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February 15-21, 2005 Blog Archive


I'm trying to see if Google will spider and catalog these very old (2001-2002) blog items:




"A New Course by Royal Navy: A Campaign to Recruit Gays," reports Sara Lyall in the NYT:

LONDON, Feb. 21 - Five years after Britain lifted its ban on gays in the military, the Royal Navy has begun actively encouraging them to enlist and has pledged to make life easier when they do.

The navy announced Monday that it had asked Stonewall, a group that lobbies for gay rights, to help it develop better strategies for recruiting and retaining gay men and lesbians. It said, too, that one strategy may be to advertise for recruits in gay magazines and newspapers...

The new effort continues a pattern of changing official attitudes in the navy - once derided as running on rum, sodomy and the lash, in a phrase usually attributed to Winston Churchill. 


Uh, Sarah, I'm not sure how best to break this to you, but "rum, sodomy, and the lash" appears to be the Royal Navy's new official attitude toward what future British tars are expected to be engaged in below decks.





A rare essay worth reading on the WSJ's OpinionJournal.com site: Tom Wolfe's obituary for Hunter S. Thompson:


He proved to be one of those tall, rawboned, rangy young men with alarmingly bright eyes, who more than any other sort of human, in my experience, are prone to manic explosions. 


For a younger generation, Michael Richard's Kramer on "Seinfeld" is the model of the tall, rawboned, rangy man with alarmingly bright eyes.


We were walking along West 46th Street toward a restaurant, The Brazilian Coffee House, when we passed Goldberg Marine Supply. Hunter stopped, ducked into the store and emerged holding a tiny brown paper bag. A sixth sense, probably activated by the alarming eyes and the six-inch rise and fall of his Adam's apple, told me not to ask what was inside. In the restaurant he kept it on top of the table as we ate. Finally, the fool in me became so curious, he had to go and ask, "What's in the bag, Hunter?"

"I've got something in there that would clear out this restaurant in 20 seconds," said Hunter. He began opening the bag. His eyes had rheostated up to 300 watts. "No, never mind," I said. "I believe you! Show me later!" From the bag he produced what looked like a small travel-size can of shaving foam, uncapped the top and pressed down on it. There ensued the most violently brain-piercing sound I had ever heard. It didn't clear out The Brazilian Coffee House. It froze it. The place became so quiet, you could hear an old-fashioned timer clock ticking in the kitchen. Chunks of churasco gaucho remained impaled on forks in mid-air. A bartender mixing a sidecar became a statue holding a shaker with both hands just below his chin. Hunter was slipping the little can back into the paper bag. It was a marine distress signaling device, audible for 20 miles over water.

...Yet he was also part of a century-old tradition in American letters, the tradition of Mark Twain, Artemus Ward and Petroleum V. Nasby, comic writers who mined the human comedy of a new chapter in the history of the West, namely, the American story, and wrote in a form that was part journalism and part personal memoir admixed with powers of wild invention, and wilder rhetoric inspired by the bizarre exuberance of a young civilization. No one categorization covers this new form unless it is Hunter Thompson's own word, gonzo. If so, in the 19th century Mark Twain was king of all the gonzo-writers. In the 20th century it was Hunter Thompson, whom I would nominate as the century's greatest comic writer in the English language.


Wolfe's being a little too kind to the dead: Thompson's reputation rests on one short masterpiece, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, one solid, innovative, but not all that funny book on the Hell's Angels, one major article on the Kentucky Derby, bits and pieces of Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, and other miscellaneous matter. In terms of prime pages, that's not much more than John Kennedy Toole's Confederacy of Dunces by itself, or, for that matter, the funniest 400 pages excerpted from Wolfe's body of work. Compared to the lifetime output of Wodehouse and Waugh, well, us colonials aren't in the big leagues. 


Still, Thompson did write Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and nobody else ever before wrote anything like it in the history of the English language, and maybe nobody will ever again.



By the way, are you as sick as I am of gun nuts like Thompson and Kurt Cobain (whose three biggest hits off Nevermind all mention guns) shooting themselves and leaving a horrifying mess for their loved ones or servants to find and clean up? I know you think it's your Second Amendment right and all that, but, please, show a little consideration.





Patti Hausman on how men and women think differently, complete with convenient blue and pink bar charts. (Don't you hate how most other contemporary social science graphs go out of their way to make themselves difficult to read, with the blacks being denoted by white bars, the whites by gray bars, and the Latinos by black bars, as in the Thernstroms' last book? The graphmakers wouldn't want to reinforce the stereotype that blacks are, uh, blacker than whites!)


In her address to the National Academy of Engineers, Patti admitted:


Most of the physical sciences bore me silly. Efforts to attribute my apathy to "masculinist bias" in the curriculum amuse me no end... Reinventing the curriculum will not interest me in learning how my dishwasher works. It is a thing and things bore me. People are another story. I find them fascinating.


Personally, Patti and I are on the same wavelength: I have a feminine mind in that I am far more interested in people than machines, but I have an extremely masculine categorizing / system-building mind in how I think about people.

One curriculum reform I've advocated for a long time is educating young people that calculus isn't the only kind of math that is useful in the real world. I was lousy at calculus, so I stopped taking math my freshman year in college. Finally, my senior year I took a statistics course and found -- "Voila, this is interesting. I can use this to understand people rather than my dishwasher."

Now, most people who write about society are far more interested in people than dishwashers, yet the Larry Summers brouhaha has exposed, once again, the remarkable statistical innumeracy of our chattering class. So, let's work harder to educated people in statistics.



Summers, himself, is obviously a stat-head who thinks, like me, in terms of bell curves, as these excerpts from his much-denounced speech indicate (Summers' methodology makes me wonder if he ever locks his office door and reads La Griffe de Lion):


The second thing that I think one has to recognize is present is what I would call the combination of, and here, I'm focusing on something that would seek to answer the question of why is the pattern different in science and engineering, and why is the representation even lower and more problematic in science and engineering than it is in other fields. And here, you can get a fair distance, it seems to me, looking at a relatively simple hypothesis. It does appear that on many, many different human attributes-height, weight, propensity for criminality, overall IQ, mathematical ability, scientific ability-there is relatively clear evidence that whatever the difference in means-which can be debated-there is a difference in the standard deviation, and variability of a male and a female population. And that is true with respect to attributes that are and are not plausibly, culturally determined. 

