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July 2002


Andrew Sullivan defends his use of prescription testosterone: "Would you rather live till you're 85, gradually sinking into torpor and sexual collapse or have a great time and conk out at 65?" Well, my father is 85 and seems to be in no hurry to conk out. But, then, he's not infected with HIV, unlike Sullivan, who notes, "The chances of my living till 85 are also, shall we say, slim." So, I'm certainly not going to criticize Sullivan for his personal decision to vastly increase his energy and ambition by shooting up on testosterone. On the other hand, his one-sided public cheerleading for male hormone supplements is eminently questionable, especially because hormones affect bystanders as well. The sports pages are filled with police blotter accounts of jocks in the throes of 'roid rage who throw their girlfriends down the stairs.


Others have argued that Sullivan's tremendous vitality encourages other homosexuals to "bareback" because they look at him and say, "HIV can't be that bad for you." There's probably some truth to this, but would it be right to ask Sullivan to waste away just to set a good example?


The more interesting issue though is this: Sullivan is, at least on the web, one of the more widely discussed public figures. Yet, almost no one (except Sullivan himself) ever mentions the most pertinent fact about his huge comeback over the last four years. As he has explained at length in the New York Times Magazine, his rise to his current position on top of web punditry was driven by his testosterone injections. Yet, almost nobody ever mentions this, pro or con. It's as if Jose Canseco had been going on TV back in the 1980s to explain that he could never hit all those homers without his favorite steroids, but nobody in the media had paid any attention. There are all sorts of important social implications that can be drawn from the fact that a talented underachiever can turn himself into the king of his profession by altering his hormone balance, but everybody tries to act like it never happened.


I also suspect, although with somewhat less evidence, that the erratic nature of Sullivan's punditry - the good sense followed by the chest-pounding nonsense - might be tied to his testosterone dose cycle. Certainly, Sullivan's description of the huge, but predictable, mood swings his testosterone usage induces would lead one to believe it must have some effect on what he blogs each day.



The New Republic runs an excerpt from John Judis' and Rudy Teixeira's upcoming book The Emerging Democratic Majority. Their analysis makes a lot of sense, especially their attack on Michael Barone's GOP optimism, which echoes what I said last year. Let me try to simplify the analysis: the more culturally, socially, and economically stratified the U.S. becomes, the more the Democrats win. That's because the Democrats' natural constituencies come from the elite and the bottom. The more more unified the U.S. remains, the more the GOP wins. Why? The Republicans' natural constituency is the middle-middle. There are several reasons why the country is becoming more stratified, but our current immigration policy is one of the big ones.


You'd think that pollster Dick Morris would at least try to be accurate about voting statistics. Today, he claims: "In 2000, [blacks & Hispanics] accounted for 24 percent of the ballots equally divided between blacks and Hispanics. Population trends indicate that by 2010, they will represent more than 30 percent of the national vote." 


Where in the world does he come up with these ridiculous numbers? The two best sources for the 2000 voting shares - the VNS exit poll and the big Census survey (PDF- see p. 5) right after the election - both come up with the black and Hispanic share as adding up to 17%, not Morris' 24%. No way, no how will the black+Hispanic fraction hit 30% in 2010 - I'd bet it would be under 21.0% And both surveys showed that the black vote in 2000 was much larger than the Hispanic vote, not equally divided as Morris claims. 


I laid out all these numbers in a UPI article a year ago, but obviously Dick Morris never read it. It's remarkable that much of the "Hispandering" going on right now by both parties is based on mistaken assumptions about the size of the Hispanic vote.



"Now that Austin Powers has battled Dr. Evil from Belgium and Goldmember from the Netherlands, whom is Mike Myers going to skewer in his next sequel: a Luxembourgian villain? Benelux bad guys make safe targets, no doubt; but the less likely an ethnic group is to protest satirical stereotyping, the duller a target for parody they make." From my review of "Austin Powers in Goldmember."



Mickey Kaus has a great new term for what both Bush-Rove and Daschle-Gephardt are up to: "Hispandering."



Here's something that's been bothering me. Generally, I have a really good intuitive statistical eye for people. When I notice a pattern in society, it usually find it validated by studies. Here's one, however, where my pattern recognition spider-sense and the Census are in disagreement. According to the March 2000 survey, about one out of four married Hispanic women is married to a white man, and roughly the same is true for married Hispanic men (the sex ratio for Hispanic-white marriages is pretty even). However, I just don't see it on the street. Here in L.A., I see lots of black-white couples and a ton of Asian-white couples, but I just don't see Mexican-white couples much at all. Is L.A. different because of the huge number of Hispanics means that they don't much have to go out of their community to find romance? Or do the Hispanics who marry whites tend to be the whitest Hispanics? What gives?



Robert Locke of FrontPage and VDARE has a blog. Check it out.



Mickey Kaus and Andrew Sullivan got a little too excited by the news that white husband - black wife marriages increased all the way from 26,000 in 1960 to 80,000 in 2000. Considering that interracial marriages were illegal in 19 states until the Supreme Court's Loving v. Virginia decision in 1967, that is an extraordinarily slow increase. Currently, only about 2% of married black women have a white husband. The increase to 227,000 black husband - white wife marriages from about the same starting point is much more impressive.


Has anybody seen final 2000 Census numbers for these ratios? The above numbers comes from the less reliable Current Population Survey from March 2000, not the gold standard Census from April 2000. For what it's worth, black husband-white wife couples outnumbered white husband-black wife couples 2.84 to 1. This would be even higher than in 1990 (2.54), but I caution against relying on this figure because these periodic surveys use much smaller sample sizes than the decennial census. Anyway, as of yet, there is no evidence that black women are narrowing the intermarriage gap versus black men. 


By the way, I looked up the marriage-cohabitation rate for black man-white woman couples vs. white man-black woman couples. In the U.S., the marriage + cohabitation sex ratio in 1990 was about 3.5 to 1  (versus 2.5 to 1 for the marriage only ratio - I presume that's because white men are on average more the marrying kind than black men). In Britain in 1991, the ratio was about 2.0 to 1. 



In general, I think blacks are assimilating biologically in England faster than America. Raw numbers are one reason, but another is the class system. In America the primary boundary line is race, but in England it is class. The standards for getting accepted into the British working class are not terribly demanding. No need to hire Henry Higgins to help you with your rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain diction. The entrance exam is mostly "Do you like having a pint with your mates while watching Arsenal on the telly?"



