolly Roger flag. It was penned by "Captain Charles Johnson," which has often been assumed to have been a pseudonym for history's most energetic individual, Daniel Defoe (who is said to have written under 198 pseudonyms), although it may well have been somebody else cashing in on the mania for Robinson Crusoe stories. 

January 2, 2014

Indian Olympic athletes: Now on steroids, yet still bad

For a long time, the South Asian countries were unusual in their refreshing lack of interest in most sports. Giant India, for example, won only a single medal at both the 2000 and 2004 summer Olympics. But in 2012, India was up to six medals (none gold, though). 

What's the secret behind this sextupling of medalage in just eight years? How are they doing it? Apparently, the same way wiry Dominican utility infielders became massive Dominican sluggers, just not as effectively.

From the NYT:
Banned Substances Claim an Outsize Role in Athletics in India 
Steroids and Sports in India: Nearly 500 athletes from India have tested positive for banned substances since 2009, when the country’s National Anti-Doping Agency became fully functional. 
... Athletes around the world have had their careers marred by doping, but Indian athletes, with easy access to legal steroids and limited knowledge about their consequences, lead the world in suspensions for performance-enhancing drug use. 
Nearly 500 have tested positive for banned substances since 2009, when India’s National Anti-Doping Agency, known as NADA, became fully functional. In 2012 alone, 178 Indians were barred from competition. Russia has had the second-highest number of suspensions, with more than 260 athletes barred since 2009. 
At the same time, Russia, with a population of 143 million, has had great international athletic success, and India, a nation of 1.2 billion, has underperformed. India has won only 26 medals in the 113 years it has competed in the Olympic Games. Russia has earned 482 Olympic medals since it began competing as the Russian Federation in the 1994 Winter Games.

Tiger Mom Chua's new book on ethnicity

Amy Chua, author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, and her fellow Yale Law School professor and husband Jed Rubenfeld have a new book coming out in a month:
The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America  
Amy Chua (Author), Jed Rubenfeld (Author)
It may be taboo to say, but some groups in America do better than others. Mormons have recently risen to astonishing business success. Cubans in Miami climbed from poverty to prosperity in a generation. Nigerians earn doctorates at stunningly high rates. Indian and Chinese Americans have much higher incomes than other Americans; Jews may have the highest of all. 
Why do some groups rise? Drawing on groundbreaking original research and startling statistics, The Triple Package uncovers the secret to their success. A superiority complex, insecurity, impulse control—these are the elements of the Triple Package, the rare and potent cultural constellation that drives disproportionate group success. The Triple Package is open to anyone. America itself was once a Triple Package culture. It’s been losing that edge for a long time now. Even as headlines proclaim the death of upward mobility in America, the truth is that the old fashioned American Dream is very much alive—but some groups have a cultural edge, which enables them to take advantage of opportunity far more than others. 
• Americans are taught that everyone is equal, that no group is superior to another. But remarkably, all of America’s most successful groups believe (even if they don’t say so aloud) that they’re exceptional, chosen, superior in some way.  
• Americans are taught that self-esteem—feeling good about yourself—is the key to a successful life. But in all of America’s most successful groups, people tend to feel insecure, inadequate, that they have to prove themselves.  
• America today spreads a message of immediate gratification, living for the moment. But all of America’s most successful groups cultivate heightened discipline and impulse control. 
But the Triple Package has a dark underside too. Each of its elements carries distinctive pathologies; when taken to an extreme, they can have truly toxic effects. Should people strive for the Triple Package? Should America? Ultimately, the authors conclude that the Triple Package is a ladder that should be climbed and then kicked away, drawing on its power but breaking free from its constraints.

I reviewed Chua's first book, World on Fire, about market dominant minorities, for VDARE in 2003.

PBS: The "Greed Is Good" 1980s as a war on anti-Semitism

Back in the 1980s when I believed everything I read on the Wall Street Journal op-ed page, the junk bond mergers & acquisition boom was often justified as a war on anti-Semitism in American business life. Eventually, after Ivan Boesky and Mike Milken went to jail and junk bonds contributed to the early 1990s recession, you stopped hearing that interpretation quite so much, but it's still out there. Certainly, nobody is much interested in debunking it.

From PBS.org, here's a preview of a new book that revives the argument that the 1980s leveraged buyout bubble was payback for discrimination against Jews. It's by John Weir Close and is called A Giant Cow-Tipping by Savages: The Boom, Bust, and Boom Culture of M&A
The Lucky Sperm Club: Jews, M&A and the Unlocking of Corporate America

