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Sep 2003  Aug 2003  Jul 2003  Jun 2003  May 2003  Apr 2003  Mar 2003  Feb 2003  Jan 2003  Dec 2002  Nov 2002  Oct 2002  Sep 2002  Aug 2002  July 2002  May-Jun 2002  Mar-Apr 2002  Jan-Feb 2002  Dec 2001

 

September 2003

 

Chris Caldwell reviews former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's memoirs: "For her, every conflict is a replay of the Munich conference of 1938..." Albright was born in Czechoslovakia, which was dismantled at the Munich conference when the Great Powers took away its border province of the Sudetenland due to agitation by its German population, so it's hardly surprising she's obsessed with it. Obsession, however, is not precisely what you want in a Secretary of State, as we saw with Albright. The great irony of Albright's life is that when she finally got power in her hands, her lifelong fixation with Munich manifested itself in a hilariously twisted manner. She staged her own Great Power conference (Munich-Rambouillet) to take away from a small Eastern European country (Czechoslovakia-Yugoslavia) its border province (Sudetenland-Kosovo) due to agitation by its disaffected ethnicity (Germans-Albanians).

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Link: Sep. 29, 2003 01:09:13 E-mail me iSteve home

 

The LA Times finally writes about Arnold and steroids:

 

"But Schwarzenegger's old gym mates say he consumed far more muscle-building drugs over a longer period than he has acknowledged. They say Schwarzenegger told them that he began taking Dianabol, a popular steroid, at the age of 17 in Germany and routinely injected other testosterone-like substances after arriving in America in 1968."

 

The big question I've had about Arnold's candidacy is: "Do I want the voters of California to send my sons the message that taking tons of steroid is the way to become a success?"

 

As I wrote back in mid-August, "No man owes more to steroids and steroids owe more to no man." In July, I wrote, "In T3, Arnold's back in awesome shape, perhaps suspiciously Michelangeloesque for a 55-year old man who might run for governor of California this fall. Did he go back on the juice to prepare for his nude arrival scene? Beats me, but it's a question Republicans should ask him before they fall in line behind the man who was the Timothy Leary of steroids. Admittedly, as Schwarzenegger frequently points out, his years of steroid use didn't damage him. But, then, he's obviously a man of superior resilience, while most of the boys who tried steroids to be like him were not."

 

Did the LA Times wait this long in order to spring it on Arnold as an (almost) October Surprise? Or did it just occur to them? In either case, it's an issue that should be aired.

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Link: Sep. 29, 2003 01:14:44 E-mail me iSteve home

 

D'oh! Last week I praised Karl Rove for keeping the White House out of debilitating scandals. Great timing, Steve! This week, Rove himself appears to be the chief suspect in the new investigation into which two Senior Administration Officials committed the anti-American felony of blowing a clandestine CIA agent's cover in order, apparently, to intimidate whistle-blowers like her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who had revealed that the Administration's Niger yellowcake story was hooey. Ambassador Wilson said, "It's of keen interest to me to see whether or not we can get Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs. And trust me, when I use that name, I measure my words." In 1999, by the way, former President and former CIA Director George H.W. Bush called cover-blowers "the most insidious of traitors."

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New VDARE.com column at left.

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Link: Sep. 29, 2003 01:06:53 E-mail me iSteve home

 

That big New York Times article "Iraqi Family Ties Complicate American Efforts for Change" that was inspired by me has now come out. The story behind the story is that Steve Pinker sent John Tierney, the excellent NYT reporter in Baghdad, a copy of my article "The Cousin Marriage Conundrum" that appeared in the Jan. 13th issue of The American Conservative. Tierney wrote me about it and since then I've been helping him get in touch with experts in the field.

 

It's great to see the NYT cover a topic that's both important and almost totally orthogonal to the usual clichés discussed  in the press about Iraq. My prediction, however, is that the professional pundits and the blogosphere just won't get it. They won't do anything with the idea, they'll let it drop, because it's both too fresh and too down to earth to fit into the standard political chatter.

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Link: Sep. 26, 2003 16:49:50 E-mail me iSteve home

 

The Marshall Plan was a flop -- With Bush asking for a cool one grand from each American family for Iraq in his latest budget request, there's a lot of talk about the wonderfulness of the Marshall Plan, which has become one of the great, unexamined touchstones of America's self-esteem. Greg Cochran, though, points out that the success of the post-war economies was very much inversely related to how much moolah they got under the Marshall Plan. Japan did the best economically, but it got bupkis from the Marshall Plan. West Germany got the least of any of the beneficiaries, yet it  did the best of the European countries. Britain got the most dough and its economy stunk for much of the next 35 years. 

 

I suspect the actual value of the Marshall Plan, such as it was, was that it offered tangible evidence to European businessmen that we weren't going to abandon them to the Commies, so they might as well work hard for the future. 

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Link: Sep. 26, 2003 16:19:37 E-mail me iSteve home

 

Mark Steyn, the prince of pundits, recently resigned from the National Post of Toronto to protest its movement toward the soggy, boring middle of the Canadian political spectrum (which is soggy and boring indeed). Surprisingly, the National Post has taken Steyn's lemon and made lemonade by giving a regular Monday and Friday column to Steyn's natural successor, Colby Cosh.

 

Sidenote: A number of years ago, I was (very) briefly a National Post columnist. I think they soon discovered, however, that my familiarity with Canadian culture extended only so far as knowing that it is intensely beavercentric, and that Wayne Gretzky is (was?) a hockey player.

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Analysis: Hispanic voting strength mixed

By Steve Sailer

UPI National Correspondent

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 26 (UPI) -- Few ideas have become more engrained in the conventional political wisdom than that Hispanics now dominate California's electorate and will play a decisive role in the Oct. 7 gubernatorial recall election.

 

There is no question the long-term trend is in that direction, but whether this Hispanic surge has actually gone through the formality of taking place is open to question. The evidence is mixed, at best, which bodes well for the two main Republican candidates, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tom McClintock, in the race to replace Gov. Gray Davis if he is recalled. [More...]

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Link: Sep. 25, 2003 19:57:20 E-mail me iSteve home

 

Arab-American scholar Edward Said died this morning of cancer. He was a talented man, although he managed to leave worse off most of the things he cared the most about. 

 

Back in August I described how he had hoisted himself on his own petard with his famous book Orientalism. By demonizing Western Arabist scholars sympathetic to the Arabs, he radicalized the field. The unintended consequence of driving out the pro-American thinkers from the discipline was that he undermined the influence in Washington of Arab-sympathizing intellectuals (because they are now so hopelessly anti-American), thus opening the way for the Administration's policy toward the Arab world to end up in the hands of pro-Likudists like Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, and Elliott Abrams.

 

His impact on academia -- launching post-colonial studies -- was malign. He made it unfashionable to actually study non-Western cultures. Instead, grown men and women are supposed to devote their careers to acting shocked, shocked about what Western writers in the past had written about non-Western cultures. Is that pathetic, or what?

 

Still, the accusation against Said that you are going to hear over and over in the next few days -- that he made up his often-repeated story that his family's mansion in Jerusalem was permanently taken away by the Israelis -- is not wholly true, either. 

