January 11, 2014

Is there any precedent for Stanley Fischer?

To get some sense of how revolutionary is President Obama's nomination of Stanley Fischer, the head central banker for the Israeli government from 2005 to 2013, to the number two role at America's central bank, I've been trying to look up American government officials who were previously high government officials for other governments. I haven't yet been able to find a Wikipedia category for such a thing.

In particular, I'm looking for American citizens who at a fully mature age took up citizenship in a foreign country, served in a very high position in the foreign government, then attempted to take up a high role in the U.S. government.

Wikipedia does offer a list of 20 U.S. cabinet officers and 4 other cabinet-equivalent level officials who were foreign-born. Most arrived in the United States as children. A few arrived as students in their early twenties. Not one of them appears to have been a foreign government official of the slightest importance before arriving in America, much less the top official in their fields for any foreign government.

Indeed, none of them appear to have started the post-educational phase of their adult political careers abroad, with the exception of Carl Schurz, a German student radical who rebelled against Prussian repression in 1848-49 when he was in his late teens. Fleeing for his life, Schurz arrived in the U.S. at about age 23. As the most dynamic figure in the German-American community, Lincoln made the orator a general in Union Army, in which he served bravely but ineptly at three major battles.

The high-ranking officials to have arrived at the oldest age include Zbigniew Brzezinski, who arrived in the U.S. to get a doctorate at Harvard after obtaining a bachelor's and master's at McGill in Canada. Zalmay Khalilzad's career is similar. Some others arrived around age 21, such as refugee Michael Blumenthal who then went to Berkeley as an undergraduate.

But none of these appointed officials had been important government officials in other countries. (You could claim that Douglas MacArthur's title of Field Marshall of the Philippines in the later 1930s was similar to Fischer's excursion to Israel, but, obviously, the Philippines were still an American colony only being prepped for independence.)

As an analog to the Fischer case, I guess you could name Werner von Braun:
Don't say that he's hypocritical,
Say rather that he's apolitical.
"Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down?
That's not my department," says Wernher von Braun.

Of course, von Braun was brought to the U.S. essentially as a prisoner of war and kept under guard at a military base in El Paso for five years as a sort of "prisoner of peace."

Another example would be Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, a gay pederast courtier who had to flee Germany due to scandal and wound up being the inspector-general of the rebel army during the Revolutionary War due to his being just about the only man in America with Prussian staff training. (The early U.S. tended to attract raffish adventurers fleeing their own reputations in Europe -- my favorite is Mozart's librettist Lorenzo da Ponte.) Of course, America in the 1700s was a small, not terribly well-educated country.

But those aren't good examples because von Braun didn't leave America in his sixties and, say, run France's rocket program for eight years, then try to come back to the U.S. at 70 and be #2 man in the American space program. 

The more you think about the specifics of the Fischer case, the more bizarre it becomes, and more far-ranging the precedent it sets.

The point is not that Fischer arrived in the U.S. at age 23, but that he left the U.S. at age 61 to head up a key department of a foreign power but now he wants to come back at age 70 to take a crucial position in the U.S. government.

Fischer's defenders (to the minor extent that they feel the need to defend him) tend to treat his eight years running Israel's central bank as if he were engaged in rocket science rather than statecraft. They emphasize that, well, sure, it's kind of hard to tell whose side Fischer is on, but, you see, he has a very high IQ and that ordinary Americans can't begin to understand what all he has in his bag of economic tricks. So, why aren't you reassured?

In reality, the key to Fischer's success at keeping up the Israeli economy was his decision to boost Israeli exports at the expense of Israel's trading partners (of which the U.S. is the largest) by massively devaluing the shekel. It wasn't really complicated: Fischer's big decision was good for Israeli exporters and it was bad for American exporters.

Undoubtedly, it didn't come as a surprise to Fischer that as head of the Bank of Israel he would  he would have the opportunity to do things that would be bad for America, such as competitively devaluing the shekel during an American economic crisis. He's a smart, experienced guy, and he no doubt realized that he was choosing to put himself in a position where he might decide to hurt America. 

Fischer was free to make his choice to spend most of his 60s as an Israeli citizen and high Israeli government official. He made his choice. And he should live with the consequences, not get some giant do-over in his 70s that establishes a precedent, especially when nobody is talking about the implications of that precedent.

The single most fundamental question of political life is: Whose side are you on? There is a lot of talent available to the United States government, so why it should be necessary to appoint to high position a man who carefully chose to make that question unanswerable?

Of course, the real question is bigger than Fischer. The true issue is: What's wrong with Americans these days that almost all of us are too buffaloed to notice?

Will nomination of Israeli official to Fed be "controversial?"

As I've often remarked, the word "controversial" has undergone a striking metamorphosis over my lifetime. From reading the Los Angeles Times in, say, 1967-1974, I recall that the word "controversial" was then a mark of approval: it was headline shorthand for new, exciting, forward-thinking, and, most of all, sexy.

Today, "controversial" usually means disreputable, derisible, and demonizable. (This may have something to do with the winners of 1967-1974 being more or less still in charge of our culture in 2014.)

So, it will be interesting to see how Obama's nomination of Stanley Fischer, until recently head central banker for the Israeli government, to be Vice Chairman of the U.S. government's Federal Reserve Board will be treated in the American mainstream press.

Will Obama's nomination of an Israeli dual-citizen be described as "controversial?"

Or, will any skepticism of the nomination be shunted aside as "controversial?"

Or, will the whole thing simply be treated as not being controversial at all, that everybody knows that high-ranking foreign government officials routinely become high-ranking U.S. government officials (even if it's hard to think of too many examples), so this is just a dog-bites-man business-as-usual story and no reason at all to distract the public's attention from the Really Big National News, the important issues you must think about, such as lane-closures in New Jersey?

From Google News about 30 hours after word that the President would nominate Fischer went on the news:
"Chris Christie" controversial: "About 70,900 results (0.24 seconds)"
"Stanley Fischer" controversial: "19 results (0.22 seconds)"

Ariel Sharon was the Nathan Bedford Forrest of his generation

Ariel Sharon has died after a long coma. As Greg Cochran observed, Sharon's place in military history is secure: like the brilliant Confederate cavalry general Nathan Bedford Forrest, Sharon was the most accomplished light mobile commander of his generation. Sharon's performance during the 1973 war, when the more senior Dayan broke down under the strain and started thinking about nuking the Aswan Dam, was heroic. Out of favor politically, Sharon arrived at the chaotic front in a civilian car, took command through force of personality, and organized the recrossing of the Suez Canal, trapping an Egyptian army and winning the war.

But, also as with Forrest, you really wouldn't want to be a footsoldier taken prisoner by Sharon's troops. (The general rule in warfare is you are more likely to survive if you surrender like-to-like: if you are a footsoldier, it's best to surrender to enemy footsoldiers. Infantry POWs who surrender to fast-moving mounted forces are often seen as slow-moving impediments to their further dashes, and sometimes are disposed of accordingly.)

January 10, 2014

Dual loyalty? If we're lucky ...

