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December 2002

 

 

Sen. John Edwards announces his candidacy for President -- Anybody doing opposition research on Edwards should get a video of his appearance on the "Charley Rose Show" on the night of 9/11/2001. I've never seen a top professional politician make himself look more inane and lightweight.

***

 

Welcome, first time visitors to iSteve.com arriving from John Derbyshire's Diary on NRO. My iSteve.com site is organized in three sections. This right hand column is my blog, the left hand column lists in reverse chronological order my articles, including some classics from the 1990s. The links at the top of the screen help you find my articles arranged by major topics. If you are interested in my views on race, the best place to start is my essay It's All Relative: Putting Race in Its Proper Perspective -- Steve.

***

 

Film: Best of 2002 by Steve Sailer

Overall, 2002 was a better year for movies than the notoriously weak 2001, when many films were rushed to completion to avoid anticipated strikes by writers and actors. What was best about movies in 2002?

 

Film of the Week: 'Confessions of a Dangerous Mind' by Steve Sailer

It's remarkably hard to make a good movie. As evidence, consider that Charlie Kaufman, author and main character of the delightful "Adaptation," is today's hottest screenwriter -- yet, two out of his three films this year misfired.

 

Video of the Week: 'Barbershop' by Steve Sailer

The ensemble comedy "Barbershop" was one of the most likable movies of 2002, a sort of black "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." Jesse Jackson's denunciation of "Barbershop" for political incorrectness helped it earn a heartwarming $75 million, despite a budget of only $12 million.

 

Video of the Week: Vin Diesel in 'XXX' by Steve Sailer

"XXX" is a trashy but entertaining-enough cross between a James Bond movie and one of those '80s action films where muscle-bound, thick-tongued heroes grunt out witty one-liners while shooting giant guns. It made $141 million last summer, and is out Tuesday on DVD ($27.96 list price) and video (rental only).

***

 

The NYT reports:

 

"In 2003, Britain plans to undertake the world's most ambitious study of the origins of disease. Looking forward to the day when people will know their genetic makeups and request a precise picture of their risks of developing various diseases, the study organizers plan to assemble a database of medical information about 500,000 Britons, including their DNA. The goal, over the next 10 to 20 years, is to sort out the way that genes and the environment combine to cause common diseases."

 

This is very interesting, although it's not clear why the Brits should rush into a large scale project before the already-in-progress Iceland Decode Genetics project proves whether this is a good concept. The basic problem with all of these studies is that the correlations between most diseases and genes are going to be much lower than between capabilities (IQ, beauty, athleticism, endurance, etc.) and genes. Your genes don't exist to make you sick, but to provide you with abilities to make your genes survive and propagate. Natural selection works fairly rapidly to eliminate purely hereditary diseases that don't provide some benefit in return. If the researchers don't try to figure out what benefits the disease-correlated genes provide, their solutions are likely to cause some nasty side effects.

***

 

Greg Cochran thinks cloning will make hereditary monarchy feasible again by eliminating the regression toward the mean that plagues all dynasties founded by an outstanding man. I'm dubious, but I suspect somebody is going to try. 

***

 

The demand for cloning: When I was a kid, whenever my blue parakeet Tweeter would keel over or fly out the window, I would rush to the pet shop and buy another visually indistinguishable blue parakeet and name it Tweeter. Over a 14 year stretch, I owned (in succession), Tweeters I, II, III, IV, and V. Granted, I was a particularly sentimental and conservative child, but if I wanted to come as close as was then possible to cloning a Tweeter N+1 each time Tweeter N died, then surely there's going to be some serious demands for cloned children from bereaved parents. I don't think cloning your dead kid is a good idea (especially since it doesn't work well at present), but we've got to realize that a lot of grieving people are going to pay a lot of money to have it done no matter what we think. 

 

Similarly, a lot of dying people would like their genes to have a second shot at life. I know a young man dying of a hereditary disease, who'd love to have himself cloned if they could replace the killer gene.

 

We will be living in interesting times.

***

 

John O'Sullivan has the most insightful comment upon the whole Lott imbroglio:

 

"Those who celebrated his resignation with triumphalist glee, both Democrat pols and conservative journalists, merely reveal that they have no idea how the American South was peacefully transformed from Jim Crow to an integrated non-racist society over the last 30 years."

 

Read the rest here.

***

 

Somehow I was oblivious to the journalism of the gifted  J.P. Zmirak until recently. Here's his article explaining in detail what I've vaguely alluded to in my reviews of the great Lord of the Rings movies: How Tolkien's books are a depiction of the battle for the soul of the Northern European culture between Christianized England and repaganized Nazi Germany.

***

 

Randall G. "ParaPundit" Parker -- offers 42 highly specific predictions for 2003. A brave man.

***

 

Film of the Week: Kidman in 'The Hours' by Steve Sailer

Opening on Friday in Los Angeles and New York, and nationwide on Jan. 17, "The Hours" -- starring Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, and Meryl Streep -- is a peculiarly annoying film.

***

 

Joe Strummer: The passion and the pose by Steve Sailer

Joe Strummer, the lead singer and chief lyricist for The Clash, who died Sunday at age 50 in his rural home in the West of England, was a man of passion, paradoxes and poses. From 1977 to 1982, Strummer and Clash lead guitarist Mick Jones wrote enough great songs to ultimately rank below only Lennon-McCartney and Jagger-Richard in the pantheon of British rock songwriting duos.

***

 

The NY Times displays "The Palette of Mankind:" a chart that shows how 52 different racial groups from around the world divide up into roughly five continental-scale racial groups. NYT reporter Nicholas Wade, continuing his assault on the "Race Does Not Exist" conventional wisdom, writes:

 

"Humankind falls into five continental groups — broadly equivalent to the common conception of races — when a computer is asked to sort DNA data from people from around the world into clusters. The major groups are African (orange), Europeans and Middle Easterners (blue), East Asians (pink), Melanesians (green) and American Indians (purple). Genomes of people from Central Asia, such as the Hazara of Afghanistan and the Uygurs of western China, are a blend of European and East Asian, as might be expected for people living at a historical crossroads. Some Middle Easterners, like the Bedouin and the Mozabites of Algeria, carry an admixture of African genes.

