May 3, 2014

"Report Cites Bias Against Women in Drug Rackets"

"Aspiring Female Traffickers Lack Role Models," Notes Expert

HANOVER, NH -- A new study reveals that while women have made gains in the controlled substances industry, they still comprise only 14.6% of all drug dealers. Even more disturbing, a "glass ceiling" shuts women out of the top rungs of the profession. "You always hear about 'Drug Lords' and 'Cocaine Kingpins,' but where are the 'Drug Ladies,' and 'Cocaine Queenpins?'" demands Clarissa Spode, Professor of Sociology at Dartmouth, and author of the groundbreaking report, "Cracking Through: Diversity, Dignity and Drugs."  
Dr. Spode faulted the media for purveying stereotypes that discourage women from entering this fast growing and lucrative occupation. For example, "Miami Vice" depicted in total only 127 female "drug industry workers" compared to 1,711 men. "Even worse, 103 of the women (81.1%) were portrayed as forsaking their careers after sleeping with Sonny and/or Rico."  
Other experts concur. "Gangster films in general have always been virulently phallocentric," observes Reed College Film Professor Charles Womyndaughter. His screenplay for a non-sexist mob movie -- "The Godparent" -- was treated with callous disregard by Hollywood. "They said some quite insensitive things about it," he recalls.  
Another authority, Dr. Arthur Cruttwell-Clamp, finds that American women are socialized away from traits valuable in this demanding occupation. "Too few women in our society have been taught how to laugh while zapping a deadbeat customer with an electric cattle prod." He calls on toymakers to introduce young females to a wider range of career options. "Instead of 'My Little Pony,' your toddler should be playing with 'My Little Uzi.'" Dr. Cruttwell-Clamp recommends that parents combat traditional gender-typing by having their daughters pull the wings off butterflies and burn ants with magnifying glasses for 30 minutes each day, then advance to tying stray dogs to the bumpers of cars idling at stop lights.  
All the experts indignantly dismiss biological conjectures purporting to explain why males seem more violent than females. "Then why are the Nuzwangdees of Guyana -- or is it the Wangduzees of New Guinea? Well, anyway, I heard there's some tribe somewhere where more women than men are into GrecoRoman wrestling, or is it Australian football?" retorts Dr. Womyndaughter.  
Media stereotypes victimize men as well. "Tragically, male dealers internalize the media's image of them," muses Dr. Spode. "The one man I talked to while preparing our report was hyper-masculine: aggressive, dominating, reckless, ruthless, muscular ... and, yet, strangely intriguing."  
The researchers found chauvinism widespread within the drug industry. "We originally expected gender equality in such a nontraditional, multicultural business," recalls Dr. Spode. "As the evidence of male domination mounted, however, we began searching for the Old Boys Network that locked women out. But with a median life expectancy of 24, we couldn't find many Old Boys. Fortunately, we came up with a crucial conceptual breakthrough: the Young Boys Network." Dr. Spode adds that females are seldom invited along on important male-bonding rites of passage, like drive-by shootings.  
Linda M., a spunky New Yorker, recounts how sexual harassment cut short her promising career: "I started out in retail, on a corner in the Lower East Side, but the other vendors were very crude, very 'macho.' Whenever I walked by they made these weird sucking noises. So, I went into wholesale to find a higher class of professional peer, maybe even a mentor who could show me the 'ropes.' But my fellow distributors claimed I was on their 'turf' and kept disrespecting me by dangling me out windows by my ankles. So, I went home to Bensonhurst and opened a 'crack house.' But my family and neighbors were not at all supportive of my 'un-ladylike' ambitions, so they formed a 'vigilante' mob and 'torched' my house. I think they were trying to undermine my self-esteem."  
Activists denounce the lack of government programs to meet the special needs of mothers who are also drug dealers. "The very term 'Day Care' reflects institutional insensitivity to those who work mostly between midnight and dawn," points out Dr. Spode. "One mother told me she would never deal drugs because she couldn't bear to think what would happen to her children if she were killed or imprisoned." Dr. Spode blames this inequity on Reagan administration cutbacks.  
A spokesperson for the Drug Entrepreneurs of America League denies charges of discrimination, noting, for example, that Miami billionaire Francisco Fajita alone employs 57 young women as personal assistants. The spokesperson admits, though, that older Drug Lords may not always fully grasp the career aspirations of female dealers, but she claims the rising generation is committed to equality in drug dealing. "Frankly, the industry's elder statespersons were not as receptive to our sensitivity training seminars as we had hoped, so now we're relying more on our rather high rate of attrition." She stresses DEAL's new affirmative action campaign, which aims to increase female employment to 40% of "mules" and 25% of "goons." She concedes, though, that "Our goal of a 50-50 male-female split among "molls" is running into resistance."  
But to critics, DEAL's steps are "too little, too late." They call for "really enormous" government grants to study such problems further. Dr. Spode wants to next focus on gender apartheid within the mugging, streetwalking and pornography industries. She predicts, "I expect to be shocked by the discrimination I'll find." 

By Steve Sailer

The American Spectator, October 1992

I published this 22 years ago during a previous Year of the Woman, when Bill Clinton won the White House as the sworn foe of sexual harassers like Clarence Thomas. The funny thing is that this kind of aggressively braindead feminism went into partial remission for some time, until Obama revived it in 2012 to get reelected.

Caldwell: Sterliviano as bad Molière

From the Financial Times:
The NBA’s racism drama is more about money than morals
By Christopher Caldwell 
... Anyone who listens to the nine-minute TMZ recording after having read the press accounts will be a bit confused. Offensive the audio is. But “hateful” is too strong a word, especially for those Americans who remember the late Cincinnati Reds baseball owner Marge Schott, who was censured in the 1990s for saying Adolf Hitler “was good in the beginning” but then “went too far”. This new recording, by contrast, captures a pathetic intimate quarrel between Mr Sterling and a 31-year-old woman, V Stiviano. Something is upsetting Mr Sterling very much, but it is not black people – at least not primarily. It is the Molière-esque predicament of an 80-year-old man with a young companion he cannot control.

There we go. That's who I was trying to think of along with Chaucer and comic operas: Molière. Caldwell has always been much more cultured than me. I recall a long discussion with him while he was copyediting a piece of mine in The American Spectator in 1992 over the proper pronunciation of "Nabokov."
Ms Stiviano posted photos of herself on Instagram with two black athletes many decades his junior. Some of his characterisations are racist. (“Why should you be walking publicly with black people?”) But what makes the audio bizarre is that, when race enters the conversation it is she, not he, who introduces it.

Ms Stiviano, who is of Mexican and black ancestry, says at one point: “I wish I could change the colour of my skin.” 
“You miss the issue.” 
“What’s the issue?” 
“The issue is we don’t have to broadcast everything.” 
Later Ms Stiviano asks: “What would you like me to do? Remove the skin colour out of my skin?” 
Mr Sterling replies: “Is that a for-real issue or are you making something up? . . . There’s nothing wrong with you or your skin colour. Why are you saying these things? To upset me?” 
Go listen to the audio. There is something stilted, oratorical and manipulative about almost everything Ms Stiviano says. One would not want to lean too heavily on it in a courtroom.
... It is going to be hard for the NBA to discipline Mr Sterling without establishing principles of draconian justice that will ramify inconveniently for other personalities in the league. This includes many athletes and owners now calling for Mr Sterling’s head. Last year Tony Parker, the French guard for the San Antonio Spurs, made a quenelle salute, created and popularised by the French comedian Dieudonné. The quenelle has become beloved of Holocaust deniers and anti-Semites, some of whom have been filmed making the gesture outside concentration camps, Holocaust memorials and synagogues. Is there a place for Parker in the NBA?