 

When I first read the enormously long article in the September, 1999 Commentary denouncing Said's autobiography, I loved it because I was fanatically pro-Israeli /  anti-Palestinian then. Paradoxically, it started me toward my present more balanced view. What happened was this: I enthusiastically tried to boil the Commentary muckraking essay down to its nutshell in my own mind in order to make it even stronger, as I do with most things I read that I admire. I came up with this in order to really stick it to Said (and all Arabs, by extension):

 

That big house in Jerusalem that the Israelis took wasn't owned by Said's father at all. It was [pause for the punchline] merely owned by his uncle! Ha-ha-ha. What a liar!

 

"Wait a minute," I thought to myself. "That didn't come out the way I wanted it to. That's not very persuasive. I mean, sure, Said is exaggerating, but it's perfectly natural for anybody to be angry if your uncle's mansion got taken, even if it wasn't your father's. And Said is an Arab, and you know how they put more emphasis on the extended family rather than the nuclear family." (In fact, his uncle's wife was also his father's sister -- another Arab cousin marriage of the kind that makes for extreme extended family solidarity over inheritances.)

 

This tiny bit of empathy for Palestinians started nagging at me. I eventually wondered how I would have felt if say, back in the 1940s the Japanese had taken over the coast of Southern California, taken my uncle's house when he fled their advance, and given it to refugees from Hiroshima. Would I be philosophical and understanding about it? Would most Americans? Probably not, I concluded. 

 

Does this mean that Israel has no right to exist? Of course it does not. But it does explain a little about why Palestinians and the rest of the Arabs are the way they are. 

 

It also helps explain what's otherwise a big mystery: why are Palestinian citizens of Israel so much more nonhomicidal than are their cousins in the West Bank. One important reason: they got to keep their homes. See, in 1947-48, the Israelis humanely allowed most Arabs who stayed in their homes to keep them. Not surprisingly, few of them are suicide bombers. But those who fled inland to temporarily escape the Israelis had their homes permanently taken away. In 1967, Israel conquered the West Bank, putting itself in charge of a lot of those families whom it had dispossessed. Not surprisingly, either, a lot of the scions of those families are still very angry about it.

 

Update: A reader sent in a relevant quote: "Men sooner forget the death of their father than the loss of their patrimony."--Niccolo Machiavelli

 

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The Ambler describes three ways that movies have changed reality ... for the stupider.

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Link: Sep. 25, 2003 19:55:39 E-mail me iSteve home

 

One cheer for the Bush Administration -- After 2.7 years in the White House, the current Administration has shown itself to be notably proficient at avoiding the little domestic mistakes that have bogged down so many other Presidencies, such as the sense of organizational chaos that bedraggled Carter and Clinton. For example, there has been an almost complete lack of the Special Prosecutors that were such a drag on previous White Houses. Of course, this proficiency has been mostly on the domestic side, as the incompetence of the post-war Iraq planning shows, so it's probably a tribute to Karl Rove.

 

Update: D'oh! A reader points out that the Republican Congress got rid of the Special Prosecutor a few years back, so the competence or incompetence of the White House has nothing to do with why there aren't 15 ongoing investigations of Bushies right now. Thank God for the demise of the Special Prosecutor. What a huge distraction and waste of time that was.

 

By the way, that helps explain (in a small way) the fury of Democrats at Bush -- he doesn't have to put up with the niggling investigations that Clinton did.

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By the way, here's the article by Razib of GNXP.com in The American Conservative about somebody he met on a Greyhound bus. I have no idea how he can sleep on buses, but the idea of a 24 hour bus ride phases him not at all.

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Link: Sep. 24, 2003 00:36:12 E-mail me iSteve home

 

What's wrong with Wesley Clark? Obviously, Clark is smarter and harder-working than the President, which is nothing to sneeze at, but then so are lots of people you or I know personally, the great majority of whom would do a much worse job at being President than Mr. Bush has. 

 

(Of course, some of them might do a better job -- the current President isn't exactly the product of a vast meritocratic search for the finest possible Chief Executive. In contrast, acquaintances of Arnold Schwarzenegger began talking about him as a potential major American politician long before he even became an American citizen. But I've never heard of anyone who knew the President as a young man who imagined that he would ever become President some day. He struck even his friends as distinctly inferior to his own brother Jeb.)

 

Back to Clark ... The general's claim to fame is that he bombed Serbia back to the industrial stone age in response to the Serbians' ethnic cleansing of Kosovo's Albanians.

 

Leaving aside the question of whether Clark's feat of dispatching American jets to sink Belgrade's bridges into the Danube ranks up there in military difficulty with Eisenhower's feat of managing the D-Day landings, the main problem with this claim is that it's not true

 

The reality is that we started the war, and the Serbs, with nothing left to lose (they were being pounded by NATO, the most powerful military alliance in history), responded by beginning the massive ethnic cleansing that everyone remembers so vividly. I don't know how many times starting about a year after the actual events have I read that our attack was a response to their big ethnic cleansing. Bollocks. That's exactly backwards. 

 

Before we pulled our international observers out so that we could start the bombing, there had been anti-rebel fighting in Kosovo, of course, but of the kind we're engaged in in Iraq at present -- not full scale ethnic cleansing. Of course, Kosovo was internationally recognized as belonging to Serbian-dominated Yugoslavia, giving Belgrade the presumptive legal right to put down a rebellion, as Abraham Lincoln had, or as NATO-member Turkey had just finished doing in Turkish Kurdistan at a cost of 37,000 lives.

 

The war briefly satiated a lot of the blood-lust that had been building up in elite Washington circles (but nowhere else in the country) for some time. The outcome of Clark's War on the ground, however, was that the ethnic cleansing was simply reversed and the Albanians cleansed most of the Serbs, and the Gypsies as well, from Kosovo, except for a some well-armed pockets. The whole pointless, bloody mess could have been peacefully resolved with some creativity, as I outlined in this essay of mine in Toronto's National Post.

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Link: Sep. 24, 2003 00:34:56 E-mail me iSteve home

 

What's wrong with economists? Having disposed of a few millennia-worth of philosophers (below), I now turn to the unsatisfactoriness of contemporary economists. Keep in mind, I love economics. I majored in it lo these many years ago. But my interests have matured and broadened since then, but economists' (with only a few honorable exceptions) haven't. In particular, economists have remained almost as resistant as the French to the Darwinian perspectives that have reinvigorated much of the intellectual life of the Anglosphere over the last two decades. 

 

Robert H. Frank of Cornell has done a lot of fine work with books like Passions within Reason. Paul Krugman read enough evolutionary biology in the mid-1990s to dismiss Stephen Jay Gould as "the John Kenneth Galbraith of his subject." But, Krugman seems to have given that up for the easy meat of Bush-bashing. We had a prominent economist who was an active participant on the Human Biodiversity email group, although he phased us out after he got the Nobel and presumably acquired a better class of friends. But, he didn't particularly stand out among the crowd on H-Bd. There are others, but too many remain willfully obtuse about the usefulness of Darwinian thought.

 

The weird thing is that my basic approach stems from my econ degree in college, which is where  I learned to try to imagine myself in another person's shoes and think about the incentives he faces. I guess the problem with economists is that this is much easier if they just imagine that person as a blank slate, a generic rational man with no non-random traits that correlate with group memberships. I started somewhat that way, but over the years, I've gotten interested, as well, in trying to figure out how different kinds of people feel about all the myriad incentives they face. For example, what does it generally feel like to be, say, a lesbian thinking about which career to choose? What does it feel like to be a gay man choosing a career? What does it feel like to smart or dim? How do black people or East Asian people tend to feel that's different from how the white people I know best feel? If you try to understand those kind of difficult questions, you are a long way toward understanding why different kind of people tend to carve out such widely divergent careers.