By John Weir Close 
John Weir Close tells the inside story of the development of the mergers and acquisitions movement in the 1980s -- a phenomenon that has ruled global commerce ever since.  
"This isn't giving me an erection." 
Joe Flom tossed the brief back across his desk with a scowl at his 20-something associate Stuart Shapiro. 
"I'm not surprised at your age," Shapiro said without missing a beat. Flom often used the erection remark to shock, intimidate and galvanize, but no one had ever answered him in quite the same way. "I just figured if the guy's going to be a bully, I can do it back. We got along well after that," Shapiro says 40-odd years later, noting with a smile that Flom was then around 50, the better part of two decades younger than Shapiro is now. 
They call themselves the Lucky Sperm Club. It is the 1980s and Shapiro is soon to be a member of the set of young lawyers at the rising firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom who are fortunate enough to sit at the feet of Joe Flom, the guru of a generation, a gruff and slightly hunch-backed, recently obese, small man with both pitiable social insecurities and serene confidence in his prodigious intellect. 
Flom and his arch-rival and co-conspirator, Marty Lipton, are inventing modern mergers and acquisitions, or M&A, which, because of these two men, will soon become both a craft with a name all its own and a phenomenon that has ruled global commerce ever since. 
At Lipton's firm -- Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz -- a similar if unnamed group of young men is also ascending rapidly to top positions and growing ever richer, working directly and often virtually singled-handedly with powerful clients, with Lipton's genius always accessible. In all but name, the Lucky Sperm Club is rapidly spawning new chapters at other firms and banks around Manhattan and beyond as the emerging specialty gathers shape. 
M&A has a deceptively mundane definition. It means taking control of a company, with or without the consent of the executives running it. Since it is expensive to build a business from nothing, it is often seen as more profitable to take over what has already been built by others. In one stroke, you expand your business and eliminate a competitor. If you're purely an investor, you can keep the company or sell it off for profit. To gain control of a corporation in the modern era, you either offer to buy the stock from the existing shareholders or ask them to vote their shares in favor of your nominees for the board of directors, who, if elected, turn over the company to you. 
That's basically it. It sounds simple, and it is, but variations proliferate as fast as the human mind can invent them. M&A has grown rampantly in power and complexity to reach a global value of around $4.7 trillion at its recent highest point, more than the GDP of Germany, the fifth largest economy in the world. M&A has revolutionized corporate Earth and enriched the members of the guild as perhaps none of them ever imagined.

As explored in my recent book, "A Giant Cow-Tipping By Savages," modern M&A has not been driven by Scottish immigrants in Pittsburgh or French Huguenots in the Hudson Valley capturing entire swathes of the nation's resources in the absence of government regulation. To the contrary, in the late 20th century, M&A was driven by two Jews, Marty Lipton and Joe Flom, who had simultaneous epiphanies about how to take advantage of new government regulation -- in other words, how to turn the rules into an instruction manual for transforming the buying and selling of companies into a profession in itself.

Michael Milken deserves some credit/blame as well for coming up with the most important financing method: newly-issued junk bonds.
But rather than seek to buy, sell or keep companies themselves, they became the Sherpas, interpreting regulatory maps and making up new law as they went along. 
As recently as the 1970s, Jews and all others not of the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant ascendancy were still excluded from any position of real power at the bar, on the bench, at banks and in boardrooms.

Uh, that might have come as a bit of a surprise to Supreme Court justices Brandeis, Cardozo, Frankfurter, Goldberg, and Fortas, to Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, and Kuhn, Loeb, to media moguls like Louis B. Mayer, and on and on. But exaggerating the degree of discrimination one's ancestors suffered in the past is a good tool for justifying cutting ethical corners in the present. Who can remember a lot of details about the past, anyway? Just bang the gong about how discriminatory WASPs used to be and who will take time to run any reality checks in their heads? (This book's author hasn't and he isn't Jewish as far as I can tell from his career -- he worked in Saudi Arabia for awhile.)
America was still an agglomeration of ghettos: Italians knew Italians, Jews knew Jews, Poles knew Poles, Irish knew Irish, WASPs barely knew any of them existed and the Cabots spoke only to God. 
"When I came to New York in the '70s, the WASP aristocracy still reigned," the Lucky Sperm Club's Shapiro recalls. "You didn't see an Asian face above Canal Street. You didn't see a black face in a law firm unless it was the mailroom. You certainly didn't see an Hispanic face. Swarthy Italians and Jews? They were not people you dealt with." 
Yet again, as happened so often in their history, the Jews somehow found their own methods to carry them past such barriers, and once those blockades were destroyed, other demographics followed. 
But it was primarily Jews who first became expert in taking over companies against the will of their existing executives. The white-shoe law firms and elite investment banks found this simultaneously distasteful and tantalizing in the same way medieval merchants viewed the lending of money at interest. Both groups were discouraged from joining in one of the most profitable enterprises of their day: the old merchants by, among other things, an ecclesiastical ban on the practice of usury; the new lawyers, by the establishment's social codes of behavior. Again, the Jews found themselves in control of an industry that then perpetuated the stereotype: the omnipotent, venal Machiavellian, hands sullied by the unsavory. But the business of takeovers paid the rent. And then some. 
Yes, they were making money. And yes, that got the attention of the rest of Wall Street. But the takeover gang was also having fun. They were running through the streets wielding megaphones and announcing the revolution. They changed everything. Like West Indian slave revolts in the 1800s, which disrupted the fortunes of the likes of Jane Austen's Sir Thomas Bertram, the new M&A industry transformed public corporations -- the establishment's repositories of power and wealth -- into very public, very visible and very vulnerable sugar plantations open to all with the will, the intelligence, and sometimes, the personality disorders needed to gain entry.

Uh ... I don't know where to begin with unpacking this simile (which is no doubt inspired by Edward Said's attack on Mansfield Park). I guess the point of it is that the Greed Is Good era on Wall Street was good for black slaves during Jane Austen's day, at least metaphorically speaking. In summary, Sir Thomas Bertram was mean to blacks in 1814, so Lipton and Flom metaphorically avenged them in 1985.

