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January 1-15, 2005 Archive

 

http://www.iSteve.com/05JanA.htm#ss.paying

Is Social Security Paying for the War on Terror? A reader writes: 

 

In the past, in order to make an essentially pay-as-you-go transfer system look a little more like what it claims to be, an actuarially sound insurance system, Congress has had to 'reform' Social Security about every 15 to 20 years. The aim is always to keep tax revenues and payout in balance about 20 to 30 years in the future. But 20 to 30 years in the future is always worse, in terms of the retiree-to-worker ratio. So any tax-and-benefit scheme that balances this long-term future is going to generate a substantial surplus in the short and medium term, essentially subsidizing the chronic deficits on regular Federal expenditures and taxes.

So, the practical effect of our eternally unreformed, but constantly reformed, Social Security system has been to help 1) pay to win World War II, 2) pay down the World War II debt, while 3) fighting the Cold War, and now 4) fight the War on Terror.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

***

 

 

http://www.iSteve.com/05JanA.htm#worst.of.both.worlds

Social Security Reform and Congress: A reader writes: 

 

Unlike Iraq, Congress is not simply going to vote to let Bush have at the Social Security system.  The reform bills are going to be debated over a longer period of time and written in committees with chairmen used to exercising meaningful decision-making authority, not simply rubberstamping Bush policies.  If a bill passes at all it will  probably take at least 1-2 years, if not longer.  By the time it reaches implementation phase, the Bush administration will be nearing its end.

The reform debate is going to have a larger effect on the members of Congress than it will Bush.  Dubya will never have to face the voters again; any accomplishment on this front will only go into the legacy scrapbook at his presidential library.  Social Security is one of those rare issues that get incumbent congressmen kicked out of office.  Proposed benefit cuts cost the Republicans a number of House seats in 1982 and their Senate majority in 1986.  Efforts to rein in Medicare spending doomed a lot of Republican congressmen in 1996 and helped turn that year’s presidential race into an easy Clinton romp when many had initially thought the GOP would be competitive even with a candidate like Bob Dole.

This is also the kind of legislation that tends to pass only with bipartisan support (think welfare reform) and can otherwise tank spectacularly even if the president’s party controls both houses of Congress (think Hillary’s health care plan).  Republicans are going to want cover from their Democratic colleagues to mitigate the usefulness of the issue to their general-election challengers.  The House is going to want cover from the Senate before going along with anything that could be construed as a benefit cut.  Senate Republicans are going to need to pull in at least five Democrats and hold onto all their moderates to be able to beat a filibuster.  If anything, Congress is likely to err on the side of being too cautious.

Which doesn’t necessarily mean the end result will be good.  The Medicare prescription-drug bill and NCLB are fine examples.  Both were deeply flawed proposals from the beginning, but at least contained some reforms for which a case can be made.  In Congress, most of the free-market reforms suggested by the White House were stripped out and the bills were loaded up with new government spending.  They both passed with bipartisan support and Bush, rather than objecting, declared victory, held signing ceremonies and went home.

 

So, we could end up with the worst of both the Democrats and the Republicans in the bill. Or, we might get lucky and both parties in Congress and the President work together for the common good like in the (unfortunately, short-lived) tax simplification reforms of 1986.

***

 

http://www.iSteve.com/05JanA.htm#third.generation.celebrity

Request: I'm looking for a third generation celebrity to use in an example.

or a number of years, I've been arguing for a new (but also very old) perspective on what a racial group is: I find lacking both the "A race for everybody and everybody in his race" thinking derived from Linnaeus and the post-modern "Race does not exist" cant. Instead, I find that the most useful way to conceiving of racial groups is as a partly inbred extended family



Somebody was recently trying to debunk this by asking, "How may racial groups are there in the world: three, six, one hundred?" My answer is: "Whatever is useful and defensible in answering the specific question you need to deal with at the moment. You should no more expect everyone to belong to a single racial groups as you would expect them to belong to a single extended family."

What I'd like to do is find a famous person, or the child of two famous people, who has four well-known grandparent, in order to make the point that everybody belongs to their mother's and father's extended families, but also their four grandparents' extended families, and so on up the family tree. For example, Arnold Schwarzenegger's kids are not only Schwarzeneggers, but also, Shrivers and Kennedys through their mother. While not bad, this is still a clunky example of how people belong to multiple extended families because nobody is familiar with the maiden name of the fourth grandparent, Arnold's mother. 

So, I'm looking for a better example where all four grandparents' names are familiar. Maybe a movie star, royalty, an heiress, an athlete, or whatever. The actual third generation person might just be an obscure child of famous parents and grandparents. So, what I need two famous married people, each of whom are the children of famous people. Or spring from four famous families like, say, the Vanderbilts, Du Ponts, Tudors, or whatever, even if the individuals aren't all famous in their own right. 

***

 

http://www.iSteve.com/05JanA.htm#maureen.dowd.michael.douglas

Columnist Maureen Dowd and actor Michael Douglas:- Reflecting on NYT op-edster/spinster Maureen Dowd's never-ending series on how men are rotten stinkers, as proven by the fact that none of her boyfriends, such as vastly wealthy actor-producer-double Oscar-winner Michael Douglas (son of Kirk Douglas), have ever married her. A reader wrote:

 

"There  are probably no more than a handful of men in the whole world who are qualified (in Maureen's eyes) to become Mr. Maureen Dowd.  And, son of a gun, those ultra-high achievers always seem to have better things to do than  listen to feminist harangues.  Life is so unfair."

 

I replied:

 

Maybe I should write a series of columns about why I hate women because Catherine Zeta-Jones (now Mrs. Michael Douglas) didn't marry me.

 

To which he responded:

 

Excellent idea. If life was fair, we would all be able to marry women who look like Miss Zeta-Jones. The only possible explanation for why we can't is that our legitimate male aspirations have been deliberately thwarted by the Evil Matriarchy, acting out of sheer spite.

This is a major social problem, and someone needs to DO SOMETHING about it. (But not us, we're the victims.) 

 

-- Steve Sailer, www.iSteve.com 

 

John Tierney vs. Maureen Dowd:

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The NYT's new op-ed columnist John Tierney writes a column guaranteed to drive his feminist colleague Maureen Dowd nuts:

Of course, it's not hard to drive Maureen crazy, especially if the two of you were once an item, as Tierney and Dowd were a quarter of a century ago. Tierney is married now, but Dowd is an increasingly bitter spinster, whose taste for highly successful men has left her enraged at the male sex for not marrying her. She's also dated two-time Oscar-winner Michael Douglas, Carl Bernstein (of Woodward and Bernstein), and Aaron Sorkin (creator of "The West Wing".)

 

The Urge to Win:

For a quarter-century, women have outnumbered men at Scrabble clubs and tournaments in America, but a woman has won the national championship only once, and all the world champions have been men. Among the world's 50 top-ranked players, typically about 45 are men.

The top players, both male and female, point to a simple explanation for the disparity: more men are willing to do whatever it takes to reach the top. You need more than intelligence and a good vocabulary to become champion. You have to spend hours a day learning words like "khat," doing computerized drills and memorizing long lists of letter combinations, called alphagrams, that can form high-scoring seven-letter words.

Tierney goes on to offer some sensible evolutionary psychology explanations for why some men want to win this bad.

 

Maureen Dowd's siblings and the Baby Gap: Nicely illustrating my new article "The Baby Gap: Explaining Red and Blue," snippy NYT columnist Maureen Dowd lets her ultra-Republican brother write her column for her. Maureen, of course, is an unmarried 52-year-old liberal woman who lives in Washington D.C. (average number of babies per white woman: 1.1; not coincidentally, Bush's share of the vote: 9%). The underlying theme running through her writing is her desperate effort to silence the little voice in her head that tells her she has wasted her life by not getting married and having babies.

Maureen comes from what I presume is a big Irish Catholic family (she's a 1973 graduate of Catholic U.) and her brothers and sisters are staunchly Republican. Her brother Kevin, a salesman, writes:

 

My wife and I picked our sons' schools based on three criteria: 1) moral values 2) discipline 3) religious maintenance - in that order. We have spent an obscene amount of money doing this and never regretted a penny. Last week on the news, I heard that the Montgomery County school board voted to include a class with a 10th-grade girl demonstrating how to put a condom on a cucumber and a study of the homosexual lifestyle. The vote was 6-0. I feel better about the money all the time.

 

Now, if only Kevin lived in suburban Virginia (a red state) instead of suburban Maryland (a blue state), the Dowd clan would fit my thesis perfectly. 

 

Tuesday, April 23, 2002
Maureen Dowd and Bonobo Chimpanzee

Does any pundit come up with as many embarrassingly dumb columns as Maureen Dowd of the NYT? Here she announces that the solution to the Baby Bust is for humans to act like bonobo chimps, who supposedly "lead extraordinarily happy existences... There's no battle of the sexes in bonoboland. And there's no baby bust."

In NR back in 1999, I exploded the Bonobo Myth so beloved of feminists in my aptly titled "Chimps and Chumps:" "A bonobo chimp troop resembles an omnisexual commune run by Madonna and Little Richard," complete with pedophilia. Bonobo life sounds about as appealing as a case of the clap. Further, they do indeed suffer a baby bust: "Bonobos are Darwinian duds. As appealing as their genetic programming may be to the students and faculty of Smith College, their genes have not succeeded in replicating themselves widely: there are fewer than 10,000 bonobos alive, no more than 1/20th the number of those testosterone-addled common chimps."

Dowd is just about the last True Believer in Anita Hill-Era Feminism left in big time opinion journalism. The major improvement in the American intellectual climate during the Nineties was the near complete collapse of feminism. Sure, the feminists have walled themselves into positions of power in lots of institutions, but almost none dare come out to argue their case anymore.

Dowd's main psychological problem is a near-pathological sensitivity over whether she made the right choice in pursuing career over family. Consequently, she obsessively browbeats female dissenters who don't validate her life choice. Since feminists hate to admit that not all women agree with them, Dowd tries to point the finger of blame at men, telling them they should act like a different species!

Dowd is only a lurid example of the general female tendency toward conformism. Women want to do what all other women are doing and they want all other women to do what they are doing. There's a fundamental evolutionary reason for this: an individual woman is simply more valuable in a Darwinian sense than an individual man, so they tend to be cautious and conformist. If an individual man tries something different from all other men in the tribe, and dies as a consequence, well, it's sad, but some other guy will step in an impregnate his woman for him. In contrast, if a woman dies from doing something eccentric, the tribe's reproductive capacity is permanently diminished.

So, Dowd's fanaticism is perfectly understandable. The only problem is that, as the remarkable Time cover story (a perfect sign of the moribund intellectual status of feminism) shows, Dowd's kind of self-absorbed reasoning has ruined the happiness of millions of women by depriving them of ever having a child.

http://www.iSteve.com/04DecA.htm#hotfl 
Maureen Dowd's latest menopausal hot flash: 

 

I've never said this out loud before, but I can't stand Christmas. Everyone in my family loves it except me, and they can't fathom why I get the mullygrubs, as a Southern friend of mine used to call a low-level depression, from Thanksgiving straight through New Year.