Parker has a black father (and a French mother), so the answer is: yes.

A question for billionaire Larry Ellison on buying the Clippers

Are you out of your mind?

Now that the precedent has been established that an NBA team owner can be taped and his private conversation leaked to the world -- with 98% of the world utterly unconcerned about the presumptive illegality of the recording -- and out-of-context excerpts from your confidential conversations used to globally demonize you and have your property taken away, tell me again why you would want to pay a billion dollars to be an NBA team owner?

Okay, I know what you're thinking: 
I'm not some elderly eccentric tightwad like Donald T. Sterling, I'm Larry Ellison. I'm not some small-time billionaire like Sterling, who is only #296 on the Forbes 400, I'm #3. I don't come across like criminal attorney Saul Goodman on Breaking Bad, I come across like the archvillain in a James Bond movie. I'm not some feeble octogenarian with Elderly Tourette's who can't keep from blurting out in private how I truly feel about sensitive topics; I won't turn 70 until August! I don't date skeevy gold-digging mulatto* strippers who outsmart me into spilling my guts, I date Stanford coeds.

Okay, you're right, Larry, forget I ever mentioned it. Best of luck buying the Clips!
* I can still use the world "mulatto," right? I mean, I read it in a science book when I was 12 in 1956. But I have to admit I've been mostly thinking about business since then. Maybe I'm not up to date -- it's just that we don't have a lot of mulattos in Silicon Valley (except in HR). I mean, don't get me wrong, I love mulattos! Hell, I'm bidding on the Clippers mostly because I want to own Blake Griffin, and he's a mulatto. (Luckily, he inherited his dad's jumping genes. White women can't jump!) What else would you call Griffin? He's a mulatto, just like my good friend President Obama. ... Maybe I should ask one of my Stanford girlfriends if "mulatto" is still the word used by kids these days before I make Griffin my property. Yeah, it could get awkward if I don't know what to call him until after I've bought him. Madison is a sociology major so she'll know if "mulatto" is still okay. I'll text her right now.

Charles Murray on Nicholas Wade's "A Troublesome Inheritance"

From the Wall Street Journal:
Book Review: 'A Troublesome Inheritance' by Nicholas Wade
A scientific revolution is under way—upending one of our reigning orthodoxies.

May 2, 2014 5:35 p.m. ET 
... The orthodoxy's equivalent of the Nicene Creed has two scientific tenets. The first, promulgated by geneticist Richard Lewontin in "The Apportionment of Human Diversity" (1972), is that the races are so close to genetically identical that "racial classification is now seen to be of virtually no genetic or taxonomic significance." The second, popularized by the late paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, is that human evolution in everything but cosmetic differences stopped before humans left Africa, meaning that "human equality is a contingent fact of history," as he put it in an essay of that title in 1984. 
Since the sequencing of the human genome in 2003, what is known by geneticists has increasingly diverged from this orthodoxy, even as social scientists and the mainstream press have steadfastly ignored the new research. Nicholas Wade, for more than 20 years a highly regarded science writer at the New York Times,  has written a book that pulls back the curtain. 
It is hard to convey how rich this book is. It could be the textbook for a semester's college course on human evolution, systematically surveying as it does the basics of genetics, evolutionary psychology, Homo sapiens's diaspora and the recent discoveries about the evolutionary adaptations that have occurred since then. The book is a delight to read—conversational and lucid. And it will trigger an intellectual explosion the likes of which we haven't seen for a few decades. 
The title gives fair warning: "A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History." At the heart of the book, stated quietly but with command of the technical literature, is a bombshell. It is now known with a high level of scientific confidence that both tenets of the orthodoxy are wrong. 
Mr. Lewontin turns out to have been mistaken on several counts, but the most obvious is this: If he had been right, then genetic variations among humans would not naturally sort people into races and ethnicities. But, as Mr. Wade reports, that's exactly what happens. A computer given a random sampling of bits of DNA that are known to vary among humans—from among the millions of them—will cluster them into groups that correspond to the self-identified race or ethnicity of the subjects. This is not because the software assigns the computer that objective but because those are the clusters that provide the best statistical fit. If the subjects' ancestors came from all over the inhabited world, the clusters that first emerge will identify the five major races: Asians, Caucasians, sub-Saharan Africans, Native Americans and the original inhabitants of Australia and Papua New Guinea. If the subjects all come from European ancestry, the clusters will instead correspond to Italians, Germans, French and the rest of Europe's many ethnicities. Mr. Lewontin was not only wrong but spectacularly wrong. It appears that the most natural of all ways to classify humans genetically is by the racial and ethnic groups that humans have identified from time out of mind.

Let me point add another response to Lewontin, from my 2000 VDARE article Seven Dumb Ideas about Race:
You often hear that between-group racial differences only account for 15% of genetic variation. This number comes from a 1972 study by Richard Lewontin of 17 blood types, comparing variation between continental-scale races and between national-scale racial groups (e.g., Swedes vs. Italians). Now, blood types are, I suppose, important, but they hardly represent all we want to know about human genetic diversity. Certain other traits are known to be more racially determined -- the figure for skin color, not surprisingly, is 60%. What the overall number is for all the important genes remains unknown. 
Still, let's assume that Lewontin's 15% solution is widely applicable. That's like going to a casino that has American Indian and African American croupiers, and 85% of the time the roulette spins are random, but 15% of the time the ball always comes up red for Indian croupiers and black for the black croupiers -- pretty useful information, huh?

Murray continues:
Stephen Jay Gould's assurance that significant evolution had stopped before humans left Africa has also proved to be wrong—not surprisingly, since it was so counterintuitive to begin with. Humans who left Africa moved into environments that introduced radically new selection pressures, such as lethally cold temperatures. Surely, one would think, important evolutionary adaptations followed. Modern genetic methods for tracking adaptations have established that they did.

From my 1997 review of Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond in National Review:
But, are indigenous peoples merely not inferior? In truth, on their own turf many ethnic groups appear to be somewhat genetically superior to outsiders. Diamond makes environmental differences seem so compelling that it's hard to believe that humans would not become somewhat adapted to their homelands through natural selection. And in fact, Diamond himself briefly cites several examples of genetic differences impacting history. Despite military superiority, Europeans repeatedly failed to settle equatorial West Africa, in part because they lacked the malaria resistance conferred on many natives by the sickle cell gene. Similarly, biological disadvantages stopped whites from overrunning the Andes. 