 

"The chart, generated by Dr. Marcus Feldman of Stanford and colleagues and published in the current Science, was made by sampling the DNA of 1,056 people from 52 of the many populations around the world. Each person’s genome was sampled at 377 sites where the DNA breaks into a stutter of repeated short sequences. These repeats, though apparently without function, are useful in tracking human variation, and are also the elements used in DNA forensic tests of identity."

 

A few points: 

 

There's nothing set in stone about five continental scale races: you can split or lump to your heart's content. Further, lots of populations are hybrids of continental scale races, like the typical Puerto Rican. Some locations consist of clinal zones between major groups, such as along the Nile. Other regions are mosaics of highly different people who don't interbreed much, such as South Asia.

 

You may find my "7 Dumb Ideas about Race" a handy guide to avoiding pitfalls in thinking about the topic.

 

If laid out on a map, this would look very much like the world racial map on the cover of Cavalli-Sforza's 1994 "History and Geography of Human Genes," which was created not from DNA analysis but from DNA markers such as blood types. Further, it would look much like what Carleton Coon came up with in 1965, working primarily from bones and surface features. I suspect Charles Darwin could have drawn you a similar map in 1870.

***

 

Great Moments in Feminism -- "Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski Friday appointed his daughter to replace him in the U.S. Senate, saying he wanted the person who succeeded him to share his beliefs in the future of the state." One of those beliefs presumably being that in the future, Alaska will be a wholly owned subsidiary of Murkowski Dynasty, Inc. One of the dirty little secrets of feminism is how much the advancement of women has been the result of patriarchs pushing their daughters ahead. The decline in the number of sons the average father has meant that men turned increasingly toward their daughters to fulfill their dynastic hopes.

 

This reminds me of a conversation I had in 1994 when I was talking to a black lawyer about affirmative action. He replied, "Hey, sure I benefit from it, but so do the white women I'm competing against and most of them are the daughters of big shot lawyers or executives. My granddad picked cotton on a plantation, but this one woman I'm up against who gets extra credit for being female, well, her granddad owned a plantation." 

***

 

This just in from the NY Times:

Gene Study Identifies 5 Main Human Populations

By NICHOLAS WADE

Scientists studying the DNA of 52 human groups from around the world have concluded that people belong to five principal groups corresponding to the major geographical regions of the world: Africa, Europe, Asia, Melanesia and the Americas.

 

The study, based on scans of the whole human genome, is the most thorough to look for patterns corresponding to major geographical regions. These regions broadly correspond with popular notions of race, the researchers said in interviews. …

 

The issue of race and ethnicity has forced itself to biomedical researchers' attention because human populations have different patterns of disease, and advances in decoding DNA have made it possible to try and correlate disease with genetics.

 

The study, published today in Science, finds that "self-reported population ancestry likely provides a suitable proxy for genetic ancestry." In other words, someone saying he is of European ancestry will have genetic similarities to other Europeans. Using self-reported ancestry "is less expensive and less intrusive" said Dr. Marcus Feldman of Stanford University, the senior author of the study. Rather than analyzing a person's DNA, a doctor could simply ask his race or continent of origin and gain useful information about their genetic make-up.

 

Dr. Feldman said the finding essentially confirmed the popular conception of race.

***

 

The year-end double issue of The American Conservative includes my article "The Cousin Marriage Conundrum: The ancient Iraqi custom will foil nation-building." It probably won't be online, so you'll need to buy it. (What a bizarre concept -- paying for journalism! Who ever heard of such a thing?) The cover story "America the Abstraction" by J.P. Zmirak is outstanding.

***

 

The remarkably talented Jack Strocchi is getting a blog. Details to come.

***

 

It might be useful to newcomers to explain my basic political point of view: I am a citizenist and a realist. "Citizenist" is not a word you hear often, which is not surprising because few pundits seem to think like this. My starting point analyzing policies is: "What is in the best interests overall of the current citizens of the United States?" In contrast, so many others think in terms of: "What is in the best interest of my: identity group / race / ethnicity / religion / bank account / class / ideology / clique / gender / sexual orientation / party / and/or personal feelings of moral superiority?" 

 

As a realist, my other basic prejudice is that in the long run the best interests of American citizens are served by telling the truth rather than by indulging in lies, ignorance, or wishful thinking. And, if not, the truth is a lot more fun!

***

 

Establishment conservative pundits are starting to come down from their moralistic rush of the last week. They're holding their heads crapulously and wondering, "Why, exactly, did we sucker punch our own social agenda? The Supreme Court was on the verge of outlawing college racial quotas, but we blew it! With all the big magazines and newspapers now ranting about closet segregationists holding the levers of power, Sandra Day O'Connor will never listen when we tell her that so much time has passed since Jim Crow that racial preferences are unjustified."

 

While many rightwing commentators are still in denial, the truth is sinking in: They could have killed the story in its cradle ten days ago simply by scornfully telling the truth when the handful of Clintonites were peddling it: "Get real, for crissakes. It didn't mean anything. It was just hot air to make an old man feel good on his 100th birthday." The NYT and the rest of the establishment liberal press would never have taken up such a piddling anecdote if the rightwing punditariat hadn't validated it first by flogging it to show off their shiny moral superiority.

***

 

Film of the Week: Tolkien's 'Two Towers' by Steve Sailer

The only important weakness of this overwhelming series is that director Peter Jackson's interests are too techno-contemporary -- too videogame violent -- to do adequate justice to Tolkien's very English Tory/proto-60s love of farms and forests and suspicion of technology. "After reading Tolkien, I knew I had to move to the country," said Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, whose 1968 "Ramble On," with its alternating medieval folk melody verses and hammer of the gods heavy-metal choruses, evokes the balance of Tolkien's English and Nordic sides better than Jackson does, who can't seem to muster much enthusiasm for Tolkien's Renaissance Faire leanings.

