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February 8-14, 2005 Blog Archive
The Derb asks in an email:
a thing I have been wondering about, in the context of a possible Iraqi
civil war: Are Shias any good as fighters?
The Spectator notes:
Strictly speaking, the last war of aggression launched by an Iranian monarch was in 1739, and since that time, the Iranian state has largely been on the defensive.
"Iraq's majority Shiite Muslims won nearly half the votes in the nation's landmark Jan. 30 election, giving the long-oppressed group significant power but not enough to form a government on its own, according to results released Sunday."
When you spend two weeks supposedly counting the votes, well, you ought to come up with something this convenient. So, did Sistani agree to being assigned 48% of the vote, or not? A big question.
My Film Reviews: First Half of 2003: It was a lousy six months for movies, with the exception of Brazil's City of God, but I suspect there's a negative correlation between the quality of the movie and of my review. Certainly, bad movies give me more room to be funny:
Will the Iraqi election results ever be counted? It has now been over 12 days since the election, yet we've only heard fragmentary results from the national balloting, suggesting that a lot of behind-the-scenes maneuvering is going on. I presume that the U.S. is trying to get the Grand Ayatollah to concede to a "Mandela." In the first open election in South African, back in 1994, Nelson Mandela took the early returns showing his ANC winning a massive landslide to his opponents and said he'd rewrite the results to give his party a smaller majority than they had actually won and allowing the opposition white and Zulu parties to "win" provincial power bases, in return for their cooperation in writing the new constitution. If they didn't, the ANC would just write the constitution themselves. The opposition leapt at this generous offer.
The U.S. is probably hoping for equal statesmanship from Sistani in agreeing to an artificial divvying up of seats, including representation for moderate Sunnis. The voting results would then be fabricated to support the deal. But, I have no idea whether Sistani would go for it, nor what his life expectancy would be if he did.
The Old Suburbanists Strike Back: Readers respond to the New Urbanist defense of Portland (below):
Regarding the preference for a private yard. First I'd refer that reader to an article at Reason on-line entitled Crime-Friendly Neighborhoods by Stephen Town and Randal O'Toole, which will introduces such concepts as "defensible space" to address how private yards help to reduce crime while, for instance, alleys tend to increase crime. I'll let them draw their own conclusions, but I'll suggest that the reason higher densities seem to work reasonably well in Portland is more than likely linked to their point about minorities being pushed to the suburbs. Portland's "gentrification" of older neighborhoods has most likely all but eliminated lower-income areas from around those neighborhoods, which has the (politically incorrect) effect of reducing crime. In short, if you don't perceive that you need a defensible space buffer around your home, you won't feel as compelled to relocate your family from a higher population density locale.
Thanks for writing the Feb. 6 column. That's what we did, we lived in 'Norfeast DC' with our two daughters and when they were 3 and 6 there were 3 murders within two blocks of our house so we skedaddled 30 miles out to the suburban Howard County where everyone is perfect and boring and peeceewhipped, but thankfully ...not a criminal. I have got to say you have a lot of courage saying the things you do in print. You have got to get a lot of grief for it. Thanks for saying the stuff about black crime, I have always been amazed that that little undeniable fact is mentioned as seldom as it is (7x or 9x murder rate of whites).
Regarding your item about why families desire large yards when most children won't use them, well, it seems as if the trend these days is away from large yards - consider the McMansion, shoehorned into the smallest possible lot. In places where new houses are being built with sizeable yards, it may be a result of zoning codes that mandate large lots as a way of keeping property values high. Finally, some people may prefer large yards as a way of showing off their landscaping/gardening skills.
I woulda killed for a big back yard when I was a kid of 12. For one thing, you can put the dog back there. And keg parties.
when I was a kid in the suburbs, I really envied the kids from reruns of
"Family Affair" -- you know, with Mr French -- their New York
highrise and neighborhood really exciting to me growing up in suburban
Orange County. Seriously, I think it is a shame that many of the
youngest kids of professionals are missing out on the museums, orchestra
concerts, concentrations of playmates that can be found outside
The bottom line seems to be that various schools of urban planning succeed or fail mostly because of the two things they don't like to talk about: their impact on the cost of housing, which in turn impacts the quality of residents (e.g., law-abiding or not law-abiding), and the quality of residents is pretty much the whole ballgame. For example, for a few years I lived in a Le Corbusier-style high rise in Chicago that was almost identical physically to the much denounced Le Corbusier-style high rises in Chicago's hellish public housing projects like nearby Cabrini Green. Yet, my highrise was pleasant and harmonious and nobody murdered anybody in it while I was there. Of course, the reason my highrise was 100% less lethal than Cabrini Green's was that mine charged fairly high rents and thus was full of yuppies like myself, while Cabrini Green was free, if you were poor, and thus was full of poor people.