From the NYT:
President Obama plans to nominate three people to the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors, including Stanley Fischer, former head of the Bank of Israel, as the Fed’s next vice chairman, the White House said on Friday. ... 
Mr. Fischer, 70, would succeed Ms. Yellen in her current role. The Senate confirmed Ms. Yellen as the Fed’s new chairwoman this week. She will take over from the current chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, in February. ... 
He also worked as a senior Citigroup executive from 2002 to 2005. ... 
Mr. Fischer, born in present-day Zambia [Northern Rhodesia, then], holds American and Israeli citizenship. 
He said in a statement that he was “deeply honored” by the nomination.

Although Fischer's many well-heeled supporters portray his jobs in Israel and now America as utterly technical, they are inherently political. An anti-Israel lobby called IMREP has a long analysis of Fischer's career in regard to his service to Israel. For example:
More importantly for Israel, Stanley Fischer won an appointment to the Reagan administration's U.S.-Israel Joint Economic Discussion Group that dealt with Israel's 1984-1985 economic crisis. ... The U.S.-Israel Joint Economic Discussion Group fundamentally transformed U.S. aid to Israel forever.  Before the Reagan administration, most U.S. aid to Israel took the form of loans that had to be repaid with interest.  After the input of Fischer's team, subsequent U.S. aid was delivered in the form of outright grants paid directly from the U.S. Treasury—never to be repaid or conditioned when Israel took actions the U.S. opposed.

That solution sure required some economic brilliance: "Instead of us loaning us money, we'll give us money. Great idea! Hey, who is this 'us' I'm referring to anyway? It's confusing."

As IMREP's Grant F. Smith points out, the importance of Fischer's nomination is triple:

The Fed is a major regulator, abroad and at home.

First, for example, last month the Fed and two other federal agencies fined the mostly British government-owned Royal Bank of Scotland $100 million for violations of the sanctions against doing business with Iran. Conversely, the Fed can also fight the growing movement in Europe to put sanctions on doing business with Israel.

Second, the Fed is supposed to be (but often isn't) a major regulator of domestic financial wheeler-dealers. For example, Fischer himself was Vice-Chairman of Citigroup from 2002-2005 as the subprime bubble inflated, before he decamped for Israel.

Third, the nomination of Fischer is to establish that it's A-OK for a dual-citizen high Israel-government official to move over to a similar job in the U.S. government. Sure, a few years from now it may still seem a little unusual for, say, the head of Israeli military intelligence to move on to running the National Security Administration in Fort Meade, but don't you remember the Fischer Precedent?

I apologize for the following comment by an America-hating fringe extremist:
"So, likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others, which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill will, and a disposition to retaliate in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld; and it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation) facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country without odium, sometimes even with popularity, gilding with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation…. 
"Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But that jealousy, to be useful, must be impartial, else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people to surrender their interests." 
– George Washington’s Farewell Address

NYT: "Ethnic Segregation at a U.N. Camp in South Sudan"

@alunmacdonald: "Most depressing photo of the day – a sign at UN camp in
South Sudan separates Dinka and Nuer as they arrive"
From the New York Times:
Ethnic Segregation at a U.N. Camp in South Sudan 

Reporting from South Sudan on Friday, the BBC correspondent Alastair Leithead discovered that civilians taking refuge from fighting at a United Nations base outside the town of Bentiu were being segregated along ethnic lines by the peacekeepers. 
One image from the video report filed by the BBC News crew, showing a hand-painted sign directing members of the Dinka and the Nuer tribes to opposite sides of the camp, caught the attention of Alun McDonald, an Oxfam media officer who has worked with refugees in South Sudan.

According to Mr. Leithead, civilians from both tribes have been forced to seek safety as the fighting raged between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir — a member of the country’s largest ethnic group, the Dinka — and followers of his former vice president, Riek Machar, a Nuer. ...
Still, many close observers of the conflict were taken aback by the partition of the camp. In a conversation on Twitter, both Rebecca Hamilton, a human rights lawyer who has written about the impact of citizen advocacy on U.S. policy in the region, and Amir Ahmad Nasr, a Sudanese blogger, criticized the United Nations Mission in South Sudan for dividing the civilians. 
Malvina Hoffman's
"Nuer Warrior"

I don't know. Sounds pretty prudent to me.

First, Dinkas and Nuers speak somewhat different languages. The Wikipedia article on "Dinka Language" says, "The closest non-Dinka language is Nuer, the language of the Dinka's traditional rivals."

Second, they are fighting right now.

Third, the Nuers and the Dinkas fought throughout the 19th Century until the British arrived and saved the Dinka from complete conquest. This is less obscure than it sounds because rivalries between and among the Nuers and Dinkas are the subject of the classic works on "segmentary lineage" among the Nuer by anthropologist E.E. Evans-Pritchard (the father of colorful Daily Telegraph reporter Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, by the way). See for example, Marshall D. Sahlins' 1961 article "The Segmentary Lineage: An Organization of Predatory Expansion." The Nuer are a canonical example in the anthropological literature of me against my brother, my brother and I against my cousin, my cousins, brother, and I against the world.

The Nuer are pretty good though at coming together with distant cousins for the purposes of kicking around the poor Dinkas. Nuer tribes were traditionally organized on a larger scale that allowed Nuers to put larger armies in the field and defeat the Dinkas. Both sides take the cattle of each other, but the dominant Nuer do it by battle and the poor Dinka fight back by theft.

The ruling mindset of white people writing about Africa is that Africans have no agency: Africans are merely robotic vehicles for the malign influence of white people. Thus, if white people pay for a refugee camp for Dinkas and Nuers, this pair of signs can then be held responsible for all future conflicts between the tribes. The alternative is to assume that Africans have some responsibility for the state of Africa, but, considering the state of Africa, that would be racist.

In truth, the Nuer were always been proud of their ability to push around the Dinka and take his cattle. They would consider the conventional wisdom of themselves as pitiful victims being manipulated by white stereotypes into fighting the Dinka as an insult.

Pour encourager les autres

At Handle's Haus, there is a list (with links) to 91 incidents of  persecution for political incorrectness:
Bullied and Badgered, Pressured and Purged

January 9, 2014

Is Melissa Harris-Perry "America's most foremost public intellectual" or is Ta-Nehisi Coates the black Glenn Beck?

Ta-Nehisi Coates writes at The Atlantic:
On Saturday, [MSNBC talking head] Melissa Harris-Perry apologized on air for segment that made light of the Romney clan's adoption of a young black boy. ... 

[Large amounts of verbiage snipped]
When not attempting to shame their enemies on trumped-up charges of racism, the conservative movement busies itself appealing to actual racists. ... 

[Large amounts of verbiage snipped]
Mitt Romney is not immune to this trend—he embodies it. On July of 2012, then-candidate Romney spoke to the NAACP (allegedly planting his own supporters). Later that day, he went before a crowd of conservatives and pitched his speech as follows: 
I had the privilege of speaking today at the NAACP convention in Houston and I gave them the same speech I am giving you. I don't give different speeches to different audiences alright. I gave them the same speech. When I mentioned I am going to get rid of Obamacare they weren't happy, I didn't get the same response. That's OK, I want people to know what I stand for and if I don't stand for what they want, go vote for someone else, that's just fine. But I hope people understand this, your friends who like Obamacare, you remind them of this, if they want more stuff from government tell them to go vote for the other guy-more free stuff. But don't forget nothing is really free. 

