May 10, 2014

William James: "It is impossible to bore a German"

In the midst of a biographical interview, Steven Pinker calls up a quote I've never heard before:
When I got to Harvard, the Psychology Department, at least the experimental program in the Psychology Department, was extremely mathematical. It specialized in a sub-sub-discipline called psychophysics, which was the oldest part of psychology, coming out of Germany in the late 19th century. William James, the namesake of this building, said “the study of psychophysics proves that it is impossible to bore a German.”

It's oddly similar to the complaint of an alcoholic singer in a Garrison Keillor short story about how Norwegians will not allow themselves to be entertained.

Newsweek on spying: “You can't embarrass an Israeli"

From Newsweek:
Israel Won’t Stop Spying on the U.S.By Jeff Stein / May 6, 2014 5:31 AM EDT

Israel is flouting the “friendly” rules of espionage to steal U.S. trade and tech secrets 
Now U.S. intelligence officials are saying—albeit very quietly, behind closed doors on Capitol Hill—that our Israeli “friends” have gone too far with their spying operations here. 
According to classified briefings on legislation that would lower visa restrictions on Israeli citizens, Jerusalem’s efforts to steal U.S. secrets under the cover of trade missions and joint defense technology contracts have “crossed red lines.”  
Israel’s espionage activities in America are unrivaled and unseemly, counterspies have told members of the House Judiciary and Foreign Affairs committees, going far beyond activities by other close allies, such as Germany, France, the U.K. and Japan. A congressional staffer familiar with a briefing last January called the testimony “very sobering…alarming…even terrifying.” Another staffer called it “damaging.”  
The Jewish state’s primary target: America’s industrial and technical secrets.  
“No other country close to the United States continues to cross the line on espionage like the Israelis do,” said a former congressional staffer who attended another classified briefing in late 2013, one of several in recent months given by officials from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the State Department, the FBI and the National Counterintelligence Directorate.

The intelligence agencies didn’t go into specifics, the former aide said, but cited “industrial espionage—folks coming over here on trade missions or with Israeli companies working in collaboration with American companies, [or] intelligence operatives being run directly by the government, which I assume meant out of the [Israeli] Embassy.”  ...
“If we give them free rein to send people over here, how are we going to stop that?” the former congressional aide asked. “They’re incredibly aggressive. They’re aggressive in all aspects of their relationship with the United States. Why would their intelligence relationship with us be any different?”
And from a follow-up by Stein in Newsweek:
According to a senior former U.S. intelligence operative, a Secret Service agent who was enjoying a moment of solitude in Gore’s bathroom before the Veep arrived heard a metallic scraping sound. “The Secret Service had secured [Gore’s] room in advance and they all left except for one agent, who decided to take a long, slow time on the pot,” the operative recalled for Newsweek. “So the room was all quiet, he was just meditating on his toes, and he hears a noise in the vent. And he sees the vent clips being moved from the inside. And then he sees a guy starting to exit the vent into the room.” 
Did the agent scramble for his gun? No, the former operative said with a chuckle.  
“He kind of coughed and the guy went back into the vents.” 
To some, the incident stands as an apt metaphor for the behind-closed-doors relations between Israel and America, “frenemies” even in the best of times. The brazen air-duct caper “crossed the line” of acceptable behavior between friendly intelligence services – but because it was done by Israel, it was quickly hushed up by U.S. officials. ....
“It has been extensive for years,” a former top U.S. security official told Newsweek Wednesday after Israeli Intelligence Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, among other top Israeli officials, “unequivocally” denied the Newsweek report, saying Israel stopped all spying operations in the U.S. after Jonathan Pollard was convicted of spying for Israel in 1987. One anonymous official was quoted in the Israeli media as saying Newsweek’s account “had the whiff of anti-Semitism in it.” 
But a former U.S. intelligence operative intimately familiar with Israeli espionage rejected the anti-Semitism charge. “There is a small community of ex-CIA, FBI and military people who have worked this account who are absolutely cheering on [the Newsweek] story,” he said. “Not one of them is anti-Semitic. In fact, it has nothing to do with anti-Semitism. It has only to do with why [Israel] gets kid-glove treatment when, if it was Japan doing it or India doing it at this level, it would be outrageous.” 
... “You can't embarrass an Israeli,” he said. “It’s just impossible to embarrass them. You catch them red-handed, and they shrug and say, 'Okay now, anything else?'” 
Always lurking, former intelligence officials say, was the powerful “Israeli lobby,” the network of Israel’s friends in Congress, industry and successive administrations, Republican and Democratic, ready to protest any perceived slight on the part of U.S. security officials. A former counterintelligence specialist told Newsweek he risked Israel’s wrath merely by providing routine security briefings to American officials, businessmen and scientists heading to Israel for meetings and conferences. 
“We had to be very careful how we warned American officials,” he said. “We regularly got calls from members of Congress outraged by security warnings about going to Israel. And they had our budget. When ... the director of the CIA gets a call from an outraged congressman–’What are these security briefings you're giving? What are these high-level threat warnings about travel to Tel Aviv you're giving? This is outrageous’ – he has to pay close attention. There was always this political delicacy that you had to be aware of.” 
The annual exercise in which the State Department publishes security profiles on foreign countries gave the intelligence agencies huge headaches, he added. 
“When we were doing the annual threat rating for the U.S. Embassy and consulates [in Israel], it was always a huge debate,” he said. “The intelligence community would always be urging the highest level of threats, while the State Department would be saying, ‘This is not going to go over very well, we can't give this kind of rating, because there will be certain consequences in terms of travel warnings and restrictions.’ It was always a big, big debate on how you rate the threat over there.” 
But the danger is real, he and other former U.S. intelligence officials familiar with Israel’s methods say. Israeli agents “go after senior U.S. Navy officers on shore leave in Haifa, after space industry officials, or scientists with intellectual property, anywhere. This has always been a huge concern for the community.” 
In the States, Israeli officials and businessmen are forever trying to lure attractive American targets to visit Israel. Representatives of Maf’at, an administrative body that yokes the Israel Defense Ministry to its military industries, give U.S. counterintelligence agencies great concern, one of the former U.S. intelligence officials said. "They were the ones that really caused us a lot of concern. Because they had a plausible reason to attend all these conferences and defense contracting facilities and whatnot. It was a great cover vehicle for industrial espionage,” he said. 
... “Their goal,” he continued, “is to get contacts to come out of the U.S. and over there and then wine them, dine them, assess them, see what their weaknesses are. I mean, we had government officials going over there who were offered drugs, like, ‘Hey, do you want to go get some pot?’ What? These are U.S. government officials. The drugs, women coming to your hotel room – they throw everything at you. No matter how high the official.” 