Granted, this idea sounds really stupid when you type it out, but it appears to be pretty persuasive these days to a lot of people when it's merely alluded to.
M&A quickly divided itself into two separate but equally important gangs: the corporate acquirers who do the buying and the M&A advisers who show them how it's done. The former are the collectors. Like bower birds, who attract female mates with the colorful trinkets they gather to decorate their nests, these men began to collect compulsively: houses, wives, antique carriages, acres, books-by-the-yard, furniture, airplanes, companies. Dominant members of the species included Sir James Goldsmith, a British mogul with a secret terror of rubber bands who was reportedly the model for Sir Larry Wildman in the 1987 movie "Wall Street"; John Kluge, at one time the richest man in America after his breakup of Metromedia, who became infamous for his grisly pheasant shoot in Virginia; and Robert Campeau, known for bankrupting a swathe of North American department stores while fending off his own aging with the injection of fetal lamb brain cells. 
The M&A advisers -- the lawyers and bankers who actually do the work -- are like vervet monkeys, more highly evolved than bower birds. Clever and quick social animals with a strict hierarchy, they have a special alarm for each species of corporate raider or, depending on the kind of deal, each potential target. Flom and Lipton and the lesser members of their respective monkey troops were the instant, and only, experts to whom judges and fellow lawyers would come on bended knee for explication of their alarm calls, the takeover assault weapons and the defenses against raiders that they were creating on the backs of menus at the hottest restaurants in town. 
Skadden's Lucky Sperm Club adopted the Quilted Giraffe as its clubhouse -- at the time, the most celebrity-stuffed establishment in Manhattan. ... 
Among the Lucky Sperm stars that night there was a certain air of schadenfreude. They were embroiled in their campaign to conquer Revlon for their client Ron Perelman and his company, known as Pantry Pride.

The battle for Revlon was written about endlessly in the 1980s as a struggle between the dying WASP past and the new money meritocracy. Of course, certain details didn't quite fit the narrative ...
Perelman at the time was an unknown adventurer and a serial acquirer. 
In 1985, M&A was exploding into maturity in the courts and boardrooms, and the Revlon war epitomized this sudden transformation of both commerce and culture. Few American corporations in the mid-1980s embodied glamour and power more thoroughly and with more fanfare than Revlon, a global brand brought to full flower by its former leader, the self-aggrandizing and self-tortured Charles Revson and then by Revson's hand-picked successor, Michel Bergerac, who ensured that the company was the commercial and cultural lodestar of the establishment. ...
"There was this sense that we are the nobility. And who is this -- you should excuse the expression -- Jew from Philadelphia ...Who is he to interrupt our garden party in our Fourth-Floor-of-Abercrombie-&-Fitch-decorated headquarters in the city's fanciest building with the best views of Central Park in New York?" says Stu Shapiro about the predominant attitude within the Revlon kingdom they were trying to acquire. 
"This Jew" -- Shapiro's client -- was Ronald Owen Perelman, salivating on his cigar, blurting out his ungrammatical fragments, daring to attack august Revlon, with its $2.3 billion in assets, from his perch atop a small, recently bankrupt Florida food chain with assets of barely $400 million. Perhaps most galling of all was the silly name of the upstart's company: Pantry Pride. The Revlon grandees called it "Pant-y Pride"; Ronnie was "Peril-man," pointedly pronounced in the French way by CEO Michel Bergerac so that it sounded like the name of a comic book super-villain.

Charles Revson
Uh ... okay, but Revlon was founded by Charles Revson (1906-1975), who was Jewish, the son of Eastern European immigrants. In fact, Revson and Perelman were much alike. Andrew Tobias describes Revson in his biography Fire and Ice:
It would be too easy to paint Revson only as a bullying egomaniac who would scratch his crotch or stand up and break wind in the middle of a meeting. In fairness, one tries to understand why a man as concerned with his image and dignity, and as afraid of being embarrassed, would do such things. He was the terror of Madison Avenue, but it's not enough to say that he would degrade his subordinates or that he was often hopelessly inarticulate. The question is, why? What was he trying to say?

Peter Revson
By the way, as an example of the suffocating anti-Semitism of the pre-junk bond era, I can recall that Charles Revson's nephew Peter Revson (1939-1974) was a celebrated playboy Grand Prix driver. He died during a practice lap for the South African grand prix.

Back to Close's new book:
Revlon certainly had reason to feel impregnable, not only because of its size, but also because it had hired an army of the best New York M&A specialists who felt the same way: Arthur Liman leading a platoon from Paul Weiss, Marty Lipton of Wachtell and Felix Rohatyn in charge of a team from Lazard Frères. These advisers assured their client that they would never let Pantry Pride get its hands on Revlon. It was a lesson in how contempt and entitlement can fuel an arrogance that guarantees defeat.

You can see how Revlon was doomed because it was so anti-Semitic that it only hired dumb WASP lawyers and bankers. Oh, wait ...
At first, only one member of the board of directors saw "Peril-man" for what he was -- a Drexel-fueled, Skadden-led, adrenalin-stoked existential threat to the Revlon status quo. That Revlon board member was Ezra Zilkha, the scion of an ancient Baghdadi-Jewish banking family.

Like I said, before Perelman's takeover, Revlon was totally anti-Semitic and would only do business with people named J. Harriman "Biff" Huntington IV.
Zilkha understood that Mike Milken, who turned his team at the investment banking gadfly Drexel Burnham into a West Coast Wall Street from his X-shaped throne at Wilshire Boulevard and Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, was funneling borrowed money from bond buyers into Pant-y Pride, charging the borrower (Perelman) atmospheric interest rates but undamming an unstoppable surge of cash from investors looking for fat returns. 
Zilkha at first found allies on the board only in Lewis Glucksman, the legendary head of Lehman Brothers, and Aileen Mehle, the celebrated columnist who wrote under the name Suzy Knickerbocker. 

From Tobias's biography of Charles Revson:
How had he suddenly become so popular -- and so social? Any suggestion that Earl Blackwell, owner of Celebrity Register, and gossip columnists Eugenia Sheppard and Aileen Mehle (Suzy Knickerbocker) were on the payroll for this purpose is outrageous. But they were regular guests on the yacht (flown to and fro) and good friends, and so very helpful. Aileen Mehle was named Revlon's first female board member, at an annual compensation of $6,500, in 1972. Also, by happy coincidence, her column began appearing in the Daily News right around the time Revlon began advertising in that unlikely publication for the first time, to the tune of $50,000 or $100,000 a year.