 

Video of the Week: 'Unfaithful' by Steve Sailer

"Unfaithful," a heartbreaking thriller featuring career performances by Richard Gere and Diane Lane, is the masterpiece of director Adrian Lyne's spectacular but underrated career.

 

Video of the Week: 'Minority Report' by Steve Sailer

"Minority Report" is a philosophical science-fiction thriller in which Tom Cruise plays a gung-ho futuristic policeman who catches would-be murderers before they kill only to find himself tagged as the next felon. To save himself, he must prove his beloved precognition system is fallible. In a rare instance of accurate forecasting by me, I wrote last summer, "I'd be surprised if 'Minority Report' hauls in much beyond a solid but unspectacular $135 million." It ultimately made $132 million.

***

 

More unintended (but highly predictable) consequences of Republicans forming a circular firing squad around Trent Lott to punish him for his meaningless blathering at a 100th birthday party, in between his Hooters and Viagra jokes, about something that happened when he was 7: The chances of winning a huge victory over affirmative action in the Supreme Court in the U. of Michigan case are going down the toilet. Here's a message from a legal activist in the campaign for colorblind admissions:

 

"I just received an email from the chief counsel of a very senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee telling me that his boss may now have a very hard time asking the administration to write a brief in support of the plaintiffs in the Univ. of Michigan admissions case. Two senior senators agreed to do this for us. Now we may be down to only one. If we are lucky."

 

Actually, that "circular firing squad" image is getting old. Here's a better one for describing the orgy of holier-than-thouism that swept up every Republican who can type: a " circle jerk of self-righteousness."

 

Speaking of self-righteous jerks, Instapundit now whines that it's "galling, and unjustified" that the Democrats are using his witchburning crusade to advance their agenda of racial preferences. Hmmhmmh, maybe you should have anticipated that before helping Clinton-henchman Sidney Blumenthal turn a molehill into a mountain, O All-Seeing Sage of Blogistan?

***

 

Republicans are now hoping against hope that just by getting rid of Lott, they can reset the political landscape to the sunny scene it was before their bout of self-immolating hysteria. It won't happen. Look for more people and principles to be tossed out of the sleigh (the legendary Russian sleigh being chased by wolves, not St. Nick's) as sacrificing merely Lott proves inadequate.

 

Particularly hallucinatory are the conservative Republicans at places like NR who think this has all been a wonderful opportunity to replace a softie like Lott with somebody who will now bull through some of their favorite hardline anti-multiculturalist conservative legislation. 

 

Here's Roger Clegg on NRO's Corner:

 

But maybe the Lott controversy actually gives the Bush administration the opportunity to do the right thing. The president should say, “There is no place in America for discrimination on the basis of skin color, and any political leader must be clear, consistent, and credible in opposing such bias. That’s why I’m calling on Trent Lott to step down as majority leader, and that’s why my administration supports an end to the system of racial and ethnic preferences that has, unfortunately, come to honeycomb our society.”

 

Yeah, sure, Roger, just keep wishing and maybe Santa will bring it to you for Christmas ...

***

 

Lots of conservatives are mad at Lott for selling out on affirmative action. In reality, George W. Bush (i.e., Karl Rove) sold them out two years. Here's an anti-quota activist's message:

 

"Karl Rove told me personally, in Feb. of 2001, that the administration would not take the political initiative on affirmative action. If it's his call, we had better be ready to go it alone."

***

 

Lott must be doomed, because Dick Morris says he'll survive! Reading Dick Morris is always fun. You just have to remember that, ever since his miracle year putting together Clinton's 1996 re-election strategy, he's developed a remarkable record as the most superhumanly inaccurate political prognosticator in the business. Just ask U.S. Senator Rick Lazio (R-NY)! If Morris ever goes head to head against a blind chimpanzee throwing darts, you should bet your house on the monkey.

 

Lott is an inarticulate mediocrity, which is one reason why the Republican Senators made him their leader -- no GOP Senator wanted to damage his own chances at the Presidency by putting forward into the public eye a plausible Chief Executive. 

 

Going forward, it doesn't particularly matter who is Senate Majority Leader. The damage has already been done by those on the right who started this ridiculous exercise in witchburning a man for what even his political rivals recognized as meaningless jollity at a 100th birthday/retirement party. Now, we're in for lots more quotas and other bad laws as Republicans in Congress abase themselves, along with more witch hunts for the politically incorrect. The only consolation is that some of those who will be chewed up and spit out in those inquisitions to come will be the same self-righteous self-promoters who started this one.

***

 

Oops! Speaking of people who have pinned a big Kick Me, I'm Politically Incorrect sign to their own posteriors, Andrew Sullivan is now starting to have second thoughts about the direction of the frenzy he helped whip up: 

 

"Some of the sanctimony is now beginning to bug me. ...The equation of opposition to affirmative action or hate-crime laws or any other number of leftist policies with racism strikes me as a massively cheap shot. (I was on WBUR last night and paleo-lib Jack Beatty went straight to that knee-jerk point. Grrrr.) And the blithe assumption of moral superiority is equally galling."

 

(Andrew argues that getting rid of Lott is crucial to what the GOP should really be doing, which is A. fighting affirmative action (which Sullivan calls "the new racism") and B. winning a much higher percentage of the black vote. Apparently, there are just lots and lots of blacks out there who would vote for the GOP if only the party would take a stronger stand against affirmative action. Dream on.)

 

Sullivan has a particular personal reason to worry about the current hysteria over race: according to his bio: "He is also currently at work on a new book on what science is telling us about human difference, provisionally titled, 'Nature,' to be published by Harper Collins in 2003."