White people music

Because I'm old, I don't pay attention to music much anymore, but I recall a commenter named ash who would point out, for example, in response to my 2007 post "What's Gone Wrong with Music?"
Steve, for the first time since before disco, heterosexual white men are composing dance music. This has got to mean something (besides that, consciously or not, they recognize doing so as a way to get laid.) 
Something is happening out there, but it won't be as apparent, at least not right away, because of technological and market differences. There's not as much money to be made when people are just giving their music away. 

For example, above is a video (with Spike Jonze as one of the cameramen) of LCD Soundsystem performing "All My Friends" at Madison Square Garden a few years ago in front of pretty much everybody who is anybody in Brooklyn. (Here's the superior studio version.) 

When not playing live, LCD Soundsystem was, more or less, a middle-aged white guy named James Murphy who looks like a cross-between Kevin Spacey and Philip Seymour Hoffman. I presume Murphy has a day job in the music and/or marketing industry, because he is so adept at embodying the Tired Frequent Flyer ("And here we go, like a sales force into the night"). White people markers include that it's obvious that the frontman has a 3-digit IQ, self-consciousness, irony, and metaness. (Here's Murphy non-musically talking like Carl Spackler about kids these days on "Losing My Edge," LCD's first single in 2002.)

"All My Friends" has been a pretty influential song: here's a video of The 1975's recent knockoff hit "Sex" (a.k.a., "She's got a boyfriend anyway.") Sounds like early U2, which sounded like early Public Image Ltd.
LCD Soundsystem's songs tend to strike the elderly as homages to 1970-80s white people classics like Talking Heads, Bowie, and other Enosphere artists. For example, "All My Friends" isn't too far from New Order's "Age of Consent." Melodically, I'm reminded of a quite different flavor of song, The English Beat's intentionally wobbly "Doors of Your Heart," a song so black rhythmically that only white people like it.

World War T: Bearded lady circus freak wins Eurovision

World War T rolls onward.

North of the border praise for Wade

Here's a sober, positive review of Nicholas Wade's A Troublesome Inheritance from the Toronto broadsheet:
What if race is more than a social construct? 
The Globe and Mail 
Published Saturday, May. 10 2014, 8:00 AM EDT 
... Even so, you can be sure that quite a lot of people do not want to have this conversation, or even admit that it might be legitimate. They do not want to entertain the thought that genetics could be a reason why human societies differ. Sure, they believe in evolution – except when it comes to us.

Contra Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs, and Steel"

With Nicholas Wade's challenge to the conventional wisdom that enshrined Jared Diamond's 1997 Pulitzer Prize-winning tome Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies as the final word on the subject of racial diversity on the continental-scale, let me pull up my mostly-admiring 1997 review of Diamond's famous book in National Review.

My most subversive sentence was:
Diamond makes environmental differences [among the continents] seem so compelling that it's hard to believe that humans would not become somewhat adapted to their homelands through natural selection.

Below is the whole thing:

How German is America?

I had lunch yesterday with a donor who is an Englishman who has lived all over the world. He brought up the topic of how a lot of aspects of American life strike him as more German than English, such as American newspapers, which have traditionally aspired to be serious, informative, and responsible, while British newspapers like being outrageous and fun.

He then went off to meet with some German friends and writes:
Good brainstorm over a beer with my buddies on the Germanness of America, some of which I already mentioned:
1. TV advertising (slapstick, not subtle) 
2. The Army (are there more German generals than German politicians in the US -- which states does army recruit from?) 

Pershing, Eisenhower, Schwartzkopf
3. Attitude to self improvement

The German poet Rilke's mantra "You must change your life" caught on a lot faster in America, especially California, than Britain. For example, my Swiss German paternal grandfather was a health food nut who moved to Southern California 85 years ago to grow his own food in his yard.
4. Easy to scare (see Hollywood), lack of natural scepticism
5. Taking things serious (the brit needs to be seen not to be trying) 
6. Lack of irony  
7. American English -- tendency to use longer words eg. Transportation rather than Transport, tendency to use "The" ie. "The Congress" rather than just "Congress" 
8. Law abidingness eg. attitude to jaywalking 
9. Food

A lot of quintessentially American food items, such as the hot dog (which FDR famously served to the King of England in 1939), were popularized at the quite German 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis.    

How to make MOOCs effective

The initial frenzy over the buzz-acronym MOOC, which stands for Massively Online Open Courses (or something like that), in which instead of students sitting in lecture halls at expensive colleges listening to lectures in person, they sit at home and watch videos of professors lecturing at even more expensive colleges, has died down somewhat. MOOCs turn out to have the same problems as correspondence courses have had for the last 100+ years or so. They are great for a handful of go-getters, but an awful lot of distance-learning students lose interest and don't finish.

So, here's my idea of how to improve online education: make it more expensive. Not only charge higher tuition so that student or their parents have some skin in the game, but make the first and last week of each term be residential. You go stay in a dorm for a week or a long weekend of orientation with the other students taking your class, meet the professor in person, hear the first lecture, get some indoctrination by the sales staff, and go to a bunch of parties. Then you go home and do the weekly work, then come back at the end of the term for a week of in person review, take the final in person (so no cheating), and then have a massive party. 

I explained this idea to an online education investor and his eyes lit up, "It's like the only good parts of going away to college!"

What the market for higher education really wants

There's a lot of talk about how to make higher education cheaper and less exclusive, but my impression is that what the market really wants is for tuition to be more expensive and schools harder to get into. For example, here's what would be a wildly publicized alternative to Harvard Business School: one student out a thousand applicants is picked and he gets to pay one hundred million dollars to have Warren Buffett be his personal MBA tutor.

May 9, 2014

Pale and Male

From The Guardian:
Why are so many white men trying to save the planet without the rest of us? 
Climate change affects minorities and women, the elderly and the poor. But the leadership of the environmental movement is pale and male. That doesn't look like progress

The future of the environmental movement isn't pale and male. But its current leadership is.  
Suzanne Goldenberg

May 8, 2014

From the Steveosphere on "A Troublesome Inheritance"

I joke around about the existence of a Steveosphere, but you'll notice that much of the current attention being paid to Nicholas Wade's new book A Troublesome Inheritance seems to follow its contours.

JayMan in JayMan's Blog

Ed West in The Spectator

Charles Murray in the Wall Street Journal

Jared Taylor in American Renaissance

Steven Pinker on Twitter

John Derbyshire in VDARE

Steve Hsu in Information Processing

Rod Dreher in The American Conservative

HBD Chick in HBD Chick

Alfred W. Clark in Occam's Razor

Of course, Wade is a fringe figure who has merely written over 1000 science articles for the New York Times, so it's hardly surprising that his book is only getting attention from certain people.

And one from outside the Steveosphere:

Alex Golub on Savage Minds

And one from somebody whom I admire but doubt that I've had much influence upon:

Anthony Daniels in The New Criterion [Corrected]

Galton on the Chinese, 1873

In response to my post below about how it's increasingly difficult for contemporary intellectuals to remember accurately past views due to the perceived need to attribute all contemporary racial and sexual disparities to the malignity of historical attitudes, a commenter points to this 1873 letter from Francis Galton as germane to the question of what whites in the past thought about economic potential of East Asians. 