[Large amounts of verbiage snipped]
... But there is no one more worthy, and more capable, of holding that conversation than America's most foremost public intellectual—Melissa Harris-Perry.

[Large amounts of verbiage snipped]

Have you ever noticed how Ta-Nehisi Coates is the black Glenn Beck, in the sense that both are autodidacts (which is a good thing) who are constantly recounting for their rapt audiences mind-blowing excerpts from old books they are halfway finished reading?

Mitt Romney's black grandson and Glenn Beck's war on "Hetero-Fascism"

I pointed out years ago that Democrats are driven crazy by Mitt and Ann Romney's annual Christmas card featuring all their grandchildren: those Republicans are trying to breed their way to victory. Don't those Aryan crypto-Nazis know that the only legitimate way to win elections is to import foreigners illegally to vote for you?

Now, one of the five Romney sons has adopted a black child. So, when a half-black talking head on MSNBC named Melissa Harris-Perry invited a claque of minor comedians to fill some dead air by making fun of the latest Romney Christmas card, conservatives went nuts in response since there's now a black individual in the Romney family picture for them to defend, allowing them to accuse Harris-Perry of "racism."

Glenn Beck, in contrast, defended Harris-Perry sensibly, saying, "She apologizes, for what? It was a break with comedians."

More generally, interracial and international adoption is a fraught topic since it exposes obvious flaws in the group giving up their children. 

The classic example is South Korea, which was a poor country with little altruism for non-family members. The typical pattern is that nice white people in America find out about a country or culture that doesn't do a good job of taking care of its orphans and they start adopting that culture's unwanted children and giving them good homes. Eventually, the donor country starts to become ashamed by the fact that the American adopters are better people than they are, and decides to get its house in order and do a better job of taking care of its own orphans. 

Being human, the ashamed donor culture lashes out at the evil Americans who are taking their unwanted rejects into their own homes and raising them in an atmosphere of love. But, hopefully, the chastened donor culture gets its act together and does better by its own orphans.

That seems to be going on right now with Russia, for example. After an era of dissolution, the Russians are now ashamed and incensed that they let two perverts in the West adopt a Russian child in 2005 for use in their sick games, and so they are turning against foreign adoptions and have banned gay adoptions altogether

(This Russian ban on homosexuals adopting of course is one of the talking points for the Washington-Wall Street axis that wants to stir up a World War G with Russia. For example, Glenn Beck is jumping on the bandwagon of having a new Cold War, this time over gays:
Glenn Beck Claims He Will 'Stand With GLAAD' Against Russia's 'Hetero-Fascism'

A lot of money was made off the last Cold War. A new one waged against "Hetero-Fascism" sounds like a real geyser of cash for the well-positioned.)

Anyway, part of the Black Pride movement of the 1960s-early 1970s was opposition to whites adopting African-American babies. But this healthy emotional reaction ran into the reality that blacks weren't really ready to go to all the trouble of taking care of all black babies, so this attempt at a ban on interracial adoption fell apart. But that won't stop black people from feeling embarrassed and thus angry at nice white people like the Romney son who adopt a black child.

BBC editor: BBC blackballed immigration debate

From The Telegraph:
Nick Robinson: BBC made a 'terrible mistake' over immigration debate 
The BBC's political editor admits the corporation didn't have a proper debate on immigration in the late 1990s and early 2000s 
By Alice Philipson 11:48AM GMT 05 Jan 2014 835 Comments 
Nick Robinson, the BBC's political editor, has criticised the corporation for making a "terrible mistake" over its coverage of immigration, admitting it censored concerns amid fear they could trigger racism. 
Robinson said BBC figures in charge during the late 1990s and early 2000s believed a "warts-and-all" debate over immigration would "unleash some terrible side of the British public". 
He told The Sunday Times (£): "They feared having a conversation about immigration, they feared the consequence." 
One-sided reports meant viewer's concerns about immigration lowering wages and threatening jobs were not addressed by the broadcaster. 
Robinson, whose new documentary The Truth About Immigration is due to air on Tuesday, said the BBC's audience felt it had "decided these are not acceptable views. And that was a terrible mistake." 
It comes months after an official review found the BBC did not accurately reflect the public's growing concern about immigration because of a "deep liberal bias". 
In July a report, commissioned by the BBC Trust, found the broadcaster had been "slow" to catch up with public opinion on immigration and leaving the European Union.

What's the Saudis' secret (besides all the money in the world)?

When I was young, one of the most popular predictions was that the Saud ruling family of Saudi Arabia was on its last legs and would topple any day now. After all, Saudi Arabia is the greatest prize in human history, as the secret American geological mission during WWII wrote back to FDR. 

And the Saudis don't impress that many visitors. But, generation after generation, they seem to be able to scrape together enough brains to figure things out and bet accordingly. 

So, there they are. The Shah is gone, the Soviets are gone, Saddam is gone, Qadaffy is gone, the Assad family is bad shape, Morsi is out of power, and so forth, while the Sauds are still there. In fact, they seem to be in a lot of places these days, although the recent American opening toward Iran has to count as a setback. The Israelis are still there, of course, but Israel and Saudi Arabia never got along all that badly and seem to be pretty buddy-buddy these days.

The War Nerd writes:
Let’s try a different theory: that the Saudis know exactly what they’re doing. That they are, in fact, geniuses at exporting trouble while keeping the homeland quiet. What other Middle Eastern faction has held power as long as the House of Saud? They’re coming up on a century in control of the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and in that century they’ve buried a lot of groups that looked a lot shinier and more modern, starting with the Al Rashidi, who were more cosmopolitan, tolerant, and adaptable than the Sauds. The Sauds crushed them anyway.