That's one reason I talk about immigration policy so much. That's the single easiest way for government policy to have an impact on the quality of the residents of our country. When we're looking to buy or rent a place to live, we obsess over the quality of the residents of different neighborhoods (that's what "Location! Location! Location!" is all about.) Yet, the Establishment doesn't want to think about trying to influence the quality of residents of our country by picking and choosing the best immigrants.
Attention, evolutionary psychologists: Evopsych researchers assume that back in caveman days we evolved various mental modules. I think I've found one that's getting ever more useful as more people talk on the cell phone while they drive.
I try to walk about three miles a day. The big danger in crossing streets on foot is that somebody making a turn just won't see you until he's hit you. This seems to be especially true for people trying to make fast right turns. When they are on the phone they are particularly unlikely to see you stepping off the curb. So, what I do when I see someone coming and I can tell he doesn't have his eyes on me is to raise my arm and point my index finger directly at the driver's eyes. His peripheral vision picks up my motion and some part of his brainssends to his consciousness a Code Red alert: "Awwwwooooggaa! Potentially hostile individual pointing weapon at me!" It gets his attention every time (although I wouldn't recommend using it in parts of town where drivers tend to be well armed and have itchy trigger-fingers). You should recommend it to children and the elderly as a way to making crossing streets safer.
The New Urbanists strike back: Readers reply:
have to write a quick defense of my home town of Portland. I read that
page you linked to with all the transit and planning lingo. Yes it's
true Portland is quite insistent about planning and
"livability" and defends its "urban growth boundary"
to the hilt -- the law that says certain densities shall not exist
outside of an arbitrary line, so as to keep growth and density confined
to a smaller area.
Why are big yards so important for families, when few children over the age of six would be caught dead in their own? Wouldn't it be better for them to shrink the yards and bring their friends, and everything else, closer, as the Victorians did? Why is a rarely-used private yard better than a giant shared backyard, like Fairmount Park in Philadelphia? And if space is so important, how come my maternal ancestors were more than twice as fecund in Brooklyn, Queens and even Manhattan than their descendants are in spacious Texas and Florida?
How Democratic Politicians Encourage Loneliness: Because marriage and children tend to incline people toward voting Republican, Democrats try various ploys to keep people unmarried and childless (i.e., more prone to loneliness as they age). For example, a reader writes:
Federal policy (to a large extent based on claims of fighting air
pollution) strenuously encourages *increased* housing density [which
raises the cost of the single family homes with yards that most
Americans consider a prerequisite for having a family]. To the extent
that increased density predicts increased Blue-ness (Democrat political
success) Republicans might to wish to revamp this policy.
By the way, here's an amusing glossary of planner-speak from Portland, where the basic purpose of its famous urban planning appears to be to keep Republicans from reproducing.
From SaveOurLicense.com: Debra Saunders writes:
AD THAT ran in Daily Variety last week -- signed by the usual members of
the "entertainment community," including Ed Asner, Danny
Glover and Mike Farrell -- asked Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign
Senate Bill 60, a bill to allow illegal immigrants to obtain California
For some reason, I'm reminded of what Tonto said in response to the Lone Ranger's comment on being surrounded by bloodthirsty Indians of "Looks like we've reached the end of the line, old friend."
"Who's this 'we' you're talking about, paleface?"
vs. IQ: Without having read the zillion selling book, I've always
found this Emotional Quotient stuff to be both highly plausible and a
The Sailer One-Point Plan for Racial Goodwill: Readers respond:
a kind of White liberal archetype. Like the ultra liberal
Vermont/Oregon/Madison, Wisconsin National Public Radio types who are
over the top "liberals" on racial issues yet live in the most
white bread areas on planet earth.
Your one-step plan to end racism only works for middle-class kids. What about all the working-class white kids who already attend public schools with lots of blacks. Presumably they get into fights lots of times. Do they turn out to be any more racist than their middle-class counterparts in private and parochial schools? Or even better, than their working-class counterparts in rural white areas? Surely there are studies on this?
Intelligent Design: Two of my articles from 1999 are highly relevant to the current controversy:
More on "Fight Club:" The 1999 Brad Pitt - Edward Norton fable about underground bare-knuckle brawling clubs evolving into a private army of anarchist terrorists is one of the more intellectually stimulating movies of recent years. Readers write:
The great James Bowman demolished Fight Club some years ago: for some of the same reasons you now criticize it. He hinted at the most devastating critique, which is that the filmmakers' view of masculinity is totally impoverished, insofar as they seem to believe that the quintessential male feature is animal violence when in fact, as most of our great cultural artifacts attest, the quintessential male feature is the desire to create, the desire for a man to, as Chesterton once put it, impose "his will upon the world in the manner of the charter given him by the will of God."