 

Now, the most controversial of all "human differences" is of course the black-white IQ gap, so the book would be a damp squib if Sullivan avoids talking about it. On the other hand, Andrew can hardly cover it with a few vague politically correct locutions like Steve Pinker recently did in The Blank Slate, because Sullivan has been a brave supporter of "The Bell Curve" for eight years. In 1998, he called it "the bravest book of the 90s." In fact, publishing Herrnstein and Murray's summary of The Bell Curve in the New Republic in 1994 appears to have started Sullivan on the road to getting fired from the editor's job.

 

In the eight years since, what science has had to tell us about this particular human difference is that, if anything, Herrnstein and Murray were understating their case. So, what is Sullivan to do? With Andrew, it's always fun to find out.

***

 

If I can make sense of what Instapundit wrote, he seems to be saying that his reason for opposing rationalization of our immigration system stems (as implied by his link) from the fact that his brother is going to marry a very pretty young lady who arrived in America due to one of those Diversity Visa lotteries. You know, the program where the State Department collects 5 to 10 million Green Card applications annually from around the world, and then, instead of trying to benefit America as a whole by skimming the absolute cream of humanity off the top of those millions, simply picks 50,000 foreigners randomly

 

It's nice that Instapundit's family has personally benefited from this law, just as it's not nice that the families of the two Jews murdered at LAX on July 4 by Diversity Lottery winner/terrorist Hesham Mohamed Hadayet personally suffered from this law. Of course, personal anecdotes like these are of limited use in analyzing whether this policy is good for American citizens as a whole. 

 

For a disinterested take on the Diversity Lottery, click here. For an amusing comparison of the rational Canadian system of selecting immigrants to the bizarre American system, see my article "Canada doesn't want me."

***

 

It might be useful to newcomers to explain my basic political point of view: I am a citizenist and a realist. "Citizenist" is not a word you hear often, which is not surprising because few pundits seem to think like this. My starting point analyzing policies is: "What is in the best interests overall of the current citizens of the United States?" In contrast, so many others think in terms of: "What is in the best interest of my: identity group / race / ethnicity / religion / bank account / class / ideology / clique / gender / sexual orientation / party / and/or personal feelings of moral superiority?" 

 

As a realist, my other basic prejudice is that in the long run the best interests of American citizens are served by telling the truth rather than by indulging in lies, ignorance, or wishful thinking. And, if not, the truth is a lot more fun!

***

 

Here's Howie Kurtz's story on how the vast majority of the press originally reacted sensibly to Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party. "Baltimore Sun reporter Julie Hirschfeld Davis says there was so much 'tongue-in-cheek' talk at Thurmond's birthday party 'that a lot of us probably tuned out remarks that we might have been more careful listening to if it hadn't been such a jubilant atmosphere.'" Of course, we all know now that Trent Lott's remarks were not what they had seemed to everyone present -- near-random politico verbosity on a joyfully absurd occasion -- but a carefully crafted white paper whose every nuance was planned out years in advance in order to trigger a Ku Klux Klan coup to restore slavery. 

 

Kurtz points to three rightwing bloggers (along with a few Democrat activists like Marshall and Edsall) for blowing this up into the biggest whoop-de-doo since Anita Hill: Instapundit, David Frum, and Andrew Sullivan. Look, I know that it is mandatory to suck up to Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit) due to his power, but let's be frank: he's a lightweight whose main talents are that he can type fast and that's he's utterly shameless about building an empire built on hothouse back-scratching. 

 

Frum? Well, I can't tell him apart from every other neocon, so I can't think of anything to say about him, other than that the notion of an establishment mouthpiece like him him replacing the iconoclastic Florence King on the back page of NR is depressing. 

 

And Andrew is -- as he has explained at length in the NYT and has demonstrated repeatedly -- highly emotionally unstable due to his prescription testosterone cycle. Besides all the drugs, these hysterical moralistic/ideological crusades of his probably also serve as a psychological defense mechanism for the deep guilt I presume he must feel whenever he wonders how many men may be sick or dead because he was too selfish to use condoms. I know that these days the personal sins of gays are off-limits for public comment, but I bet that Sullivan had too much Catholic guilt pounded into him to believe, during his dark nights of the soul, that his membership in an official victim group ultimately exempts him from personal responsibility for his actions. Yet, for Sullivan to publicly discuss his feelings of guilt, the way he discusses everything else about himself, would be damaging to The Cause. So, the psychological stress on Sullivan must be overwhelming. No wonder he so often throws the first stone.

***

Al Gore was quite funny on Saturday Night Live -- I've always liked his sense of humor. His appearance on SNL's parody of a Telemundo political talk show for peons called "Fiesta Politica" was hilarious. The skit where he visits the set of "The West Wing" and sits at the prop desk in Oval Office set for 9 hours was funny and touching: to come so close to the Presidency, well, anybody would go off and grow a beard and get fat. (That reminds me: I did that years ago, and what was my excuse?)

 

But his appearance on SNL emphasized how much he resembles long time SNL performer Chris Kattan (one of my SNL favorites) in general affect. Besides his famous muscular stiffness, this prissiness that people sense in Gore probably cost him the Presidency. (Of course, he came so close that you can say that about a lot of things.) Bush overcame Gore's lead during the first debate, perhaps because voters who had never paid much attention to Gore's personal style before were struck by the contrast between the VP's seeming affectedness and Bush's folksy masculinity.

 

During the 2000 campaign, the most insightful comedians picked up on Gore's persona problem. Harry Shearer, who provides the voices for such "Simpsons" characters as the evil billionaire Mr. Berns and his devoted male secretary Smithers, joked that the Vice President sounded like a "gay robot." 

 

Similarly, the New York Post's "Page Six" gossip column reported, "Billy Crystal ... noted that the sibilant serial embellisher [Gore] was not in the house - and took the opportunity to lambaste Gore's lateral lisp. 'What, is Al practicing sighing for his next debate?' Crystal quipped. 'Is he trying to sound more like a gay waiter?'"