Darwin's half-cousin was, among much else, both a pioneering statistician and an explorer of Africa
Francis Galton, letter to the Editor of The Times, June 5 1873. 
Sir, - ... I am desirous of availing myself of the opportunity to ventilate some speculations of my own, which you may, perhaps, consider of sufficient interest to deserve publication in the Times. My proposal is to make the encouragement of the Chinese settlements at one or more suitable places on the East Coast of Africa a part of our national policy, in the belief that the Chinese immigrants would not only maintain their position, but that they would multiply and their descendants supplant the inferior Negro race. I should expect the large part of the African seaboard, now sparsely occupied by lazy, palavering savages living under the nominal sovereignty of the Zanzibar, or Portugal, might in a few years be tenanted by industrious, order loving Chinese, living either as a semi-detached dependency of China, or else in perfect freedom under their own law. In the latter case they would be similar to that of the inhabitants of Liberia, in West Africa, the territory which was purchased 50 years ago and set apart as an independent State for the reception of freed negroes from America. 
The opinion of the public on the real worth of the Negro race has halted between the extreme views which have been long and loudly proclaimed. ... The Chinaman is a being of another kind, who is endowed with a remarkable aptitude for a high material civilization. He is seen to the least advantage in his own country, where a temporary dark age still prevails, which has not sapped the genius of the race, though it has stunted the development of each member of it by the rigid enforcement of an effete system of classical education which treats originality as a social crime. All the bad parts of his character, as his lying and servility, spring from timidity due to an education that has cowed him, and no treatment is better calculated to remedy that evil than location in a free settlement. 
The natural capacity of the Chinaman shows itself by the success with which, notwithstanding his timidity, he competes with strangers, wherever he may reside. The Chinese emigrants possess an extraordinary instinct for political and social organization; they contrive to establish for themselves a police and internal government, and they give no trouble to their rulers so long as they are left to manage those matters by themselves. They are good-tempered, frugal, industrious, saving, commercially inclined, and extraordinarily prolific. They thrive in all countries, the natives of the Southern provinces being perfectly able to labor and multiply in the hottest climates. Of all known varieties or mankind there is none so appropriate as the Chinaman to become the future occupant of the enormous regions which lie between the tropics, whose extent is far more vast than it appears, from the cramped manner in which those latitudes are pictured in the ordinary maps of the world. But take a globe and examine it, and consider the huge but poorly-peopled bulk of Africa, by whose side the areas of India and of China look insignificant, and think what a field lies there for the development of a suitable race. The Hindoo cannot fulfil the required conditions nearly as well as the Chinaman, for he is inferior to him in strength, industry, aptitude for saving, business habits, and prolific power.

In reality, South Asians did migrate to East Africa in not insignificant numbers, and took over much of the commercial life of Kenya, much to the outrage of President Obama's father and Kenyan half-sister Auma.
The Arab is little more than an eater up of other men’s produce; he is a destroyer rather than a creator, and he is unprolific.

Six decades later Evelyn Waugh wrote two spectacular novels about his trips to East Africa, Black Mischief and Scoop, along with much travel journalism. Unlike the progressive reformer Galton, the reactionary Waugh greatly admired the Arabs in East Africa and Yemen for their aristocratic indolence and lack of economic dynamism, comparing their decadent ennui favorably to the enterprise of the Indians who got on his snobbish nerves.

Anyway, 140 years later, Chinese colonization of Africa is taking off, with over 1 million in Africa today. Of course, Africans are also showing up in China.

The future shall be full of interest.

Social psychology v. marketing research

On statistician Andrew Gelman's blog, there is an argument between Gelman and Steven Pinker over the so-called "replication crisis" in the social sciences, with Pinker defending evolutionary psychology in contrast to social psychology.

If I could step back for a second to take a larger view, much of the problem with social psychology in the 21st Century is that it discovered that there was money to be made by becoming a branch of marketing research while still maintaining the pretensions of being a science. I suspect Malcolm Gladwell’s 2000 bestseller “The Tipping Point” was a, uh, tipping point in this evolution.

The selling point of social psychology is that it’s a Science and therefore, goes the unstated but implied assumption, any experimental result that social psychologists come up with about how to manipulate college students is Science and therefore part of the Unchanging Laws of the Nature of the Universe. 

For example, the canonical experiment in 1990s social psychology was that a social psychologist had manipulated college students into walking ever so slightly slower to the elevator by showing them words related to old age.

People in the marketing and advertising industries went wild over this experiment because it was much like what they do -- manipulate young people -- except it was Science! 

When you get started in advertising, it seems very exciting because you have New Ideas about what today's youth think is cool. But as the years go by and you rise up the corporate ladder to the point where you get sent to conferences featuring expensive speakers like Malcolm Gladwell, marketing starts to seem like a giant hamster wheel of pointless motion. As T.S. Eliot, who worked in the publishing industry, lamented:
The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.
All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,
All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death no nearer to GOD.
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

So, this guy with the crazy hair up on the stage talking about Science is very appealing. Now that you have a mortgage and a family, you don't want to lose your hard-earned job to some 20-something who is more in touch with what today's youth are into. You've got to emphasize your advantage in wisdom. But nobody believes in wisdom anymore, they just believe in Science. But by going to this expensive conference, you are learning the latest Science, like how a Genuine Scientist got college kids to walk slower down the hall to the elevator. Granted, it's not immediately obvious how walking slower can make your clients more money, but the point is that this stuff isn't just an endless hamster wheel of fashion, it's Science, which you can best learn about by attending exclusive conferences. And the great thing about Science is that it doesn't change, right? 

Unfortunately for middle-aged marketers everywhere, this famous experiment has proven hard to replicate, however. Maybe it was garbage in the first place, or maybe it was just some 1990s college kid fashion, like wearing flannel shirts. Somebody manipulated them into doing that back then, right? Maybe college students want to be manipulated into the latest stupid fads?

In contrast to social psychologists, the basic assumption of marketing researchers is: We can figure out for you what’s working right at the moment to manipulate consumers, but, hey, this isn’t the Law of Gravity, this isn't the search for eternal wisdom, it's just business. So whatever works now will probably stop working soon as shoppers get bored by it. So, you’ll have to come back and hire us again next year to tell you what those crazy kids have gotten into next.

