March 22, 2014

Gessen in Slate: "Bombing Moscow does not seem to be an option"

Masha Gessen, former head of the U.S. government's Radio Liberty office in Moscow, writes in Slate:
Crimea Is Putin’s Revenge 
On March 24, 1999, the U.S. bombed Kosovo. Putin has been planning his payback ever since.
On March 24, 1999, Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov was on his way to Washington when he got word that NATO had begun bombing Kosovo. He ordered his plane turned around. A few hours later, he landed in a Moscow that was reeling from the insult of not being consulted. Russians had only a vague idea of what Kosovo was but a very strong concept of Serbia being a land of fellow Eastern Orthodox Slavs and of Yugoslavia being a rightful part of Moscow's sphere of influence.

There was that incident involving Serbia in 1914.
Not being consulted—or even, apparently, warned—sent the very clear message that the U.S. had decided it now presided over a unipolar world. There was no longer even the pretense of recognizing Russia's fading-superpower status: President Bill Clinton had chosen not to wait the few hours it would have taken for Primakov to land in Washington, allowing him to save face by at least pretending to have been in on the conversation. 
From this point on, Russian President Boris Yeltsin's administration, already weak and embattled, would be unable to justify its friendly, perennially de-escalating posture toward the West. Anti-American feelings ran so high you would have thought the U.S. were bombing Russia.

Kind of like how Americans didn't much appreciate England being bombed in 1940 or Australia being bombed in 1941.
... The mood I found in Belgrade matched Moscow's perfectly. The country was mobilizing in support of its nationalist leader, Slobodan Milosevic. The few groups and people who continued to oppose him grew more marginalized and embattled by the day. They also grew increasingly paranoid, which paralyzed them. A daily concert in the center of town was literally drumming up support for the war effort, which had acquired the proud status of a defense effort—against the Americans, no less. ... 

This bizarre outburst of anti-Americanism apparently being related to Americans bombing their country for 78 days.
... In August, Yeltsin anointed as his successor, a virtual unknown named Vladimir Putin. Within a few weeks, Putin became spectacularly popular by launching a new war in Chechnya. Politicians formerly known as liberals praised the Russian army for its performance there; one said it was “regaining its dignity.” He did not mention Kosovo, but he was referring to the general sense of humiliation that had stayed with Russians since the spring. 
In December 1999, Putin became acting president, and the following March, he was elected to the office. Over the course of the following 14 years, he nurtured in the Russian public a sense of nostalgia for the Soviet Union and especially for the fear it inspired in the rest of the world. In 2008, Russia invaded the former Soviet republic of Georgia and effectively annexed part of its territory. And now it has done the same with Ukraine. This time Putin mentioned Kosovo. Indeed, in his speech to parliament on Tuesday, he made it very clear that by annexing Crimea he had avenged Russia for what had happened with Kosovo. 
“It was our Western partners who created the precedent; they did it themselves, with their own hands, as it were, in a situation that was totally analogous to the Crimean situation, by recognizing Kosovo's secession from Serbia as legitimate,” said Putin. ... 
This raises three questions. First, if Putin thinks he is paying the West back for Kosovo, why has he waited so long to strike? Second, what could the United States have done differently to avoid setting off this long and frightening chain reaction? And finally, what can the United States do now? 
In retrospect, the long wait makes perfect sense. Once Putin held power in Russia, he never planned to cede it, so he had all the time in the world. Two of Putin's key character traits are vengefulness and opportunism. He relishes his grudges and finds motivation in them: He has enjoyed holding the bombing of Yugoslavia against the United States all these years—and knowing he would strike back some day. ...
Could the United States and its allies have undertaken anything other than military intervention to resolve the Kosovo crisis? In fact, they did. After the bombing campaign, which strengthened support for Milosevic and weakened his opponents, the U.S. poured cash into rebuilding the Serbian opposition. The funding was contingent on the disparate opposition groups agreeing to work together and attending regular coordination meetings held in Budapest, Hungary, and run by people whom participants understood to represent the State Department.

That's pretty interesting. The Wikipedia article on the subject doesn't mention anything about American involvement in the overthrow of Milosevic, but I presume Ms. Gessen knows of what she speaks.
The plan for the anti-Milosevic revolution was worked out in these meetings down to the smallest detail, including where the leaders of each of the 18 participating political organizations would be if mass protests broke out in Belgrade. They did, in October 2000, and Milosevic didn't seem to know what hit him. 

In other words, the U.S. government hit him.
Could a plan like that have been carried out without the NATO bombing campaign? Could Milosevic have been removed sooner without the bombing? I think so. On the other hand, would he have succeeded in killing and displacing many more people in Kosovo before being deposed, if it hadn't been for the NATO intervention? This is an impossible question to answer. What we do know is that Yugoslavia's wars were very much one man's wars,

They were?

Granted, I remember back when Milosevic was the New Hitler of the hour. But fighting over the breakup of Yugoslavia had been predicted in the West long before anybody had heard of Milosevic -- for example, in British general John Hackman's 1978 bestseller The Third World War, WWIII starts with a fight in breakaway Yugoslav Slovenia in 1985 that both the Soviets and the U.S. Marines intervene in.
and it was the removal of that man from power, not the bombing, that finally ended them. Russia's wars are, similarly, Putin's wars. 
It is also impossible to know whether Putin would have happened to Russia if it had not been for the bombing of Yugoslavia. I believe he would not have. But now that he has been in power for more than 14 years and is planning to stay forever, what should the United States do? Bombing Moscow does not seem to be an option.

Keep that in mind: "Bombing Moscow does not seem to be an option." Airstrikes on Moscow can't be part of America's Plan A. It's just not an option. At present. And nuking Russia down to melted glass isn't even part of Plan B. Yet. (However, it should be noted, just for the record, that it's still only the beginning of Spring so that leaves plenty of time to invade Russia and conquer Moscow before winter sets in. It's March 22, not June 22.)
But helping the Russian opposition in the same committed, involved, and even meddling manner as the U.S. once helped the Serbian opposition should be. Putin already believes the U.S. State Department is backing the few protest activists left in Moscow—and is punishing the activists for it.

In other words, nudge nudge, wink wink, the U.S. State Department is backing the few protest activists left in Moscow. Gessen and Putin seem to be on the same page when it comes to their understanding of How These Things Work (they're just not on the same side).

Look, I don't really know anything about these Color Revolutions. But I do have decent reading comprehension. And this former U.S. government official, who seems to be omnipresent in the U.S. media, is, when read carefully, being fairly blatant.

On the other hand, I presume Gessen is not financially disinterested. She's been on the U.S. government payroll before, so it's in her bank account's interest to advocate more U.S. taxpayer spending on a Color Revolution in Moscow. But the concept of "disinterestedness" is now considered too boring to remember.
There are many differences between Putin today and Milosevic 15 years ago, all of which boil down to the fact that Putin is a lot stronger and harder to remove—all the more reason for the U.S. to put its best minds to work on helping Russians accomplish just this. It may be our only chance of righting the course of history. 

In other words, pay Masha Gessen to wage World War G.
Masha Gessen is a Russian-American journalist who is the author of Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot and co-editor of Gay Propaganda: Russian Love Stories.
Personally, I find the idea of risking A Land War in Europe by trying to destabilize Russia unappealing, but that just shows that I'm a wacko extremist, unlike the highly respectable Ms. Gessen.

Down the memory hole

From Google News:

Now you know and I know and Wikipedia knows that Russia invaded Georgia in 2008 in roughly the sense that Israel invaded Egypt in 1973 (i.e., in a counter-offensive), but does anybody else know that?