Murray continues:
... The question, then, is whether the sets of genes under selection have varied across races, to which the answer is a clear yes. To date, studies of Caucasians, Asians and sub-Saharan Africans have found that of the hundreds of genetic regions under selection, about 75% to 80% are under selection in only one race. 
We also know that the genes in these regions affect more than cosmetic variations in appearance. Some of them involve brain function, which in turn could be implicated in a cascade of effects. "What these genes do within the brain is largely unknown," Mr. Wade writes. "But the findings establish the obvious truth that brain genes do not lie in some special category exempt from natural selection. They are as much under evolutionary pressure as any other category of gene." 
Let me emphasize, as Mr. Wade does, how little we yet know about the substance of racial and ethnic differences. ... 
As the story is untangled, it will also become obvious how inappropriate it is to talk in terms of the "inferiority" or "superiority" of groups. Consider, for example, the Big Five personality traits: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. What are the ideal points on these continua? They will differ depending on whether you're looking for the paragon of, say, a parent or an entrepreneur.

Okay, but what are ideal points on the IQ continua for getting into Harvard?
And the Big Five only begin to tap the dozens of ways in which human traits express themselves. Individual human beings are complicated bundles of talents, proclivities, strengths and flaws that interact to produce unexpected and even internally contradictory results. The statistical tendencies (and they will be only tendencies) that differentiate groups of humans will be just as impossible to add up as the qualities of an individual. Vive les différences.

Sure, the blacks will win the Olympic men's 100m dash and the BET Hip Hop Awards, while the Mexicans will live longer than you'd expect, and the Jews will have to content themselves knowing that even though they aren't that fast or comparatively long-lived relative to their incomes, they still have their 140 spots on the Forbes 400.
... After laying out the technical aspects of race and genetics, Mr. Wade devotes the second half of his book to a larger set of topics: "The thesis presented here assumes . . . that there is a genetic component to human social behavior; that this component, so critical to human survival, is subject to evolutionary change and has indeed evolved over time; that the evolution in social behavior has necessarily proceeded independently in the five major races and others; and that slight evolutionary differences in social behavior underlie the differences in social institutions prevalent among the major human populations." 
To develop his case, Mr. Wade draws from a wide range of technical literature in political science, sociology, economics and anthropology. He contrasts the polities and social institutions of China, India, the Islamic world and Europe. He reviews circumstantial evidence that the genetic characteristics of the English lower class evolved between the 13th century and the 19th. He takes up the outsize Jewish contributions to the arts and sciences, most easily explained by the Jews' conspicuously high average IQ, and recounts the competing evolutionary explanations for that elevated cognitive ability. Then, with courage that verges on the foolhardy, he adds a chapter that incorporates genetics into an explanation of the West's rise during the past 600 years. 
Mr. Wade explicitly warns the reader that these latter chapters, unlike his presentation of the genetics of race, must speculate from evidence that falls far short of scientific proof. His trust in his audience is touching .... 
I fear Mr. Wade's trust is misplaced. Before they have even opened "A Troublesome Inheritance," some reviewers will be determined not just to refute it but to discredit it utterly—to make people embarrassed to be seen purchasing it or reading it. These chapters will be their primary target because Mr. Wade chose to expose his readers to a broad range of speculative analyses, some of which are brilliant and some of which are weak. If I had been out to trash the book, I would have focused on the weak ones, associated their flaws with the book as a whole and dismissed "A Troublesome Inheritance" as sloppy and inaccurate. The orthodoxy's clerisy will take that route, ransacking these chapters for material to accuse Mr. Wade of racism, pseudoscience, reliance on tainted sources, incompetence and evil intent. You can bet on it. 
All of which will make the academic reception of "A Troublesome Inheritance" a matter of historic interest. Discoveries have overturned scientific orthodoxies before—the Ptolemaic solar system, Aristotelian physics and the steady-state universe, among many others—and the new received wisdom has usually triumphed quickly among scientists for the simplest of reasons: They hate to look stupid to their peers. When the data become undeniable, continuing to deny them makes the deniers look stupid. The high priests of the orthodoxy such as Richard Lewontin are unlikely to recant, but I imagine that the publication of "A Troublesome Inheritance" will be welcomed by geneticists with their careers ahead of them—it gives them cover to write more openly about the emerging new knowledge. It will be unequivocally welcome to medical researchers, who often find it difficult to get grants if they openly say they will explore the genetic sources of racial health differences. 
The reaction of social scientists is less predictable. The genetic findings that Mr. Wade reports should, in a reasonable world, affect the way social scientists approach the most important topics about human societies. Social scientists can still treat culture and institutions as important independent causal forces, but they also need to start considering the ways in which variations among population groups are causal forces shaping those cultures and institutions. 
How long will it take them? In 1998, the biologist E.O. Wilson wrote a book, "Consilience," predicting that the 21st century would see the integration of the social and biological sciences. He is surely right about the long run, but the signs for early progress are not good. "The Bell Curve," which the late Richard J. Herrnstein and I published 20 years ago, should have made it easy for social scientists to acknowledge the role of cognitive ability in shaping class structure. It hasn't. David Geary's "Male/Female," published 16 years ago, should have made it easy for them to acknowledge the different psychological and cognitive profiles of males and females. It hasn't. Steven Pinker's "The Blank Slate," published 12 years ago, should have made it easy for them to acknowledge the role of human nature in explaining behavior. It hasn't. Social scientists who associate themselves with any of those viewpoints must still expect professional isolation and stigma. 
"A Troublesome Inheritance" poses a different order of threat to the orthodoxy. The evidence in "The Bell Curve," "Male/Female" and "A Blank Slate" was confined to the phenotype—the observed characteristics of human beings—and was therefore vulnerable to attack or at least obfuscation. The discoveries Mr. Wade reports, that genetic variation clusters along racial and ethnic lines and that extensive evolution has continued ever since the exodus from Africa, are based on the genotype, and no one has any scientific reason to doubt their validity. 
And yet, as of 2014, true believers in the orthodoxy still dominate the social science departments of the nation's universities. I expect that their resistance to "A Troublesome Inheritance" will be fanatical, because accepting its account will be seen, correctly, as a cataclysmic surrender on some core premises of political correctness. There is no scientific reason for the orthodoxy to win. But it might nonetheless.
So one way or another, "A Troublesome Inheritance" will be historic. Its proper reception would mean enduring fame as the book that marked a turning point in social scientists' willingness to explore the way the world really works. But there is a depressing alternative: that social scientists will continue to predict planetary movements using Ptolemaic equations, as it were, and that their refusal to come to grips with "A Troublesome Inheritance" will be seen a century from now as proof of this era's intellectual corruption. 
—Mr. Murray is the W.H. Brady Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

May 2, 2014

538: Where the Forbes 400 live

Over at FiveThirtyEight, founder Nate Silver has a long analysis of the likely market value of NBA franchises. He sees a correlation between the selling price of an NBA team and the number of billionaires who live in that metropolis. Above is a graph he made up of the change in prime residence of Forbes 400 members (who are roughly synonymous with American billionaires) over the last 9 years. (In general, analysis of the Forbes 400 is highly underexploited by academic economists and even most of the press.)

The big trend is the rise of New York, which added 20 members of the Forbes 400. (I wonder what percentage live in New York City? That's of interest because NYC is one of the few cities in America to charge a municipal income tax, which is currently a little under 4% on top incomes.) Los Angeles remains important but seems clearly in decline from its days as NYC's upstart rival. The rise of Miami is interesting. Are these Latin American zillionaires or old Americans relocating to the sun and non state income tax? Houston is up due to the oil boom. Dallas, with no state income tax, remains stably strong. Chicago and Minneapolis are fading. (It's cold there in winter.) Philadelphia has remarkably few billionaires.

