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July 2004 Archive
"The Manchurian Candidate" -- It would be a decent movie if you'd never seen the original. Unfortunately, if you have, it plays like a simple-minded rough draft of the script you cherish. The final pleasure of the first movie was that it double-crosses the ant-anti-communist liberals who were enjoying it as a satire on McCarthyism with its perfect plague-on-both-your-houses conceit: McCarthyism turns out to be a Commie front for the subversion of America.
In contrast, Jonathon Demme's remake is boringly lacking in twists, in part because he appears to be a True Believer in the liberal line. It's obvious from the second reel that the evil Manchurian (i.e., Halliburton) Corporation is behind it all, and that nothing interesting is coming. The movie plays like a humorless version of "Fahrenheit 9/11." The Saturday night audience only laughed about three times.
Denzel Washington takes Frank Sinatra's role as the good guy, but while Sinatra, who put the production together, was wisely content to recede a little into the background and let the wilder elements hog the spotlight, Denzel's role turns out to be the leaden centerpiece of this movie. Liev Schrieber does a fine job impersonating Laurence Harvey's zombie (and might even be better), but Meryl Streep is a disappointment in Angela Lansbury's role as what used to be the Red Queen. Sure, she looks like Mrs. Clinton, but, Meryl being a liberal, she modeled her performance not on the hyperambitious Hillary but on Republicans Karen Hughes and Peggy Noonan, and they just aren't evil enough to be fun. C'mon, Hughes and Noonan both left Washington for family-related reasons. And they're her role models? No wonder Lansbury blows Streep away.
The old version's cards and chess-obsessed art design was inspired by Lewis Carroll, which helps you accept that you're watching a brilliant contrivance, not an attempt at realism. Demme, sadly, goes for a grittier look that just underlines that he really believes all his moronic Halliburton nonsense.
Stephen Hunter of the Washington Post, the best reviewer today (his 2002 Pulitzer was the first given to a film critic since Roger Ebert's back in 1975), nails it better than I can, here.
By the way, if you like the original, you'll enjoy the hugely imaginative black comedy "Winter Kills," another political paranoia film based on a Richard Condon novel. Jeff Bridges plays the youngest, apolitical brother in a Kennedyesque clan who gets unwillingly drawn into investigating the myriad conspiracies that might have led to the assassination of his older brother, the President. With John Huston chewing the scenery memorably in the Joe Kennedy Sr. role.
Kenyan runners' secret solved? In America's top professional journal for scientists, Science, Constance Holden reports:
Just as more aerodynamic cars get better gas mileage, the Kenyan build helps explain their fuel efficiency. A recent British TV documentary described the Kalenjin as possessing "birdlike legs, very long levers that are very, very thin [on which they] bounce and skip" along. Saltin's group has quantified this observation. Compared with Danes, the thinner calves of Kenyans have, on average, 400 grams less flesh in each lower leg. The farther a weight is from the center of gravity, the more energy it takes to move it. Fifty grams added to the ankle will increase oxygen consumption by 1%, Saltin's team calculates. For the Kenyans, that translates into an 8% energy savings to run a kilometer. "We have solved the main problem," declares Henrik Larsen of the Copenhagen center. "Kenyans are more efficient because it takes less energy to swing their limbs." Other scientists say the jury is still out on the Kenyan question. But "I think Saltin is probably the most correct that anyone is at the moment," says physiologist Kathryn Myburgh of the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa, who is exploring the role of Kenyans' training.
Dr. Saltin's research confirms O.J. Simpson's 1977 observation on why blacks tend to be faster, which I cited many years ago:
"We are built a little differently, built for speed—skinny calves, long legs, high asses are all characteristics of blacks. That's why blacks wear long socks. We have skinny calves, and short socks won't stay up. I'll argue with any doctor that physically we're geared to speed, and most sports have something to do with speed."
As George Orwell said: "To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle." I'm sure there are other differences (narrower hipbones may help make for an efficient stride, too, for example, and no doubt there are important biochemical differences), but the thinner calves cause has been obvious for a long, long time.
The funny thing is that a 100 years ago, lots of whites were convinced that whites were naturally better athletes than blacks and one of the things they pointed to was blacks' "scrawny calves." Then, track became a formalized sport and by the 1930s it was becoming obvious that the fastest blacks were faster than the fastest whites. But when you think about it objectively, you see that evolution tends to adapt fast runners to having little mass near their feet and most of the propelling muscle up high -- horses being the classic example.
The article also notes the obvious difference between East African distance runners and West African sprinters:
Various studies have shown that West African athletes [i.e., tracing their ancestry back to West Africa, like O.J.] have denser bones, less body fat, narrower hips, thicker thighs, longer legs, and lighter calves than whites. But the differences between East and West Africans are even more striking. The fabled Kenyan runners are small, thin, and tend to weigh between 50 and 60 kilograms, whereas West African athletes are taller and a good 30 kilograms heavier, says Timothy Noakes, a prominent exercise physiologist and researcher at the University of Cape Town.:
Both groups of Africans can achieve very low body fat percentages. The lowest I've ever heard of for a black athlete was 1.6% for Charles White, USC Heisman Trophy winning running back. Michael Jordan maintained a 3% body fat level, even after his comeback from baseball. The lowest I've ever heard of for a white man was 3.7% for Danny Farmer, an NFL wide receiver, who was a volleyball All-American in college in his spare time. Farmer's example shows that it's not being black per se that makes somebody good at sprinting and leaping sports, it's the physical traits that correlate with being black, especially low body fat percentage.
Kerry in a nutshell -- He voted against the First Gulf War and for the Second.
Unpatriotic non-conservatives: In response to the report below that neocon favorite Ahmed Chalabi is teaming up with America's Sh'ite Public Enemy #1 Mookie al-Sadr, a reader writes:
I wonder, now that the Neocon man in Iraq is allied with our arch enemy, if that makes Neocons unpatriotic non-conservatives? Wait, don't tell me, the Neocon answer is that it was Bush or the State Dept. that pushed Chalabi into Sadr's hands. But isn't that blaming America first?
IQs by State, 1960 -- You probably remember the notorious "Democratic states have higher IQs" hoax from last May. Well, here, thanks to Prof. Henry Harpending of the U. of Utah anthropology dept., might be the closest thing to a national sample of IQ scores ever: the Project Talent database of 366,000 9th-12th grade students. Unfortunately, it is 44 years years old. Nonetheless, it correlates reasonably with 2003 NAEP 8th grade achievement test scores (here are the 2003 scores). As you can see, in this list of kids' IQs back in the mid-1960s, of the top 10 smartest states, in 2000, Bush and Gore each won five. So, we're back to my original conclusion: red states and blue states are similar in average IQ, as are, on average, Republican and Democratic voters.
Some caveats: These IQ scores are set with the national mean of the 366,000 high school students equal to 100 and the standard deviation set to 15. But, keep in mind that we are only beginning to explore this huge database, so take everything with a grain of salt.
There weren't adequate sample sizes from Alaska, Washington DC, and South Carolina, and I excluded South Dakota because the result was too different from North Dakota. (I think something might be confused about both South Carolina and South Dakota -- I'll try to find out more.)
Harpending also looked at whites only data (unfortunately, the majority of participants doesn't have a race recorded) with the smartest whites (which I suspect is all that white liberals care about -- feeling smarter than white conservatives) were (in descending order): Connecticut, Montana, Nevada (I bet that's not true anymore!), Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Virginia. The dumbest whites were in (in descending order): Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Kentucky. All of these states voted for Bush in 2000. I suspect, however, that air conditioning and the abolition of the caste system have some good for the test scores of whites in the south, especially in North Carolina. Here, for purposes of comparison, is the 2003 NAEP public school achievement tests for white 8th graders.
The Emasculation of Marriage: Originally, the term was "man and wife;" the came the more equal "husband and wife." In Massachusetts' today, the law is being rewritten to refer to "Spouse A and Spouse B," which is reminiscent of the Cat in the Hat's asexual helpers Thing 1 and Thing 2.
Few questions determine the character of a culture more than the youth's question: "What do I do to be a man?" Cultures where one common answer is "Get married" tend to be much more stable and harmonious than ones where it is not. Is it wise to reconstruct marriage so that it has nothing necessarily to do with being a man?
Was the Iraq Attaq politically necessary? A reader writes:
I think it's important to step back and try to imagine what would be going on right now if we hadn't invaded. Saddam would, no doubt, still be playing the WMD shell game with the UN inspectors, making the Bush administration look weak and impotent. Kerry and the dems would be exploiting this weakness (look at what Kerry was saying about Saddam as late as '02!), just as Clinton exploited Bush 41s tax increase. The media would be focused on all the "bad news" coming out of Afghanistan instead of Iraq, so Bush wouldn't have any "peace dividend" to speak of. And the public would have no idea how difficult an occupation of Iraq would be, given that their only exposure to the region was the relatively bloodless Gulf War of '91.
Why, the reason we didn't invade Iraq must be because of Bush and Cheney's oil ties. Hell, Michael Moore would probably have made a movie about it!
So, Bush would have alienated his base of Southerners and the descendants of Scots-Irish borderers from central Pennsylvania to Oklahoma, without gaining anything, because he "wimped out" on Iraq. He'd be lucky to be down by 10 points instead of even.
I think the pandering to hispanics is a regrettable tactic but is not necessarily designed to get more hispanic votes, because the highest concentration of hispanics do not reside in swing states. I think the target is white, suburban swing voters in swing states who don't want to think of themselves as racists, but as loving, compassionate, open minded individuals (consequences be damned!).
The fact that Presidential elections boil down to the muddle-headed thinking of a few undecided voters in a few key states is aggravating but represents the triumph of computer aided demograghic study, sophisticated polling and focus groups.
As the great Larry Holmes once said, "Opinions are like rear-ends, everyone's got one." Well that's mine.
A reader replies:
The reason there was public support for the war in the first place was because George W. Bush and his underlings deliberately hyped (if not outright lied about) Iraq's WMD's and connections to Al Qaeda. He and his advisors deliberately cherry picked half-baked intelligence and broadcast it far and wide. At the same time, they insinuated that anyone who demurred from this stupidity--i.e., experts on the MidEast and WMD's--were unpatriotic cowards and possibly traitors. By the time Hussein agreed to full inspections and was destroying even his legal weapons in his attempts to appease us, the inertia of Bush's mobilization made it impossible for the U.S. to pull back and not look like it was losing face. It was a case of watching the proverbial slow-motion car wreck. And all of it, from A to Z, can be laid at the doorstep of George W. Bush. He was the one who painted us into a corner, and he deserves all the blame....
I'd even go further and challenge the idea that Bush has gotten the little decisions right. This president has increased non-defense spending faster than Democratic presidents. He signed onto an education bill that had Ted Kennedy's blessing. He has doubled the National Endowment for the Arts' budget. He has signed into John McCain's Campaign Finance Reform act, even though he said he didn't think it was constitutional. He has implemented a massive increase in the welfare state through his prescription drug plan. His Justice Department filed an amicus curiae brief supporting the idea of making racial diversity a legitmate government priority. The only good thing I can say for him now is that he has refrained from appointing judges that are as fully evil and meddlesome as Democratic appointees.
Another reader replies:
Hispandering has little to do with the suburban mushy swing vote. Mass immigration is the one area in which mushy suburban swing voters tend to take a hard line, especially with regard to illegal immigration. Suburban swing voters are not rich women who employ illegals as nannies and cleaning crews. Swing voters are less affluent and less educated than the average voter, and disproportionately harmed by mass immigration.
Right. We have this picture in our head of the swing voter as somebody so well informed he can't make up his mind, like Mickey Kaus taking ten but-on-the-other-hand columns in 2000 to finally decide he'll vote for Gore. Instead, the undecided voter typically is less informed and less educated. But one thing they do know is that they hate illegal immigration.
Another key segment is the very-conservative-but-don't-always-vote group (because they stopped at the tavern on the way home from the mill, or forgot, or whatever). Getting them to turn out is crucial, and one issue that could get them out is cracking down illegal immigration.
Remember that not only did Bush's Open Borders plan puncture his image of infallibility with his base, but it keeps him from attacking Kerry's amnesty plan. Imagine what the late Lee Atwater, who crushed Dukakis in 1988 with a low-brow but high impact campaign, would do if he had Rove's job. He'd have kept Bush from coming out with his Open Borders proposal, and then wrapped amnesty around Kerry's neck to prove he's another out-of-touch Massachusetts liberal like Dukakis. Rove was Lee Atwater's protégé, but he isn't half the man Atwater was. Rove cares too much about what the nice people think to do what Atwater would have done to win.
Tom Cruise in "Collateral:" Don't look to me for incisive insights into John Kerry's speech because I went to see Michael "Miami Vice" Mann's upcoming movie "Collateral" instead. (Actually, I probably wouldn't have watched more than five minutes of Kerry even if I had been home.)
Your reaction to "Collateral," which debuts next Friday, August 6th, will probably depend on whether you dislike the silly premise (a million-dollar hitman, Tom Cruise, flies into LA to murder five witnesses in a big trial and forces a lowly cabdriver, Jamie Foxx, to drive him around all night as he murders people -- wouldn't it be safer to bring your own driver?) more than you like the film's expert execution.
How's Cruise as a bad guy?
As Nicholas Stix points out:
Under the old system, the studio heads decided what roles would be offered to a performer ... [and] actors did not get to deal with the media. The studios told them what to say and where to say it. Studio publicity departments largely controlled the press, whom they fed a steady diet of phony stories about the stars, in exchange for reporters not hounding performers.
Under the new dispensation, many movie stars made poor script choices. And the notion that a movie star could create his own public persona proved to be fool’s gold, as the newly empowered media descended upon the uncontrolled, unarmed narcissists (see Seberg, Jean). With time, the cannier movie stars, such as Tom Cruise, employed their lawyers and publicists to reinvent the studio publicity system, whereby they would contractually control every aspect of their publicity campaigns, with only those media organizations getting puff interviews that got every question cleared in advance, and that promised in writing not to engage in journalism.
Since we don't know much of anything about the real Tom Cruise, it's fun to assume he must be deeply evil to enjoy such vast success. So, it's quite satisfying when he shows up as a Mephistophelean figure in dazzling gray -- gray suit, gray beard, even his hair is frosted gray with a half inch of dark roots showing (from a practical standpoint, it's a ridiculously conspicuous look for a hitman, but who cares?). He makes a superb villain -- for about 15 minutes. Unfortunately, villains work best in small doses and he's on screen almost as much as the nice guy hero, and the script doesn't give him many interesting lines, so the thrill fades.
Good grief, more Microsoft and IQ! A reader writes:
MS is notorious for being an extremely difficult company to figure out. It's not well organized, with divisions or units not being in synch and contradicting each other. Licensing for business users is confusing as hell -- talk to 10 different MS people about it and you'll get ten different answers. Here is where being too high IQ hurts them -- no one can understand their convoluted thinking. Where they have been successful is by being -- aggressive! It's the high testosterone, not the high IQ that has got Microsoft sitting on billions in cash. Well, it's a combination of both -- Gates famous competitiveness and how he hired other high T/IQ guys like Steve Ballmer -- that's been their secret. If it was just high IQ, they'd be Apple -- superior product but inferior market share.
Another reader writes:
Microsoft is a marketing company that can turn on a dime because everyone in it is very, very bright. It is not a very good software house. Microsoft OSes are designed to work with Microsoft applications, which, with some exceptions, aren't that good. They make their money on the apps, not the OSes. In order to develop to Microsoft standards as a programmer (inside and outside of the company), you have to be a)bright and b)willing to deal with incredibly crappy design, poor standards compliance, things that are deliberately broken for marketing reasons, and so on.
He goes on to make an interesting point. As computers got faster, why did we move from slower but easier programming languages like COBOL (created by a woman, perhaps not coincidentally) to more difficult languages like C?
COBOL was designed so that low IQ people could write code that would run (sometime slowly, but it would run) essentially forever with no maintenance. I know more than a few people who were professional programmers who had some COBOL responsibilities that would save the COBOL work to the end of the day when they were tired and their brains were working more slowly so that they were "programming at COBOL speed" and could write code that verbose and sluggish without getting annoyed. And it worked. Or they would have a stiff drink and get back to the terminal. COBOL was designed so that a kid out of the motor pool in the Army could take a job shuffling punchcards and work his way up to programmer in a few years and do that for 30, then get a pension. I can probably find the original documentation for that; I have seen it on-line. That is not to say that a good (normally high IQ) programmer would do better in COBOL -- IBM said that 10x the work or the same work running 10x faster was a good rule of thumb -- but rather that programming is, after all, the development of a logical series of actions to get a result, and if you aren't really, really dumb and the requirements are limited, you can program as well as a really smart guy, just slower. I remember those days and those people, and frankly a lot of them did solid work, reliably, without complaint. I kind of miss that.
Microsoft & IQ: A prominent software executive writes regarding Gates' testimony to the importance of Microsoft outcompeting Goldman Sachs for the highest IQ employees:
Seems to me that considering the notoriously mediocre quality of Microsoft's products, the story is actually makes a very convincing case for the relative NON-importance of IQ, or at least that high IQ raw material can easily be trumped by broader factors, such as corporate strategy, culture, or whatever else it is that causes M-S products to be so mediocre.
You're assuming that Bill Gates wanted his Microserfs to deliver good software. I suspect, however, that he instead wanted them to make him the richest man in the world, and if they had to foist crummy software on the public to do it, that was a price Bill was willing to pay.
Another reader writes:
But I think Goldman Sachs does not pursue IQ in the same way the Microsoft does. Computer people all say exactly what Gates said --that when it comes to writing software, all that matters is gray matter. You're better off with one guy with an IQ of 150 than four guys with an IQ of 135 or 140. It's just that brutal.
I've known investment bankers, and they're smart, but I'd wager millions I don't have that the average IQ of a lawyer at Wachtell or Cravath is higher than the average IQ of someone at Goldman or KKR. To be a really good banker, you need to be smart, but mostly you need to be really shrewd and greedy. And that means a little crude and willing to take risks. People who go to law school tend to be risk-averse, by contrast, and like the idea of being part of an "honorable profession." NY corporate lawyers are almost all miserable because they regularly experience sitting in conference rooms with bankers who make more money than they do and are less intelligent.
When I was at MBA school a few eons ago, before anyone talked about The Decade of Greed, the investment banks' standard interview question was, "Do you care much about compensation?" and the right answer was "Enough to sell my sister to the Sultan of Brunei." They definitely liked high testosterone types: of my friends, the one who went to Goldman Sachs was an ex-Marine fighter pilot.
Kerry's Konfusion: Kerry said his favorite baseball player growing up was Red Sox Eddie "The Walking Man" Yost, but he didn't play for Boston. Mickey Kaus has been doing some elaborate metaphoring about how Kerry is playing it cautious, Eddie Yost-style, waiting for Bush to make mistakes.
But, it was perfectly natural that Kerry got confused about who was his favorite player, because during Kerry's boyhood there were at least four guys named Eddie who walked a lot: Eddie Yost (who started with the Washington Senators in 1944 and peaked with a Barry Bonds-like 151 walks in 1956), Eddie Joost (who walked 149 time for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1949), Eddie Stanky (who got 145 walks for Brooklyn 1945 and 144 for the New York Giants in 1950), and Eddie Lake (who played for the Red Sox in 1945 and picked up 106 walks). I suspect thought that Kerry's really thinking of the Red Sox's aptly-named get-on-base specialist Johnny Pesky, who led the league in hits in 1942, 1946 (the Red Sox World Series year), and 1947, then became more of a walking man, averaging 101 walks from 1948-1950, despite averaging only two home runs per year.