"You're weird," my mom says. This from a woman who once left up our Christmas tree until April 3, and who listens to a radio station that plays carols 24/7 all month.

My equally demonic sister has a whole collection of rodents dressed in holiday clothes that she puts up around her house... My mom and sister both blissfully sat through "It's a Wonderful Life" again on Thanksgiving weekend, while even hearing a mere snatch of that movie makes me want to scarf down a fistful of antidepressants - and join all the other women in America who are on a holiday high - except our family doctor is a Scrooge about designer drugs, leaving me to self-medicate as Clarence gets his wings with extra brandy in the eggnog.

I've given a lot of thought to why others' season of joy is my season of doom ... I think it has to do with how stressed out my mom and sister would get on Christmas Day when I was little. I remember them snapping at me; they seemed tense because of all the aprons to be sashed and potatoes to be mashed. (In our traditional Irish household, women slaved and men were waited on.)

It might be exacerbated by the stress I feel when I think of all the money I've spent on lavishing boyfriends with presents over the years, guys who are now living with other women who are enjoying my lovingly picked out presents which I'm no doubt still paying for in credit card interest charges.

 

Much of the appeal of feminism, like a lot of other 20th Century intellectuals' fads like Freudianism, consists of trying to persuade others to become as unhappy as you are. Nothing drives liberals crazier than seeing their less intelligent relatives grow up to be happier than they are. The great curse of Maureen's life is that she was the smart one in the family, the one who believed what smart people were supposed to believe, while her brothers and sisters believed all the politically conservative, socially traditional stuff that dumb people believe. Unfortunately, just like they predicted, they ended up happier than her. 

Fortunately, she has her bully pulpit from which to try to lure others into her mistakes. It won't maker her any happier, but it will make her feel more fashionable.

 

Liberal NYT columnist cites IQ study! Menopausal spinster Maureen Dowd's continuing series "I Hate Men (Why Oh Why Didn't A Man Marry Me?)" took a predictable turn Thursday when she approvingly referenced an IQ study:

 

"A second study, which was by researchers at four British universities and reported last week, suggested that smart men with demanding jobs would rather have old-fashioned wives, like their mums, than equals. The study found that a high I.Q. hampers a woman's chance to get married, while it is a plus for men. The prospect for marriage increased by 35 percent for guys for each 16-point increase in I.Q.; for women, there is a 40 percent drop for each 16-point rise."

 

This once again confirms Sailer's Law of IQ: "Liberals simultaneously don't believe in IQ and believe their IQs are far superior to the IQs of nonliberals." 

 

Interestingly, while Maureen couldn't figure out how to get her ex-boyfriend Michael Douglas to marry her, Catherine Zeta-Jones didn't have much trouble solving the puzzle. I'm sure Maureen assumes her IQ is far superior to Catherine's, but Catherine seems to have discovered how men work at a much younger age than poor old Maureen.

 

A reader writes:

 

Men are often lampooned for for their cluelessness about women, but it goes both ways.  The difference is we never see women satirized for it the way men are.

 

That reminds me that the first article I ever published in a magazine (The American Spectator back in October 1992) was a satire on feminist cluelessness:

 

Report Cites Bias Against Women in Drug Rackets

"Aspiring Female Traffickers Lack Role Models," Notes Expert


By Steve Sailer


HANOVER, NH -- A new study reveals that while women have made gains in the controlled substances industry, they still comprise only 14.6% of all drug dealers. Even more disturbing, a "glass ceiling" shuts women out of the top rungs of the profession. "You always hear about 'Drug Lords' and 'Cocaine Kingpins,' but where are the 'Drug Ladies,' and 'Cocaine Queenpins?'" demands Clarissa Spode, Professor of Sociology at Dartmouth, and author of the groundbreaking report, "Cracking Through: Diversity, Dignity and Drugs."

Dr. Spode faulted the media for purveying stereotypes that discourage women from entering this fast growing and lucrative occupation. For example, "Miami Vice" depicted in total only 127 female "drug industry workers" compared to 1,711 men. "Even worse, 103 of the women (81.1%) were portrayed as forsaking their careers after sleeping with Sonny and/or Rico."

Other experts concur. "Gangster films in general have always been virulently phallocentric," observes Reed College Film Professor Charles Womyndaughter. His screenplay for a non-sexist mob movie -- "The Godparent" -- was treated with callous disregard by Hollywood. "They said some quite insensitive things about it," he recalls.

Another authority, Dr. Arthur Cruttwell-Clamp, finds that American women are socialized away from traits valuable in this demanding occupation. "Too few women in our society have been taught how to laugh while zapping a deadbeat customer with an electric cattle prod." He calls on toymakers to introduce young females to a wider range of career options. "Instead of 'My Little Pony,' your toddler should be playing with 'My Little Uzi.'" Dr. Cruttwell-Clamp recommends that parents combat traditional gender-typing by having their daughters pull the wings off butterflies and burn ants with magnifying glasses for 30 minutes each day, then advance to tying stray dogs to the bumpers of cars idling at stop lights.

All the experts indignantly dismiss biological conjectures purporting to explain why males seem more violent than females. "Then why are the Nuzwangdees of Guyana -- or is it the Wangduzees of New Guinea? Well, anyway, I heard there's some tribe somewhere where more women than men are into GrecoRoman wrestling, or is it Australian football?" retorts Dr. Womyndaughter.

Media stereotypes victimize men as well. "Tragically, male dealers internalize the media's image of them," muses Dr. Spode. "The one man I talked to while preparing our report was hyper-masculine: aggressive, dominating, reckless, ruthless, muscular ... and, yet, strangely intriguing."

The researchers found chauvinism widespread within the drug industry. "We originally expected gender equality in such a nontraditional, multicultural business," recalls Dr. Spode. "As the evidence of male domination mounted, however, we began searching for the Old Boys Network that locked women out. But with a median life expectancy of 24, we couldn't find many Old Boys. Fortunately, we came up with a crucial conceptual breakthrough: the Young Boys Network." Dr. Spode adds that females are seldom invited along on important male-bonding rites of passage, like drive-by shootings.

Linda M., a spunky New Yorker, recounts how sexual harassment cut short her promising career: "I started out in retail, on a corner in the Lower East Side, but the other vendors were very crude, very 'macho.' Whenever I walked by they made these weird sucking noises. So, I went into wholesale to find a higher class of professional peer, maybe even a mentor who could show me the 'ropes.' But my fellow distributors claimed I was on their 'turf' and kept disrespecting me by dangling me out windows by my ankles. So, I went home to Bensonhurst and opened a 'crack house.' But my family and neighbors were not at all supportive of my 'un-ladylike' ambitions, so they formed a 'vigilante' mob and 'torched' my house. I think they were trying to undermine my self-esteem."

Activists denounce the lack of government programs to meet the special needs of mothers who are also drug dealers. "The very term 'Day Care' reflects institutional insensitivity to those who work mostly between midnight and dawn," points out Dr. Spode. "One mother told me she would never deal drugs because she couldn't bear to think what would happen to her children if she were killed or imprisoned." Dr. Spode blames this inequity on Reagan administration cutbacks.   [More...]

 

More at www.iSteve.com

***


http://www.iSteve.com/05JanA.htm#metrosexual

"The Decline of the Metrosexual" -- I finally put online my October 20, 2003 cover story from The American Conservative about why, despite vast media coverage, "metrosexuals" are seldom seen anywhere besides Manhattan. An excerpt:

 

The Tony Awards ceremony increasingly looks like an indoor gay pride parade. One of the big winners this year was "Take Me Out," about a gay baseball player which included three locker room shower scenes.

Obviously, there is a lot of gay talent on Broadway, but there isn't enough to compensate for the huge decline in straight participation. That's a big reason why the quantity and quality of Broadway plays has declined so dramatically, or even theatrically.

Somewhere out there are straight youths with the gifts to become the next Richard Rodgers, Bob Fosse, and Gene Kelly, but they aren't going to go into musical theater now that all their buddies know the score about Broadway. Instead, they'll show off their straightness by dressing like slobs and listening to gangsta rap. When they grow up, they'll go to Hollywood instead and help make movies about blowing stuff up. They'll take their huge paychecks and buy yellow Hummers.

The aristocratic and religious arts that make up the high culture of Western Civilization were part of a thousand year project to restrain and redefine the unbridled masculinity of all those Conan the Barbarians who poured into the old Roman Empire at the beginning of the Dark Ages. The aptly named Vandals and their cohorts were slowly converted into knights, who were supposed to know not only how to fight, but also how to appreciate the finer forms of music, painting, sculpture, theater, dance, conversation, and dress.

Inevitably, the arts attracted a higher proportion of male homosexuals than did fighting, hunting, or plowing. But nobody particularly noticed because all attention was focused on matters of class. If you wanted your family to move up in society, you (or your children) needed to learn something about the arts.

We Americans claim to be a classless society, so the social pressures to study the traditional aristocratic arts were always less in America, and are declining even more. Ballet schools, for example, need male dancers to partner all the little girls who want to be ballerinas, but they've given up on finding enough American boys. Instead, they try to recruit lads from immigrant families from more class-ridden lands that are attracted to the old snob appeal of ballet.

With the decline of overt interest in class, sexual orientation has become a driving force in the arts.

If James Bond were introduced today, the New York Times would describe him as a metrosexual rather than as a gentleman. I fear, though, that if you called him a metrosexual, he would make a witty quip, flick some invisible dust from his perfectly tailored lapels with his manicured hands, and shoot you.

Straight flight raises a seldom-asked question about the push for gay marriages, or, more precisely, gay weddings. The average young groom finds preparing for his wedding to be a grueling, months-long odyssey through an alien and threatening feminine landscape. At least though, being a groom is a guy thing, not a gay thing. But if gay men become some of the most flamboyant participants in weddings, will more of the vast majority of straight men who aren't metrosexuals just decide to skip the whole punishing process and stay single? If this drives up the illegitimacy rate, society as a whole will suffer.   [More...]

***

 

 

http://www.iSteve.com/05JanA.htm#house.of.flying.daggers

House of Flying Daggers - The latest martial arts flick directed by Zhang Yimou, the creator of the great Hero (here's my review), goes into wide release on Friday. Zhang Ziyi is a cutie as the blind kung-fuette, but I don't much like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon-style movies much, and this one seemed fairly ho-hum, being far less visually inventive than Hero.  I got bored about halfway through and went and watched A Very Long Engagement for awhile, which looked good, but the plot -- a complicated detective story in which the adorable Audrey "Amelie" Tatou searches for her fiancé after WWI -- was incomprehensible if you sneak in during the middle like I did. So, back to Flying Daggers, but I had missed the climactic set-piece fight and the ending wasn't any better than the beginning. Oh, well ...