 

Camille Paglia psychoanalyzed (too harshly, in my judgment), "Gore isn't gay, but his hothouse upbringing by his dominating parents probably produced his prissy, lisping Little Lord Fauntleroy persona, which borders on epicene." (God only knows how likely her guess is.)

 

Now, the reality is that Al is plenty heterosexual, but he's cursed with an ever-so-slightly effeminate way he holds his facial features (what old Italian ladies call "the gay face" -- comedian Gary Shandling is another straight guy who has it too). 

 

And Gore has a nearly subliminal version of that speech defect (the "lisssssssp") that's much more common among gay men than among straight men, such as himself. 

 

You'll recall the millions of words that right wing commentators like Jonah Goldberg spun out trying to explain, with little success, out why a lot of people found Gore disconcerting and unreal sounding. The simplest explanation is that the first time you hear Gore, he sound's like he's gay. But, you get used to it quickly, and forget about -- which is why the press corps couldn't put there finger on Gore's problem.

 

Shearer, a near genius at dissecting individual styles, gave me a precise description of Gore's speaking style: "It's not a lisp--as in 'lithp.' Rather, it's a sibilant problem, in which the sibilants are pronounced in a thinner, more 'hissy' fashion than is normal among American males."

 

This whole subject of this gay speech style is confused because we don't have a good word for it. Everybody calls it a lisp, but it's definitely not a lithp, it's a lissssp. And it's certainly not universal among male homosexuals, but they definitely have it more than straight men.

 

A leading Canadian sexual orientation researcher who wishes to remain anonymous recalled a study in which laboratory subjects could reliably distinguish tape recordings of gay men and straight men reading a standard passage. He believes that gay men, rather than suffer from significant speech impediments, tend to speak with more precise articulation than heterosexual men do. In his career, this scholar has come across very few gays who substitute "th" for "s." Yet, he does find that some gays have a speech tendency that resembles Shearer's description of Gore's penchant for a hissy "s" sound. "One of the patterns of exaggerated articulation in the gay voice might be exaggerated "s" sounds, which give a hissing quality to the speech."

 

Likewise, in 1995 Cecil Adams' "The Straight Dope" column tackled this sensitive topic. "One fellow, a member of a gay chorus, wrote: 'I always thought the most identifiable stereotypically gay speech mannerism wath not a lithp, but rather an overly ssssssibilant esssssss sssssound, which is the bane of gay men's chorus conductors everywhere.'"

 

Most stereotypes about gay men attribute feminine traits to them. The lisping cliché is odd, though, in that while many consider lisping effeminate, nobody consider lisping feminine. Straight women aren't said to lisp more than straight men, or vice-versa. This suggests that the stereotype reflects empirical reality rather than a preconception.

 

Evolutionary theorist Greg Cochran says, "No careful statistical study has been done (as far as I know). But my informants (trained linguists) say that the homosexual lisp exists in all the countries and languages they are familiar with - which means at this point North America, all of Europe, and Japan. I think it would be very interesting if someone knew of a country where gay men do not have this lisp - this would help us find out if it were a learned thing, like an accent, or an unlearned thing, possibly related to a biological cause of homosexuality. "

 

Back to Al: We ought to recognize what Gore's problem is, and realize that it's neither his fault nor important, so people like Jonah should stop dreaming up tortured explanations for why Gore weirds them and a lot of people out. It's just their natural anti-gay reaction at work. Stop trying to intellectualize it into something more substantial than that you don't feel comfortable with the idea of a President who seems a little unmanly. 

 

P.S. - I missed the end of SNL, where Gore was a good sport to play opposite Al Franken's Stuart Smalley. (A cruel gag.) My wife said Gore's lissssp was as bad as Stuart's.

***

As usual, Colby Cosh talks sense, this time on Lott.

***

 

Has everyone on the right forgotten that Lott was simply bloviating in honor of a friend on his 100th birthday?

***

 

"If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you ..."

***

 

Anita Hill all over again: The Lott imbroglio would be the silliest case of political hysteria since Anita Hill's accusations against Clarence Thomas, except it's even more absurd because it was largely Republican commentators who whipped up the frenzy. Initially, most Democrats thought it was a ludicrous controversy. The very liberal retired Senator Paul Simon (D-IL) attended the 100th birthday party. He said, "I've worked with Martin Luther King Jr. and been at the forefront of civil rights legislation. If I thought it was serious, I'd be denouncing it. But I think it's being taken out of context, and that's not being fair to Trent." 

 

Tom Daschle said, ""There are a lot of times when he and I go to the microphone and would like to say things we meant to say differently, and I'm sure this was one of those cases for him."

 

Conservatives have long practiced the Russian Peasants in the Sleigh strategy of occasionally tossing one of their numbers to the pursuing wolves, but in this case, there were few wolves around until they started howling.

 

What this reveals is that the self-infatuated little circle of big time bloggers consists of morally preening fools who are bring disaster on themselves by exacerbating political correctness. William Saletan in Slate writes, "...let the inquisition begin. Lott's accusers [on the right] will be sorry they started it." Just as the fact that Anita Hill wasn't laughed out of public life set off a feminist frenzy and a Democratic boom in 1992, this ridiculous 100th birthday party scandal will wind up biting a lot of these politically pious Republicans on the ass. 

 

Do you think Andrew Sullivan, for example, likes anything at all about black people? I've never noticed anything in his writings except a generalized distaste for blacks, much like what some people feel for homosexuals. He seems to have permanently ensconced himself on the tip of Cape Cod, as far from blacks as you can in the lower 48. One day, he's going to accidentally give himself a double dose of testosterone and post what he really feels, and then we'll see if his HIV+ status saves him from the Lott-treatment.

***

 

I'm struck by how often my readers send me personal emails that are better than anything I'm reading in public sources. The Lott brouhaha is a case in point:

 

I don't know that the Blog-egos are really trying to win Brownie Points. It is more likely that their chief motivation, like that of the rest of us, is asserting their own importance. Actually, this is exactly the kind of story that, in pre-Internet days, the Nightly News crowd would have pumped within an inch of its life. The 'blogosphere' isn't replacing or correcting neurotic major media, at least on this one. It is, to a large degree, mimicking it.