It was an era of guys named Eddie and Johnny with good batting eyes. What this has to do with Kerry's strategy, I dunno.
Mookie's back and Chalabi's got him! Remember how we were going to kill or arrest Shi'ite rebel Muqtada Sadr, but then we said, "Oh, never mind"? Well, guess who is teaming up with public enemy #1? The LA Times reports, our old pal Ahmed Chalabi is "reaching out to Iraq's most prominent anti-American Shiite cleric, Muqtada Sadr, whose followers come mainly from Baghdad's urban underclass and the impoverished south of the country. Political analysts here believe that the new approach will eventually win support from a significant segment of Sadr's followers if Chalabi chooses to run for office — and, as expected, Sadr chooses to wield his power from the pulpit instead."
Touchscreen Voting Helps Democrats. La Griffe du Lion says:
That GW Bush is president because of a group-cognitive gap is beyond dispute. I had previously estimated that without voter error in Florida -- all voters recording their true intentions -- Gore would have picked up a net of 77,000 votes. In fact, Gore lost the state by about 500 votes. Statewide, blacks in Florida had an 11.7% error rate in 2000; the corresponding white rate was 1.4%.
Things have changed dramatically. The IQ threshold for casting a proper ballot has been lowered in Florida (and presumably elsewhere) to the point where if you breathe you can cast a proper ballot. Gadsden county, Florida, for example, 58 percent black, had an error rate in the 2000 presidential election of 12.40%. In the 2002 gubernatorial race its error rate had been reduced to 1.00%.
Bill Gates on IQ: Rich Karlgaard, former editor of Forbes ASAP, reminisces in the WSJ:
through the flight [in 1993], Mr. Gates closed the book, shut his
computer off and we talked. Out of nowhere, he told me that he had
recently figured out who his competition was. It was not Apple, Lotus or
IBM. He waited a couple of beats. "It's Goldman Sachs."
Here's another quote from the days when America's richest man could be more honest. A November 25, 1996 Fortune article by Randall E. Stross, entitled "Microsoft's Big Advantage - Hiring Only the Supersmart," featured some surprisingly frank statements by Bill Gates that sound like The Bell Curve on steroids:
Gates is blunt. "There is no way of getting around [the fact] that, in terms of IQ, you've got to be very elitist in picking the people who deserve to write software." … Microsoft could teach its employees in specific skill areas, but it could not instill intelligence and creativity - those, Gates said, were "reasonably innate." The best programmers, in Gates's view, are people who are "supersmart." … His self-confessed "bias" in hiring - "toward intelligence or smartness over anything else, even, in many cases, experience."
NRO Gets It, Finally. From The Corner:
AND THE ELECTION [Ramesh Ponnuru]
To say that Bush shot himself in the foot with his "Invade the World / Invite the World" policies hardly begins to imply how much the two big mistakes of his Presidency were completely acts of his own volition. Bush could have ended the Iraq Attaq buzz just by firing Wolfowitz, or maybe even only Feith. And who were these overwhelmingly powerful voices demanding Open Borders that Bush found himself unable to resist? Tamar Jacoby? Raoul Lowery Contreras?
The case against Bush is that in the biggest decision of his Presidency (whether or not to invade the wrong country), he made a stupid choice. And on what could have been the most important long term decision of his Presidency (immigration), he made a choice that, fortunately, was so stupid that the adults in Congress buried it ... at least until after the election. On the other hand, he did okay on most of the little decisions.
Kerry: A Clinton or A Carter? We could live with another Clinton, but another Carter would be bad. Of course, timing matters: Carter might have been tolerable in the Easy Nineties and Clinton probably would have been a disaster in the crucible of the Seventies.
Colby Cosh says:
John Kerry's public life has been characterized by goopily inconsistent positions defended in a haughty yet puritanical manner; he's not only better than you, he was better than you last week when he argued the opposite way. There's a constant, tinfoil-on-teeth undercurrent of moral anguish there--he's like some kind of stoned saint, a slo-mo Savonarola. It all just seems like an ingeniously calibrated formula for never getting anywhere near the American presidency. The noun "folksiness" may be damaged goods, but etymologically it encapsulates precisely what Kerry lacks. So I'm eager to see his climactic speech. My poorly informed guess is that we are at the pinnacle of Democratic hopes right now. You have to unveil the product sometime.
A reader comments:
John Kerry's basic problem may simply be that he is not terribly smart, but he represents a party in which every leader must pretend to be brilliant and deep. George Bush does not have that particular problem. One of Clinton's real advantages is that he was smart enough not to feel compelled to advertise it. Or that he was forced to marinate himself in Arkansas for almost 40 years. If he had gotten into the Senate as he wished, he might have become insufferable.
"The Village" by M. Night Shamalamadingdong -- Pretty good, reasonably scary Twilight Zone-style horror-lite film for the whole family from Mr. Sixth Sense. I sensed what Shyamalan's Big Surprise would be in about the first five minutes, but that's because he plays fair with the audience: most of what's phony about the situation he sets up -- a village in 1897 where nobody ever leaves because of monsters in the woods -- is phony because it's a clue pointing you toward the Big Surprise at the end.
There's an interesting racial angle, but I can't tell you about it without giving away the B.S.
In a season of boring butt-kicking babes, young starlet Bryce Dallas Howard is terrific as a blind girl who triumphs over What Lurks in the Woods without even punching anybody. She just uses her courage and brains.
I'm a little frustrated because for a few months now I've had an even better idea for a story about a village with scary things out in the woods, giving a twist to an idea of John Zmirak's. The first director I thought of for it was Shyamalan. So, I guess he'll never make it now that he's made his own "The Village."
More on Spike Lee's "She Hate Me" -- From my American Conservative review:
The now unemployed Jack is propositioned by his ex-fiancée, Fatima, who has become a lesbian. She and her girlfriend Alex, who both look like lingerie models, are willing to pay him $10,000 each to have him impregnate them. Fatima then lines up sixteen more lovely lesbians desperate enough for Jack's genes to also pay him ten grand apiece.
With so many lower cost suppliers available, Spike Lee never explains why any woman would offer $10,000 for any man's DNA, much less for Jack's. Once able to cast Denzel Washington, Wesley Snipes, and Samuel L. Jackson in one movie (1990's "Mo' Better Blues"), Spike can now only afford unimposing newcomer Anthony Mackie. He has that sub-four percent body fat level you see just in black guys, and Spike makes clear that his character has good IQ genes, too. Yet, Jack's a Gloomy Gus and is only about 5'-8" (although compared to Spike, he's practically Wilt Chamberlain).
Spike's knowledge of lesbians seems derived mostly from close perusals of the girl-girl layouts in old Penthouse magazines. As Fatima, kewpie-doll starlet Kerry Washington makes the least persuasive lesbian in non-porn film history - at least until Italian love goddess Monica Belluci (Mary Magdalene in "The Passion") shows up later.
We also learn from Spike the real reason lesbians don't like men when the assembled sapphists insist Jack drop his drawers. One glance, and they discard their turkey basters and demand he get them pregnant the old-fashioned way. Clearly, their problem is they've just never seen a real man before.
Musical question: A reader writes:
Latin America is normally given credit for being the source of several marvelous forms of popular music, e.g., rhumba, salsa and tango. The sad truth is that these styles were themselves derived from across the Atlantic, mainly from non-Spanish Africa. They arrived in Latin America courtesy of the Spanish slave trade ported to Cuba.
The famous Mexican folk song "La Bamba," for example, apparently comes from the Bamba district of Angola.
American Indian music from the U.S. is -- well, let's just say that when people talk about how they are big fans of "world music," they usually aren't talking about Native American music:
On the other hand, the flute music of the Andean highlands (best known here from Simon & Garfunkel's "El Condor Pasa") is quite lovely. Does anybody know if that is pre-Columbian indigenous, or European, or African, or a post-Pizarro invention?
Barack Obama, Superstar: The LA Times reports:
[Democratic] Party officials point out that [Senate candidate] Obama has been married to the same woman for more than a decade, committed no felonies and avoided major scandal...
Well, if that doesn't make Obama a shoo-in for the U.S. Senate, I don't know what does. I mean, an average Joe like me could never be elected to the Senate, what with my 24-hour marriage to Britney Spears, my felony conviction for throwing the 1919 World Series, and the controversy surrounding my role as Michael Jackson's procurer. I'm sure you have an equally checked past.
Oh, yeah, I forgot: and he's black. Well, sort of. I mean his mom is a white girl from Kansas, and he was born in Hawaii, and his Kenyan dad ran off when he was two, and he was raised by his white family in Indonesia, of all places. As far as I can tell, he has about as much connection to the African-American experience as Thurston Howell III on Gilligan's Island, but he's the right color (cafe-au-lait), so his election to the Senate is a great moral crusade for civil rights. Or something.
TAMPA, FL—Richard Brainard, owner of Shakerz Gentlemen's Lounge, announced plans Monday to hire more minorities at his Kennedy Boulevard nightspot.
"We're looking for some Asians, mainly, but I think we could also use two or three Puerto Ricans and a light-skinned black girl," Brainard said. "Man, those Puerto Ricans can dance. Makes you wish you were 22 again, I'll tell you that."
Brainard said the new hires will help Shakerz better represent his community.
"We need a lineup that's a little more Tampa," Brainard said. "That means we need more Mexicans. Sometimes it's hard to find one with a decent pair, but that's not going to stop me. We're doing this because it's right, not because it's easy."...
Informed of the initiative, Florida Equal Opportunity Employment Commission spokesman Arthur Wright applauded Shakerz for "promoting racial equality throughout the adult industries of central Florida."
"We fully support Brainard's diversification efforts," Wright said. "Finally, someone is recognizing that it takes all kinds to entertain a broad cross-section of lonely, horny men with specific ethnicity-based fantasies. The interests of business and society can be one and the same."
In a move likely to please Wright, the owner of another area small business has already chosen to emulate Brainard's plan of action.
"We have a pretty good mix—customers are always asking for Latin girls and Asians—but now that I think about it, I guess we could use a couple new girls of color," Night Dreams Escorts manager Tony D'Ammagio said. "We're always looking for new girls."
-- From The Onion
Both Parties following "Sailer Strategy:" -- The hard-headed Ralph Z. Hallow reports in the Washington Times:
The party of John Kerry and John Edwards is improving its standing with minorities, but losing ground to President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney among white evangelicals, a new survey found. Those findings are bad news for Democrats assembled in Boston for their national convention, because white evangelicals and born-again Christians far outnumber blacks and Hispanic combined.
"White evangelicals and born-again Christians are 26 percent of all registered voters — that's quite a big chunk — and the survey shows they are quite happy with Republicans," said Adam Clymer, political director of the University of Pennsylvania's National Annenberg Election Survey, which polled 3,715 registered voters nationwide July 1 to 21, with a margin of error of 1 percentage point. "Whatever percentage the turnout of your voters, if you get another 1 percent of evangelicals and born-agains, that's a lot more votes," Mr. Clymer said. "It makes a lot more difference than getting an additional 1 percent of blacks or Hispanics."
The good news for Mr. Kerry and his party is that the Annenberg survey also shows Republicans are failing to make the big gains they hoped for among minorities, especially Hispanics, in the past four years.
might be more important to the electoral map, however, is that among
registered white Protestants who described themselves as born-again or
evangelical, Republicans now enjoy majority status, Mr. Clymer
said. Both political parties have been going all-out to stir their
voter base to turn out in record numbers on Nov. 2, but although blacks
and Hispanics are key constituencies for the Democrats, together they
account for only 17 percent of registered voters. In contrast, white
born-again and evangelical Christians are fully 26 percent of all
It's good to finally see some numeracy in the press.
A reader responds:
While Rove's strategy maybe the best option, you got to wonder about the poor Evangelicals. If Bush wins, he'll immediately forget them after the election, assured they'll vote for him no matter what. If he loses (a distinct possibility), they'll be blamed for "dragging" the party to the right. Andrew Sullivan's already getting a jump on this. The only possible good that may come out of this election is if Bush loses and his loss is blamed on his two attempts to give illegal aliens amnesty. His father not only lost because of his broken tax pledge, but was also SEEN to lose because of it. Since then, the GOP won't even think about raising taxes. If Bush II's amnesty can be hung around a loss in the same manner, we might actually see some progress on the immigration issue.
The War Nerd: "Bush Bushwhacks the Marines:"
On the April 24-25 weekend, Bush and Rumsfeld flew to Camp David for a videoconference with the Brass in Iraq on what to do with Fallujah. The Marines were psyched, finally sure they'd get the chance to do what they were trained to do.
This is the key moment in the battle for Fallujah, and I suspect for the whole war. And in the end, it came down to one simple fact: Bush chickened out. He or his handlers decided they couldn't risk casualties on the scale this battle would take while they were going for reelection. Sometime that weekend, they decided the Marines weren't going to get the chance to win the battle. They were going to be called off in favor of some cheap PR face-saving strategy. Monday, April 26 -- and as far as I'm concerned, this goes down in history as Black Monday -- the announcement came from Bush that "the US has opted to delay the Fallujah offensive...in favor of joint patrols" of Marines and local Iraqi security forces.
"Joint patrols"! That was it! Bush went on TV to tell the suckers that, "the situation in Fallujah is returning to normal." Well, if "normal" is leaving the enemy in possession of the city, letting them ambush any Marine patrol they want, then Hell yeah, Fallujah was as normal as it gets....
I wanted to spit on the TV screen.
So the battle of Fallujah was over, and we lost...
This defeat -- this disgrace, more like it! -- has got our enemies all excited. "Fallujah" is a rallying cry now for Muslim crazies all over the world. It's like their Bastogne, their Alamo. It will go down in their histories as the turning point in the war, the moment when we faced off against them and we flinched first. And I'm not talking just about the war in Iraq, I mean the bigger, longer war we're supposed to be fighting.
The worst of it is, our troops fought brilliantly, damn it. No matter how ridiculous and contradictory their orders were, our Marines never flinched, never backed off, never showed fear.
It was our leader, our President, who chickened out, just like he did when it was his time to face combat in Nam 30 years ago. Once a chicken, always a chicken -- that's the lesson, I guess.
Mathematicians by Country -- The Derb sent me a map from the MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive showing famous mathematicians by country of birth. It uses a vastly larger list of famous mathematicians than Charles Murray's list of 191. In the MacTutor database, there are only eleven from Spain, and six were medieval Muslims or Jews. Only one Spanish mathematician was born since 1700. All of Latin America has contributed one top mathematician, and he died in Mexico City in 1700. That puts the whole of Hispanic America equal to Haiti in mathematical productivity.
I have to say that I don't really understand the Spanish-speaking world's lack of mathematical talent. How does a culture keep a natural born math nerd from fulfilling his math nerdness? Nothing could keep Ramanujan, a dirt poor and uneducated genius, from thinking about math. He only had one math book, so when he learned everything that was in it, he simply reinvented everything beyond it, plus quite a bit of new math. Granted, there aren't many (or any) Ramanujans, but how does Hispanic culture keep its best nerds from doing anything important in math?
Conversely, I've never thought of this before, but maybe Spanish culture's low output of outstanding achievers is in part caused by some kind of aversion to abstraction. Somebody might want to take Murray's database and look for the cornerstone field. My hypothesis is that in each country in each century, the number of significant mathematicians is the best predictor of how many other significant scientists that country and time will have produced. For the arts, I'm sure the relationship is much weaker, but I bet it's still there. A culture that produces great mathematicians is likely to have a more dynamic culture than one that doesn't. Anybody want to try to crunch the numbers?
"Lance Armstrong" -- Yeah, like were supposed to believe that's his real name, and not some All-American jock name he just made up. His actual name's probably Leslie Hafnagel.
UPDATE -- No need to send me more emails telling me that's his real name. I actually knew that and was just calling attention to improbable it is.
Would it be crude to say this cancer survivor gets more testosterone from one testicle than any man since Hitler?
What's wrong with Latin America? Alvaro Vargas Llosa, son of Peruvian novelist and presidential candidate Mario Vargas Llosa, said in a speech to the Independent Institute:
Let me sum up the last 500 years of Latin America in five words—or really five concepts. That’s a pretty challenging job, but I hope you’ll bear with me.
I would use five basic concepts to sum up really what the history of Latin America has been through pre-colonial, colonial, and republican times. I would use the word corporatism, state mercantilism—that’s two words, but let’s imagine it’s one word—privilege, bottom-up wealth redistribution, and political law.
I will define all five of them very quickly. Corporatism is really a system that looks at society not as a network of free, sovereign individuals, but basically as segments, as corporations, as groups of people in which individuals only achieve legitimacy through the collective entity.
State mercantilism is a system whereby the state decides who the winners and losers are in society. In other words, the closer you are to power—to political power—the better off you are in society, and the further away you are from power, the worse off you are in society.
Privilege, of course, is pretty much the same thing. It’s a system that, through the law, discriminates between some people and other people. That is, it’s basically a system that engineers winners and losers. And of course, the other word for privilege is discrimination. The state has engineered winners and losers, and by doing that it has also created discrimination.
Bottom-up wealth redistribution is basically the same thing with another name. It’s a system whereby most of the people create wealth for the benefit of those who are close to power, but it’s important to indicate that it is a bottom-up dynamic, because it means that the elites that were close to power put on a system that in a way could only survive if it enslaved the majority of people and put them to work for a privileged elite.
And of course, political law, which is the fifth concept, is the tool by which all of this was possible. The state used the law, which was not a principle that was above the state but which was really something that emanated from the state, from the political authorities, to create these divisions in society, and basically, these social classes.
... Now, that’s exactly what went on in pre-Colombian times with the Inca empire, with the Aztecs. There were many differences between these different empires, but basically they all organized society around these five guiding principles.
That’s exactly what happened when the Spanish and the Portuguese empires took over what we know today as Latin America. They perpetuated these five principles, except of course, there was a reshuffle of elite interests, and the people who benefited from this were different people, were outsiders. But the principles guiding the organization of society were exactly the same.
And when the republic came to life in the early 19th century, exactly the same thing happened. There was revolution, a lot of people were killed, some wonderful ideas were floated around, but what we were left with were essentially states and societies that were guided by these five principles.
Now in the 20th century, this got much worse.
Neocon Ally Christopher Hitchen's Elegy for Trotsky: "...the reissue of a majestic biography reveals him as he always was—a prophetic moralist" coos Hitch in the new Atlantic Monthly. There's not one mention in this disgusting review of the countless people murdered by this ideological gangster. As Paul Johnson wrote in Modern Times: "Had Trotsky come out on top, he would probably have been even more bloodthirsty than Stalin."
The neocons who welcomed Hitch into their fold because his characteristic bloodthirstiness seemed useful to them in promoting and defending the Iraq Attaq have a lot of explaining to do. See Paul Cella's eloquent meditation on the ironies of conservatives welcoming the Christianity-hating Christopher Hitchens while ignoring his equally articulate brother Peter, the Christian conservative, because he opposed the Iraq Attaq.