March 21, 2014

The "campus climate" buzzphrase

The University of California has conducted a giant Campus Climate Study to see if students are comfortable. From my experience, the climate on UC campuses is very comfortable. For example, right now at UCLA, it's sunny and 64 degrees. When I got my MBA there in 1980-1982, that was pretty much what it was like year round. Maybe UC Riverside isn't quite so mild, but, hey, even that's not exactly Cornell.

Oh, but actually, the jargon terms campus climate comfort don't have anything to do with the weather anymore. They have to do with how aggrieved aggrieved groups feel about the level of microaggressions and/or nanoaggressions on campus. 

As I wrote ten years ago after visiting Claremont Colleges to check out one of those false flag attacks (a liberal feminist professor trashed her car, then told the FBI it was likely committed by her white male students) that are such a commonplace on contemporary campuses:
It was 72 degrees with a gentle breeze blowing, so the climate seemed okay to me, but a flier on Pitzer bulletin boards made the local idée fixe a little clearer: "Diversity and Campus Climate: You are invited to participate in a discussion about campus climate." 
Another advertised: "Queer Dreams and Nightmares: What is it like to be a student at the Claremont Colleges? Student panel discussion addressing the current climate at the 5-Cs, both academically and socially." This was part of a conference entitled, with that profusion of punctuation that is the secret fraternity handshake of post-modern academics, "[Re]Defining a Queer Space at the Claremont Colleges." 
The university's main concern appears to be to make students feel "comfortable," a word that reappears constantly in Claremont publications despite the obvious hopelessness of the project. The only way to make 19-year-olds feel comfortable is to wait 30 years while they sag into their well-padded maturities. Right now, they are teenagers and their surging hormones have far more important emotions for them to feel than comfort. Adults, however, who make careers out of encouraging kids to mold permanently self-pitying identities around their transient social discomforts have much to answer for.

From the San Jose Mercury-News:
University of California challenges highlighted in survey of student, employee experiences 
By Katy Murphy 
POSTED:   03/19/2014 02:59:50 PM  
About one-quarter of University of California students and employees responding to a survey said they had experienced intimidating or hostile conduct or felt excluded on campus -- and 9 percent said it was bad enough to affect their work or study, according to a new report released by the university system. 
Although the findings were consistent with those of smaller previous surveys, the number of people reporting problems was concerning, said Gibor Basri, UC Berkeley's vice chancellor for Division of Equity, Inclusion and Diversity, a position created in 2007. 
"We don't like almost a quarter of the population feeling like they're having a negative experience," Basri said. "Maybe that's similar across the country, but that's still not OK." 
The findings, mirrored at UC Berkeley, came to light Wednesday as part of a systemwide Campus Climate Study. A popular buzzword, campus climate describes attitudes, behaviors and interactions at schools -- often, as they affect minority group members. 
As at many colleges, UC's work to make campuses healthier and more harmonious began after an uproar: In early 2010, students protested a series of acts targeting minority groups on UC campuses, including a swastika carved into the door of a Jewish student's room at UC Davis and an off-campus party at UC San Diego -- the so-called Compton Cookout -- mocking poor African-Americans. 
Of course, all this adult attention just encourages students and professors to generate false flag incidents. For example, as I wrote in 2010:
Another Campus Hate Hoax 
In the latest Noose News, the University of California at San Diego, that cauldron of white supremacy, where white undergrads make up about 30% of the campus, has been roiled by charges of racism, with the campus administration joining in -- see their official rabble-rousing website: BattleHate.UCSD.Edu
Not surprisingly, as this Two Weeks Hate against white students built to a climax, a noose was discovered in the library to vast and completely credulous publicity, despite the long history of Hate Hoaxes on campuses. 
Also, not surprisingly, the Administration wouldn't reveal the racial identity of the young woman involved. Today, I called a UCSD PR flack, and she confirmed that the student involved with the noose was a minority.

Same as it ever was ...

From the NYT:
School Data Finds Pattern of Inequality Along Racial Lines 
Racial minorities [i.e., non-Asian minorities] are more likely than white students to be suspended from school, to have less access to rigorous math and science classes, and to be taught by lower-paid teachers with less experience, according to comprehensive data released Friday by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights
In the first analysis in nearly 15 years of information from all of the country’s 97,000 public schools, the Education Department found a pattern of inequality on a number of fronts, with race as the dividing factor. 
Black students are suspended and expelled at three times the rate of white students. ... 
In his budget request to Congress, President Obama has proposed a new phase of his administration’s Race to the Top competitive grant program, which would give $300 million in incentives to states and districts that put in place programs intended to close some of the educational gaps identified in the data. ...
One of the striking statistics to emerge from the data, based on information collected during the 2011-12 academic year, was that even as early as preschool, black students face harsher discipline than other students. 
While black children make up 18 percent of preschool enrollment, close to half of all preschool children who are suspended more than once are African-American. 

If they looked at 97,000 schools, surely some of them must have the opposite pattern where, at a statistically significant level, Asian females get in trouble more than black males. Right? So, all they have to do is figure out What These Schools Are Doing Right and then repeat it nationally.

Gap Closed!

Microassaults, microinsults and microinvalidations

A year and a day after my Taki's Magazine article on "The Cult of Microaggressions," the NYT starts to catch up:
The Big Topic on Campus: Racial ‘Microaggressions’ 

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — A tone-deaf inquiry into an Asian-American’s ethnic origin. Cringe-inducing praise for how articulate a black student is. An unwanted conversation about a Latino’s ability to speak English without an accent.
This is not exactly the language of traditional racism, but in an avalanche of blogs, student discourse, campus theater and academic papers, they all reflect the murky terrain of the social justice word du jour — microaggressions — used to describe the subtle ways that racial, ethnic, gender and other stereotypes can play out painfully in an increasingly diverse culture.
On a Facebook page called “Brown University Micro/Aggressions” a “dark-skinned black person” describes feeling alienated from conversations about racism on campus. A digital photo project run by a Fordham University student about “racial microaggressions” features minority students holding up signs with comments like “You’re really pretty … for a dark-skin girl.” The “St. Olaf Microaggressions” blog includes a letter asking David R. Anderson, the college’s president, to address “all of the incidents and microaggressions that go unreported on a daily basis.”
Across college campuses and social media, younger generations have started to challenge those fleeting comments that seem innocent but leave uneasy feelings behind. ...
The recent surge in popularity for the term can be attributed, in part, to an academic article Derald W. Sue, a psychology professor at Columbia University, published in 2007 in which he broke down microaggressions into microassaults, microinsults and microinvalidations.

He literally grew up as A Boy Named Sue.
Dr. Sue, who has literally written the book on the subject, called “Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation,” attributed the increased use of the term to the rapidly changing demographics in which minorities are expected to outnumber whites in the United States by 2042. “As more and more of us are around, we talk to each other and we know we’re not crazy,” Dr. Sue said. Once, he said, minorities kept silent about perceived slights. “I feel like people of color are less inclined to do that now,” he said.

So, the fewer the white people, the more nonwhites will be angry at them? Sounds like a promising future for America ...
Some say challenges to affirmative action in recent years have worked to stir racial tensions and resentments on college campuses. At least in part as a result of a blog started by two Columbia University students four years ago called The Microaggressions Project, the word made the leap from the academic world to the free-for-all on the web. Vivian Lu, the co-creator of the site, said she has received more than 15,000 submissions since she began the project. 
To date, the site has had 2.5 million page views from 40 countries. Ms. Lu attributed the growing popularity of the term to its value in helping to give people a way to name something that may not be so obvious. “It gives people the vocabulary to talk about these everyday incidents that are quite difficult to put your finger on,” she said. ... 
When students at Harvard performed a play this month based on a multimedia project, “I, Too, Am Harvard,” that grew out of interviews with minority students, an entire segment highlighted microaggressions. ...