The dueling Alexander the Great movie projects story got a lot funnier today. In addition to Oliver Stone's movie, Mel Gibson's HBO miniseries, and an on again-off again Martin Scorsese-Leonardo DiCaprio version, Dino di Laurentis just announced the director for his "Alexander" ... Baz Luhrmann, the semi-genius director of "Moulin Rouge!" The announcement immediately led to speculation about whether Baz's "Alexander" would feature big Greek bathhouse song and dance extravaganzas. (Although Baz, who is married, is actually a little less campy than his flaming reputation portends.) I think the only solution is for Ollie, Mel, Marty, and Baz to each assemble his cast of thousands on a designated battlefield, then lead his extras into combat. The last auteur standing gets to make "Alexander the Great" while the losers lick their wounds.



I wanted to come back to Malcolm Gladwell's article on "The Talent Myth" in The New Yorker. It makes the reasonable point that Enron, which followed a "star system" that emphasized hiring the same kind of young hotshots as McKinsey Consulting and letting them do their own thing, went broke while corporations that emphasize their system over their talent like Procter & Gamble and Wal-Mart have done well for a long time. It's a good topic, so let me explain what he missed.


Gladwell almost, but not quite, grasps why investors should avoid publicly traded firms that act like McKinsey, which is a private partnership. The problem with companies where the talent is stronger than the system is that the assets go down the elevators every night. If the company isn't adding any value to their productivity above what they could generate anywhere else, the stockholders can't extract any above market profits from its talent. 


Pure consulting firms are like law firms - there's nothing there when everybody goes home. That's why in consultancies and law firms, the talent owns the business. If they didn't, they'd use their enormous leverage to extract the profits from the legal owners (which is exactly what Enron's talent did, in a particularly nefarious way). That's why foreign firms that buy Hollywood movie studios get burned - the talent drives off in Lamborghinis, leaving few profits for the stockholders.


Gladwell should have mentioned the clearest ever example of how a star system doesn't add up to shareholder wealth - the old New Yorker under editor William Shawn. He hired the best talent in the world and then let them ramble on endlessly about whatever hideously boring topic caught their easily amused fancies. The talent was happy, but the owners were not.


Gladwell also makes the curious argument that it was system rather than talent that defeated German submarines in the Battle of the Atlantic in WWII. According to Gladwell, the British Navy had a better system for organizing subhunting taskforces than the American Navy, who relied more on individual initiative. Of course, that's a terrible analogy because the decisive element in the Battle of the Atlantic was the cracking of German Enigma code by the geniuses (e.g., Alan Turing) assembled at at Bletchley Park. Gladwell's argument is akin to claiming that WWII came to so sudden an end in August, 1945 because the Army Air Corp had a good system for greasing the landing gear on the Enola Gay. I think the boys back at Los Alamos (e.g., Oppenheimer, Fermi, Bohr, Teller, Feynman, etc.) might have had a bit more to do with it.


His P&G and Wal-Mart examples are also less impressive than they look because they are based on the New Yorkerish assumption that nobody intelligent could possibly want to live in Cincinnati or Northwest Arkansas, respectively (as opposed to Houston, home of Enron, which he conveniently assumes is some kind of magnet for the elite). Having devoted a few years of my life to client service of my firms' P&G and Wal-Mart accounts, I think I can comment better than Gladwell on those two firms, where talent and system interact in a virtuous circle. P&G has the best brand management system and thus it attracts the best brand management talent. (Of course, it doesn't attract the kind of know-it-alls who flocked to Enron precisely they didn't think they needed to learn anything more). Similarly, Wal-Mart's great system (e.g., be nice to shoppers and ruthless to suppliers) leads to consistently rewarding stock options, which attract a lot more excellent talent than you'd expect to the very pleasant rolling countryside of Northwest Arkansas.. When I used to call on Wal-Mart a decade ago, the executives there were ecstatic that they'd discovered this terrific place to raise a family. All it needed to take off was a jet airport.


So, the highest form of business talent is the ability to create a new system. This is especially challenging because it must be so brilliantly simple that it makes sense to the less intelligent that will run it in the future. That's why the Carnegies, Fords, Sloans, Watsons, and Waltons who can pull it off make the really big bucks.



I'm reviewing this massive biography of Neil Young and I wanted to check my reaction against yours out there. I've always kind of liked him, but I know a lot of people love him and a lot of people hate him. My view is he's pretty good at a lot of things, but not great at anything, except maybe surviving. Please email to explain while I'm all wrong.




Harrison Ford in K-19: The Widowmaker - My review.



Should Denzel Washington play Carthaginian general Hannibal, who was probably highly Semitic-looking? How racially correct should movie actors be? Are multiracial actors like Vin Diesel and The Rock the wave of the future for sandal and sword epics? Here's my article.



Now that the press is all worked up over the rather boring story of Bush's finagling with Harken stock, I've got a potentially juicier angle that they've long overlooked: the Bush family's 40 year long history of private dealings with some pretty odiferous powerbrokers from the Mexican elite. There's a reason that #41 named his oil company "Zapata" and #43 named his oil company "Arbusto" ("Bush" in Spanish). Only investigative reporter Julia Reynolds of the little bilingual Mexican-American literary mag El Andar has poked her nose into it. Maybe there's nothing more to it than what she's dredged up so far. Still, if nothing else, she's come up with some colorful Bushian anecdotes. Click here for my story summarizing her investigations.



"Who exactly is Asian-American?" In this important article, I review an almost never-discussed issue that will be of sizable importance in the future. The U.S. government's race classification rules currently lump East Asians (like the Chinese) with the mostly Caucasian South Asians (like the Indians) into one pseudo-race called "Asian". Will the U.S. really benefit from encouraging its well-educated, articulate, and affluent Indian immigrants to play the identity politics game? Wouldn't we be best off just calling them what they are - Caucasians, as we do with West Asians like the Arabs - instead of making them a protected minority?



Tom Hanks' extraordinarily well-crafted new movie "Road to Perdition" is well worth seeing, but only if you read my review first and thus know what not to expect from it.



A white reader who has married into a Chinese family has a question about squatting. His in-laws prefer to squat for hours rather than sit -- Is it nature or nurture? He used to play catcher, but he can't squat anywhere near as long as they can. Is there some difference between his ankles and his in-laws' ankles or whatever, or if he had started squatting as a child, could he do it equally well now? Anybody know?