A reader comments:
I know thoughtful people have pointed out the irrational disparity between the amounts of opprobrium ladled out to Nazis and Communists time and again, but Hitchens' praise of Trotsky demands we raise the question again. Exactly what kind of reception could Hitchens expect if he wrote an article lauding Ernst Roehm, Hitler's Trotsky? To ask this question is to answer it, for we all know The Atlantic would not only have not published such an article (rightly), but it would have also fired the Hitch once the editor realized, with growing alarm, that the Hitch was not being ironic.
Another Poll Shows Bush's Hispandering Failing:
Results of The Miami Herald/Zogby International Hispanic Poll come as both campaigns wage aggressive outreach efforts to woo the fast-growing voting bloc that has the potential to swing key battleground states like Florida, New Mexico and Arizona - and help determine the next majority party. Kerry... holds a 60 percent to 32 percent lead over President Bush among voters who identify themselves as Hispanic. Kerry gained two points since a similar poll in April - within the poll's margin of error, but still a potential trouble spot for Bush, said pollster John Zogby, who conducted the survey of 1,003 likely voters.
The median result of the three exit polls in 2000 showed Gore beating Bush 62-35 among Hispanics, so this year is on track to be ever so slightly worse, like, say, 65-34. You have to be as big a genius as Karl Rove to think that that's worth trying to destroy your nation by implementing Open Borders.
Latin America: The Cul-de-sac of Creativity -- My new VDARE column documents the traditional dreary lack of creativity in Latin American cultures and, to a somewhat lesser extent, in the mother country of Spain, using data from the tables of significant scientists and artists in Charles Murray's Human Accomplishment. Because so many people demonize the deeply judicious and human Murray, let me point out that his tables simply reflect the consensus of expert opinion, what educated people already know.
For example, on the fact that Spain has not pulled its weight in Western Civilization for the last 300 years, consider the introduction to the famous book (and PBS series) Civilisation by Lord Kenneth Clark:
If I had been talking about the history of art, it would not have been possible to leave out Spain; but when one asks what Spain has done to enlarge the human mind and pull mankind a few steps up the hill, the answer is less clear. Don Quixote, the Great Saints, the Jesuits in South America? Otherwise she has simply remained Spain...
Darwin's theory of Sexual Selection: The problem with sexual selection is that it can't get too far unmoored from natural selection. In general, people find sexy in the opposite sex things that at least correlate with what natural selection is also selecting for.
If sexual selection was untethered by natural selection, then women would be born with high heels. There is nothing that makes a woman look sexier than putting on high heels. (You didn't know that? Just ask any woman -- she'll tell you.) Yet, for most of human prehistory, women didn't wear shoes, but women did not evolve bones that gave them high heels naturally, because built-in high heels would have been disastrous from a natural selection standpoint. Ooga the Cavebabe who was born with high heels would have been the slowest member of the tribe and thus the one that got eaten by the sabre-tooth tiger when everybody else ran away faster, and she got naturally selected as the sabre-tooth's dinner. (Here's Manhattan Transfer on the evolutionary history of the shoe, perhaps after a few Jamesons.)
Of course, you see occasional examples of excess sexual selection, like peacocks, but almost never in females.
Reader responses to "Pathetic Lack of Courage among Bloggers" (below):
I think most people don't actually believe in human non-biodiversity. Any five-year-old can see that people look different, and as Jon Entine and others have written in the mainstream press, human groups have differing athletic abilities that cannot be reduced to environmental differences. So: you're right. Of course you're right; human biodiversity exists.
But then: people start asking about intelligence, naturally. If groups can be different athletically, it stands to reason that they can also differ mentally (Bell Curve type stuff).
But you know all this. But what you need to do, IMVHO, is not keep beating people over the head with the truth, but convince them that the truth isn't so bad. It's not going to lead to Jim Crow of Auschwitz to accept that certain groups don't perform as well as other groups. Or is it? That's people's fear. You've got the obvious truth on your side, now you need to show people that the truth won't lead to something bad.
It's like on Law & Order when Lennie and Rey have got a suspect in the interrogation room, and they know he did it, he knows he did it, and he knows that they know he did it and they know that he knows that they know he did it. All the evidence is clear but still he denies it. So what happens? Lennie sends Rey out to get some coffee, and says, "Hey man, I know how it is. You didn't mean to do it. You just lost your temper, right? I would've done the same thing." And he convinces the guy that the truth will set him free.
Readers and bloggers and everyone else have been living under this false framework for a long time now, that there are no differences between groups. You've gotta show people what the new framework is gonna be under the truth, and that it will be better than the lies. I like your pieces on showing how underperforming groups can actually improve their IQ and performance if problems of nutrition, breastfeeding, etc. are confronted early on. One argument that I've used in online debates is this: I argue the commonsense line that the cause of poor Africano-American performance in school and work is caused primarily not by racism but by dysfunctional ghetto culture. Now people get all in a huff over this until I point out that white cultures can and have been dysfunctional, too, and improved by weeding out the dysfunction by changing their values. Examples are the old Irish and Italian immigrants, who used to have violent, self-destructive habits of behavior. I argue that ghetto blacks in the 2004 USA need to do precisely what earlier white groups did: self-improve by weeding out bad behavior. This seems to soften some people, since you show that it's not a racial thing -- it's a behavior thing that stretches across any racial group. Good behavior improves results. Duh!
So I'd suggest more pieces not showing that you're right about the existence human biodiversity, which you are, but 1) showing that public policy in a human biodiverse world would not lead to Jim Crow or Auschwitz and 2) most importantly, that acknowledging human biodiversity will improve the lot of those lower on the achievement scale. And yes, I know you've written a lot about this already!
Of course, then you'll have cultural relativists whining that ghetto culture is just as valid as any other culture and doesn't need to change. Of course, they'll write this from laptops in Bethesda...
And oh yeah, don't use my name with this if you happen to quote me. I'm writing some XXX for the YYY & the money is good. I know, I'm a pussy.
You wrote: "It's just sad that political correctness is so overwhelmingly dominant among bloggers."
I think you may have pointed out what a special disappointment Andrew Sullivan is in this respect, given that he once displayed genuine brass in publishing Murray and Herrnstein's thesis in The New Republic. What happened? Why did he abandon the subject just when it seemed we were poised for a real debate? Why did everyone, for that matter? Was there something bad in the timing?
Every time I read another credulous "No Child Left Behind" story in my local paper, I'm reminded of what a sleeping giant The Bell Curve is. So many intellectuals must harbor the obvious suspicions, yet the polite explanations and omissions invariably prevail. What will it take to get people to publicly admit what they privately suspect? My hunch is the break will come in the form of a marketable messenger, someone who fits a certain ethnic profile and who tempers the argument in a way that allows the hbd-deniers pretend it was their idea all along.
I'd cut Andrew some slack on this, since he's not in denial, he just doesn't mention IQ unless it's in the news -- e.g., when the Supreme Court outlawed executing killers with IQs below 70, he cited me on the irony of liberals wholeheartedly approving IQ tests. And publishing Herrnstein and Murray's article in 1994 is one of the things that got him fired as editor of The New Republic. Anyway, you can hardly expect Andrew to stay interested in any subject that's not All About Andrew.
The Pathetic Lack of Courage among Bloggers: A reader writes:
These are what I call the "crypto human biodiversity realist" blogs: So far, Jane Galt, Kevin Drum, Matt Yglesias, Eric Raymond, Mickey Kaus, Kim Swygert, John Rosenberg, Joanne Jacobs, Aziz Poonawalla, Jay Manifold, Vinod, Rand Simberg, Suman Palit, John Emerson, Conrad, and Jim Henley are all bloggers with nontrivial traffic who have been neutrally or positively inclined towards human biodiversity-type ideas (to a greater or lesser degree).
In addition there are the overt h-bd realist blogs: GNXP, Sailer, Randall Parker, 2 Blowhards, and La Griffe Du Lion. I can't help but feel that we're ever-so-slowly pulling people towards h-bd realism, or at least h-bd skepticism rather than outright h-bd denial.
I can add some big names like Jerry Pournelle and Lew Rockwell, plus a number of more medium-sized names (see my Links above, although I definitely do not have a litmus test on any particular issue -- the links are there solely because they are interesting and worth reading.)
Nonetheless, I'd say, in contrast to my reader's positive attitude, that the blogging glass is about 98% empty rather than 2% full. It's just sad that political correctness is so overwhelmingly dominant among bloggers. For heaven's sake, what do 95% of the cowards out there have to lose? It's not as if they would get fired from their high-paying blogging job if they ever stopped being oblivious to the obvious!
What if I'm right? I realize a lot of people suspect I'm right about human biodiversity, but also that that possibility is too horrible to contemplate. But what's the worst that could be true if I'm right? All we'd learn is that the world is what it is. Is that so awful?
Rightwing Postmodernism: A reader writes:
Remember all the talk in the 90s about left wing "post modernists," whatever the hell that is, infected by German pseudo intellectuality, Heidegger, et al, by way of French bs artist Foucault, Derrida et al. ruining the Mind of American and The West? Well, that was all so much inside baseball among the university humanities departments and it had little effect on the thinking of anybody who mattered.
It seems pretty obvious now that the real threat to The Intellect is coming from The Right. Whether it is the obscurantist evangelical Christians and their anti-Science, anti-Environment, anti-Evolution, philo-Semitic Israeli centrism or the over powering stench coming from the neo-con artists in the Cheney cabal, the American Enterprise Institute or the likes of the sinister Laurie Mylroie. The left wing freaks are merely messing up the sociology and English departments. The right wing crazies are doing it to the whole damn country.
Well, I'm not sure that anti-rationalism on the left is so restricted, as this new column from Thomas Sowell points out:
A record-breaking new class-action lawsuit against Wal-Mart claims the retail chain discriminates against women, for which of course vast millions of dollars are demanded. The New York Times aptly summarized the case — "about 65 percent of the company's hourly paid workers are women, but only 33 percent of its managers are." The grand fallacy of our times is various groups would be equally represented in institutions and occupations if it were not for discrimination. This preconception has undermined, if not destroyed, the crucial centuries-old legal principle that the burden of proof is on the accuser. Wal-Mart is only the latest in a long series of employers who have been hit with charges of discrimination on the basis of statistical differences among members of their work force — differences between women and men in this case. Back during the 1980s a similar charge was brought against Sears, though no one could find a single woman in the hundreds of Sears stores who had been discriminated against — just numbers different as between women and men.
As I pointed out last week in VDARE, nobody of any intelligence actually believes anymore in fundamentalist feminism, with its claim that there are no biological differences in interests or capabilities between the sexes, but the institutional power of feminism is almost undamaged by the intellectual shift in the climate.
After its glittering launch in the Eighties, Spike Lee's career has been in steady decline. Perhaps the joy went out of Spike's filmmaking in 1991 when his father and employee, score composer Bill Lee, was arrested for heroin possession, shattering Spike's dream of being the patriarch of the kind of dynastic family enterprise that is rare among African-Americans. He replaced his dad with Terence Blanchard, whose morose minor chord maunderings have undermined what little fun remained in Spike's later films.
Spike reaches rock bottom in his new "She Hate Me" (debuting Friday, June 30), one of the more embarrassing movies ever made by a famous director. Critics will no doubt rationalize "She Hate Me" as a satire on ill-informed black male attitudes, but are we laughing with Spike, or at him? For Spike appears to espouse those knuckleheaded views in dead earnest.
For white conservatives, Spike has always been an intriguing and disturbing photographic negative because, like his hero Malcolm X, he is a classic grumpy social reactionary: nepotistic, capitalistic, elitist, sexist, and racist. In "She Hate Me," Spike takes his stand slightly to the right of Shaka Zulu as he endorses family values, extremely traditional African family values: namely, polygamy. Hey, if gays can get married, Spike implicitly asks, why can't a Big Man have as many wives as he can keep amused?
A very interesting question, one that is likely to come up more and more in the future.
Bad Social Science? A reader asks:
On your reader's question about John Lott and gun studies: I have eavesdropped on this argument a bit, far too little to be a useful expert, but enough to be struck by a nagging suspicion. Both Lott and one of his pro-gun-control adversaries, Michael Bellesîles, have apparently been caught using some fraudulent data.
Question: does this mean that:
1) academics who study gun control are unusually dishonest? or
2) gun control is one of the very few social issues so controversial that a competent adversary will actually check the footnotes of an academic's book or article and try to replicate the results, as is routine in the physical sciences?
If 2, there is likely a huge pile of worthless or fraudulent junk out there on a host of social and political questions that gets cited, quoted and accepted, becoming the basis for the conventional media wisdom and thus much policy. Could such things be?
Bob Herbert in the NYT gets it! The Times' designated black opedster draws the connection between black unemployment and immigration:
A startling new study shows that all of the growth in the employed population in the United States over the past few years can be attributed to recently arrived immigrants. The study found that from the beginning of 2001 through the first four months of 2004, the number of new immigrants who found work in the U.S. was 2.06 million, while the number of native-born and longer-term immigrant workers declined by more than 1.3 million.
The study, from the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston, is further confirmation that despite the recovery from the recession of 2001, American families are still struggling with serious issues of joblessness and underemployment.
... "We need a serious, honest debate about where we are today with regard to labor markets," said Professor Sum, whose work has frequently cited the important contributions immigrants have made. The starkness of the study's findings, he said, is an indication that right now "there is something wrong."
The study found that the new immigrants entering the labor force were mostly male and "quite young," with more than one-fourth under the age of 25, and 70 percent under 35.
"Hispanics formed the dominant group of new immigrants," the study said, "with migrants from Mexico and Central America playing key roles. Slightly under 56 percent of the new immigrant workers were Hispanic, nearly another one-fifth were Asian, 18 percent were white, not-Hispanic, and 5 percent were black."
Those most affected by the influx of new immigrant workers are young, less well-educated American workers and so-called established immigrants, those who have been in the U.S. for a number of years.
Obviously, Bush isn't going to get a lot of votes out of the recovery if all the new jobs go to noncitizens who can't vote.
Of course, that's not Herbert's concern. His worry -- as expressed in his previous column "An Emerging Catastrophe" -- is that the illegal immigration is pushing undereducated black males into long-term idleness.
Drive through some of the black neighborhoods in cities and towns across America and you will see the evidence of an emerging catastrophe — levels of male joblessness that mock the very idea of stable, viable communities.
This slow death of the hopes, pride and well-being of huge numbers of African-Americans is going unnoticed by most other Americans and by political leaders of both parties.
A new study of black male employment trends has come up with the following extremely depressing finding: "By 2002, one of every four black men in the U.S. was idle all year long. This idleness rate was twice as high as that of white and Hispanic males."
It's possible the rate of idleness is even higher, said the lead author of the study, Andrew Sum, who is director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston.
"That was a conservative count," he said. The study did not consider homeless men or those in jail or prison. It is believed that up to 10 percent of the black male population under age 40 is incarcerated.
While some of the men not working undoubtedly were ill or disabled, the 25 percent figure is still staggeringly high. And for some segments of the black male population, the situation is even worse.
Among black male dropouts, for example, 44 percent were idle year-round, as were nearly 42 of every 100 black men aged 55 to 64.
Obviously, blacks must be, on average, lazier than Hispanics if they let them push them out of their jobs without a fight. But, the point is that idleness is bad for a man's soul since idle minds are the devil's workshop. And a man's idleness is bad for his neighbors and fellow citizens, too, A whole lot of white people who prefer Hispanics to blacks seem to assume that for every illegal immigrant we let in, we are deporting one black man, but it don't work that way. We're just pushing black men from the working class to the underclass.
And, as Heather MacDonald points out below, a sizable fraction of the illegal immigrants' sons are going to end up with them in the enormous underclass of the future.
What in the world do we think we are doing? Or are we just not thinking about immigration at all because that would (gasp) "racist"?
When did Senators Lieberman and Kyl resign? From the website of the new Committee on the Present Danger (see below), headed by Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Sen. Jon Kyl, and the Dishonorable James Woolsey:
We are incorporated as a not-for-profit (501(c)(4)) organization. Our membership is limited to those in private life and does not include elected or appointed full-time federal or state officials or candidates for public office.
Does not compute.
UPDATE: I am told they are "honorary co-chairman," which I guess makes everything A-OK with the taxman.
More Guns, Less Crime? A distinguished reader writes:
I've been reading your blog for about six months now, and boy are you smart, tough and fearless. I'd love to see your take on the John Lott findings re guns in society, and your take on his many critics. You'd tell the truth, one way or the other, which I don't think I could get anywhere else. I happen to be very pro-gun and very conservative ... but as I say, whatever your conclusions, I'd be interested.
Unfortunately, I haven't kept up on the controversy. Can anybody out there get me oriented?
British Louts -- A Disillusioned Indian's View:
When I first came to England, I had a vague idea of what to expect: English good manners, taste, decency and Oxbridge accents - all things that middle and upper class Indians from the colonial era identified with high civilization. To be an Englishman was considered the pinnacle of sophistication. And Indians that became Anglicized to the bone were referred to as "Lord McCauley's children".
But when I actually arrived, the shock was incredible. The type of people I had read about were conspicuous by their absence. Its much more than the lower orders asserting themselves. "Elitism" carries with it such opprobrium in England that its almost as bad as "Racism" in the United States. The greatest peddlers of destruction were actually from the privileged classes themselves who engaged in what can only be described as gratuitous destruction - the effects of neo-Marxist egalitarianism and false moralism.
Today, we see the middle class and the upper class beginning to behave like the lower orders. In the good old days, the upper class and the middle class maintained a kind of condescending view of the lower orders - this created an atmosphere in which the lower orders connected boorish behaviour with shame and degradation. And because it was always looked down upon, they were remarkably civilized people. One can still see it among the older generation of working class English. Their grandchildren might as well be from a different planet.
British Tourists are almost universally recognised by their loutishness, their hooliganism and when involved in football matches, acts of vandalism and gratuitous destruction. Modern England is a brutish, boorish country in which the elegance and sophistication of the past lives only in memory and in the astonishing monuments constructed by the genius of a people that died with the second world war. Its something that Theodore Dalrymple describes so well in this article that it has become my point of reference for judging the modern English:
I often thought of Americans as uncivilized people (a cliché that the older generation that grew up watching the English in India had coined). Amazingly, in all my personal interactions I discovered that Americans were often among the politest and most well mannered people around - the exact opposite of every cliché and snide remark one got to hear about the "Ugly American".
Hispanics choosing Kerry over Bush 60%-30%: Four years of shameless Hispandering and Bush is on track to do two points worse among Hispanics than he did in 2000. Not that it makes any difference: with Hispanics casting about 6% of the vote, a 2 point decline comes out to 0.12% of the national vote, which is a rounding error. But then so would be the 5 point increase that the news media has been playing up as being so desperately needed by Bush that he needed to sell out America by calling for a nation-breaking Open Borders policy.
Every analysis you've read about the Hispanic vote (outside of VDARE) was based primarily on lies and innumeracy.
Overall, is there anything more boring than tracking the vaunted Hispanic vote? Ever since JFK, it has gone solidly but not overwhelmingly Democratic, moving up and down within narrow parameters. There's nothing the GOP can do that would make massive Hispanic immigration beneficial to the GOP, nothing ... except turn itself into the Democratic Party.
British turning back into drunken louts: In 1751, Hogarth created two didactic prints, riotous "Gin Lane" and industrious "Beer Street," to persuade Englishmen to switch from getting falling-down snozzled on gin to maintaining a nice, mild buzz on beer. It worked. But a prosperous modern economy and the lack of religious strictures has combined to allow the contemporary British to get blind drunk on beer these days, which has a disadvantage versus gin that Hogarth didn't consider: much more scope for public urination.