 

But economists, on the whole, just don't want to know about any of this. To pick on George Mason U. economist Tyler Cowen again, he blogs about cousin marriage in the Middle East (via Randall Parker's Parapundit) and why some Randall, Stanley Parker, and myself have argued that it makes liberal democracy less practical, but then states, "An intriguing idea, but I find it very hard to establish the appropriate causal connections." This is a simple failure to try to understand how it feels to be a different kind of person than yourself. Assume you marry your daughter to your brother's son. Then your in-laws are also your blood relations, and your grandson and heir is also your brother's grandson and heir. Without in-breeding, family loyalties tend to dissipate outward, but cousin marriage turns them inward, making them more intense family solidarity more practical. That means there is less need to rely upon the government for protection and justice (because your relatives are more closely related to you) and more incentive to cheat the government to benefit your family.

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Link: Sep. 24, 2003 00:32:29 E-mail me iSteve home

 

Robert L. Bartley, former Editorial Page Editor of the WSJ, writes: Democrats hate Bush as much as Republicans once hated FDR. True, but a much more relevant comparison might be: Democrats hate Bush as much as WSJ still hates Clinton.

 

There's a small chance that I personally set in motion Clinton's impeachment (by writing to The American Spectator in Dec. of 1992 advising them to send an investigative reporter to Arkansas to look for state employees sexually harassed by Gov. Clinton -- which is exactly what happened: David Brock found Paula Jones, which led to Clinton's perjury about Lewinsky), but I'm sure getting bored with partisan politics.

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Link: Sep. 21, 2003 18:15:46 E-mail me iSteve home

 

What's wrong with philosophy? Let me try to explain my mental model of the trajectory of philosophy over the ages. God knows this is out of my league, but I do have a certain knack for reductionism, for boiling a seemingly complicated subject down to its low-brow essentials, because that helps me keep things straight in my limited brain.

 

Philosophy has done the human race much good, but mostly by shedding topics, by having subjects become non-philosophy: e.g., philosophy--->natural philosophy-->science. Originally, every field of inquiry was lumped under the title "philosophy." For instance, if you take a course on the pre-Socratic philosophers (like Thales or Democritus), you quickly discover that most of them were scientists rather than what we today would think of today as philosophers, but they only had one word back then.

 

Or, consider David Stove's list (below) of dozens of philosophical statements about the number three, such as "What the number three is in itself, as distinct from the phenomena which it produces in our minds, we can, of course, never know" or "Three is a universal all right, but it exists only, and it exists fully, in each actual triple." The reasons these are philosophical statements is precisely because they are more or less useless. If somebody could definitively show they were useful, they would stop being philosophical ideas and start being mathematical ideas.

 

Similarly, moral philosopher Adam Smith founded economics. Today, sociobiology, brain sciences, and artificial intelligence are benefiting from having talents trained as philosophers shift in their directions.

 

But this trend means that the core of philosophy has increasingly purified itself of anything verifiable or practical. The long run tendency of philosophy appears to be toward becoming ever more of a 3 AM dorm room bull session that can go on forever, precisely because the only topics allowed are ones that can't be settled.

 

The most practical use of this kind of purified philosophy is debunking other philosophers who have clouded the minds of men. I would judge Hume most highly due to his impressively useful influence on nonphilosophers -- on Adam Smith, and through Smith and his followers on Darwin. Even Einstein said that reading Hume gave him the courage to challenge Newton's "Law" of Gravity. 

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Link: Sep. 21, 2003 18:12:44 E-mail me iSteve home

 

Sofia Coppola's "Lost in Translation," starring the melancholy and mordant Bill Murray, delivers, among other pleasures, a wonderfully nasty tribute to the satirical travel writing of Evelyn Waugh in time for the 100th anniversary of his birth on October 28.

 

Murray plays an aged, downhearted, and jet-lagged action-movie star, a cross between Bruce Willis and himself. He is killing time in a Tokyo Hyatt between making a whiskey commercial under a long-winded but incomprehensible Japanese director and being interviewed by the "Johnny Carson of Japan," who turns out to be more like the Pee-Wee Herman of Mars. It's hard to imagine what the poor Japanese have done since, oh, 1946 to justify Coppola's malicious obtuseness towards them...

 

Coppola's script deftly exploits an insight of Waugh and the even grumpier Paul Theroux: The secret to entertaining travel writing is to elegantly fail to figure out why those perplexing natives do the inexplicable things they do.

In impoverished Ethiopia, for example, a man boasted to Waugh in "very obscure English" that his businessman uncle had some sort of "monopoly," but Waugh couldn't understand what kind. In this situation, James Michener, an admirable human being but an indifferent artist, would have diligently found a translator, and probably organized a debate over whether Ethiopia needed its own Sherman Anti-Trust Act. Waugh, however, complacently declared himself baffled because "monopoly" seemed to be "a perfectly adequate description of almost all commercial ventures in Abyssinia."

 

[You can read the rest by buying October 6th issue of The American Conservative.]

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Link: Sep. 21, 2003 18:10:40 E-mail me iSteve home

 

Back to the Tribal Future -- After a nasty, ugly day in Iraq, it's interesting to note that we're now planning to resume Saddam's practice of paying protection racket money to tribal sheiks to ensure (imagine a Damon Runyon gangster accent) that unfortunate accidents do not befall oil pipelines running through their neighborhoods such as the pipeline happening to collide with a rocket-propelled grenade that might be flying by in the general vicinity.

 

I presume that some of these sheiks are the same sheiks who murdered thousands of Shi'ite prisoners in 1991 to collect Saddam's blood money. And now they'll be collecting from the U.S. taxpayers. Ah, progress...

 

We seem to be relearning the same lessons the Baath Party learned after they grabbed power in 1958 with such high hopes for modernizing Iraq: ruling Iraq imposes a certain crummy logic on rulers that all the shiny ideologies can't forestall.

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Link: Sep. 18, 2003 20:00:48 E-mail me iSteve home

 

More Phun with Philosophers -- A reader writes, "As far as philosophers go, [Leo Strauss'] derangement is fairly mild...at least Schopenhauer's landlady would think so..." One of the more charming examples of the madness of philosophers was Wittgenstein's quasi-autistic insistence that when visiting someone for a week or so, his host must feed him for every meal exactly what he was fed for the first. In other words, don't give him pheasant under glass when he first shows up because he'll demand to have it every breakfast, lunch and dinner thereafter. Instead, just give him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and save everybody a lot of trouble.

 

He goes on to recommend the Australian philosopher David Stove's long but hilarious chapter "What is wrong with our thoughts?" from his 1991 book The Plato Cult and other Philosophical Follies. Stove points out that the more abstruse and complicated we allow our thinking to become, the greater the likelihood it will go badly wrong. He lists 40 different ways philosophers'  thinking about just the number three can go off the tracks. We don't even have names for most of these forms of broken thinking.  A few examples:

 

25 Five is of the same substance as three, co-eternal with three, very three of three: it is only in their attributes that three and five are different.

 

28 The number three is neither an idle Platonic universal, nor a blank Lockean substratum; it is a concrete and specific energy in things, and can be detected at work in such observable processes as combustion.