Gelman on "A Troublesome Inheritance" in Slate

Statistics professor Andrew Gelman reviews Nicholas Wade's A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race, and Human History in Slate:
The paradox of racism is that at any given moment, the racism of the day seems reasonable and very possibly true, but the racism of the past always seems so ridiculous. ...
One of Wade’s key data points is the rapid economic growth of East Asia in the past half-century: “In the early 1950s Ghana and South Korea had similar economies and levels of gross national product per capita. Some 30 years later, South Korea had become the 14th largest economy in the world, exporting sophisticated manufactures. Ghana had stagnated.” Wade approvingly quotes political scientist Samuel Huntington’s statement, “South Koreans valued thrift, investment, hard work, education, organization, and discipline. Ghanaians had different values.” And Wade attributes these attitudes toward thrift, investment, etc., to the Koreans’ East Asian genes. 
But ... what if Wade had been writing his book in 1954 rather than 2014? Would we still be hearing about the Korean values of thrift, organization, and discipline? A more logical position, given the economic history up to that time, would be to consider the poverty of East Asia to be never-changing, perhaps an inevitable result of their genes for conformity and the lack of useful evolution after thousands of years of relative peace. We might also be hearing a lot about Japan’s genetic exclusion from the rest of Asia, along with a patient explanation of why we should not expect China and Korea to attain any rapid economic success.

A massive problem in contemporary intellectual discourse is that people don't remember the past well and don't have a critical attitude toward whatever is the latest conventional wisdom about the backwardness of the past. In the Obama Era, we see race and sex disparities all around us, and the only socially acceptable explanation for them is that the past was so incredibly racist/sexist until ... well, nobody can quite remember when, but it must have been practically the day before yesterday.

So, it's hard for contemporary intellectuals to put themselves back into the shoes of their predecessors. 

Let's stop and think about the perspective from 1954. Sure, South Korea was rural and underdeveloped at the time (and flattened). But the United States and its United Nations allies had just finished battling to a desperate draw with North Korea, which was much more industrialized than South Korea, and China in the 1950-53 Korean War. This included America's massive strategic bombing campaign against North Korea's hydroelectric dams, steel mills, bridges, and railroads, which led to famous dogfights between the jet fighters escorting the bombers and the interceptors.

In the previous decade, the U.S. had fought a horrifying war against Japan that had begun with Japan's state-of-the-art ambush of the U.S. Navy in Pearl Harbor.

The economic potential of China once it threw off its stultified Imperial government had been an obsession of American strategists since the late 19th Century. Keeping the Philippines after the 1898 Spanish-American War, for example, was justified as America's entryway to the fabled China Market. The current strength and future greatness of Republican China was routinely overrated by American Sinophiles such as FDR (who set in motion China becoming one of the five members of the United Nation's Security Council despite Chiang Kai-shek's desultory contributions to the war effort), and the China-born Henry Luce, owner of Time and Life. During the 1950s, a Republican slogan was "Unleash Chiang," based on the assumption of a Nationalist Chinese military juggernaut temporarily stuck on Taiwan.

Similarly, if you read traditional physical anthropology books of the era such as Carleton Coon's The Origins of Races (1961) and The Living Races of Man (1965), Northeast Asians, who have large skulls relative to their small stature, are viewed as quite equal intellectually to Caucasians.

Or consider the much denounced eugenics works of the post-Great War Era, such as Lothrop Stoddard's 1920 book The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy, which Tom Buchanan is more or less reading in The Great Gatsby. Stoddard was hardly dismissive of the potential of Northeast Asians. From Wikipedia:
In The Rising Tide of Color Stoddard blasted the ethnic supremacism of the Germans, blaming the "Teutonic imperialists" for the outbreak of the First World War.[3] He opposed what he saw as the disuniting of White/European peoples through intense nationalism and infighting. 
Some predictions made in The Rising Tide of Color were accurate; others were not. Accurate ones — not all of which were original to Stoddard or predicated on white supremacy — include Japan's rise as a major power; a war between Japan and the USA; a second war in Europe; the overthrowing of European colonial empires in Africa and Asia; the mass migration of non-white peoples to white countries; and the rise of Islam as a threat to the West because of Muslim religious fanaticism (Stoddard was an Islamic scholar and published the book, The New World of Islam in 1921.)[4][5]

An accurate understanding of historical ideas is increasingly unavailable to modern Americans due to the ever-growing demand that "history" (i.e., past racism/sexism) is the one and only cause of current disparities.

Narrowing the Gap: The West Virginia Solution

The federal government's National Assessment of Educational Progress test results for 12th graders in readin' and 'rithmetic are now out for 2013. The feds have a nice website to display the numbers. I've been following these kind of test score stats for almost as long as I've been following baseball statistics, but I have to admit that seldom if ever do any Mike Trouts come along to add excitement to my peculiar hobby. 

Above is a graph of the ten states where the NAEP had big enough sample sizes to break out The Gap (white-black, in this graph on the Math test). Of the ten states, the only one where The Gap is notably smaller than in the nation at large is West Virginia. How has West Virginia accomplished this goal that has obsessed policymakers and pundits for most of my lifetime? By having many of the smart white people in West Virginia move to greener pastures in North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, and so forth.

May 7, 2014

"Mike Milken was history’s greatest feminist"

As you may have noticed from reading the news recently, Southern California is full of trophy properties -- e.g., the L.A. Clippers, the Beverly Hills Hotel, the L.A. Dodgers -- owned by rich men and coveted by other rich men. You may ask: how do we remember which rich guys are History's Greatest Monsters (Donald T. Sterling, the Sultan of Brunei) and which are the Ultimate Cleanser, Supporter of the Middle Eastern Peace Process, or History's Greatest Feminist (respectively, Magic Johnson, Haim Saban, and, now, Michael Milken)? 

But I reply: I don't understood your question. Why do you ask? What are you trying to imply? Do you have some reason for wanting to know? The reason we are shown articles like the two below is because, obviously, the facts of the matter bear only one interpretation.

From the Jewish Journal:
American business magnate Michael Milken is a feminist
by Danielle Berrin
5 days ago