The New York Times reports,
"Britons on average drank the equivalent of 8.6 liters of pure alcohol each in 2001, nearly double the rate of 1951. That translates into more than 86 bottles of wine, or 350 pints of beer. Young women on average now consume about 12.6 drinks a week, an increase of 66 percent since 1992. While people in a number of countries still drink more overall, Britons (and the Irish, as well) are likelier to go on drinking binges, consuming five, six, seven or more drinks in a single session. "Binge drinking is now so routine that young people find it difficult to explain why they do it," a recent Home Office report said.
In contrast, consider the sobriety of contemporary U.S. Army enlisted men. Robert D. Kaplan interviewed a U.S. colonel in The Atlantic:
"The full flowering of the middle ranks had its roots in the social transformation of the American military, which, according to Col. Wilhelm (a liberal who voted for Al Gore in 2000), had taken place a decade earlier, when the rise of Christian evangelicalism had helped stop the indiscipline of the Vietnam-era Army. "This zeal reformed behavior, empowered junior leaders, and demanded better recruits," he said. "For one thing, drinking stopped, and that killed off the officers' clubs, which, in turn, broke down more barriers between officers and noncoms, giving the noncoms the confidence to do what majors and colonels in other armies do. The Christian fundamentalism was the hidden hand that changed the military for the better. Though you try to get someone to admit it! We never could have pulled off Macedonia or Bosnia with the old Vietnam Army."
The New, Not Improved "Committee on the Present Danger," a.k.a., the "Committee of the Friends of Ahmed Chalabi:" Get a load of the low quality of some of the people on the masthead of the new Committee on the Present Danger. The leadership troika consists of a GOP senator and a Demo senator, plus James Woolsey, a Chalabi legal flack and the man who pipelined at least one of Chalabi's lying defectors into the upper reaches of the Pentagon.
Then, check out some of the other Chalabiists on the masthead: Laurie Mylroie, Danielle Pletka, and Michael Rubin.
Here's an interesting question: What are the odds that at least one member of the new Committee on the Present Danger will someday flee to Israel to escape arrest and prosecution?
Frum & Perle are compared to Norwegian Black Metalists by Mark Ames (who may, or may not, be the War Nerd) in a joint review of two books: Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground by Michael Moynihan and Didrik Søderlind and An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror By David Frum and Richard Perle.
Where as the [Norwegian black metal] nerdoids in Lords of Chaos were vainly trying to recapture the lost, centuries-old glory of their Viking ancestors in a diminished modern Norway, uber-nerdoids Richard Perle and David Frum seem hell bent on destroying contemporary America’s glorious imperial war machine right at the very peak of its power. Their plan for leading America, lemming-like, over the cliff of self-destruction is laid out in their sparsely-worded manifesto, An End to Evil. The title alone shows how very Black Metal these grown-up war nerds are.
The similarities don’t stop there. Whereas Vikernes and other Black Metalists saw heathen Norway in a life-or-death struggle for existence with the Semitic tribes’ Judeo-Christianity, Perle and Frum see Judeo-Christian America under threat from Islam. And both have the same solution: War, dude!
To be fair, Vikernes and another Black Metalist murderer, Hendrik Mobus, come off as far more interesting, intellectual and complex with their second-rate Nietzschean ideas mixed up with D&D mythology, whereas Perle and Frum’s war manifesto is surprisingly dull and sparse. Indeed, on each page the words are spaced so far apart you could drive a fertilizer-packed white van between each line. I read it in one sitting and came away with only one memorable line, in which they disparagingly called Belgium "France’s pilot fish." On the other hand, Perle and Frum have used their influence over Bush to rack up a far, far higher corpse-count than the hapless Norwegian dirtheads, so they more than make up for their lack of aesthetic flair or stylized corpse paint with genuine blood on their hands...
Their Black Metal plan is simple: Push North Korea to the brink and China right along with it; set the path for war against Iran; foment a Shiite independence movement in oil-rich eastern Saudi Arabia; kick Russia out of the G-8; invade Syria and Lebanon, while pushing Israel to turn the heat up even further on the Palestinians; and lastly, openly declare our hostility to the European Union, even if it means making enemies of France and Germany.
This raises another interesting question: Should Black Metalists cut their hair and vote Bush-Cheney ’04? Dude, I think the answer’s pretty f***in’ obvious. In fact, thanks to these guys, America has become the world’s first Black Metal Nation.
Here's something I've never thought of before: If Ames is the War Nerd, does that mean that Mark Ames, a guy almost nobody has heard of, is the most talented journalist writing in the English language today? Separately, Ames and the War Nerd would hardly qualify, but if you put them together?
How good is Ichiro (and Japanese ballplayers in general)?
Now with updates from readers below
In 2001, Ichiro Suzuki, who had been batting champ for seven straight years in Japan, made his debut in the big leagues and promptly won the MVP award. Baseball stat mavens squawked, pointing out that the 5-9" 160 pound speedster from Japan was far less valuable than beefy slugger Jason Giambi. While Ichiro did many things extremely well -- hit for average, steal bases, field, and throw -- Giambi did two more important things extremely well -- hit for power and get on base.
The benchmark modern statistic is called OPS (for On-base Percentage plus Slugging average). In 2001, Ichiro hit .350, but his On-base Percentage was only .381 because he didn't walk much. His slugging average (total bases divided by at-bats) was a moderate .457 because he only hit eight home runs. So, Ichiro's OPS was .838. In contrast, that year Giambi had a huge OPS of 1.137 on a .477 On-base Percentage and a .660 Slugging average. Unless you are a shortstop (and Ichiro is a rightfielder), it's practically impossible for fielding and baserunning to make enough of a difference to make up for that big a gap in OPS.
However, we know now with a reasonable likelihood -- and I at least suspected then, due to his sudden improvement after McGwire's big chemically assisted 70 homer year in 1998 -- that Giambi in 2001 was jacked out of his gourd on steroids (from BALCO, as it turns out). This year, a scrawny Giambi showed up to Spring training looking like a man desperate to pass his next steroid test. So far this year, when he's not hurt, he's hitting a terrible .224 with 11 homers and 36 RBI's, with an OPS of .769. Ichiro, in contrast, although in a slight decline due to age (he's now 30) continues to rack up another Ichiro-type year, hitting .327 and even finally has an OPS slightly higher than Giambi's.
So, what can we say about Ichiro? He's really not as effective as his glamorous reputation claims. But, take the steroids out of baseball (and go back to the bigger ballparks of the 1960s-1980s), and he would be a genuine MVP candidate. Gentlemen, in any era before 1993 (when steroids and short fences made the Jason Giambis into statistical supermen), Ichiro would have been one hell of a ballplayer.
One more thing: How good are the Japanese leagues? Ichiro's career OPS in Japan was .943, and in the U.S. it's .805. I'd guesstimate (with no data), that that's about a half standard deviation decline due to tougher competition in the U.S.
A reader writes:
If you know what OPS is, then you've probably read Moneyball. I don't think it was just steroids that marginalized slap hitting singles hitters, but the computer revolution. This made it easier to gather hitting statistics and put powerful analytical tools in the hands of relative novices as well as front offices. This led to the conclusion that a team with a lineup full of slow, low batting average, high on-base and slugging percentage type players would, on average, score more runs than a team full of fast, high batting average, low on-base and slugging percentage type players. The fact that most teams didn't recognize this, helped make possible the success of the Oakland A's, a team with a modest payroll, who has made the playoffs each of the last 4 years.
It is interesting to note that as teams have caught on to this and began placing more emphasis on obtaining players with high OPS, Oakland has quietly been working on defensive metrics to measure players' defensive skills in an effort to aquire top shelf defensive players to cut down on the number of runs allowed. Defense is the last area of the game not easily measured statistically and, consequently, good defesive players are "undervalued", i.e. they don't command the high salary of a slugger. This year's A's team is not loaded with lumbering power hitters, but is solid defensively at every position, to take advantage of their excellent starting pitchers, and are currently poised to make yet another late season playoff run.
Ichiro would be much more valuable to the Mariners if he were to move to center field. This is a much more demanding defensive outfield position and Ichiro's speed and throwing arm would prevent more runs than he currently prevents in right field, which would make up for his relatively low OPS. This would also allow the Mariners to acquire a slugging right fielder, which is much easier to find than a slugging center fielder.
Yeah, and Hideki Matsui has shown a decline from .995 OPS in Japan to .820 in MLB. Of course there is a much greater sample to work with looking at MLB, and AAA players who go to Japan. (They generally do very well.) It would be interesting to see all the numbers crunched and find out exactly where Japanese baseball stands in comparison to the American game. I used to think that if AAA is 1, and MLB is 10, then the Japan Leagues are about 3. But now, with a dozen or more of Japan's best players gone to greener pastures in America, the level here may have dropped to about even with AAA.
Here is an article from Baseball Prospectus that argues that the Japanese leagues are significantly better than the Triple A, the highest US minor league.
NYT catches up with iSteve's fashion-forward radar: A year ago, I put forward the proposition that the much trumpeted "metrosexual" barely existed outside Manhattan, citing as evidence the slobbishness of young men in LA, who never tuck in their shirts to prevent anybody from thinking they are some kind of gay neat-freak. Finally, the NYT fashion page catches up with this anti-fashion now that it's finally being taken up by the fashionable. The NYT writes: "Freudians might see sexual connotations in the decision to leave shirttails hanging, but almost anyone would agree that an untucked shirt is, at some level, the uncomplicated expression of every man's inner slob."
A drug aimed at treating heart failure specifically in black patients has proved so effective that the clinical trial in which it was being tested has been halted early, the company sponsoring the trial said yesterday.
The results are expected to lead to approval of the first drug specifically for a single ethnic group. They seem to validate the gamble by the company, NitroMed, to take a drug that had failed to win approval for general use and test it only on African-Americans, an approach that ignited controversy on the relevance of race to medicine. The company's stock soared on yesterday's announcement...
NitroMed has argued that blacks have a higher rate of heart failure than the American population as a whole and that they tend not to respond to some existing heart failure drugs as well as other groups. For NitroMed executives, those factors, and some earlier evidence that blacks respond better to the drug, which is called BiDil, justified a test of the drug just in that ethnic group.
Yesterday, NitroMed said that an independent committee of medical researchers overseeing patient safety in the trial decided it would be unethical to continue giving some patients a placebo because those getting the drug were living significantly longer. The trial, which began in 2001 and had enrolled about 1,050 of the 1,100 patients eventually intended to take part, was halted immediately and all the participating patients will be offered BiDil.
"It is a spectacular result," said Anne L. Taylor, a professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota and the chairwoman of the study. "It offers an additional treatment for a group of patients who traditionally, with standard medications, have not done as well."...
NitroMed's trial had become a focus of the debate over what role race should play in determining medical treatments. Some scientists say that race has little meaning and that specific genetic factors that cross racial lines determine who will get a disease or who will benefit from treatments.
But some doctors say that until those specific genetic factors are known, race can be a convenient classification because people of the same race tend to share certain genetic characteristics. And heart disease in blacks tends to be linked more to hypertension than to arterial blockages that are a major cause in white heart patients. NitroMed says that blacks are also more likely to have a deficiency of nitric oxide.
Black sociologist Troy Duster has been frequently quoted denouncing "racialized medicine," specificially BiDil. I wonder if he will now wear a medical ID bracelet saying, "In case of heart attack, do NOT treat me with BiDil. I'd rather die"? Hmmhmm, somehow I don't think he will.
The neural reality of IQ -- Stephen Jay Gould established a fashion for claiming that IQ (especially the general factor g, which he famously mislabeled "the rotten core" of IQ) is merely a social construct with no biological reality, but modern brain scans are showing how wrong he was.
"Human intelligence determined by volume and location of gray matter tissue in brain -- Single ‘intelligence center’ in brain unlikely, UCI study also finds"
Irvine, Calif. , July 19, 2004 General human intelligence appears to be based on the volume of gray matter tissue in certain regions of the brain, UC Irvine College of Medicine researchers have found in the most comprehensive structural brain-scan study of intelligence to date. The study also discovered that because these regions related to intelligence are located throughout the brain, a single “intelligence center,” such as the frontal lobe, is unlikely.Dr. Richard Haier, professor of psychology in the Department of Pediatrics and long-time human intelligence researcher, and colleagues at UCI and the University of New Mexico used MRI to obtain structural images of the brain in 47 normal adults who also took standard intelligence quotient tests. The researchers used a technique called voxel-based morphometry to determine gray matter volume throughout the brain which they correlated to IQ scores. Study results appear on the online version of NeuroImage.Previous research had shown that larger brains are weakly related to higher IQ, but this study is the first to demonstrate that gray matter in specific regions in the brain is more related to IQ than is overall size.
Lots of tickets left for the Athens Summer Olympics -- Only 1/3rd have been sold. I haven't been to Athens since 1980, so I can't comment on what it's like now, but it wasn't much then. The rest of Greece is fantastic, though.
Anyway, if you decide to go at the last minute, my recommendation, based on my experience at the 1984 LA Olympics (which were beset by the same kind of bad vibes ahead of time, but worked out great) is buy tickets only for the gold medal final rounds. Every sport is dramatic if the competitors are going for the gold medal they've dreamed of their entire careers. Weightlifting was as much fun as professional wrestling, and even the soccer final was a blast at the Rose Bowl with 101,000 fans doing the newly invented Wave (which was a lot more fun than watching the game). I sent my parents to fencing and they thought it was great. On the other hand, I saw Michael Jordan play in a basketball game, but because it was only the quarterfinals, it was ho-hum.
Is Colorado America's best state? Colorado is America's least obese state, according to the Washington Post. It's also second highest in percentage of college graduates, is quite conservative politically, and has a low crime rate. One concern I would have, though, is this: What if you moved there, fell in love with the place, but then found as you got older that the thin air was killing you?
"Dang! I invaded the wrong country by just one letter" -- The Washington Post reports:
"President Bush said yesterday that the United States is investigating possible connections between Iran and the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon..."
Neocon Francis Fukuyama jumps ship: He says he won't vote for Bush. In The Australian, Fukuyama writes:
OF all of the different views that have now come to be associated with neo-conservatives, the strangest one to me was the confidence that the US could transform Iraq into a Western-style democracy and go on from there to democratise the broader Middle East.
It struck me as strange precisely because these same neo-conservatives had spent much of the past generation warning about the dangers of ambitious social engineering and how social planners could never control behaviour or deal with unanticipated consequences.
If the US cannot eliminate poverty or raise test scores in Washington, DC, how in the world does it expect to bring democracy to a part of the world that has stubbornly resisted it and is virulently anti-American to boot?
Several neo-conservatives, such as Pulitzer prize-winning columnist Charles Krauthammer, have noted how wrong people were after World War II in asserting that Japan could not democratise. Krauthammer asks: "Where is it written that Arabs are incapable of democracy?" He is echoing an argument made most forthrightly by the eminent Middle East scholar Bernard Lewis, who has at several junctures suggested that pessimism about the prospects for a democratic Iraq betrays lack of respect for Arabs.
But, of course, the Bush Administration explicitly wrote into the No Child Left Behind law that it would raise all reading test scores in Washington D.C. to "proficient" by 2014 (not that it will be in office then). So, it's hardly inconsistent that the neocons denounced as racist us realists who said they couldn't make Iraq into a nice place by force of arms. Fukuyama, of all people, should understand how big a shift there has been among neoconservatives between the first generation of domestic policy racial realists and the current generation of committed "anti-racists" whose obsessions are foreign policy and ideology.
The dividing line was 1994's publication of The Bell Curve by two classic late first generation data-intensive realist neocons, Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray. At first, the neocons like Michael Barone explicitly defended Herrnstein and Murray, but over time they completely dropped the topic of IQ. Fukuyama himself wrote a book in the late 1990s called The Great Disruption about crime and illegitimacy that almost completely ignored race!
Heather MacDonald on Hispanic Immigrants: A major article "The Immigrant Gang Plague" in the Manhattan Institute's City Journal:
Open-borders apologists dismiss the Hispanic crime threat by observing that black crime rates are even higher. True, but irrelevant: the black population is not growing, whereas Hispanic immigration is reaching virtually every part of the country, sometimes radically changing local demographics. With a felony arrest rate up to triple that of whites, Hispanics can dramatically raise community crime levels.
Many cops and youth workers blame the increase in gang appeal on the disintegration of the Hispanic family. The trends are worsening, especially for U.S.-born Hispanics. In California, 67 percent of children of U.S.-born Hispanic parents lived in an intact family in 1990; by 1999, that number had dropped to 56 percent. The percentage of Hispanic children living with a single mother in California rose from 18 percent in 1990 to 29 percent in 1999. Nationally, single-parent households constituted 25 percent of all Hispanic households with minor children in 1980; by 2000, the proportion had jumped to 34 percent.
The trends in teen parenthood-the marker of underclass behavior-will almost certainly affect the crime and gang rate. Hispanics now outrank blacks for teen births; Mexican teens have higher birthrates than Puerto Ricans, previously the most "ghettoized" Hispanic subgroup in terms of welfare use and out-of-wedlock child-rearing. In 2002, there were 83.4 births per 1,000 Hispanic females between ages 15 and 19, compared with 66.6 among blacks, 28.5 among non-Hispanic whites, and 18.3 among Asians. Perhaps these young Hispanic mothers are giving birth as wives? Unlikely. In California, where Latina teens have the highest birthrate of teens in any state, 79 percent of teen births to U.S.-born Latinas in 1999 were to unmarried girls.
According to the many young Hispanics I spoke to, more and more girls are getting pregnant. "This year was the worst for pregnancies," says Liliana, an American-born senior at Manual Arts High School near downtown Los Angeles. "A lot of girls get abortions; some drop out." Are girls ashamed when they get pregnant? I wonder. "Not at all," Liliana responds. Among Hispanic teens, at least, if not among their parents, the stigma of single parenthood has vanished. I asked Jackie, the Guatemalan GED student at L.A.' s Belmont High, if her pregnant friends subsequently got married. She guffawed. George, an 18-year-old of Salvadoran background who was kicked out of Manual Arts six months ago for a vicious fight, estimates that most girls at the school are having sex by age 16...
In one respect, Central American immigrants break the mold of traditional American underclass behavior: they work. Even so, Mexican welfare receipt is twice as high as that of natives, in large part because Mexican-American incomes are so low, and remain low over successive generations. Disturbingly, welfare use actually rises between the second and third generation-to 31 percent of all third-generation Mexican-American households. Illegal Hispanics make liberal use of welfare, too, by putting their American-born children on public assistance: in Orange County, California, nearly twice as many Hispanic welfare cases are for children of illegal aliens as for legal families.
More troublingly, some Hispanics combine work with gangbanging. Gang detectives in Long Island's Suffolk County know when members of the violent Salvadoran MS-13 gang get off work from their lawn-maintenance or pizzeria jobs, and can follow them to their gang meetings. Mexican gang members in rural Pennsylvania, which saw two gang homicides in late April, also often work in landscaping and construction.
On the final component of underclass behavior-school failure-Hispanics are in a class by themselves. No other group drops out in greater numbers. In Los Angeles, only 48 percent of Hispanic ninth-graders graduate, compared with a 56 percent citywide graduation rate and a 70 percent nationwide rate. In 2000, nearly 30 percent of Hispanics between the ages of 16 and 24 were high school dropouts nationwide, compared with about 13 percent of blacks and about 7 percent of whites.