 

30 In some previous state of our existence we knew the number three face-to-face, as it is in itself, and by some kind of union with it.

 

[My favorite] 31 How can I be absolutely sure that I am not the number three?

 

32 Since the properties of three are intelligible, and intelligibles can exist only in the intellect, the properties of three exist only in the intellect.

 

35 We get the concept of three only through the transcendental unity of our intuitions as being successive in time.

 

Stove says, "But let us never forget, either, as all conventional history of philosophy conspires to make us forget, what the 'great thinkers' really are: proper objects, indeed, of pity, but even more, of horror."

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Link: Sep. 18, 2003 03:20:57 E-mail me iSteve home

 

"Thrasymachus" defends Leo Strauss from my calumnies here, and prints my short response here

 

I really don't have all that much against the conclusions Strauss reached -- they're too cynical and elitist for my American tastes, but I can understand the appeal of cynicism and elitism, especially to someone of Strauss' background. Rule by the people in central Europe generally meant in practice peasants with torches and pitchforks lurching off on pogroms (just as democratic uprisings in Southeast Asia today mean looting the Chinese merchants), so it was perfectly understandable of him to favor a large advisory role in government for an inside circle of cynical scholars.

 

But the methods Strauss used to get there! C'mon, numerology? Remember how much fun we made of Louis Farrakhan's numerological speech at the Million Man March? Well, Strauss was a little touched in the head in the very same way. His kabalistic approach -- for example, counting the paragraphs in The Great Books to find "the central idea" -- must have been all very exciting to the promising young fellows at the U. of Chicago who were initiated into his Secret Decoder Ring Gang, but it sure seems silly by the light of the day, as silly as Foucault's and Derrida's cults.

 

Another evident psychological problem with Strauss was that he over-idolized the idea of The Ancients, and thus over-abstracted them into the source of perfect political philosophy. Strauss' notion that The Ancients held perfect political views, however, would have come as a big surprise to the The Ancients, because they thought each other's idea were manifestly imperfect. Plato's political ideals leaned toward totalitarianism, while his student Aristotle turned against his utopianism and advocated more conservative-pragmatic ideas.

 

Anyway, all this seems obvious to a rank outsider like myself, but I guess you could learn a lot about human nature by studying why Strauss seemed perfectly sane to the youths he and Allen Bloom inducted as insiders. 

 

Please don't be shocked at my saying Strauss appears to have been a little tetched. My experience has been that a huge proportion of people are not quite right in the head for at least some part of their lives. But when you are young and naive, like Strauss' students, you don't realize how many people are a tad unbalanced. It's not really that big of a deal ... unless you are setting up a cult like Strauss was.

 

Strauss clearly had a high-RPM brain, but he seems to have let it spend too much time whirring away at the same texts over and over until he saw patterns that just weren't there. I think this is a common danger in people with strong pattern recognition skills -- I've known several people who are very good at finding patterns who have gone a little around the bend connecting dots that aren't really connected. This seems to be a particular danger for smart people, all the way up to Isaac Newton, which is as far up as the human race goes. Newton's admirer John Maynard Keynes bought a trunk of Newton's private papers at an auction and was shocked to learn that the great physicist had spent years decoding the "hidden messages" that God had put in the Bible for him to discover, instead of that interloper Jesus Christ. Newton, by the way, was born on Dec. 25 when his real father was in Heaven. Coincidence? He thought not ...

 

Obviously, I've thought about this tendency a lot, because I've got a strong pattern recognition ability, and I don't want to end up like this. I suspect this kind of obsessive ness is most likely if you keep reading the same classic texts over and over and over again and don't air your brain out with some trash. Or maybe that's just my excuse for reading a random collection of ephemeral crud instead of The Great Books.

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Link: Sep. 18, 2003 03:19:55 E-mail me iSteve home

 

Jerry Pournelle says we shouldn't get our hopes up too high for the "new" Robert A. Heinlein novel that's coming out. Apparently, it was written in 1938, just before Heinlein's explosion onto the science-fiction scene. The publisher claims that it wasn't published then because it was too "racy," but if that was the only reason, Pournelle wonders why the great man didn't dust it off and cash in on it after Stranger in a Strange Land, since Heinlein very much liked getting paid for his writing. Jerry's best guess: it's not very good. Oh well... I'm sure I'll still read it anyway.

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Link: Sep. 15, 2003 21:44:55 E-mail me iSteve home

 

Surprise! The "No Child Left Behind" law is being undermined by paste-eating dumb kids -- Jay Matthews asks in the WaPo:

 

"How could rational leaders demand, in just 12 years, that 100 percent of students do well enough on standardized tests to be rated proficient in reading and math?"

 

Fortunately, Matthews says (in so many words), the law encourages the schools to use a simple solution to the otherwise insoluble problem posed by the Ralph Wiggums of America: cheat.

 

"The issue is made more confusing because each state will have its own definition of proficiency. Before No Child Left Behind, when educators used the word "proficient," they often meant that level on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the federal exam given to a sampling of students to get a sense of national achievement levels. Only 31 percent of fourth-graders tested proficient or above on the latest NAEP reading test, in 2002, and only 26 percent were proficient or above on the math test given in 2000. But under No Child Left Behind, each state sets its own standards, which are turning out to be much lower than that of the National Assessment of Educational Progress. In Virginia last year, for instance, 72 percent of third-graders passed the Standards of Learning test -- the state's measure of proficiency -- in English, and 80 percent passed the state math test."

 

Personally, I attended Rice U., one of the leading math and science colleges in the U.S., and, boy, did I ever get left behind in math. I never made it to differential equations, not to mention the vast, mysterious realms of math beyond that. Too bad there wasn't a "No Overgrown Child Left Behind" law to give Rice incentive to whip together some cockamamie test that would have certified me as proficient in math.

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Link: Sep. 15, 2003 22:29:51 E-mail me iSteve home

 

A long time ago I asked "Why do monotonous sports like running and rowing have higher IQ participants than fast-moving sports like basketball that require quick decision making?" I got lots of fine answers, but never got around to posting any, for which I apologize. Here's one that just came in:

 

"I think it ties in to your description of the differences between nerds and "big men" -- it has to do with specialization. Elsewhere you say, "Big Men tend to focus broadly but shallowly. Nerds, in contrast, concentrate narrowly but deeply." I posit that people tend to be more interested in sports which require or reward cognitive structures similar to their own -- that is to say, sports they naturally understand. Then syllogism predicts that nerds will prefer sports which have a strong focus on a small number of skills, encouraging gradual, practiced refinement of technique in search of perfection, while big men will prefer games where rapid, wide-ranging improvisation is the deciding factor. Nerds will also tend to prefer individual sports, and big men team sports. Then the positive correlation of nerdiness with IQ produces the effect you mention."

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Link: Sep. 15, 2003 21:43:44 E-mail me iSteve home

 

Women's professional soccer league collapses -- This reminds me of what I wrote in my review of Bend It Like Beckham: 

 

The film wants to launch in England one of the funnier American fads: those periodic whoop-tee-doos where we all swell up with national pride over an American women's team winning gold in some sport played by the women of practically no other county, except maybe Norway. Think back to the ecstasy over the first Women's World Cup of soccer. We'd beaten the world! When cynics pointed out that the world didn't much care about women's soccer, well, that just made us even prouder of how liberated our women are, compared to those poor, oppressed women of Paris, Milan, and London, whose consciousnesses haven't been raised enough to want to trade in their Gucci high heels for soccer spikes.