Andrew "It's All About Me" Sullivan wants to alter the immigration laws to make it easier for homosexuals to get into America. He asks, "If one member of a gay marriage, recognized elsewhere in the world, immigrates to the U.S., will his/her husband/wife be required to stay at home?" I must confess that I always get distracted reading Andrew's pieces on his favorite subject of Gay Rights (or, to be frank Andrew Rights) by subversive questions. For instance, his reference to "his/her husband/wife" got me wondering: What exactly would you call the, uh, husband/wife: "husband," "wife" or what?



One question that is arising more and more is the stability of the Saudi regime. It can be difficult to fathom how much support a non-democratic government actually has. As was said about Mexico when Porfirio Diaz's somnolent 40 year dictatorship suddenly collapsed into a  decade of anarchy during Mexico's Revolution of 1910-1920, "In Mexico, nothing ever happens, until it happens." One way, though, to get a sense of how deep the Saudi royal family's roots go is to examine whether the 6000 or so "Princes," the male descendents of the national founder Ibn Saud, are inbreeding or outbreeding. Ibn Saud personally maintained a policy of out-breeding, marrying dozens of girls from the leading tribes of Arabia, divorcing each in turn to stay under the Muslim limit of four wives, but treating each son as a prince. This was a smart policy. If the princes are continuing to marry non-royal girls from around the country, the number of commoners who are blood relatives of the royal family could be enormous, thus giving the lots of commoners a familial stake in the dynasty. On the other hand, if the royals have just been marrying just their royal cousins since Saud, the royal family could be highly self-contained and biologically separate from the Saudi masses. Does anybody know the facts?


In general, Arab Bedouin culture is highly oriented toward first cousin marriages, making their families extremely in-bred. This not only keeps the camels in the family by cutting down the number of relatives a man has, but it also cuts down on the number of relatives that an honorable man is bound to avenge, thus making the deserts more peaceful.



Here's an article on DNA analysis of a group in India that contends they are the descendents of 14 Jews fleeing persecution in the Holy Land in 175 A.D.



Is the Hormone Replacement Therapy brouhaha overblown? Here's Iain Murray's "Recent Research Suggests" column for UPI. Also, Patti Hausman of the Independent Women's Forum suggests:


If a story can be spun to portray a group of respected people--more male than female--as having lured unsuspecting women  into an unsafe therapy w/o adequate study, it is going to happen. Whatever the reason, I think the most underreported comment in the study is in the limitations section, which states:

<<This trial tested only 1 drug regimen, CEE, 0.625 mg/d, plus MPA, 2.5 mg/d, in postmenopausal women with an intact uterus. The results do not necessarily apply to lower dosages of these drugs, to other formulations of oral estrogens and progestins, or to estrogens and progestins administered through the transdermal route. It remains possible that transdermal estradiol with progesterone, which more closely mimics the normal physiology and metabolism of endogenous sex hormones, may provide a different risk-benefit profile. >>

The therapy used in this trial involved taking a constant dose of estrogen and progesterone every day. I think this continous therapy is fairly new.  I would be curious to know how many women on HRT use the continuous therapy vs. the older approach of supplemental progesterone only 5-10 days/month. I have not seen anything in the press that addresses the comment that a different approach to HRT, transdermal estrogen with progesterone, "more closely mimics the normal physiology and metabolism of endogenous sex hormones."   Nor any explanation in the paper as to why the study design instead opted for a protocol that involves treatment with hormones in a manner less consistent with normal physiology.

The other thing I found odd was the average age of the participants:  around 63 at screening, almost 3/4 of whom had never taken hormones.  My understanding is that most hormone-related bone loss occurs in the first few years of menopause.  I can't help but wonder if the benefits to bone health would not have been much larger had the women not been as many years from that period of time when they started on the treatment.



A reader writes:


"You've probably already received emails about Malcolm Gladwell's article in the current (July 22) issue of THE NEW YORKER. Gladwell writes "... the correlation between IQ and occupational success is between 0.2 and 0.3." Hello? I'm far from an expert on such matters, but c'mon."


I haven't seen the article, but I suspect Gladwell's unwittingly butted up against what statisticians call the "restriction of range" problem. He may be referring to studies of the impact of IQ within a profession - IQ has a much greater impact in determining who gets into a profession. Theoretical physicists with 160 IQs only do slightly better than their colleagues with IQ's of 145, just like 7'-1" NBA players are only a little better than 6'-10" players. Of course there are no more than a handful of NBA players below the national average in height, and I suspect there are zero employed theoretical physicists below the national average in IQ. 


And, those few guys who make it to the NBA who are as short as Allen Iverson (6'-0") have to be incredible specimens (at least, in Iverson's case, from the neck down). You run into exactly the same thing in articles that tell you that at Ivy Leagues schools, the SAT has only a minor correlation with college grades - that's because they don't let people with low SAT scores into top colleges. The normal admittees (i.e., not the football players or affirmative action beneficiaries) who get in despite mediocre SAT scores generally possess outstanding GPA's and references, so it's never an applies to apples comparison.


Be sympathetic. Gladwell is a good writer, but IQ is a particularly difficult topic to master. Whenever I undertake a major article about IQ, I find myself at some point saying, "Never again. It's too time-consuming and too much mental strain. I don't have a high enough IQ to write about IQ." And, if you haven't been paying close attention to the subject for years, it must be particularly easy to stumble into writing something that will be misleading. Plus, there's so much politicized hoo-haw on the topic (see next item) that it's easy to get off track. Still, I haven't seen the article, so I shouldn't speculate.



Howard Gardner, the "multiple intelligences" man from Harvard, argues in the the NYT that the SAT should not be timed at all. Give everybody as much time as they want. (Pity the poor test proctor!) He asserts, "Few tasks in life and very few tasks in scholarship actually depend on being able to read passages or solve math problems rapidly." Is there any evidence for this claim? It sounds like almost the exact opposite of the truth. College students at tough schools are asked to read many hundreds of pages per week. Andrew Sullivan is a better blogger than I am because he can churn out publication-worthy prose much, much faster than I can. Where doesn't speed help? It's been said that geniuses don't have higher quality thoughts than non-geniuses, but they have lots more of them, so some of them are real doozies. I suspect there is a little truth to this.