By the way, I'm starting to like as the sports website for people who don't watch sports on TV.

White House: Big Data causes big disparate impact

The brighter folks within the Obama Administration are starting to figure out what I've been saying for some time: that a lot of the hype over Big Data and apps and the like are businesses trying to get around traditional regulations, including regulations against discrimination. For example, one of the costs that government imposes on licensed taxi drivers is that they are supposed to drive customers wherever they want. But with the new ride sharing apps, drivers can just look up possible gigs offered on their smartphones and say, "Florence and Normandie? Let me Google that ... uh-oh. Re-ject-ed! Ventura and Laurel Canyon? Accepted!"

Back in 1982, my Advanced Marketing Models professor in B-School got to talking about predictive systems used by lenders, insurance companies, and the like. Somebody asked if they really work to identify bad risks. Oh, sure, they really worked, he replied. The problem is that the use of truly powerful predictive factors, like race, have been outlawed and the government is leery of the use of approximate factors like zip code. So they don't work as well as they did a few years ago. This is a quiet way for the white majority to subsidize the black and brown minority in terms of mortgage defaults, insurance rates, etc. 

But Big Data to the rescue of Big Business! You don't actually need to know that somebody is black if you know she drinks grape soda, smokes Kools, loves Tyler Perry, etc. All that stuff correlates with being a worse risk (and with being black). John Podesta has just released a White House report on this Menace. From the NYT:
Call for Limits on Web Data of Customers 
But the most significant findings in the report focus on the recognition that data can be used in subtle ways to create forms of discrimination — and to make judgments, sometimes in error, about who is likely to show up at work, pay their mortgage on time or require expensive treatment. The report states that the same technology that is often so useful in predicting places that would be struck by floods or diagnosing hard-to-find illnesses in infants also has “the potential to eclipse longstanding civil rights protections in how personal information is used in housing, credit, employment, health, education and the marketplace.” 
The report focuses particularly on “learning algorithms” that are frequently used to determine what kind of online ad to display on someone’s computer screen, or to predict their buying habits when searching for a car or in making travel plans. Those same algorithms can create a digital picture of person, Mr. Podesta noted, that can infer race, gender or sexual orientation, even if that is not the intent of the software. 
“The final computer-generated product or decision — used for everything from predicting behavior to denying opportunity — can mask prejudices while maintaining a patina of scientific objectivity,” the report concludes. 
Mr. Podesta said the concern — he suggested the federal government might have to update laws — was that those software judgments could affect access to bank loans or job offers. They “may seem like neutral factors,” he said, “but they aren’t so neutral” when put together. The potential problem, he added, is that “you are exacerbating inequality rather than opening up opportunity.”
Stop noticing!

Playing hardball with Magic and Mike

I think I finally figured out the strategy of Magic Johnson and Co.

The Los Angeles Clippers basketball franchise is a classic value investing play. Owner Donald T. Sterling long followed a worst-house-on-the-block strategy with them, same as with his real estate strategy: buy in Beverly Hills and Koreatown and hold on. Los Angeles isn't going to run out of nouveau riche Koreans, and it's not going to run out rich guys who want to own an NBA team.

So, Sterling was content to employ cheap but elderly and inept general manager Elgin Baylor for 22 long, terrible seasons. He was happy to benefit more from the inflation in the price of generic NBA franchises than from his own efforts to build a winning franchise.

Recently, however, several factors have conspired to drive the value of being the owner of the Clippers up. The Clippers actually have exciting players now, the rival Lakers' old stars (Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Steve Nash) aren't getting any younger, the stock market is high, and the cable companies are theorized to be increasingly desperate for live sports programming that can't be obtained more cheaply over the Internet.

However, Sterling has tax reasons for not wanting to sell during his lifetime. And he loves being the center of attention, and doesn't seem to care much whether people are acting obsequious or hostile toward him as long as they notice him. This has increased the demand for ways to force Sterling into selling, and the supply has apparently arisen to meet the demand. 

(A forced sale would likely work out to a lower price than an unforced sale because one of the main competitors in an unforced sale is the owner who might just call it off if he doesn't get a high enough price.)

From NBA supremo Adam Silver's news conference:
Magic Johnson knows he's always welcome as an owner in this league. He's been a part owner in the past of the Los Angeles Lakers, and he's always welcome and a close friend of the NBA family.

After all, the HIV-infected basketball legend is the "ultimate cleanser in sports."

Ironically, the Los Angeles Times reports today, but without naming any names because that would be awkward this week and off-Narrative:
Trapped into paying extra for cable TV sports 
The Dodgers charged $8 billion for broadcast rights to their games, knowing full well that pay-TV companies would have to pass along this sky-high cost to all customers.  
By David Lazarus 
May 1, 2014, 5:16 p.m. 
A troglodyte of a team owner got his comeuppance this week for making incredibly stupid comments about race. But let's be clear. 
Racism isn't widespread among sports team owners. 
Greed is. 
Exhibit A: The $8 billion charged by the Dodgers for broadcast rights to their games knowing full well that pay-TV companies would have to pass along this sky-high cost to all customers. 
Time Warner Cable is the Dodgers' partner in crime. It paid that whopping sum for exclusive rights to distribute the Dodgers channel to other pay-TV companies, assuming, like the team, that it would get away with sticking both fans and non-fans with an extra $4 to $5 fee every month.

That's an extra $48 to $60 per year from practically everybody in Southern California (not me, though, I don't have cable), whether they watch the Dodgers or not. And baseball is a pretty boring sport to watch on TV, at least until the games matter in October. When I was a kid, Dodger games were a pleasant thing to have Vin Scully on the radio while you were outside doing chores or whatever, but sitting in the dark watching seems ...
... This is why DirecTV, Dish, Verizon and AT&T have balked at adding $4 to $5 to people's bills for a Dodgers channel.

So, as I mentioned earlier in the week, 70% of Southern California Dodger fans who have cable TV haven't been able to see the first month of the Dodger's season. The local cable companies are worried that raising their fees will drive their fans who don't like sports to start cutting the cable and turn to Netflix-like alternatives for movies and shows. I don't have cable, but the only sports I feel like I really want to watch are the Olympics, the Masters, the U.S. Open, maybe the British Open if I get up early enough, a few baseball playoff games, and maybe some college football. Most of that's available on broadcast. The cable companies are worried about pushing more people to follow me.
Clippers owner Donald Sterling is paying the price for being a narrow-minded jerk. 
Why should the Dodgers' owners get a pass?

Of course, there's an irony here: the public face of the new Dodger ownership team that's stiffing its fans is that "ultimate cleanser in sports," Magic Johnson.