If one supposes, as I think is reasonable, that if one is talking about physicists at a top twenty-five research university, one is not talking about people who are two standard deviations above the mean. And perhaps it's not even talking about somebody who is three standard deviations above the mean. But it's talking about people who are three and a half, four standard deviations above the mean in the one in 5,000, one in 10,000 class. 

Even small differences in the standard deviation will translate into very large differences in the available pool substantially out. I did a very crude calculation, which I'm sure was wrong and certainly was unsubtle, twenty different ways. I looked at the Xie and Shauman paper-looked at the book, rather-looked at the evidence on the sex ratios in the top 5% of twelfth graders. If you look at those-they're all over the map, depends on which test, whether it's math, or science, and so forth-but 50% women, one woman for every two men, would be a high-end estimate from their estimates. From that, you can back out a difference in the implied standard deviations that works out to be about 20%. And from that, you can work out the difference out several standard deviations. If you do that calculation-and I have no reason to think that it couldn't be refined in a hundred ways-you get five to one, at the high end.


Now, you know and I know exactly what he's talking about and why it makes perfect sense because we think about people in terms of bell curves and standard deviations all the time. but for most Harvard professors and other people who lack useful mental tools for understanding the human world, their mental processes didn't extend beyond a single word:




So, partly the problem Summers is up against is educational, but in large part it's moral: Typical academics tend to believe, deep down, that God made the universe just to boost the self-esteem of people like themselves, and that anything that disturbs their egos therefore can't possibly be true.



Summers also brings up the massive difference between male and female average tastes:


There may also be elements, by the way, of differing, there is some, particularly in some attributes, that bear on engineering, there is reasonably strong evidence of taste differences between little girls and little boys that are not easy to attribute to socialization. I just returned from Israel, where we had the opportunity to visit a kibbutz, and to spend some time talking about the history of the kibbutz movement, and it is really very striking to hear how the movement started with an absolute commitment, of a kind one doesn't encounter in other places, that everybody was going to do the same jobs. Sometimes the women were going to fix the tractors, and the men were going to work in the nurseries, sometimes the men were going to fix the tractors and the women were going to work in the nurseries, and just under the pressure of what everyone wanted, in a hundred different kibbutzes, each one of which evolved, it all moved in the same direction. 

So, I think, while I would prefer to believe otherwise, I guess my experience with my two and a half year old twin daughters who were not given dolls and who were given trucks, and found themselves saying to each other, look, daddy truck is carrying the baby truck, tells me something.


Summers gets lambasted for relying on anecdotal evidence about his daughters, but you can see that it follows the massive, multigenerational experiment of the kibbutzim, where feminist true believers set up entire cultures to inculcate gender quality, and each one failed.


Something he doesn't address, but is particularly interesting is that a higher proportion of math and mechanics-oriented women are likely to be androgynous and/or lesbian. (Exemplified by the new UC Santa Cruz supremo Denece D. Denton claiming to "speak truth to power" to Summers while arranging for her lesbian lover to get a new $192k per year job at taxpayer expense). 


Also, Arnold Kling has some sensible things to say about the Larry Summers brouhaha on TechCentralStation.



Here's a new website called Harvard Students for Larry.





Chronicles of Racial Confusion and Complexity: Here are some of my 2002 UPI articles on race: 


The Diva of Diversity: Halle Berry's Oscar Speech

Who Exactly Is Asian-American?

The Name Game: Inuit or Eskimo?

Denzel Washington as an Afrocentrist Hannibal of Carthage?

The Success of the Parsis Threatens Their Survival

How Racially Tolerant Are the British?

The New Understanding of Race:

Part 1: Race Is Not So Black or White

Part 2: How White Is the Average Black? How Black Is the Average White?

Part 3: What Happened to Mexico's Blacks?





IQ scores of quarterbacks: Here's a listing of top college quarterbacks' scores on the NFL's mandatory Wonderlic test going all the way back to Steve Young's 126. (A rough conversion system is a Wonderlic score of 20 = 100, and each answer more or less adds or subtracts 2 IQ points). If you ever wondered why Brian Griese is such an overachiever in the NFL, take a look at his 138 IQ combined with having an Hall of Fame QB as his dad. That guy understands playing quarterback.





Hunter S. Thompson, RIP -- I reread Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas for about the 7th time a few months ago. I didn't see any reason to reassess my old judgment that it ranks with A Confederacy of Dunces as the most laugh-out-loud-funny American book of the second half of the 20th Century. As a work of prose style, it is an indisputable masterpiece.

I realized, though, that I had never noticed before that nothing much ever physically happens during the course of the book. Almost everything of interest is just going on inside Thompson's violent, paranoid mind. As a child, I was in Las Vegas perhaps the same week Thompson was, and we may even have been at Circus Circus the same night -- I remember the Korean Kittens trapeze act that he riffs on -- and I suspect that to bystanders his outward behavior wasn't all that much more outrageous than mine was.

UPDATE: Thompson and Tom Wolfe were always lumped together, but Thompson's journalism was almost always about what was going on inside his own head, while Wolfe, despite his trademark white suit, remained far in the background, seldom mentioned in his own work, except in coy lines like "Carol Doda turned toward a man in a Borsalino hat." As a sober, industrious, deeply sane man, Wolfe's career achievement towers over Thompson's, but Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas might be the best book either of them wrote.

Toward the end of Wolfe's Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Wolfe pointed out that the hippie movement of the 1960s had two sides to it: the vegetarian pacifist Maharishi meditation side and the All-American crank-it-up-to-400-horsepower and let's-take-this-show-on-road side of Ken Kesey, whose novels were heavily influenced by superhero comic books. Thompson, of course, with his love of Harley-Davidsons, Smith & Wessons, and the NFL (that's what Thompson and Nixon talked about during their one interview), came out of the tradition of All-American excess





Welcome, 1,000,000th visitor to iSteve.com! I don't know who you are, but Monday will see the 1,000,000th "unique visit" to  iSteve.com since I started using Sitemeter, but I can't remember how long ago that was. (So, maybe we should just forget I ever mentioned it.)