I like Gardner quite a bit - I interviewed him recently for an article on raising your kid's IQ and he gave answers that were both wise and commonsensical. But the one multiple intelligence he definitely lacks is Mathematical. A numerophobic psychometrician sounds like an oxymoron but Gardner has made a nice career for himself without ever producing much quantitative evidence supporting his theories.



Well, maybe Gardner is right after all ... Sullivan, while summering at Provincetown (increasingly a "gayted community") zips off with no apparent forethought an entry dumping on the upper class blacks who own summer homes in one of the handful of historically black beach resort villages on the East Coast. He calls one owner a "racist" for wanting to keep his tiny village black (not that there is any evidence whites want to move in, anyway). 


Calm down, Andy. These are hard-working, cultured, accomplished people who want their children to associate with the children of other people like themselves. And eventually to fall in love and marry into another elite family in their beach community social circle, rather than marry someone from a lower class in the black community. These families have been coming to summer in Azurest for generations. The ties of marriage and friendship they've built up with other top black families are a valuable form of social capital. African-Americans need more role models like these haute-bourgeois folks, not fewer.


Moreover, the further a black person goes up the career ladder, the lonelier it gets, and the more his race can stand out. Not all, but some top blacks finds this gets on their nerves. If they want to vacation in a microworld of elite blacks, I say, God bless you and have a nice vacation.


Also, it's fine with me if Provincetown goes completely gay. I certainly wouldn't want to raise my kids in a heavily gay leisure environment. Look how confused and unhappy poor Margaret Cho, the comedienne, turned out because her Korean immigrant parents thought they could run a gay sex toy shop in San Francisco without it turning their daughter into a self-hating heterosexual.




Long time readers know I'm always a sucker for an article about pygmy negritos, like this important one. These mysterious folks are very short, very sub-Saharan African-looking hunter-gatherers who live many thousands of miles East of Africa. The three best known groups are the Andaman Islanders just west of Indonesia, the Semangs of Malaysia, and the Negritos of the Philippines. (Who are they and how and when did they get there? Nobody is too sure.) 


It turns out that there were also pygmy negritos in Australia, too. The men averaged about 4'-6" and they didn't look at all like Australian Aborigines. Unfortunately, the government rounded them up from the jungle a few generations ago and made them live at missions. The assumption is that they have all intermarried with other natives by now, but of course there could be some purebreds left. Ridiculously, nobody in Australia wants to find out. How come? Because it would embarrass powerful Aboriginal activists. Part of their political mythology is that all Aborigines are descended from the same people, and that they all lived in peace for the last 50,000 years until the evil white man arrived. In reality, Australia appears to have been invaded several times, with the usual ethnic cleansing ensuing.



A reader who interviewed California gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon writes to say that he's a good man, but probably lacks the fire in the belly to do what it takes to win. Simon has such an idyllic life (wealth, six kids, deep faith, business and charity work) that it seems unlikely he wants to win in the worse way, the way that old U.S. Marine Corps warrior Pete Wilson wanted to win in 1994 when everybody hated him because California's economy was flat on its back so he came from a mile behind by focusing the election on the fundamental question that will determine the Golden State's fate: can the tide of illegal immigrants be staunched? No, I suspect that Simon would prefer to lose in a genteel, socially acceptable manner by talking about managing infrastructure projects rather than win by talking about plain truths.



I get asked a lot about what's happening in the California gubernatorial race, but I haven't been paying much attention. The truth is that the primary was so ridiculously early this year (first week in March) that the real race is only finally getting started about now. A couple of months ago I was too busy to take my 9 year old to his weekend Cub Scout camp, so my wife went. Republican candidate Bill Simon, however, was evidently not too busy running for Governor that he had to send his wife, so he was there as a den leader. Carole said his campfire skit with another den leader playing Gray Davis had the Cub Scouts rolling in the aisles.


He seems like a good man. I'm sure his father, the formidable William Simon, was proud of him. Whether young Simon would make a good governor, though, who knows? I've only seen him once in person, delivering a speech. Simon read it well, but didn't improvise, and the text was pro forma. The only thing I can remember him saying was that California's population was 35 million and soon it would be 50 million, but we only have the infrastructure for 21 million, so therefore California needed a better manager (i.e., Bill Simon) to build all the infrastructure. (Where we'll get the money to build them, he didn't say.) I wanted to ask him, "Wouldn't it help if we slowed down population growth by restricting immigration?" But, he didn't take any questions. In general, Simon has shied away from these kind of substantive issues that drove Pete Wilson's big comeback in the mid-90's. Simon's just hanging around like the German soccer team, hoping the other guy makes a fatal mistake.


I don't know if Gray Davis will, though. The main knocks on him are 1. That he's a political weasel. I mean, the man fought for his country in Vietnam just to help his political career. What a scumbag! Except that both Clinton and Bush managed to ooze their way out of active duty service entirely, so maybe we ought to give Davis a little credit for risking his neck. And 2. Davis should have signed long term electricity contracts six months earlier when the price was lower. Sure, but do the Republicans really want to remind voters of that whole fiasco? After all, the GOP were the biggest enthusiasts for that lunatic energy deregulation law of 1996. And the biggest profiteers were Texas energy companies.


So, while it's possible Simon could win by boring everybody with his canned speech about managing the infrastructure better while the voters decide to vote him State Den Leader-in-Chief just to spite Davis. It could work. But if the Anybody But Davis tidal wave never gets going, Simon's going to need need to talk about what really matters in California: namely, keeping the population below 50 million by turning off the immigration spout.



A Chinese-American college student named Eric provides some trenchant insight into the surprising impact of the government's lunkheaded decision to group East Asians and South Asians into one "Asian-American" pseudo-race.


The present arrangement actually dissuades many East Asian students from participating in pan-Asian racial activism, because it requires working together with South Asians, who are so culturally dissimilar to us.


Ethnic-specific clubs in universities (i.e. Chinese Students Association, as opposed to the Pan-Asian Student Association) grow and prosper because they provide a social arena in which everyone follows largely the same cultural rules of social interaction (such as indirectness in speech and argument, respect for senior students even one year older, and loyalty to friends to an extent which most whites would regard as interference in their personal lives.) It's a place to relax, be yourself, and make friends. Let's call the people who join clubs just for that reason the Socialites, in contrast to Activists who join clubs for politics.