***

 

http://www.iSteve.com/05JanA.htm#the.aviator

The Aviator, in contrast, is a blast. Having been embarrassed a couple of years ago when his leaden Leonardo DiCaprio drama Gangs of New York got deservedly blown away at the box-office by Steven Spielberg's simultaneously-released Leonardo DiCaprio soufflé Catch Me If You Can, Martin Scorsese is back with a fun biopic about Howard Hughes' golden years before his madness won out over his energy. DiCaprio is too young-looking to play Hughes, but he's a wonderful light leading man. And there's an admirable pro-free enterprise moral to the final story about Hughes' fight after WWII, as owner of the upstart airline TWA, to keep Congress from granting a monopoly on overseas flights to the established Pan-Am. Through sheer will he fights off his growing insanity long enough to rouse the public to prevent the special interests from nationalizing trans-Atlantic routes.

 

The Aviator features excellent casting of liberal icons Alan Alda and Alec Baldwin as the sleaze dog villains they were born to play. And the luncheon party scene where Kate Hepburn (Cate Blanchett) takes her boyfriend Howard home to the Hepburn's mansion on Long Island Sound to meet her insufferable family of snobbish socialists is a comic delight.

 

If Scorsese had ended the movie with the triumphant scene where Howard gets his colossal Spruce Goose white elephant seaplane airborne (albeit briefly) in 1947, The Aviator would be packing them in at the box-office, but he tacks on a five-minute downer of a coda reminding us of Howard's enclosing madness.

***

 

 

http://www.iSteve.com/05JanA.htm#social.security.trust.me

In defense of Social Security Privatization: A reader writes in response to another reader's questions below:

  • Why not have the government invest directly? No particular reason. That's what Calpers does. That's what Clinton proposed, kind of half-heartedly midway through his second term. Conservatives like to argue that if the government invested in stocks then the Feds would start "meddling" in the stock market. That's true, but the opposite is true as well: if the solvency of Social Security depended on the stock market, then the Feds would care a lot more about stock market returns than they do even now.

  • Why have the government choose the investments we can make? This is an easy one: because most people are not financial professionals. Look, in my 401k I've got a very limited selection of investment choices. That's partly a matter of what our firm can get us in terms of a deal from fund companies, but it's also a matter of protecting us future retirees. Threre is a lot of room between "you must put your money in an annuity run by the government" and "you can invest your retirement savings in anything you like - pork bellies, wildcatting for oil, a perpetual-motion-machine startup, trips to Vegas." That middle ground is: you can invest your money at your preferred level of risk tolerance, but you can only invest in broadly diversified, market-like funds with low expenses. What is so terrible about that? You of all people, concerned about the left hand of the bell curve, should appreciate that the less-sophisticated consumer deserves protection not only from con artists and scammers but from his own poor instincts.

  • Why not raise the retirement age a bit or slowly reduce benefits at the high end? Because these solutions are not popular. But rest assured: some kind of benefit cut will be a part of Bush's Social Security reform, assuming any such reform passes (which is highly questionable). This is the dirty little secret about Social Security reform: 80% of the reason for switching to personal accounts is marketing designed to mask a necessary reduction in benefits; the other 20% is conservative ideology (which I happen to buy) that ownership - whether of an annuity or of a block of assets (and, contrary to your suggestion, there is no reason you couldn't in principle purchase an annuity with your Social Security personal account funds, and thereby hedge getting old; every major insurance company provides such products) - builds character while entitlements encourage dependency, sloth and irresponsibility. All serious versions of Social Security reform involve giving people personal accounts *in exchange* for having them sign off on a lower benefit package from the government. Bush is hoping nobody notices the trade-off.

Well said. But you can see the underlying assumption here:

 

Sure, Bush will sell this concept to the moron voters as a get-rich-quick something-for-nothing scheme where all Americans will get big rewards investing their retirement nest eggs in high risk stocks (even though you and I know that reward correlates with risk), but the actual implementation of the details of the law by Bush will be sober, realistic, honest, and competent.

 

How I'd like to believe that's true! But how much evidence is there that Bush's actions generally turn out more responsible than his rhetoric? Iraq? Immigration? Medicare drug benefits? Tax cuts during war time? No Child Left Behind?

 

How about Karl Rove? Do you trust him? Tom DeLay? Bush's latest crop of economic "advisors"?

 

I trust Arnold Schwarzenegger about as far as I can throw him, but I have to admit that I'd trust a Social Security reform scheme from President Schwarzenegger far more than I'd trust one from President Bush, given their comparative track records.

 

Maybe Bush will finally surprise us this time by for once putting in the work to make his actual proposal better than it sounds. But that won't happen unless there is a lot of Show-Me-the-Details skepticism on the Right.

***

 

 

http://www.iSteve.com/05JanA.htm#social.security.IQ

More on Social Security: A reader writes:

 

I'm surprised you haven't mentioned IQ and privatization yet. How many people really understand portfolio diversification? I have a degree in Finance, and I've got my Financial Math book here with a huge equation outlining how the correlation coefficient between asset A and asset B affect the total risk of the portfolio, etc, etc...but I've gone through grad school and I don't completely understand the math behind this.

How does Bush, Inc. expect the average American to understand portfolio theory? Most stockbrokers don't fully understand it! Only a handful of mathematicians and economists do. Good lord! No wonder Wall St. is licking their chops at this proposal. Talk about a greater fool theory!

Have the Republicans completely lost their minds? The Wall Street Journal reads like a talking points memo from the head of the RNC these days.

 

Other readers have pointed out that individuals can purchase annuities to insure themselves against the horrible risks of living too long. But, Social Security privatization isn't being sold on the basis of the returns you could get from low risk / low reward annuities but on the potential high rewards you could get from high risk stocks.

 

Another reader says, "Follow The Money and you'll see why this issue is being pushed now."

***

 

http://www.iSteve.com/05JanA.htm#milken.spiderman

Milken: I was a big fan of Michael Milken in the 1980s but I eventually noticed that his many defenders on the Op-Ed page of the WSJ were making two arguments over and over again:

- What he did that was immoral wasn't illegal.

- And what he did that was illegal wasn't immoral.

I eventually just got tired of arguing both sides and gave up. 

That said, Milken, unlike so many others, did serve a stiff sentence for his crimes and has done a lot of philanthropy since he got out of the jug. Further, his titanic career in the 1980s was built on far more than just criminality. His problem was not that he was a bad person but that he lacked the noblesse oblige that his talents demanded. "With great power comes great responsibility" were not the words he lived by. When when you are that smart and that energetic (my favorite Milken story is that of the ambitious small-timer who after months of pleading finally got an appointment with Milken at 5:30 am Sunday, only to have Milken call back to say that he just realized that was the Sunday you set the clocks back an hour at the end of Daylight Savings Time, so could they reschedule for 4:30 am?), you have to hold yourself to higher ethical standards than those of ordinary Joes.

 

Milken is one of the major figures of our time and deserves a major biography by a major biographer. Ron Chernow, that means you!

***

 

 

http://www.iSteve.com/05JanA.htm#milkenizing.social.security

Milkenizing Social Security? A reader writes:

 

It just doesn't make any sense. If the government's planning to borrow a Trillion dollars, so that individuals can get better returns in the stock market, why don't they just invest the money in the stock market themselves and eliminate the middle men? If it's about "choice" how come they're choosing which investments we can make? If it's about "basic arithmetic" like John Snow's speech writers have him saying, why not raise the retirement age a bit, or slowly reduce benefits at the high end while keeping a floor?

It makes about as much sense as Iraq did. And I'm afraid it will be a far worse slow motion train wreck. We can still pull out of Iraq at a cost of mere hundreds of billions. This will be wasted trillions, gone like you said into the pockets of investment bankers and CEOs.

Jeez, I used to think I was a conservative. I still think I'm a conservative. What the hell is going on?

 

I must confess that I haven't given a lot of deep, intense thought to Social Security reform. But, then, do you really think Bush has either?


I just have a bad feeling about this.

I'm not saying that Social Security couldn't be reformed in an intelligent manner, but I am saying that Bush and the mob of yes-men and spinmeisters around him are the last people you should trust to come up with the plan.

It reminds me of Michael Milken's junk bonds. I talked to Milken once. I think he's really trying these days to be a nice guy and a fine human being, but he still gives the impression of being the leader of the hyper-intelligent reptiles from the planet Zwork. (I wonder if Oliver Stone met Milken before he came up with the name "Gordon Gekko" for Michael Douglas' character in Wall Street. It sure fits.) Now, I've never met George W. Bush, but I did talk to his brother Neil about a half hour before talking to Milken, and "hyper-intelligent" was not the word that came to mind.

Anyway, there were two ideas behind Milken's "high yield" bonds: interest payments are tax deductible and you don't have to jump out the window anymore if you go bankrupt. So, you borrow a gazillion dollars at ridiculously high interest rates and buy a company. If you hang on somehow and keep paying the interest until you can cash out, you become a gazillionaire through the magic of leverage. If you don't, well, it's not like it's 1929 and you have to kill yourself just because you are ruined. The creditors just have to take a haircut. Heck, if you live in Texas, you can keep your mansion. Indeed, you just move on and you'll probably be back in the game soon.

Before Milken, financiers felt that overly exploiting these two openings was Just Not Done. But Milken said, Just Do It.

The problems with Milkenizing Social Security, however, are that:

A. The tax deductibility of interest is irrelevant to federal government borrowing.

B. If they bankrupt the U.S., well, some of us can't just move on. As Patrick Swayze says in Red Dawn: "We live here." 

C. And what's the reward for all this risk? If you pull off a junk bond leverage buyout, you become rich beyond the dreams of avarice. But if the Republican succeed with Social Security, what will they get: control of the White House, the Senate, and the House? Oh, wait, they've already got all that. 

***

 

http://www.iSteve.com/05JanA.htm#maureen.dowd.zeta

Liberal NYT columnist cites IQ study! Menopausal spinster Maureen Dowd's continuing series "I Hate Men (Why Oh Why Didn't A Man Marry Me?)" took a predictable turn Thursday when she approvingly referenced an IQ study:

 

"A second study, which was by researchers at four British universities and reported last week, suggested that smart men with demanding jobs would rather have old-fashioned wives, like their mums, than equals. The study found that a high I.Q. hampers a woman's chance to get married, while it is a plus for men. The prospect for marriage increased by 35 percent for guys for each 16-point increase in I.Q.; for women, there is a 40 percent drop for each 16-point rise."

 

This once again confirms Sailer's Law of IQ: "Liberals simultaneously don't believe in IQ and believe their IQs are far superior to the IQs of nonliberals." 

 

Interestingly, while Maureen couldn't figure out how to get her ex-boyfriend Michael Douglas to marry her, Catherine Zeta-Jones didn't have much trouble solving the puzzle. I'm sure Maureen assumes her IQ is far superior to Catherine's, but Catherine seems to have discovered how men work at a much younger age than poor old Maureen.

 

A reader writes:

 

Men are often lampooned for for their cluelessness about women, but it goes both ways.  The difference is we never see women satirized for it the way men are.