Among his many titles - financial genius, convicted felon, consummate philanthropist – it turns out the “junk bond king” Michael Milken has a thing for women, just not in that usual Wall Street way. 
During the 2014 Milken Global Conference held in Beverly Hills last week, a three-day confab for business titans focused on the future of the world, Milken repeatedly used his public platform to celebrate the achievements and contributions of women. 
It began at a small cocktail gathering for women on Wednesday evening, featuring an impressive panel of business leaders including PR Crisis Manager Judy Smith (upon whom the character Olivia Pope from ABC’s “Scandal” is based and who, most famously, handled the scandal of all scandals, the Clinton/Lewinsky affair), Nancy Dubuc, the president and CEO of A+E Networks, and Molly Ashby, CEO of Solera Capital LLC on Wall Street. 
Milken was one of a handful of men to attend. Although his public appearances were mainly reserved for the larger, headlining panels, Milken made a point of taking the stage to offer a personal editorial on women’s progress in the business world. Looking back on his more than four-decade career, he recounted a history of gender inequality in the financial industry. 
During the 1980s, when he was in a career transition, Milken said he spent three months consulting for a financial firm. When he met with the lead partner at the firm, he asked him, “Who is the smartest person here?” The partner replied—(duh)--“Me.” 
Three months later, after Milken had assessed the company, he went back to that same partner with some unexpected news: “You’re not the smartest person here,” Milken recalled saying. That title belonged to a woman Milken had met in another department who was not only financially savvy but tech savvy – and had become one of the first in her field to computerize the tax code. 
“Why isn’t she a partner?” Milken lobbed at the head of the firm. On stage, Milken widened his eyes and gave a little smirk. “A Woooomaaaaan?” he mimicked the partner as saying in response, “as partner?” His voice rose and fell in mock astonishment. 
In those days, female partnership at major financial firms was so infrequent that is was as shocking as it was unfair. Milken then rattled off some statistics about female advancement over the years, bragging about the many women who work for him. 
He offered truly lavish praise for Milken Institute managing director Mindy Silverstein, who sat among the hundred or so women in the audience. 
“She’s my boss,” Milken said with obvious reverence. He noted her round-the-clock work hours, early morning emails and meticulous conference planning. He told the crowd that it was Silverstein who had invited him to an illustrious dinner with a foreign head of state earlier that week, which was a little hard to believe considering Milken’s own venerable clout. And yet, that was how it happened: “Keep inviting me to those dinners,” he told her, looking over as she gleamed. ...
Again, Milken made a fuss over women – this time, in front of the entire conference – talking about how far women have come, how a record 1,000-plus women had registered and attended the Global Conference this year etc., etc., before giving Napolitano the courtesy of the first introduction. And the first opportunity to speak. 
I’ve never met Michael Milken face to face. But after hearing his overtures to women at Global Conference, I want to.

I've met Milken face to face. I had a five-minute conversation with him once at a Milken Global Conference. It was a little like talking to a hyper-intelligent space reptile who is trying hard to act friendly toward the Earthlings upon whose planet he is stranded.

From Quartz:
Nobel economist Gary Becker showed that Mike Milken was history’s greatest feminist 
By Noah Smith 7 hours ago 
Noah Smith is an assistant professor of finance at Stony Brook University. His blog is Noahpinion.

Gary Becker, who passed away this week, was a man who changed the field of economics. ...

One tradeoff Becker thought a lot about was workplace discrimination. Suppose that managers and executives are racist or sexist—for whatever reason, they just don’t want to hire women and minorities, or to pay them what they’re worth (pretty realistic, if you ask me). But this discrimination doesn’t come without a cost. If one company pays women and minorities less than they produce, they could jump ship. With a highly productive and relatively cheap workforce of women and minorities, a fair-minded company could out-compete a discriminatory company and drive it out of business.

Unless, of course, it can’t. Becker theorized that regulation and other government protections can shield discriminatory companies against attack. That would protect the jobs of the people who worked at those old-line companies, but would perpetuate workplace unfairness in the process.

In other words, Becker thought that competition kills discrimination. Open up the floodgates of dog-eat-dog capitalism, and women and minorities will win greater equality in the workplace.

If you’ve ever marveled at the progress women have made in the US economy, you can’t help but be intrigued by this story. After all, it was around 1980 that women really started to win economic equality.

Give or take 10 or 15 years, but who can remember all the way back to the 1970s? It's easy to make up theories about eras you don't have any feel for based on a few statistics that you don't understand.
... What happened in the early ’80s? Laws mandating “equal pay for equal work” had been around since the early 1960s, but the gap hadn’t budged. The feminist movement had been shifting cultural norms for decades, but why should it suddenly score big economic breakthroughs in the relatively conservative 1980s after years of frustration?

One explanation for women’s sudden success is that Becker was right. The early ’80s saw a wave of deregulation, and the start of a steady increase in trade as a percent of GDP. It also saw the advent of new forms of finance, designed to take power out of the hands of managers and put it in the hands of shareholders.

Remember the movie Wall Street, when Gordon Gekko declared that “greed is good”? The real-life version of Gordon Gekko was Mike Milken, the “junk bond king.” Milken and his firm, Drexel Burnham Lambert, pioneered the use of high-yielding “junk bonds” to finance corporate takeovers. Boosted by Milken’s financial engineering and a helpful 1982 Supreme Court ruling, corporate takeovers exploded in the 1980s. America’s managers and executives saw their cozy empires come under assault. Corporatism went into decline, and shareholder capitalism went into ascendance.

Under the triple assault of shareholder capitalism, deregulation, and globalization, corporate America at first withered, laying off millions in the ’80s. The old social contract, where large safe companies gave long-term safe jobs to millions of working Americans (mostly white men), broke down. Inequality and insecurity rose.

“Neoliberals” usually claim that these unfortunate changes were justified by the economic growth they produced. But if Becker was right, then the unrestrained capitalism unleashed in the 1980s had another unexpected benefit—increased gender equality.

If Becker was right, then Mike Milken was one of history’s most important feminists. ...

Was Becker right? Was Mike Milken – that unlikely feminist hero, whose firm was itself notoriously sexist, who was thrown in jail for fraud–actually America’s most important agent of gender equality? We’ll never know for sure. We should never discount the importance of the feminist movement, which at the very least prepared society to accept rapid changes in gender roles, and probably also contributed to the changes in the workplace. But neither should we ignore the positive side effects of unrestrained capitalism. In the end, bigotry doesn’t pay.

Follow Noah on Twitter @noahpinion. We welcome your comments at
As we can tell from all those black women Milken employed as his frontmen in leveraged buyout raids, and the highly feminist "no wives" night he hosted at a private bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel during his annual High Yield Conference. Milken took a stand against traditional gender roles by not letting his 100 top clients bring their idle hausfrau wives, instead introducing them at the party to young, liberated working women for some all-night consciousness raising.

Wikipedia has a handy list of the dramatis personae in Connie Bruck's 1988 book about Milken, The Predators' Ball: The Inside Story of Drexel Burnham and the Rise of the Junk Bond Raiders, and a quick glance shows just how committed Milken was to the cause of women and racial minorities:
Seriously, there was a definite "identity group liberation movement" aspect to Milkenism, but it didn't have much to do with women or blacks.

(There was, though, one black Milken frontman, Reginald F. Lewis, who made the Forbes 400 in 1992 before dying of a brain tumor -- this dealmaker's death set off a brief panic that the new cell phones could give you brain cancer.)

Team America World Police to the rescue in Nigeria

The Rape of the Sabine Women, 750 BC (Poussin, 1634)
Hundreds of Nigerian teenage schoolgirls have been kidnapped and offered for sale as brides for $12 each to the armed men of The Congregation of the People of Tradition for Proselytism and Jihad (Arabic: جماعة اهل السنة للدعوة والجهاد‎ Jamāʻat Ahl as-Sunnah lid-daʻwa wal-Jihād) or, as it's better known by its Hausa name, Barack Obama.
In a sign of deepening global concern, on Tuesday the United States offered to provide a team of experts, including military and law enforcement officers, along with hostage negotiators and psychologists, to assist the Nigerians in recovering the girls, an offer that the government here accepted. American officials said “military resources” would not be included, but President Boko Haram weighed in, vowing to “do everything we can.” *

Because I'm always 90 degrees off-kilter from how everybody else thinks at any moment, I'm reminded of the 1954 hit MGM backwoods musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, which is based on Stephen Vincent Benet's story The Sobbin' Women, which is inspired by the accounts by Livy and Plutarch of a key event in the founding of Rome: The Rape of the Sabine Women. Here's Oregon frontiersman Howard Keel explaining Plutarch's history to his six younger brothers, lonely bachelors all, in the catchy song "The Sobbin' Women."