These categories aren't immutable - usually Activists can slowly push some Socialites onto the Activist track over a long period of time through repeated exposure. But in the present arrangement, the Activists don't often get that chance. They don't tend to promote their politics on the rare occasions they show up to the ethnic-specific Socialite clubs. They want to build coalitions and achieve big numbers. so they flock to the Pan-Asian students clubs.

However, those clubs have trouble attracting other members not just because the heavy tone turns off all those politically apathetic students, as is commonly assumed, but also because a Pan-Asian students club including both South Asians and East Asians can't provide the same type of common social arena I mentioned above, due to the differing styles of social interaction between the two groups (some East Asians feel that South Asians' style of social interaction bears too much resemblance to the Euroamerican style - perceived as louder, less respectful, and less loyal to one's friends - which they joined monoethnic cliques to get away from in the first place). So the Socialites don't go and don't get converted to Activism.


Right now, there exist two separate pan-Asian organizations - one for the Activists, which includes S. Asians, and another which also claims to be pan-Asian but really exists to hold social functions catering to E. Asians. The Activist types rarely show up because of their conviction that excluding S. Asians from Asian groups is racist. This depoliticizes the E. Asian identity. E. Asian Socialites go to parties and chill with Vietnamese guys chatting up Korean girls and Japanese guys w/ Chinese girlfriends, and never have a thought of giving up our studies of productive fields to become Leeches ... ah, professional Activists, because we rarely meet others who think along those lines.


Throwing S. Asians out of the Asian category would create a new and unfamiliar problem: pan-East Asian-American clubs which put the Activist types in the same room with hundreds of Socialites. The Socialites would attend meetings mostly just to be around people who share their style of social interaction, but probably wouldn't mind donating a few hours to whatever political cause the Activists think is worthy. They'll see it as a bonding experience with other members rather than an overtly political act. Nevertheless, E. Asians seeing other E. Asians getting involved in ultra-left "Asian" politics will encourage more of us onto the Activist track and into a life of drawing a salary out of taxes and donations which could have been put to productive use. I think you'd agree with this would be a disaster for the community and for the USA.


One other unusual caveat I thought of: Asian political activism doesn't follow the commonly-perceived pattern that the most ethnically identified on a personal level are also the most tied to racial bloc politics. E. Asians who completely abandon their ancestral culture still don't move beyond bloc politics as you might hope - in fact the widespread perception in the Asian community is that such people are the MOST likely to get drawn into the world of "Asian" activism. This may be a result of the fact that E. Asians who hold white standards of social interaction as their own find little social divide between themselves and S. Asians, so they are well-suited to pan-Asian Activist-dominated clubs. In contrast, those who retain more of their ancestral customs and habits on the personal level seem less comfortable in such politics, at least as long as it requires S. Asian/E. Asian coalition building.



An evangelical blogger named Martin Roth eyeballs the HIV infection rates per country in Africa and comes up with the distressing correlation that the more Protestants an African nation has, the more HIV too. Catholics seem to come in the middle, and Muslims are best at avoiding HIV.


I'm not convinced by this analysis, but it is what I'd expect. (I'd like to see HIV infection rates by religion within various countries. HIV infections tend to be highest in the Southeast of Africa where there aren't many Muslims and lowest in the Northwest where there are. Other factors - for example, the Southeastern African fondness for "dry sex" might be causing this correlation.) Still, it seems likely that the more puritanical the religion, the less AIDS. I guess that's controversial, but it shouldn't be: after all, the U.S. AIDS epidemic got roaring first in SF and NYC, not SLC.


This brings up a more general issue: Islam serves a variety of fundamental needs within its communities - it keeps people from fornicating to death; it greatly reduces street crime (compare Cairo to Mexico City or Sao Paulo); and it provides a social safety net. Even the most hard-headed, pragmatic individuals within the Islamic world might well resent all the (generally correct) criticism directed from the West at Islam simply because at present there are no obvious substitutes for Islam at maintaining the basics of social order in these countries. 



The WSJ reports (not for free) on how the U. of California, theoretically prevented from using racial preferences by Prop. 209, is now giving bonus points to applicants who write the best Woe-is-me-I'm-so-oppressed essay. Of course, it's all just to make the admission system so subjective that nobody can prove that they are actually using quotas again. Here's an excerpt:


"The eight undergraduate campuses differ slightly in what educational disadvantages and personal challenges they give extra credit for. Among those UCLA counts are immigration hardships, living in a high-crime neighborhood, having been a victim of a shooting and having long-term psychological difficulties."


So, if you're a psychotic who just got off the plane from Medellin, Colombia, have immigrant difficulties because you can barely speak English, live in a gang-infested slum where you got into a shootout with a rival gang and barely survived the bullet that's lodged in your brain, then you're a shoo-in! Terrific! I definitely want to send my kids to UCLA to hang out 
with you! 



There are definite advantages to having a friend who is a much better writer than you are. In response to the nonstop attacks (many deserved) that the Koran suffers these days, John Derbyshire writes


I don't feel sure, in fact, that the teachings of a religion have any necessary consequence for the destinies of believer communities. Steve Sailer has remarked that if a Martian's entire knowledge of the world came from reading the Bible, he would be bound to deduce, after hearing the thundering, angry voice of the Old Testament Jehovah, and reading of the conquests of Joshua, Gideon and David, followed by the gentle words of Christ and St. Paul, that those warlike, fighting Jews must have been kicking around the meek, cheek-turning Christians for the last 2,000 years. This is not... exactly what has been happening.


Thanks, John. That's a vastly more eloquent version of my original email message to you.



Who would you like to see play Hannibal (the Carthaginian, not the cannibal)? Currently attached to the rival productions in development are Denzel Washington and Vin Diesel. One interesting ethnically correct suggestion for Hannibal is the fine Lebanese-American character actor Tony Shalhoub.


This post-Gladiator revival of sword and sandal flicks means we'll find out how strong Afrocentrist convictions about the race of various ancient figures has grown. Can Hollywood afford to cast a white actress as Cleopatra these days?


How about Alexander the Great? The real Alexander was short, athletic, blonde, curly-haired, and young. Rumored candidates have included Leonardo DiCaprio, Heath Ledger, Jude Law, and, now, Colin Farrell (Tom Cruise's nemesis in "Minority Report"). The Irish actor is supposed to start filming "Alexander" in India in October, with Oliver Stone running the show. Supposedly, Ollie's version will show that Alexander didn't die of natural causes, but was poisoned in a plot. (I can't tell if this is supposed to be a joke or not. Anyway, I may be the last person on Earth to admit this, but I love Stone's incredible talents as a director, his machismo, and his intelligence, so I'll put up with his not-quite-right-in-the-headedness.)