At the current pace, I should be able to get a million visits in 2005 alone, but I'd really like to go for, say two million. So, if you can spread the word, I'd appreciate it.





Which aggressive atheist will convert first: Hitchens or Dawkins? Various people, including Orrin Judd, have suggested that the most likely resolution to Christopher Hitchens' intense hatred of Roman Catholicism will be his conversion to that religion, although I suspect Hitchens is more likely to convert to the Judaism of his maternal ancestors. He already has taken to visiting synagogues on his travels.


Now, an article in the Times of London by Bryan Appleyard suggests that atheist cheerleader Richard Dawkins will someday convert to Anglicanism:


First, [Dawkins] is one of the strangest men I’ve ever known. We go back a long way. Our relationship started well, descended into hate-hate, recovered somewhat to love-hate and, latterly, has drifted into respectful acceptance.

He is a highly strung, frequently petulant man. I’ve seen him storm out of an amiable dinner because he didn’t like the music and I’ve heard of him muttering to his companion, when a lady cleric entered the room, that dog collars are always a sign of low IQ. But when relaxed, he is charming, deferring politely to opinions with which he disagrees and displaying a conscientious desire to understand.

On these occasions, he has the air of an eager-to-please country vicar, an air enhanced by the discreet serving of tea by his wife Lalla Ward and further emphasised by the large, rectory-like house they now occupy just outside Oxford city centre.

Dapper as ever in jacket, chinos and boat shoes, and looking 20 years younger than he actually is (63), this time he greets me with warm familiarity. Things are looking up. The rectoryness of the house vanishes inside. It is beyond the reach of any vicar I know — beautifully and expensively decorated and furnished with a vast flat-screen television in the living room.

Dawkins has done well for himself. He is endowed by Charles Simonyi, formerly of Microsoft, as Oxford’s professor of the public understanding of science and his books leap off the shelves.

...But the importance of Dawkins, though based on the brilliance and popularity of his writing, is mostly to do with what he represents. He is Darwin’s enforcer. Darwin discovered evolution through natural selection, but, a quiet man with a religious wife, he did not engage in the ensuing public debates. Dawkins does, combining evolutionary theory with anti-Bush, left-wing politics, expressed through the occasional article but mostly through pithy, angry letters to newspapers.

Dawkins is the supreme meta-establishment thinker, the eloquent defender of the dominant but seldom expressed world view of our time — aggressive atheism and secularity, soft leftism, scientism and faith in progress. To his fans, he is reason incarnate. And so if Dawkins says George W Bush is an idiot, which he frequently does, then Dubya must, rationally, be an idiot. But, in fact, reason has nothing to do with it.

“I’m not particularly proud of being visceral, but I am admitting it. My attacks on George Bush have nothing to do with science or the scientific method. I just can’t stand the man’s style, the way he swaggers and struts and smirks and the way he looks sly and deceitful and the way Americans can’t see it. I’m irritated by the way they think he’s just a regular guy you can have a drink with.”

Anti-Americanism keeps intruding in the new book. There is a very irrational paragraph on nuclear strategy that stoops to lampooning Bush’s pronunciation — “nucular” — and even an anti-foxhunting footnote which, I point out to him, is utterly illogical. He agrees.

"Oh, okay, fair enough. But I’ve always been against foxhunting. I was brought up in the country on a farm and throughout my childhood we were passionately against foxhunting and we always refused to allow the hunt to cross the boundaries of the farm.”

The intrusion of these irrationalities — combined with the peculiarities of his character — indicate that the dominant image of Dawkins in the public mind as the patron saint of contemporary reason is wrong. In reality, outside evolutionary theory, he is as much driven by prejudice, faith and conviction as the rest of us. Some — notably the late Stephen Jay Gould — have argued that the same is true within Dawkins’s evolutionary theory. His “selfish gene ” approach is, to his critics, little more than a thought experiment that distorts and simplifies the complex reality it aspires to define.

All of this, to me at least, makes the human reality of Dawkins much more interesting than the public persona. Even his anti-religiousness is not quite what it seems. His language is steeped in the vocabulary of Anglicanism. I once offered a bet that he would be converted on his deathbed but found no takers. Dawkins assures me I would lose. I’m not so sure.





The Kinsley - Estrich fracas: A couple of weeks ago, the LA Times op-ed page, now edited by Michael Kinsley, published an essay by Charlotte Allen of the Independent Women's Forum making the excellent point that there are fewer heavyweight women intellectuals around today than before feminism, with Camille Paglia being probably the only woman worthy of being on the short list of top thinkers of the day. Allen writes:


My point was that we don't have many women public intellectuals these days - the likes of Hannah Arendt, Mary McCarthy, Gertrude Stein or the recently deceased Susan Sontag - because most credentialed women nowadays would rather be feminist ideologues than tackle larger issues.


In response, Susan Estrich, who is best known for her dismal management of Michael Dukakis's campaign against George H.W. Bush in 1988, had a good old fashioned hissy fit, accusing Kinsley of sexism


The new Washington Examiner has the subsequent exchange of emails between Estrich and Kinsley:


Run my letter or else
From: Susan Estrich
To: Kinsley, Michael
Subject: RE: my letter to the editor

I am sending over my letter this morning. It is very, very temperate. It is signed by approximately 50 women, among them some of the most powerful women in town, from Nancy Daly Riordan to Lynne Wasserman to Katherine Spillar to Carol Biondi to Dolores Robinson etc. etc. etc. ... [Personally, I've never ever heard of a single one of the 49 women on her list -- Steve.] Everyone is assuming it will be published on Sunday. I honestly think it will be a bigger deal if you don't publish it, and Drudge and Newsmax and the rest do, than if you simply publish it, and start adding more women from Southern California to your mix (today's tally, 3 men, 1 Washington woman late of Time, no women from Southern California...)