 

Unfortunately, after each frenzy of patriotic feminist chauvinism, our poor women athletes come home and set up a domestic pro league that rapidly loses the interest of most everybody except lesbians and the kind of guy fan who'll watch anything on ESPN2. That's because, to be frank, even the best women aren't anywhere near as good at sports as the best men, so what's the point in watching them unless they are kicking foreign butt?

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Link: Sep. 15, 2003 01:08:24 E-mail me iSteve home

 

William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, and Steven Lenzner offer a vindication of the obscure but influential political philosopher Leo Strauss (died 1973) in "What Leo Strauss Was Up To" in The Public Interest. I must confess to never having been able to make head nor tail of Strauss before, but now I understand what Strauss was. Here's the money quote:

 

"Strauss set himself a remarkable task: the revival of Western reading, and therefore, of philosophizing. Strauss claimed that he had rediscovered a forgotten kind of writing, and that for almost two centuries the proper manner of reading the greatest works of the past had apparently disappeared. If Strauss in fact rediscovered the art of writing, then he made possible the revival of Western letters. If Strauss's work is sound, he made it possible for us today to appreciate great books in the spirit and manner in which they were written. And the almost universal vehemence with which his rediscovery was initially denounced and ridiculed by the scholarly world demonstrated just how completely this art had been lost. No passage of Strauss's more vividly captures what was entailed by this rediscovery than his account of Machiavelli's art of writing:

 

"'Time and again we have become bewildered by the fact that the man [Machiavelli] who is more responsible than any other man for the break with the Great Tradition should in the very act of breaking prove to be the heir, the by no means unworthy heir, to that supreme art of writing which that tradition manifested at its peaks. The highest art has its roots, as he well knew, in the highest necessity. The perfect book or speech obeys in every respect the pure and merciless laws of what has been called logographic necessity. The perfect speech contains nothing slipshod; in it there are no loose threads; it contains no word that has been picked up at random; it is not marred by errors due to faulty memory or to any other kind of carelessness; strong passions and a powerful and fertile imagination are guided with ease by a reason which knows how to use the unexpected gift, which knows how to persuade and which knows how to forbid; it allows of no adornment which is not imposed by the gravity and the aloofness of the subject matter; the perfect writer rejects with disdain and some impatience the demand of vulgar rhetoric that expressions must be varied since change is pleasant.'"

 

In other words, if there is anything that seems imperfect in the writings of famous old philosophers, its' not really imperfect. It's all part of the plan. It's actually part of a secret code that Strauss alone has decoded to discover the philosophers' inner meaning.

 

Where have you heard this kind of thing before? In chain e-mails offering you a new way to ferret out the secrets of the Bible or Nostradamus or the Great Pyramid! It's the kind of thing that led Madonna to the Kabbalah. In short, Strauss was a crackpot.

 

Strauss's claim that from 1750 onward the great philosophers' secret technique of writing was understood by nobody (and "nobody" includes some fairly sharp guys like Schopenhauer, Mill, and Nietzche) is crackpottery of the highest order. So is his insistence that the great philosophical books of the past were written in "perfect speech." C'mon, they were written by human beings. Indeed, some of Aristotle's most important works may not even be written by him, but are merely compilations of his students' notes on his peripatetic lectures. Further, the vast majority don't exist in original form. All we have are transcriptions by monks and Arabs.

 

Strauss should have been a character from a Jorge Luis Borges short story. That he was instead a life-changing influence on a group of men as influential as Kristol Jr. and Paul Wolfowitz seems worthy of its own Borges story about a crackpot scholar whose bizarre take on reality takes on a reality its own.

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Link: Sep. 15, 2003 01:06:04 E-mail me iSteve home

 

Thucydides, Clausewitz, Samuel Eliot Morison, John Keegan, and, now, Andrew Sullivan! Andy, in his new role as war historian, highlights as his "Email of the Day" a letter endorsing Sullivan's Flypaper strategy by making this curious claim about its purported past efficacy: "In our own history, the Confederacy's last hope at Gettysberg [sic] was broken when Lee with little choice attempted and failed to take the Little Round Top, a hill he could not permit the Union forces to hold." 

 

Actually, the desperate fight at Little Round Top occurred on the second of the three days of the Battle of Gettysburg, and God help us if Flypaper is leading us into a situation that dire: On Little Round Top, the Confederates came within moments of turning the flank of the Northern army, which might have left undefended the great cities of the North. The Union may have been saved by the courage of Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (played by Jeff Daniels in Ron Maxwell's movies Gettysburg and Gods and Generals), who, on the verge of being overrun, ordered his devastated 20th Maine Infantry to charge with bayonets.

 

Andrew's correspondent seems to have confused Little Round Top with Pickett's Charge the next day (and, of course, Andrew is clueless about all of this). Even with the obliteration of the cream of the Confederate Army that day, the war lasted another 21 bloody months.

 

Anyway, guerillas don't want to refight the Battle of Gettysburg. Instead, they want to get the occupiers to, say, accidentally massacre eight native policemen in order to further annoy the civilian populace.

 

Look, I was a gung ho supporter of the Afghan War, just as I was of Desert Storm. I even managed to use my position as a film critic, of all things, to argue for the Afghan war (in an extended analysis of The Man Who Would Be King). But the differences between the Afghan and Iraq wars were obviously going to be major (e.g., we could let the Afghans go back to being Afghans, but we were going to be stuck in godforsaken Iraq). They shouldn't have been glossed over by emotional appeals to 9-11, of the kind we saw revived this past week.

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Link: Sep. 11, 2003 22:04:35 E-mail me iSteve home

 

Flypaper, One Mo' Time -- The big question about the Flypaper Theory is whether this is a genuine strategy or just after-the-fact spin. I've thought of a test: If you really truly believed in Flypaper, you would support "open borders" for Iraq in order to make it as easy as possible for anti-American terrorists to get into Iraq. The Pentagon, sensibly enough, does not. It's working to cut down infiltration. At a briefing alongside Secretary Rumsfeld, General Abizaid said, "And we know that there are other foreign fighters -- and we've captured many of them -- that have come across from Syria. The lines of infiltration are difficult to stop because of the wide expanse of the border. But we're working very hard at getting a handle on what we need to do to stop infiltration there, in conjunction with Iraqis."

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Nicolas Cage in 'Matchstick Men' 

By Steve Sailer

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 11 (UPI) -- After a dreary winter of already forgotten misfires and a dry summer of sequels, it's safe for grown-ups to go back in the multiplexes. Director Ridley Scott's august reputation is built on five memorable movies -- Alien," "Blade Runner," "Thelma & Louise," "Gladiator," and "Black Hawk Down." "Matchstick Men" isn't his sixth, but it's easily one of the best big studio releases so far in 2003.

 

After his hangdog performance in the flop "Windtalkers" hopefully ended Nicolas Cage's career as a $20 million-per-blockbuster action star, the actor fired his agent and went back to his strength: playing walking advertisements for the wares of the psychopharmaceutical industry.

 

The "Matchstick Men" script by Ted Griffin ("Ocean's Eleven") and his brother Nick tosses Cage his kind of red meat. Much of the pleasure of con man movies is watching actors switch characters on a dime, but Cage reverses the usual setup by making his false front blander than his real personality, which suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder, Tourette Syndrome, agoraphobia, and plain old suicidal depression. ...