Back to Close's new book:
... Unbeknownst to Ron Perelman, Revlon also opened secret talks with Teddy Forstmann

Another brain-dead WASP on the side of Revlon. Oh, wait ...
of Forstmann Little, which provided money to managements in return for partial ownership, about dividing up Revlon between them, which would leave nothing left for Perelman to buy. 
Again, Ezra Zilkha foresaw the future. He argued that the courts would see this arrangement as nothing more than a way to protect their own interests -- a new fence to keep the cow-tippers out of the milk-and-honeyed land of Revlon. 
When the Revlon board met on Oct. 3, 1985, to approve its deal with Forstmann, which would leave the incumbents largely still in charge, Zilkha was in Jerusalem at the King David Hotel, joining in the discussions by phone and urging Bergerac to kill the plan before it was too late. The calls were agonizingly long, four to five hours at a stretch, exacerbated by a rabbi telephoning Ezra in the midst of it all to press him for a donation to a worthy cause. "The rabbi would have the operator interrupt my New York connection so he could talk to me instead," Zilkha recalls with a smile. "As you know, rabbis can be very persistent." 
So can corporate raiders. On Oct. 9, after the board had joined hands with Forstmann, Arthur Liman of Paul Weiss convinced the three sides -- Teddy Forstmann, Ron Perelman and Michel Bergerac -- to come together to see if they could make peace. At around midnight, Perelman and his attendants were admitted to the Revlon sanctum, where they were seen as the revolting peasants. "I'll never forget those 20 or 30 guys coming off the elevators," Bergerac would later tell the writer Connie Bruck. "All short, bald, with big cigars! It was incredible! If central casting had had to produce 30 guys like that, they couldn't do it. They looked like they were in a grade-D movie that took place in Mississippi or Louisiana, about guys fixing elections in the back." Liman agreed: "What a scene. All the Drexels were in one room -- these guys with their feet up on Michel's tables, spilling their cigar ash on his rugs." ...
After his oral argument triumph, Stu and his father (and fellow Skadden partner) Irving Shapiro were having a drink at the Rodney Square Club in Wilmington, co-founded by the elder Shapiro at a time in the not-so-distant past when Jews were not welcome in the city's other exclusive clubs. Renowned Delaware attorney A. Gilchrist Sparks III, Revlon's advocate, came over to their table to congratulate Stu on his performance. At that point, the court had not yet ruled, but Sparks knew it was to be Shapiro's day. It was fitting that a luminary in M&A, with an initial as a first name and a Roman numeral after his surname, would tip his hat to a Jewish lawyer at this club founded in response to discrimination after an M&A victory against an established elite. 
These old-line firms, among sundry other gatekeepers, from co-op board members to restaurant maîtres d'hôtel, could no longer stop Flom and his confreres, furious to succeed. "In the early '60s," Flom once remembered, "we were supposed to do an underwriting for a client, but when the client called his investment banker, he was told there were only seven [law] firms -- all old Wall Street firms -- qualified to do underwritings for the bank. So I figure... we've got to show the bastards that you don't have to be born into it." 
And that's just what they did. The control of corporate America was arguably democratized in the process. And shareholders, regardless of identity or motives, gained an upper hand they have yet to relinquish, almost three decades later.

This oft-told story about Perelman's triumph over Revlon was usually given this same interpretation back in the 1980s as a triumph over WASP discrimination (even though it made less sense than other examples from the junk bond years.) For example, in the book The Neoconservative Imagination: Essays in Honor of Irving Kristol, edited by Christopher C. DeMuth and William Kristol, Irwin Stelzer wrote an essay entitled A Third Cheer for Capitalism that noted that his hero Perelman, "an Orthodox Jew from Philadelphia," had outmaneuvered Bergerac, who was "suave."

Of course, the media obsession had partly to do with Revlon being a quintessentially New York company that didn't build much except image through advertising.

Perhaps the enormous amount of attention and cheerleading that the Revlon takeover battled generated in the New York media had to do with anger over a WASP (Bergerac) succeeding a Jew (Revson) at a Jewish business. Taking back Revlon was like taking back the Holy Land.

From Money in 1987:
A symbolic episode occurred [Perelman's] third day on the job. He was irked to discover that a bronze head of Revson was gathering dust in a closet. For Perelman the bronze's banishment was an unfortunate sign of how far Revlon, the company he had spent five months and $1.8 billion to buy, had strayed from its legacy. From now on, Perelman ordered, Revson's bust was to be prominently displayed in the lobby of Revlon's 49th-floor executive suite in New York City.

Of course, Bergerac wasn't a WASP. I'm not even sure he was all that much of a gentile, but I don't see any information on that one way or another today. It's possible that Bergerac was so vilified in neocon circles because he was suspected of having assimilated to, gasp, French norms of suaveness, while the crass Perelman was seen as Authentic.

By the way, the impression I'd gotten that Perelman was a self-made man is wholly incorrect. Perelman's father owned the $350 million Belmont Industries conglomerate. And the young man made an heiress the first of his five wives. Perelman grew up in North Carolina in a family that was Conservative, not Orthodox. But on a trip to Israel young Ronald felt a reawakening of Jewish pride. Today:
He does not consider himself to be a member of Lubavitch. He supports them because he thinks they are Judaism's best chance for surviving and thriving in modern society.[77]

Peter Revson and his fiance,
Marjorie Wallace, who gave
up her Miss World title to marry
him, just before his fiery death 
Perhaps some of the energy of 1980s neoconservatism and 1980s takeover artists stemmed from concern about how successful Jews kept out-marrying to produce Peter Revsons (the way Armand Hammer's great-grandson is Lone Ranger star Armie Hammer). By the way, Perelman's fifth wife, Anna Chapman (presumably not the spy), converted.