 

That reminds me that the first article I ever published in a magazine (The American Spectator back in October 1992) was a satire on feminist cluelessness:

 

Report Cites Bias Against Women in Drug Rackets

"Aspiring Female Traffickers Lack Role Models," Notes Expert


By Steve Sailer


HANOVER, NH -- A new study reveals that while women have made gains in the controlled substances industry, they still comprise only 14.6% of all drug dealers. Even more disturbing, a "glass ceiling" shuts women out of the top rungs of the profession. "You always hear about 'Drug Lords' and 'Cocaine Kingpins,' but where are the 'Drug Ladies,' and 'Cocaine Queenpins?'" demands Clarissa Spode, Professor of Sociology at Dartmouth, and author of the groundbreaking report, "Cracking Through: Diversity, Dignity and Drugs."

Dr. Spode faulted the media for purveying stereotypes that discourage women from entering this fast growing and lucrative occupation. For example, "Miami Vice" depicted in total only 127 female "drug industry workers" compared to 1,711 men. "Even worse, 103 of the women (81.1%) were portrayed as forsaking their careers after sleeping with Sonny and/or Rico."

Other experts concur. "Gangster films in general have always been virulently phallocentric," observes Reed College Film Professor Charles Womyndaughter. His screenplay for a non-sexist mob movie -- "The Godparent" -- was treated with callous disregard by Hollywood. "They said some quite insensitive things about it," he recalls.

Another authority, Dr. Arthur Cruttwell-Clamp, finds that American women are socialized away from traits valuable in this demanding occupation. "Too few women in our society have been taught how to laugh while zapping a deadbeat customer with an electric cattle prod." He calls on toymakers to introduce young females to a wider range of career options. "Instead of 'My Little Pony,' your toddler should be playing with 'My Little Uzi.'" Dr. Cruttwell-Clamp recommends that parents combat traditional gender-typing by having their daughters pull the wings off butterflies and burn ants with magnifying glasses for 30 minutes each day, then advance to tying stray dogs to the bumpers of cars idling at stop lights.

All the experts indignantly dismiss biological conjectures purporting to explain why males seem more violent than females. "Then why are the Nuzwangdees of Guyana -- or is it the Wangduzees of New Guinea? Well, anyway, I heard there's some tribe somewhere where more women than men are into GrecoRoman wrestling, or is it Australian football?" retorts Dr. Womyndaughter.

Media stereotypes victimize men as well. "Tragically, male dealers internalize the media's image of them," muses Dr. Spode. "The one man I talked to while preparing our report was hyper-masculine: aggressive, dominating, reckless, ruthless, muscular ... and, yet, strangely intriguing."

The researchers found chauvinism widespread within the drug industry. "We originally expected gender equality in such a nontraditional, multicultural business," recalls Dr. Spode. "As the evidence of male domination mounted, however, we began searching for the Old Boys Network that locked women out. But with a median life expectancy of 24, we couldn't find many Old Boys. Fortunately, we came up with a crucial conceptual breakthrough: the Young Boys Network." Dr. Spode adds that females are seldom invited along on important male-bonding rites of passage, like drive-by shootings.

Linda M., a spunky New Yorker, recounts how sexual harassment cut short her promising career: "I started out in retail, on a corner in the Lower East Side, but the other vendors were very crude, very 'macho.' Whenever I walked by they made these weird sucking noises. So, I went into wholesale to find a higher class of professional peer, maybe even a mentor who could show me the 'ropes.' But my fellow distributors claimed I was on their 'turf' and kept disrespecting me by dangling me out windows by my ankles. So, I went home to Bensonhurst and opened a 'crack house.' But my family and neighbors were not at all supportive of my 'un-ladylike' ambitions, so they formed a 'vigilante' mob and 'torched' my house. I think they were trying to undermine my self-esteem."

Activists denounce the lack of government programs to meet the special needs of mothers who are also drug dealers. "The very term 'Day Care' reflects institutional insensitivity to those who work mostly between midnight and dawn," points out Dr. Spode. "One mother told me she would never deal drugs because she couldn't bear to think what would happen to her children if she were killed or imprisoned." Dr. Spode blames this inequity on Reagan administration cutbacks.   [More...]

***

http://www.iSteve.com/05JanA.htm#suicide

Privatizing Social Security would lead to more suicide, euthanasia, and murder: 

 

A feature of the current and much-denounced Social Security system is that no matter how long you live, you still get a monthly check. As has been mentioned before, one of the mysteries of life is that no man knows the length of his days. The current "defined benefit" Social Security system acts as an insurance program against what could otherwise be the disaster of living too long.

 

The popularity of "defined contribution" retirement plans like 401k's stem in large part from their being supplements to Social Security. Say you retire at 65. You can spend the next 15 years blowing your 401ks on world travel and golf, and feel comfortable that you'll still have your Social Security check to fall back on so you won't have to go live in a refrigerator carton if you happen to live past 80. 

 

Or, if you are less self-centered, from age 65 you can treat your private retirement accounts as you children's patrimony and live frugally just on Social Security. 

 

In either case, the existence of a fairly generous Social Security (and Medicare) system takes away a lot of the anxiety about living too long. Pro-life conservatives should contemplate some of the statistically inevitable consequences of cutting back on that insurance.

 

A reader writes:

 

The big unnoticed/ignored (by “conservatives”-who-like-political-revolution & “progressives”-who-like-cultural-reaction alike) income support move is the shift from defined benefit to defined contribution pensions for average workers.

(The move is in the opposite direction for CEO’s).

Previously, under defined benefit plans (Lockheed & Social Security) workers got a guaranteed life-time annuity. The smart money has figured that this is becoming one long free lunch.

Now defined-contribution pensioners will simply get what goes into the pot (income deduction + booming capital gains + hot tips) less what goes out of the pot (asset liquidation + busting capital losses + greater fools & trips to Vegas) Lower income personal account holders will not have sufficient assets to diversification, so will be more susceptible to risk of local stock losses.

They will also be more susceptible to asset liquidation, owing to higher marginal propensity to consume during low-income earning periods.

If the nation’s pension funds are put into play it does not take too much nous to figure out that a few people will own most of the marbles at the end of this game. Privatising pensions is so win-win for the Big End of Town it is embarrassing. 

Their existing share portfolios get a big price boost as personal account money floods into equity markets. They get to keep their FICA deductions which will be diversified into value shares (so their lazy money goes into growth shares). They get to manage the accounts which will give them beaucoup fees from churning. They get to clean up when the little fish periodically get panicked into (peaks) and out of (troughs) the market by large financial swells.

No wonder they are getting other agencies to act as spear carriers in this moral obscenity.

***

 

http://www.iSteve.com/05JanA.htm#not.that.theres.anything.wrong.with.that 

How to get more work out of employees: A reader writes:

 

The MLK Day proposal just need to be tweaked a little, or rather supplemented. One hurdle to getting private companies to give paid holidays is that there are getting to be so many holidays. Have you ever heard of the Federal government repealing a holiday? No, Washington just keeps adding more. This imposes economic costs.

Fortunately, a solution is now at hand. By coincidence, overwhelming evidence has just been published that Abraham Lincoln was, uh, well, let's just say he played for both Rebs and Yanks. So we simply rename Presidents Day "Gay Leadership Day."

It will still be a Federal holiday, and maybe companies will even continue to allow absence on our new Gay Leadership Day. But I will bet that 98 percent of the guys in the office will show up for work, prompt and eager, that day. In fact, job attendance on Gay Leadership Day may be the highest during the whole year, with a surprising lack of flu cases or other strange illnesses. Over the years, guys may even find that it is the most fun day of the whole year to go to work, to get more done and to enjoy their coworkers.

There we are: more holidays, recognition of an important bit of Americana, and increased GDP. It's the perfect hat trick, courtesy of Abe.

***

 

 

How to make the MLK Holiday popular It's been 19 years since the Rev. Martin Luther King's birthday became a federal holiday, and six years since New Hampshire became the 50th state to make it a holiday for state workers. Yet, in 2004, 29 percent of employers give their staffs the day off with pay, according to a survey of 339 Human Resources executives by publisher BNA Inc.

Surprisingly, few non-black workers seem to mind. Not surprisingly, some blacks feel that this apathy toward King's birthday is a sign of disrespect. Black comedian Chris Rock said, "You gotta be pretty racist to not want a day off from work."

Fortunately, one simple change in the holiday could end this racial divisiveness and unite workers of all colors in demanding a paid holiday honoring King.   [Continued here...]

***

 

http://www.iSteve.com/05JanA.htm#was.lincoln.gay

Reviewing the Was Lincoln Gay?" controversy, Across Difficult Country writes:

 

Should his portrait instead be on the three dollar bill?

Was Abraham Lincoln a homosexualist? According to a new book by written by C.A. Tripp, he was. Tripp is himself a homosexualist (a coincidence) and at one time was a researcher for the ‘sex scientist’ Alfred Kinsey... For the sake of history, let’s examine the facts on both sides:

Evidence he was: Lincoln shared his bed with the captain of his bodyguards, David Derickson. Lincoln was often seen frequenting a popular public restroom in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington DC. Lincoln loved the theater. Young Lincoln was often referred to as ‘the rail-splitter’ (I don’t know what that means exactly, but it sure sounds kind of queer).

Evidence he wasn’t: What sort of homosexualist would appear in public looking like this?

 

Good question. (The uncropped photo is even funnier.)

 

More seriously, it's hard to take these allegations as evidence of much of anything since the proponents of the theory have yet to bring forward any contemporary evidence that a single one of Lincoln's millions of passionate political enemies had ever accused him of homosexuality. In contrast, for example, it was widely rumored at the time that Sally Hemmings' children were fathered by President Jefferson.

 

Without TV back then, people spent a lot of time recounting personal gossip, so rumors would have spread.

 

A reader comments:

 

I haven't read the book , but after reading some comments about it on the blogosphere, it seems to me some of the arguments the book presents are very silly. Regarding the issue of sharing a bed with someone (a not uncommon practice at the time), let's remember that before the emergence of the gay rights movement, heterosexuals were far less reluctant to engage in non-sexual physical contact with other men than they would in today's time, when such behaviour would appear to look gay. That's certainly true in some institutions like the armed forces, where (not accidentally) gays were explicitly banned until just a few years ago. Liking the theater was also not exclusively a gay thing at the time (I think you have written about straight flight in your columns before). Writing bawdy poems about men marrying men hardly counts as gay behavior (how many heterosexuals make gay jokes today?). So what is left? an unhappy marriage?

***

 

http://www.iSteve.com/05JanA.htm#jodie.foster.eugenics

What's truly interesting about Jodie Foster is not her sexual orientation, but the feminist movie star's obvious obsession with eugenics. As I wrote in "Feminist Celebrity Eugenics" in 2000:

 

Feminist heroine / single mother / glamour queen Jodie Foster apparently undertook a more methodical search for the perfect sperm donor. According to numerous reports in the British press in 1998, she had proudly announced that after a long hunt, she had had herself impregnated with the gametes of a tall, dark, handsome scientist with an IQ of 160.

While Miss Foster will neither confirm nor deny these articles, this does not at all seem out of character. In her movies and personal life, Miss Foster has often appeared to be loyally trying to reproduce her unusual upbringing. According to her ne'er-do-well brother Buddy's tell-all book Foster Child, Alicia Foster's nickname of "Jodie" is a tribute to "Aunt" Jo, who was their mother's pistol-packing live-in lesbian lover [Josephine Dominguez, or "Jo D"].