The lyrics:
Tell ya 'bout them sobbin' women
Who lived in the Roman days.
It seems that they all went swimmin'
While their men was off to graze.
Well, a Roman troop was ridin' by
And saw them in their "me oh my",
So they took 'em all back home to dry.
Least that's what Plutarch says.
Oh yes!
Them a woman was sobbin', sobbin', sobbin'
Fit to be tied.
Ev'ry muscle was throbbin', throbbin'
From that riotous ride.
Oh they cried and kissed and kissed and cried
All over that Roman countryside
So don't forget that when you're takin' a bride.
Sobbin' fit to be tied
From that riotous ride!
They never did return their plunder
The victor gets all the loot.
They carried them home, by thunder,
To rotundas small but cute.
And you've never seens so,
They tell me, such downright domesticity.
With a Roman baby on each knee
Named "Claudius" and "Brute" 
Oh yes!
Them a women was sobbin', sobbin', passin' them nights. 
While the Romans was goin' out hobbin', nobbin'
Startin' up fights.
They kept occupied by sewin' lots of little old togas
For them tots and sayin' "someday women folk'll have rights." 
Passin' all o' them nights. 
Just sewin'!
While the Romans had fights. 
"Hey listen to this"
Now when their men folk went to fetch 'em
Them women would not be fetched.
It seems them Romans ketch 'em
That their lady friends stay ketched. 
Now let this be because it's true,
A lesson to the likes of you,
Treat 'em rough like them there Romans do
Or else they'll think you're tetched. 
Oh yes!
Them a women was sobbin', sobbin',
Sobbin' buckets of tears
On account o' old dobbin',
Dobbin' really rattled their ears.
Oh they acted angry and annoyed 
But secretly they was overjoyed 
You must recall that when corralin' your streets 
Oh, oh, oh, oh them poe little dears. 
Oh yes
Them a women was sobbin', sobbin', sobbin' Oh yeah
Weepin' a ton Then sobbin' women
Just remember what Robin, Robin, Robin Oh yeah
Hood woulda done. Them sobbin women.
We'll be just like them three merry men
And make 'em all merry once again. 
And though they'll be a sobbin' for a while 
Oh yes!
We're gonna make them sobbin' women smile!
Here's Wikipedia's summary of Livy:
The Rape is supposed to have occurred in the early history of Rome, shortly after its founding by Romulus and his mostly male followers. Seeking wives in order to found families, the Romans negotiated unsuccessfully with the Sabines, who populated the area. Fearing the emergence of a rival society, the Sabines refused to allow their women to marry the Romans. Consequently, the Romans planned to abduct Sabine women, during a festival of Neptune Equester ... At the festival Romulus gave a signal, at which the Romans grabbed the Sabine women and fought off the Sabine men. The indignant abductees were soon implored by Romulus to accept Roman husbands. 
Livy is clear that no sexual assault took place. On the contrary, Romulus offered them free choice and promised civic and property rights to women. According to Livy, Romulus spoke to them each in person, "and pointed out to them that it was all owing to the pride of their parents in denying the right of intermarriage to their neighbours. They would live in honourable wedlock, and share all their property and civil rights, and—dearest of all to human nature—would be the mothers of free men."[2] 
... The Sabines also went to war with the Romans ... At that point the women intervened in the battle to reconcile the warring parties: 
"Intervention of the Sabine Women" by J.L. David, 1799
[They] went boldly into the midst of the flying missiles with disheveled hair and rent garments. Running across the space between the two armies they tried to stop any further fighting and calm the excited passions by appealing to their fathers in the one army and their husbands in the other not to bring upon themselves a curse by staining their hands with the blood of a father-in-law or a son-in-law, nor upon their posterity the taint of parricide. "If," they cried, "you are weary of these ties of kindred, these marriage-bonds, then turn your anger upon us; it is we who are the cause of the war, it is we who have wounded and slain our husbands and fathers. Better for us to perish rather than live without one or the other of you, as widows or as orphans."[2] 
Following the reconciliation, the Sabines agreed to form one nation with the Romans ...

Then, again, it probably won't turn out in Nigeria like in the MGM musical.

* Posted but not fully proofread.

By the way, the President of Nigeria is named Goodluck Jonathan.

NYT: "Curious Case of Milwaukee’s Suburban Voters"

The NYT is puzzled:
The Upshot
The Curious Case of Milwaukee’s Suburban Voters
MAY 6, 2014

“The most polarized part of a polarized state in a polarized nation” — that’s how Craig Gilbert of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel describes the Milwaukee metropolitan area in the masterful first article of a four-part series on the region’s politics. The region is just as polarized as Mr. Gilbert suggests. 
Milwaukee is not the only metropolitan area divided between a heavily Democratic, nonwhite urban core and overwhelmingly white suburbs. But the Milwaukee suburbs are still unusual. They haven’t moved at all toward the left, unlike other Republican-leaning Northern suburbs.

Wisconsin, which was traditionally a left-of-center, reformist state with a history of German social democrat politics (as Alice Cooper points out in Wayne's World above, Milwaukee elected three Socialist Party mayors) has tried many reforms over the years to improve the lives and behavior of its black residents.

Unfortunately, among African-Americans, Wisconsin's blacks continue to rank very near the bottom of all 50 states on most metrics. For example, the biggest white-black gaps in any county in America are found in Wisconsin's Dane County, whose county seat is Madison.

The problem seems to be that Wisconsin's generous welfare benefits of the 1960s and 1970s attracted the laziest Southern blacks, and white Wisconsinites haven't figured out much to do about it since, other than to listen a little more to Republicans.

Piketty and real inequality

Winston Churchill's birthplace, Blenheim Palace: now, that's inequality
From my new column in Taki's Magazine:
Like many pundits opining upon French economist Thomas Piketty’s new book about how the rich always get richer and something has to be done about it, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, I haven’t actually read it. 
But that’s not my fault: I blame capitalism! The capitalist system didn’t print up enough copies, and since nobody in the publishing industry seems to have ever heard of adjusting prices to balance supply and demand, the book has been on back order at Amazon and at my local Barnes & Noble. 
... Something I haven’t seen mentioned in all the discussion of Piketty: Near whom would you rather live, the rich or the poor? 
I’ve spent much of my life in narrow middle-class corridors between them. ... So, I’ve known rich and I’ve known poor, and when it comes to neighbors, I have to say, the rich have been cheaper for me.