Tsega Tamene, 20, a history and science major, and a producer for the play, said microaggressions were an everyday part of student life. “It’s almost scary the way that this disguised racism can affect you, hindering your success and the very psyche of going to class,” she said.


Secession referendums that win, win big

Looking at the Wikipedia page on "Independence Referendums," I note that successful secession votes tend to be extremely lopsided. For example, Norway's secession from Sweden in 1905 received 368,208 votes For versus 184 votes Against independence.

I'm not sure why this pattern is so common: Cheating? Bandwagoning? Boycotting by sure to lose sides? Fear of reprisals by winners? They don't hold secession votes unless they are likely to win big?

(An exception was the 2006 referendum in Montenegro that gave it independence from Serbia, which passed with only 55.5% of the vote. This seems to reflect the general principle that Everybody Hates Serbia -- if you don't believe me, just ask a Serb. Of course, the events subsequent to June 28, 1914 did generate a little ill will toward Serbia.)

Here are the percentage Yes votes for secession in the Ukraine on December 1, 1991. You can see that Crimea (54% yes) and Sevastopol (57% yes) are definite outliers, while no other oblasts were under 83% yes. So, Crimea seems like a special case:

March 20, 2014

My Rice classmate shows how to start brushfire with 3-iron

When I was at Rice U. in Houston, the least popular major was Materials Science: there were only about four materials science majors. So, the notion of studying materials science attracted disparaging comments from guys majoring in more popular fields. Yet, I can recall the materials science majors flat-out winning arguments with their detractors. Their argument was, roughly: without advances in materials, everything would still be made out of clay, lead, or leather. Wikipedia phrases their position more formally:
Materials science, also commonly known as materials engineering, is an interdisciplinary field applying the properties of matter to various areas of science and engineering. This relatively new scientific field investigates the relationship between the structure of materials at atomic or molecular scales and their macroscopic properties. It incorporates elements of applied physics and chemistry. With significant media attention focused on Nano science and nanotechnology in recent years, materials science is becoming more widely known as a specific field of science and engineering. ... Many of the most pressing scientific problems that are currently faced today are due to the limitations of the materials that are currently available and, as a result, breakthroughs in this field are likely to have a significant impact on the future of technology.

For example, when I was young, the only thing made out of titanium was the SR-71. One type of object that has improved since my Rice days are golf clubs. 

But, there are downsides. One of my Class of '80 classmates was a Material Sciences major with the sci-fi name James Earthman. Now a materials science and chemical engineering professor at UC Irvine, Dr. Earthman is in the news today for a video demonstrating that the golfer who claimed that the 25-acre brush fire he started in 2010 at the Shady Canyon golf course in Orange County might not have been lying to cover up, say, tossing a cigar butt in the rough:
When struck against a rock – typically, by a frustrated golfer trying to hit a ball out of the shrubs and weeds on the golf-course margin – the titanium coating can produce a shower of such sparks. 
“The temperature of these particles can get up to around 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit,” Earthman said. “Titanium reacts violently with both oxygen and nitrogen in the air.”

So, when I tossed my ball out from the brush to the fairway on the 14th hole at Rustic Canyon golf course yesterday, I wasn't cheating, I was preventing forest fires.

How America's Shallow State wages WWG (cont.)

I don't watch much news on TV or video -- reading is faster than listening -- but I gather that RT, formerly Russia Today, is a Russian government-paid news network in English. And it was big news when a couple of American on-air personalities on RT criticized the Russian government over Crimea. 

On TruthDig, Max Blumenthal and Rania Khalek track down the role of Jamie Kirchik in one of these incidents:
How Cold War-Hungry Neocons Stage Managed RT Anchor Liz Wahl’s Resignation

One obvious aspect of this is how everybody on both sides have long histories with everybody else. Blumenthal, author of Goliath, a book about how Israel isn't actually the plucky little David fighting the giant Palestinian juggernaut, is the son of Clinton consigliere Sidney Blumenthal. (Heck, I can vaguely recall being denounced by young Blumenthal as an anti-Semite for, of all things, an article of mine celebrating the Jewish contribution to the Christmas song genre.)

James Kirchik, winner of the 2006 National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association Excellence in Student Journalism award, is one of the former bright young things of long-time New Republic supremo Marty Peretz, a lineage of one-time ambitious young fellows that include Andrew Sullivan and the teenage Al Gore.

There are lots of interesting linkages in Blumenthal's article, such as Victoria Nuland.

Getting totally off track, I've always been impressed by how Peretz overcame his inclinations and went forth and multiplied to perpetuate the race, so I looked up what his two kids are doing. It turns out that Jesse and Evgenia Peretz are that rarest of contemporary movie-making duos, the Sibling Act. (Wachowskis not included in this count). There are lots of creative Brother Acts (Coens, Farrellys, DuPlasses, etc.), but the recent movie Our Idiot Brother starring Paul Rudd was directed by Jesse Peretz with a screenplay by his sister Evgenia Peretz and her husband.

Fred Phelps, media symbiont

Democrat politician and anti-racism activist Fred Phelps is dead. The cult leader of the Westboro Baptist Church, enjoyed a, shall we say, symbiotic relationship with the national media.

From Wikipedia:
The first notable cases were related to civil rights. "I systematically brought down the Jim Crow laws of this town," he claims.[8] Phelps' daughter was quoted as saying, "We took on the Jim Crow establishment, and Kansas did not take that sitting down. They used to shoot our car windows out, screaming we were n***** lovers," and that the Phelps law firm made up one-third of the state's federal docket of civil rights cases.[18] 
Phelps took cases on behalf of African-American clients alleging racial discrimination by school systems, and a predominantly black American Legion post which had been raided by police, alleging racially based police abuse.[19] Phelps' law firm obtained settlements for some clients.[20] Phelps also sued President Ronald Reagan over Reagan's appointment of a U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, alleging this violated separation of church and state. The case was dismissed by the U.S. district court.[20][21] Phelps' law firm, staffed by himself and family members also represented non-white Kansans in discrimination actions against Kansas City Power and Light, Southwestern Bell, and the Topeka City Attorney, and represented two female professors alleging discrimination in Kansas universities.[18] 
In the 1980s, Phelps received awards from the Greater Kansas City Chapter of Blacks in Government and the Bonner Springs branch of the NAACP, for his work on behalf of black clients.[20]

Phelps' five runs in Democratic primaries peaked in 1992's Democratic U.S. Senate primary in Kansas at over 30% of the Democratic vote. (Keep in mind though that this was an unimportant primary because the Republican candidate for re-election was Bob Dole, so this race didn't attract top Democratic talent. But, still ...)

Ann Coulter has long noted how Phelps's family cult received implausible legal protection from the judicial establishment.

The Westboro Baptist Church is an interesting example for how to think about things like the possibility of false flag operations. It probably wasn't a false flag per se, but it was lovingly nurtured by respectable society, whose purposes it served well.