Jodie was a child prodigy who thrived in this environment, reading at 18 months, becoming the Coppertone Kid at three, and later on graduating summa cum laude from Yale. Thus, her first directorial effort was "Little Man Tate," in which she played a single mother raising a seven-year-old genius. Similarly, her production company received multiple Emmy nominations for "Baby Dance," a Showtime cable movie with Stockard Channing playing a wealthy, high-powered woman who wants a baby but can't get pregnant in the traditional manner. Not surprisingly, Jodie named her firm Egg Pictures.

And Jodie is widely celebrated for her leftist activism. The last story she would want circulating is one that makes her sound like Nazi film directrix Leni Riefenstahl brainstorming with Himmler and Goebbels over the specs for the Master Race's next generation. Especially because Jodie actually is going to produce and star in an upcoming bio-pic currently called "The Leni Riefenstahl Project."

Whoever the father of Jodie Foster's baby really is, the general truth is that, despite the strident egalitarianism of so many feminists, the process of getting artificially inseminated inevitably turns women who can't bear to be impregnated by a man into practicing eugenicists. They have to ask themselves which sperm donor is genetically superior. Leafing through fertility clinics' catalogs, they are forced to agonize over such politically incorrect questions as, "Does Donor #543's curly blonde hair and 6'-3" height mean he gives better seed than Donor #361, who is only 5'-7" but has an SAT score of 1450?" ...

Now, eugenics has a terrible reputation. Much of its notoriety is well deserved, since its most visible manifestations in the 20th Century were governments murdering or sterilizing people they didn't like. Voluntary eugenics, however, is too universal and too fundamental to human life for us to continue to observe the taboo against discussing it in print...

One benefit of thinking frankly about eugenics is that we can grasp its practical limitations. Consider the alleged 160 IQ of little Charles Foster's daddy. That's an extraordinary number: Only 1 out of about 30,000 Americans scores so high. Does this guarantee that, if the rumor is true, the Foster family will be blessed with another prodigy? Definitely not. According to psychologist Chris Brand ... the expected boost in the kid's IQ from using a sperm donor with an IQ of 160 instead of a one with the average IQ of 100 is only 12 points. And your mileage may vary … and almost certainly will vary dramatically. (Another book showing how to do these calculations is Daniel Seligman's delightful introduction to the science of IQ, A Question of Intelligence.)

Now, twelve IQ points (80% of a standard deviation) is nothing to sneer at. It's the difference between the 50th percentile and the 79th percentile on the Bell Curve. Still, I fear Jodie would find herself a tad disappointed.

Why is the expected payoff of even such painstaking eugenic efforts as this so small and so uncertain? Regression toward the Mean. We each carry two sets of genes. You might have gotten lucky and gotten dominant genes that granted you a huge amount of some desirable trait. But your recessive genes are also a random selection from the average of your ancestors' genes, weighted by their closeness to you on the family tree. At the moment of your child's conception, you and your mates' four sets of genes are completely reshuffled. Thus, the children of the highly intelligent tend to have kids who aren't as bright as they are. That's why royal dynasties are founded by usurpers with exceptional talents, but quickly recede to nothing-specialness. In merciful contrast, the exceptionally dim tend to have children who are a little smarter than they are.

So, who will little Charles Foster take after the most? His Nietzschean Superwoman mom? His handpicked dad? Or, just maybe, his Uncle Buddy?

***

 

http://www.iSteve.com/05JanA.htm#orthodontists.cartel

Why isn't this a political issue? Orthodontists are incredibly overpaid for an easy job (no late night phone calls). A reader explains:

 

Regarding your post entitled "What's the deal with orthodontists?"-- my understanding of the situation is that Orthodontistry schools keep a stranglehold on high prices by only admitting the top 1 (or some such number) % of Dentistry school graduates, thus ensuring that the number of orthodontists available is less than the market's demand for their services. That's what the studious dental student husband of a friend of mine told me, at least.

 

Apparently, only 280 orthodontists are allowed to graduate every year, or less than one per million Americans (I don't know how many retire each year, but the net increase in orthodontists must be much lower). Further, the cartel may persecute inventors who devise new labor-saving (and thus income-reducing) braces, as was argued in the case of Viazis v. American Association of Orthodontists.

 

The cost of the orthodontists' cartel per American family is huge: Let's guesstimate that half of American kids get braces at an average cost of $3,000 each, of which 50% is a premium extorted by the cartel. So, the typical American family with two kids is being ripped off to the tune of $1,500 each. (Even if your insurance pays for it, you are still paying in reduced wages.) 

 

Yet, nobody cares. Why not?

***

 

http://www.iSteve.com/05JanA.htm#jodie.foster.lesbian

What the public really wants to know: I've become addicted to looking up which Google searches bring people to iSteve.com, and it's helped me learn more about what the public really wants to know. It's not a pretty sight. 

 

For example, I've written several times about how fortifying staple foods in 3rd World countries with micronutrients such as iodine and iron would a cheap way to raise national IQs and thus help alleviate the crushing burden of 3rd World poverty. Yet, I've never seen evidence that anyone has ever used Google to search out information on that important topic. In contrast, hundreds of people have come to iSteve.com following their Google search on the words "Jodie Foster lesbian." 

***"

 

http://www.iSteve.com/05JanA.htm#humor.subversive

Is humor subversive? I remarked below on how small-c conservative New Yorker cartoons are. (A reader recalled his favorite: A diner say to his waitperson, "Chris, do you mind if I call you 'Waiter?'") On the other hand, several readers pointed out how movie comedies, from the Marx Brothers on, tend to be devoted to tearing down formality. The only problem is that they've succeeded so well that there is very little formality left in modern life, which is why so many contemporary comedies include weddings, which is one of the few truly formal occasions left in anybody's life anymore.

***

 

My New VDARE column on Alberto Gonzales is up. An excerpt:

 

The likelihood of Alberto Gonzales being confirmed as Attorney General stems in part from the Bush administration's readiness to play the Johnnie Cochran-style race card. Republicans have increasingly taken to slandering as racist anybody who criticizes a minority Republican. And, of course, Gonzales would indeed be "the first Hispanic" etc. etc.

Yet, what we haven't heard is much evidence that Hispanics particularly want to be symbolized by a national embarrassment like Gonzales.

Would you?

The best you can say for Gonzales is that he's a tool. He's a classic minion whose career over the last decade has consisted of concocting legal rationalizations for whatever George W. Bush wants to do.

What Bush wants to do is why VDARE.COM has its own questions for Gonzales—which the Senate appears unlikely to ask. Gonzales has been an enforcer in Bush’s campaign to flood the country with immigrants, legal and illegal, and re-engineer it with racial quotas.

Gonzales is so pro-illegal immigration that in his Senate testimony last week he used what I've called the "ultimate euphemism"—that illegal aliens are "lawful citizens."

That's not a slip of the tongue. Gonzales has a relentless prejudice in favor of authoritarian lawlessness, which is why the President wants to make him the nation's chief law enforcement officer...

 

And don’t believe the NRO crowd that only anti-American liberal wimps worry about little things like torture and tearing up the Geneva conventions. FBI G-men and military officers are also aghast at what Gonzales has done. Twelve high-ranking retired admirals and generals, including former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili, have criticized Gonzales in an almost-unprecedented open letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

After World War I, Winston Churchill forlornly reflected:

 

"When all was over, torture and cannibalism were the only two expedients that the civilized, scientific, Christian States had been able to deny themselves: and these were of doubtful utility."

 

I never thought I'd be nostalgic for the First World War. But the rapidity with which the Bush Administration, egged on by Gonzales, turned during their dramatically less desperate wars to torturing Afghan and Iraqi prisoners (70-90 percent of whom were arrested by mistake) makes the Great War look like a moral Golden Age.    [More...]

 

More revealing Gonzales facts: The Washington Post reports:

 

Gonzales paints himself as a largely apolitical lawyer, who began leaning toward the GOP only after joining the prestigious Houston firm of Vinson & Elkins. He says he votes for the person, not the party, adding that he would have supported George W. Bush even if he had been a Democrat.

***

 

Some of my recent film reviews:

 

The Motorcycle Diaries - Che Guevara biopic

Silver City & Bush's Brain - Chris Cooper as GWB

Hero - Zhang Yimou, Jet Li

Bright Young Things - Evelyn Waugh's Vile Body

She Hate Me - Spike Lee

The Terminal - Steven Spielberg & Tom Hanks

Napoleon Dynamite & Maria Full of Grace

 

More of my film reviews here.

***

 

http://www.iSteve.com/05JanA.htm#jewish.century

Yuri Slezkine's The Jewish Century is finally getting the serious reviews it deserves. Although this landmark book by UC Berkeley history professor Slezkine was published by Princeton U. Press back in August, it had gone almost unmentioned, except by me, until now.

 

Now there's an appreciative review by David N. Myers, professor of Jewish history and director of the Center for Jewish Studies at UCLA, in the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. And the Jan. 31st issue of The American Conservative has a positive review by Albert S. Lindemann, history prof at UCSB (it's available to electronic subscribers -- become one here!).

 

And here's a new interview with Slezkine at Nextbook.

***

 

http://www.iSteve.com/05JanA.htm#million.dollar.baby

Clint Eastwood's lady boxer movie Million Dollar Baby: From my American Conservative review, now available to electronic subscribers:

 

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.

Traditionally, society objected to women brawling because (to paraphrase the answer the shady doctor in "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" gives to the question of whether his memory erasure technique can cause brain damage), "Technically speaking, boxing is brain damage."

If a man gets his head caved in during some pointless scrap, well, some other man will just have to step in and do double duty carrying on the species. But, women are the limiting scarce resource in making babies, so each woman lost lowers the overall reproductive capacity.

That kind of proto-sociobiological reasoning is unthinkable today, yet that hasn't brought about a feminist utopia. Instead, men employ gender equality slogans to badger women into doing things guys enjoy.

Still, 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.

 

The rest of my review will be on newsstands in a week or so.

***

 

http://www.iSteve.com/05JanA.htm#gerrymander 

Three Cheers for Ah-Nold -- Last November, 153 Congressional and legislative seats in California were being contested in the election. Not a single one changed from one party to the other due to the extreme gerrymandering in place to protect incumbents. Gov. Schwarzenegger has announced that he's sick of this and wants an independent panel of retired judges to draw district boundaries in the future. 

 

Ah-Nold is on the side of Truth, Justice, and the American Way because gerrymandering has gotten increasingly accurate due to advances in computer technology allows incumbents to protect themselves from fluctuations in the will of the people.

 

Here's an interview I conducted with the man who is perhaps the leading academic expert on gerrymandering, Dan Polsby of George Mason U.

***

 

 

http://www.iSteve.com/05JanA.htm#deaf.gays

A clue to a cause of male homosexuality? A reader writes:

 

I've been reading your articles on homosexuality with interest as of late. I'm 25 years old, gay, and have been out of the closet and therefore in the gay community to some degree since the age of 16. One thing that I have noticed that I have always thought people ought to do a study on is the shockingly high number of people in the gay community who were born deaf. I'm not the only gay person to make note of this; at least three of my friends have had the same independent realization. One would never imagine that, in a relatively small city such as Baltimore, a social club for "gay deaf bears" could fill up a moderately-sized bar with its monthly outings, but I saw this myself regularly when I worked as a barback. Perhaps deafness and homosexuality are two possible long-term consequences of an infection by the same "gay germ".