Read the whole thing there.

Haim Saban to Beverly Hills Hotel owner: You can check out any time you like

Funny how this week's Big Story in L.A. -- popular, well-connected rich guy offers to buy suddenly "embattled" property from unpopular rich guy -- follows the same template as last week's Big Story in L.A. From The Hollywood Reporter:
Haim Saban 'Interested' in Buying the Beverly Hills Hotel (Exclusive) 
The billionaire said he would also like to purchase the Hotel Bel-Air from Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, whose properties are being boycotted by Hollywood because of his decision to enact Sharia law in his home country of Brunei. 
Media mogul Haim Saban told The Hollywood Reporter Tuesday that he would be willing to buy both the embattled Beverly Hills Hotel and the Hotel Bel-Air if he could purchase the properties at a fair price. 
Saban's comments come amid a growing boycott in Hollywood against the hotels' current owner, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who has decided to enact Sharia law -- targeting gays -- in his home country of Brunei. 
"We are boycotting," said Saban, a long time friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton and strong supporter of the state of Israel. "And, yes, we would be interested to buy both the Beverly Hills Hotel as well as the Hotel Bel-Air, but we won't pay a stupid price, and if someone else buys it, we'll still enjoy the Polo Lounge and the Wolfgang Puck restaurant at the Bel Air." 
The burgeoning boycott against the hotels includes a number of high-profile organizations and entertainment industry people, as awareness builds about Bolkiah's recent decision to enact the strict law that calls for severe punishments -- flogging, amputation of limbs and stoning -- for offenses such as theft, adultery and sodomy.

A reader writes:
Is it me or has everybody read how Charlie Croker ginned up a protest so he could buy real estate at a lower price in Tom Wolfe's A Man In Full?

Andrew Sullivan: "Race doesn't exist"

Andrew Sullivan, or one of his blog's ten other employees, writes from a press release:
A Better Answer To “Where Ya From?” 
MAY 6 2014 @ 3:05PM 
Geneticists Eran Elhaik and Tatiana Tatarinova have developed a fascinating new tool, which they call the Geographic Population Structure (GPS), that allows anyone to identify where their ancestors came from as far back as 1,000 years ago. The technology has a much greater degree of accuracy than previous methods: 
Previously, scientists have only been able to locate where your DNA was formed to within 700km, which in Europe could be two countries away; however this pioneering technique has been 98 per cent successful in locating worldwide populations to their right geographic regions, and down to their village and island of origin. The breakthrough of knowing where the gene pools that created your DNA were last mixed has massive implications for life-saving personalised medicine, advancing forensic science and for the study of populations whose ancestral origins are under debate, such as African Americans, Roma gypsies and European Jews. 
Jordan Pearson explains why the GPS is so precise: 
The increased accuracy of the new model is based on a simple, if controversial, assumption made by the study authors: that race doesn’t exist. 
“The model of races is incorrect and should be dismissed,” Elhaik told me in an email. Up until now, tracing genetic origins assumed that people could be typified as a mix of two to three defined races, presupposing a homogenous “European” identity, Elhaik said. “By contrast, GPS represents a paradigm shift in population genetics whereby all populations are considered admixed to various degrees.” 
Admixing occurs when one gene pool mixes with another to create a whole new one. You can think of it like how primary colours mix to create new palettes and shades—“red” people from region A breed with “blue” people from region B, creating a new group of “purple” people, genetically speaking. What the study assumed, if you’ll forgive the analogy a moment longer, is that there aren’t purely “red,” “yellow,” or “blue” people in terms of genetic makeup; we’re all somewhere in between, and every population worldwide displays a certain amount of admixing.

I cite this to show an example of why I prefer my bottom-up conception of racial groups as partly inbred extended families over Nicholas Wade's Linnaean top-down approach. This kind of jesuitical disingenuity doesn't even get off the ground with my way of thinking.

May 6, 2014

Wise Latina turns out as "Who? Whom?" as expected

From the NYT:
Sotomayor Finds Her Voice Among Justices 
“I am a lawyer’s judge,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor said last year. “I write very technically.” 
That was true at the time. But something has changed in the current Supreme Court term. In opinions concerning human rights abuses, the death penalty and, most notably, affirmative action, Justice Sotomayor has found her voice. 
Cristina Rodriguez, Yale
“She’s setting a public agenda,” said Cristina Rodriguez, a law professor at Yale. “She’s looking for her moments. And her willingness to talk about how biography informs judgments challenges a lot of people’s notions about what the law is supposed to do.” 
Justice Sotomayor, 59, is approaching her fifth anniversary on the Supreme Court, where she has emerged as an increasingly confident figure. In the last term, she asked more questions than any other justice. In the current one, she has staked out positions that have led to testy exchanges with colleagues across the ideological spectrum. 
She is a kind of folk hero to the adoring crowds who attend her public appearances by the thousands. Her memoir, which told the story of her ascent from a housing project in the Bronx, was a best seller. Some call her “the people’s justice.” 
Others attacked her in unusually personal terms after she became the first beneficiary of affirmative action to defend the practice from the Supreme Court bench, summarizing in emphatic and impassioned tones her 58-page dissent from a ruling upholding Michigan’s ban on using race in admissions decisions at the state’s public universities.

Let's be clear about the hilariously unprincipled appeals court ruling that the Supremes, including even the Democrat Stephen Breyer, overturned. Ward Connerly and Jennifer Gratz organized a 2006 initiative campaign to ban racial preferences by the state of Michigan that triumphed over the uniform opposition of Establishment groups in the state with 58% of the vote, the black radical group with the intentionally intimidatory name By Any Means Necessary (i.e., including violence). The appeals court ruled on a party line 8-7 vote just after Obama's re-election that this successful initiative unfairly burdened minorities in the political process, even though they were completely at liberty to change the state constitution back in the same way Ward had changed it: by getting a majority of voters to vote for an initiative of their own.
“Race matters,” she wrote, “because of the slights, the snickers, the silent judgments that reinforce that most crippling of thoughts: ‘I do not belong here.’ ” 
... “I would hope,” she said, “that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.” At her 2009 confirmation hearings, Justice Sotomayor disavowed the remark, saying it was a “rhetorical flourish that fell flat.” 
Last month’s dissent, in Schuette v. BAMN, was a mix of legal analysis, historical overview and policy arguments. ... But what stood out was a fairly brief reflection about what it was like to grow up Puerto Rican in New York City. 
“Race matters to a young woman’s sense of self when she states her hometown, and then is pressed, ‘No, where are you really from?’ regardless of how many generations her family has been in the country,” she wrote. “Race matters to a young person addressed by a stranger in a foreign language, which he does not understand because only English was spoken at home.” ...
In her Supreme Court opinions, Justice Sotomayor has introduced a new vocabulary. She was the first to use the term “undocumented immigrant.” 
In her recent dissent, she proposed another change. “Although the term ‘affirmative action’ is commonly used to describe colleges’ and universities’ use of race in crafting admissions policies,” she wrote, “I instead use the term ‘race-sensitive admissions policies.’ ” 