One reason the new Dodger ownership is stopping Dodger fans from seeing their team on TV in their game of chicken with the cable companies is because they overpaid so badly for the franchise in 2012. From the NYT in 2012:
A Costly Toy Subsidized by Others 
By ANDREW ROSS SORKIN  APRIL 9, 2012, 8:59 PM 76 Comments

When the numbers don’t seem to add up, it’s worth asking some questions. 
For the last two weeks, I’ve been puzzled by the announcement of a $2.15 billion deal to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers by Magic Johnson and a group of financiers. 
Of course, Johnson got most of the attention. But his celebrity has obscured a drumbeat of questions about the businessmen behind this headline-grabbing sale, which doubled the record for the price tag of an American professional sports team, set by the Miami Dolphins when it was sold for $1.1 billion in 2009.

The winning bid was led by Mark Walter and his firm, Guggenheim Partners, which most people in sports — and frankly, even on Wall Street — know very little about. (Peter Guber, the film producer behind “Rain Man” as well as Stan Kasten, the former president of the Atlanta Braves, are also involved.) 
A quick background check and some back-of-the-envelope math raises an obvious red flag: how on earth can this group of individuals afford to pay $2 billion in cash?
The answer is that they probably can’t — at least, not by themselves. 
Mr. Walter, along with his colleague Todd Boehly, Guggenheim’s president, appear to be living out a childhood fantasy using other people’s money, some of whom may not even realize it. 
In addition to their own cash, Mr. Walter plans to use money from Guggenheim subsidiaries that are insurance companies — some state-regulated — to pay for a big chunk of his purchase of the Dodgers. Guggenheim controls Guggenheim Life, a life insurer, and Security Benefit, which manages some $30 billion, among others. 
Using insurance money — which is typically supposed to be invested in simple, safe assets — to buy a baseball team, the ultimate toy for the ultrarich, seems like a lawsuit waiting to happen. ...
The transaction seems even more questionable when considering Mr. Walter’s own words to The New York Times two weeks ago: “I don’t want to realize a return on investment on buying the Dodgers. I want to have a multigenerational relationship that changes my life, Magic’s life, Magic’s grandchildren’s lives and all of our lives.” 
So let’s get this straight: Mr. Walter, who has a fiduciary duty to the firm’s policyholders, plans to pump their money into a baseball team, even though he says he’s not seeking to realize a return on the investment. And he is seemingly wildly overpaying by some $500 million more than the next highest bidder — he outbid Steven Cohen, the hedge fund manager, among others — so that he can be the league-designated owner of the Dodgers. 
“Paying $1.5 billion or $1.6 billion — I can get there. But anything after that is pure ego,” said a longtime sports banker who worked for a rival bidder for the Dodgers. “We’ve done the math. At that price, it just doesn’t make any sense unless you want to be the king of Los Angeles.” ...

On the other hand, if you can bully your way into adding $55 per year to the annual bill of every cable TV subscriber in the five-county area of 17 million people ...
Guggenheim Partners started relatively recently, in 2000, by a great-grandson of Meyer Guggenheim, the patriarch of the famously philanthropic family. It now manages some $125 billion for the very wealthy — including Michael Milken — and has proved itself to be a skilled risk manager. Under Mr. Walter, the firm has grown beyond money management into insurance and recently hired Alan D. Schwartz to run its advisory practice. Mr. Schwartz is the former C.E.O. of Bear Stearns, who sold it as it was collapsing to JPMorgan Chase.

The Bear Stearns collapse in early 2008 was the warm-up for the Lehman Brothers crash later that year that brought the world economy to its knees. So, the Bear Stearns guy, Michael Milken, Peter Guber, ... To be honest, I can't find anything all that bad about Stan Kasten, but still ... 

Magic has some of his ultimate cleansing to do all right.

Kurt Badenhausen writes in Forbes that the favorites of ten contenders to wind up owning the Clippers are:
Magic Johnson & Guggenheim Partners
Johnson has been a part of the Sterling story from the beginning. It was pictures of Sterling’s girlfriend with Johnson on Instagram that set Sterling off on his racist rant. Johnson and his financial backers, Guggenheim, are interested in buying the Clippers, according to Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski. If interested, the Johnson group is the clear favorite. The NBA would love to bring Magic into the fold. He is royalty in NBA circles. The Johnson/Guggenheim group blew other bidders out of the water paying $2 billion for the Dodgers. Guggenheim would also love to get its hands on the Clippers for TV purposes. The Dodgers’ rich price tag was fueled by an expected local TV deal with Time Warner Cable, which eventually climbed to $8.5 billion. TWC is having trouble getting carriers to pick up the Dodgers’ new regional sports channel, but adding another team to the mix would make the channel more valuable.

So, here's where it all finally fits together: Magic, the Guggenheim Partners, and their unofficial and utterly unpaid advisor Michael Milken are on the hook for a lot of money for the Dodgers purchase. 

So, let's try to think about this like Milken would. He's banned for life for getting any compensation for his investment advice (he had to pay the government $47 million in 1998 for cheating on his lifetime ban), so I will stipulate that when he talks on the phone to Guggenheim's president Boehly several times per week it's just to check up on the $800 million he has invested with Guggenheim Partners and to offer free advice out of the goodness of Mike's heart.

The Dodgers will turn out to be a goldmine for them if they can wield enough market power to extract the money from the local cable companies. At present, it's unclear if the Dodgers alone provide Guggenheim with enough local monopoly power. But, the Dodgers and Clippers (whose contract is up after the 2015-16 season) together could make the recalcitrant cable companies cry uncle to whatever outrageous demands Magic and Mike come up with. 

This is Hollywood Econ 101: the way an agent gets ahead is by assembling a valuable stable of assets and then threatening to withhold all of them unless he gets his way over one of them.

In the huge Southern California media market, Magic et al don't have that many options for buying another major league sports franchise. They own the Dodgers, they probably wouldn't be allowed to buy the Angels baseball team, there are no NFL teams, the NHL teams aren't vastly popular with locals, you can't exactly buy USC football or UCLA basketball, and the Buss family turned them down when they asked about buying the Lakers. So that leaves the Clippers as the obvious second asset to use in their battles with the cable companies.

And that may explain a few things.

Applebaum: The Kremlin's krazy konspiracy theories

In Slate / Washington Post, Anne Applebaum writes:
In Russia one widespread conspiracy theory holds that the Soviet Union was somehow “forced” to collapse because Ronald Reagan covertly engineered a drop in global oil prices in the 1980s. It seems laughable to imagine that any American administration could ever have done anything so clever on purpose.

I don't know if that conspiracy theory is true or not, but lots of Reagan Administration officials have boasted of a conspiracy between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia to boost production to lower oil prices in 1986 to damage the Soviets.

My new smartphone app for the sharing economy: Hotbunk!

America has to get serious about efficiency if we are to have any hope of competing. That’s why I’m releasing on Monday a new smartphone app perfect for the digital sharing economy of the 21st Century: Hotbunk!

Why should your bed go unused for 2/3rds of each day? With my bed-sharing app Hotbunk!, you can rent out your bed for the 16 hours per day you don’t need it. It’s a futuristic digital marketplace for shift workers needing a mattress while you are at work or watching television.

Hotbunk! Version 1.0 offers three eight-hour shifts per day. Version 2.0 will offer four six-hour shifts: perfect for the more efficient America we're building with disruptive technology like Hotbunk!