 

On the other hand, one could argue that deafness, like effeminacy, might lead to early alienation from same-sex peers among boys, which develops into homosexual attraction during the hormonal onrush of puberty.

 

I had never heard of this before, but an article in The Advocate says: 

 

Many deaf gay people actually find it easier than hearing people to recognize and accept their sexuality, a fact that may explain the impression that a disproportionate number of deaf people are gay. Everybody has a theory on this one: Gallaudet French and Spanish instructor Buck Rogers believes deaf gay children are sheltered from much of the mainstream culture's verbal homophobia by not hearing it. Others say homoerotic feelings are more easily manifested and acted on because many deaf children are educated in group homes and seek comfort because they feel abandoned by their parents. Still others suspect the process of coping with being deaf makes acceptance of yet another difference more natural.

 

Gregory Cochran replies:

 

If this higher incidence of homosexuality among the deaf is real, and we can pin it on the approximately half of deaf people who used to have rubella-caused deafness, game over. The vaccine was licensed in 1969: I would guess that rubella deafness was rare after 1975. So this connection should, if it exists at all, exist in gay men 35 and over. (By the way, kids with rubella infections who got them in utero are ~50 times more likely to have type-I diabetes.)

 

So, that would raise the question of the average age of deaf gays -- is it higher than average among gays? Is there a sharp fall off under 35 or so? Gay deaf organizations could be contacted.

 

Generally speaking, I don't see much evidence for a higher than normal number of medical syndromes among male homosexuals, so I was surprised to hear about this possible connection to deafness. The only thing instantly noticeable in a sizable fraction of gay men is the famous "lissssp" (it's not a "lithp," or a Daffy Duck-style "lishp," but a sibilant "lissssp"), which bedevils gay men's choruses across America, but a lisp is hardly a major problem like deafness is.

***

 

http://www.iSteve.com/05JanA.htm#eugenic.abortion

Gay Genes Would Lead to Eugenic Abortion: The same reader asks:

 

Incidentally, what do you think the odds are that, once a germ or a gene for homosexuality is found, heterosexuals will abort us out of existence?

 

It's hard to say what the effects of discovering a gay germ would be, but it's certainly less likely to lead to large-scale eugenic abortions than would the discovery of a gay gene. A gay gene would probably elicit responses similar to the modern responses to the chromosomal abnormality that causes Down Syndrome -- and you'll notice that there are a lot fewer Down Syndrome people around than a few decades ago, due to pregnant women having eugenic abortions. 

 

In the prestige press, everybody talks about eugenics as something that existed only in the bad old days, but it's going on right now all around us.

 

None dare call it eugenics, but private eugenics is highly popular with liberals. Dave Shiflett wrote on NRO:

 

Jocelyn Elders, just prior to being named Bill Clinton's surgeon general, famously proclaimed that abortion "has had an important and positive public-health effect" because it reduced "the number of children afflicted with severe defects." She pointed out that "the number of Down Syndrome infants in Washington state in 1976 was 64 percent lower than it would have been without legal abortion."

 

I'm sure lots of fashionable people would say that they would never abort a fetus with a gay gene, but then you don't hear a lot of people boasting that they would abort a Downs syndrome fetus either, but it sure happens a lot these days. In both cases, parents would have to decide whether they want to go through all the hard work of raising a child without much chance of getting grandchildren in return. This calculus would especially be likely to be true among blue state liberals who are only planning to have one or two children, and therefore don't feel they can afford to invest in kids who won't pay off fully ... and grandchildren are about the biggest payoff you can get out of childrearing.

 

A seldom-discussed paradox is that if male homosexuality is proven to originate in a particular "gay gene," then it's likely that the continued existence of gay men in future generations in America will primarily be due to Christians who oppose abortion on religious grounds. Kind of ironic, no? Gays might want to think about that before denouncing Christians.

 

On the other hand, if the gay germ theory is proven true, then this would likely only lead to numerous eugenic abortions if both the infection was ascertainable during the first few months of pregnancy and if it wasn't readily preventable or curable. At this point we have no clue when the infection (if there is such a thing) might occur: the likely timespan would be about the first 30 months or so after conception, with only the first 20% being in the window when a first or second trimester abortion would be feasible.

 

It's a fascinating example of the raw stupidity of the politically correct, such as Garance Franke-Ruta, that they generally consider the gay gene theory progressive and pro-gay and the gay germ theory absolutely beyond the pale, when the discovery of a gay gene would probably lead to far more eugenic abortions of gay fetuses than would the finding of a gay germ.

 

On the other hand, the discovery of a gay germ would probably lead to searches for vaccines or antibiotic/antiviral agents, which eventually might lead to fewer male homosexuals, but that hardly compares on the morality scale to the tide of eugenic abortions that the identification of a gay gene would set off. 

 

If a clear path of transmission was discovered, such as being sneezed on by a gay man while pregnant, that might cause some change in behavior during the susceptible periods, such as pregnant women or women with babies staying away temporarily from gay friends or gay service workers like hairdressers. (One of my readers recently checked, at my suggestion, for seasonality in the births of gay males, which could be the sign of transmission via cold/flu mechanisms, but found no seasonality, lowering the possibility of sneeze route).  I'm sure many people would consider that a horrific possibility, but it strikes me as one that people could adjust to.

 

In the long run, a decline in the number of male homosexuals, from whatever cause, would have various consequences. For example, a decrease in the number of young gays would mean that more old homosexuals would have to be satisfied with each other for company. Certain professions, especially in the arts, might be set back, but I suspect society would compensate, just as it has adjusted to the far more horrible impact of the AIDS epidemic that gays inflicted upon themselves through massive promiscuity. For example, a large number of Broadway choreographers were killed by AIDS in the 1980s. 

 

If the number of gay men coming of age each year dropped significantly, I suspect that more women would step up to fill the gap in professions like choreographer where gay men currently tend to have an advantage in professional competition over women due to their greater male aggressiveness. Straight men might even return to the profession, as in the days of Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Bob Fosse, and Gower Champion, before the "straight flight" that has rendered Broadway so much less popular than in the past.

***

 

http://www.iSteve.com/05JanA.htm#conservative.humor

Is Humor Conservative? Paging through the massive new book of New Yorker cartoons from 1925 to 2004, it strikes me that most humor is conservative, even in a liberal magazine. Not "conservative" in the ideological sense of whatever kind of wacky risk-taking "conservatism" stands for in 2005, but in the general sense of "being skeptical of innovations." 

For example, my wife and I find hilarious the recent cartoon of the man walking down the street talking on his cellphone who says, "Can you hang on a sec? I just took another picture of my ear." My wife and I know that it's obvious that God only meant for us to talk on our cellphones, or maybe text-message a little, or, in a pinch, surf the Web, but to take pictures with our cellphones is inherently ridiculous and anybody who tries it deserves whatever come-uppance they're sure to get. 

 

My kids, however, can't understand what's so derisible about combining a camera with a telephone. Isn't it totally obvious that they go together? Was there ever a time so primitive that nobody had a camera in his cellphone? Why would he have to hold on a sec just because he took a picture of his ear? Is he that lacking in bandwidth?

On the other hand, both generations of Sailers are baffled by the cartoons from the 1920s that apparently are trying to make fun of the tall buildings that were then under construction in New York. What in the world is funny about skyscrapers? What would New York be without skyscrapers? What kind of cavemen were so unfamiliar with skyscrapers that they found the very idea of them amusing?

 

Paradoxically, it's this conservatism of humor that means that old humor doesn't endure well. Judging from the New Yorker collection of their best cartoons, the funny stuff (from my perspective) goes back to, oh say, my birth in 1958 and the amusing stuff to about 1935, but the cartoons from the decade before that are about as laugh-inducing as League of Nations white papers. The problem is that I'm so inured to everything from 1925-1934 that I can't even begin to put myself back into the shoes of people to whom skyscrapers, subways, and talkies were such outrageously new-fangled novelties that they were automatically funny.

***

 

http://www.iSteve.com/05JanA.htm#expensive.orthodontists

What's the deal with orthodontists? CBS Marketwatch's List of Top 10 Most Overpaid Jobs includes:

 

4. Orthodontists

Working 35 hours a week, orthodontists on average earn $350,000 a year. At the same time, regular dentists make 50% less, having to work 39 hours a week and performing more "dirty" work. Orthodontics, unlike neurosurgery, does not require additional schooling. The entire educational process lasts two years.

 

Why hasn't this price come down the way the cost of laser eye surgery has plummeted? Personally, I would find the argument more persuasive that you really ought to pay for the best when looking for a doctor to slice your eyeballs up with a laser beam than the argument that you ought to willingly pay extra when looking for a doctor to very slowly nudge your kid's teeth around with braces, but that doesn't appear to be the general opinion of mankind. And how are you supposed to decide between two orthodontists, one asking $5,200 and one asking $3,200? How do you find out if one is worth the extra money?

***

 

http://www.iSteve.com/05JanA.htm#armstrong.williams

The Bush Administration takes the direct approach in persuading the punditariat:

 

Seeking to build support among black families for its education reform law, the Bush administration paid a prominent black pundit $240,000 to promote the law on his nationally syndicated television show and to urge other black journalists to do the same.

The campaign, part of an effort to promote No Child Left Behind (NCLB), required commentator Armstrong Williams "to regularly comment on NCLB during the course of his broadcasts," and to interview Education Secretary Rod Paige for TV and radio spots that aired during the show in 2004.

Williams said Thursday he understands that critics could find the arrangement unethical, but "I wanted to do it because it's something I believe in."

 

It's actually reassuring to learn that not everybody who shills for the Bush Administration's wackier projects is a True Believer.

 

I guess the definition of an honest pundit these days is one who stays bought.

 

From what I know of conservative pixel-stained wretches, you could buy the undying loyalty of 60 pundits for $4,000 each just by inviting them to a fancy conference at a tropical resort hotel and letting them give speeches to high government officials who nod appreciatively at their insights.

 

So, why did somebody in the Education Department pay Armstrong such a vastly inflated sum? Maybe there was a little personal favoritism? The NY Press reported in 1998:

 

Armstrong Williams, the conservative talk-show host who instigated a firestorm last week by asking the senator from Mississippi [Trent Lott] whether homosexuality is a sin, is being sued for sexual harassment by a former employee who happens to be male. Last year, Stephen Gregory -- the former YMCA personal trainer whom Williams promoted to executive producer of his show -- alleged in his suit that the boss grabbed his buttocks and penis, tried to kiss him, and climbed into his hotel-room bed asking for "affection" while they were traveling together. Williams immediately held a press conference to denounce Gregory's allegations as "false, baseless, and completely without merit." Gregory's attorney, Mickey Wheatley, who says the case will probably proceed to trial this fall, has spoken with Gregory since Williams's news-making interview with Lott. "He's not that political," says Wheatley, "but his reaction was, 'That sounds like Armstrong shooting his mouth off.' " Neither Williams nor his attorney could be reached on deadline.