Or maybe it was actually Eastern European Jews getting back at the suaver Western European Jews who had gotten to America first and long looked down upon the newcomers as bumptious.

In general, the Jewish community has long had a useful knack for reformulating resentments of each other within the Jewish community as reasons to be mad at non-Jews. (That was Henry Kissinger's conclusion about Israeli foreign policy in the second volume of his memoirs: making the rest of the world mad at Israel was how Israelis kept from clawing each other's eyes out.)

Thus, for instance, much of 1960s-70s feminism was driven by Jewish women angry at Jewish men for marrying shiksas, but so much of that energy got rechanneled outward.

But all that's just speculation on my part. I don't really know why the Revlon takeover of 1985 was seen in the media as such a milestone of Jews overcoming WASP discrimination. It just was.

In summary, the Revlon takeover as a plucky triumph over anti-Semitism is a good example of how malleable accounts of one's people's past oppression can become for the purpose of justifying dubious dealings in the present.

Don't worry, Americans, Boehner's got your back

A few weeks ago we noted that amnesty was dead in the water for 2013. But now 2013 is over, so it's back to work as Everybody Who Is Anybody immediately begins conspiring anew to put one over on the American people. The NYT announces:
Boehner Is Said to Back Change on Immigration 
WASHINGTON — Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio has signaled he may embrace a series of limited changes to the nation’s immigration laws in the coming months, giving advocates for change new hope that 2014 might be the year that a bitterly divided Congress reaches a political compromise to overhaul the sprawling system.

Mr. Boehner has in recent weeks hired Rebecca Tallent, a longtime immigration adviser to Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who has long backed broad immigration changes. Advocates for an overhaul say the hiring, as well as angry comments by Mr. Boehner critical of Tea Party opposition to the recent budget deal in Congress, indicates that he is serious about revamping the immigration system despite deep reservations from conservative Republicans. 
Aides to Mr. Boehner said this week that he was committed to what he calls “step by step” moves to revise immigration laws, which they have declined to specify. 
But other House Republicans, who see an immigration overhaul as essential to wooing the Hispanic voters crucial to the party’s fortunes in the 2016 presidential election, said they could move on separate bills that would fast-track legalization for agricultural laborers, increase the number of visas for high-tech workers and provide an opportunity for young immigrants who came to the country illegally as children to become American citizens. 
Although the legislation would fall far short of the demands being made by immigration activists, it could provide the beginnings of a deal.

I.e., an even bigger cave-in.
For Mr. Boehner, hiring Ms. Tallent suggests a new commitment to confronting an issue that has long divided the Republican Party. Ms. Tallent is a veteran of more than a decade of congressional immigration battles and fought, ultimately unsuccessfully, for comprehensive overhauls of the immigration system in 2003 and 2007.

I don't recall 2003. I recall playing some small role in beating back big offensives in 2001, 2004, 2006, 2007, and 2013. Back during the 2001 battle, I made the hopeful suggestion, based on an analogy to military history, that defeating an immigration offensive now would allow the good guys to go on the offensive soon. For example, in March 1918 the German army in France went on the offensive to take Paris before the American army arrived in bulk. But they were stopped short and the effort exhausted them so badly that Entente offensive later in the year was far more successful than expected, winning a war that had been assumed would not be determined until the big campaigns of 1919 at earliest.

But I was wrong. It doesn't work like that because there isn't much cost to losing an offensive. Look at it from, say, Rebecca Tallent's perspective: either she wins this year, which would be good, or she fails and gets promoted to an even better job doing the same thing all over again, which is good, too. It's not a war, it's a career.
Although Mr. Boehner’s aides say she was brought on to carry out his views and not her own, advocates of immigration change say the only reason for Mr. Boehner to have hired Ms. Tallent is his desire to make a deal this year. ...
The most likely legislative approach, according to lawmakers, White House officials and activists, is a push to pass legislation in the House by May or June — after most Republican lawmakers are through with their primary campaigns — with the goal of reaching a compromise that Mr. Obama could sign before the 2014 midterm election campaigns intensify next fall. ...
"This guy is our leader?" wonders Arnold Palmer.
If a comprehensive overhaul is not completed by summer, strategists say they could make another push during a lame-duck session at the end of the year, after the November elections. If it did not happen then, lawmakers could wait until 2015, although advocates would have to start again in the Senate because the legislation would expire at the end of 2014. ...

In other words, many Republican candidates are planning to lie to voters and then, right after the primary or general election, stab them in the back. You might think this sounds like a blatant conspiracy, but that shows you are just some conspiracy theorist wacko.
House Republicans have a retreat scheduled this month, and are unlikely to make any strategic decisions about immigration before then. Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, the chief House negotiator on the budget compromise, is expected to play a large, if behind-the-scenes, role.

“I would bet money that it will be done before the presidential election of 2016, but I think there’s a very good chance it will get done considerably sooner than that — in 2014,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York and one of the architects of the immigration legislation in the Senate [Sen. Schumer pictured here discussing details of their mutual immigration bill with Republican Senators Rubio, Graham, and McCain.)
The advocates say they are in no mood to wait for something else to interfere. “I’m going to be pushing hard to try to get it done early next year,” said Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, a Florida Republican who is a proponent of an immigration overhaul. “The earlier the better, I think.” [See photo of Rep. Diaz-Balart here.]