Same with the Hashemites, although they've hung on to little Jordan.
Then there was the rise of the Communists. Nobody even remembers that 50 years ago the Middle East was crowded with clever, university-educated Marxist Arabs who were going to sweep the bad old monarchies away. Now, the last Marxists in Syria are a very small, weird militia fighting with Assad against a tidal wave of Sunni jihadism. 
The Ba’ath, who were going to secularize and modernize the Arab world, have seen their ideology vanish completely, so that even the guys fighting for so-called Ba’athists like Assad are openly fighting for their sect, not pan-Arab socialism. 
The Middle East has been Saudi-ized while we looked on and laughed at those goofy Saudis who didn’t understand progress. No wonder they’re content to play dumb. If we took a serious look at them, they’d be terrifying. 
And of all their many skills, the one the Saudis have mastered most thoroughly is disruption. Not the cute tech-geek kind of disruption, but the real, ugly thing-in-itself. They don’t just “turn a blind eye” to young Saudi men going off to do jihad—they cheer them on. It’s a brilliant strategy that kills two very dangerous birds with one plane ticket. By exporting their dangerous young men, the Saudis rid themselves of a potential troublemaker while creating a huge amount of pain for the people who live wherever those men end up. 
Saudis have shipped money, sermons, and volunteers to Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Russia’s North Caucasus just as they’re doing now in Syria. It’s a package deal—to get the money, you have to accept the Wahhabism and the volunteers. And it works. The Saudi package is usually resented at first, like it was by the Afghans who were outraged to be told they were “bad Muslims” by Saudi volunteers. 
But Afghan Islam has been Wahhabized over time. The same thing happened much more dramatically in Chechnya, where Saudi volunteers showed they were serious about war and religion, a nice change from the coopted quasi-Soviet imams the Chechens had known before. Saudis like Ibn al-Khattab, Abu al-Walid, and Muhannad (all noms de guerre) provided the only real jobs a young man could get in Chechnya, and in the process did a great job of miring the Chechens in an endless war that has killed something like 160,000 people while forcing Chechen women into Saudi-style isolation, eventually leaving Chechnya under the control of Ramzan Kadyrov, a second-generation death-squad commander who does most of the Kremlin’s killing for them. This is a typical Saudi aid result: A disaster for the recipients, the Chechens, and their enemies, the Russians, but a huge win for Saudi. Same thing is going on in the rest of Russia’s North Caucasus, especially in Dagestan, where the Boston Marathon bombers’ parents live. 
And one aspect of that victory is the elimination of potentially troublesome young males who might have made trouble inside Saudi. 

Are there more general lessons that can be learned from the success of the Sauds? Maybe they are the wave of the future?

January 8, 2014

Abraham Lincoln's speech to 14 Indian chiefs: "We pale-faced people think that this world is a great round ball"

I would have liked to have seen Daniel Day-Lewis act out this White House scene.

From the Washington Daily Morning Chronicle, March 1863
The Executive Mansion was yesterday morning the scene of a very interesting ceremony. The Indian chiefs now in the city met the President of the United States and had a formal interview with him. ... These Indians are fine-looking men. They have all the hard and cruel lines in their faces which we might expect in savages; but they are evidently men of intelligence and force of character. They were both dignified and cordial in their manner, and listened to everything with great interest.  At half-past eleven the President entered the circle, and each one of the chiefs came forward and shook him by the hand, some of them adding a sort of salaam or salutation by spreading out the hands, and some contenting themselves with a simple shake of the hand and the inevitable `how' of the Indians of the Plains. The following is a list of the chiefs: 
Cheyennes.---Lean Bear, War Bonnet, and Standing Water.  Kiowais.---Yellow Buffalo, Lone Wolf, Yellow Wolf, White Bull, and Little Heart.  Arapahoes.---Spotted Wolf and Nevah.  Comanches.---Pricked Forehead and Ten Bears.  Apache.---Poor Bear.  Caddo.---Jacob. 
Mr. Commissioner Dole introduced them.  The President said: "Say to them I am very glad to see them, and if they have anything to say, it will afford me great pleasure to hear them."
Mr. Lincoln then gave the following speech: 
"You have all spoken of the strange sights you see here, among your pale-faced brethren; the very great number of people that you see; the big wigwams; the difference between our people and your own. But you have seen but a very small part of the palefaced people. You may wonder when I tell you that there are people here in this wigwam, now looking at you, who have come from other countries a great deal farther off than you have come. 
"We pale-faced people think that this world is a great, round ball, and we have people here of the pale-faced family who have come almost from the other side of it to represent their nations here and conduct their friendly intercourse with us, as you now come from your part of the round ball. 
Here a globe was introduced, and the President, laying his hand upon it, said: "One of our learned men will now explain to you our notions about this great ball, and show you where you live." 
Professor Henry then gave the delegation a detailed and interesting explanation of the formation of the earth, showing how much of it was water and how much was land; and pointing out the countries with which we had intercourse. He also showed them the position of Washington and that of their own country, from which they had come.  The President then said: 
"We have people now present from all parts of the globe---here, and here, and here. There is a great difference between this palefaced people and their red brethren, both as to numbers and the way in which they live. We know not whether your own situation is best for your race, but this is what has made the difference in our way of living. 
"The pale-faced people are numerous and prosperous because they cultivate the earth, produce bread, and depend upon the products of the earth rather than wild game for a subsistence.  This is the chief reason of the difference; but there is another.  Although we are now engaged in a great war between one another, we are not, as a race, so much disposed to fight and kill one another as our red brethren. 
"You have asked for my advice. I really am not capable of advising you whether, in the providence of the Great Spirit, who is the great Father of us all, it is best for you to maintain the habits and customs of your race, or adopt a new mode of life.  I can only say that I can see no way in which your race is to become as numerous and prosperous as the white race except by living as they do, by the cultivation of the earth. ..."

It's not terribly clear how much of this the Indian chiefs, none of whom spoke English and who spoke several different Indian languages, grasped. The translator rendered about a third of Lincoln's speech via sign language, which probably helped. (By the way, Lincoln addressing the Indian chiefs via a sign language interpreter who doesn't actually know any sign language sounds like it would make a pretty good Key & Peele sketch.)

Although Lincoln's White House speech to the Indian chiefs is quite obscure these days, I recognize it as perhaps the source of the ideology of the black and white Western movies that were always on TV when I was a small child. I recall that it was common for the cowboy hero to explain to his Indian captors just before they started torturing him to death that, sure, you Indians might outnumber me right now, but there are lots more pale-faces where I come from, and they're coming out West and you can't stop them all.

That kind of majoritarianism is highly out of fashion today, except when it comes to immigration politics and anything else where whites might wind up a minority and then it's all: There are hundreds of millions of us and we're coming and you can't stop us, nyah-nyah-nyah.

NPR: First ever anti-racist was racist

As I've been pointing out for years, much of what white liberal education reformers are demanding for (or, perhaps, of) black children today (universal pre-K, longer school hours, no summer vacations, taxpayer-supported boarding schools, etc.) is highly reminiscent of the boarding schools that white liberal reformers a century ago successfully demanded for aboriginal peoples in Australia, Canada, and the U.S. 

Whether the current white liberal reformers will be recalled more fondly than their predecessors has yet to be determined.