The constant inflow of barely literate recent Mexican arrivals unquestionably brings down Hispanic education levels. But later American-born generations don't brighten the picture much. While Mexican-Americans make significant education gains between the first and second generation, adding 3.5 years of schooling, progress stalls in the next generation, economists Jeffrey Grogger and Stephen Trejo have found. Third-generation Mexican-Americans remain three times as likely to drop out of high school than whites and one and a half times as likely to drop out as blacks. They complete college at one-third the rate of whites. Mexican-Americans are assimilating not to the national schooling average, observed the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas this June, but to the dramatically lower "Hispanic average." In educational outcomes, concluded the bank, "Ethnicity matters." ...
Michael Barone's Italian-Mexican comparison also ignores the differences between the U.S. economies of 1904 and 2004. While Italian dropouts in 1904 could make their way into the middle class by working in the booming manufacturing sector or plying their existing craftsman skills, that is far more difficult today, given the decline of factory jobs and the rise of the knowledge-based economy. As the limited education of Mexican-Americans depresses their wages, their sense of being stuck in an economic backwater breeds resentment. "The second generation becomes angry with America, as they see their fathers faltering," observes Cesar Barrios, an outreach worker for the Tepeyac Association, a social services agency for Mexicans in New York City. This resentment only increases the lure of underclass culture, with its rebellious rejection of conventional norms, according to Barrios. For this reason, he says, many young Mexicans "prefer to imitate blacks than white people." ...
Immigration optimists, ever ready to trumpet the benefits of today's immigration wave, have refused to acknowledge its costs. Foremost among them are skyrocketing gang crime and an expanding underclass. Until the country figures out how to reduce these costs, maintaining the current open-borders regime is folly. We should enforce our immigration laws and select immigrants on skills and likely upward mobility, not success in sneaking across the border.
Clearly, the Hispanic tendency to fall into the underclass is less than the black tendency. But, there are already more Hispanics than blacks in America. So, if the Hispanics join the underclass at 50% of the rate of blacks, then the Hispanic underclass will be as big as the current black underclass in a couple of decades or so. If the rate is only 33%, then it will take a few more decades. But, in any case, we are creating this vast problem for ourselves by refusing to enforce our illegal immigration laws.
It's nice to see a lot of the analytical ideas I've been tossing out in VDARE being picked up. For example, way back in 2000 I wrote:
Finally, there is one more crucial difference between 1900 and 2000. One hundred years ago, there really was only one model for immigrants to assimilate toward: the WASP. In the age of Teddy Roosevelt, white Protestant Americans radiated a ferocious self-confidence.
Today, of course, WASPs…well, have largely lost their desire to impose their values on newcomers. There are, however, other groups that today possess the charisma and style to mesmerize young Latinos, notably African-Americans.
Consider that crucial social indicator, the illegitimacy rate. The longer Latinos are in the U.S., the more they assimilate … but not toward the white norm. Instead, they are becoming more like blacks. Currently, 22% of white births are illegitimate compared to 69% of black births. Among immigrant Latino mothers, 37% of their new babies were illegitimate. But among American-born Latino mothers, the illegitimacy rate rises to 48%.
This trend does not exactly bode well for the future.
Michael Blowhard on Adolescent Nation: Something to think about while you are wondering why there isn't anything good playing at the multiplex:
"The teenager" as a distinct category of person is of very recent vintage, yet teen values and teen experience have become central to our culture.
What would you say are some of the values that are considered desirable in today's America? Here are a few that I'd suggest: bustin' out; pleasing yourself; impact; excitement; grabbiness; hot-hot-hot; gimme gimme gimme; go, man, go; self-expression; rebellion; sexy sulkiness; instant gratification; loudness; brightness; poppiness.
Teen values, all of them. (These aren't values and attributes that a 60 year old is likely to value highly.) In fact, it's a historically bizarre thing that we make such a big deal of teenagehood. We treat adolescence as one of the biggest events in life. We speak endlessly about our teen traumas. We yearn for those sexy, free summers. We view life after adolescence as a slow downhill slide, unto the grave. Once we're done living our adolescence, we start re-living it. And our national ideal often seems to be ... being a happy teenager. Being someone who has all the bounce, resilience, and sunniness of childhood -- plus sex and a driver's license. What could be better?
Though we consider it normal to never quite get over having been a teen, in reality putting teen values at the center of a culture isn't a normal state of affairs. Making a big deal out of teenagerhood on a personal level isn't normal either.
Simple fact: as far as most people and most cultures have been concerned, there's no such thing as "teenagehood." Instead, there are "children," "adults," and -- OK, sure -- a brief and unfortunate period when children grow into adulthood. This stretch wasn't celebrated; no, it was thought to be something best endured and ignored.
Taking Sex Equality Seriously -- As an adjunct to my review of Steven E. Rhoads' Taking Sex Differences Seriously in VDARE.com (now posted), let me point out one example of sexual equality that has held up very well: IQ. The much denounced IQ researcher Cyril Burt was the first to document that males and females scored about the same on IQ tests, writing way back in 1912, only seven years after the invention of the IQ test: "with few exceptions innate sex differences in mental constitution are astonishingly small--far smaller than common belief and common practice would lead us to expect." Of course, you never hear that the overall mental equality of the sexes was established by the evil IQ test.
Of course, there is greater variation in male IQs, which is why there are more males at both the genius and retarded ends of the bell curve. Also, there are differences on subsectors, such as spatial imagination.
Job Creation vs. Immigration: President Bush likes to point out that there are 1.5 million new jobs since last August, but Senator Kerry likes to note that there are still one million fewer jobs since Mr. Bush became President. Yet, few talk about how fast the population is rising: 12.3 million people since the Census of April 1, 2000, or about three million per year, or 10 million during the Bush Presidency. The truth is that a whole lot of people have stopped trying to find a job in recent years. Meanwhile a huge number of immigrants and their children keep entering the ranks of those looking for a job.
Greenspan has repeatedly warned that the United States faces a growing
mismatch between the oversupply of
Not surprisingly, "Hourly Pay in U.S. Not Keeping Pace With Price Rises," according to another NYT article. Equally unsurprisingly, neither article mentions immigration as playing a role in high unemployment and low wages.
"Jeopardy' Millionaire Is Smart, but Is He a Genius?" asks the NYT. Howard "Multiple Intelligence" Gardner chimes in to say it could just be that Ken Jennings has one kind of intelligence, but he appears to be a well-rounded individual with a real job (software) that requires problem-solving rather than memorization skills, a real life (he's married), and interpersonal skills (he toys with his opponents to intimidate them). He sounds like a high g individual (g means "general factor of intelligence") rather than a freakish prodigy in one area.
Bobby Fischer arrested -- Gosh, it's hard to imagine a better use of the taxpayers' money than prosecuting and imprisoning Bobby Fischer for playing a chess match in Yugoslavia.
Can't we make up a better list of people than Bobby Fischer to arrest for hurting America? I sure can.
Did Allawi personally shoot seven blindfolded people in June? The Australian media is full of stories that just before taking over as our man in Baghdad, interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi shot seven handcuffed insurgents in a Baghdad police station to demonstrate the proper approach to handling rebels.
As I've said before, if we want to keep Iraq together as one country, we'll need to find our own version of Saddam Hussein. (But then, what was the point of the war?) So, maybe Allawi does have the Right Stuff to rule Iraq. Of course, this would make it even less likely that Allawi will hand power over to whomever wins the election next January.
UPDATE: A reader writes:
Hmmm... well, if the US wants to keep up appearances, then this means expect one of two things.
(1)Allawi wins in a landslide. "Iraqis" refuse to let the UN monitor elections, as Iraq is "sovereign" and can do so itself. Or maybe Iraq insists that it only trusts the US to monitor them.
(2)Allawi dies in a suicide bombing while in a black limousine. a few days prior to the election. This attack is entirely consistent with threats made in November 2004 in an intercepted letter taht appears to have beeen written by Abu Al-Zarqawi. "Oh, when the elections occur, democracy will flourish and we will have to move out and not be able to attack Americans anymore. 90% of Iraqis now hate us and love Mr. Bush. Our only hope is to kill Prime Minister Allawi before the elections. Preferably through a suicide bombing while he is in a black limousine so if he dies that way everyone will know that I, Abu Al-Zarqawi, foreign terrorists, especially Al Qaeda and Saddam loyalists, and absolutely no one else was involved."
Either way, Glenn Reynolds and Andrew Sullivan take heart over the fact that the number of coalition troops killed in hostile action is down from 85 in November to 65 in December. "Obviously," writes Andrew, "we are wearing the resistance down. By the way, did I mention that I am gay?" Glenn Reynolds posts Andrew Sullivan's entire article on his blog, and then adds his own eloquent and descriptive observation:
"Indeed. Interesting. Read the whole thing."
Pretty Fly for a White Guy -- Jeremy Wariner wins the U.S. Olympic Trials 400 meter sprint with a time of 44.37, the fastest time in the world this year (world record is Michael Johnson's 43.18), making him, as I predicted below, the first white American to make the team in the 400 meters in about 40 years. He may well be the only white sprinter (the 400m is known as "the long sprint") on the U.S. Olympic team since 1964. Another white guy, Andrew Rock from a Div. 3 college, finished a solid sixth.
"Maria Full of Grace" -- Opening in LA and NY on Friday. Here's part of my review from the American Conservative a few weeks ago:
"Maria Full of Grace," the story of a 17-year-old Colombian girl who transports 62 golf ball-sized drug pellets to New York in her digestive track, is nothing but a freight train of a plot...
Coming in July, the R-rated "Maria" is, oddly enough, a Spanish-language film written and directed by a young American named Joshua Marston, whose father had grown up in Colombia. Marston is devoted to cinematic realism, so he researched the lives of drug mules intimately. The director's key question became why some Colombians become criminals while others don't. He ran into an analogous conundrum on the national scale when the endemic violence in Colombia grew so threatening that he had to shift his production at the last minute to neighboring Ecuador. Why has Colombia long been notorious for people chopping each other up with chainsaws, "Scarface"-style, while Ecuador clings to respectability?
Pretty young Maria is employed dethorning rose stems in Colombia's honest export industry. It's boring work -- although there are plenty of other jobs that smell worse. But it's not good enough for Maria. Nor is her boring boyfriend's dutiful offer of marriage when she announces she's pregnant. Maria then wonders if she can trick an expensively-dressed young man with a fast motorcycle into thinking the baby is his, only to discover that this recruiter for the Cartel merely wants to get into her gastrointestinal tract.
Marston's unsentimental approach works well, until the "happy ending" when Maria decides to stay here as an illegal alien. Her fatherless baby will be born a U.S. citizen, making her alarmingly hard to deport. The movie assumes that she's escaping the turmoil in her native land, but we Americans can be forgiven for worrying whether this single teen mother with a taste for trouble isn't just bringing some of it with her.
In contrast, here's what Stephen Holden of the NYT wrote. Obviously, his views on illegal immigration are of the Let's All Bend Over, Grab Our Ankles, and Hope We Enjoy It school::
It's painfully understandable that the 17-year-old title character of "Maria Full of Grace" would risk her freedom and even her life to be a drug mule. This gripping Colombian film, written and directed by Joshua Marston, follows the desperate plunge of Maria Alvarez (Catalina Sandino Moreno) from a dead-end job as an assembly-line worker in a Colombian flower factory into the drug-smuggling underworld. This treacherous territory, where young women, seduced by suave, sweet-talking recruiters, can earn large sums by smuggling heroin into the United States, is Maria's last resort when she finds herself unemployed and pregnant.
Noooh, The whole point of the movie is that Maria chooses to break the law and risk her unborn baby's life by filling her belly with drugs because it's a lot of easy money compared to alternatives like accepting her boyfriend's offer of marriage or working in the rose factory.
Maria is an attractive, smart, spirited young woman who faces the challenge of fending for herself with a fierce determination and an ingenuity that compromises but never undermines her essential decency and morality.
What "essential decency and morality"? The NYT reviewer is just babbling.
Even when you're on the edge of your seat, it never sacrifices a calm, clear-sighted humanity for the sake of melodrama or cheap moralizing. Even the airport interrogators aren't monsters, just everyday officials efficiently carrying out their duties. Maria's desperate decision may be reprehensible on one level. But on another, deeper level, it is an act of courageous self-assertion. You applaud every step of her scary lunge toward personal liberation.
Not me. I wanted her the hell out of my country.
Iyad Allawi as Putin -- Our hope for Allawi, our new head boy in Baghdad, is that he turns out to be a Putin: a spook turned tough, hardworking ruler. Jim Hoagland writes in the WaPo:
Iraq's newly empowered politicians have not stemmed the violence and instability in their country. But nearly three weeks of partial sovereignty may have helped the Bush administration's drive to reduce its political vulnerability on Iraq at home.
Reducing that vulnerability is now the White House's most urgent goal. What happened at the June 28 handover ceremony in Baghdad was not so much a transfer of sovereignty as it was a transfer of political responsibility -- from President Bush to a willing Prime Minister Ayad Allawi.
Allawi has kept his part of the bargain with Washington by repeatedly appearing before U.S. television cameras on two missions: to thank Bush for freeing Iraq and to take on the responsibility for answering attacks on U.S. forces and Iraqis. U.S. officials took solace recently from Allawi's quickly televised vows of revenge and action for a bloody wave of coordinated bombings.
"This was a good day," one official observed, pointing to Allawi's television performance and passing over the continuing bloodshed.
The Iraqi prime minister has also won points by promising the stick of a 2,000-man Iraqi "strike force" to establish security while dangling the carrot of amnesty for Baathist insurgents who do not, in the words of one of Allawi's associates, have "too many" atrocities on their hands.
Read through or watch Allawi's blunt, sparse statements and you too may be impressed by how much of his message is intended to reassure his American audience, rather than Iraqis. They are more keenly aware of the huge obstacles that Allawi faces in carrying out his ambitious promises.
To the relief of the White House, the American public and media seem to be slowly trying to tune out Iraq's continuing violence. Accounts of all but spectacular assaults slide deeper into network news broadcasts and the inside pages of newspapers as the summer and the U.S. presidential campaign progress.
Allawi -- and therefore Bush -- also benefits from the honeymoon effect granted to a new Baghdad administration, and from the genuine confusion over who is actually running what is partly sovereign Iraq. The visible failures of the occupation led by Paul Bremer now take place behind a more nebulous smoke screen.
Now, it's not that hard to see how Allawi could calm the insurgency: all he has to do is to nominally incorporate the insurgents into his regime and let them have local autonomy, on the model of what the U.S. did in Fallujah and Najaf. (The harder issues are down the road in terms of divvying up the oil.)
But let's say Allawi actually succeeds on the ground in the next six months in his two toughest challenges -- staying alive and building an army that will actually fight for him. Do you think he'll then hold elections and graciously retire to tend his roses when the democratically-elected President arrives? Sure, he will. He'll say, "I've been dodging bombs for a half year just so I can hand my army over to some new guy!" Yeah, right...
So, our best hope for Iraq is basically that Allawi proves to be a tough dictator on the model of Saddam. This was what the war was for?
Another study shows link between childhood IQ and adult health:
Intelligent children may be less likely to develop serious disease in adulthood than their less intelligent peers, suggests a long term study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
The findings are based on 633 people living in Providence, Rhode Island, USA. All were aged between 30 and 39 at the time of the study... When they were 7 years old, they took a comprehensive IQ test. During their 30s, they were asked if they had any serious illness, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, asthma, arthritis, stroke, bleeding ulcer, tuberculosis, and hepatitis.
Factors such as low birthweight (below 2500g), which can affect intellectual development, as well as social and economic factors in childhood, were taken into consideration so as not to unduly influence the results...
The pattern appeared to be general and not restricted to any particular disease. Every extra 15 points on intelligence score at the age of 7 cut the chance of illness as an adult by a third, the findings showed.
Although the chances of having an illness as an adult were higher among those in unskilled or semi skilled jobs, and among those who had fewer years of education, the effect of childhood intelligence still remained significant.
The authors speculate that intelligence may reduce the likelihood of risky and unhealthy behaviours, improve the ability to navigate healthcare systems, and enhance the sense of personal control, thereby minimising the stress response and consequent wear and tear on the body.
And they conclude that general childhood intelligence may be an important and informative early determinant of subsequent adult health.
It makes sense that smart people would do fewer stupid things that hurt their health, but the arrow of causality might also be running at least partly in the other direction. Children born with a sickly constitution might have scored lower on IQ tests because they weren't fully healthy. Anybody have any ideas on how to test these two theories?
Sexing Cars -- Dan Neil, the LA Times' high IQ auto critic, explains what makes a car look masculine or feminine.
New York Times Magazine, 4.7.11 I
Interview by DEBORAH SOLOMON
Q. When you founded National Review in 1955, being a high-IQ conservative was a lonely job in America. But now that you are finally leaving the magazine, neoconservatives are running the country. What do you make of them?
A. I think those I know, which is most of them, are bright, informed and idealistic, but that they simply overrate the reach of U.S. power and influence.
Q. Yes, their ambitions in Iraq seem to be leading to their self-destruction.
A. Neocons would suffer a great blow, conceivably mortal, if Bush were defeated because of Iraq.
Q. What do you think was our greatest mistake in the Iraq invasion?
A. Undertaking as a single venture the deposition of Saddam, which we were uniquely able to do, and the reconstruction of Iraq, which could have been done by a U.N. combine.
Q. How is your health?
A. Infirm. Though nothing either terminal or unique.
I'm sorry to hear confirmation that Mr. Buckley's health is poor, although I'd assumed for a number of years that he was no longer at his best ... as is only natural: he is now 78.
The Race FAQ, written up by John Goodrum as a document for the Anthro-L email list, makes as strong a case for the traditional view of human races as subspecies as I imagine could be made. I still think it's more useful to flip the whole picture over and start from the ground up, thinking of racial groups as partly inbred extended families.
White Sprinter Alert -- African-Americans have dominated the 400 meter race for decades. I don't believe a white guy has made the U.S. 4x400m relay since 1964. But this year, Baylor student Jeremy Wariner is well-positioned to make the team in the 400m final at the Olympic Trials on Thursday evening.
The shorter the race, the more likely it is to be dominated by men of West African descent. Thus, the African-American domination of the 400 meters has been something of an anomaly. There are plenty of good West Africans at 800 meters, but they are merely competitive at that distance. At 1,500 meters, only a few West Africans have been competitive on the world stage, and almost none at all at longer distances. So, the 400 meters is a race where whites ought to do better than at, say, 100 meters, and indeed, European whites have sometimes been competitive.
By the way, a sprint can be defined as a race where times get better at higher altitude (due to less wind resistance) and a distance race as one where times get slower (due to less oxygen in the air). Thus all sorts of amazing sprint records were set at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, many of which lasted into the 1980s (Bob Beamon's long jump record lasted into the 1990s), but distance times were quite bad. This definition would put the 800m in the gray area between sprints and distance races.
My Appearance on Jeopardy -- Now that Ken Jennings has won 30 consecutive Jeopardy appearances for over $1 million, I'm reminded of my less glorious appearance on the TV game show back in 1994.