March 19, 2014

"What Pakistan Knew About Bin Laden"

When the Navy Seals executed Osama bin Laden in his big house near the Pakistani military academy in 2011, my instant reaction was that the Pakistani state must have know and therefore had been hiding him. After awhile though, the Obama Administration started to assert that all that evidence the Seals took home form Osama's office showed that the Pakistani government didn't know anything. But that's misleading:
What Pakistan Knew About Bin Laden 
By Carlotta Gall
In trying to prove that the ISI [Pakistan's main intelligence service] knew of Bin Laden’s whereabouts and protected him, I struggled for more than two years to piece together something other than circumstantial evidence and suppositions from sources with no direct knowledge. Only one man, a former ISI chief and retired general, Ziauddin Butt, told me that he thought Musharraf had arranged to hide Bin Laden in Abbottabad. But he had no proof and, under pressure, claimed in the Pakistani press that he’d been misunderstood. Finally, on a winter evening in 2012, I got the confirmation I was looking for. According to one inside source, the ISI actually ran a special desk assigned to handle Bin Laden. It was operated independently, led by an officer who made his own decisions and did not report to a superior. He handled only one person: Bin Laden. I was sitting at an outdoor cafe when I learned this, and I remember gasping, though quietly so as not to draw attention. (Two former senior American officials later told me that the information was consistent with their own conclusions.) This was what Afghans knew, and Taliban fighters had told me, but finally someone on the inside was admitting it. The desk was wholly deniable by virtually everyone at the ISI — such is how supersecret intelligence units operate — but the top military bosses knew about it, I was told.

I'm increasingly coming around to assuming that most of the most interesting skullduggery in international affairs is carried out not by lone wolves and the like, but by guys with offices and white boards and pensions: i.e., present or past government officials.

Was sheltering bin Laden an operation by "rogue elements" within ISI? I've long argued that a frequent corollary to the deep state is the peak state -- i.e., the power behind the throne usually turns out to be the guy sitting on the throne (e.g., in Pakistan when bin Laden arrived, the military dictator was Pervez Musharraf). After all, that's why he clawed his way to the top: because he wants to be the guy who makes the big decisions.

March 18, 2014

Sailer: "Waving the False Flag"

I have a new column at Taki's on false flag operations and agent provocateurs. I end with a provocative theory of a reader (not me, blame him!).

Edwin Edwards, the Unagin' Cajun, is out prison and on the campaign trail

Just three years after his release from federal prison, former Gov. Edwin Edwards is throwing his hat into the open race for Louisiana's 6th Congressional District. 
The 86-year-old Silver Fox, known for his memorable, often shocking quotes and the nearly nine years spent behind bars on extortion, fraud and racketeering charges, made the announcement at a meeting of the Press Club of Baton Rouge on Monday (March 17). 
"I acknowledge there are good reasons I should not run. But there are better reasons why I should," said the Democrat, who served an unprecedented four terms as governor. He also put to rest questions over whether his status as an ex-con would keep him from being a qualified Congressional candidate: "Once and for all I'm positive I can run and I'm confident I can win." ...
"I'd like to run for governor, but there seems to be some question about whether I could," Edwards added. Louisiana law bars convicted felons from running for statewide office for 15 years, unless they receive a pardon. Edwards would be 101 by that time.

And why not?

Some Edwards quotes from over the years:
"Dave Treen is so slow it takes him an hour and a half to watch 60 Minutes." (During 1983 campaign versus incumbent Gov. David Treen) 
"The only way I can lose this race is to be caught in bed with a live boy or dead girl." (During the same 1983 race) 
"The only place where David Duke and I are alike is we are both wizards under the sheets." (During 1991 gubernatorial campaign versus former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke) 
"'Well, Marion...if she dies, she dies." (What Edwards reportedly told his brother when he warned the 86-year-old that sex with his new wife, 50 years his junior, could be dangerous) 
"You sleep with 'em." (On the use he's finally found for Republicans, during a 2012 press conference with his new wife, registered GOPer)
The point of Ron Shelton's 1989 movie Blaze with Paul Newman as former governor Earl K. Long (the assassinated Huey's younger brother) is that Louisianans like their politicians entertaining. Huey Long, the subject of All the King's Men, was actually a very good governor for his first two years in office in the late 1920s, taxing Standard Oil to build roads, schools, and hospitals for his deeply backward constituents, but things fell apart into feuding after that before his mysterious death. But, a political culture conducive to good literature isn't always conducive to good government.

De Blasio's $100 million handout in disparate impact FDNY case

From the New York Post:
De Blasio agrees to $98M FDNY discrimination suit settlement 
By Selim Algar, Philip Messing, Beth DeFalco and Bob Fredericks 
Abandoning a legal battle hard-fought by his predecessor, Mayor de Blasio on Tuesday agreed to have the city shell out more than $100 million to a group of 1,500 minority firefighter applicants who sued over FDNY entrance exams that were found to be biased. 
De Blasio made no secret of his desire to settle the controversial case upon taking office in January and the Vulcan Society and its lawyers took full advantage, scoring $98 million out of a $128 million cap on the city’s financial exposure.
The generous settlement amount doesn’t include at least $3.7 million more the city will be on the hook for in fees to the plaintiffs’ lawyers. 
“I think it was pretty clear that they were going to get what they wanted with de Blasio — or something close to it,” said an FDNY union source. “There was no way this was going to make it to court. The only question was the amount and we got that answer today.” 
... If evenly distributed the payout would be about $65,000 for each member of the class action. 

Here's an interesting subject for a social science study: I've joked in the past that suing for discrimination could be called AARP: "African-American Retirement Planning." But somebody really ought to do a study of this question since blacks tend to do a bad job at saving for their retirement, and discrimination payouts are highly publicized in the black community by lawyers and politicians. It would be worth knowing what percentage of blacks expect to win a discrimination settlement at some point in their lives, and for how much. And then compare these expectations to the realities, which I suspect are more paltry.
In a related maneuver that reveals the extent of City Hall’s new orientation, city Corporation Counsel Zachary Carter was granted permission to have controversial Judge Nicholas Garaufis administer the plump payout and determine the lawyer fees. 
Garaufis presided over the case, ruling in 2011 that the FDNY — and then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg, specifically — intentionally discriminated against minority applicants. 
But an appeals court tossed the portion of his ruling that characterized the discrimination as intentional and assigned a new judge, citing Garaufis’ lack of impartiality. That key legal point directly impacted financial damages and the reputation of the FDNY. A new hearing with a different judge had been scheduled for later this month but was scuttled with the settlement deal. 
De Blasio, who has pushed a tax-the-rich plan to pay for pre-K, gushed after agreeing to the whopping hit to taxpayers. 
“The brave men and women of the FDNY work tirelessly to keep us safe from harm’s way, and our administration is committed to ensuring every New Yorker who seeks to take on this heroic role has a fair opportunity to join the ranks,” he said in a statement. 
Asked later whether he weakened the city’s ability to negotiate a fiscally responsible settlement, the mayor dodged the issue, saying: “I think the numbers [on hiring] speak for themselves. We strive for a government that really looks like New York City,” he said. “ And that just hasn’t been true at the fire department. So we need to move forward. I think the settlement is part of how we move forward.” 
Vulcan Society attorneys were awarded $3.7 million in fees by Garaufis but are in the process of seeking additional payment.

Here's a 2009 New York Times article explaining why the test was so horribly biased:
Racial Bias in Fire Exams Can Lurk in the Details

Published: July 23, 2009 
When a Federal District Court judge in Brooklyn ruled Wednesday that New York City had discriminated against black and Hispanic applicants to the Fire Department, he argued that two entrance exams, used in 1999 and 2002, adversely affected minorities and had little relation to firefighting.