 

Then, Cage discovers that his psychiatrist has been successfully treating him with placebos, because the real cause of his madness is his evil job. His guilt is driving him crazy.

 

This kind of straightforward moral cause for sickness is common in movie plots because it's more satisfying than the awful randomness of real diseases. Six years ago, when I almost died of lymphatic cancer at age 38, numerous nonsmokers asked my wife if I smoked, hoping that would turn my unsettling story into a tidy lesson in why I got what I deserved (and they wouldn't). They were rattled to find out I'd never smoked. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma mostly just happens.

 

We find it even less acceptable that the brain also simply gets sick now and then. In "A Beautiful Mind," for example, in order to blame John Nash's psychosis on the McCarthy Red Scare, screenwriter Akiva Goldsman moved Nash's breakdown from 1959, when McCarthy was dead and gone, to his heyday in 1953. For this, Goldsman won an Oscar, because we go to movies to see a coherent universe, where cause and effect rules, not the arbitrary hammer blows of the real world.

 

"Matchstick Men" is poor medical science, but that helps make it a strong story.   [More...]

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Housekeeping: I've finally added a Google search box (directly above). The default is set to search the iSteve.com domain, which includes the archives of this "iSteve Exclusives" blog, pre-2000 articles, and all the subject matter summary pages listed at the very top of this webpage. Don't forget that when you pull up one of these pages, you can use Ctrl-F to go to the word of interest. (That's especially useful in the big blog archive pages.)

 

If you click the VDARE radio button, Google will search that domain. If you want to search just among my articles on VDARE, add Sailer to your search terms.

 

As you probably noticed, I've also added permanent links to blog items. Now you can link directly to a single item of mine and your readers will be taken to the correct paragraph in my permanent archive for this month. (I generally don't insert a permanent link, however, for items that simply refer to published articles of mine, since there'd you'd normally want to link to the article itself, not the blog item.

 

 

Link: Sep. 9, 2003 20:27:20 E-mail me iSteve home

 

The WaPo reports "Despite extensive preventive measures, most of the more than 200 Marines who spent time ashore in Liberia last month apparently contracted [falciparum] malaria, with about 43 of them ill enough to be hospitalized." When you are wondering why West Africa is so impoverished, you have to keep in mind that a lot of people there are simply ill a lot of the time. 

 

The other angle to this story is that Lariam, the best-advertised anti-malaria drug, apparently can set off suicidal depression in some people, as a UPI investigation by Dan Olmsted and Mark Benjamin documented.

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Link: Sep. 9, 2003 17:00:19 E-mail me iSteve home

 

With an article crowing over the President's endorsement of his Flypaper strategy / desperate rationalization, Andrew Sullivan puts in his bid in the Tin Pencil Sharpener's uncoveted Hormone Derange category. (In Jay McInerney's Ransom, "Home on the Range" was the name of an American-owned shop in Kyoto that sold cowboy hats to Japanese young men. The owner changed the name to "Hormone Derange" because that's how his customers pronounced it, and, well, it just seemed more fitting.) The idea is that getting into a guerilla war in Iraq is a good thing because it lets us kill more people who need killing. 

 

One obvious problem with the Flypaper theory is that there's no glue on the flypaper. President Bush has been inviting guerillas into Iraq with his "Bring 'em on" bluster. If these foreign anti-Americans fighters in Iraq start losing, they'll come to realize that Andrew Sullivan is a more masterful asymetrical war strategist than they are, and they'll just leave Iraq. So, the upside is small.

 

The downsides are numerous. How exactly are we going to turn Iraq into a shining city on a hill of prosperity and democracy while also using it as our designated killing floor?  How are we going to keep the oil and water pipelines running if we keep inviting in more trained terrorists? How can we win the hearts and minds of civilian Iraqis who might not appreciate the President deciding to treat their neighborhoods as a global battle zone? How can we get more cooperation from Iraqi civilians if they are in danger of being murdered for cooperating by all the guerillas we've attracted.

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Link: Sep. 9, 2003 16:58:43 E-mail me iSteve home

 

$75 billion here, $87 billion there, pretty soon you're talking about real money... Beyond that, there seems to be another $30-$55 billion needed for reconstruction, according to the White House's plans, that is supposed to come from international contributions, oil money, Saddam's Swiss bank accounts, and spare change found in sofas.

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Analysis: Immigrants' declining diversity

By Steve Sailer, UPI National Correspondent

 

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 8 (UPI) -- The main engine of the United States' increasing demographic diversity -- mass immigration -- is becoming less diverse, as immigrants from Latin America become an ever-larger fraction of the foreign born in the United States, according to a report released Friday by the Center for Immigration Studies.

 

"Immigrants from Spanish-speaking Latin America accounted for more than 60 percent of the growth in the foreign-born population nationally in the 1990s," according to the report by Steven A. Camarota and Nora McArdle based on 2000 Census data released this summer.

 

The Center for Immigration Studies is a Washington think tank that describes itself as "an independent, non-partisan, non-profit research organization ... devoted exclusively to research and policy analysis of the economic, social, demographic, fiscal and other impacts of immigration on the United States." As part of its self-stated mission, the center "is animated by a pro-immigrant, low-immigration vision which seeks fewer immigrants but a warmer welcome for those admitted."

 

The apparent increase in Hispanics as a percentage of U.S. immigration raises far-reaching questions about exactly what kind of diversity our country desires for itself.

 

The late Jim Chapin, a former executive director of the Democratic Socialists of America and one-time political analyst for United Press International, would boast that his neighborhood in the New York borough of Queens was almost perfectly balanced in numbers among whites, blacks, Hispanics and Asians.

 

He wrote, "My two cents on immigration/diversity: I'm for it, based on my own experience in Queens County for 30 years. What I am not for is what is rapidly becoming 'sole-source immigration.' Carry this on for 50 years, and the U.S. will be another Dade County (the Hispanic-dominated home of Miami)." ...

 

Chapin, a long-time adviser to liberal Democratic politicians such as recent New York City mayoral candidate Mark Green, summed up, "I can see reasonable arguments for America being a diverse country, but I have yet to hear a good argument for turning the U.S. into a Latin American country."   [More...]

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New VDARE.com column at left.

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It's finally here! I know America has been breathlessly awaiting my review of David Spayed's Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star. Well, the long national nightmare is now over:

 

Film review: David Spade is 'Dickie Roberts' 

By Steve Sailer, UPI National Correspondent

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 7 (UPI) -- I certainly hope you don't feel the way I do, but a part of me believes that anybody who was ever a star somehow deserves to never have to work again in a non-celebrity capacity. I hope I'm alone in experiencing involuntary repugnance at the thought of former television personalities having to do honest work, but I fear I'm not.

 

We Americans like to kid ourselves that we have a strong Work Ethic, but since perhaps the Gold Rush of 1849, we've instead had the world's leading Get Rich Quick Dream. I think we'd rather hear that somebody we once idolized has choked on his own vomit in a crack house (ah, the tragic price of fame!) than learn that he's writing COBOL code in Cincinnati (ugh, the boring ignominy of anonymity!).