Bowman makes the usual conservative mistake of throwing out the baby with the bath water: "I think the film is vile, therefore I'm not going to waste any more grey matter wondering why so many young men worship the film."
think the genius of "Fight Club" is precisely in how it
resolves its "revolution": by pointing out how ridiculous it
is... I think it actually gives some insight to "movements"
like Al Qaeda - Osama Bin Laden's fantasies of a global caliphate, in an
Islamic context, have the same attraction to disaffected males that
Tyler's [Pitt's] nihilism does in the movie.
club is the ugliest spirited movie I have ever seen. I didn't buy into
the macho teenage crap from the opening scene. It is an evil movie with
In regards to your review of Fight Club: While I agree with your conclusion, I'm wondering if one can overlay another theory on top of yours: the growth of the service sector economy. It seems to me that men have an underlying distaste for being service-oriented employees, shall I say, "system administrators." Men seem to prefer "task-oriented" jobs that don't entail endless hours of brown-nosing and hand-holding. Women, of course, seem to love being administrators, which seems to explain why Ed schools are packed to the gills with them.
saw it a few days after 9-11. For a New Yorker, the ending was a bit
tough to take so soon after the WTC was destroyed. Knocking down office
towers didn't feel "cathartic" in late September 2001.
the guy with the breasts [Meat Loaf plays a bodybuilder who gets
testicular cancer from steroids]? It's not like the fact that the movie
is a fantasy of masculine revolt against a feminine civilization is
exactly hidden under the surface of a movie about hating consumerism.
Fight Club is not Supersize Me.
Masculine leadership charisma and the young male urge to form hierarchies of purpose, whether for destruction or creation, is one of the most important subjects in world history, but we lack a vocabulary to talk about it these days. So, when a movie comes along that takes on the subject directly, it can be electrifying.
I'm reminded a little of the movie that I tend to think was the greatest film of the 1980s, even though it was one of Steven Spielberg's rare box office bombs: "The Empire of the Sun." It's about the horrors of the Second World War as told from the perspective of a young English boy interned by the Japanese outside Shanghai, to whom the war isn't horrible at all: it's a blast.
Lt. General James Mathis recently got into hot water for saying:
"Actually, it's a lot of fun to fight. You know, it's a hell of a hoot...It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right upfront with you, I like brawling." The general went on to say: "You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway...So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them anyway."
Thank God we have men like this on our side. Too bad the other sides have lots of guys like this as well.
How the Parties Could Manipulate the Dirt Gap: A reader responds:
* Are you sure the Dirt Gap isn't an awkward proxy for population density? I realize the difficulty of teasing the "true" density based on inhabitable land from a reported density which may be calculated with, say, the area of lakes within MSA boundaries in the denominator. Could R's help themselves politically by encouraging the dispersal of urban populations? (For one thing, this line of thought suggests once again that R's should limit immigration, since most immigrants end up in high-density areas. It also suggests that R's should build roads.)
Density is part of it, but
it's hard to measure in a meaningful way, as a link this reader sent
later points out. For example, this same reader then sent me a link
to government density statistics that show, well, that the
government has a lot of work to do on density. For example, Los Angeles
came out as the most densely populated standard metropolitan statistical
in the country, while Chicago was 20th. Even weirder, Oxnard, CA, an
exurb of LA out in Ventura County came in #10, well ahead of Chicago,
even though Oxnard still has some farms left. LA (and Oxnard) have
almost no urbanized areas comparable to either Chicago's towering
high-rise apartment lakefront or its vast stretches of three story six
flats. Almost all of LA looks like a suburb, but a dense suburb with a
lot of five houses to an acre tracts, whereas Chicago has lots of
suburbs zoned to one house per acre.
think that Democrat politicians like to make their areas more Blue. They
make their electoral districts more blue by gerrymandering. I suggest
that they make their geographic areas more blue by zoning.
Club" -- I finally got around to seeing the 1999 Brad Pitt -
Edward Norton fable about underground street fighting clubs that evolve
into a anti-consumerist anarchist/militarist movement under Pitt's
charismatic leadership. It reminded me of a conversation with one of my
sons when he was three and he was going on and on about Batman and
Superman. My wife interjected, "But, do Batman and Superman fight,
or are they friends?" My toddler gave her his "Silly woman,
don't you understand anything about us men?" look and replied,
"They are friends and they fight."
My Fairly Recent Movie Reviews: From late last year's American Conservative, with 1 to 10 rankings:
Getting our $200 Billion Worth in Entertainment Value: On Sistani.org, the invaluable website of the Grand Ayatollah whom we've expended $200 billion to put in charge of Iraq, a reader found the following Q&A:
Is purchasing Nokia mobile allowed or not?