I took a 50 question general knowledge test and eleven months later they called me up to invite me to fly out to LA from Chicago (at my own expense) and appear on the show. Clearly, I wasn't one of their top priorities. The audience is mostly female (lots of schoolteachers come home and turn it on), but the right edge of the general knowledge bell curve is mostly male, so female high-scorers are more likely to get on the show than your usual white male high-scorers.
They bring a whole week's worth of contestants in on a Monday morning (we were all out-of-towners). One contestant was a handsome young black naval officer resplendent in his dress whites uniform. Nobody wanted to be matched up against him! I went on first, competing against a lady business school professor and the defending champ, a wiry older fellow who was a ticket taker at Disney World.
The main problem with Jeopardy as a game is that owner Merv Griffin doesn't want it to be a game of speed where contestants buzz in and give the correct question before Alex Trebek gets done asking the question. That's what they do on College Bowl, but that game is almost incomprehensible to viewers because players answer questions long before 98% of the viewers know what the hell the question is about.
Q. What kind of victory --
A. A. Pyrrhic victory.
(The explanation the College Bowl player who nailed that one gave me was: "What other kind of victories are there?")
Which is one reason Jeopardy is on TV every day and College Bowl isn't.
So, what happens on Jeopardy is that you can't start pushing the button on your buzzer while Alex is still talking, but no buzz will be accepted until he stops, as determined by somebody working there. So, it's pretty much arbitrary who gets called on by Alex -- it's just supposed to be the first person to buzz-in after he's done talking. (A better way to handle it would be to give first dibs to the first person to buzz in while he was still talking.)
I was buzzing away like crazy, but most of the time I wasn't getting called on. It was very strange to push my button two or three times after Alex stopped and nothing would happen. Finally, somebody else would buzz-in and immediately light up. During the commercial break, the staff came up and told me I must be pushing my button wrong, as if it was some complex and subtle process.
An old friend from high school who I hadn't seen for years happened to see me on the show. Several years later we finally got together and the first thing he asked me was, "Why didn't they fix your buzzer? It was clearly shorting out." I should have done what Gen. Schwartzkopf did on Celebrity Jeopardy in the same situation -- raise a stink until they fixed my buzzer.
I limped home with $6,700, but the business school prof won $7,300. Something I hadn't learned from watching on TV is that unless you win, you don't get to keep your cash. Merv is tight with his money, as I also learned when I looked into using my second-place prize -- an all expenses paid week for two in Manzanillo, Mexico. Sounds great? The only problem is that the airline tickets were only for flights out of LA, and I lived in Chicago, which is only a little farther. We would have had to fly to LA, at our own expense and change planes. We absolutely could not apply the value of the tickets to flights from Chicago. Since we'd have to pay taxes on the retail value, we decided to decline the trip, which is I'm sure what Merv wanted (recall that all the contestants were out-of-towners that week -- that's why they gave out this poison pill prize).
A Reader Updates:
Not that I want to defend Jeopardy, Merv, etc., but I can tell you that they have changed one part of their policy: Now the second place finisher gets $2,000, and the third place finisher gets $1,000. So assuming that one still must fly to L.A. at one's own expense, finishing third means you'll likely break even, and finishing second could mean a meager profit, until the taxes kick in.
War Nerd on Fallujah:
Fallujah was a classic "Sunni Triangle" town, with about 300,000 people. They're usually called "Saddam loyalists" and most of them are, for the simple reason that in a gangland country like Iraq you better stick to your own people. But from what I hear, Fallujah was more like a country town, more old-fashioned than anything. What counted most was family, but not the nuclear family thing, the older version: the clan. You belong to a clan, like a real big family or a small tribe, and you stand up for your clan. If people mess with it, you mess back.
Killing is part of the culture, the way it's part of every culture if people had the guts to face that little fact. In Iraqi culture, just like it was for the Vikings, killing somebody is a commercial matter. It's like the sign in secondhand shops: you break it, you own it. Only it's "You kill my kin, you owe me money."
The invasion was going well back in April 2003, and we were pretty cocky. The 82nd Airborne, which did an outstanding job in the charge to Baghdad, rolled into Fallujah, did a few victory dust donuts in the town square (I hear the Bradley does a pretty good dust donut, too) and decided to make the local schoolhouse our HQ. Well, since Iraq has a birthrate like Mormons on ecstasy, this pissed off the local parents -- millions of kids hanging around the house, no summer camp to send 'em to. So on April 28, 2003 they staged a typical Arab demonstration at US HQ. By all accounts a typical Arab noisefest: a lot of yelling and posing, a lotta shoes being waved and thrown, annoying as Hell. Nothing to be afraid of.
Except somebody in the chain of command wasn't feeling cool, calm & collected that day. Maybe pissed off at not getting enough kills on the Hellride up the river, maybe tired of Arabs yelling -- God knows I can sympathize with that. So we started shooting. And by the time we stopped there were at least 13 locals dead. Turned into 20 dead by the time May 1 rolled around...
Even then, we could've fixed it up. This is the weirdest part of the story: after the killings, the clan leaders for the 13 dead apparently contacted the US officers in charge for blood money. That's how it's done: "You owe us for 13 dead cousins, dude!" It's not as cheap and moneygrubbing as it sounds. Just like with the Vikings, paying bloodmoney means "OK, I admit I got out of hand with the ol' battleaxe at the party last night. Um, real sorry about your wife and kids an' all...so that's, what? 20 gold pieces per wife, and for the kids, 40 per boy and 5 per girl?" (Face it, they were sexist and proud of it back then.) It's a way of saying "Sorry, man." It's polite.
Maybe if we hadn't been lying to ourselves about what we were doing there, we'd have paid up. "Yeah, sorry -- got a little out of hand with the 25mm cannon there. You understand -- 9/11 and all, had to work out on somebody. Now how much is it per dead teenager?"
But nope. We were too snotty to pay up. I mean, think about all the hundreds of billions we've poured into fake "aid" to Iraq -- and we were too dumb to pay a few thousand in bloodmoney.
So surprise, surprise, Fallujah turns into Dodge City for American troops.
Blacks vs. Neocons: It's important to realize that the neocons weren't driven nuts by 9/11, but that they had already turned wacko well before, and thus were well situated to capitalize on 9/11 when the country temporarily became as excitable as they had already been. Way back in 2000, I wrote:
The problem with Republican "diversity outreach" is that the GOP ends up being held hostage by its handful of minority celebrities. It can't campaign vigorously against racial quotas, for instance, for fear that Colin Powell or Congressman J.C. Watts would object.
Still, on the whole, the Reagan foreign policy team's recruitment and mentoring of Powell and Condoleeza Rice has paid dividends. Even more important than the PR advantages is that Powell and Rice would more likely implement a calm and patriotic foreign policy based on the national interest than would the usual suspects from the think tanks.
In the Nineties, neoconservative and neoliberal views on overseas interventions have grown increasingly hysterical under the influence of that noted international relations expert Steven Spielberg. In the minds of white baby-boomer wonks and intellectuals, Schindler's List locked in the assumption that the Holocaust is the end-all and be-all of history. Then, Saving Private Ryan left them feeling terribly inferior to their fathers of the "The Greatest Generation."
Thus, America's otherwise inexplicable aggression against the sovereign state of Yugoslavia in 1999. That misadventure can best be understood as a deeply personal psychodrama staged by the Clinton Administration's foreign policy apparatus. I'm sure all the bombing, killing, and ethnic cleansing made Madeleine Albright, James Rubin, and Co. feel a whole lot better about themselves, even as it made a hash of the Balkans.
In contrast, African Americans, even those as cosmopolitan as Powell and Rice, tend not to care that much about other countries, deep down inside. They especially don't obsess over re-fighting the events of 1933-1945, in the way that Albright is preoccupied with the Munich Conference of 1938 and her father's years as Czech ambassador to Belgrade. To blacks, the epic of Africans in America is far more compelling. To a black patriot like Powell, foreign policy is a necessary job, not an opportunity to right the wrongs of the rest of the world.
As it turned out, Powell didn't have the strength of character to save America from the Iraq Attaq (and Rice has been a zero), but he has certainly provided a voice for sanity within an Administration where that was in short supply.
Stop the Presses! Science Discovers that Sunshine Makes You Happy -- The NYT reports that tanning bed users feel happier. No surprise there.
Big question: does sunblock, by cutting out the ultraviolet rays, also cut out the happiness production?
Another question: Does sunshine make blondes happier than it makes redheads or brunettes? Perhaps it's not a coincidence that nudism was invented in Germany in the late 19th Century?
Halfway through the movie year and only one film stands out from the pack. Leaving aside all the baggage that everybody brings to judging it, and evaluated just as a work of filmmaking, "The Passion of the Christ" was by far the outstanding achievement of the first six months.
I'd pick "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" for second place, but it's a long way from first to second.
Even More on Moore: From my American Conservative review of "Fahrenheit 9/11:"
Moore utterly ignores the Administration's tragicomic infatuation with convicted embezzler Ahmed Chalabi to focus (if that's a word that can describe such a scattershot movie) on corporate connections, such as Unocal's proposed oil pipeline through Afghanistan. Sure, Mike, that's what the Afghanistan War was all about! Moore's strategy is both trivializing and eyeball-glazing, like a hate-Clinton muckraking documentary that expends most of its energies on Whitewater...
You can see why Moore chickened out on mentioning Chalabi. He'd have to explain who the swindler's American enablers were, and that might have split his target market of lefties into warring pro-Israel and pro-Palestine factions. It's much more prudent just to gesticulate at Halliburton and the Carlyle Group.
Moore could have instead pointed out, more tellingly, that up through 9/11, the new Bush Administration had been cracking down on the ethnic profiling of Arab airline passengers, such as, oh, Mohamed Atta. Like Bush's banning of "secret evidence" in terrorist prosecutions, this was part of Karl Rove's outreach to minority voters.
But that alarming truth -- that Bush endangered national security to be more multiculturally sensitive -- is the last thing Moore's audience wants to hear.
A well-known reader replies on "King Arthur" --
None of your reader's historical complaints about Arthur has much force. That the movie (which I have not seen) takes place in 465 is a bit earlier than most people would date Arthur's existence (the 490-510 zone is more popular) but not utterly improbable. Sure, the Roman armies had left to go campaigning on the Continent under Constantinus back around 410; but Roman civilization survived to some degree for much longer in those areas the English did not overrun -- well into the mid-6th century in places. It was a feeble and degraded version of Roman culture, to be sure; but they spoke Latin and tried to keep a breed of cavalry horses going. (Without constant breeding supervision, horses revert to the pony type, useless for cavalry work.) St. Tatheus, late 5th-early 6th century, was entertained by a rich man near Chepstow who still heated his plunge bath on Saturdays in the Roman style.
Nor does the action taking place in the North violate anything much. So little is known of Arthur, he might have been active anywhere. In fact, some of the sources (all of which are highly questionable) for Arthur **do** have him active in the North:
"[T]he only direct statement about the wars of Arthur is a document in Nennius that lists twelve of his battles, evidently victories, the last of them at Badon. .. Most of the sites named cannot be located with any confidence; but a few can. Celidon Wood is located in the north, and one or two other sites may also be northern..." ---John Morris, "The Age of Arthur."
In fact the fifth century in Britain is almost entirely undocumented, and nobody really knows much about what was going on. J.N.L. Myers, one of the leading scholars in this zone ("The English Settlements", also Vol.1 of the "Oxford History of England") says there is no point talking about Arthur at all, as he is not a historical figure. The earliest documented references are those of Nennius, 250 yrs later. Gildas, writing about 540 to chastise the Romano-British for their sinfulness, which, according to him, had brought on the disasters that had befallen them at the hands of the Germanic invaders, does not mention Arthur. The rest is just local legends, poetry written centuries later, and a couple of stone inscriptions along the lines: "Here lies so and so, a great warrior, though not an Arthur."
Another reader says:
Your reader is correct. I'd also add that Pelagius wasn't executed in Rome, as was stated in the film. The last we hear of him in the historical record, he was living amongst his friends, the bishops of Palestine. Nor did any churchmen of the time use or countenance torture, as was implied in the film. The Inquisition came some 800 years later under very different conditions. The monks in Britain at the time were rather unoffending men who put themselves at great risk to preach to pagan Druid tribes, whose practices included human sacrifice.
The utter vileness and anti-Christian bigotry of this movie came through clearest for me in a scene where a knight (Galahad, I think) cruelly mocks a monk for praying. A more obscene inversion of the Arthurian ideal can't be imagined. Sir Thomas Mallory must be spinning in his grave. We can only thank heaven that this movie's poor quality will limit its evil.
I also found the screenwriter Franzioni's decision to portray the Saxons as proto-Nazis a bit funny. Really, the Germanic Angles, Saxons and Jutes were much more like immigrants flooding across an unguarded frontier. In a way, by opposing the Saxons, Arthur could be said to have been a nativist.
Why India is so bad in sports: An Indian in London writes:
Organizational Incompetence: One of the reasons why India is good at Cricket is because the government doesn't have much to do with it. It's run by private bodies, like a business for profit and these guys know that they have a vested interest in running it well. The Board of Control for Cricket in India is a super rich sporting body (by Indian standards). It engages in very slick marketing, raises millions in revenues and turns the average Cricketer into a national icon - every kid in the country dreams of being a cricket star. It literally means an ascent into the heavens.
By contrast, India was once a hockey superpower (field hockey that is). It won 8 GOLD MEDALS in the Olympics up to 1980. However, in more recent times, India has won nothing. Two things were responsible for this.
Natural Indian dexterity of the wrists was rendered useless when field hockey moved to astroturf. European teams with superior physical strength gained the upper hand. The Germans, the Dutch, the Australians who had never been serious competitors to India became world beaters. Some might say this isn't a complete explanation because Pakistan is still a powerhouse in Hockey. This is partially true but today Pakistan struggles to beat the major white teams. 50 years ago, Pakistan would've crushed them easily.
The second thing that finished Indian hockey was government involvement. After Independence Nehru thought the Government was some kind of magic wand. All you had to do was nationalize something and suddenly miracles would happen. The opposite happened. Incompetent bureaucrats who care for nothing except their unearned salary (Government servants in India never work - you might say their motto is: "Income without work!") destroyed Indian hockey completely.
India was never a great athletic nation but until the early 1960s, it competed decently in events like the Asian games. Today, its a non-entity in almost all sports, except Cricket. The Government organizations siphon enormous sums of money that disappear into the pockets of corrupt and utterly debauched bureaucrats while athletes long for just basic facilities.
Vegetarianism -- People who study Indian incompetence in sport oughta spend a little time studying what Indians eat (including wealthy and middle class Indians who can afford good food). Eating meat is either taboo or considered something that you do once a month. Basically, all physical sports requires lean muscle and you cant build lean muscle unless you eat lots of protein. The best and cheapest source of protein is meat - white and red. Simple as that. I know there are new-age nuts who will react with horror. No surprise here though - only people who are illiterates in the field of basic nutrition would disagree with this. No country that does well in the Olympics does well by just eating fruits and vegetables. That diet is for new-age fruitcakes.
"King Arthur" -- A reader writes:
I just saw "King Arthur," unfortunately. I was actually somewhat looking forward to this movie, if only because I had the same idea - King Arthur as Roman-influenced general in Late Antiquity - several years back. (I was tapped into the Zeitgeist!) I should've know better. Of course, they got all the actual history (what we know of it) wrong. The movie supposedly takes place in 465 A.D. - but the Romans had pulled out of Britannia by 410. It takes place up by Hadrian's wall - but all the legends of Arthur come from down in Southeastern England, which is also where all the Saxon invasions actually took place. (My idea had a left-over Roman Briton, his head filled with dreams of the olden days, journeying to Rome to try to convince them to send legions to fight the Saxons. He find out that Rome has no capacity to help anymore, but in his journey there and back he learns enough fighting and attracts enough followers that in essence he becomes the "saviour from Rome" he had been searching for all along. Y'know, good old fashioned, "hero's journey" type stuff...)
And Guinevere was truly beyond belief - I mean, I was willing to go along with it when she was just shooting arrows. I mean, it's at least conceivable that a girl could become a pretty good shot, although she wouldn't be able to pull a very heavy bow, so her range would be crap. But when she pulls out the sword and starts whacking away, I started laughing out loud. And the thing that got me about it was, it was completely unremarked upon, both in the movie itself (Dark Age armies are shown to be totally gender-integrated, and Arthur and his knights seem to be unsurprised by this) and in every review but yours. Has the whole world gone crazy?
Another interesting tidbit was the portrayal of Arthur as a follower of Pelagius. All part and parcel of the reflexive anti-Catholicism and anti-Christianity of the film, of course (another thing unremarked upon in any review), Pelagius was a late 4th century heretic (who died 50 years before the action of the film, but who's counting?) who denied the doctrine of original sin and claimed that people could be saved by good works alone - which, interestingly enough, is what many protestants (mistakenly) accuse Catholics of believing to this very day. I have no idea where the screenwriter was going with this - I don't think he did, either - but it does go along with the general trend in popular culture lately in stuff like "The Matrix" and "The Da Vinci Code" of using mistaken historical accounts of early Christian heresies (Gnosticism being the most popular) to try to create an alternative Christianity, one that doesn't require, y'know, actually believing in all that God and Jesus stuff. It will be interesting to see where all this goes, especially with the execrable "Code" being made into a movie next year...
Wachowski Brothers Becoming Wachowski Siblings? There have been lots of rumors going around for a year that Larry Wachowski of the Wachowski Brothers, the frauteurs behind the "Matrix" trilogy, is going to become a Wachowski Sister.
What we do know for sure is that Larry's nine year long marriage (1993-2002) broke up when he moved in with his dominatrix.
First, let me point out that I've been arguing for some time that the butt-kicking babe craze, as epitomized by The Matrix's black leather clad Trinity, doesn't have much to do with feminist empowerment or whatever. Instead, it caters to a male sexual fetish. And I think this news about Wachowski's new domestic arrangements backs me up on this. Fetishes can get out of control and spread widely. Footbinding in China, which was nearly universal among wealthy women, was a bizarre example of a fetish for smaller feet that ended up crippling millions of women.
Second, is this gossip about Wachowski's private life relevant to the here-to-fore mysterious question of why the two Matrix sequels were so awful? Yes, I think it is. During the first movie, he was living a normal live, so he sublimated a lot of his latent perversity into his excellent first Matrix movie. Its success gave him the money and power to turn art into reality in his personal life. Not surprisingly, his art suffered dreadfully.
Third, the standard party line that male to female transsexuals are supposed to espouse is "I've always felt like a girl on the inside." This may well be true for some, but a sizable fraction of transsexuals were so masculine in their interests beforehand that this doesn't seem like it could be the universal explanation that organized transsexual pressure groups insist it is (and try to censor those who disagree with their orthodoxy). Wachowski, for example, was handed hundreds of millions of dollars to put his inner being up on screen, and I didn't see anything that suggested he had a feminine side at all. Did anyone anywhere ever notice anything girly about the six hours of The Matrix trilogy? Instead, it was the universal opinion of mankind that it represented the apotheosis of the male nerd imagination. So, this "I've always felt like a girl on the inside" explanation for all transsexuals sure doesn't sound too convincing.
A New VDARE column at left -- Steve Sailer's Olympic Preview: How to watch the Olympics without knowing anybody's name.