Who would be a perfect Julius Caesar to star in Michael Mann's rumored "Rubicon?" Or who should play King Leonidas in Mann's purported "Gates of Fire" about the heroic stand of the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae? I've heard talk of Bruce Willis and George Clooney.



The Israeli cabinet wants to reverse a 2000 court decision that banned Israel's venerable system of quasi-apartheid that severely restricts where its Arab citizens can live. (Actually, I hadn't even been aware that Israel didn't let its non-Jewish citizens buy homes wherever they wanted until this court case of two years ago.)


It's hardly the worst abuse in the world. In fact, it resembles the segregation common in Northern cities in the U.S. before WWII. For example, in Chicago, all blacks were restricted to a narrow slice of the south lakefront. In the 1940's, however, the black population grew rapidly and overflowed the old boundaries. Now, people should be allowed to live wherever they can afford to, but keep in mind that it took several decades for the turmoil unleashed by this liberation to settle down. And Chicago was lucky to come out of it with a large white population left within the city boundaries. Detroit did not. So, we shouldn't throw the first stone at the Israeli Jews for trying to keep their  fast-growing Arab citizen population bottled up in segregated neighborhoods. They also have a reasonable concern about Arab rioting and terrorism, although that hasn't been much of a problem yet among the Palestinian citizens, as opposed to the Palestinians in the conquered territories. (On the other hand, I don't believe Israel has much of a problem with Arab street crime the way Chicago had with black crime - in general, according to Robert D. Kaplan, Middle Eastern Muslims are remarkably law abiding in personal matters due to their religiousness.) All those security issues aside, Israel maintains segregated neighborhoods because Jews want to live in Jewish communities, just like most people on Earth, at least those with children, want neighbors with whom they have much in common. 


Nonetheless, this is another reminder that despite all the Hosannas to Israel as a libertarian democracy that you constantly read in America's right wing press, the reality is a little more, well, realistic: the Jewish State exists for the benefit of the Jewish People. And why shouldn't it? Israel was definitely not created to "celebrate diversity."


In the long run, though, the higher birth rate of the Arab citizens will pose Israel a problem. As the Arab numbers swell, Israel will have to increasingly rely on this kind of discrimination to keep up the Jewish ascendancy. A humane solution might be to begin a buyout program - offer Arabs a $100k per nuclear family to give up their Israeli citizenship and leave Israel permanently.



With comic books taking over American culture (see my review of "Road to Perdition" on Thursday), I've dreamed up my own superhero: LitiGator: A lawyer is bitten by a radioactive crocodile and after that starts to really lock his jaws onto various evil corporations.



I was asked about reports that Ted Williams' son want the sluggers body cryogenically frozen. I replied:


The chance of reviving a frozen stiff is zero. (Freezing water crystals rip cell walls to shreds.) The chance of preserving some DNA at death and then cloning him several decades in the future might be quite high. The chance that frozen sperm samples could create posthumous children of Ted Williams are close to 100%, assuming that any samples already exist and that anybody wants to have dead Ted father their child. 


About five years ago, there was a classic episode of "Arliss" on HBO, in which the sports agent tries to help his childhood hero, a drunken retired baseball legend (modeled on Mickey Mantle), make a living. After the ballplayer fails disastrously as an announcer and casino greeter, he finally hits it big with an infomercial selling "The Seed of Champions" to infertile baseball fans who want their wives to present them with the next little Mickey Mantle. The perky lady on the informercial asks the Mick how he got into this business and he replies, "I always wanted a job where I didn't have to leave the house."


Would having dead Ted father your wife's kid guarantee you a big leaguer for a son? Hardly, but it would shorten the always-long odds slightly. There are far more father-son big leaguer tandems now than ever before. Barry Bonds and Ken Griffey Jr. are only the most impressive examples.



Women's organizations demand Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters, admit a female member - The first op-ed I ever published was about Augusta finally admitting a black member in 1990. It remains the definitive word on the economics of exclusionary clubs. Did you know a lifetime membership at Augusta, the most prestigious club in the world, costs only $25,000? And that Bill Gates has been repeatedly blackballed for membership? Did you know Jack Nicklaus was blackballed at ritzy Seminole because he was too good a golfer? I explain all ...



Hollywood discovers the ancient world, again - Following the deserved success of "Gladiator," Hollywood now has in development four movies about Alexander the Great (with Oliver Stone and Martin Scorsese among the directors vying), two about the Battle of Thermopylae, and two about Hannibal, the great Carthaginian general. Now, I had always supposed that Hannibal was a Phoenician colonist, and thus probably looked like a modern Lebanese. But the Afrocentrists have seized on Hannibal as one of their official heroes, so the two competing movies have signed up the slightly black Vin Diesel and the very black Denzel Washington to ride an elephant over the Alps.


Question: This doesn't bother me much, because the story of Hannibal is so cool I don't mind silly little modernizations like that, but does anybody out there know anything about what Hannibal actually looked like? Are there any pictures of him? Any coins? Any written descriptions? Or did Scipio destroy all that when he leveled Carthage and salted the ground all around?


Update: Sci-Fi master and all-around polymath Jerry Pournelle replies: "There is a bust that may be Hannibal; it has long been thought so. He had typical Phoenician features. I can find the picture perhaps. Carthage was a polyglot commercial empire, but the oligarchy wasessentially Phoenician so far as I know." Anybody else want to comment?


Update2: Another distinguished reader replies: "It's always seemed to me that most Mediterreans look ike they probably contain some slight admixture of Sub-Saharan ancestry, so perhaps Hannibal really should be considered "black" by America's strange modern rules (as well as Pushkin, Dumas, etc.)


"Still, I find it hard to believe that even Hollywood would dare cast Denzel Washington to play Hannibal, unless they're also willing to cast Brad Pitt as Nelson Mandela and Julia Roberts as Confucius..."



Here's something I only recently realized: The Scopes Monkey Trial controversy of 1925 was in large measure about Nietzsche rather than Darwin.


H.L. Mencken, famous for his vituperative attacks on special guest prosecutor William Jennings Bryan, was an important popularizer of Nietzsche in America - his first book had been about Nietzsche.