 

Lott is, has been, and will be a man of limited natural gifts who, through ambition, hard work and patience with others, has risen to a position of formal power above that of many more talented rivals. The usual problem with him in the past has been that he is a very weak public spokesman for the Republican Party. Put him on TV against Daschle or another major Democrat and the Democrat will give a vigorous presentation of the Democratic position, and Lott will ramble incomprehensibly for about five minutes, finishing up with a ringing peroration like, "And I think we can work things out."

 

Legislators love this approach, this, uh, verbal restraint, in caucuses. That's why they elect boring speakers to leadership jobs. Does any senator want to listen to a speech in a private meeting? Dole practically patented the snooze rhetoric when he was majority leader.

 

But the trouble with people who have honed their skills at tedium for 30 years is that, when they are really moved, when they really want to let their deep feelings out, they tend to speak clumsily and say stupid things. Like finding no other way to praise the remarkable personal story of a 100-year-old man than saying, "gee, I wish you would have won 54 years ago." And, sure, there was a little bit of subtext along the lines of, "you know that old system wasn't so bad in its day, at least blacks stayed married to each other and raised their kids, so are we sure we haven't made things worse in at least a few ways?"

 

And here's another:

 

This "affaire L'ott" has gone beyond---way beyond---any genuine issue of contemporary political importance (we're in danger of re-introducing statutory segregation in any part of the country???), and has become a type of "religious inquisition" for an offense as near to "blasphemy" as we get these days in secularized America: calling into question the benefits of the Civil Rights movement. What we're seeing---on both the left and right, from Democrats and Republicans---is one, vast, panicked, Pavlovian conditioned response---the "less-racist-than-thou" psycho-social routine that you can elicit from just about any white person if you so much as hint that you don't buy into contemporary racial pieties---lock, stock and barrel. 

 

After nearly a week of hyperbolic denunciations of one stupid and (to me) obviously tongue-in-cheek wisecrack, which I've seen replayed on TV ad nauseam, believe me, I am far more embarrassed by and ashamed for our country's unending race hysteria than by Lott's remark. I honestly wouldn't be surprised if all the simpering outrage by Republicans and their in-house pundits over this winds up depressing white voter turnout for Republicans, especially in the South.

 

But, as you have hinted, incidents like these will eventually lead, if folks continue to be as hysterical as we've been in the last week, to enactment of the unthinkable: statutory restrictions on "hate speech," or political speech that offends our civic religious tenets on race, and the First Amendment be damned. 

***

 

News Flash! -- Yasser Arafat has appointed as his point man on the West an activist who has long struggled to prevent intermarriage between people of different religions. Yet more evidence of Muslim bigotry!

 

Oops! Never mind. I got that backwards. It's Arafat who married a Christian. [I've been told she converted to Islam upon marriage.] It's George W. Bush who has just appointed as America's point man on the Middle East a gentleman who spent most of the 1990s trying to keep Gentiles and Jews from marrying each other: Elliott Abrams. [Abrams isn't even fond of Gentiles who convert to Judaism when the marry a Jew.] I guess that out of 289,000,000 people in America, the President just couldn't find anybody who, on this important issue, wouldn't make America look more bigoted than Yasser Arafat.

***

 

The stunned Democrats can't believe their good fortune at the bizarre spasm of self-righteousness that has overcome every Republican with a Blogger account, all of whom seem to be treating Trent Lott's obviously BS niceties about Senator Strom Thurmond at his 100th birthday party (let me repeat that: at his 100th birthday party) as if Lott had just published a 900 page tome entitled "My Struggle to Reintroduce Slavery." Now, the Democrats are finally piling on too, with articles on their favorite topic: "Republicans Are All Racists Under the Skin." 

 

Let me try to make this clear to everybody on the right: You aren't winning any Anti-Racist Brownie Points for leading this witch burning. You are just making it easier for them to come after you the next time you slip up in some utterly frivolous social occasion.

***

 

Film of the Week: Jack in 'About Schmidt' by Steve Sailer

Consumer Alert: "About Schmidt," which opens in a limited run on Friday to qualify Jack Nicholson for a likely 12th Oscar nomination, is not the comedy that its artfully edited trailer suggests. "About Schmidt" is not a bad movie, but it's wisest to keep your expectations low.

***

Hysteria is mounting on the right over Trent Lott's silly words of praise of Strom Thurmond, much to the pleased surprise of the many on the left who had sensibly assumed initially that any nice thing you say about a codger at his 100th birthday party is not to be taken seriously.

 

Guys, don't you get it? You're just lowering the bar of what constitutes a lynching offense against political correctness. First they came for Trent Lott, then they came for ...

***

 

Here's the NYT article on genetic testing of the pygmy negritos of the Andaman Islands. The results seem consistent with the theory that the Andamanese are relics of an ancient out of Africa wave. There's one minor mistake in the article: although African Pygmies look like the Andamanese in many ways, the African Pygmy women are not particularly steatopygous (i.e., possessing hugely protuberant, gravity-defying buttocks), while the Andamanese women definitely are. The Andamanese share that trait, instead, with the Bushmen and Hottentots of Southern Africa.

***

 

Is Fred Reed better than P.J. O'Rourke? Check out Fred's brilliant column "Suicide of the Marlboro Man," a step-by-step dissection of how in rural areas free enterprise automatically leads to government over-regulation, and tell me if O'Rourke could have written something so honest, or would his Cato Institute libertarian ideology have caused him to pull his punches?