 

Here's the outcome of the case

 

Beats me what the real story is behind this story.

***

 

http://www.iSteve.com/05JanA.htm#sentinelese.photo

A Sentinelese tribesman firing arrows at a relief helicopter in the Andamans: A poster child for xenophobes everywhere! 

 

Can you imagine how terrifying a helicopter must look and sound to a stone age tribesman and how brave you'd have to be to fight one with a bow and arrow? Personally, I find helicopters rather horrifying and I've seen them all my life.

***

 

http://www.iSteve.com/05JanA.htm#gay.germ

Setback for Gay Germ theory: As I've mentioned several times before, the existence of male homosexuality (of the exclusive variety) is perhaps the greatest anomaly troubling Darwin's theory of natural selection, which is otherwise so enormously useful in understanding the living world. Therefore, solving the mystery of the cause(s) of male homosexuality is -- besides all the personal, moral, and political controversy it generates -- of the highest abstract scientific interest. It's as if a few percent of objects in the universe didn't appear to follow Einstein's theory of relativity.

 

We can be reasonably confident that in contemporary society, homosexual orientation is typically not a choice or a fashion or a product of socialization because it's not terribly hard to predict with more than random accuracy which little boys will grow up to be gay men. Richard Green of UCLA's long tracking study found that effeminate little boys are radically more likely to grow up to be homosexuals than masculine little boys. Similarly, the average difference in thirty retrospective studies asking adult men to discuss their proclivities as little boys found that adult gays were 1.2 standard deviation  studies more effeminate than adult straights. 

 

Fundamentalist liberals of the Garance Franke-Ruta ilk are shocked to hear me point out these scientific studies linking boyhood effeminacy to adult homosexuality (a correlation which most people over the age of 35 or so have probably observed among their own circle of acquaintances), but, obviously, these facts about early childhood are the most persuasive response to religious people who consider homosexuality to be a sinful choice of adults. Further, a wider understanding of the correlation between childhood effeminacy and adult gayness can help parents prepare themselves so they won't be so shocked when their sons come out of the closet, thus preventing painful family rifts.

 

Dean Hamer's gay gene declaration of the cause of male homosexuality proved wildly popular when broached over a decade ago, but little has emerged since to validate it. It's not impossible for male homosexuality to be a genetic trait that is selected for if it had other side effects that increase "Darwinian fitness" (i.e., number of descendents), just as sickle cell anemia is selected for in West Africa because it reduces the deaths from malaria. 

 

It has been theorized by advocates of the gay gene theory for over three decades that homosexuals might have more nephews and nieces and the like, but there seemed to be no empirical evidence for this. I know one researcher who looked for this and found nothing. Then, last year some Italian researchers announced they had found that gay men in Italy could recount more relatives on their mothers' side than their fathers' side, suggesting a connection to the X chromosome. But everyone ignored the obvious methodological concern: gay men famously tend to talk to their mothers more than they talk to their fathers, having more in common with their mothers, so they would be more familiar with the maternal sides of their families.

 

I first heard of the alternative gay germ theory in the cover story in the Atlantic Monthly of February, 1999 about evolutionary theorists Paul Ewald and Greg Cochran. So, Ms. Franke-Ruta should denounce the Atlantic Monthly, not me. 

 

The gay germ theory has a lot of theoretical advantages. For example, germs can evolve at least as fast as our defenses against them, so an ever-increasing number of medical conditions are found each decade to be caused by infections. In contrast, despite all the enormous interest in discovering genetic diseases, progress has been slow for the predictable reason that natural selection fairly quickly and surely eliminates genes that reduce the number of descendents.

 

However, theories, no matter how elegant, need to be tested. So, I've proposed a couple of times in the past that somebody check to see if there is a seasonality to the births of homosexuals, as there is with the birthdates of schizophrenics. A seasonal pattern isn't essential to a gay germ theory, but if one existed, it would be evidence for it. If seasonality doesn't exist, it suggest that this theoretical gay germ would not be spread by the same mechanisms as cold and flu germs, which spread more easily in winter with more running noses from the cold and people indoors more.

 

A reader writes:

 

I took a look at the General Social Survey which asks people what was the sex of the people they slept with last year (SEXSEX) and their sign (ZODIAC). Looking at the 201 men (SEX=1) who had exclusively male-male sex compared to the almost 6,500 men who had exclusively hetero sex, I couldn't find any differences in the seasons of the two groups' births. Specifically, I looked at various ranges of time within the period between Oct. 23rd and Mar. 20 (Scorpio through Pisces) but found no differences between the two groups in the percentage born during the given period of time. If you're interested, you could fiddle with the numbers at: http://webapp.icpsr.umich.edu/GSS/

 

UPDATE: Greg Cochran replies:

 

Come on, Steve, think it through: the only way you'd see a seasonal effect is if there was a key vulnerable period in in early development, probably before birth. A pre-birth infection is possible but not particularly likely: for every infection that hits before birth there must be a hundred that hit later in life.

So, imagine that the mystery bug is something that everybody gets fairly early in life, like RSV. Depending on what month you're born, maybe you get it at 2 or 2.5 or 3. No seasonal effect.

If this involves nuking a hypothalamic nucleus, there probably is no key developmental period.

***

 

Andamanese Jarawas are OK: The AP reports:

 

JIRKATANG, India — Members of the ancient Jarawa tribe (search) emerged from their forest habitat Thursday for the first time since the Dec. 26 tsunami and earthquakes that rocked the isolated Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and in a rare interaction with outsiders announced that all 250 of their fellow tribespeople had survived.

"We are all safe after the earthquake. We are in the forest in Balughat," Ashu, an arrow-wielding Jarawa, said in broken Hindi through an interpreter in a restricted forest area in the northern reaches of South Andaman island (search).

According to varying estimates, there are only 400 to 1,000 members alive today from the Jarawas, Great Andamanese (search), Onges (search), Sentinelese (search) and Shompens (search).

Some anthropological DNA studies indicate the generations may have spanned back 70,000 years. They originated in Africa and migrated to India through Indonesia, anthropologists say.

Government officials and anthropologists believe that ancient knowledge of the movement of wind, sea and birds may have saved the indigenous tribes from the tsunami.

Seven men — wearing only underwear and amulets — emerged from the forest to meet with government and police officials to say they had all fled to the forest and survived by eating coconuts. The men were all carrying bows and five arrows each and wore colored headbands with leaves.

 

The Jarawa were (along with the Sentinelese, who have their own island) essentially uncontacted until the late 1990s when a young tribesman walked into Port Blair, the urban center of the large Indian colony in the Andamans, and was discovered scavenging through garbage. When attempting to run away, he broke his leg and was hospitalized. In the hospital he discovered the pleasures of television, and when he was released, he started bringing his friends into town to cadge food and watch TV. Unfortunately, their immune systems were overwhelmed by the outside world's germs, and the Jarawa have been victims of several epidemics in recent years.

***

 

 

http://www.iSteve.com/05JanA.htm#clone.gay.sheep

Let's clone a gay sheep! Greg Cochran's come up with a way to test the popular but almost untested Gay Gene theory: clone a homosexual ram. Although you hear a lot about homosexuality in animals, most of that is actually bisexuality. There is very little in the way of exclusive homosexual orientation among male animals -- but sheep are a clear exception, much to the frustration of sheep ranchers who find that a noticeable percentage of their rams won't pay attention to a ewe in heat even if you tie her to a fence for his convenience.

 

Since we've known how to clone sheep since the 1990s, it would be straightforward to clone a number of exclusively gay rams and see how many of their clones turn out to be gay as well. The gay gene theory would predict that all of them would be gay since their genes would be the same.

 

By the way, among human identical twins, a substantial portion of the time when one identical twin is homosexual, the other is not. The first time this was studied, just under half of the pairs were "nonconcordant" for homosexuality. However, it was pointed out that by placing an ad in a gay newspaper, this would be more likely to attract concordant twins (since readership of gay newspapers among nonconcordant twins is about half compared to concordant twins; and other readers of the gay newspaper would be more likely to know that, say, Ike had a twin if his twin Mike was also active on the local gay scene than if Mike lived in Schaumburg with his wife and three kids, so they'd be more likely to call the ad to one of the twin's attention if both were gay.)

So, the study was redone using the Australian government's twin registry and they came up with a nonconcordance figure of, I recall, something like 75%-80%. However, there are methodological issues involving that study, too, so we can't be too sure. Nonetheless, it's clear that concordance for male homosexuality among identical twins is much lower than for, say, sex, where it's virtually 100%, or for, say, height where the concordance is quite high.

 

Let me also throw out a quick way to test a different theory of the origins of homosexuality. It turns out that schizophrenics tend to have birthdates falling more in some seasons of the year than in other seasons, suggesting that prenatal or postnatal infections, which are spread more in winter than in summer, might play a role in schizophrenia. So, are male (or female) homosexuals more likely to be born at some point of the year than at other points of the year? One way to test this is by looking at a gay dating service that displays the participants' astrological signs (i.e., birth months). There ought to be an equal number for each sign, but if there is a statistically significant skew toward one or two seasons, that might suggest some role for infections. 

***

 

http://www.iSteve.com/05JanA.htm#usc.1

USC beats OU 55-19 to win national championship -- Think how good the Trojans would have been if they hadn't lost their great receiver Mike Williams in a legal fiasco. (When a court ruled that Maurice Clarett could go to the NFL after one year instead of the usual three years, Williams hired an agent and stopped going to classes. Then, the ruling was overturned and Williams, as a self-declared pro, had to sit out the season.) They would have had three of the top five in the Heisman voting: winner QB Matt Leinart, RB Reggie Bush, and WR Williams.

 

Many years ago, I shared an office with a former All-American DB from UCLA. We got around once to the sensitive topic of why USC beat his UCLA teams like a drum. He said, "Because it is made very clear to the USC players that if they beat UCLA, they ... will ... be ... rewarded." Ah, the the amateur spirit!

***

 

http://www.iSteve.com/05JanA.htm#cousin.marriage.a

Good news from Afghanistan: Agency France-Presse reports:

 

"Cousins, forced marriages and blind children — a very Afghan drama"

HABIB Zada is a photographer but his two children, one year-old Zaki and six-year-old Harez, will never see his pictures. Born from an arranged marriage between blood relatives, they are both blind - the victims of an ingrained tradition, like many handicapped youngsters in Afghanistan...

“I told my father, ‘if you want, I’ll follow your directions but it is not good to marry a cousin,’” Zada, who spoke to AFP using a pseudonym, said with a doleful look. “At the time, I had another girl in mind. I didn’t want to marry for another five years, but he said I was his oldest son and he wanted to see my wedding”.

Faced with his father’s intransigence and being aged just 20 at the time, Zada gave in - despite the fact that two of his brothers are blind and that in marrying his cousin he increased the risk of passing on the problem. The United Nations estimates between 800,000 and two million Afghans suffer from a disability. A quarter were caused by Afghanistan’s 25 years of war but specialists are slowly coming to the conclusion that many of the rest result from arranged intrafamilial marriages.