From NPR:
The Ugly, Fascinating History Of The Word 'Racism' 
Richard Henry Pratt was the first person the Oxford English Dictionary records using the word "racism," in a speech decrying it. But his own legacy on race is checkered. 
The Oxford English Dictionary's first recorded utterance of the word racism was by a man named Richard Henry Pratt in 1902. Pratt was railing against the evils of racial segregation. 
"Segregating any class or race of people apart from the rest of the people kills the progress of the segregated people or makes their growth very slow. Association of races and classes is necessary to destroy racism and classism."
Although Pratt might have been the first person to inveigh against racism and its deleterious effects by name, he is much better-remembered for a very different coinage: Kill the Indian...save the man. 
"A great general has said that the only good Indian is a dead one," Pratt said. "In a sense, I agree with the sentiment, but only in this: that all the Indian there is in the race should be dead. Kill the Indian in him, and save the man." 
We're still living with the after-effects of what Pratt thought and did. His story serves as a useful parable for why discussions of racism remain so deeply contentious even now. 
But let's back up a bit. 
Beginning in the 1880s, a group of well-heeled white men would travel to upstate New York each year to attend the Lake Mohonk Conference Of The Friend Of the Indian. Their primary focus was a solution to "the Indian problem," the need for the government to deal with the Native American groups living in lands that had been forcibly seized from them. The Plains Wars had decimated the Native American population, but they were coming to an end. There was a general feeling among these men and other U.S. leaders that the remaining Native Americans would be wiped out within a generation or two, destroyed by disease and starvation. 
The Lake Mohonk attendees wanted to stop that from happening, and they pressed lawmakers to change the government's policies toward Indians. Pratt, in particular, was a staunch advocate of folding Native Americans into white life — assimilation through education. 
He persuaded Congress to let him test out his ideas, and they gave him an abandoned military post in Carlisle, Pa., to set up a boarding school for Native children. He was also able to convince many Native Americans, including some tribal leaders, to send their children far away from home, and leave them in his charge. ...
The Carlisle Indian Industrial School would become a model for dozens of other unaffiliated boarding schools for Indian children. But Pratt's plans had lasting, disastrous ramifications. 
He pushed for the total erasure of Native cultures among his students. "No bilingualism was accommodated at these boarding schools," said Christina Snyder, a historian at Indiana University. The students' native tongues were strictly forbidden — a rule that was enforced through beating. Since they were rounded up from different tribes, the only way they could communicate with each other at the schools was in English. 
"In Indian civilization I am a Baptist," Pratt once told a convention of Baptist ministers, "because I believe in immersing the Indians in our civilization and when we get them under, holding them there until they are thoroughly soaked." 
"The most significant consequence of this policy is the loss of languages," Snyder says. "All native languages are [now] endangered and some of them are extinct."
Pratt also saw to it that his charges were Christianized. Carlisle students had to attend church each Sunday, although he allowed each student to choose the denomination to which she would belong. 
When students would return home to the reservations — which Pratt objected to, because he felt it would slow down their assimilation — there was a huge cultural gap between them and their families. They dressed differently. They had a new religion. And they spoke a different language.  ...
"For his time, Pratt was definitely a progressive," Snyder said. Indeed, he thought his ideas were the only thing keeping Native peoples from being entirely wiped out by disease and starvation. "That's one of the dirty little secrets of American progressivism — that [progress] was still shaped around ideas of whiteness." 
Snyder said that Pratt replaced the popular idea that some *groups *were natively inferior to others with the idea that some *cultures *that were the problem, and needed to be corrected or destroyed. In other words, he swapped biological determinism for cultural imperialism.
Given the sheer scale of the physical and cultural violence he helped set in motion, was Pratt himself a practitioner of the very ill he decried at the Lake Mohonk convention? Was he a racist? 

Obviously, Pratt was a Boasian culturalist avant-la-lettre. But he was a white man, so that makes him, despite being anti-racist, racist. (This stuff really isn't all that complicated.)

Of course, it's now evident that some of the problems of American Indians are biological -- specifically, they lack Darwinian adaptations for dealing with alcohol and some infectious diseases. In Australia, Aboriginals were dying so fast of novel infectious diseases such as tuberculosis that liberal reformers' hopes were focused on children of mixed parentage. The goal was to educate them so they could marry whites and have children with strong immune systems. Of course, this government-sponsored miscegenation campaign was racist.

The infectious diseases have been reasonably well controlled with vaccines and antibiotics, but alcoholism remains an immense problem for aborigines. Perhaps someday somebody will come up with a medical remedy for this tragic problem. Or would researching that be racist?

New York Review of Books: Never Trust Anyone Under 79

When I was young, books like the 1970 bestseller Future Shock warned/promised that the rapid social change of the 1960s was just a foretaste of the acceleration to come. But then ... Well, it kind of seems like the winners of the Sixties are often still in charge, either in spirit or literally. 

Consider the New York Review of Books, which was started by Robert B. Silvers and Barbara Epstein in 1963 during a New York newspaper strike that shut down all the daily book reviews. It quickly came to see itself as the house journal of radical chic, such as this 1967 cover diagramming how to make a Molotov cocktail

Phrases like "Burn bright, burn fast" might come to mind, but the exact opposite has happened. The New York Review of Books is still a pretty good, serious (if dull) magazine. Judging from how stuffed with ads it is, it appears to be, remarkably enough, profitable. It claims to have a circulation of 135,000, which is huge for these days. 

Not only is the New York Review of Books still there, but so is Robert B. Silvers, who continues to edit every line at age 84. The average age of the contributors must be astronomical by now (e.g., here's Malcolm Gladwell's latest book reviewed by 90-year-old Freeman Dyson, and here's Garry Wills, age 79, reviewing Joe Scarborough's political book in the current edition. Wills was a wunderkind, writing for National Review in the 1950s before moving left, so he just seems a lot older than 79).

In a lot of ways, that sums up much of the history of the last half century: the upstarts of the Sixties are still in charge. Back then, they liked Controversy, so everybody liked it. Now they don't like Controversy, so nobody likes it.

Why is tropical cuisine spicy?

I've mentioned this before, but it's worth repeating:

Spices from the tropics were always a luxury item to medieval Europeans, and now their descendants can afford more of them. Spicy plants are more common at lower latitudes because spices are commonly anti-parasite poisons evolved to protect the plant from the teeming variety of parasites found more in year-round warm climates than in wintry climates. (Also, biodiversity is greater in the tropics due to more specialization because of fewer seasonal swings). 

Thus, 15th Century Europe’s equivalent of the space race of the 20th Century was to find shipping routes to the Spice Islands of the East Indies to bring back peppers so that meat could be preserved longer against parasites.  

Thus, cuisines get blander the farther north you go (as shown by Garrison Keillor's jokes about Norwegian cooking), in part because there are so few spicy plants growing at latitudes where winter kills off most parasites. And it was easier to get snow and ice to keep your food refrigerated so you didn't need as many spices. (For example, a major product of 19th Century New England was ice. Riverboats plying the Mississippi might carry hundreds of pounds of ice from Walden Pond.)

Steak and a Baked Potato

Carrying on my discussion of white foods from Taki's Magazine, I have to admit to not really liking the kind of traditional expensive steak house fare that's heavily advertised in airline magazines: Ruth's Chris Steak House and the like. To my taste, a giant slab of steak gets repetitious compared to taking a smaller amount of beef and chopping it up and stir-frying it with vegetables like the Chinese do. And the Chinese approach is much cheaper since you don't need such high quality beef.

Of course, Ruth's Chris Steak House is largely in the traveling salesman business. And much of America's traditional fare is what traveling salesmen thought a safer bet after they had heard about that one horrifying chapter in Upton Sinclair's The Jungle:
It seemed as if every time you met a person from a new department, you heard of new swindles and new crimes. There was, for instance, a Lithuanian who was a cattle-butcher for the plant where Marija had worked, which killed meat for canning only; and to hear this man describe the animals which came to his place would have been worth while for a Dante or a Zola. It seemed that they must have agencies all over the country, to hunt out old and crippled and diseased cattle to be canned. There were cattle which had been fed on “whiskey-malt,” the refuse of the breweries, and had become what the men called “steerly”—which means covered with boils. It was a nasty job killing these, for when you plunged your knife into them they would burst and splash foul-smelling stuff into your face; and when a man’s sleeves were smeared with blood, and his hands steeped in it, how was he ever to wipe his face, or to clear his eyes so that he could see?