January 1, 2014

Tom Wolfe on Skull and Bones

Skull and Bones logo
Q. What does "322" mean?
A. It's a secret.
The subject of secret societies and cults in Turkish politics got me thinking about American analogs. For example, the 2004 presidential election saw much partisan passion as supporters of George W. Bush and current secretary of state John Kerry turned out in large numbers to cast their votes for these very different candidates. Except ... I always thought it kind of interesting that both Bush and Kerry were members of the same Yale secret society: Skull and Bones.

 From Wikipedia:
In the 2004 U.S. Presidential election, both the Democratic and Republican nominees were alumni. George W. Bush wrote in his autobiography, "[In my] senior year I joined Skull and Bones, a secret society; so secret, I can't say anything more."[25] When asked what it meant that he and Bush were both Bonesmen, former Presidential candidate John Kerry said, "Not much, because it's a secret."[26][27]

The Tomb
Of course, there's nothing at all weird about Bonesmen holding meetings in a windowless temple / fortress / bunker / rumpus room called The Tomb.

Still, you might wonder what the Bonesmen do in there. Tom Wolfe explained in his 1976 New York article The "Me" Decade and the Third Great Awakening:
At Yale the students on the outside wondered for 80 years what went on inside the fabled secret senior societies, such as Skull and Bones. On Thursday nights one would see the secret-society members walking silently and single file, in black flannel suits, white shirts, and black knit ties with gold pins on them, toward their great Greek Revival temples on the campus, buildings whose mystery was doubled by the fact that they had no windows. What in the name of God or Mammon went on in those 30-odd Thursday nights during the senior years of these happy few? What went on was . . . lemon sessions!—a regularly scheduled series of lemon sessions, just like the ones that occurred informally in girls’ finishing schools. 
In the girls’ schools these lemon sessions tended to take place at random on nights when a dozen or so girls might end up in someone’s dormitory room. One girl would become “it,” and the others would light into her personality, pulling it to pieces to analyze every defect . . . her spitefulness, her awkwardness, her bad breath, embarrassing clothes, ridiculous laugh, her suck-up fawning, latent lesbianism, or whatever. The poor creature might be reduced to tears. She might blurt out the most terrible confessions, hatreds, and primordial fears. But, it was presumed, she would be the stronger for it afterward. She would be on her way toward a new personality. Likewise, in the secret societies: They held lemon sessions for boys. Is masturbation your problem? Out with the truth, you ridiculous weenie! And Thursday night after Thursday night the awful truths would out, as he who was It stood up before them and answered the most horrible questions. Yes! I do it! I whack whack whack it! I’m afraid of women! I’m afraid of you! And I get my shirts at Rosenberg’s instead of Press! . . . But out of the fire and the heap of ashes would come a better man, a brother, of good blood and good bone, for the American race guerrière. And what was more . . . they loved it. No matter how dreary the soap opera, the star was Me. 
By the mid-1960s this service, this luxury, had become available for one and all, i.e., the middle classes. Lemon Session Central was the Esalen Institute, a lodge perched on a cliff over-looking the Pacific in Big Sur, California, Esalen’s specialty was lube jobs for the personality. ... They were encouraged to bare their own souls and to strip away one another’s defensive facades. Everyone was to face his own emotions squarely for the first time. ...
Encounter sessions, particularly of the Schutz variety, were often wild events. Such aggression! such sobs! tears! moans, hysteria, vile recriminations, shocking revelations, such explosions of hostility between husbands and wives, such mud balls of profanity from previously mousy mommies and workadaddies, such red-mad attacks! Only physical assault was prohibited. The encounter session became a standard approach in many other movements, such as Scientology, Arica, the Mel Lyman movement, Synanon, Daytop Village, and Primal Scream. Synanon had started out as a drug rehabilitation program, but by the late 1960s the organization was recruiting “lay members,” a lay member being someone who had never been addicted to heroin . . . but was ready for the lemon-session life.

Cesar Chavez became addicted to Synanon encounter sessions in the 1970s.
Outsiders, hearing of these sessions, wondered what on earth their appeal was. Yet the appeal was simple enough. It is summed up in the notion: “Let’s talk about Me.” No matter whether you managed to renovate your personality through encounter sessions or not, you had finally focused your attention and your energies on the most fascinating subject on earth: Me.

The Harvard-Yale cult's conspiracy to monopolize the Presidency

Back in 2012, I went through the biographies of all the major party Presidential nominees since 1900:
From 1900 through 1984, I count 9 Harvard or Yale degrees among 44 nominees, or 0.20 per candidate (and 5 of the 9 are members of the Roosevelt family). 
From 1988 through 2012, I count 15 Harvard or Yale degrees among 14 nominees, or 1.07 per candidate. That's a lot! 

Since 1988, five times have major party nominees been members of Yale's Skull and Bones society, which has a monumental windowless clubhouse on the Yale campus reputed to be the final resting place of Geronimo's skull.

If we were talking about Turkey, it would seem pretty obvious that there was a weird cult around attending Harvard and Yale; and the members of the cult had been remarkably effective at conspiring to impose their Harvard-Yale-centric values upon the country at large. 

And indeed, that's more or less true. For example, Harvard president James Conant worked tirelessly in the postwar era to expand Harvard's reach beyond the traditional boarding school students by using the improving psychometric testing (e.g., the SAT) to haul in the smartest young people from across the country. But because the Harvard-Yale cult has been so successful, it doesn't seem like a cultish conspiracy anymore, it just seems like the way things are and ought to be.