May 1, 2014

NYT: "Sports, the Most Progressive Force in America"

NYT columnist Timothy Evans effuses:
Sports, the Most Progressive Force in America 
MAY 1, 2014

In the capital of the old Confederacy, Richmond, Va., on a boulevard of elegantly aged homes and muscle-limbed trees, stands a string of large statues honoring a nation that enshrined human bondage in its founding document. Generals and politicians, these heroes of the Civil War South are well known. 
At one end of Monument Avenue is a more recent addition — the statue of the tennis great Arthur Ashe. It is no small irony that Ashe would be property, with fewer rights than a horse, were he to live in his hometown under Article One of the Confederate Constitution. The South, its rebel founders made clear in 1861, would forever be a slaveholders’ republic. “No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in Negro slaves shall be passed,” it states. 
It’s a tribute to Richmond, in the face of much contention, that an African-American athlete is on the same street as Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee. But it’s also a tribute to sports, and shows — as the swift censure of a racist billionaire basketball owner does — that if you want to find racial progress in America, look to the games we play. ...
Muhammad Ali, with a mouth as quick as his jab, forced a conversation about pride and prejudice that went far beyond the boxing ring. 

Here is video of the sainted Muhammad Ali holding a conversation about pride and prejudice and how Joe Frazier is a gorilla:
And football’s Richard Sherman, of the Seattle Seahawks, had his Ali moment last season, flushing out people who use “thug” as a code word for something more derisive, as the Stanford graduate noted. 

Most strikingly, look how white Southern men came together to stand up for the rights of Jameis Winston when some white person was so impertinent as to accuse him of rape. (And how the national media has paid almost zero attention to this reigning Heisman Trophy winner getting nabbed shoplifting this week.) We've definitely made a lot of progress since the days of To Kill a Mockingbird!

Secret intelligence conference in Europe

Last month, psychologist James Thompson hosted a scientific conference for researchers interested in IQ and human biodiversity topics at an undisclosed location in Europe. I advised him last year to keep arrangements non-public because a somewhat similar conference a decade-and-a-half ago was broken up by a mob of anti-science fanatics.

I would have liked to have attended, but I can't afford trips to Europe.

James has now posted a few of the abstracts of presented papers on his Psychological Comments blog.

I've found the future first black NBA Commissioner

From The New Republic:
Banning Sterling Was Good. A Black NBA Commissioner Would Be Much Better.
The NBA's bigger race problem 
BY NOAM SCHEIBER @noamscheiber Share  
Don’t get me wrong: I like a good lifetime-ban-of-a-racist-NBA-owner as much as the next guy. Given the opportunity, I would have personally administered the suspension to Donald Sterling, the despicable not-for-long-owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. And yet I’m having trouble seeing how NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s punishment of Sterling qualifies him for the hero worship so many are showering on him.    ...
More importantly, though, I don’t see how Silver and the NBA have remotely solved their race problem. If anything, the Sterling episode has only highlighted a deeper outrage: that the NBA is a majority-black league which no African-American has a plausible shot of governing.  ...
Now here’s the problem: If the NBA is more democratic than was widely appreciated before the Sterling episode, isn’t Adam Silver’s very presence a bit strange? I’m not talking about the way he was single-handedly anointed by his predecessor. (Though there is something creepily patrilineal about that. Stern worked at the same law firm as Silver’s father in the 1970s, which is how the young Adam Silver first got connected with his future patron.) 
I’m not even talking about how there’s a white commissioner presiding over a league in which 76 percent of the players are black. White mayors have recently run majority-black cities—say, New Orleans or Baltimore—and there’s no principled argument for deeming that fishy.

Detroit has a white mayor now, too, after 40 years of black mayors. How enthusiastic do you think NBA owners are about following the trajectory of New Orleans, Baltimore, and Detroit?
I’m talking about the fact that, given how the job of sports-league commissioner is essentially a lifetime appointment these days, the NBA is almost certain to go at least 15 to 20 more years without a black leader. (Silver took over earlier this year at the age of 51.)  
And just as it would be ludicrous to suggest that an overwhelmingly black league has to have a black commissioner, it seems equally ludicrous to suggest that the league should never have a black commissioner. Especially since policing player behavior is one of the commissioner’s key responsibilities, and since this policing has serious racial overtones. (Silver and Stern have both said the point of being such hard-asses—everything from stiff suspensions to the dress code—was dispelling the notion that “all those N.B.A. players are thugs.'”) But if you’re Magic Johnson or Michael Jordan or Isiah Thomas—men who started their careers not so long ago—that’s essentially what we’re saying: no black commissioner for you.  

How has Michael Jordan been working out as front office genius?
Granted, I don’t expect the NBA to aspire to the same sort of democratic legitimacy as a major U.S. city. (Though given the state of racial politics in the south, the NBA is arguably about as democratic today as New Orleans was back in the 1970s, and a lot of people thought it was outrageous that the city hadn’t had a black mayor by then.)

How'd that whole black (actually, Creole of Color) mayor thing work out for New Orleans, anyway?
What I do think is necessary is that one of two things change: Either Silver and the league essentially commit to finding an African American commissioner to replace him when he steps down in, er, 2034. Or, more plausibly, that Silver magnanimously step aside after six or eight years, George Washington-style, to symbolically bury lifetime tenure. But lifetime tenure for white guys—worse, white guys handpicked by their white-guy predecessors—seems deeply noxious to me.

I've found the perfect candidate for future commissioner of the NBA: a black professional basketball player with whom the owners will feel culturally comfortable: Jordan Farmar.

Seth Roberts, RIP

Statistics professor Andrew Gelman has a long, lovely reflection on his late friend Seth Roberts, a genuine American original who pioneered the practice of turning yourself into a human guinea pig for various eccentric self-improvement ideas -- e.g., lose weight by drinking a glass of sugar water one hour before each meal (that actually worked for Roberts) -- and then carefully recording the data on what happens. 

The issue is that we need a way to combine the best of Roberts' idiosyncratic self-research and real experimental studies. 

Here's a methodological suggestion using a personal example. I strongly believe that echinacea tea helps me head off colds -- if I get run down and develop a sore throat, which for me is always the precursor of a ten-day long cold, several glasses of echinacea tea will make the sore throat go away over 50% of the time. But that doesn't seem to work for most other people, even my sons. I'm not surprised -- immune systems are highly variable from person to person. 

Standard studies of echinacea have come up with mixed results. That's hardly surprising. If echinacea works for, say, 2% of the population, you need a massive sample to see a statistically significant result. And maybe it makes 2% of the people worse off, so there is no net effect on the population at all. But, even in that case, it would be good if echinacea were used by the 2% if benefits and avoided by everybody else.

But why not do a traditional experimental study, but only on people who believe echinacea benefits them? I'd sign up for such a study.

If echinacea actually works on a lot of the people who claim it works for them, then you can do another study attempting to find out how generalizable it's effects are. I'd next try to recruit first and second order relatives of those for whom it worked in the first study. This should give us a way to estimate how idiosyncratic the effects are.

Then, look for the genes that make some relatives respond and other relatives don't. In a generation or so, you ought to be able to get your whole genome analyzed and be handed a list of Seth Roberts-type things to try that have a decent possibility of working for you. After all, most of us don't have the energy to be Seth Roberts.