Sprint Queen Marion Jones Fails to Qualify -- In my Olympic preview on VDARE, which should be up late Sunday, I predicted that the 100 meter dash should be more wide open at this year's Olympics because drug testing is supposed to be more serious. With threats of lifetime suspensions looming, you can expect to see runners trying the races clean, withdrawing with mysterious ailments, or possibly even throwing races if they lose their nerve and decide they don't want to be among the tested winners.
The most famous woman sprinter, Marion Jones, is at the heart of the BALCO scandal that also snagged Barry Bonds. She and her boyfriend Tim Montgomery, the men's 100m world record holder, dumped her coach Trevor Graham to go study under Charlie Francis, the notorious Svengali who coached Ben Johnson to his chemically-assisted 1988 gold. Graham responded by mailing a sample of BALCO's new, then-undetectable, designer steroid THG to the authorities, which set off the current round of scandals. Not surprisingly, Jones finished fifth in the U.S. Olympic trials 100m final.
UPDATE: Montgomery likewise failed to qualify, finishing 7th in the men's 100m final.
Does Europe Need More Immigrants? -- You constantly read how Europe must import tens of millions of third worlders to keep their pension systems from going broke. But there's an alternative: Europeans just need to stop loafing so much. This NYT chart shows that Americans average 1,904 hours worked per year in 2002 (up from 1,890 in 1989), while Germans work only 1,557 (down from 1,668). That's a huge difference of 22.3%, almost the equivalent of Americans working a five day week while Germans work a four day week. This NYT article explains how Europeans are starting to wake up to the fact that they need to work harder.
Thank God for country music -- The ongoing collapse of Britain's working class white males into neo-Hogarthian "laddishness" -- drunkenness, brawling, and a career in property crime -- points out the importance of country music in persuading white working class American males to stay on the straight and narrow. A remarkable fraction of country lyrics are devoted to making guys with fairly crummy jobs, like truckdrivers, feel proud of their careers and of their bringing home the bacon to the wife and kids.
That's rare in modern music. Rock music for American whites is almost devoid of pro-work songs, with occasional exceptions like some nerdy Talking Heads lyrics, presumably because middle class white Americans are such workaholics that they want escapist songs.
Rap is all about the joys of being a highly paid rapper, but obviously that severely denigrates any other kind of job.
NASCAR vs. Soccer -- Stock car racing is to white Protestant working class Americans what soccer is to working class Brits, but the contrasts are striking, too, and indicative of the cultural health of the American white working class relative to its British counterpart. NASCAR is wholly lacking in soccer's affiliated subculture of thuggishness. Stock car racing markets itself with complete success as entertainment for the entire family.
Over the last 15 years, UK soccer has managed to compartmentalize its animalistic aspects, and appeal to a broader social base. But this widespread filtering of yobbo norms up the social scale in Britain -- for example, the spread of the downscale Estuary English accent into the upper middle classes -- merely reflects how the educated classed in Britain have lost control of the culture, just as bourgeois African-Americans lost control of their culture to the gangsta rappers.
John O'Sullivan's cover story in American Conservative: "Who Are We? Samuel Huntington’s new book forces a debate on immigration and American destiny."
Also, here's the article by Andrew Bacevich's article "Ten Lessons to Take Away from Iraq" that William F. Buckley admired so much.
The evisceration of Asa Hutchinson: The John & Ken show on KFI radio in LA, which helped launch the recall of Gray Davis last year, has been on the warpath about illegal immigration. Last month, a dozen Border Patrol agents in Temecula, CA (well north of the border) rounded up 400 illegal aliens in three days. (It's not hard!) But then the roundups stopped. Did Under Secretary for Border & Transportation Security at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Asa Hutchinson order them to stop enforcing the law? Will he order them to enforce the law in the future?
Listen to John & Ken's interview with poor Asa here. It's not pretty. But, it's fun!
The 1986 immigration law was supposed to be a two-sided approach: amnesty for current illegals along with sanctions against employers of illegal aliens to cut down on demand for new illegals to enter. But during the 90s, the federal government simply stopped enforcing the laws more than about 40 miles north of the border. The Border Patrol is currently aligned like a football team that puts eleven men on the line of scrimmage.
Charles Murray's Final Word on the White-Black IQ Gap: Here is an important but little known paper (in pdf format) by Charles Murray, delivered to the 1999 Behavior Genetics Association Meeting that represents, as far as I know, Murray's last word on the white-black IQ gap before devoting himself full time to his 2003 book Human Accomplishment. It benefits from an extra half-decade of data unavailable to himself and Richard Herrnstein at the writing of the The Bell Curve in 1994.
The first part of the paper is interesting for recounting the size of the white-black gap over time:
[We] assembled 156 studies conducted from the early 1900s through the late 1980s that met basic standards of interpretability and for which the BW difference could be expressed as a standard deviation (SD). Overall, the mean BW difference was 1.08 SDs. For the 45 studies conducted after 1940, outside the South, with subjects older than 6, with full test batteries, the mean BW difference was 1.06 SDs. For the 24 studies meeting these same standards but conducted since the 1960s, the mean BW was 1.10 SDs.
The trend by decade is surprising. In the 1920s, when IQ tests were new and much more vulnerable to problems of bias and unreliability than later tests and at a time when black educational attainment was much lower than it is now, the mean BW difference in the 13 studies that used standardized tests was .86 SDs. The largest BW difference shows up in the 1960s, for which 37 studies are available (many of which include an admixture of tests of academic achievement), with a mean BW difference of 1.28 SDs. The other decades range from .82 SDs (1930s) to 1.12 SDs (1970s). There is no gross evidence in these data that the BW difference has narrowed over the century.
One thing that jumps out whenever I discuss the white-black IQ gap is that many people automatically assume I'm saying the difference is innate (i.e., genetic) ... even when I specifically say I don't know what the cause is.
What's clearly evident, however, is that this the white-black IQ gap, whatever it's cause, is a long term problem that won't suddenly disappear just by demonizing people who try to talk about it in public.
Consider this analogy: the American-Iraqi language gap is obviously not genetic, but it is a major problem for the American occupation of Iraq, and it is a long term reality that won't suddenly vanish.
Second, as I said in my last VDARE column, we we don't know for sure, I would take a bet at even odds that genetic differences between blacks and whites do contribute somewhat to the white-black IQ gap (but I wouldn't give 100 to 1 odds either). The reasons I'd make the bet are that a wide variety of tests have been put forward that say: "If the gap is wholly environmental, then it would probably look like such and such," but such and such almost never turns out to be true. Over and over again, the results of subtle examinations keep looking like what you'd expect if the black-white gap was caused by the same factors that cause differences in average IQ among extended families within one race.
The one holdout has been the Flynn Effect -- the tendency for populations all over the world to get better at answering questions on IQ tests. This is often assumed to automatically eliminate the white-gap gap. Unfortunately, by far the most studied gap in the world is the American white-black gap, and as the quote above shows, the Flynn Effect has singularly failed at that task.
Murray's 1999 study reports in more detail why the Flynn Effect probably won't eliminate the white-black gap anytime soon. For example, Murray reports new 1996 IQ data on the children of females tested in 1979 as part of the huge National Longitudinal Study of Youth. There was no narrowing of the IQ gap from the first to second generations.
Upcoming: My VDARE.com column on Sunday night will be my Olympic preview. It's a what-to-watch-for for people who aren't fans of Olympic sports at the personal level, but are interested in the big picture patterns that the rest of the media ignore.
Last night I saw perhaps the worst movie made my a famous director in years. I won't tell you what it is yet (don't worry, it won't be out for weeks), because I'll probably review it for AmCon.
The Marrakesh One-Two - I just reread the late Richard Grenier's hilarious 1983 novel, which is narrated by the American screenwriter for a super-stupendous-spectacular Hollywood epic movie about the life of Mohammed. The poor crew trudges around the Middle East from Morocco to Khaddafy's Libya to Dubai to the Shah's Iran looking for a country that's religious but not too religious that will let them film.
It's modeled on the difficult making of the 1976 movie "Mohammed, Messenger of God," which starred Anthony Quinn as Mohammed's uncle Hamza, the fellow whose liver was eaten by Hind. Why did the biggest star in the movie play Mohammed's uncle instead of Mohammed? Because Mohammed never appears in his own movie. Characters just speak to the camera and then nod periodically while Mohammed is apparently talking. (Mohammed doesn't speak, either, in the film). All that reverence still didn't keep the film from being banned in various Islamic countries when it premiered.
In Grenier's version, the very last country they consider turning to when at their most desperate is Iraq (circa 1976). You may recall that back before the Iraq Attaq, Mark Steyn used to write column after column about how horrible Arabs were ... except for Iraqis, who were so advanced they were practically New Hampshireites in their readiness for democracy. Grenier had a different opinion. After Libya turns out to be a medieval-radical hellhole, the producer, Omar, asks the screenwriter (who is a part-time CIA agent), "What's so bad about Iraq?"
I reminded him of the Kassem coup [1958?], and how after machine-gunning the royal family, the Iraqis had hitched Regent Abd al-Ilah to the back of a truck and dragged him through the streets of Baghdad, with people in the crowd screaming in delight and dashing up and cutting off pieces of Abd al-Ilah for souvenirs, first his sexual organs, then both his arms and legs, crying Allah is great, just like in our movie. The coup leaders laid the corpses out in the center of the city and everybody joyously stamped on them and ran automobiles back and forth over them for hours. Then Abd al-Ilah's body without the arms and legs was hung from a balcony and the crowd went wild and stabbed it with pointed sticks, and people climbed up and whittled off slivers to celebrate.
"Maybe he wasn't popular," said Omar.
... A Kuwaiti told me a complicated story about Iraq and a scorpion asking a frog to let him ride on his back across the Euphrates. The frog says, Are you mad? A scorpion's sting can kill me. But the scorpion answers, I can't sting you though, don't you see? Because then I'd drown. So the frog takes the scorpion on his back and frog-swims out into the Euphrates, but halfway across the scorpion's habits get the better of him and he stings the frog anyway. As the frog dies from the scorpion's poison he turns around asks him, Why? Oh, why? And as the scorpion goes down drowning, he answers, Because it's Iraq!
There's a general sense in Grenier's novel that Middle Easterners tend to view life not as a way to find win-win solutions, nor even as a zero sum game, but as a negative sum game, in which proper etiquette demands that not only that you hurt your enemy but that you should find a way to hurt your enemy that is so berserk that you hurt yourself too in the process. If your vengeance isn't so over the top it's self-destructive too, you're just not trying hard enough.
And Iraq's just about the worst place of all.
By the way, the Friday forecast for Baghdad is 114 degrees.
Of course, the Volvo-buyers who went to "Roger and Me" didn't much care about laid-off General Motors autoworkers. I doubt if even Moore takes his 1937-style anti-business screeds seriously. They do provide Moore, however, with safe fallback positions while supplying the lucrative but tricky market for what white liberals do care passionately about: identity politics, especially their own need to feel morally and intellectually better than white conservatives. (In May, for example, hundred of liberal websites enthusiastically fell for a hoax claiming that Democratic states have much higher IQs than Republican states.) So, that's what Moore spoonfeeds his audience -- reassurances of their own superiority.
For example, metropolitan liberals support gun control for a hardheaded reason: to disarm the dangerous urban minorities who threaten them. But liberals hardly want to admit that, even to themselves, so they flocked to Moore's "Bowling for Columbine," a minstrel show about scary white rural gun nuts and the evil corporations that profit off them.
In "Columbine," Moore did ask one interesting question: How come Canada has many guns but few murders? Moore stared into the abyss of political incorrectness at the obvious answer -- Canada is only three percent black and Hispanic -- and blinked. It's so much safer blaming tacky K-Mart for selling bullets.
Keira Knightly for Vice-President? A reader writes:
Maybe the Rambette version of Keira Knightly should have played John Edwards on the Charlie Rose show. Is there some sort of weird transposition going on here? As American Alpha males get more sensitive, reasonable and hesitant about any resort to violence, at least in public, we transfer all our pent-up anger to female surrogates in fantasy media.
Of course, American males are not really that pacifistic. Edwards was a very bright, handsome young man who grew up in the post-W.W. II era when all such men could, with a little application, do very well in life. Yet he still can get lathered up over the tiny hurdles imposed by his somewhat modest beginnings and he can pump up a righteous rage over the failure of large corporations to make fail-safe products.
Yet Edwards cannot allow himself to get publicly upset over the mass murder of 3,000 of his fellow citizens. He is in the right party, anyway. During the 15-year explosion of crime and homicide rates that followed the Warren Court revolution in criminal procedure of the mid-1960s, it was simply considered bad form for any Democrat to allow himself to get publicly outraged by rampant murder or to question the wisdom of the new trial rules. Stay calm. Don't panic. Obsess about, oh, I don't know, "the tragedy of Love Canal."
An Easy Solution to 25% of Crime in LA County: The Sheriff of LA County wants to train six of his men to identify "if jail inmates are convicted criminal aliens who could be recommended for deportation upon their release." The L.A. Daily News reports:
Sheriff's officials estimate about a quarter of the 170,000 inmates who cycle through the jail system each year are illegal immigrants. If all those inmates were properly screened, officials estimate they could recommend the deportation of up to 40,000 of them. "Our best estimate is we are only touching 10-12 percent of that population," Jeffery said.
Recent studies have shown that criminal aliens place a large burden on the local criminal justice system. "Criminal illegal aliens are currently costing county taxpayers more than $150 million a year and make up more than 25 percent of our jail population," said Tony Bell, spokesman for Supervisor Michael Antonovich.
Of course, the multiculturally sensitive are aghast.
Keira Knightly as Warrior-Queen Guinevere: This is getting ridiculous. It was fun when big, brawny Sigourney Weaver fought the mother bug back in 1986 in Aliens, but the buttkicking babe fetish has gotten so out of hand that now when the exquisitely willowy Keira Knightly is cast as Queen Guinevere in King Arthur, she has to portray a hardened soldierette. (By the way, the movie claims it's a more historically authentic retelling of the Arthurian legends!)
Look, we all saw Keira try to play a budding soccer star in Bend It Like Beckham and she seemed like she'd never bothered to kick a ball before in her young life. Are we now supposed to believe she grew up dreaming of impaling people with her bow and arrow? What's are they planning next for Keira? Will they have her remake Audrey Hepburn's role in My Fair Lady, but this time Eliza Doolittle will karate chop Col. Pickering and stuff Henry Higgins into a wood chipper?
A reader points out how this could make Shakespeare relevant to the nerd generation:
We could turn "King Lear" into a medieval version of "Kill Bill," having the good daughter Cordelia use an astounding array of martial arts gymnastics to destroy the almost-but-not-quite-as-martial-arts-skilled bad daughters, Goneril and Regan.
Instead of being strangled to death by Othello, Desdemona could use karate to kill him with her bare hands. Perhaps she and Aemilia could become a two-woman avenging army - the Thelma and Louise of the 17th century, avenging themselves against both Othello and Iago. Cassio could play the impotent male good guy, looking on haplessly.
Ophelia could do the same to Hamlet - perhaps do the same to all of the men in her life (overbearing father Polonius, overbearing brother Laertes, spurning lover Hamlet would be exposed as oppressive male authority figures), using a judo hold to hold THEIR heads underwater in a fascinating act of empowerment instead of allowing herself to be the drowning victim.
In contrast, here's is the song Julie Andrews sang as Guinevere in Lerner and Lowe's Camelot. She wants to cause plenty of carnage, too, but she doesn't want have to whack anybody herself to do it:
Where are the simple joys of maidenhood?
John Edwards Videotape Here
UPDATE: The Corner has the transcript of Edwards flapping his gums on the Charlie Rose Show on the evening of 9/11/2001, mincing his words while waiting for his pollsters to tell him what the American people wanted done, when anyone who wasn't as much of an android as Edwards already knew what we wanted to hear from our leaders that awful night: "Vengeance shall be ours!" Keep in mind that he had his big ingratiating smile on his face the whole time.
Sen. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC): Well, Mr. Ambassador, we-- First of all, we've not heard from the administration yet -- and, I think, understandably so -- precisely what they'd like to see us do. I've heard some of the discussion over the course of this program by you and other panelists. And I think you're exactly on the right track. And, as I think you and I have already discussed in the past, this issue of terrorism, of course, is the greatest national-security threat we face in this country today. There are a number of us who have been working on this issue. We've actually been in the process of drafting legislation aimed at accomplishing a number of things.
Number one -- establishing terrorism as the kind of national-security priority that it should be.
Number two -- making sure that the federal agencies who are involved in this are adequately and properly coordinated in their activities.
Number three -- making sure that the institutions who are involved have the authority, the legal authority, to do what's need-- what needs to be done.
I've heard the discussion in this program -- and we've talked about it in the past -- the building of coalitions, internationally, to deal with this issue because we're going to need partners around the world to make this process work.
But I think the single most important thing is for the American people and our government to recognize what an enormous priority this needs to be. And I have to say, Charlie -- and you may have discussed this and I apologize if you have -- but I think the will of the American people will become stronger as we go forward because they watched this devastation today.
But what's gonna happen as we move forward through this thing is all of those people who lost their lives and who were injured at the World Trade Center and here at the Pentagon -- brave Americans who were totally innocent in this process -- this is gonna become a very personal thing for the American people.
And the American people are gonna respond in a strong and personal way. And I think they're going to expect their leadership to do what's necessary to insure that this sort of thing does not happen again.
CHARLIE ROSE: All right. Let me go to STEVE EMERSON--
TOM CLANCY: Gee, Senator.
But then what actually are you going to do? I think the-- I think the American people recognize that this is a 10,000-plus dead American citizens. What action are we going to take, sir? What are you gonna vote for? What are you gonna authorize? What are you gonna fund?
Sen. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC): Well, I think the-- I think the starting place is to do the thing--
First of all, there is an immediate response to what just occurred. And then there's a long-term issue, which is the issue that I've been discussing. Long-term, we have the national-security threat of ongoing terrorism.
There are multiple things that need to be done in connection with that--
TOM CLANCY: OK.
Let's-- What are they? What are you gonna do?
Sen. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC): Those are the things I just talked about -- putting more resources in our counter-terrorism, making sure that the things that need to be done are in fact being done, making sure that the federal agencies who are involved are working together, making sure that they have the authority to do what needs to be done--
TOM CLANCY: Senator, you're not--
Sen. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC): --making sure that--
TOM CLANCY: You're not doing anything. You're just talking. What are we going to do? What action are we going to take?
CHARLIE ROSE: I think, Tom, what he is saying is ``give the people that are responsible for this in the executive branch the resources to do it'' is what his answer has been.
Sen. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC): And, Charlie, if I can add to that, that has to do-- that has to do with the long-term issue.
And, by the way, I think the building of these coalitions internationally are also a critical component.
CHARLIE ROSE: Yeah.
Sen. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC): In addition to that, we have a specific response to these particular incidents, which is to identify who did this and go out and hold them responsible.
Finally. Now that's getting your priorities in the right order! Eight gazillion words of verbiage and at the very end: "in addition to that," let's go get 'em.
Let me point out that I didn't wait until Edwards was picked for Veep to boobytrap him with this. Back in December of 2002, when Edwards declared his candidacy for President, I blogged:
"Anybody doing opposition research on Edwards should get a video of his appearance on the "Charley Rose Show" on the night of 9/11/2001. I've never seen a top professional politician make himself look more inane and lightweight."
By the way, my wife says that Edwards always reminds her of that slick, smarmy Nicolae Carpathia character in the Left Behind series. You know, the ambitious politician who turns out to be the Antichrist.