I really do hate to be doing this. I counted e-mail after e-mail that I sent and was totally ignored. I can't tell you how much I wanted to help quietly. If this is what it takes, so be it. My friend Barbara Howar told me she got a call yesterday from Bob Sipchen about writing for the Sunday section and I was delighted. How easy can it be ... That's all. You want thoughtful conservatives ... I have a great conservative former Harvard student who tells me she's been desperate to get a piece published and she gets consistently turned away. She lives in Pasadena ... I've got so many names for you of good women who live right here, care about this community; Carla Sanger, who created LA's BEST, tells me she can't get a piece in; I have women writing to me who have submitted four piece and not gotten the courtesy of a call - and they teach gender studies at UCLA ...

Anyway, the piece runs 500 words, and the signatures another 100. Since I have my own mimeograph machine, I can do a column today... but as I have every day, I would like nothing better than to work with you to declare victory. Otherwise we'll have a new website, www.latimesbias.org up by tomorrow
[As of Sunday, it's still "under construction]...

Sincerely, Susan


Don't try to push me around girlie
From: Kinsley, Michael
To: Susan Estrich

Susan - We don't run letters from 50 people, and we don't succumb to blackmail. So we won't be publishing your letter. I would actually like to run an essay by you in our Outside the Tent column (the one Mickey kicked off a few weeks ago), but even that would look like blackmail if we did it now. So that's out too, for the moment.

I don't want a fight any more than you say you do - and we are both pissed off today. So I suggest we wait a few weeks (say, three) and then let's talk about an Outside the Tent. (It would be subject to the usual editing, of course - but not to dull your point, since the whole purpose of this column is criticism of the Times.) Or if you'd rather write a letter to the editor in two or three weeks, please write it and sign it yourself. You can say in the text that it is endorsed by whatever number of others.


How dare you accuse me of blackmail
From: Susan Estrich
To: Kinsley, Michael

You owe me an apology. NO one tried harder to educate you about Los Angeles, introduce you to key players in the city, bring to your attention, quietly, the issues of gender inequality than I did - and you have the arrogance and audacity to say that you couldn't be bothered reading my emails, spending time in the city where all of us are raising our families ... and then we should stop our efforts because you're "pissed off."

I am not engaged in blackmail, and I find that Suggestion to be highly offensive and insulting, and I am certain the many prominent women who have signed the letter would also agree. Far from being "pissed off," I believe I have conducted myself with admirable restraint because of our past relationship and my honest concerns for your health. I am not aware of any policy against jointly signed letters, nor has one been pointed out to me. You were quite aware of what I was doing, and to spring the policy this morning is bad faith, short and simple.

I was told that in order to have a letter published Sunday, it had to be submitted by today. My suggestion that your publishing it would be better (for you too) than my having to go outside somehow constitutes me blackmailing you is so outlandish that it underscores the question I've been asked repeatedly in recent days, and that does worry me, and should worry you: people are beginning to think that your illness may have affected your brain, your judgment, and your ability to do this job. The fact that you were not in Los Angeles all week hardly helps matters, nor does the fact that you don't return phone calls. You are making things worse for yourself.

My point wasn't blackmail, Michael, it was that if you prefer me to conduct this discussion outside your pages, and make it into an even bigger fight, that makes you look even more afraid and more foolish, and angers every woman who signed a temperate letter that you are now refusing to publish. So be it. I now have powerful businesswomen and community leaders, professors and developers and talent agents and managers and journalists, students at the high school, college and law school level, and teachers involved in this effort. For the young women, I hope it's a lesson in how you can make change happen if you're willing to stand up to people who call you names, and reach out to other women, and not get scared and back down. If you recall, I wrote a book about that, called Sex and Power. It's what I have spent my whole life doing. The older I get, the clearer I am about all of our obligations to make a contribution during the brief time we have on this earth. Add that to the commitment those of us who have signed this letter share towards the community that is our home, where we are raising our children, living our lives, trying to deal with the real problems this city faces (not shrunken female minds), and the idea that I would somehow say STOP now because Michael is pissed off and has offered me some onetime column down the road when he's not mad anymore is just absurd; it would make a mockery of everything I stand for.

Do the right thing for your sake ...


That's it I am taking my ball and going home<]b>
From: Kinsley, Michael
To: Susan Estrich

Susan - Your mischaracterizations of what I wrote to you are farcical, as anyone can plainly see from reading the whole string. But your references to "concern for [my] health" are disgusting. Consider my invitation to write for the Times when things calm down rescinded. John Carroll
[the LAT's editor] agrees.


Larry Summers should hire Kinsley to respond to his feminist critics for him. All of Summers' groveling and apologizing have just made them scent fear and pile on further. At least Kinsley's having fun, although I'm sure he'll give in and set up a hidden gender quota eventually.





The NYT finally tells some truth about Africa: One of my recurring topics is that sub-Saharan family structures tend to be radically different from the Europeans ones that most educated Americans are familiar with (and that African-Americans have tended to be poised in between). The New York Times finally gets around to discussing African family structures because they've figured out how to give the topic a feminist slant in "AIDS and Custom Leave African Families Nothing:"


There are two reasons why 11-year-old Chikumbutso Zuze never sees his three sisters, why he seldom has a full belly, why he sleeps packed sardinelike with six cousins on the dirt floor of his aunt's thatched mud hut.

One is AIDS, which claimed his father in 2000 and his mother in 2001. The other is his father's nephew, a tall, light-complexioned man whom Chikumbutso knows only as Mr. Sululu.

It was Mr. Sululu who came to his village five years ago, after his father died, and commandeered all of the family's belongings - mattresses, chairs and, most important, the family's green Toyota pickup, an almost unimaginable luxury in this, one of the poorest nations on earth. And it was Mr. Sululu who rejected the pleas of the boy's mother, herself dying of AIDS, to leave the truck so that her children would have an inheritance to sustain them after her death.

Instead, Chikumbutso said, he left behind a battery-powered transistor radio.

"I feel very bitter about it," he said, plopped on a wooden bench in 12-by-12-foot hut rented by his maternal aunt and uncle on the outskirts of this town in the lush hills of southern Malawi. "We don't really know why they did all this. We couldn't understand." 

Actually, the answer is simple: custom. Throughout sub-Saharan Africa the death of a father automatically entitles his side of the family to claim most, if not all, of the property he leaves behind, even if it leaves his survivors destitute.

In an era when AIDS is claiming about 2.3 million lives a year in sub-Saharan Africa - roughly 80,000 people last year in Malawi alone - disease and stubborn tradition have combined in a terrible synergy, robbing countless mothers and children not only of their loved ones but of everything they own...