So, Ruth's Chris Steak House advertises itself as The Best USDA Prime Steak Restaurant, meaning everything it sells has passed the toughest inspection, which of course go back directly to the uproar caused by The Jungle. Plus, by serving you a big chunk of meat, you can have some confidence just from looking at the size of this piece of fine meat that it came from an overall healthy cow and that your meat dish wasn't assembled from bits and pieces of diseased cows that are then covered in a sauce.

Same with the baked potato -- it's just a whole potato, so it's unlikely to have had filler or worse added to it. You can put butter and sour cream on it -- more foods that you can inspect visually for gross contamination. The chives might be a little mysterious looking, but they seem unlikely to make you miss tomorrow's big meeting with food poisoning.

So, one motivation behind the much-derided traditional cuisine of mid-20th Century Americans was an attempt to avoid being swindled by unscrupulous businessmen.

Another point about mid-Century cuisine served in middle class homes is that much of it was modeled on business dining in restaurants, meals served to people who might not have all that much in common but who want to develop a friendlier relationship. Business dining was in contrast to exploratory dining among people who already are friends and who have already dined together and who find their tastes are enough in sync to want to explore cuisines together.

So, business cuisine in 1950 had a high emphasis on common denominator foods (e.g., steak and potatoes) that wouldn't be likely to weird out a customer. In turn, that had a lot of influence on what people ate at home. In general, the goal of mid-Century American culture was to create a friendly, open, fairly egalitarian, non-exclusionary society in which Americans would feel comfortable doing business with each other across a vast continent. This influenced norms toward some degree of homogeneity, blandness, and conformity in minor matters like cuisine, but was overall such an enormous success in terms of prosperity and national solidarity that we've forgotten the reasons behind many of the details, and thus view this culture with ignorant contempt.

January 7, 2014

The War on Whiteness (in Food)

Ground-up ants Quinoa
My new column in Taki's Magazine is on how "white bread," "vanilla," and the like became ethnic epithets. 
Then again, the Borscht Belt jokesters did have a point: Average American whites in the middle of the 20th century sure did eat a lot of literally white stuff. 
How come? 
I finally started to understand when my wife mentioned that sometime before WWII her grandfather had worked inside a Chicago ice cream factory. He came home and told his children, “After what I saw today, never eat any flavor of ice cream other than vanilla.”

Read the whole thing there.

Viva Puerto Rico Libre!

From the Wall Street Journal:
Puerto Ricans Flock North Away From Battered Economy 
Exodus in Past Decade Was the Largest Since the 1950s

But, hey, Puerto Rico is essential to America's national interest because it's an ideal place for Microsoft to evade federal taxes. And it would be a strategic location for a naval base for America's Great White Fleet to protect the proposed Isthmusian Canal from the Kaiser's weltpolitik and King Edward's new dreadnoughts.

We are frequently assured that we don't need to strengthen defenses against illegal immigration since nobody in Latin America will ever want to move to America again. Yet, here we are coming up on the 100th anniversary of open borders with Puerto Rico, and they just don't stop coming.

L.A. mayor Garcetti bemoans white males studying too hard

The mayor is sad.
From the Los Angeles Times:
New LAFD recruit class is nearly all male, overwhelmingly white

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti bemoaned the lack of diversity in new Fire Department recruits after celebrating a reported rise in local tourism at an event at the California Science Center. 
By Michael Finnegan, Ben Welsh and Robert J. Lopez
January 6, 2014, 8:13 p.m. 
The first new Los Angeles Fire Department recruit class in five years is nearly all male and mostly white despite repeated promises by the agency to diversify its ranks, according to figures released Monday evening by Mayor Eric Garcetti's office. 
The class of 70 firefighters, which is scheduled to begin training Monday, has just one woman and is 60% white. Twenty-three percent of the recruits are Latino, 11% are Asian American and 6% are African American, according to the figures.
Earlier Monday, Garcetti said that he had not seen the complete breakdown for the class but was not satisfied with the racial and ethnic balance based on preliminary information he received from the department. 
His office obtained complete figures and released them Monday evening after requests from The Times.  
"Mayor Garcetti thinks these numbers are unacceptable and wants the Fire Department to reflect the city it serves,” spokesman Yusef Robb said Monday evening. Los Angeles is 29% white, 49% Latino, 11% Asian and 10% black, according to the Census Bureau. 
Robb said the mayor's office is committed to working with the department  to improve recruiting and ensure future classes include more women and minorities. 
Robb noted that recruiting for the class starting next week took place before Garcetti took office. Another class of trainees could begin later this year.
Fire Department spokesmen could not be reached Monday evening for comment. 
For years, the LAFD has struggled with racial discrimination and sexual harassment, allegations that have cost taxpayers nearly $20 million since 2005, city records show. 
In November, a Superior Court jury awarded $1.1 million to a black firefighter who said he had endured three decades of discrimination. The verdict followed payouts totaling $1.5 million in other bias cases for the budget year that ended in June.

Suing the fire department on some sort of discrimination grounds, as in the famous case of veteran black fireman Tennie "Big Dog" Pierce, who was given $1.5 million by taxpayers for a firehouse prank involving dog food appearing surreptitiously in his spaghetti, is known as AARP: African-American Retirement Planning.
The department, which has 3,200 sworn personnel, has diversified its ranks over the last two decades, city officials say, noting that the last four fire chiefs have been African American. 
But the agency is still 50% white, 31% Latino, 12% black and 7% Asian.

Those darn white fire nuts keep studying how to put out fires.
And despite past scandals involving firefighter attitudes toward female recruits, the ratio of women in the uniformed ranks remains at just under 3% — the same as in 1995.

So the huge city of Los Angeles is hiring firemen at the rate of 14 per year -- in other words, as the number of fires decline, it just doesn't need new firemen. So, this ought to be a non-issue.

Still, we get these ritual denunciations by white male authority figures of working class white males for the sin of burning the midnight oil studying how to save people from fires.

That's what important white people do these days: denounce white men. It's a very weird kabuki rite, but nobody seems to notice there's anything odd about it anymore.

January 6, 2014

Kung fu movie mogul Run Run Shaw dies at 107

The Hong Kong film producer Run Run Shaw, whose studio dominated kung fu movies before the rise of Bruce Lee, has died at 106 or 107. One of his few Hollywood credits is:
Blade Runner (co-executive producer - uncredited) 

In 2004, he started a Shaw Prize for math, astronomy, and life sciences to round out the Nobel Prizes.

The logic of creating new Nobel-Like prizes is obvious. Science is a good thing, and encouraging scientists with money and public esteem is a good thing. And the Nobels in physics, chemistry, and medicine/physiology don't cover enough of the scientific waterfront. And the world is full of rich guys who want their names to go down in history like Alfred Nobel's has.