Slate: "Donald Sterling's Model Minority"

Two Chinese junior English Lit faculty members explain how Donald T. Sterling victimized Koreans in Slate:
Donald Sterling’s Model Minority

What the Clippers owner’s love of Koreans reveals about racism in America. 
By Hua Hsu and Richard Jean So 
Donald Sterling's affection for Koreans is the flip side of a deeply held, racist worldview: Alongside the "undesirable" minority groups, there is another that does everything right. 
... But there’s another piece to Sterling’s warped worldview, one that illustrates the bizarre and incoherent ways in which racism works. As Sterling allegedly schemed to rid his properties of certain racial minorities, he sought to fill his development with Koreans, an ethnic group he valorized as hardworking and reliable. 
Sterling did not take a passive approach to attracting Korean tenants. He changed the name of one of his buildings to “Korean World Towers,” adorned his buildings with Korean flags, and explicitly stated a preference for “Koreans” in his housing ads. A group of tenants, who saw this as a thinly disguised attempt to discriminate against black and Latino housing applicants, filed a discrimination case against Sterling in 2002. In 2003, a U.S. district judge issued an injunction barring him from using the word “Korean” in his building names and advertisements. 
Why did Donald Sterling love Koreans? At a basic level, he was buying into the myth of the “model minority”: the perception that Asian-Americans, compared with other nonwhite minorities, are innately intelligent and well-behaved.

Sterling has made a billion dollars in the Los Angeles real estate business over the last 50 years. Perhaps he's learned more about racial reality in diverse modern American than have two junior English Lit professors?
To Sterling, this made them ideal tenants: “[Koreans] will live in whatever conditions [I give] them and still pay the rent without complaint,” he allegedly remarked. His respect for the Asian immigrant’s quiet diligence extended to his own business. According to ESPN’s Peter Keating, in 2003 Sterling’s real estate business “had 74 white employees, four Latinos, zero blacks, and 30 Asians.” 
Lest you think Sterling’s prejudices begin and end with race, note that 26 of his 30 Asian employees were women, and that he wanted them to fulfill an Orientalist fantasy. One former employee claimed that Sterling would “tell me that I needed to learn the ‘Asian way’ from his younger girls because they knew how to please him.” 
Legions of social scientists and historians have debunked the myth of the Asian-American’s “natural” orientation toward economic achievement. They point out that it is more a function of immigration trends in the 1960s, which favored East Asian professionals who often arrived with significant educational and wealth advantages. In the mythical retelling, the minority’s model behavior speaks to an inborn superiority, an almost genetic predisposition to success. This is the flip side of a deeply held, racist worldview: Alongside the “undesirable,” vermin-attracting minority groups, there is another group that does everything right. 
Why did Donald Sterling idealize Koreans? Because, in his view, they did whatever Donald Sterling wanted them to do, and they did it without complaint.

Like pay their rent on time, not deal drugs out of his properties, attract other good tenants, raise the property values in the neighborhood, etc. Pure exploitation!
This will all sound very familiar to Asian-Americans, cast as the put-upon overachievers, whose head-down, by-the-bootstraps stoicism has resulted in remarkable educational and financial attainment. The “model minority” myth persists in part because it is cited as evidence that the system works. It makes for a great story—the plucky, determined Asian-American succeeding where others have failed. But the ultimate beneficiaries of this racial typecasting are the people who invoke the model as a bludgeon against others. Sterling’s admiration for his Korean tenants is actually a kind of scorn. After all, he still subjected Korean tenants to the same degrading treatment as everyone else

Huh? The man clearly had a policy of trying to attract more Korean tenants by making them feel comfortable, in part by trying to drive away the ethnic groups that attacked Korean shops during the Rodney King riots (see video). How is that degrading to Korean tenants?
—the only difference is that the Koreans seemed willing to take it.

I happen to know a certain amount about the Los Angeles Korean real estate business. The notion that Koreans in America are passive, lacking in all agency, putty in the hands of White Plantation Owners like Donald T. Sterling is pretty funny.
Love and hate, praise and condescension —they are all engines of exploitation. 
For Asian-Americans who eagerly stand with other minorities in denouncing Sterling, this is all very awkward—even more so because Sterling’s history of housing discrimination is filled with small moments of Asian-American complicity. The housing case brought against Sterling in 2003 includes black, Latino, and white plaintiffs but no Korean-Americans. We have not been able to find prominent public complaints against Sterling by any Asian-American individuals or groups. There are also troubling stories of Sterling at one point replacing his security team with “Korean-born guards who were hostile to non-Koreans.” 
Of course, focusing exclusively on one minority’s gain when pitted against another risks obscuring the bigger picture. These moments when Korean-Americans enter the Sterling narrative are a reminder of how, on the rare occasions when Asians are invited in to a public conversation about racism, it is to play the role of the middleman. This is how California’s debates around affirmative action, for example, have become framed, with Asian-Americans as the purported victims of policies that benefit their fellow minorities.

Of course, that is how the Asian Democratic caucus in the state legislature, such as Leland Yee, frames the debate in which they recently stopped the Latino Caucus's attempt to reimpose affirmative action at UC. State Senator Yee is another one of those submissive Asians exploited by The Man, except for the part about him getting arrested just after his triumph over the Latino Caucus by the FBI for gun-running shoulder-launched missiles.
We don’t have a good way to talk about any of this publicly. More often than not, observers frame America’s racial dramas according to a black-white binary, one that abides by familiar tropes of hateful bigotry and righteous condemnation. 
This dynamic is central to American history, yet it feels inadequate in moments like these. While it’s not quite on par with degrading other minorities as lazy or filthy, Sterling’s praise for his hardworking Korean tenants and the “Asian way” reveals how racism can be a collection of contradictory impulses. Love and hate, praise and condescension—they are all engines of exploitation. 
Above all, Sterling saw the world in terms of winners and losers (“I like people who are achievers,” he once noted), and he used this logic to categorize racial groups along a sliding scale of desirability. For Sterling, Koreans never merited the decency of being looked upon as individual human beings. Rather, they were a faceless bloc, a group of indistinguishable “achievers” that did nothing more than provide the contrast that enabled his contempt for blacks. This is the lesson of Donald Sterling’s racism: A hierarchy that flatters those at the top and demeans those at the bottom can only serve to distract us from noticing the one shuffling the rankings.

Hua Hsu teaches in the English department at Vassar College and is completing his first book, A Floating Chinaman. 
Richard Jean So is an assistant professor of English at the University of Chicago.

When you stop and think about it, the Koreans are the real victims. How we should make up for it? Good question .... I know! By giving tenure to more Chinese low-level professors.

Problem solved.