The genius of Turkey's Test Prep Cult

My new Taki's Magazine article points out that the current upheaval in Turkish politics, in which PM Erdogan is being undermined by Imam Gulen of Saylorsburg, PA, stems from Erdogan's recent attack on the Gulen cult's massive chain of test prep centers in Turkey. But that raises the question of why the Gulen cult developed a network of private after-school test prep centers. For an answer, we can turn to a hacked Stratfor memo published by WikiLeaks.

I feel kind of bad for Stratfor since they did the intelligence service hard work of taking a guy out to dinner and plying him with drinks until he felt like explaining what the point of it all is. But it's hard to find other sources that will put simple explanations of the Gulen cult down in writing:
Source was a hardcore Gulenist for 10 years and then defected from the movement when he came to the US several years back. He was recruited when he was a high school student and was raised in the movement to focus on military penetration. Since he knows a great deal about the Gulen and sensitive military matters, the movement has been careful not to alienate him. They have people who check up on him (similar to how I now have people checking up on me) and they have a mutually dependent relationship where they use each other for information They want to be careful that he doesn't write any big criticism against them. The source wants to tell the inside story of Gulen but it's too risky for him. He's quite paranoid when I talk to him, but now that he's 'liberated' from the movement, he drinks wine and can loosen up after a while. ...
Fethullah Gulen is not as active as he used to be in the movement. He gets sick more frequently (he has diabetes). They now have a council of elders, 12 'wise men'. Most of them are in the US, close to Fethullah. They meet regularly and make decisions on the big issues affecting the movement. 
The Gulenist model is obviously very successful. Even US diplomats are gradually becoming more influenced. They say the Kemalist model has been unsuccessful in bringing Turkey closer to the West, but the Gulen through their business and diplomatic efforts have been successful. 
The source has also tried like us to acquire a database of the Gulenist schools. They give him the exact same answer they give us -- that the education effort isn't centralized and so they don't have a good database. Source agrees that that is total BS. The schools are central to the movement's efforts. They keep this list close hold. 
The source described for me how the Gulenist recruitment process works. In Turkey, preparing for your university exam is a huge deal (XXXX has explained this to me in a lot of detail). You essentially have to sign away a couple years of your life to study for this. The Gulen schools are known to provide the best preparation, offer the best resources, etc. A lot of students will attend them, regardless of their political/religious affiliation. Yout start out going a couple times a week, then 3 times a week, then every day of the week by the time you're done. They make it a gradual process and earn your trust. 
The movement will then take the brightest students from the class and will focus on them.

And there you have it: a chain of test prep centers is an ideal method for selecting and recruiting the future cadres of the new, improved Deep State you are constructing to replace your rivals' Deep State which you've been dismantling through show trials and long prison terms. Why? Because owning test prep centers allows you to quantitatively measure the intelligence and effort levels of huge numbers of adolescents, and then pick the most promising for intense mentoring.
THe mentor for each student will change every year. They'll test your loyalty by calling you late in the evening, early on a Saturday morning, etc. and ask you to attend something or perform some task. The task doesn't really matter at the beginning. What they want to see is if you'll obey them and respond to their beck and call. This is all a process to test their loyalty. Then, when they get the results for their university exams, they'll place the top students in the military academy. 
From there, they position themselves to influence the institution. Source estimates that roughly 30% of the military may be influence/linked to Gulen currently. They are trained from a very early age how to interact with military personnel, learn the ranks, act secular, etc. The source was involved in this process. When they are assimilating in the military, they drink, go out with girls, etc., all while remaining loyal to the movement. Once you are placed in a strategic institution, whether it be the military, police judiciary, media firm, etc., you will be handled by what's the equivalent of a case officer. They are trained on how to communicate with their handlers in secret and receive order. Again, this is run very much like a professional intelligence organization. 
In the police force, the Gulenists have a lot more room to maneuver. All of these efforts kicked of in the early 1980s, but in the 1990s is when Gulen really gained traction. In the police, they're not as strict as the military when it comes to background checks. So, for example, it won't matter much if you go to mosque, have a wife who wears the headscarf, etc. The Gulenists are extremely strong in the police and may by now control a majority of the force by the source's estimate. 

Carrots and Sticks

Simon in London comments:
I can understand why the average Norwegian doesn't give much credence to conspiracy theories; chances are his leaders aren't being particularly conspiratorial (even if they have decided to replace him with a bunch of third world immigrants, they don't make a secret of it). But Americans seem particularly unfortunate in that they have almost Norwegian levels of trust combined with a fairly high degree of conspiratorial behaviour by their ruling class, and a media incredibly* deferential to that ruling class, so they are more easily taken advantage of than most.  
*From the outside the deference of the US media is very striking. France, Germany, Britain etc all have much less deferential media ... . Whereas the free US media consistently shills for the Powers-that-Be.

It's interesting to speculate upon the carrot-and-stick balance in the U.S. Occasionally, bad things, such as sex scandals, happen to inconvenient people. Perhaps something like that explains the hilariously weak 60 Minutes story recently on the NSA. 

But it's really not a very scary place. For example, when the investigative journalist Michael Hastings died in Hollywood last year in a flaming one-car crash, I thought I owed it to him to actually leave the house and visit the site of his death. But the more I looked into it, the less suspicious it seemed: he was driving recklessly. Now, Uncouth Reflections has an interview with Hastings' brother that confirms that the poor man was going through another manic phase.

So that mostly leaves the carrot. And there are a lot of carrots in a big, rich country like ours.