The tradition is rooted in the notion that men are the breadwinners and the property of a married couple represents the fruits of the man's labor. Women may tend the goats and plant the corn, but throughout the region's rural communities they are still regarded as one step up from minors, unable to make an economic contribution to the household.

When the husband dies the widow is left essentially to start over, much like a young girl, presumably to search for another husband. Since the children typically remain with the mother, her losses are also theirs.

The degree to which men control household property varies from country to country and tribe to tribe.

In matrilineal tribes, children are considered descendants of the mother, and the family typically lives in the mother's village. Should the husband die, the widow typically keeps the house and land, plus items judged to be women's essentials like pots, pans, kitchen utensils and buckets, according to studies by Women and Law in Southern Africa. Her in-laws collect the more valuable belongings, like bicycles, sewing machines, vehicles and furniture.

Most tribes are patrilineal, meaning that children are considered the father's descendants and men are viewed as the owners of all of the property. Here, a new widow's situation is truly precarious. Her in-laws may allow her continued access to her home as long as she does not remarry. But if she wants to move away, she leaves bereft of all property.

Alternatively she may be forced to marry one of her husband's relatives to keep her property. Or she may simply be driven out altogether.


The NYT's feminist angle isn't terribly illuminating here since this particular case involves a man discriminating against his son in favor of his nephew. So, let me explain the reasons behind this system, since it seems bizarre to us for a man not to want his estate to go to his widow and children. We wouldn't think of providing for our nephews before our children, but in Africa that is not uncommon.  Why do Africans act like that?

The U. of Utah anthropologist Henry Harpending, who lived with various African tribes for 42 months, recounts that once, when he was about to set out on a dangerous journey through lion country, his worried hosts asked him, "To whom should we send your property in case you are eaten?

"Uh, to my wife, of course," Henry replied, puzzled.

"To your wife!" the tribespeople exclaimed, aghast. "Why don't you want your property to go to your family instead?"

By "family," they meant Henry's birth family rather than his marriage family.

So, why, relative to the temperate world, is there less paternal investment in tropical Africa and more investment in siblings' children? The simplest explanation is because husband's enjoy less certainty of paternity. That, not coincidentally, is the same reason there is so much AIDS -- because African husbands are less likely to do what it takes to keep their wives sexually faithful, such as working hard to provide for them. So, they get cuckolded a lot. In turn, they don't put much effort into providing for their wives' children, since the odds that they are also their own children are not all that high. 

This logic all makes perfect sense, but it goes a long way toward explaining why Africa is so poor.

African-American family structures are of course midway between African and white American norms, on average. Euro-American norms were winning out until the increase in welfare payments to single mothers in the 1960s, at which point monogamous two-parent families began to collapse. Today, about two thirds of African-American babies are illegitimate, although that r ate has stabilized during the more hard-headed past decade.




Where the lesbians are -- Exactly where you thought they'd be, according to Laurie Marhoefer, a lesbian student at Columbia:


But how does one go about meeting and befriending these women? It took me a while to figure it out, but I did, and I'll share. (By the way, the following are also good ways to locate nice lesbians to date.)

Take a class. Anything with the words women, gender, or sexuality in the title will do. Take a class in the women's studies department at Barnard or Columbia. Anything the anthro and sociology departments serves up is usually a good bet, too, or any Barnard class. And any class with a Leftie-political bent, such as History of American Radicals. Try to find a seminar, or a class that will have discussion sections where you will get to interact with your classmates.

Of course, you'll meet the most lesbians in a class on lesbianism. Barnard usually offers an intro to queer theory, and for the past couple of semesters has offered the famed Lesbian Lit class. The Columbia History department has some kind of history of homos class from time to time.

But, what will Dad and Mom say when they tape your grades up on the fridge and sees that you got an A in History of Gays and Lesbians in the 20th Century? Well, in years past the thoughtful Barnard professor who taught Intro to Queer Theory fixed it so that the course name showed up on one's transcript as 'Discourses of Desire.' "Talk about the cure that killed the patient," a friend of mine said. Sure, but it's better than Gender and Deviance (which is on my transcript, by the way. Boy, was it worth it though.)

Join a political organization or club. Some say that gay women have a heightened awareness of oppression because we are oppressed as women and as queers, and in some cases as members of minority ethnic and religious groups in addition. Some say that all the activism is just an excuse to take our shirts off at rallies. But everyone agrees: dykes are political. Chelsea is full of bars and gyms. Park Slope is full of grocery coops and grass roots organizations. I am not making a judgment; believe me, I would much rather be cruised for my nice legs than for my ideological commitments, but there's no way around it.

So, which movements to join? Left wing ones, bozo. There are no log cabin lesbians. I won't insult everyone's intelligence by listing the groups on campus that have a membership consisting largely of queer girls, but here's a hint: many of them are run out of Barnard, and concern themselves with women's issues, but not necessarily or exclusively dyke issues.

I am not suggesting that you try to free Mumia just to meet chicks. Activism must come from the guts! But it also helps you meet chicks. I am just saying. 




Richard Florida's $35k idea -- George Mason U. professor Richard Florida gets paid up to $35,000 per speech to lecture city officials and civic leaders on how they can turn their dismal burgh into the next Austin or Seattle. Inspired by Florida's three Ts, which say that for a city to make lots of money from Technology depends on attracting Talent which depends on Tolerance, Spokane is intending to officially declare part of its city the Gay District. (Florida measures "tolerance" primarily by the number of gays, but also by artists, immigrants, and "bohemians.) Here's part of my review of Florida's new book Cities and the Creative Class from the new Washington Examiner:


Dr. Florida's much publicized theory, which he developed during the Internet Bubble of the late 1990s, is that an urban region's economic success depends on its tolerance level. He argues, "Diverse, inclusive communities that welcome unconventional people-gays, immigrants, artists, and free-thinking 'bohemians'-are ideal for nurturing the creativity and innovation that characterize the knowledge economy…"

Unfortunately, as a theory of economic development, this book suffers from the same combination of obviousness and obtuseness that plagued Dr. Florida's first paean to "Talent, Technology, and Tolerance," 2002's The Rise of the Creative Class.