***

 

Hot Stuff: Jerry Pournelle has posted Greg Cochran's H-Bd essay "Overclocking," which suggests a link between the genetic diseases that afflict Ashkenazi (i.e., European and American) Jews, such as Tay-Sachs, and their famously high IQs. Indeed, in one study, sufferers from one Jewish hereditary disease, torsion dystonia, were found to have average IQs of 122, ten points higher than the control group of unafflicted Jews. Greg suggests that these genetic diseases might be negative side effects of recently mutated genes that increase IQ, just as sickle cell anemia is a side effect of a fairly genetic mutation that cuts down on deaths from falciparum malaria. If more broadly confirmed, this would suggest that Ashkenazis had been under severe selection pressure in the last millennium to be above average in intelligence. Otherwise, without some benefit natural selection would have driven a a nasty disease like torsion dystonia out of existence. Greg hasn't found any other accounts of IQ tests given to victims of Jewish hereditary diseases, but these studies would be easy to perform -- assuming anybody wants to learn the truth, which is always a big assumption in these matters.

*** 

 

I have this odd, slightly Nabokovian/Borgesian fascination with other people who have almost exactly my name, such as sports scientist Stephen Seiler, with whom I coauthored the National Review article Track & Battlefield in 1997, and Steven Saylor, who writes well-received detective novels set in ancient Rome. Now there's a cute-looking Stephanie Sailor, who ran for Congress as a Libertarian (the coincidence was noted by Hawaiian blogger Amritas).

***

 

2002 Yearend: World & U.S. Demographic Trends by Steve Sailer

While stabilization of the world's population (currently 6.261 billion) remains many decades off, most demographers now are at least confident that it is coming. In contrast, American population growth shows no signs of slowing down. According to the Census Bureau, the United States' resident population is now nearly 289 million. That's up from 281 million when the Census was taken in April of 2000. That implies a growth rate of close to one percent per year, between China (0.7%) and Iran (1.2%).

***

 

Trent Lott -- In the unlikely event that you ever attend the 100th birthday party of one of your coworkers, make sure you don't get carried away by the moment and say something effusive about something the old guy did 54 years ago. You could be denounced until the cows come home.

 

Strom Thurmond is a quite a guy: he parachuted into France on D-Day, when he was 42 years old. For other evidence of his less patriotic but still awe-inspiring youthfulness, check out Mark Steyn's column.

***

 

Video of the Week: 'K-19' by Steve Sailer

I hadn't been sure if I wanted to see "K-19: The Widowmaker." While I had certainly enjoyed "K-9," Jim Belushi's 1989 police dog comedy, somehow I'd missed sequels "K-10" through "K-18" and wasn't sure I'd be able to pick up the thread.

***

 

Democrat elected in Louisiana -- In just five weeks, the Emerging Republican Majority appears to have sprung a leak, in part due to GOP smugness about its fine but hardly overwhelming 53-47 win on 11/5/02. "Democratic operatives and political analysts [in Louisiana] said the Republicans were guilty of political hubris, believing in their own invincibility and therefore overplaying their hand by relying too heavily on negative advertising, and counting too much on Bush's electoral magic," says the WaPo.

***

 

My big article on the political impact of Islamic inbreeding should be in the Christmas issue of The American Conservative, out in a week or so. It won't be online, so here's a taste to encourage you to buy the magazine:

 

Many prominent neoconservatives are calling on America not only to conquer Iraq (and perhaps more Muslim nations after that), but also to rebuild Iraqi society in order to jumpstart the democratization of the Middle East. Yet, Americans know so little about the Middle East that few of us are even aware of one of the building blocks of Arab Muslim cultures -- cousin marriage. Not surprisingly, we are almost utterly innocent of any understanding of how much the high degree of inbreeding in Iraq could interfere with our nation building ambitions. In Iraq, as in much of the region, nearly half of all married couples are first or second cousins to each other. A 1986 study of 4,500 married hospital patients and staff in Baghdad found that 46% were wed to a first or second cousin, while a smaller 1989 survey found 53% were "consanguineously" married. The most prominent example of an Iraqi first cousin marriage is that of Saddam Hussein and his first wife Sajida. By fostering intense extended family loyalties and strong nepotistic urges, inbreeding makes the development of civil society more difficult.

***

 

Here's a useful article from the Atlantic's website on America's 100,000,000 or so non-voters: "Psychologically, nonvoters are "uninterested, uniformed, and uninvolved." They have less education. The United States has the strongest correlation between education and voting among the advanced industrial countries—six times as strong as in Britain, for example. In 1998 U.S. college graduates voted at 36 percent above the national average; those with "some high school" voted at 43 percent below it. In 1966 the figures were +27 and -10."

 

The article's author Jack Beatty comes up with a completely wrong-headed explanation for why the uneducated, young, poor, and unintelligent vote so much less often: "Jesse Jackson's evocative characterization of the lives we are talking about retires countless volumes of sociology: "They take the early bus." People with less education tend to have all-consuming jobs." 

 

In my experience in the working world, the people with less education take the early bus home. They work 8 hour shifts, unlike the professionals who don't get paid for overtime. It's the college educated frequent fliers who have the "all-consuming jobs." But they are much more likely to vote. (If you want something done, ask a busy man to do it.) What nonvoters tend to have are all-consuming private lives, full of incident (getting drunk, bailing a cousin out of jail, arguing with the girlfriend all night over who's really the father of her upcoming baby, etc etc).

***

 

Christmas book buying recommendation -- If you are into Cold War nostalgia, or even if you aren't, few non-fiction books have stood the test of time as a good read better than Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed by Ben P. Rich, who was Kelly Johnson's successor as head of the fabled unit that produced the U2 and the Stealth Fighter. From the standpoint of combining functionality with aesthetics, the supreme manufactured object of the 20th Century may well have been the airframe of the Skunk Work's SR71, the fastest airplane in history (which first flew 40 years ago). I was surprised to discover from Rich that my Dad's crusty old pal Henry Combs was the "irascible genius" who gave it its famous shape.

***

 

I saw the Lord of the Rings' sequel "The Two Towers" last night with an expert: fantasy and sci-fi novelist Jerry Pournelle. He was blown away. It debuts Wednesday, Dec. 18.