“In Afghanistan, disability is caused by war, accidents, poverty, diseases for mother and children, and forced marriages between cousins,” said Parween Azimi, an official at the Ministry for Martyrs and the Disabled, recently. “Hundreds of families have disabled children for that reason,” she told AFP, adding that it remained a highly sensitive subject. 

Masooda Jalal, Afghanistan’s new Minister for Women, who is also a paediatrician, said: “More than 13 years ago, I remember a survey that said that hundreds of thousands of Afghans were mentally disabled.” According to the survey “intermarriages were the first cause of this disability,” she said. Jalal had been combating the practice and planned radio programmes to get information to the public, but had to stop when Afghanistan’s civil wars began in the early 1990s. In the meantime, Zada married his cousin.

“Our two families knew each other and mine thought that meant I could stay close to them,” said his 28-year-old wife, sitting on cushions on the floor. “After we were told that our son Harez was blind I cried all the time. I was watching him hoping that he would get better. “My friends came to me and said ‘it is not only your problem, it is everybody’s problem.’” 

“Afghan culture is like this. The daughter should not go away,” said her mother Rahila as she cuddles little Zaki. Masooda Jalal has a more searching explanation. “Why they are happy to do that? Because of the security and safety of the girl. There is so much harshness (against women) that every parent has that fear.” Poverty is another factor, with families marrying amongst themselves to avoid paying a large dowry, both Jalal and Azimi maintain. “I hope that the Ministry of Women can design a programme so that the next generation of Afghans is stronger,” Jalal said.

Zada, meanwhile, has decided to marry a second wife in the hope of having children who are not handicapped. “So that they can take care of us when we are old,” he said. “In Afghanistan you need to have children to help you when you get old”. afp

 

Why is this good news? Well, because, typically, people don't much notice the genetic problems caused by first cousin marriages while wars and plagues are going on. It's only when the death rate comes down a little that disabilities caused by inbreeding become readily noticeable. So, this could be a sign of progress in Afghanistan.

 

A reader points out:

 

Also, remember in these tribal/clan cultures that *many generations* of intermarriage within the clan is shooting up the inbreeding coefficient as "cousins" share an incredibly high number of recent coancestors.

***

 

http://www.iSteve.com/05JanA.htm#sentinel.islanders

Sentinel Islanders Shoot Arrows at Relief Helicopter: A reader comments, "God! Don't you just love those little buggers!  They've got pretty big brass ones to attack a helicopter!" Imagine what a helicopter looks and sounds like to a stone age tribe...

 

Tribe shoots arrows at aid flight 
By Jonathan Charles BBC News, Andaman Islands

 

An Indian helicopter dropping food and water over the remote Andaman and Nicobar Islands has been attacked by tribesmen using bows and arrows. There were fears that the endangered tribal groups had been wiped out when massive waves struck their islands.

But the authorities say the attack is a sign that they have survived.

More than 6,000 people there are confirmed as either dead or missing, but thousands of others are still unaccounted for.

The Indian coastguard helicopter was flying low over Sentinel Island to drop aid when it came under attack.

A senior police officer said the crew were not hurt and the authorities are taking it as a sign that the tribes have not been wiped out by the earthquake and sea surges as many had feared.

The Andaman and Nicobar archipelago is home to several tribes, some extremely isolated.
 

Officials believe they survived the devastation by using age-old early warning systems.
They might have run to high ground for safety after noticing changes in the behaviour of birds and marine wildlife. Scientists are examining the possibility to see whether it can be used to predict earth tremors in future.

 

Mr Andaman, George Weber, is updating a page of breaking Andaman and Nicobar news.

***

 

http://www.iSteve.com/05JanA.htm#years.married.blacks

Years Married among blacks: I invented the statistic "Average Years Married between 18 and 44" to give an easy-to-grasp understanding of marriage proclivities by state. It looks at the expected numbers of years a woman will be married in the 27 years from 18 and 44. For white women, it correlates at 0.91 with Bush's share of the vote in 2004. 

 

Here's Years Married for black and white women (non-Hispanics):

 

State  Blacks   Whites   Diff 
District of Columbia          3.9          7.4       3.6
Pennsylvania          5.4        13.9       8.5
Wisconsin          5.4        14.6       9.2
West Virginia          5.8        15.3       9.4
New York          5.8        12.7       6.9
Illinois          5.9        14.2       8.3
Michigan          6.0        14.5       8.5
Ohio          6.2        14.5       8.4
Missouri          6.2        15.0       8.8
Connecticut          6.5        13.4       7.0
New Jersey          6.7        13.5       6.8
California          6.7        12.5       5.8
Iowa          6.8        15.1       8.4
Indiana          6.8        15.1       8.3
Massachusetts          6.8        12.2       5.4
Delaware          6.9        13.9       7.0
Kentucky          6.9        15.7       8.7
Nebraska          6.9        15.3       8.3
Minnesota          7.0        14.4       7.5
Tennessee          7.2        15.7       8.5
Rhode Island          7.2        12.6       5.4
Maine          7.4        13.8       6.4
Maryland          7.4        14.0       6.6
Louisiana          7.4        15.4       8.0
Oklahoma          7.6        15.8       8.2
Mississippi          7.6        16.5       8.9
Nevada          7.7        13.4       5.8
South Carolina          7.7        15.4       7.7
Oregon          7.7        13.9       6.1
Florida          7.8        13.6       5.8
Alabama          7.9        16.6       8.7
Arizona          7.9        13.7       5.8
Kansas          8.0        15.7       7.8
Georgia          8.0        15.6       7.6
Arkansas          8.0        16.5       8.5
North Carolina          8.2        15.5       7.4
Virginia          8.2        14.7       6.4
Texas          8.2        15.2       6.9
Washington          8.3        13.9       5.6
Wyoming          8.5        15.5       7.0
Vermont          8.5        13.4       4.9
Utah          9.0        17.0       8.0
Colorado          9.2        14.1       4.9
New Mexico          9.4        14.1       4.7
New Hampshire          9.7        14.0       4.2
South Dakota        11.2        15.7       4.5
Alaska        12.4        15.3       2.9
Montana        13.8        15.0       1.2
Idaho        14.0        16.3       2.3
North Dakota        15.8        15.5      (0.4)
Hawaii        16.0        14.1      (1.9)

 

It looks like there's a negative correlation between the size of the black urban ghetto in a state and the years married for black women. 

 

The states with very high average years married tend to have very small numbers of blacks and high interracial marriage rates for blacks. Also, a lot of the blacks in states like Hawaii, North Dakota, and Alaska got there with the U.S. military, and black enlistees in the military tend to come from more middle class backgrounds than blacks in general.

 

There's a moderate correlation between blacks being married and the state as a whole voting more conservatively in 2004: r = 0.40.

 

The correlation between years married for blacks and whites in a state is only r = 0.34. This high degree of random variation suggests that blacks are not closely tied into the culture of the whites in the state.

***

 

http://www.iSteve.com/05JanA.htm#parental.selection

Another kind of Darwinian selection? From the NYT:

 

Judith Rich Harris
Writer and developmental psychologist; author, "The Nurture Assumption"


I believe, though I cannot prove it, that three - not two - selection processes were involved in human evolution.

The first two are familiar: natural selection, which selects for fitness, and sexual selection, which selects for sexiness.

The third process selects for beauty, but not sexual beauty - not adult beauty. The ones doing the selecting weren't potential mates: they were parents. Parental selection, I call it.

***

 

http://www.iSteve.com/05JanA.htm#jared.diamond.collapse

Jared Diamond didn't used to be so boring: Jared Diamond has a new book out called Collapse about societies that have collapsed due to environmental disasters such as deforestation. It's a useful topic, but in the large scheme of things, a minor one, which is why Diamond spends so much time on famously trivial edge-of-the-world cultures like the Vikings in Greenland and the Polynesians on Easter Island. But Diamond is so good at getting publicity that the fact that ecology has little to do with the reason most societies collapse will likely be overlooked. The main reason you don't see many Carthaginians or Aztecs or members of other collapsed civilizations around these days is they got beat in war, as Edmund Creasy's famous 1851 book "Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World" makes clear.

 

Diamond wasn't always so pompously dull. Over a decade ago, Jared Diamond wrote a fascinating book called The Third Chimpanzee that collected his Discover columns and other articles. It didn't make too much of a splash, perhaps because it was politically incorrect in a lot of places, so then he wrote a much duller book entitled Guns, Germs, and Steel, which purported to once and for all Disprove Racism, and he has been a fixture as a speaker at the higher priced sort of conferences ever since. 

 

Although, as far as I can tell, he only lectures, never debates. I've never heard of him ever allowing himself to be dragged into a debate. I met him after he gave a speech at Mike Milken's big annual confab. We were chatting nicely until I asked him a tough question about what he didn't mention in his Guns, Germs, and Steel -- Wouldn't different agricultural environments select for different hereditary traits in locals? -- I went on to mention how James Q. Wilson's The Marriage Problem has a couple of chapters on how tropical agriculture in West Africa affects family structures. And, thus, wouldn't the kind of man that would have the most surviving children be different in an agricultural environment where he doesn't need to work too much to support them than in an agricultural environment where he does?

 

Now, Diamond has spent a lot of time birdwatching in New Guinea, so he knows all about what tropical agriculture selects for. And he has no intention of touching that tar-baby with a ten-foot pole. So, he grabbed his stuff and literally dog-trotted at about 5 mph out of the auditorium!

 

Jared Diamond wasn't always such a tedious phony. GC over at GNXP.com has uncovered an early Jared Diamond article in prestigious Nature about a hilariously politically incorrect topic. Personally, I don't have any first-hand experience with the topic, so I couldn't give you my opinion on the validity of Diamond's findings on racial differences in testicle sizes, but Diamond seems pretty fascinated by the question.

 

Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution has more on Collapse.

***

 

I review Tom Wolfe's I am Charlotte Simmons in VDARE.com.

***

 

http://www.iSteve.com/05JanA.htm#social.security.1

Bush's Social Security Plan: A reader writes:

  • If economic growth slows by half (in the midst of a global tech boom fuelled by Asian nerds unleashed from socialism)

  • If the stock market continues to grow faster than earnings

  • If the Bush upper income tax cuts are made permanent

  • If means test benefits cannot be introduced

  • If FICA taxes cannot be raised

  • If the the pension eligibility age is not moved out to take into account extended longevity (as life expectancy edges towards 80+)

  • If congress can be constrained from introducing loopholes for lobbyists and liquidators

  • And if Wall Street can be prevented from looting the greater fools overcharging fees or churning accounts

Then maybe, privatization of social security would look like a reasonable idea.

 

But why would one bet on so many ifs?

Considering what a superb job Bush did of thinking through every possible eventuality of the Iraq Attaq, he's obviously the man to upend Social Security. I know a lot of "conservative" pundits like Michael Barone are exulting that "conservatism" now means blindly backing radical gambles based on on one indifferently-informed man's hunches, but why is that conservative? 

***

 

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