 

Fortunately, even after they're washed up, our American celebrities have so many opportunities to cash in by letting us bask in their reflected glory that they seldom let us down quite that much. For example, I've long followed the charmed life of Mike Eruzione, the amateur hockey player whose sole achievement was scoring the winning goal to beat the Soviets in the 1980 Olympics, just to see if he'll ever have to get a real job. After 23 years, he's still going strong as a motivational speaker, fundraiser, and professional guest at charity golf tournaments.

 

Child stars, though, are less likely to achieve permanent celebrityhood. Adorable little girl actresses, like Elizabeth Taylor and Drew Barrymore, often grow up, despite the pills and problems, to be adorable young women, but boy entertainers frequently fail dismally as adults.

 

Boys are less mature than girls while growing up, so producers have a hard time finding talented-enough normal lads who can, literally, act their age on screen. Therefore, they search out undersized, undersexed older boys who can play younger than their real ages. Similarly, impresarios putting together boy bands look for high-pitched singers who will seem like unthreatening "practice boyfriends" to adolescent girl fans.

 

Unfortunately for them, delayed puberty is not what audiences look for in adult leading men and rock stars. Many are quickly surpassed by their more manly peers and are left with no marketable skills, twisted Hollywood values, an all-consuming hunger to get back into the limelight, and a certain aura of freakishness.

 

Although he didn't get on television until his mid-20s, David Spade -- the snippy little blond receptionist on the sitcom "Just Shoot Me!" -- is perfectly cast in the not-too-bad comedy "Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star."   [More...]

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Link: Sep. 6, 2003 02:26:24 E-mail me iSteve home

Charles Murray just sent me a preview copy of his upcoming book Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 B.C. to 1950.

 

My first reaction: Wow.

 

I'd never really grasped what he was up to when he talked about it over the years, so let me see if I can explain it briefly. This is a book for statistics junkies who love art, literature, and science instead of baseball. Murray has created a database of 4,002 significant individuals based on objective measures of eminence, such as, for artists, amount of space devoted to them in nine leading art history books by Gombrich, Janson, and others. From this he generates countless fascinating statistical graphics, like a top 20 list of Western artists "who mattered," beginning with Michelangelo with a score of 100, followed by Picasso (77), Raphael (73), Leonardo (61), and Titian (60). Obviously, you can argue with this list, but that's the fun of it. You're not arguing with Murray's judgment, but with an almost completely objective process. My 14-year-old was fascinated by the philosopher's list, but objected that Plato (87) should be #1 rather than Aristotle (100).

 

Murray then crunches his data every way imaginable to answer just about every conceivable question about the Big Names of the Past that statistics can shed light upon. 

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Link: Sep. 4, 2003 23:00:05 E-mail me iSteve home

"Jumbo shrimp," "military intelligence," and now ... "blog wisdom!" -- Since midsummer, the big blog boys, including Tin Pencil-Sharpener nominees Instapundit, Andrew Sullivan, and James Taranto of the WSJ, have been promoting the "flypaper" or "draining the swamp" theory to explain why our getting into a guerilla war in Iraq is really a good thing. See, now we've got all the bad guys right where we want them -- all the anti-American Muslims in the world are flocking to Iraq where we will kill them all and then there will be no more of them anywhere ever again. As Greg Cochran points out, the Soviets tried out the flypaper theory in Afghanistan from 1979-1988, killing a million or more Muslims, which is why there hasn't been a single Islamist extremist in Afghanistan ever since.

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He's baaaaack ... 

 

"But you guys, you’re just brave enough to get us into trouble and not brave enough to see it through. You want to kick ass, plant the flag on somebody else’s land and blow stuff up, and then have everybody on the ground love you for it. That’s not an empire. That’s a bedtime story for pussies." -- War Nerd.

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Link: Sep. 4, 2003 14:26:49 E-mail me iSteve home

Analysis: Arnold a rare GOPer in Hollywood

By Steve Sailer

UPI National Correspondent

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 4 (UPI) -- Arnold Schwarzenegger's candidacy illustrates one of the oddities of U.S. politics -- almost all entertainers who make a splash in American politics are Republicans, even though political donation records document that Hollywood stars are overwhelmingly tilted toward the Democrats.

 

Yet, besides Ronald Reagan, GOP officeholders have included Rep. Sonny Bono, song and dance man George Murphy, who became a U.S. senator from California, Rep. Fred Grandy (Gopher of "The Love Boat"), and Fred Thompson, who went from part-time acting to the Senate and back (he's now on "Law & Order").

 

Perhaps Republican actors succeed in politics because they stand out from the crowd. They certainly are lonely in Hollywood.

 

With the topic of the political orientation of members of the media being so controversial, it's good to have hard numbers. The Federal Election Commission filings accessible at OpenSecrets.org, which are roughly 90 percent complete, show who's putting his money where his mouth is.

 

In the latest presidential election cycle, Oscar-winning actors, actresses and directors donated about 40 times more money to Democrats than to Republicans. Thirty-one Oscar-winners gave a total of $381,000 to Democrats, vs. seven who anted up a total of $9,000 to Republicans...

 

The biggest Academy Award winning givers to Democrats were Steven Spielberg ($165,000) and Michael Douglas ($98,000). Tom Hanks, who executive-produced patriotic miniseries about World War II and the space program, gave $27,000.

 

Other Oscar-winning Democratic benefactors include such veteran cinematic liberals as Barbra Streisand, Susan Sarandon, Robin Williams, Paul Newman, Jane Fonda, Jack Nicholson, Robert Redford and Woody Allen. 

 

No Academy Award winner gave anything to George W. Bush's winning campaign.   [More...]

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Link: Sep. 3, 2003 22:54:33 E-mail me iSteve home

Early nominations for the uncoveted Tin Pencil-Sharpener Awards for armchair warriors: The most depressing category is Shoulda Known Better. Some readers' suggestions:

 

"Paul Johnson (UK Spectator and Forbes). Has written history books about everything, but apparently learned nothing. Couldn't he tell us about Napoleon's adventures in Spain and Russia, or the Franco-Prussian war and the occupation of Paris, or something?" [Steve's comments: His section in his great Modern Times on France's Algerian tragedy is a masterful explication of why you don't want to get into a guerilla war in an Arab country.]

 

"Victor Davis Hanson. He's a military historian, for goodness sakes. Why doesn't he write like the War Nerd, then? (Minus the rage.)" [Obviously, he's highly talented, as his Mexifornia shows. I can't say I've read his war stuff much, though -- it was invigorating right after 9-11, but then his work seemed to get awfully repetitive, so I stopped reading. I think some zillionaire ought to pay him buckets of money to quit teaching and farming and do nothing but write ... on the one condition that he only publish half as many millions of words as he's churning out right now. He'd be more thoughtful if he took more time.]

 

"Christopher Hitchens" [Another guy who publishes a gazillion words a month. I'm not sure if any single one of his countless essays would be all that impressive if you read it without thinking to yourself: "This is really good for something written in 27 minutes by a man with the Hangover of Doom!" He's a colorful character, but whether he's a level-headed enough thinker to qualify for the elite Shoulda Known Better ranks is certainly questionable. His Tory brother Peter would seem far more solid. The Ambler predicts that the next episode in Christopher's amusing career will be his conversion to Roman Catholicism, perhaps as suggested by the great Clash song "Death or Glory."