Sure, regions with smarter people tend to enjoy higher incomes. But, most high tech centers, such as the Dulles Corridor, develop far out in the suburbs away from the hip parts of town. The nerds who invent the new gizmos and the golf-playing business people who sell them tend to be relatively monogamous and family-oriented, and thus soon wind up in the 'burbs, with their backyards and quality public schools.

And, sure, booms and bohemians tend to correlate, but who really attracts whom to a metroplex? Do the engineers and salesguys actually pursue the gay art dealers and immigrant restaurateurs, or are Dr. Florida's footloose favorites more likely to follow the money generated by the pocket-protector boys?

In the 1970s, for example, Houston suddenly became one of the gayest cities in America, even though Houston was not famously tolerant. No, Houston got (briefly) hip because gays, immigrants, and artistes flocked there because OPEC had raised prices, making Houston's unhip oil companies rich for a decade.

In contrast, famously tolerant New Orleans and Las Vegas ("Sin City") rank today near the bottom of Dr. Florida's talent tables because his kind of folks can't make much money in either. So, he appears to have gotten the arrow of causality mostly backwards.





"Bride and Prejudice" is a (relatively) high budget Bollywood musical based on Jane Austen's novel, as relocated to contemporary India, by the director of "Bend It Like Beckham." From my review in the March 14th issue of The American Conservative (subscribe here):


Each week in 1930, America's 123 million people bought 90 million movie tickets. There were no televisions, no home air conditioners, and little street crime, so many ladies went to the show most evenings. Hollywood catered to their tastes with countless musicals and love stories.

Today, the average American purchases a ticket less than one-seventh as often, and moviegoers are predominantly male and young. Hollywood therefore specializes, at vast expense, in blowing stuff up.

Foreign film industries can't compete with our $100 million evil-robot-onslaught flicks, but they can make women's movies. The leading supplier to semi-literate Third World ladies is the Indian movie business, Bombay-centered "Bollywood."

India is an apt setting for complicated love stories because it has barely begun the slow transition from arranged marriages to love matches, what Samuel Huntington calls "the Romeo and Juliet revolution." The conflict between a complex social order and true love might be the most compelling and fertile subject in all literature, which is why Jane Austen's novels have been filmed so often. But Westerners now have so much sexual freedom that they dither their lives away, unable to commit because somebody better might always come along. This makes for clever comedy, as "Seinfeld," "Friends," and Bridget Jones's Diary attest, but paltry passion.

In contrast, because the maidens in Bollywood movies, which don't even show kissing, aren't allowed to have sex, they are free to bask in romance.




Is there a better political cartoonist working these days than Tom Tomorrow? If so, let me know.




Thrasymachus interviews Greg Cochran about his Gay Germ theory




James Q. Wilson sums it all up:


The great achievement of Western culture since the Enlightenment is to make many of us peer over the wall and grant some respect to people outside it; the great failure of Western culture is to deny that walls are inevitable or important.





Arthur Miller, RIP: Colby Cosh says it best:


When I think about the man who wrote plays about how capitalism thwarts human aspirations, [got rich off them], and then got married to Marilyn Monroe, I'm afraid about all I can do is giggle.





Clint Eastwood's "Million Dollar Baby" -- An excerpt from my review in the Jan. 31st issue of The American Conservative:


Clint Eastwood's sentimental, old-fashioned boxing movie "Million Dollar Baby" arrived accompanied by such a chorus of critical hosannas that, sadly, moviegoers have little chance to discover its modest pleasures for themselves.

Despite Eastwood's limited gifts as a visual artist (which aren't helped by his being such a tightwad of a producer), reviewers worship him as a director because his 25 films are readily analyzable within the auteur theory, that system of intellectualized hero worship espoused by critics to make film history seem less chaotic than it really is.

In "Million Dollar Baby," Eastwood directs and stars as a grouchy Irish Catholic widower with the standard-issue heart of gold. Each morning, before checking in at The Hit Pit, the dilapidated L.A. gym he owns, he attends Mass to ask forgiveness for somehow driving away his only daughter.

The film is narrated portentously by the gym's wise and saintly old black janitor, played by -- you guessed it -- Morgan Freeman. This superb actor has long complained that, although he first broke through as a vicious pimp in 1987's "Street Smart," the public now won't let him play anything besides what Richard Brookhiser calls the "Numinous Negro." But he has only himself to blame for taking this role, a near-parody of the overly familiar Morgan Freeman Character.

Then, a perky Irish-American waitress, who is conveniently missing a father, shows up at the gym and asks Eastwood to train her. After some gruff dismissals, Eastwood finally takes her on and turns her into the #1 Contender, but the heartwarming main story is the father-daughter bond they forge.

Willowy starlet Hillary Swank, an Oscar-winner for "Boys Don't Cry," isn't exactly convincing as a boxer (the fight scenes appear to be shown in slightly fast motion to make her look quicker), but her exuberant presence is a delight. We never learn why such a cheerful, attractive lady wants to beat up other women because, when the ham-fisted script by Paul Haggis isn't telegraphing its emotional roundhouse punches, it's leaving much else unexplained.

In reality, women's boxing is a pseudo-feminist trashsport that briefly flourished in the 1990s when impresario Don King noticed that Mike Tyson fans got some kind of weird kick out of preliminary catfights between battling babes...

Female fisticuffs have faded recently due to the supply side problem of finding enough low-cost opponents for the handful of women stars. While the number of male palookas who will fight for next to nothing in the hope of becoming Rocky Balboa is ample, managers needing fresh meat for their female champs to bash frequently have to hire hookers and strippers to take dives -- and working girls don't work for free.

"Million Dollar Baby" simply ignores all this and asks you to believe that women's boxing today is a thriving duplicate of the men's fight game of a half century ago, which allows Eastwood to make a 1955-style boxing movie.

This offers some almost-forgotten payoffs, but Eastwood doesn't have the courage to make a genuinely out-of-fashion film.