Joyce Carol Oates tweets on Sterling Two-Minutes Hate

"Sorry, old man. Because of the weak imagery, scanty plot, and pedestrian
 language in your latest, we've turned your table over to Joyce Carol Oates."
William Hamilton *, New Yorker, early to mid-1970s
I talk a lot about how when I was a kid in the late 1960s and 1970s, there was a huge cultural emphasis on nonconformity, privacy, free expression, taboo-violating, etc etc

Obviously, things have changed. My usual explanation is that the people who won back then are now still in charge so they don't see any reason to let anybody else use the tools they used to claw their way to the top. They like it up there and they intend to stay.

Still, some people from that era actually still believe in that stuff; for example, the novelist Joyce Carol Oates, who is now 75. Oates is sort of the female John Updike: she's published so many novels that no single one stands out in critical esteem as the one that you must read. So, that's my excuse for never having read any of her multitudinous books. (I, did, however, recently read her 1979 TNR review of my favorite Updike novel, The Coup, and it's a stupendous book review.)

Not surprisingly, the prolific Princeton professor has a Twitter account. And she has had a lot to say on how much the Two-Minutes Hate directed at the old man's semi-senile ramblings violates her outdated ideals:
Joyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates  20h
Nostalgia for time when one could say anything in private no matter how stupid, cruel, self-serving or plain wrong & not be criminalized.
Joyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates  15h
"Self-righteousness is the collateral damage virtue must risk in stamping out vice."    Le Roquefortchaud 
 Joyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates  17h
Slurs "Commie" & "pinko" in 1950s--slurs of "racist" in our era--casually uttered, to denigrate another who differs from you even mildly. 
Joyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates  18h
Is there a federal law providing "expectation of privacy" in personal situations, or is it a state law? Or is it even a law?  Am I dreaming? 
 Joyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates  18h
As lawyers advise, "Never put anything in writing," soon the admonition will be:
"Never put anything in words that might be recorded." 
 Joyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates  18h
Only stand-up comedians & clearly designated satirists are allowed an almost total freedom of speech today in US. (Note "almost.") 
 Joyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates  18h
Many who frequently speak in public have begun to speak much more circumspectly than we once did, for fear of being quoted out of context. 
 Joyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates  18h
Would, or could, ACLU today defend Nazi's right (or "right") to march through Skokie, Illinois? Real test of principle vs. extreme backlash. 
 Joyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates  20h
Tragic pessimist George Orwell could not have foreseen that individuals would give up their freedom to be punitive Big Brother themselves. 
 Joyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates  20h
In 2039 murmuring something "critical" about the President may result in a fleet of drones sent in your direction.  "Wait--just kidding!" 
 Joyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates  20h
If one individual is so vilified for making private statements, one day you may not dare say anything "critical" about the President. 
 Joyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates  20h
Why do so many people confuse an individual case (agreed, despicable) with a principle? "Free speech"--"free press"--US Constitution. 
 Joyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates  20h
In US law, no one is "indefensible." If prosecution does not need to prove a case, we are all susceptible to false accusations, arrest. 
 Joyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates  20h
Many, perhaps most, US citizens now seem to believe that to defend just the principle of "free speech" is to defend a particular individual. 
 Joyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates  20h
Many, perhaps most, US citizens now seem to believe that you can/ should be punished for what you say even in private. Repercussions? 
 Joyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates  20h
This era of ever-vigilant social media & NSA surveillance may one day be seen as the end of "free speech" in America.  Happened so quickly. 
 Joyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates  20h
Am I the only person in US surprised that a private conversation (no matter how ugly) can be the basis for such public recrimination?

 Joyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates  20h
Nostalgia for time when one could say anything in private no matter how stupid, cruel, self-serving or plain wrong & not be criminalized.
Oates's Twitter followers are largely aghast at her for saying this.

* Yes, there are a lot of famous William Hamiltons.

The Sterling tape: illegal or senile?

California's wiretapping law is a "two-party consent" law. California makes it a crime to record or eavesdrop on any confidential communication, including a private conversation or telephone call, without the consent of all parties to the conversation. ... The statute applies to "confidential communications" -- i.e., conversations in which one of the parties has an objectively reasonable expectation that no one is listening in or overhearing the conversation. ...  A California appellate court has ruled that this statute applies to the use of hidden video cameras to record conversations as well. ...
If you are operating in California, you should always get the consent of all parties before recording any conversation that common sense tells you might be "private" or "confidential." In addition to subjecting you to criminal prosecution, violating the California wiretapping law can expose you to a civil lawsuit for damages by an injured party. 

Now, V. Stiviano is trying to get around this heap of trouble by saying the octogenarian Donald T. Stirling gave her some sort of blanket permission to record him, apparently because he has a bad memory. From TMZ:
As for why Stiviano taped so many conversations ... as TMZ Sports reported, she told friends the Clippers owner WANTED her to record him and he knew he was being recorded ... partly because he frequently forgot what he said and the tapes refreshed his memory ... at least that's her story.


A. Either the tape everybody in the world is so outraged about was illegal


B. The tape was legally recorded because the octogenarian gave permission because he is going senile, and thus the whole planet is up in arms over what a senile man was coached into saying (which is pretty embarrassing for humanity. When's the ship leaving for that Earth-like planet they just discovered? I think I want to be on it).

Pick one.

April 30, 2014

Mark Steyn on the Magic Johnson Connection

Mark Steyn writes:
In the 21st century's pansified American media the sports desk are the biggest pansies of all. Steve Sailer thinks this is because political correctness is all about not noticing things, and for sports reporters the stuff you're not meant to notice is staring you right in the face all day long: 
There's a reason why run-of-the-mill sportswriters have long been among the most dopily politically correct for years. Political correctness is a war on noticing, and it's harder to not notice patterns when watching sports than almost anywhere else in life. If you turn on ESPN, you'll notice that on average, blacks can outjump and outsprint whites, that straight men and lesbian women like sports far more than do gay men and straight women, and that men are much better than women at sports. 
Even so, the mawkish drivel from the sob-sisters of the sports pages is quite something. Adrian Wojnarowski
For all these despicable revelations tumbling out of the hateful heart of Donald Sterling, there promises construction of a roadmap to redemption for the Los Angeles Clippers and the NBA... Magic Johnson is the ultimate cleanser in sports, and steering a Clippers sale to him could be transformative for the franchise. Truth be told, it could change the balance of basketball power in Los Angeles forever. 
Oprah says Magic wants the team, and, if Oprah says it, it's probably going to happen. So let's see: Donald Sterling's mistress takes Magic Johnson to a Clippers game. And, in the course of complaining about her swanning around with Magic Johnson, Donald Sterling makes some racist remarks. So they take the team away from Donald Sterling and transfer it to ...Magic Johnson. Gee, that's awfully neat.