Yet, my impression is that it's really hard for even very rich guys to get a new scientific prize off the ground in terms of public recognition. The Fields Prize in math has some public recognition despite not much money, and the MacArthur "genius" grants are widely recognized because of the word genius in their unofficial title. The "Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel" drafts along on the prestige of the real Nobels. But a lot of other prizes haven't really gone anywhere.

For example, the Crafoord Prize was started in 1980 to complement the Nobels. From Wikipedia:
The Crafoord Prize is an annual science prize established in 1980 by Holger Crafoord, a Swedish industrialist, and his wife Anna-Greta Crafoord. Administered by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the prize "is intended to promote international basic research in the disciplines: Astronomy and Mathematics, Geosciences, Biosciences, with particular emphasis on ecology, and Polyarthritis (rheumatoid arthritis)", the disease from which Holger severely suffered in his last years. According to the Academy, "these disciplines are chosen so as to complement those for which the Nobel Prizes are awarded".[1] Only one award is given each year, according to a rotating scheme – astronomy and mathematics; then geosciences; then biosciences.[1] A Crafoord Prize is only awarded for polyarthritis when a special committee decides that substantial progress in the field has been made.[1] The recipient of the Crafoord Prize is announced each year in mid-January; on Crafoord Day in April, the prize is presented by the King of Sweden, who also presents the Nobel Prize Awards at the ceremony in December.[1][2] The prize sum, which as of 2012 is 4,000,000 kr or US$600,000, is intended to fund further research by the prize winner.

But despite all this effort to make it just like the Nobels, the only time I can recall hearing of the 33-year-old Crafoord Prize is in the memoirs of its winners. Both Edward O. Wilson and William D. Hamilton were stoked to win "the Nobel Prize of biology," but it's not making much of a splash in America.

What would it take to get Nobel-like coverage of other fields than the blessed 3? 

1,000 cars torched per week in France

From Time:
In announcing the New Year’s Eve tally on Jan. 2, Interior Minister Manuel Valls also revealed that figures provided by fire, police and insurance officials indicate that somewhere between 42,000 and 60,000 automobiles are intentionally torched in France every year. The majority of those go up in smoke in or near the disadvantaged suburban housing projects located outside most French cities. 

About 20% appear to be owners setting fire to their own cars to collect on insurance, which is a pretty plausible scam in a country where youths burn over 100 cars per night.

January 5, 2014

The annual retrospective season is finally over

The end of the year in the press features a lot of top ten lists, but the high-end guys strive to provide more than bullet points: they labor to explicate the thematic common denominator, the profound message about the state of the world in this year's list of the top ten dubstep tracks, point-and-shoot videogames, or movies. For example, poor David Denby explains in The New Yorker in "The Best Movies of the Year:"
... this fine movie year was propelled by many stern and responsible—O.K., important—American films. America is in trouble (no kidding), and many of the best movies this year, intentionally or not, embodied the national unease, the sense that everyone is on his own, that communal bonds have disappeared in a war of all against all, or the indifference of all to all. (A recent study suggests that hard-heartedness as a social sentiment goes up—not down—in periods of greater income inequality; we don’t want anyone else to get something we don’t have.) “Blue Jasmine,” “Gravity,” “All Is Lost,” “12 Years a Slave,” “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Her,” “The Bling Ring,” and “Inside Llewyn Davis” are all powerful movies that touch on the national loneliness and despair. That they are also such strong movies is, at the same time, a defiance of misery.

Furthermore, we must not overlook the urgent apprehensions about the state of the American consciousness that unite and illuminate World War Z, Lee Daniel's The Butler, The CroodsThis Is the End, and Pacific Rim.

Not by Vermeer
Seriously, there are no doubt things that actually do unite movies released in 2013 that will be obvious a generation from now. But almost by definition we can't see the forest for the trees at this point. Recall the Dutch con man in the 1930s, Han van Meegeren, who painted many fake Vermeers, trading one to Goering for hundred of real Dutch paintings. Today, they look like badly done publicity posters for Greta Garbo movies, but back in 1937 they were perfectly convincing because they were so 1937ish: of course a missing Vermeer would look like this: Vermeer was a genius, far ahead of his time, our contemporary!

Everybody Hates Amy, Part II

Amy Chua owns January. 

Most of the news media shut down over the last 10 days in December, just running boring and inane articles about the top ten whatevers of the year and what it all means. (I particularly enjoy the highbrow film critics' attempts to find the common theme in the year's movies: "Like Twelve Years a Slave, American Hustle, and Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Gravity and We're the Millers speak to our growing concern that ...") 

What this means is that all the long running conversations get interrupted, and once halted, do you really want to restart them? So the door is slightly ajar in early January for somebody to elbow through, as Chua did in January 2011 with Tiger Mother.
Tiger Mom accused of being a 'full-blown racist' as her new book names the eight 'superior' races and religions that make better parents 
Tiger Mom Amy Chua has penned a new parenting guide called 'The Triple Package' which lays out a controversial theory for success in modern America
Declares there to be only eight successful and superior groups of people in the United States


She gained notoriety in 2011 as the uncompromising 'Tiger Mom' - boastful that Chinese mothers make better parents and ultimately have more successful children. 
Now though, Amy Chua, 51, has inspired the fury of the public on Twitter with her new controversial theory that some races and religions are just superior to everyone else. 
Dubbed 'simply racist' by one commentor on Twitter, another pulled no punches and called her a 'full blown eugenics pushing racist!' 
Others were more diplomatic charging that 'Chua has now begun treading territory uncomfortably close to racism.' 
Published in the new book, 'The Triple Package', that she has written with her Jewish husband Jed Rubenfeld, Chua names the eight groupings that are exceptional in no particular order - and unsurprisingly, the Chinese are one of the top dogs. 
The other seven are Jewish, Indian, Iranian, Lebanese-Americans, Nigerians, Cuban exiles and Mormons. 
Clearly one of these groupings is a religion and by calling them 'cultural', never ethnic, racial or religious, Chua and her husband seek to avoid the hugely controversial criticism this would bring. 
However, Chua does identify three distinguishing features these eight peoples have that guarantees them success over others; superiority, insecurity and impulse control. 
'That certain groups do much better in America than others — as measured by income, occupational status, test scores and so on — is difficult to talk about,' the authors write.

'In large part, this is because the topic feels so racially charged.' 
Chua and her husband argue that far from pointing fingers and exulting certain cultural groups, they are agitating for everyone else to follow their example and bring back America's glory days. 
Spelling improved -- the Daily Mail appears to have given up not only editors, but spell-checkers.

Everybody Hates Amy, Part I

The New York Post is mad at Amy Chua
Tiger Mom: Some cultural groups are superior 
By Maureen Callahan January 4, 2014 | 3:17pm

"Tiger Mom" Amy Chua is known for claiming that Chinese women make the best mothers, but now she and her husband say that some groups are just plain better than others.

She’s doubling down. 
Amy Chua, the self-proclaimed “Tiger Mom” who, in 2011, published a book arguing that Chinese women are superior mothers — thus their offspring superior children — has even more to say. 
In “The Triple Package,” Chua and her husband, co-author Jed Rubenfeld, gather some specious stats and anecdotal evidence to argue that some groups are just superior to others and everyone else is contributing to the downfall of America.
Unsurprisingly, the Chinese Chua and the Jewish Rubenfeld belong to two of the eight groups they deem exceptional. In no seeming order of importance, they are: 
Cuban exiles

How about Armenians? Koreans? Barbadians (Bajans)?