Spoiler Alert:

When his protégé gets her neck broken by a dirty fighter, she asks him to kill her rather than make her live as a quadriplegic. His priest explains the Church is utterly opposed to euthanasia, which in a 1955 movie would have been the end of it. If, however, "Million Dollar Baby" had concluded with Eastwood's character helping her to find some new meaning in her life, as Christopher Reeve's wife did for the "Superman" star, the reviewers would have lambasted it as TV movie-fare. So, to the wild applause of the critics, he poisons her.

But the obvious question is left hanging: without his surrogate daughter to care for, what meaning will his life have for him?





Sam Francis, RIP:


A reader writes:


Free Republic pulled the Sam Francis RIP thread there tonight......what a surprise.





The Conservative Case Against Sprawl by law professor Michael Lewyn is a frank discussion of how government policy wrecked the cities.


On a side note, the decline in bicycle riding by kids is one of the unmentioned disasters of our time. Nowadays, I almost never see adolescents on bikes, due to parents' safety concerns about traffic and crime. I got hit by a car while riding when I was 13, but was back on my bike in a couple of days. This increases the chauffeuring burden on mothers, which depresses the birth rate.





Remember the Maine! Remember Hariri! I have no more idea who blew up the ex-Prime Minister of Lebanon than I know who or what blew up the U.S. battleship Maine in Havana's harbor in 1898. But we got into a war with Spain after the Maine blew up, and we may get into a war with Syria because Hariri got blown up. 


Fortunately, look how well the Spanish-American war turned out for us. We idealistically gave Cuba its independence, and the government of Cuba hasn't been a problem for either us or its own people ever since. We didn't give the Philippines their independence, and we only had to kill 200,000 Filipinos to make that stick. And we made Puerto Rico part of the U.S., letting any Puerto Rican move here, and the South Bronx is known worldwide as a synonym for utopia.





Maybe Muslim Democracy Isn't Such a Hot Idea After All: After endlessly pushing former Israeli Housing (i.e., West Bank Settlement) Minister Natan Sharansky's book about how democracy will save the Muslim world, the Wall Street Journal Editorial Page gets around to sending one of their senior writers, Robert L. Pollock, to visit an actual working Muslim democracy, Turkey, and is aghast: "The Sick Man of Europe--Again: Islamism and leftism add up to anti-American madness in Turkey:"


"On a brief visit to Ankara earlier this month with Undersecretary of Defense Doug Feith, I found a poisonous atmosphere--one in which just about every politician and media outlet (secular and religious) preaches an extreme combination of America- and Jew-hatred that (like the Turkish artists) voluntarily goes far further than anything found in most of the Arab world's state-controlled press. If I hesitate to call it Nazi-like, that's only because Goebbels would probably have rejected much of it as too crude."





Whose unexpurgated memoirs would you most like to read? I'd put Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to Washington, close to the top of the list. His is a pretty amazing life story -- his mother a part-black servant girl (slave?) impregnated by a prince, yet he rose up from this lowly beginning to become the most successfully manipulative ambassador of his era. I bet he has stories to tell. Sadly, I suspect he'll take them to the grave.





More bribes no doubt on the way: "Some of Harvard's Leading Professors Confront Its President," reports the NYT on a Harvard faculty meeting: "


Most speakers took aim at Dr. Summers for what they described as an autocratic management style that has stifled the open debate that is at the core of the university's values.


Huh? As I recall, open debate over why among the best people in the hard sciences, men vastly outnumber women, got stifled awfully fast, and not by Summers but by the forces of political correctness.


Of course, Summers immediately caved in and promised reparations. Expect him to pony up more of other people's money and other people's opportunities to save his job.



Here's a link to Steven Pinker's full article on The New Republic: THE SCIENCE OF DIFFERENCE: Sex Ed:


Anyone who has fled a cluster of men at a party debating the fine points of flat-screen televisions can appreciate that fewer women than men might choose engineering, even in the absence of arbitrary barriers. (As one female social scientist noted in Science Magazine, "Reinventing the curriculum will not make me more interested in learning how my dishwasher works.")


That killer quote is from Patti Hausman, who is fascinated by how so many males are interested in 3-d thinking, something that she says has zero interest for her.





Public Health 101 Finally Considered for AIDS:  "Gays Debate Radical Steps to Curb Unsafe Sex" claims the NYT:


While many are calling for a renewed commitment to prevention efforts and free condoms, some veterans of the war on AIDS are advocating an entirely new approach to the spread of unsafe sex, much of which is fueled by a surge in methamphetamine abuse. They want to track down those who knowingly engage in risky behavior and try to stop them before they can infect others.

It is a radical idea, born of desperation, that has been gaining ground in recent months as a growing number of gay men become infected despite warnings about unsafe sex...

Although gay advocates and health care workers are just beginning to talk about how this might be done, it could involve showing up at places where impromptu sex parties happen and confronting the participants. Or it might mean infiltrating Web sites that promote gay hookups and thwarting liaisons involving crystal meth.

Other ideas include collaborating with health officials in tracking down the partners of those newly infected with H.I.V. At the very least, these advocates say, gay men must start taking responsibility for their own, before a resurgent epidemic draws government officials who could use even more aggressive tactics.


There is nothing "radical" about "tracking down the partners of those newly infected" -- that's how governments have handled syphilis for generations, which is one reason syphilis is so much less prevalent than HIV these days. Indeed, the NYT article eventually gets around to admitting that this is "radical" only in the sense that standard operating procedures was not applied to the AIDS epidemic due to the political clout of gays, who valued their own sexual pleasure over not killing other gays.


Whether such ideas gain acceptance, the fact that activists are even thinking about curbing gay sexual freedom is a huge shift.

In the early years of the AIDS epidemic, gay men protested attempts to close down bathhouses and strenuously opposed efforts by health officials to trace those infected with the virus. Until now, those advocates, driven by concerns about privacy and the stigma associated with the disease, have successfully fought off efforts to impose a traditional public-health model for tackling the spread of the virus...

Those frustrations were given voice in November by Larry Kramer, the playwright and activist who himself has AIDS, in a widely discussed speech at Cooper Union in which he criticized gay men for their behavior. "You are still murdering each other," he said then. "Please stop with all the generalizations and avoidance excuses gays have used since the beginning to ditch this responsibility for this fact."