 

"Thomas Sowell"  [I'm going to defend The Great Man. First, he didn't write all that much about Iraq; second, he was much more even-handed. For example, on 1/6/03, Sowell wrote:

 

"Those neoconservatives, especially, who were pushing an activist "national greatness" foreign policy, even before September 11th, have seized upon that event as a reason for the United States to "use American might to promote American ideals" around the world. That phrase, by Max Boot of the Counsel on Foreign Relations and The Weekly Standard, is breathtaking in its implications. When he places himself and fellow neoconservatives in the tradition of Woodrow Wilson, it is truly chilling...The track record of nation-building and Wilsonian grandiosity ought to give anyone pause. The very idea that young Americans are once again to be sent out to be shot at and killed, in order to carry out the bright ideas of editorial office heroes, is sickening."]

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Link: Sep. 3, 2003 17:08:29 E-mail me iSteve home

Update: Great Minds Do Think Alike Dept.: Rich Lowry says his column on the UCLA study of the wage cost of immigration came out on Townhall.com on Friday.

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Link: Sep. 3, 2003 00:04:57 E-mail me iSteve home

Mickey Kaus has been all over the scandal involving California governor Cruz Bustamante's reluctance to denounce MECha, whose slogan is "Por La Raza todo. Fuera de la Raza Nada." Nobody seems to agree on exactly how to translate this:

 

"For the Race, everything. For those outside the Race nothing," (Translation #1) or

"By means of the Race, everything. Outside the Race, nothing." (Translation #2) or

"On behalf of the Race, everything. Outside the Race, nothing." (Translation #3)

 

Allow me to make the general point that this kind of confusion always arises in multilingual polities -- nobody can be sure what somebody else truly meant. Translation is a slow and imprecise art. This is why the European Union will never be a true democracy. Only the multilingual elite can fully understand each other, so the EU is controlled by Eurocrats in Brussels rather than voters in each country. Similarly, rather than let Quebec go, Prime Minister Trudeau rebuilt Canada into a country largely run by and for the tiny bilingual elite. Switzerland gets by by having as little in the way of national politics as possible. (That's why the Swiss can never remember the name of their heads of state or government.) The best solution, if you are blessed with a national language, is to never conduct politics in anything other than the national language.

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Link: Sep. 3, 2003 00:03:39 E-mail me iSteve home

It's been obvious for some time that WSJ columnist John Fund thinks his employer's stance on immigration ("There shall be open borders!") is indefensible, but he's been coy about it. He almost comes out of the closet in this new column.

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Link: Sep. 2, 2003 17:59:51 E-mail me iSteve home

I'm soliciting nominations for The Tin Pencil-Sharpener Awards for the pundits who most egregiously hyped us into occupying Iraq. (See below for an explanation of the pencil-sharpener symbolism). Categories include: Invincibly Ignorant; Shoulda Known Better; Hormone Deranged; and Likud Lapdogs.

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Link: Sep. 2, 2003 15:54:48 E-mail me iSteve home

Rich Lowry's Tuesday morning NRO column bears more than a passing resemblance to my Sunday evening VDARE.com column. I'm always glad to be of service, Rich!

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Link: Sep. 2, 2003 02:46:28 E-mail me iSteve home

Iraq: Let the recriminations begin! Summer's over, so it's time to get serious about naming and ostracizing the folks who told us to stick our dicks in the Iraqi pencil-sharpener. Other countries have a tradition that when something goes wrong, some big shot resigns: for example, when Argentina seized the Falklands, Lord Carrington quit as Foreign Secretary. Here in the U.S., though, nobody is ever held responsible for anything. I suppose it's too much to ask that Rummy and Condi take a well-deserved fall, but surely, it's high time for Paul Wolfowitz to announce that he wants to "spend more time with his family."

 

But what about all the pundits who egged them on? If you are proven wrong, big time, about an issue that you chose, despite your ignorance, to bluster about over and over, shouldn't you pay a price? 

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Link: Sep. 2, 2003 00:49:33 E-mail me iSteve home

The ban on discussing IQ in the press is temporarily lifted as IQ makes the front page of the Washington Post. Unfortunately, the article is written by a reporter who is basically clueless about the history of the science and thus is snookered by some ambitious academics into vastly overhyping their unsurprising study.

 

Genes' Sway Over IQ May Vary With Class

Study: Poor More Affected by Environment

By Rick Weiss

Washington Post Staff Writer

Tuesday, September 2, 2003; Page A01

Back-to-school pop quiz: Why do poor children, and especially black poor children, score lower on average than their middle-class and white counterparts on IQ tests and other measures of cognitive performance? ... 

 

Until recently, Turkheimer and others said, research had indicated that the "heritability" of IQ -- that is, the degree to which genes can explain the differences in IQ scores -- completely dominated environmental influences. That led some to call into question the value of programs such as Head Start, which are based on the assumption that by improving the childhood environment through extra attention, nutrition and care, a child's intellectual future could be improved. But it turned out that virtually all those studies on the heritability of IQ had been done on middle-class and wealthy families. Only when Turkheimer tested that assumption in a population of poor and mostly black children did it become clear that, in fact, the influence of genes on IQ was significantly lower in conditions of poverty, where environmental deficits overwhelm genetic potential.

 

Weiss is an extremely hardworking general reporter. In the last week, he has published five articles: on intelligence, enzymes, the culture of NASA, the number of troops in Iraq, and a forest fire in Oregon. How does he do it? (Uncredited assistants, I would guess). But, he clearly knows next to nothing about IQ research. It's ridiculous for him to claim that nature-nurture studies of IQ were virtually all done on middle-class and wealthy families. In the 1960s and 1970s, a huge number were done on poor blacks. Few social scientific questions in history been studied more than than the impact of Head Start on the IQs of impoverished black children. (There haven't been as many analyses recently because they kept coming up with the same results.) 

 

The consensus has long been that Head Start can raise IQ scores. The problem has always been that the gains fade fairly rapidly. (This study Weiss is whooping up only looked at IQ at age seven, so its results are no surprise at all).  In fact, that's been a general finding -- the IQ scores of little children are fairly malleable, but the effect of socio-economic status gets weaker over time. For example, Sandra Scarr's study of blacks adopted by upper middle class families in Minnesota caused a sensation when she reported that the kids averaged 106. Unfortunately, when she came back about a decade later, their scores had fallen to 89. Identical twins actually become more alike in IQ as they grow old. The older people get, the more impact genes have on their IQ test scores, probably because as people get more autonomous they choose to make for themselves environments more compatible with their own genes than the environment their parents provided them with.

 

Now, that doesn't mean Head Start is useless. It's possible that if you can temporarily raise a child's IQ from, say, 70 to 80, he'll be a lot more likely to learn how to read . He won't be reading Proust when he grows up, but he'll be more employable if he learned how to read when he was in elementary school. And, in fact, kids who were in Head Start tend to be somewhat more law-abiding and better citizens in general when they get older. That's a good thing. IQ ain't everything.

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Preview: A top New York Times reporter (not Nicholas Wade) is doing a story based on one of my articles. I'll link to it when it comes out.

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New VDARE.com column at left.

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The Washington Times writes about Joe Guzzardi's campaign for California governor. In general, though, the press has been infinitely more interested in writing about egomaniacal joke candidates like Larry Flynt, Gary Coleman, and Angelyne than about an exemplar of public spiritedness like Joe, the  Mr. Smith Goes to Sacramento of 2003.

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