***

 

Film of the Week: Cage in 'Adaptation' by Steve Sailer

Reviewers are raving over the Nicolas Cage-Meryl Streep comedy "Adaptation," which opens Friday in Los Angeles and New York and later expands nationwide, calling it transparently honest, wildly original and intellectually brilliant. None of these accolades are true, but, so what? It's terrific.

***

 

The letter by former Bush adviser John DiIulio to an Esquire reporter might answer a question that I get asked all the time about the Administration's immigration policy: "What in the world were they thinking?" The answer would appear to be, "Not much." DiIulio writes: "In eight months, I heard many, many staff discussions, but not three meaningful, substantive policy discussions. There were no actual policy white papers on domestic issues. There were, truth be told, only a couple of people in the West Wing who worried at all about policy substance and analysis..."

***

 

It's a tribute to the intellectual triumph of the right over the last 25 years that most of the interesting arguments are within the right these days. I know that bloggers love to find some obscure leftwinger who said something they don't like and denounce him into fame, but it's a rather boring hobby. (Denouncing something stupid that some Muslim extremist said is like shooting fish in a barrel.)

***

 

"Analyze That" -- The makers of the bland 1999 Robert De Niro - Billy Crystal comedy "Analyze This" must have sensed that the world wasn't all a-tingle over the possibility of a sequel, so they worked three times as hard to make "Analyze That" funny. And largely succeeded. The first half of the new film might be the funniest 50 minutes of the year -- if you like broad, extremely vulgar, do-anything-for-a-laugh comedy. De Niro has looked old and tired in his many recent films, but here he mugs it up like you've never seen before. It's like watching Jim Carrey play De Niro.

***

 

Woman golfer to play in PGA event -- Local club pro Suzy Whaley, who qualified for next year's Greater Hartford Open via a loophole (she played from the shorter women's tees in a club pro championship where the winner gets to play in the GHO), has decided to compete against the best men in the world next summer. But she'll have to play at the full length, and she only hits the ball 225 with her driver, about 60 yards short of the men's average. So, folks, it's going to get ugly. The problem is that Whaley isn't one of the top 100 women golfers in the world. It would be interesting to see whether the great Annika Sorenstam could make the cut (score in the top half of entrants after the first two rounds) in a men's PGA tournament, but Whaley won't come close.

***

 

Video of the Week: 'Goldmember' by Steve Sailer

On Tuesday, "Austin Powers in Goldmember" is out on DVD ($26.98 list, including 24 minutes of scenes not good enough to make the theatrical release) and VHS ($22.98). It enjoyed the fifth-biggest opening weekend ever, but then nose dived and finished with a highly profitable but under-whelming $213 million.

***

 

God and the Scientists -- I've long been irritated by the many prominent evolutionary scientists who are strident atheists in part because they have managed to keep themselves largely ignorant of the history of modern cosmology. In reality, the current state of cosmology is heavily influenced by two traditional theories for the existence of God: Aquinas' Unmoved Mover and Paley's Blind Watchmaker. Here's a piece by Gregg Easterbrook that makes a similar point. And here's my 1999 article on the subject.

***

 

I've dreamed up a crusade for Andrew Sullivan! - Because Andrew is so upset by Islamic prejudice against gays, he should call on his fellow gays to boycott Muslim countries like Morocco when planning their sex vacations in impoverished 3rd World countries that offer lots of cheap boy prostitutes. It's a natural for you, Andy!

***

 

Analysis: GOP vote orthodoxy shy on facts by Steve Sailer

An orthodox analysis of the November election has been gradually emerging since Nov. 5. It holds that a major reason for the GOP victory was that they made significant inroads into the Hispanic and other minority votes and that this shows that their much-publicized stress on winning such votes was correct. This analysis, though widely accepted, is largely false.

***

 

One-stop shopping for all your Mark Steyn reading needs -- It looks like Steyn finally has a website that links to all of his enormous output. (Thanks to Colby Cosh for the link.) I've long been convinced that Steyn is the best opinion journalist currently working in English. But his output is spread out across various outlets in Canada, Britain, and the U.S., so he's been hard to keep up with. (Plus, he must publish 4,000 words a week.)

***

 

Unintended consequences of war, Part 36 -- I haven't been writing much about the Iraq Attaq lately. I wanted to see a democratic debate on the subject, and I think Bush's victories in Congress and the November elections qualify well enough as an endorsement of his stand. 

 

Still, I'm reminded of one of the weirdest unanticipated consequences of American wars -- both WWI and the Gulf War seemed to set off puritanical feminist frenzies. In 1917, whorehouse across the country were shut down, leading to the jazz musicians in New Orlean's huge Storyville red light district, such as Louis Armstrong, heading up the Mississippi River to Memphis, St. Louis, and Chicago. Further, women got the vote and politicians immediately responded by instituting What Women Want: which in this case was Prohibition (the distillers were the main backers of the anti-Suffragette movement). Ultimately, the spread of jazz and speakeasies undermined feminist Puritanism more than the whorehouses and legal liquor ever did, but that just shows that unintended consequences have their own unintended consequences.

 

Similarly, the Gulf War seemed to inflame a new generation of feminist puritans. Remember the Tailhook brouhaha? What was that all about? Navy fighter pilots held a victory party in a Las Vegas hotel and America was outraged to hear of the flyboys taking liberties while in their cups? It's all pretty incomprehensible today, but it was a very big deal then. And don't get me started on Anita Hill's hissy fit. Anyway, that led to the Year of the Woman and huge Democratic victories in 1992. That also led, inevitably, to journalists investigating Bill Clinton's advances toward his employees in Arkansas since some of them had to be unwelcome. That led to Paula Jones' sexual harassment suit which led to Clinton's perjury over Monica which led to his impeachment. By then, however, the fever had passed, and all the feminists lined up on Clinton's side, because they thought he was so sexy or something.

 

Any predictions what the Iraq Attaq might bring on the domestic front?

***

 

 

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