I'm not exactly clear what a "prvfic" is [profit?], but I don't think the neocons are going to get Iraq to get in bed with Israel anytime soon, as they had long hoped that Ahmed Chalabi would do (as Douglas Feith's law partner, West Bank settler Marc Zell revealed).
As the votes are tallied and the results continue to roll in, the religious Shiite political party linked to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani appears to be headed for a big win. The ticket associated with U.S.-backed Prime Minister Ayad Allawi is trailing badly. Key Shiite leaders are now speaking openly of imposing some version of Islamic law on the country.
Conservatives would serve them better with a more thoughtful response than merely re-fighting the last one.
The Gap Map: I've used Mapinator to illustrate on one convenient page my first three articles explaining the red state -blue state vote gap: the Marriage Gap, Baby Gap, and Mortgage Gap. (The Dirt Gap is coming up later.)
I scaled all four maps using the same scaling rule, from the next to lowest to the next to highest states.
Maps of Imprisonment Statistics by Race: Ethan Herdrick, who is in the data map creation business, has graphed the NCIA's 1997 statistics on rates of imprisonment by state per 100,000 individual whites, Hispanics, or blacks. Some interesting, little known patterns emerge. Each ethnic group is on its own scale of yellow (good) to purple (bad).
The NCIA data is the best effort I've seen to solve the notorious problem with government crime rate data of lumping Hispanics in with whites in order to make the black to white ratio look a little less awful. Still, some of the states don't break out Hispanics at all, so they appear in black, and others don't do a trustworthy job. Still, this is better than anything else you've seen.
UPDATE: Using Ethan Herdrick's EZ-2-Use "Mapinator" program, I created these two maps showing the black to non-Hispanic white imprisonment ratio and the Hispanic to non-Hispanic white imprisonment ratio.
And here's another Mapinator graph showing the three ethnic groups' imprisonment ratios using the same yellow to purple color scale for each.
For Hispanics, you'll notice what appears to be a mulatto vs. mestizo vs. white imprisonment gap, with Puerto Ricans and Dominicans apparently being more likely to be in prison than Mexicans and Central Americans, with the Cubans the least likely. Or that could be related to urbanization.
"Sailer's One-Point Plan for Lessening Prejudice Against Minorities" is my new VDARE column.
By the way, I've put my important 2001 article "Imprisonment Rates Vary Wildly by Race" and the incarceration statistics by race by state that it's based on up on iSteve.com. This data originally collected by the liberal National Center on Institutions and Alternatives does the best job I know of fixing the common problem with crime statistics of lumping many Hispanics in with whites (unlike almost all other government statistics, where Latinos are carefully broken out).
One interesting fact is that Democratic-voting Blue States tend to imprison a higher ratio of blacks to whites than Republican-voting Red States. In ultra-liberal black-ruled Washington D.C., for example, blacks are 56 times more likely than whites to be in the slammer. In South Carolina and Mississippi, the ratio is only 6 to 1. This strongly suggests that racial discrimination by whites can't account for the overall 9 to 1 national black-white ratio in likelihood of being in jail.
The Horrors of Censoring the Arts: Last year at the Super Bowl Halftime Show, we were dazzled by the brilliance of those two Artistic Geniuses for the Ages, Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake. This year, due to the backlash of stultifying red state prudery that Frank Rich has denounced in the NYT about 27 times, we were forced to endure somebody named Paul McCartney singing some song called "Hey Jude" that might not even have a disco remix.
Also, 2005's Super Bowl commercials were better aesthetically than last year's stinkers, almost certainly due to the increased censorship.
As a football game, the Super Bowl was less boring than most. Philadelphia had a small advantage in first downs and total yards, but looked like they got outcoached. Bill Belchik and Tom Brady (IQ of 126 on the NFL's mandatory Wonderlic IQ test) show the uses of matching a smart coach and smart quarterback together.
Here's Colby Cosh on the whole white quarterback - black quarterback thing.
"The Typhoid Mary of Baseball" -- The NYT writes:
"According to a report yesterday in The Daily News, Canseco contends in his book, "Juiced," that he injected [70 homer slugger Mark] McGwire with steroids in the bathroom stalls of the A's clubhouse. The two were teammates in Oakland from 1986 until Canseco was traded to Texas in 1992...Canseco had promised to name names in his book, and he did not stop with McGwire. The Daily News reported that Canseco claims to have taught [Ivan] Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro and Juan Gonzalez, who were teammates from his years in Texas, to use steroids."
in 1993, a baseball player agent whose brother was a major-leaguer told
me that "Jose Canseco is the Typhoid Mary of baseball,"
because when he'd show up on a team, soon his new teammates started to
inflate like him.
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