The year before, Clarence Darrow had saved from the death penalty the thrill killers Leopold and Loeb who were BIG Nietzsche fans. They had randomly selected a 14 year old boy and killed him to prove they were supermen above the law. (They had, by the way, both graduated from college while teenagers). in his famous closing argument on the death penalty, Darrow had used Nietzschean attacks on free will. He argued that Leopold and Loeb, like all other criminals, were merely victims of circumstances and didn't deserve punishment. Amusingly, he actually said that it wasn't Leopold and Loeb's fault that they had been raised in mansions! Somehow, this convinced the judge to spare their lives.


The German High Command had supplied free copies of Nietzsche's "Thus Spaketh Zarathustra" to its soldiers in WWI. Barbara Tuchman's "The Proud Tower" provides a chilling portrayal of the war fever and hysteria that gripped Germany before 1914 through her portrait of how Richard Strauss came to turn "Zarathustra" into his most famous ("Theme from 2001") orchestral work.


William Jennings Bryan was an egalitarian, a Christian, and a war hater.  He had read up on Nietzsche and was appalled by all this.



Nobody could accuse new citizen John Derbyshire of being an America-hating wimp, but his Fourth of July column brilliantly uses Kipling's great poem "Recessional" to tell the warbloggers that they need to calm down:


"[W]hen we speak, or act, in defense of our civilization, we should do so in the awareness that we speak and act under the eye of a higher power that everything comes to judgment at last. When I read my e-mails or survey the blogosphere, I see that there are rather a lot of "wild tongues" out there in America; people who are seething with rage at the cruelty and audacity of our enemies, and the feebleness of our own leaders. It's not hard to understand that. I myself have often let loose with some "such boasting as the Gentiles use," wishing, and sometimes saying out loud, that we would employ our most terrible weapons, without restraint, against those who hate us. I am not a pacifist. I want America to defend herself with major force and confident strength, just as Kipling believed should be done. However, I also want, as he wanted, for us always, even in times of the gravest crisis, to hold on to the core beliefs of our civilization: in particular, the belief that "frantic boast and foolish word" are for children and savages, not for civilized people."



What If It's All Been a Big Fat Lie? asks an important article in the NYT Magazine. For decades, the medical profession has been trying to stomp out heretics like Dr. Atkins who question the orthodoxy that the only way to control your weight is to eat a lot of carbohydrates and very little fat. I tried the low-fat plan and gained 40 pounds because I was hungry all the time. I shifted to a less extreme version of Atkins's diet (to be honest, it was Suzanne Somers' anti-starch and anti-sugar version, which emphasizes vegetables as well as meat) and lost it all in an easy year. (Over the last three years, I've gained half of it back because it's hard to stay on it when you are away from home, although the market is starting too supply more prepared foods appropriate for this diet.)


Here's my theory on why doctors got obsessed with high-carb diets. Around 1970, they started seeing a lot of East Asians in the medical profession. They were mostly all skinny. How did they do it? They ate rice! If starch is good for East Asians, it must be good for everybody else, right? If you don't believe that, then you must be some kind of racist who thinks there are biological differences between people from different parts of the world, you scum.


So, it was high-carb East Asian diets for everybody! But what if your ancestors hadn't been evolving for the last few hundred generations on a high starch diet? What if you still had caveman genes for processing foods? Hunter-gatherers eat meat and vegetables. Perhaps, the East Asian ability to thrive on rice was a recent evolutionary adaptation.


We know that different metabolic responses to diet can evolve quickly. For example, milking domestic animals was only invented about 10,000 years ago, but the gene mutation giving lactose tolerance spread to up to 97% of Danes, while remaining virtually zero among East Asians, whose population was too dense to afford dairy cows. We know that hunter-gatherers like Eskimos have a terrible time when they switch from an all meat to a starch and sugar rich diet - they get horrible tooth decay and diabetes (not to mention alcoholism). 


Europeans over the last 10,000 years have varied greatly in diet. About one fifth of European genes come from Middle Eastern grain farmers, while four fifths come from indigenous hunter-gatherers, many of whom made the transition over the last few thousand years to cow and pig farmers. Thus, whites in America tend to be highly diverse in terms of what diets are best for them. All you can do is try different diets to find what your body needs.



Somebody has finally gone and asked the Kurds who rule an unofficial but de facto autonomous mini-state in Northern Iraq if they want to help the U.S. attack Saddam. As I predicted last year, they don't. They told the NYT they fear reprisals from Saddam. They're certainly entitled to that fear, having been abandoned by Western powers many times in the past, but I think they diplomatically avoided mentioning a more long term worry: that if Turkey helps invade Iraq, it will never leave. After all, the Turkish Prime Minister briefly demanded Northern Iraq (i.e., Kurdistan) be ceded to Turkey in 1995.



Let's hear it for ladies' golf - 42 year old Julie Inkster shoots a 66 in the last round of the U.S. Women's Open at Prairie Dunes, one of America's greatest golf courses, to come from behind to beat the Tiger Woods of distaff golf, Annika Sorenstam. I wish I could have been there to see that. By the way, this Kansas course really is built on grass-covered sand dunes, so it plays like a very hot Scottish links. There's actually a huge amount of natural linksland (i.e., sand dunes) in the prairie states, which has barely been touched yet for its golfing potential.



Is there anything more intellectually contemptible than the Wall Street Journal Editorial Page's relentless refusal, when arguing for mass immigration, to admit that the Law of Supply and Demand applies to jobs? Once again, in an Editorial demanding the government make it easier for resorts to employ foreign temporary workers, the WSJ has proclaimed that Americans just won't do certain jobs ... with no mention that they certainly would do the jobs, just not at the wages offered to immigrants. "Employers rely on immigrant labor to supplement the limited number of Americans interested in seasonal work in remote locales." Folks, these remote locales they are talking about are famous resort regions, and the season is summer, when millions of American students are looking for work. And the (American) unemployment rate is now 5.9%. WSJ: Stop the Nonsense!



Charles Murray explains why the attempts to make the SAT into more of a test of how much you were taught in school discriminates against poor kids and rural kids in lousy schools.



Ted Williams, RIP - The baseball slugger was possibly the most technically proficient American of the 20th Century, as his mastery of three highly different callings demonstrates. No one studied the science of hitting a baseball more assiduously or accomplished more with his knowledge: according to the king of baseball statisticians Bill James, when examined with the most advanced methods Williams' batting records are exactly as impressive as Babe Ruth's. The third best hitter of all time, probably Lou Gehrig, is far behind (although if Barry Bonds stays that bulked up, he may overtake Williams and Ruth.)