White gentrification of South-Central L.A. begins

For years, I've been predicting that the most massive gentrification opportunity of the 21st Century would-be South-Central Los Angeles, or as it's been officially called since the regrettable events of April 1992, South Los Angeles. This is a gigantic area of flat land, superb sea-tempered climate, excellent freeway connections to jobs and airports, and (relatively) cheap land. The main problem is the current residents. But hipster whites have a plan to do something about that. From the LA Times:
Soaring home prices spur a resurgence near USC 
The hot housing market and a rail line push young professionals to the West Adams, Leimert Park areas 
Mark and Jillian Dillon and their 1-year-old daughter, Staley Rae, and dog Guv'nor hang out in front of their home in Jefferson Park. The Dillons, who had been renting in Venice, purchased the rehabbed Craftsman home a year ago. 
By Andrew Khouri  April 30, 2014, 6:25 p.m. 
Priced out of much of Los Angeles, young professionals are zeroing on several neighborhoods around USC and to the west, as the expanding Expo light rail line delivers new residents to the area. 
Communities such as Jefferson Park, Leimert Park and West Adams are attracting buyers — and investors — seeking their relative affordability, location between the Westside and downtown Los Angeles, and the rail link between the two. 
The influx comes as the once-struggling communities now see potential for new investment along major boulevards of South Los Angeles such as West Adams, Jefferson and Crenshaw. Prices are shooting up: In the ZIP Codes covering these neighborhoods, the median home price jumped 40.6%, to $450,000, in the first quarter compared with a year earlier, according to San Diego research firm DataQuick. 
Real estate professionals are taking notice. Agent Dino Buiatti is opening a West Adams office in June and plans to staff it with 30 agents. "In the next five, 10, 15 years, the whole neighborhood is going to change," he said. "There is a lot of money being poured in." ...
The flipping rate surpassed even investor and hipster haven Highland Park.
"There is an awful lot of activity," said Timothy Braseth, who last year rehabbed 15 homes in the area. "It's gotten very competitive." 
Developers are scooping up older Craftsman and Spanish-style homes, fixing them up and selling to new arrivals from the Westside, downtown and West Hollywood. 
Jillian Dillon bought a Jefferson Park remodel from Braseth last year. The fashion stylist and her music-industry husband came from Venice, where they rented. The couple scooped up a 1908 Craftsman bungalow for $442,000. It's a mile from an Expo light rail stop, which Dillon predicts will boost their property value in years to come. 
"Our home in Venice would easily be a $1.5-million home," the 33-year-old mother said, recalling bidding wars they endured before realizing the Westside was out of reach. 
Leimert Park, West Adams and Jefferson Park were among Los Angeles' first suburbs. Their demographic shifts reflect immigration waves that swept Los Angeles over the last century. 
Racial covenants kept the area predominantly white for decades. But in 1948, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled those racial deed restrictions unenforceable. Middle- and upper-class African Americans moved in, while many white residents left. 
In the 1970s, jobs moved elsewhere and crime increased. The relatively new 10 Freeway now segregated South L.A. from the rest of the city, even splitting West Adams in two.

Uh, you know, freeways don't actually "segregate" places from other places, they connect them. For example, Sherman Oaks in the Valley, where Fast Times at Ridgmont High and Valley Girl were filmed, is split in four by the interchange of the Ventura (101) and San Diego (405) freeways. You see this all the time in article claiming that lead in gasoline caused crime: how could they not riot because they had a freeway nearby? Maybe having the traditionally most jammed freeway interchange in the country in Sherman Oaks caused Valley Girl accents, but crime?
After a more recent wave of Latino immigration, only Leimert Park remains majority African American. Many new arrivals are white.
I suspect social media makes it easier to gentrify since you can coordinate with other people on your wavelength about precisely which neighborhood you will all descend upon. A big problem with South-Central is that it's so big (51 square miles just in L.A. city -- about as big as the entire city of San Francisco) that gentrifiers can't just drive around and spot each other, the way we could in Chicago where the potentially gentrifying neighborhoods were quite small in area. Gentrifiers need to link up with each other online and argue out where they are headed.

Another problem is that South-Central is flat and flat land tends to give wealthier white people in Los Angeles the creeps. They can picture the mob coming for them, waving torches. Flat land is more convenient to live on than the hills that ambitious Angelenos have clung to since the movie business got rolling.

A fear of apocalyptic mob violence directed at them has been endemic in elite Southern California circles at least since Nathanael West's 1939 novel The Day of the Locust about a moron from Iowa named Homer Simpson and other scary average joes who riot at the end. In that mental atmosphere, hills have always seemed more defensible.

California Democrats refuse to leave well enough alone

A rare social policy success over the last generation was the 1998 rollback of "bilingual" education in California when Proposition 227 passed with 59% of the vote. The problem with "bilingual" education was that it worked to keep the children of immigrants monolingual in the language of their homes until after they'd passed the time period when they can most easily learn a new language. Ron Unz's initiative has made English dominant in the schools, and the kids like it. English is cool.

Therefore, the Democrats in Sacramento want to repeal it.
Calif. Senate panel advances bill to restore bilingual education

By Patrick McGreevy    April 30, 2014, 8:11 p.m.
SACRAMENTO -- The state Senate Education Committee recommended Wednesday that California voters be asked to repeal Proposition 227, the 1998 initiative that requires public school instruction in English. 
The proposal to restore bilingual education programs in the state was made by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), who said the ballot measure has stifled the ability of students to become multilingual. 

Uh, no, the old bilingual education kept immigrants' children monolingual by teaching them at school in the same language as they heard at home. In contrast, Proposition 227 makes the school language different from the home language.
“The top educational systems around the world all require students to learn multiple languages,” Lara  told the panel.

In English, the global dominant language, which is what they weren't learning well under Proposition 227.
“New research has shown that children have an innate ability to absorb multiple languages at once, where previously it was thought to confuse them.”

Which is why they need to be taught in English, when they can still learn English easily.
The committee voted 4 to 1 to approve SB 1174. Lara is proposing that the measure be placed on the 2016 ballot. 
Sen. Mark Wyland (R-Escondido), a former school board member, voted against the bill, saying he saw bilingual education at work before Proposition 227 at a school of Spanish-speaking students. When they were tested, “they couldn’t speak or read or write English,” Wyland said, adding he is concerned that such students “are going to be relegated to jobs where they don’t have the English-speaking skills they need.”

Unz's Proposition 227 always got pretty fair coverage from the English language press, who aren't so stupid they couldn't see which side their bread was buttered upon.
However, Sen. Ben Hueso (D-Logan Heights) said the world is changing and California schools should adapt. “Not everybody doing business internationally or globally speaks English,” Hueso said.

More and more do.

The wit and wisdom of New York Times readers

As I blogged below, the new David Leonhardt NYT "Upshot" article on how the median income in Canada is higher than in the U.S. doesn't mention the wildly different demographics that have such a big influence on where the median falls: America is now 30.0% black or Hispanic while Canada is 4.1% black or Hispanic. 

I also posted this data as a comment on the New York Times. Here are the four replies that my comment has received. The first one is good but get a load of the last three (which, unfortunately, are typical these days):

Hal 10034

 New York 3 hours ago
But hasn't that been true for a long time, whereas it's news that middle class Canadians are better off. Maybe policies -- taxation, labor law, health care, education -- have more to do with it. Just because there's a demographic difference doesn't mean that race is the cause.


 Florida 2 hours ago
What is your point about demographics?


 toronto 1 hour ago
What are you trying to say?


 Arizona 1 hour ago
And your point is what?