On the surface, the tests — versions of which remained in use until 2007, according to the court — do not appear racially biased. Each exam consists of 85 multiple-choice questions about firefighting practices: the order in which a firefighter should don gear in an alarm; what the rear of a building would look like, based on its facade; the right situations in which to say “mayday” rather than “urgent” over the walkie-talkie. 
But a closer look shows that the exams also required applicants to read and understand long passages, often containing technical terms, and then answer questions about them. One question, for instance, follows a 250-word description of the use and maintenance of portable power saws and asks which type of blade must be put out of service. 
The choices: A) A carbide tip blade missing nine tips; B) a carbide tip blade with three broken tips; C) an aluminum oxide blade measuring 12 inches; D) a yellow silicon carbide blade measuring nine inches. (The correct answer is A). 

Here's the old, evil test. Here's the opening of the reading passage about how to pick the right chainsaw to use so that you can rescue people from fiery deaths without ripping your face off because it bucks:
One tool used by firefighters to fight fires is the portable power saw. The power saw improves operational efficiency by aiding firefighters with cutting operations at fires and other emergencies. The portable power saw comes equipped with three cutting blades. Carbide tip blades are used when cutting through tar-covered roofs, wood flooring and similar materials. Carbide tip blades must not be used on steel objects, such as metal security doors, auto bodies, and metal window bars, since the tips of the blade may come loose and cause an injury to the firefighter using the saw or bystanders. Aluminum oxide blades are used to cut through various types of steel, such as metal security doors, auto bodies, and metal window bars. Silicon carbide blades are used to cut concrete and other masonry materials.

The first question was:
Q. Which type of blade must a firefighter use with a portable power saw to cut a metal security door? 
A. A carbide tip blade
B. A silicon carbide blade
C. An aluminum oxide blade
D. A carbide tip or aluminum oxide blade 

The NYT continued in 2009:
In big cities across the country, firefighter entrance exams have tended to favor applicants already steeped in the ways of the job, like “people whose dads and uncles are firefighters,” said Richard Primus, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Michigan. That, he said, has perpetuated the disproportionate representation of whites in those firefighting forces. 
Besides, Professor Primus added, some of that knowledge is not needed to become a good firefighter. “Much of what appears on written exams for firefighters is legitimately material that we should want firefighters to know,” he said, but some of it tends to be knowledge that “firefighting junkies have, even though it is not really necessary for fighting fires.” 
At issue in the New York case, legal experts said, was not so much whether the exams themselves were biased. Rather, the law requires that if a test has the effect of disproportionately excluding minorities, then the skills it measures must be necessary to the job — a standard that the judge, Nicholas G. Garaufis, found the city did not meet. 
Ruling in a lawsuit brought by the Justice Department in 2007, Judge Garaufis wrote that in creating the test, the city convened a panel of firefighters who identified 21 “task clusters” to be tested, like evaluating a fire scene or searching for victims, and 18 “abilities,” like memorization, deductive reasoning and spatial orientation.

In reality, the test could be passed one of two ways: being smart enough to comprehend technical firefighting passages or by studying firefighting techniques ahead of time.

But, that's discriminatory to the tune of a hundred million clams.

Greenspan and Gates can't agree on the problem but can agree on the solution

From ComputerWorld:
Gates sees software replacing people; Greenspan calls for more H-1Bs 
Both agree that U.S. secondary education system needs much improvement 
By Patrick Thibodeau
March 14, 2014  
Computerworld - WASHINGTON - Bill Gates and Alan Greenspan, in separate forums here, offered outlooks and prescriptions for fixing jobs and income. 
Microsoft co-founder Gates, an optimist who says the pace of innovation is faster than ever, is concerned that graduates of U.S. secondary schools may not be able stay ahead of software automation. 
Gates called it "software substitution," or systems capable of doing jobs now done by people. 
"These things are coming fast," said Gates, in an interview with the American Enterprise Institute (See video). "Twenty years from now labor demand for a lots of skill sets will be substantially lower, and I don't think people have that in their mental model." 
Gates said the U.S. secondary education system has to improve to keep pace with the changes. 
In Greenspan's view, secondary education is deteriorating. If the education system isn't fixed, the U.S. will need an open H-1B policy, he argued. 
"We cannot manage our very complex, highly sophisticated capital structure with what's coming out of our high schools," said Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve. 
The impact of automation on the labor market, whether it's for drivers, waiters or nurses, is progressing, said Gates. 
"It's the low income jobs that are really being eliminated by globalization," said Gates in a separate interview at The Atlantic (See video). "Now the quality of automation, software artificial intelligence, is improving fast enough that you can start to worry about middle class jobs. But mostly it has not been information work or middle class jobs," he said. 
"Yes, the U.S. has lost manufacturing and union wage scales. Those were middle class jobs. Automation is doing that, the wage differential is tilted, the more education you get, the higher you are going to be paid, and the tilt of that is much higher. It's really that low end that's been impacted the most," said Gates in his Atlantic interview. 
To stay ahead of these trends, education will have to be improved, said Gates.
"As the most advanced economy in the world, in order to maintain our relative position we have to do a better job educating our workforce. It's an opportunity," said Gates. 
Neither Gates nor Greenspan talked about the globalization's impact on IT jobs, or the use of the H-1B visas by offshore outsourcing companies. But both called for improvements in education. 
Greenspan, in an appearance at the National Association for Business Economics conference (See video), said the U.S. has an "unbelievably deteriorating" public school system. 
"If we're not going to educate our kids, bring in other people who want to become Americans," said Greenspan, in arguing for an increase of H-1B workers. 
Greenspan told attendees at the conference that the H-1B visa "subsidizes the income of everyone in this room, including you and me." 
In the context of income inequality, Greenspan put the H-1B program in his light: If the program were expanded, income wouldn't necessarily go down much, "but I bet you they would go down enough to really make an impact, because income inequality is a relative concept. People who are absolutely at the top of the scale in say 1925 would be getting food stamps today," said Greenspan.
"You don't have to necessarily bring up the bottom if you bring the top down," said Greenspan.

By "top," Greenspan means run-of-the-mill coders.

Whatever the problem is, more immigration is the solution.

March 17, 2014

"How James Blunt saved us from World War 3"

The Crimea incident is likely seen by Moscow as payback for NATO's Kosovo War of 1999. 

The scariest moment of the Kosovo War came at the end on June 12, 1999 when Russia, who had lost a few million men by choosing to defend Serbian honor in 1914, suddenly sent a small force to seize the Pristina airfield ahead of the NATO forces. 

James Blount / Blunt
NATO commander Wesley Clark ordered combat. (He told the press, "We know we will be able to work this out, as soldiers always do," which the American media told us was reassuring, but didn't strike me at the time as auspicious.)

Fortunately, the lead NATO soldier on the spot was the most charming officer in the British Army. Granted, that's an impossible assertion to prove, but Captain James Blount did become an international pop singing sensation six years later with "You're Beautiful." 

From The Independent in 2010:
How James Blunt saved us from World War 3 
Kosovo, June 1999. Serbia has withdrawn from the campaign. Hundreds of thousands of refugees wait over the border to return to their homes. A column of 30,000 Nato troops is advancing towards Pristina airfield – a crucial strategic position.

Unexpectedly, the Russian forces, reach the airfield first; Russia, Serbia's patron, is hoping to stake a claim in the occupation. The soldiers are pointing their weapons at the incoming Allied troops. "Destroy!" orders the US general over the radio – instructions from the very top. World War Three is on the cards. Enter crooner James Blunt. Crisis averted. 
Blunt was then 25, a captain in the Life Guards and the lead officer at the front of the Nato column.