What about certain Protestant groups like Episcopalians?

And what about looking back in time? Christian Scientists are fading, but they did extremely well for themselves for a long time.

If you go back to 1900, Scots dominated much of business in the U.S. and Canada. Mark Twain's long 1898 article praising Jewish business acumen mentions that of course the one place Jews can't compete is Scotland: "There are a few Jews in Glasgow, and one in Aberdeen; but that is because they can't earn enough to get away."
These groups — “cultural,” mind you, never “ethnic” or “racial” or “religious” — all possess, in the authors’ estimation, three qualities that they’ve identified as guarantors of wealth and power: superiority, insecurity and impulse control.
“That certain groups do much better in America than others — as measured by income, occupational status, test scores and so on — is difficult to talk about,” the authors write. “In large part, this is because the topic feels so racially charged.” 
And so begins their cat-and-mouse polemic, in which they claim they’re courageously agitating for a greater good: the revival of America itself as a “Triple Package Culture.” It’s a series of shock-arguments wrapped in self-help tropes, and it’s meant to do what racist arguments do: scare people. 
Chua, a law professor at Yale, became a media sensation in 2011, when The Wall Street Journal published an extract from her book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.” She herself is an American, raised in the Midwest, but she used her heritage and all the worst stereotypes of Chinese women — cold, rigid Dragon Ladies, hostile towards their own children — to criticize the Western way of parenting, which she also said would be the downfall of America. 
Chua made waves with “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” but she makes even more outrageous claims in her new book. 
... Her book really can be reduced to a simple argument: Chinese mothers are better than those of any other race, and these parenting methods are going to result in the West’s big fear — the continued rise and ultimate supremacy of China. Chua’s book was a best-seller, so it’s little surprise she’s back with an even more incendiary thesis, one so well timed to deep economic anxiety, to the collective fear that the American middle class is about to disappear, for good, and the misguided belief that immigration reform will result in even less opportunity for Americans than there is now.

You mean, some people suspect Schumer-Rubio isn't the cure for whatever ails us?
She and Rubenfeld stoke those fears. “Although rarely mentioned in media reports,” they write, “the studies said to show the demise in upward mobility largely exclude immigrants and their children.” 
Yet the authors do not mention whether these immigrants are low-wage workers who have a greater chance at upward mobility, and the Pew study they cite is from 2007 — one year before the global financial collapse, resulting in an American economy that may be structurally altered for decades to come.

Uh ...
All of the groups profiled by Chua and Rubenfeld are done so only as American immigrants, with the exceptions of Mormons and Jews, who are superior to Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, atheists and Muslims — the latter group, it seems, too controversial to warrant a mention. 
On to the distinguishing factors that make these eight groups the best in America: 
1. A superiority complex 
Any group that collectively believes they are inherently better than any other, say the authors, has an advantage. They do not note that this is perhaps humanity’s oldest and ugliest flaw, the bottom-line cause of wars and genocide. In their estimation, it’s not nearly common enough in America, where “the Superiority Complex . . . is antithetical to mainstream liberal thinking . . . the stuff of racism, colonialism, imperialism, Nazism.” This way of thinking, they write, has been a big boon to Mormons and Jews, though they also fail to note that believing in the superiority of a belief system is the driving force behind almost all organized religion. (Except the Amish. The authors freely note that the Amish are losers for this very reason.)

I was surprised to see driving through Amish country last summer that the Amish aren't anywhere near as poor as I expected.
2. Insecurity ...
3. Impulse Control 
Yet another hallmark of self-help, impulse control is considered to be a key factor in personal success — the ability to delay instant gratification in the service of a greater goal. But this isn’t really what the authors have in mind: “As we’ll use the term,” they write, “impulse control refers to the ability to resist temptation, especially the temptation to give up in the face of hardship or quit instead of persevering at a difficult task.” 
You know who’s bad at this? Americans not among their eight groups. “Because all three elements of the Triple Package run so counter to modern American culture, it makes sense that America’s successful groups are all outsiders in one way or another,” they write. “Paradoxically, in modern America, a group has an edge if it doesn’t buy into — or hasn’t yet bought into — mainstream, post-1960s, liberal American principles.” 
As curious as the groups that Chua and Rubenfeld elevate are the absence of ones they denigrate. Aside from the Amish (not big book-buyers), the only other group the authors take aim at are the Appalachian poor, noting, without irony, that “it’s far more socially acceptable today to insult and look down on ‘white trash’ than the poor of any other racial group.’” 
As for why African-Americans don’t make the list, the authors believe that the Civil Rights Movement took away any hope for a superiority narrative, and so the black community is screwed — even as they cite Mitt Romney’s loss to Barack Obama as evidence of Mormon ascendancy. 
“In this paradoxical sense, equality isn’t fair to African-Americans,” they write. “Superiority is the one narrative that America has relentlessly denied or ground out of its black population.” 
Nigerian immigrants, they argue, are bolstered by the belief that they are better than other West Africans

West African immigrants feel superior to African Americans, that's for sure.
— much as the Lebanese believe, as descendants of Phoenicians, that they are superior, or that the Chinese believe that their 5,000-year-old civilization makes them superior. But feeling superior to other nations, races or religions is nothing more than that — a feeling.

Uh ... no, that's what they have wars for.
The authors have such dubious data — “getting a statistical fix on Mormon income and wealth is notoriously difficult”; “hard numbers, however, are surprisingly hard to come by” — that they undermine every assertion of so-called “cultural” supremacy. 
The real story here — the less controversial one, the more interesting and possibly instructive one — is that historically, immigrant groups tend to experience upward mobility in America until the third generation, and then, for reasons unknown, tend to level off. It’s interesting, too, that the authors either dismiss or outright ignore the large swaths of immigrant groups who built up this country — the English, Irish, Italians, Germans, Eastern Europeans. They ignore two very basic explanations for the success of immigrant groups in America: Anyone who leaves their homeland for parts unknown, no matter how desperate, is, by definition, bold; America’s uniqueness as a nation founded by immigrants.

Or maybe having a whole bunch of nice land with only some tubercular Indians on it ...
Once we were a Triple Package nation, say the authors, but no more. We have been done in by our superiority complex, our poor, Western-style “self-esteem parenting” and lack of impulse control. 
The question they finally pose — Should America be a Triple Package country again? Can it? — is followed by a paragraph-long, yes-no-maybe answer that will give you whiplash. 
“The real promise of a Triple Package America,” they conclude, “is the promise of a day when there are no longer any successful groups in the United States — only successful individuals.” 
Today, the demographic predicted to have the greatest impact economically, politically and culturally, by the year 2042, are Hispanics. Just don’t tell the Mormons or the Jews.

The 4.8 million Hispanics in Los Angeles County can't even muscle their way into jobs as gaffers, key grips, and best boys. Do you really think they'll suddenly be running the media by 2042?