December 31, 2013

The Shadowy Sufi of Saylorsburg

Last weekend I briefly mentioned the post-ṣūfī Muslim holy man in Pennsylvania whose cult followers are becoming the new Deep State of Turkey. But when I dug further into the story, it exploded into something resembling my own personalized Umberto Eco novel. You know those kids' books: Choose Your Own Adventure? Well this is like if I had my own Choose Your Own Lattice of Coincidence. From my new column in Taki's Magazine:
As 2014 dawns, the world continues to keep me furnished with material. For example, the current political shakeup in Turkey turns out to be a mashup of various obsessions and hobbyhorses of mine, such as byzantine conspiracy theories, test prep, the naiveté of American education reform, immigration fraud, the deep state, and even the Chechen Bomb Brothers’ Uncle Ruslan. 
This lattice of coincidence begins with Turkey’s prime minister Recip Tayyip Erdoğan, who is presently besieged by graft scandals following police raids on his inner circle. 
With Turkey’s traditional ruling class—the secularist Kemalist generals—finally neutralized by the Ergenekon show trial, the Muslim civilian factions now appear to be plotting against each other. It is widely assumed among Turkish conspiracy theorists (i.e., roughly 98% of all Turks) that the prosecutorial assault on the prime minister was at the behest of Erdoğan’s former political ally, Fethullah Gülen, a powerful and mysterious Muslim cult leader holed up since 1999 in Saylorsburg in the Poconos, where he has become America's largest operator of charter schools.

Read the whole thing there. It's pretty fun, and I don't think I've gotten to the bottom of this yet.

Hottest high tech startup ideas of 2014

In recent years, Silicon Valley fortunes have been made by taking yesterday's depressing ways to eke out a few bucks -- taking in lodgers, hacking a gypsy cab, selling your possessions, etc. -- and giving them a 21st Century gloss. For example, Lyft and Uber would appear to be taxicab companies that employ you to use your own car, not theirs, to pick up strangers and drive them around. But Uber spokespersons deny that, explaining that Uber is actually a "ride-sharing smartphone app," so it's, like, awesome. Plus, Uber has an ironic name. 

Similarly, airBnB enables you to turn your home into a boarding house. But, while you are scrubbing the toilet after your latest paying guest has departed, you can console yourself that some guys in Silicon Valley have made a fortune off this, so it's actually much more glamorous and buzzworthy than it might appear at the moment from your perspective (on your knees in front of your second bathroom's toilet bowl).

So, what are some moneymaking opportunities for 2014? The basic idea of the 21st Century is to take the most dismal economic modes of the past and put them on the latest technology. For example, the Sand State subprime mortgage boom of the last decade was basically Porfirio Diaz-era Mexican debt peonage amped up by putting all the contracts on computers so that Countrywide sales reps could ensnare the great-grandchildren of Zapata's followers in real time.

Here are some ideas for 2014's hottest mobile apps:

3Balls -- Need some quick cash? Why sell your prized possessions on eBay when you can use them as collateral for a loan? This app turns your smartphone into a Pawnshop in Your Pocket!

Lack-E -- Have you always dreamed of a week-long Vegas blowout? Now it can be yours! Imagine: a huge suite at the Trump Hotel Las Vegas, SUV limo, hookers, cocaine, everything you've ever wanted. And you don't have to pay one red cent. When it's over, you just become Mr. Trump's indentured servant for the next seven years. (Three day / four year packages are also available).

The Dickens -- Can't get a loan because you've gone bankrupt before? Feel like you have no collateral to offer? Don't be so unimaginative! You still have something to put on the line: your physical freedom. In this disruptive twist on the old tried and true motivational technique of debtor's prison, your banker permanently straps your GPS-equipped smartphone to your ankle. If you are late on a payment, your lender activates it and you simply never leave your house until your debts are paid off by your relatives. (When you think about it, don't they owe you?) Comes with a HuluPlus subscription so you can catch up on your Binge TV watching. (What happens if you try to sneak out? That's for us to worry about.)

Chim Chim Cher-ee -- Are there any small boys hanging around your house, not earning their keep? They probably don't mind getting dirty, right? Are they skinny and good at climbing? Just enter their maximum diameters into this app and soon they'll be rising to new heights in a time-honored career for boys.

Slave -- Credit card minimum payments getting you down? Mortgage lender threatening to repossess your home? Now you'll never have to worry about money again! Just download the new Slave app and sell yourself (or a family member) into slavery. It's a state of the art rendition of a time-tested solution to financial concerns. Just enter a few details about yourself (e.g., good teeth, strong back, poor map-reading skills) and the auction begins! Thousands of oil sheiks, Mauretanian camel drivers, and UN diplomats are bidding constantly. A few taps on your cell phone screen and you'll have food and lodging provided to you forever! And note that Slave has to be good for you because it has an ironic name. Or does it? Perhaps the name is meta-ironic, which sounds even better ... In any case, you'll never know until you try! (Also comes in Slayve for metalheads.)

Biens -- You know how in Frank Capra movies hobos are always huddled around campfires, morosely eating from cans of beans? Sure, back then the media made it look kind of sad, but Average Is Over. Now that you have a smartphone to provide 24/7 video entertainment, who needs to eat meat or live indoors? Biens the App opens the door to you and the rest of the Ninety Percent to become high-tech hobos. Imagine you and your loved ones huddled around your glowing smartphone watching Mad Men as you all cluck condescendingly at how Americans used to eat steak and live in houses while barely noticing the horrifying truth about life in America in 1960: they only had three networks to watch. Biens is the lifestyle for the 21st Century, a new (yet old) way of living that's both luminous and leguminous. (Actual beans for eating sold separately.)