The Life Guards are the senior regiment of the British Army, dating to the Restoration of King Charles II after the Puritan interlude. As the original element of the Household Cavalry, they are the personal bodyguards of the monarch. Their colonel is the Silver Stick-in-Waiting. (Or something like that. This is all very Lewis Carrollish to me.)
He risked a court martial by refusing to obey those orders from General Wesley Clark to attack the Russian forces. 
In a BBC radio interview last night, Blunt said: "I was given the direct command to overpower the 200 or so Russians who were there. I was the lead officer, with my troop of men behind us... The soldiers directly behind me were from the Parachute Regiment, so they're obviously game for the fight. 
"The direct command [that] came in from General Wesley Clark was to overpower them," he said. "Various words were used that seemed unusual to us. Words such as 'destroy' came down the radio. We had 200 Russians lined up pointing their weapons at us aggressively ... and we'd been told to reach the airfield and take a hold of it. That's why we were querying our instruction." The end result was a victory for British common sense. "Fortunately," Blunt recalled, "up on the radio came General Sir Mike Jackson [commander of the British forces], whose words were, 'I'm not going to have my soldiers start World War Three.' He told us, 'Why don't we encircle the airfield instead?' And after a couple of days the Russians there said, 'Hang on, we have no food and no water. Can we share the airfield with you?'"

From The Telegraph in 2005:
Blunt, of course, is by no means the only current exponent of Posh Rock. Dido went to Westminster. Radiohead were formed at Abingdon. Coldplay's Chris Martin went to Sherborne. Even so, the music industry still insists on the pretence of proletarianism. A concerted attempt is being made to downplay the whole Harrow-Sandhurst-Life Guards aspect of Blunt's life. His Army career is portrayed almost as an accident, into which he stumbled. In the words of his website biography, "One day he was sleeping off a hangover at the back of a lecture hall and the next thing he knew he was in Kosovo with a gun and a guitar strapped to the side of a tank, wondering who he could possibly sleep with to get out of this war." 
In fact, soldiering is in his blood. The Blunts have been a military family for more than 1,000 years, ever since their Danish ancestors arrived in England in the 10th century. 
The Blounts are not Norman arrivistes.


A commenter writes:
OT: Evidently, Mark Kleiman reads Sailer. But then again, who doesn't? 

The UCLA professor writes:
It would be amusing, if it were not so disgusting, to watch elements of the Obama-hating right (e.g. Steve Sailer) and the American-power-hating left (Tikkun, The Nation) agree in fawning over Vladimir Putin as he treats the solemn agreement under which Russian guaranteed the territorial integrity of Ukraine, in return for Ukrainian de-nuclearization, as a mere scrap of paper. It’s perfectly OK for Russia to seize Crimea by force because Crimea should never have been part of Ukraine. And it’s perfectly OK for Russia to seize territory inside Ukraine, using soldiers not wearing insignia, which alone makes their actions war crimes, because … shut up, he explained. 
Both sides agree that it would be rude to compare what Putin just did in the Crimea to what Hitler did in the Sudetenland: not actually false, you see, just impolite. 

It would be helpful, however, if Kleiman would read me more carefully, for example, my March 6 posting "Obama Is Right, Mostly." 

I've been writing about Eastern Europe at vast length since before the crisis began because the situation has had such disturbing analogies to World War II (if Putin goes ahead with an anschluss with Crimea, that violates the understanding stemming from the two main events of 1938, German's Anschluss with Austria and its takeover of Czech Sudentenland, that Great Powers should not get Greater by annexing territory) and to World War I (which is more ominous because the Great War was more of a general systemic failure than one man's plan -- Putin doesn't have a master plan to invade Germany, but politicians can botch things up royally without Hitlerian intent). 

Going back to last year, I could sense that war fever was mounting. So far, Obama has been better than certainly McCain (and possibly Romney) would have been at not overly exacerbating the situation. Hopefully, Obama will respond more constructively (e.g., approving more natural gas exports from America to Europe) than destructively (I'd bet that Prince Bandar is right now working the phones to promote a scheme to destabilize Crimea by having the Saudis pay to radicalize the poor Muslim Tatars.)

Chinese outsmart Mexicans in Prop. 209 struggle

The Hispanic Electoral Tidal Wave has long been described in the media as so overwhelming that the Republicans' only option is the triple bankshot Hail Mary play of augmenting it by passing Amnesty and A Path to Citizenship. And yet, in heavily Mexican California, Hispanics don't seem to punch their weight, as demonstrated in the current dust-up between Hispanic and Asian Democrats over whether to gut the 1996 Proposition 209 constitutional amendment outlawing affirmative action in college admissions. 
Bill putting race in play in university admissions is shelved 
Posted on Monday, March 17 at 1:31pm | By Matier and Ross

Legislative leaders shelved a measure Monday that would have allowed California’s public universities once again to consider race when deciding which students to admit. 
Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, said he was sending SCA5 — a proposed constitutional amendment that would restore racial and gender preferences for public university admissions — to a special task force for further study. 
Perez made the announcement after it became clear the proposal didn’t have enough Democratic support to win the two-thirds Assembly vote needed to send it to the ballot. 
As we reported earlier Monday, three Asian American state senators — San Francisco’s Leland Yee, Ted Lieu of Torrance (Los Angeles County) and Carol Liu of La Cañada/Flintridge (Los Angeles County) — had urged Perez to put the brakes on the effort. All three voted for the amendment when the Senate approved it, but they had second thoughts when they started hearing from Asian American constituents who feared that giving preferences to African American and Latino students would make it harder for their children to get into competitive University of California campuses.

The amendment, sponsored by state Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina (Los Angeles County), had initially passed out of the Senate with full backing from Democrats. Monday’s action sending it off to a joint Assembly-Senate task force, which plans to hold hearings up and down the state, ensures it won’t come to an Assembly vote anytime soon. 
Hernandez said “scare tactics and misinformation used by certain groups opposed to SCA5″ prompted a need for the hearings. 

Judging by today's announcement, as Alternate Universe Stalin might have said, quality has a quantity all its own.  

Fame: It's who you know

Alexander paying respects at the tomb of Achilles, Panini
Book critic Dwight Garner writes in the New York Times:
There are many varieties of fame. ... Pantheon, a new project from the Macro Connections group in M.I.T.’s Media Lab, is giving that a stab. It has collected and analyzed data on cultural production from 4,000 B.C. to 2010. ... 
For now, you are legitimately famous, the M.I.T. team has decided, if a Wikipedia page under your name exists in more than 25 languages. We have taken a smattering of the most famous, according to Pantheon data and classifications, and wandered down rabbit holes of fame. There are many ghosts in the machine — spirits that César Hidalgo, the project’s director, likes to tend. (The ranking system takes longevity into account, which helps explain why many of its most famous people have been dead for at least 1,500 years.) 
“Poetically, we can say that Isaac Newton’s ghost — understood as information — lives reincarnated in the hard drives that populate server farms,” he says. And these ghosts gather to make a point. Even in an era of Kardashians, actually making things matters. “Tangible achievements,” Hidalgo says, “whether these are songs, books, works of art or scientific discoveries, are better tickets to long-term immortality than the accumulation of material wealth.” 
Most Famous People of the Last 6,000 Years 
1. Aristotle
2. Plato
3. Jesus Christ
4. Socrates
5. Alexander the Great
6. Leonardo Da Vinci
7. Confucius
8. Julius Caesar
9. Homer
10. Pythagoras

It's hard to see how Mohammed and Buddha don't make the Top Ten, but the point I want to make is:

Judging by the four Ancient Greeks in the Top Five, this fame thing is more a Who You Know, Not What You Know deal (even though Aristotle certainly knew a lot): Socrates taught Plato who taught Aristotle who taught Alexander. And this isn't metaphorical: each younger man in this series probably spent hundreds of hours in the company of the older man. 