Let me ask you this: Have Edwards and Carpathia ever been seen in the same room together?
I didn't think so.
It's time to end the charade.
"Fahrenheit 9/11" Fails to Draw Hot Babe Market -- Having made $64 million in 14 days, Michael Moore's docucomedy is certainly a smash hit, as I learned on Saturday while trying to find a theatre that wasn't sold out. Nonetheless, one audience segment was conspicuous by its absence Saturday night in Westwood: the beautiful girl demographic. I fear that this transcends ideology: political passions increase as the hair turns gray and more personal passions diminish.
William F. Buckley Jr. praises The American Conservative: Newly freed from his relationship with National Review, WFB's July 6th column praises an article on Iraq in the latest American Conservative. WFB writes:
... The American Conservative, a [bi]monthly journal associated with Pat Buchanan and Taki Theodoracopulos. It is highly literate, wonderfully well edited, and pursues what, in the loose language of ideological classification, would be called "paleoconservatism."
After decades of liberals dominating the institutional media, where the many draw a steady salary pretending to be objective, conservatives overran the entrepreneurial media, where a few strike it rich being entertaining arguers. Michael Moore deserves applause for venturing out of the plush left-of-center sinecures and making a fortune re-energizing the feature documentary, a medium that had been as dormant as AM radio before Rush Limbaugh.
In 1989's "Roger and Me," Moore exhibited a fine, withering disdain for the common folk of his hometown of Flint, Michigan, who no doubt had scorned the youthful Moore as a smartmouthed-lardbutt-pinko-egghead. And what an extraordinary revenge Moore exacted upon his old tormentors from the neighborhood -- to make himself rich by duping NPR-subscribers into anointing him the authentic voice of the working class he despised!
Converting SAT scores into IQ scores: A few years ago, I asked the Educational Testing Service what the correlation was between SAT score and IQ score. They told me that in the many decades ETS had employed huge numbers of psychometricians, they had never ever looked at this basic question. Dubious. But, you can't keep good data down forever.
From the Boston Globe:
To convert SAT scores from 1996 through this year to an IQ score, Professor Douglas Detterman of Case Western Reserve University provides this formula: (.095 X SAT Math) + (.003 X SAT Verbal) + 50.241 = IQ
For SAT scores before 1996 -- before the "recentering," which raised the average SAT back to 500 -- Detterman provides this formula: (.126 X SAT Combined Score) - (.0000471 X SAT Combined Score X SAT Combined Score) + 40.063 = IQ
The first formula, Detterman says, was based on a highly selected sample and may not predict the full range of IQ as accurately as the second.
Unfortunately, neither of these formulas seems to make much sense. Why is the new formula almost wholly dependent on the Math score? And in the old formula, which is based more sensibly on the combined score, IQ doesn't seem to go up fast enough as the SAT score rises.
Perhaps the newspaper fouled up the formulas. Does anybody know a better version?
UPDATE: GNXP.com has lots more details here. My guess for why the pre-1995 formula gives such a low IQ for the ultra-rare 1600 SAT perfect score (back when maybe 10 kids a year got 1600s) is because Detterman's sample had very few high scorers in it, and many of them were flukes. The data comes from the big ongoing project paid for by Armed Forces for the purposes of validating the Armed Forces Qualification Test, so you don't have many people in the sample of 917 at the upper end of the range. (Kids who ace the SAT generally don't enlist the military). Perhaps many of those who few had scored very high on the SAT in this sample had good reason to believe they weren't as academically-capable as the their SAT score indicated, so they also took the military enlistment exam as well. Here's the PDF of Detterman's paper.
However, for the bulk of people in this mid-range, Detterman found a strong 0.82 correlation between SAT and IQ.
UPDATE: The Corner has the transcript of Edwards flapping his gums on 9/11.
You can buy this video here for $29.95.
Kerry picks John Edwards for Veep: Anybody doing opposition research on Edwards should get a video of his appearance on the "Charlie Rose Show" on the night of 9/11/2001. I've never seen a top professional politician make himself look more inane and lightweight at a crucial moment. The debate between author Tom Clancy and Edwards over whether the U.S. needed to do something in response to 9/11 was jawdropping. Clancy: Yes vs. Edwards: Oh, well, maybe, perhaps we should study the situation ...
I wasn't the only one who noticed Edwards' fiasco. Sam Smith of the "Progressive Review" wrote: "The only bright spot was when Tom Clancy mercilessly quizzed Clinton-in-waiting John Edwards as to what specifically he would do and Edwards could produce nothing but photogenic platitudes."
The show still exists somewhere on videotape. Edwards' enemies could just put it out on the Web and do him serious damage.
New VDARE.com column at left on "Thinking more about the unthinkable: The white-black IQ gap."
In response, Mr. Tacitus blows all his gaskets and and is reduced to sputtering hate-words at me. (I particularly liked, "One might as well try to reason with a mad dog.") Of course, he completely fails to respond to my arguments, or those of Thomas Sowell, for that matter.
One reader observes:
I must say, the depth of scientific ignorance and, well, ideological blindness in these postings [of Tacitus] is very depressing.
Either there are statistical differences in cognitive abilities between ancestry groups, or there aren't.
The way to find out is by methodical scientific inquiry.
You can say: "For social reasons, we should not permit such inquiry." That is a logically tenable position, which I am sympathetic to. Unfortunately, it's not a very practical one, as we can only prohibit such research in our own country, not in (say) China.
Tacitus isn't even saying this, though. He is saying: "There are no group differences. I know there aren't. And that's that. Furthermore, the people who conduct these inquiries are bad people. I know that, too. I just know it."
And the world is full of people like that. They are actually the majority, by a long way. Calm scientific inquiry is deeply, almost universally, unpopular, as much now as in Galileo's day. Unreason is the norm, reason a freakish occurrence, those who practice it loathed and despised...
The signification of the word "hate" in these people's arguments is very interesting. It seems that "hate" is, in their minds, a sort of elan vital, or a colorless fluid flowing in the veins of those of us who find human biodiversity interesting. "Hate" as used by the SPLC crowd, Tacitus, etc., bears very little relation to the everyday or dictionary uses of the word. I know Steve Sailer pretty well, from numerous personal encounters and years of e-mail exchanges, and I find it hard to imagine him hating anyone. (With the possible exception of Ahmad Chalabi.) But that, of course, is not what Tacitus et al are talking about.
More Newsweeklies Misuse the Word "More" -- Actually, I have no idea if there's a growing trend toward magazines like Newsweek declaring something is a growing trend when they actually have no idea whether it's happening more or less often, but they do know it's interesting. But, see, it wouldn't be "news" if it wasn't growing.
The latest example of this trend (or nontrend, as the case may be) is the cover story in Newsweek:
The Secret Lives of Wives Why they stray: With the work place and the Internet, overscheduled lives and inattentive husbands—it's no wonder more American women are looking for comfort in the arms of another man
Cheating wives is a perennially interesting topic, from the time of the Trojan War on down. It's much more likely to sell magazines in July than, say, a cover story on "Kerry's Struggle to Find the Perfect Veep," or whatever the alternative quasi-hard news would have been. But, Newsweek can't avoid claiming it's also a trend despite data that's thin at best.
It reminds me of that article on underage prostitutes that was a big deal awhile ago. The newsweekly couldn't just say: "Hey, we figured you'd like to read an article about underage prostitutes ... so, here it is!" No, they had to put together a big song and dance about how it's your civic duty to read this alarming article about a growing problem affecting ever larger numbers of America's hot young babes. Of course, they didn't have any real evidence one way or another about the numbers.
Personally, I would bet that there's less cheating these days than in, say, the 1970s because women are getting married later, so by the time they get bored with their husbands, they're too old and tired to do much about it. On the other hand, the Internet might be facilitating cheating. But the data Newsweek provides is so perfunctory there's no way to know which way the trend is really running.
Something else that's interesting is how much less female infidelity there is in the better educated classes than farther down the scale. DNA tests show there is a lot more certainty of paternity at the top of the social scale than at the bottom.
Numerous readers took exception to Fred Reed pointing out that Americans don't travel much overseas. They noted that Americans have less vacation and more kids than Europeans. All very true, but ignorance, no matter how justifiable, is still ignorance, and Fred's point is that if our foreign policy is to remake large parts of the world, it would help if Americans, on average, knew a little bit about the parts of the world we have resolved to redo. Or, since it's unlikely that we'll suddenly get a lot better educated about the intricacies of foreign cultures, maybe it would be more realistic to adopt a more conservative foreign policy that says we're going to let foreigners go stew in their own juices, while we concentrate on something more feasible, like teaching pigs to sing.
War Nerd on Abu Ghraib, finally:
The first and biggest lie is that you can do counterinsurgency (CI) warfare without torture. .... No army ever fought a CI campaign without resorting to torture. Goes with the territory. At most, it's like holding by your offensive line: you don't want them doing it where the ref can see it, but if you had an OG or tight end who refused to do it, you'd fire his ass.
Because you can't win without it.
So why did everybody from Bush on down act surprised? Well, the key word is "act." And the answer is: they were lying. After all, lying's a big, legitimate part of warfare. It's the President's job to go on TV and act shocked when pictures like the ones from Abu Ghraib come out. Nobody with a grain of sense believes he's actually lying awake at night worrying that we might have violated the Geneva convention by dunking some Jihadi's head in a bucket to give him time to rethink his whole position re: drowning for Allah vs. telling us where his friends are hiding out...
As for all this stuff about how America was shocked -- well, as far as I could tell that's another lie. I listened to a lot of conversations at the office about those pictures, and most people said they were totally OK with us torturing Iraqis, but they were upset by the whole gay sex thing with those pictures of naked Iraqi guys piled up in mounds...
To understand why torture is so fundamental to CI warfare, you have to remember that in guerrilla wars there are no battles, there are just ambushes. And an ambush is totally different from a battle. Let's say your squad is patrolling through a village just like it's done for the past two weeks, right? Everything's hunky-dory: the little old lady who sells veggies waves and smiles when you go past, the kids ask for gum, and you start to feel like a liberator.
You're just turning a corner when there's a big boom and two of your buddies are on the ground screaming, two others are dead. You look around -- where's the old lady? Where are all the smiling kiddies? A blast that big should've killed a dozen locals, but somehow the only casualties are your buddies. Somehow the smiling locals magically disappeared two seconds before the Improvised Explosive Device went off. So either they all have some pretty effective ESP...or they knew it was going to go off. In fact, they were part of the set-up. The smiling kids, the friendly grandma -- all a set-up to relax you, make you walk into the kill zone.
That's how torture starts. You know they know. They're weaker than you. But they won't tell you anything. You start hating them more and more. Sooner or later the idea of grabbing some of them and making them talk is going to occur to you, or somebody higher up.
If you've got good NCOs, they'll try to keep you under control, because you're likely to pick the wrong people to start whacking around. That's the nastiest part of the whole CI picture: the villagers may not be involved by choice. They may not want to mess with you at all. Most people, even crazy tribes like Chechens, just want to get by. But they have to deal with the insurgents, who are putting as much pressure on them in the nighttime as you are during the day. Maybe the little old lady's grandson is being held with a knife at his throat to make sure she goes to her usual veggie stand and looks cheerful, just to make the set-up more convincing. You can't know...
That's how most improvised, low-level torture starts: working out on somebody you think tried to kill you. Every CI force in history has done that kind of torture, and so do we. Duh!
But....and, like Oprah, this is a pretty big but...that's not what we saw in those weird snapshots from Abu Ghraib. Those people didn't look like angry soldiers to me. In fact they didn't look like soldiers at all -- they looked like the janitor staff at CostCo having a little fun on break. If there's a practical lesson from Abu Ghraib, it's that we can't afford to leave interrogation to losers like this...
When the blubbering baby spills the names, you go collect the people he fingered and do the same to them. It's all standard stuff. Which raises another question: how come it's not working? Let's face it, it's not. In fact I have to say that the Iraqi insurgents are so much more effective than I ever thought they'd be I can hardly believe it. Do any of you out there realize how damn hard it is to set off a bomb on a residential street and kill only the enemy, not a dozen of your own civilians? That's what they've been doing, every damn day.
There's only one way to pull off a string of successes like that, and O'Reilly nailed it in one of his shows a couple weeks ago: you have to have the backing of 100% of the local civilian population.
Well, some of the bombers want to kill Iraqis, but most don't. Also, maybe not the voluntary backing of 100%. Some of the civilians may indeed have a knife held to their grandson's throat, but it all works out the same. They know we're eventually going to get sick of torturing strangers and go home, leaving them to the mercies of the knife-men, who don't have anywhere else to go. So the civilians figure they'd better start cooperating with the insurgents now.
Spider-Man II -- It's getting ecstatic reviews for its psychological subtleties, but that just shows how beaten down we've become. It's two hours of being hit over the head with the obvious. Of course, all the critics then spend 800 words to explain the already overwhelmingly explicated -- "It's not easy being Spiderman," "Teenage boys can relate to Peter Parker," ad infinitum. Are the critics just being boring and obtuse or is there really not much worth saying about the movie?
I realize I'm being cranky. The new Spiderman could be much, much worse. Hey, the director even solved the worst problem in the first movie -- in this one, when the hero and the villain fight, they don't always wear masks! What a breakthrough.
By the way, can we finally stop spelling it "Spider-Man" and just call it "Spiderman"?
On the other hand, it deserves to be a hit because nobody has any reason to not be at least neutral toward it. I know that sounds like faint praise, but it's actually quite an accomplishment, something only Shrek II has accomplished this summer. Say that you and three other people want to see a movie, but, foremost, you all want to have a nice time together. Thus, you start looking for a "greatest common denominator" film, also known as a maximum minimum film in which the person in your group who enjoys it least will still have a pleasant time. From that point of view, Spider-Man 2 is terrific. Some people may find it a little dull, but nobody will come out hating it and possibly then ruining the evening for everybody else.
Sorry about iSteve.com being down for 18 hours -- My hosting company, after years of good service, has been on the fritz this week.
(By the way, is the phrase "on the fritz" ethnically insensitive to Teutonic-Americans?)
More on Basketball and Race: An Army officer writes:
In your article on Larry Bird, you ask why white players from from Serbia, Croatia and Lithuania are doing better than white Americans. You blame it, partly, on the adjustable driveway basketball hoop.
Having been to Bosnia for seven months, I can tell you that white people there (Slavs) are just a little bit taller than white people here. The difference is not as great as it is between say, whites and Asians, but it is real and it will have an impact on who gets to the NBA. At 6 ft I'm of average height in the US. In Bosnia, I was a little below average.
They play some basketball there, but soccer is the most popular sport by far. You never see hoops in driveways of any type.
As with blacks, I really do think it is in the genes.
In the other hotbed of European basketball talent, Lithuania, the people are also quite tall, according to physical anthropologist Carleton Coon. I guess it's the Balkan-Baltic B-Bal connection.
By the way, the tallness of the populations in these backwards corners of Europe relative to say France or Northern Italy gives the lie to the economic historians who assume that everybody would be the same height if only material conditions were identical.
Also, I was rereading last night the collected works of the great British biologist William D. Hamilton, whom Richard Dawkins describes as "a good candidate for the title of most distinguished Darwinian since Darwin." I found this sentence by Hamilton:
Few I think would deny a contribution of minority genes to America's basketball excellence, for example."
Hamilton evidently wasn't thinking about contemporary sportswriters, who would deny the sun comes up in the east if that fact was deemed politically incorrect.
Fred Reed's back from Bolivia and in the new issue of The American Conservative, he writes:
Curiously, in South America, our backyard, my traveling-companions-by-chance were virtually never American. There were Brits, Aussies, Kiwis, yes. And German, French, and Dutch folk, but no gringos... Why, they want to know, do Americans know nothing about the world? I never quite know what to say. Well, er, it's a big country, we don't have to speak other languages, ah, the schools are terrible (why, they ask?), we just aren't very curious or adventurous (why not, they ask?). The observable fact is that Americans display a blank, uninquiring ignorance of other cultures. Our current president is a prime example. What effect does this have on our foreign policy? On our relations with the rest of the earth? A lot, I think. ... [We are] surprised, over and over, to find that people about whom we know nothing do not behave as we expect.
The Canadian Election Explained to Americans by Kevin Michael Grace on VDARE.
The francophone (French-speaking) separatist Bloc—they prefer “sovereigntist”— took 54 of the 75 seats in Quebec, the only province they contest. This is a very strong showing. The Liberals took the other 21 Quebec seats, basically the Anglophone (“English-speaking”) or immigrant districts. The Bloc triumph is proof, if proof is needed, that the regular burials of Quebec separatism that are a feature of Canadian commentary are always premature. Another Quebec separatism crisis is inevitable this decade. In Quebec at least, the nation-state is not dead.
Vive le Quebec Libre! Quebec is a nation. Why shouldn't it be a nation-state? Almost everything that has gone wrong with Canada in recent decades is the result of the federal government A. bribing Quebec to stay in the country, and B. trying to undermine Quebec separatism by infiltrating non-French speaking immigrants into Montreal to vote against independence. Unfortunately, to do that requires importing vast numbers of immigrants who wind up in the rest of Canada.
"George Bush Devouring His Young" -- Andrew Sullivan is outraged:
"NEW LOW: It seems to me that the far left could help win this election for Bush. Here's the latest obscenity. It was an ad on the back-page of the Nation this week. Do they have no shame?"
Leaving aside the entire question of what Andrew, of all people, finds obscene, I could imagine this Photoshopped painting of a titanic, naked Mr. Bush biting the head off of a child would indeed be shocking ... if you were as ignorant of the great art works of Western Civilization as Andrew apparently is. Of course, the ad is actually a parody of Goya's famous "Saturn Devouring His Young," which makes the whole thing pretty amusing because its loathing of Bush is so over the top it's downright self-parodying.
The Problem with Assimilationism -- Larry Auster of VFR liked my review of the volume Tamar Jacoby edited entitled "Reinventing the Melting Pot: The New Immigrants and What it Means to Be American" so much that he offered this summary and gloss in his own succinct prose:
Even as we affirm that immigrants of all backgrounds can assimilate, we've dropped all efforts to assimilate them. Which means that we think the assimilation is automatic. But because we actually know that lots of people are really very different from us, AND since we would never employ common standards to help different people to assimilate to each other and so get along better, we actually very carefully chose our own associates only from those who already are very similar to us. So, for example, today's parents look for "good schools," meaning schools with students whose IQs are similar to their own children. This shows that the parents do not believe that very different people can get along productively, i.e., they don't believe in assimilation. And, further, having given up any attempt to assimilate different people through enforceable common standards such as America once had, any differences between children become even more troublesome, making it even more necessary to find schools with children who are just like one's own.
Thus the belief in effortless assimilation results in people segregating themselves more than ever. Just as the belief that all people are equal in innate abilities leads to the conclusion that anyone whose abilities are lower than those of some other group is an innately defective human being--rather than just a person who has lower abilities. The belief in sameness, without any larger reality that actually brings people together, results in segregation (though it's never called that.) The belief in equality of abilities without any common sense understanding of differences and without any belief in a transcendent results in thinking of a large part of the human race as defective. And of course, to avoid the latter conclusion, the need to believe that white racism is the real cause becomes more urgent than ever.
Then you go on to point out how Jacoby herself (the Ineffable Tamar) does the same thing. She claims to believe in effortless assimilation, but actually seeks colleagues who are very similar to herself.
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