Your tax dollars at work: Suspected Iranian agent Ahmed Chalabi is challenging Ayatollah Sistani's brother-in-law Ibrahim Jafari for the post of Prime Minister of Iraq. I've often asked what is the source of Chalabi's appeal to the elites he comes in contact with (whereas commoners who know him only from his record -- embezzling millions in Jordan, lying the U.S. into the War in Error, possibly handing U.S. secrets over to the Iranian intelligence agency, etc. -- generally hold him in contempt). I've hypothesized in the past that Chalabi must somehow possess Rasputin-like sexual magnetism, but that seems unlikely. 


The simplest explanation for Chalabi's appeal to insiders points to that $100,000,000 of the U.S. taxpayers' money that the U.S. government has given him over the years, much of which remains unaccounted for. You can make yourself a pretty doggone popular guy in Washington and Baghdad for just a fraction of $100,000,000. But it could turn out to be a very good investment on Chalabi's part, since Iraq's oil reserves are worth trillions.





What's the deal with Sistani and chess? As you probably know, the Grand Ayatolla bans chess-playing. I figured it was because of the residual idolatry inherent in playing a game with little men, but now, via Colby Cosh, comes word from Sistani that composing and solving chess problems is OK. So, what's the real reason "playing a chess" is verboten?


UPDATE: One cynical reader reminisces:


Having worked in Saudi for three years starting 19XX as a tech rep for XXX, I think the problem with chess is that it requires thinking. The most comment complaint from my young Saudi Arabian Army students was, "Teacher, don't make me use my think." The last thing a Saudi leader wants is thinking.





Does Discrimination Cause Imprisonment Difference? One of my most distinguished readers writes:


There have been several studies to test the proposition that the high percentage of blacks in prison is produced by the police over-arresting, or prosecutors over-prosecuting, blacks. This theory is not true, as we can discover by using the National Crime Victimization Survey, which asks victims for the race of their offender in robbery and assault cases. The percentage of blacks involved in these crimes, according to the victims, matches almost exactly the percentage of blacks in prison for those crimes. These studies have been done by, among others, Alfred Blumstein at Carnegie Mellon University.




Maybe I will watch the Oscars this year - As long as they don't fire Chris Rock from his job as host for saying things like:


"I never watched the Oscars. Come on, it's a fashion show," Rock recently declared. "What straight black man sits there and watches the Oscars? Show me one!" 


What will Rock be wearing to the show?

"Nothing against people who aren't straight, but what straight guy that you know cares?




Robert Locke's magisterial review of the new Museum of Modern Art building in NYC, "Mausoleum of Modern Art,"  and of the entire course of moder art, from the 1/17/05 American Conservative is now online.




Latest War Nerd Column: "Togo's Lo-Cal Coup" - The War Nerd laments the decline of the African coup.


Black-African coups generally specialized in drama and big talk, not high casualties. Lots of times, the officers planning the coup took advantage of foreign visits by the head of state to stage their pint-size revolution. It was really easy to do that back in the 60s, when Africa was still considered cool, revolutionary and "developing" -- before people realized it was developing like a case of smallpox, not like Singapore.

Back then African dictators were superstars of the commie media, like Che. So when Kwame Nkrumah, the dashiki-wearing dictator of Ghana, went to Hanoi to chill with the revolutionaries in 1966, his officer corps decided to pull off a little revolution. Kwame had no dictatorship to come home to, and ended up one of those depressed ex-dictators who never shut up about their glory days.





My Valentine's Day Book Review in the new Washington Examiner


On St. Valentine's Day, Washington's fancy turns from political strategy to biological imperatives. So how does D.C. rank as a place to find Mr. or Ms. Right?

In Cities and the Creative Class, George Mason University professor Richard Florida doesn't concentrate much on l'amour -- but he does provide ample statistical evidence that the Washington area abounds in eligible singles and in classy places for romantic dates.

The region ranks high in the kinds of people Dr. Florida believes drive prosperity: the well-educated, software programmers, technology entrepreneurs and the like. Plus, Washington offers the arts, culture, and ethnic bistros ideal for dating.

In the District itself, not all the good ones are taken. According to my own research, D.C. residents --of whom only 9 percent voted for President Bush -- were much less likely to be married than the citizens of any state. During the 27 years from age 18-44, the average black woman in D.C. could expect to be married an average of only 3.9 years. This compares to 5.4 years in Pennsylvania, the worst-ranking state.

Likewise, the deeply Democratic 18-44 year old white women of D.C. average merely 7.4 years of marriage -- compared to 12.2 in the bluest state, Massachusetts, and 17 in the reddest state, Utah.





Josh Marshall offers a correction to my latest VDARE article. In my article on racial and regional differences in crime rates, I said Josh, the author of the popular TalkingPointsMemo.com, had written his Ph.D. dissertation on the link between Southern culture and crime. He points out that only "two chapters of my dissertation are relevant to the discussion of the effect of slaveholding in creating the cultural distinctiveness of the South."  My apologies.



By the way, the color gradations of the maps as they appeared on VDARE were made a little cruder to allow faster loading of the page file. If you want to see the originals, here is the 

Mapinator graph showing the three ethnic groups' imprisonment ratios using the same yellow to purple color scale for each. You'll be able to see subtle differences between the white imprisonment rates better here. And here are the two maps showing the black to non-Hispanic white imprisonment ratio and the Hispanic to non-Hispanic white imprisonment ratio in red and green.




Ali G visits Wales:


Ali : Check dis. I is now in a coal mine which is where the Wales people used to live, underground. Millions of years ago miners lived under here before they became human beings.

Miner : They never lived here, they just worked here.

Ali : They worked in 'ere? What a crap job.





Not-So-Free Republic: The news that Jim Robinson is once again purging immigration restrictionist voices from what he ironically calls "Free Republic" is no surprise around here. Way back in 2000, my psephological analysis "GOP Future Depends on White Vote" for some reason got VDARE.com permanently banned from the Republic of Jim. And he doesn't let anybody cite iSteve.com either. As a reader says, he should rename it "Republic of Virtue."




New VDARE column: Mapping the Unmentionable: Race & Crime




Why is there no kissing in Indian movies? Please email me with explanations.


Also, how widespread is owning a television in India today? How about up through, say, 1991? Are most theatres in India now air-conditioned?







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