On a vaguely related topic, via Dyspepsia Generation, Kevin Simler at Ribbon Farms offers an extensive analysis of status as an economic good that can be exchanged, rather like money. There are many good insights, but I would question Simler's assumption that "Status is zero-sum (to a first approximation)." Each of the six Ancient Greeks in the Top Ten benefit from their relationships with each other because they make for a better story we can hold in our heads. The more we know about a particular civilization, the more easy it is to learn more. For example, in my writing about the Ukraine crisis, the name Thucydides keeps coming up. It doesn't hurt that Socrates fought in the Peloponnesian War chronicled by Thucydides.

In contrast, when I flip around on the UHF dial here in L.A., I've noticed from all the historical costume dramas on the Korean language stations that Korea has, evidently, had a whole lot of history. Indeed, there's no a priori reason to assume that Korea has had significantly less history than Greece. But my pathetic base of knowledge of Korean history -- "There have been a bunch of guys named Kim" (rather like my knowledge of contemporary Ukrainian affairs of state: There are a bunch of politicians with Ys and Ts in their names) -- doesn't conveniently facilitate my learning more about Korean history.

For example, Anne Boleyn makes the MIT top 100. She was an interesting person, but she's there for her relationship to two other people in a fascinating story. Ann was the second wife of Henry VIII, for whom Henry broke England away from Roman Catholicism, and the mother of Elizabeth I (who was the monarch of Shakespeare, who is pretty famous himself). Anne is a central figure in a gaudy story. And fame has much to do with coherent narratives.

For example, on his conquests, Alexander is said to have visited the tomb of Homer's hero Achilles at Troy. That makes for a good story and thus augments the historical status of both. Similarly, Bill Clinton and Bono like to be photographed hanging out together because it's a positive sum status dealing for both.

Getting even further afield, here's Eric Falkenstein's 2010 mega-blogpost "Why Envy Dominates Greed" on how, among much else, financial economics theory would fit the data better if you assume that portfolio managers are less concerned with optimizing return v. risk and more concerned with optimizing status v. other portfolio managers. Among much else, this offers a more compelling theory of the formation of bubbles, such as the Recent Unpleasantness. Achilles certainly would have agreed that status dominated wealth in his considerations, and that he looked at it as a zero sum game. (And yet poor Hector retains considerable status to this day for having been the loser in Achilles' drive for status dominance.)

March 16, 2014

Captain Grimes

Perhaps not the most surprising news story in history:
Wave of Sexual Abuse Allegations for Private Boys’ Schools in Britain 
LONDON — Prompted by publicity surrounding recent child abuse scandals involving well-known figures, dozens of British men are breaking decades of silence about molestation they say they suffered as boys at expensive private schools, forcing the schools to confront allegations that in the past might have been hushed up, ignored or treated derisively. ...
Most of these claims are directed at Britain’s preparatory schools, which typically admit children 4 to 13, with students living at the school starting at 7 or 8. Fees can be substantial, but in a country where private schooling is often seen as a key to success, many parents pay up in an effort to prepare pupils for entry to famous establishments for older children, like Eton College, Harrow School and Winchester College (known in Britain as public schools despite being private and expensive). 
Britain’s fee-paying schools have a track record of brutality. These days, most have shed the strictness and austerity of previous eras, but many upper-class Britons remember childhoods of cold showers, inedible food and relentless corporal punishment.

The very nature of boarding schools — closed environments in which teachers can wield enormous power — can make them attractive to child abusers.

Keep in mind that private English schools traditionally encouraged celibacy among their staff. As I explained in my review of Bad Teacher:
Idealistic young teachers willingly sweat for their students, but once they have kids of their own, their priorities change. Hence, the most common solution that societies have come up with to get their educators—such as Jesuits, nuns, and Eton schoolmasters—to care passionately about other people’s children has been celibacy. (Of course, celibate teachers sometimes wind up caring a little too passionately for their charges.)

The NYT continues:
But in previous decades, parents were often reluctant to challenge teachers’ authority, said Alan Collins, principal lawyer at Slater & Gordon, which represented the former Aldwickbury student. He has 30 to 40 more cases pending against schools across the country. 
“You had deference and the attitude that ‘this sort of thing happens,’ ” Mr. Collins said, adding that when teachers were discovered abusing pupils, they tended to be moved on quietly to avoid public embarrassment and damage to the school’s reputation.

That last sentence represents a major subplot in Evelyn Waugh's 1928 debut novel Decline and Fall about Paul Pennyfeather's first year as a schoolmaster. 

Here he meets another teacher, Captain Grimes, an amiable pederast, who informs Paul that he's engaged to be married to the headmaster's aging daughter:
"We haven’t told the old boy yet. I’m waiting till I land in the soup again. Then I shall play that as my last card. I generally get into the soup sooner or later." 
“This looks like being the first end of term I’ve seen for two years,” he said dreamily. “Funny thing, I can always get on all right for about six weeks, and then I land in the soup. I don’t believe I was ever meant by Nature to be a schoolmaster. Temperament,” said Grimes, with a far-away look in his eyes—“that’s been my trouble, temperament and sex.” 
“Is it quite easy to get another job after—after you’ve been in the soup?” asked Paul. 
“Not at first, it isn’t, but there are ways. Besides, you see, I’m a public school man. That means everything. There’s a blessed equity in the English social system,” said Grimes, “that ensures the public school man against starvation. One goes through four or five years of perfect hell at an age when life is bound to be hell anyway, and after that the social system never lets one down. 
“Not that I stood four or five years of it, mind; I left soon after my sixteenth birthday. But my housemaster was a public school man. He knew the system. “Grimes,” he said, “I can’t keep you in the House after what has happened. I have the other boys to consider. But I don’t want to be too hard on you. I want you to start again.” So he sat down there and then and wrote me a letter of recommendation to any future employer, a corking good letter, too. I’ve got it still. It’s been very useful at one time or another. That’s the public school system all over. They may kick you out, but they never let you down. 
“I subscribed a guinea to the War Memorial Fund. I felt I owed it to them. I was really sorry,” said Grimes, “that that check never got through. 
“After that I went into business. Uncle of mine had a brush factory at Edmonton. Doing pretty well before the war. That put the lid on the brush trade for me. You’re too young to have been in the war, I suppose? Those were the days, old boy. We shan’t see the like of them again. I don’t suppose I was really sober for more than a few hours for the whole of that war. Then I got into the soup again, pretty badly that time. Happened over in France. They said, ‘Now, Grimes, you’ve got to behave like a gentleman. We don’t want a court-martial in this regiment. We’re going to leave you alone for half an hour. There’s your revolver. You know what to do. Goodbye, old man,’ they said quite affectionately. 
“Well, I sat there for some time looking at that revolver. I put it up to my head twice, but each time I brought it down again. ‘Public school men don’t end like this,’ I said to myself. It was a long half-hour, but luckily they had left a decanter of whisky in there with me. They’d all had a few, I think. That’s what made them all so solemn. There wasn’t much whisky left when they came back, and, what with that and the strain of the situation, I could only laugh when they came in. Silly thing to do, but they looked so surprised, seeing me there alive and drunk. 
“‘The man’s a cad,’ said the colonel, but even then I couldn’t stop laughing, so they put me under arrest and called a court-martial. 
“‘God bless my soul,’ he said, ‘if it isn’t Grimes of Podger’s! What’s all this nonsense about a court-martial?’ So I told him. ‘H’m,’ he said, ‘pretty bad. Still it’s out of the question to shoot an old Harrovian. I’ll see what I can do about it.’ 
And next day I was sent to Ireland on a pretty cushy job connected with postal service. That saw me out as far as the war was concerned. You can’t get into the soup in Ireland, do what you like. I don’t know if all this bores you?” 
“Not at all,” said Paul. “I think it’s most encouraging.” 
“I’ve been in the soup pretty often since then, but never quite so badly. Someone always turns up and says, ‘I can’t see a public school man down and out. Let me put you on your feet again.’ I should think,” said Grimes, “I’ve been put on my feet more often than any living man.” 