Further, Williams was a jet fighter combat pilot. You hear a lot about how tragic it was that Muhammad Ali lost 2.75 years due to his draft dodging, when he could only give speeches on campuses. But Williams lost 4.5 years. God only knows what he might have done in 1943-1945. Considering that he hit .406 in 1941 and won Triple Crowns in 1942 and 1946, we can only fantasize about what he might have done in one of those missing years: how about hit .400 again, but this time with 50 homers and 200 RBIs? 


And Williams spent his time away serving his country. He trained as a fighter pilot during WWII, but the war ended before he saw combat. He stayed in the Marine Reserves. During the Korean War, when, at age 33 he was probably the most famous active athlete in America, he spent a brutal year flying in Korea as John Glenn's wingman.


After Williams retired from baseball, he devoted himself to fishing, and soon became one of the most admired fishermen in the country. (Fishing is a pastime that's about as complicated as flying fighters.)


Can you think of anybody else who was #1 in America in his main career, probably Top 10 in his retirement hobby, and roughly Top 1000 in his weekend job? Glenn springs to mind as military pilot, astronaut, and Senator, but each new career flowed from the previous one. The same is true for Jimmy Doolittle. Williams' three careers, in contrast, were uniquely disparate.



"You're going to hear a lot of flapdoodle about how "The Powerpuff Girls Movie" furnishes girls with strong, empowered feminist role models. Overall, though, this is an action show by guys (four of the movie's five screenwriters are men) for guys (even with its boy-repelling name, 70 percent of its TV audience is male). This story of three adorable, big-eyed, 5-year-old girls with alarmingly ferocious superpowers offers an informative portrait of what little boys think little girls ought to like -- such as smashing up cities while fighting gigantic mutant monkeys -- instead of that sissy stuff they actually do like. The King Kong meets Godzilla level of destruction that clogs much of the movie left many of the real 5-year-old girls in the preview audience cowering on their mommies' laps." For the rest of my review, click here.



Are blondish Afghans descended from Alexander the Great's troops? Next summer an expedition will collect genetic swabs from Afghans and compare them to DNA found in what is supposedly a bone belonging to Alexander's dad, Philip of Macedonia. It would certainly be fun if this proved true, but Afghanistan has been the pathway from Eastern Europe to India for millennium, so the Macedonian army's particular contribution might have been relatively insignificant.


The blondishness of  some Afghans was a key point in Kipling's famous Afghanistan-set short story "The Man Who Would Be King," in which Scottish adventurer Daniel Dravot is mistaken for "son of Iksander [Alexander]". The story is set in the Kafiristan region of Afghanistan, in which the people are especially European looking. Dravot makes the mistake of assuming that because the Kafiris look just like Englishmen (his intended bride Roxanne is very blonde), he can therefore quickly raise them up from pagan savagery. Kipling's tragic irony was that, despite their northern European looks, they really were pagan savages and Dravot was a fool - a noble-hearted one, but a fool nonetheless for thinking that because they looked European, they could easily learn to act European. Kipling was much more of a cultural realist (of the Sowell-Landes-Harrison variety) than a racial realist.


John Huston's terrific movie version from 1975 doesn't reflect this last point, because of problems he ran into finding a suitable location. Ruling out Afghanistan as too risky for filming, he found a spot in Turkey with lots of blondes. But a political problem got in the way, so he ended up in Morocco, where most of the thousands of extras he needed were quite dark. So, to his regret, he skipped Kipling's irony and hired Michael Caine's very dark Indian fashion model wife to play the intended bride of Sean Connery.



More on the death penalty - The most likely source of error is when two criminals were involved in the murder. Needing a confession from one to win any kind of conviction, the police can set up a classic Prisoner's Dilemma, announcing that whoever swears that his partner held the murder weapon lives, while his tight-lipped partner dies. I don't doubt that in that situation, the actual killer often frames his non-homicidal partner. The magnitude of this injustice, however, is not something I lose a lot of sleep over. (You can also see the value of the death penalty in getting one of the criminals to squeal by providing a differential penalty. 


On the other hand, it can reasonably be argued that the death penalty as currently practiced in America is such a laborious process, consuming so many legal resources in endless appeals, that it would be more efficient just to get rid of it.



Now that a low-level federal judge has decided that the federal death penalty is unconstitutional on the grounds that new DNA evidence has exonerated a number of death row inmates recently, it's time to make some basic points:


- Murder cases are inherently more difficult to solve accurately than non-murders because the best witness - the victim - can't testify.


- Precisely because of this, the death penalty would appear likely to be a useful deterrent against criminals murdering the victims of their robberies and rapes to prevent them from testifying, especially in states with a 3-strikes-and-you're-out mandatory life sentence. If a two-time loser was robbing me and he realized that I could identify him and put him away for life, I'd like to live in a death penalty state. Wouldn't you?


- That we now have highly accurate DNA technology is not an argument against the death penalty, as this judge assumed, but an argument in its favor. The accuracy rate of convictions goes up as technology gets better.



Can anybody figure out what the Educational Testing Service is up to with their latest "reform" of the SAT? It looks to me like the main effect will be to raise the SAT's price by 30%. Perhaps dropping verbal analogies (which are an excellent test of logical power) and adding a subjectively graded written essay are intended to allow girls to score as high as boys on average. If ETS really succeeds in its announced goal of making the SAT less of an aptitude test and more of an achievement test that measures how much test-takers learned in high school  (by adding, for example, questions that require a more advanced math class), that won't close the race gap in test scores at all. Instead, it will hurt blacks and Mexicans who go to lousy high schools and tend not to take advanced math. Look for Asians - who tend to work hard, go to good schools, and take advanced math classes - to benefit the most from any shift away from aptitude toward achievement. But, overall, pretty much the exact same kids will do well on the new version as did well on the old version.



Hey, Warbloggers! Aren't you getting a little bored hunting down and flogging the last few anti-Americans left in America? I sure am getting bored reading about these obscurities you dig up to denounce. You've definitely reached diminishing marginal returns with Stanley Hauerwas. Instapundit has been going on and on about how horrible it is that somebody named Hauerwas said something unpatriotic. Who in hell is Stanley Hauerwas? All I know is that he's a lot more famous and influential today than he was before you set your hounds after him.