From the Boston Globe:
The poor neglected gifted child 
Precocious kids do seem to become high-achieving adults. Why that makes some educators worried about America’s future 
By Amy Crawford   
IN 1971, researchers at Johns Hopkins University embarked on an ambitious effort to identify brilliant 12-year-olds and track their education and careers through the rest of their lives. The Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth, which now includes 5,000 people, would eventually become the world’s longest-running longitudinal survey of what happens to intellectually talented children (in math and other areas) as they grow up. It has generated seven books, more than 300 papers, and a lot of what we know about early aptitude. 
David Lubinski is a psychologist at Vanderbilt University, where the project has been based since the 1990s. He and his wife and fellow Vanderbilt professor, Camilla Benbow, codirect the study and have dedicated their careers to learning about this exceptional population.

In a recent paper, Lubinski and his colleagues caught up with one cohort of 320 people now in their late 30s. At 12, their SAT math or verbal scores had placed them among the top one-100th of 1 percent. Today, many are CEOs, professors at top research universities, transplant surgeons, and successful novelists.

That outcome sounds like exactly what you’d imagine should happen: Top young people grow into high-achieving adults. In the education world, the study has provided important new evidence that it really is possible to identify the kids who are likely to become exceptional achievers in the future, something previous research has not always found to be the case. But for that reason, perhaps surprisingly, it has also triggered a new round of worry.

Lubinski’s unusually successful cohort was also a lucky group from the start—they participated in the study in the first place because their parents or teachers encouraged them to take the SAT at age 12. Previous research into gifted children has shown that many, or even most of them, aren’t so lucky: They aren’t identified early, and they don’t necessarily get special attention from their schools. Even among Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth participants, the Vanderbilt researchers have previously found that those who weren’t challenged in school were less likely to live up to the potential indicated by their test scores. 
Other research has shown that under-stimulated gifted students quickly become bored and frustrated—especially if they come from low-income families that are not equipped to provide them with enrichment outside of school. 

I wonder if there are diagnostic tests that identify smart kids at risk of zoning out. Personally, I grew up about 400 feet from a public library, so I was never lacking in books to keep me interested. But then I wasn't very mathematically gifted. It's probably easier for a kid with strong reading skills who likes knowing stuff, whereas high end math and science skills may simply be more exotic.
“What the study underscored is the tremendous amount of potential here—they’re a national resource,” Lubinski says. “But it’s hard to separate the findings of this study from what we know about gifted kids in general. The genuine concern is, we know we’re not identifying all of this population. We’re not getting nearly enough, and we’re losing them.”

In the middle of the 20th Century, progressive thinkers like Harvard president James Conant and sci-fi author Robert Heinlein were obsessed with pushing society to come up with objective ways to find talent, especially among rural boys. After Sputnik in 1957, that became a national obsession for about a decade. And then people got bored, civil rights clashed with objectivity, the need to outcompete the Sovs declined, and so forth. So who is interested in finding smart nowheresville boys today? Caroline Hoxby, I guess.
... GIVEN ALL THE PRESSURES our education system faces, it seems almost indecent to worry about the travails of a small minority of very smart children. Understandably, federal and state education policy has long focused on more obvious problems that education can help address—problems such as the yawning gaps between the test scores of rich and poor students and between different racial groups.

Assuming education can help address those problems, which remains murky after a half-century of federal effort. In contrast, we do know that education really does work pretty well on extremely intelligent youths.
Tax dollars disproportionately go to help kids with learning disabilities and other disadvantages, because society generally agrees that they are most in need of help. 
In 2002, President George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act, which penalizes public schools that don’t bring the lowest-performing students up to grade level. The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act regulates special education and provides schools with more than $11 billion annually. A provision of federal education law called Title I allocates some $14 billion to schools that have a higher proportion of students from low-income families, to pay for programs designed to keep them from falling behind.

The smartest kid in class, by contrast, is not an expensive problem. A boy or girl who finishes an assignment early can be handed a book and told to read quietly while the teacher works on getting other children caught up. What would clearly be neglect if it happened to a special-needs child tends to look different if the child is gifted: Being left alone might even feel like a reward, an acknowledgment of being a fast learner. 
Not surprisingly, programs oriented toward gifted children get barely any federal funding. The Javits Act, the only federal law aimed at gifted students, pays for research and pilot education programs and is currently funded at $5 million, down from a peak of $11 million several years ago. 
... Olszewski-Kubilius, an education professor at Northwestern University, considers the latest Vanderbilt finding important to the cause. “It’s probably the best research we have that connects childhood giftedness with adult achievement,” she says. She chalks up the current disparity to an otherwise well-intentioned attitude, one that seems to be ingrained in American culture.
“There’s a fundamental belief, not just among educators but in general in our society—and the word ‘gifted’ doesn’t help—that, well, they lucked out by virtue of genetics. They’ve got something other people don’t have, and so they should just be satisfied with that. They don’t need any more.” 
Research, however, suggests that they do—or at least that they benefit from extra investment. Two recent papers based on data from the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth and published in the Journal of Educational Psychology found that, among young people with off-the-charts ability, those who had been given special accommodations—even modest ones, like being allowed to skip a grade, enroll in special classes, or take college-level courses in high school—went on to publish more academic papers, earn more patents, and pursue higher-level careers than their equally smart peers who didn’t have these opportunities. In one of the studies, the Vanderbilt researchers matched students who skipped a grade with a control group of similarly smart kids who didn’t. The grade-skippers, it turned out, were 60 percent more likely to earn doctorates or patents and more than twice as likely to get a PhD in science, math, or engineering. 
“If you look at the control group” in the grade-skipping study, says Lubinski, “they’ll say, ‘The curriculum was moving too slow, I felt bored, I was frustrated.’ Those kids still do better than the norm, but the ones who have their developmental needs met, they do much better.” 
But providing these smart kids with an education that matches their abilities is not as straightforward as it sounds. Politically, it raises the fraught question of whether our education system should be in the business of identifying and segregating elite students—an idea that has been tried and rejected before, for good reasons. 
For most of the 20th century, schools routinely divided students into advanced, average, and remedial categories, a practice called “tracking” that was largely discredited by research showing it only exacerbated inequality, especially inequality linked to race and class.

Actually, we have more than a little tracking, you are just not supposed to call it that. Also, it helps if you are in New York City, because civil rights concepts seem to mostly apply to hicks (although the new mayor claims he'll do something about that). For example, last week the top public science high school in New York, Stuyvesant, accepted 7 blacks, 21 Hispanics, 164 whites, and 680 Asians.
... WHILE EQUITY at the classroom level is important, Lubinski and others who study the gifted say that the issue goes beyond education to national competitiveness. “We’re living in a global economy now,” Lubinski says, “and there are only very few people of any discipline who push the frontiers of knowledge forward. This is the population who you’d do well to bet on.” 
Other countries are already making that bet. Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore have national laws requiring that children be screened for giftedness, with top scorers funneled into special programs. China is midway through a 10-year “National Talent Development Plan” to steer bright young people into science, technology, and other in-demand fields.