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April 2004


The Da Vinci Code vs. reality: Regarding the popular claim that women had it better under paganism ... the Blowhards pointed me toward this interview with Rodney Stark, an agnostic who is a historian at the U. of Washington:


Q. You seem to argue that Christianity was an overwhelmingly good social force for women.\


RS: It was! Christian women had tremendous advantages compared to the woman next door, who was like them in every way except that she was a pagan. First, when did you get married? Most pagan girls were married off around age 11, before puberty, and they had nothing to say about it, and they got married to some 35-year-old guy. Christian women had plenty of say in the matter and tended to marry around age 18.


      Abortion was a huge killer of women in this period, but Christian women were spared that. And infanticide—pagans killed little girls left and right. We’ve unearthed sewers clogged with the bones of newborn girls. But Christians prohibited this. Consequently, the sex ratio changed and Christians didn’t have the enormous shortage of women that plagued the rest of the empire.


I wasn't aware that the sex ratio was tipped toward more males in classical times due to infanticide of girl babies. If so, that could explain the popularity of male homosexual behavior in Greece and Rome. The only country in the world today with a lot more men than women is Afghanistan. Perhaps as a consequence, the Afghan Pashtuns are notorious buggers.



Edward Gibbon on the Dangers of Guest Worker Programs:


"The conduct which the emperor Probus had adopted in the disposal of the vanquished was imitated by Diocletian and his associates. The captive barbarians, exchanging death for slavery, were distributed among the provincials and assigned to those districts (in Gaul the territories of Amiens, Beauvais, Cambray, Treves, Langres, and Troyes are particularly specified) which had been depopulated by the calamities of war. They were usefully employed as shepherds and husbandmen but were denied the exercise of arms, except when it was found expedient to enroll them in the military service. Nor did the emperors refuse the property of lands with a less servile tenure to such of the barbarians as solicited the protection of Rome. They granted a settlement to several colonies of the Carpi, the Basternae, and the Sarmatians, and by a dangerous indulgence permitted them in some measure to retain their national manners and independence. Among the provincials it was a subject of flattering exaltation that the barbarian, so lately an object of terror, now cultivated their lands, drove their cattle to the neighboring fair, and contributed to his labor to the public plenty. They congratulated their masters on the powerful accession of subjects and soldiers; but they forgot to observe that secret enemies , insolent from favor or desperate from oppression, were introduced into the heart of the empire."



Gibbon on Why Bush Should Read Newspapers: President Bush famously remarked that he only glances at newspapers because they are biased, unlike his aides, who tell him all he needs to know. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire quotes the Emperor Diocletian:  


"How often," was he accustomed to say, "is it the interest of four or five ministers to combine together to deceive their sovereign! Secluded from mankind by his exalted dignity, the truth is concealed from his knowledge; he can see only with their eyes, he hears nothing but their misrepresentations. He confers the most important offices upon vice and weakness, and disgraces the most virtuous and deserving among his subjects. By such infamous arts," added Diocletian, "the best and wisest princes are sold to the venal corruption of their courtiers."



Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius -- My review will be in the May 24th issue of The American Conservative, which should be on newsstands a few days from now. 


It's a limited budget film that might well bore nongolfers -- since with golf, you either get it or you don't -- but the fury of the critics toward it is pretty amusing. Obviously, much of it reflects their anger at Jim Caviezel, who plays the 1920s Georgia amateur, for starring in The Passion, but the main public complaint is that the movie is "reverential" and "hagiographic" in portraying Jones as a prince among men. Why does the movie cover up his dark side? What none of the reviewers seem to know is that Jones during his life was universally acknowledged to be a secular saint. T


During his 95-year lifespan, the late Alistair Cooke met countless prominent people. Yet Cooke called Jones "one of the three or four finest human beings I've ever known… A whole team of investigative reporters, working in shifts like coal miners, would find that in all of Jones's life ... he nothing common did or mean… Bob Jones radiated goodness, yet without a smidgen of piety."


That big time American golf hasn't yet succumbed like tennis to the crappiness of the modern age (have you ever seen a pro golfer screaming at an official?) is largely a tribute to the example Bobby Jones set.



Iraqi restaurants, coming to a neighborhood near you! As the likelihood grows that someday we'll have to airlift out Iraqis who collaborated with us, we can look forward to a profusion of Iraqi restaurants across America. I hope Iraqi cuisine is tasty, because that may be the only thing we'll get out of our adventure. Of course, the neocons may eventually wonder why they were so enthusiastic for a war that ended up bringing lots of anti-Semites to the U.S.



How to unify Iraq -- Get the Sunnis and Shi'ites to unite in an Arab campaign to crush the Kurds. You could get the Turks and Syrians to help.



Lawrence Lessig's free book: The darling of libertarian bloggers, the anti-intellectual property law professor Lawrence Lessig has written a book "Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity," which he's giving away free on the Internet. This would seem like a more principled stance if Lessig wasn't a highly paid tenured law professor at Stanford who makes hundreds of dollars an hour practicing law on the side, a job for which writing his books serve as advertising. 


As a pixel-stained wretch who would like to someday make at least a lower-middle class living writing books for pay, I say, "Forget you, Larry. I want every penny that's coming to me, my kids, grandkids, great-grandkids and on, unto the 7th generation."


It makes no sense that web libertarians are for cutting down intellectual property rights. Libertarians are supposed to be for property rights. The reason Lessig's obsession is so popular with web libertarians is because they are greedy people who want something for nothing.


Here's a proposal for Lessig to back: Let's eliminate the copyright on pornography. It's about Day 10 of the pornography industry's HIV shutdown out here in the San Fernando Valley, yet the world is not suffering from any shortage of new pornography. That's because there's plenty of old stuff to go around forever. 


The shutdown of the porn business is a good thing. Let's eliminate the copyright on any new pornography so vendors would have less incentive to make new stuff. 



Innovation in Penology


A short-staffed prison in Mexico has hired 42 of its most fearsome inmates to act as guards. The convicts-turned-wardens will each be paid between £20 and £100 a month. They will help the real guards keep control in the overcrowded prison at Tepic. According to Mexican newspaper Reforma, the prisoners chosen were those who instilled the most fear in their fellow inmates.


UPDATE: Well, it's not really such an innovation after all. It's called the trusty system and it's been around forever.



How to achieve one man - one vote democracy in Iraq in two easy steps: Kill everybody except one man. Hold an election.



The Passion v. The Da Vinci Code: It's fascinating to compare the media's frenzied anger and niggling criticisms directed at The Passion compared to its pandering to Dan Brown's bestselling potboiler about how a Harvard professor of symbology (say what?) discovers that Jesus was really married to Mary Magdalene and didn't get crucified but instead went off to France (?) to have a passel of kids, leading to the Catholic Church's vast, murderous 2000 year old conspiracy to keep the truth censored and thus keep on keeping down women and paganism.


There's a lot of grist for anybody's mill there, but I want to discuss the book's notion that the Catholic Church was intensely hostile to women and all remnants of paganism. But compared to what? What other monotheistic religion honored hundreds of women as saints? Made the Virgin Mary the second most revered person of all? What other religion made women writers like St. Theresa of Avila and St. Catherine of Siena part of the canon of religious literature? What other religion encouraged women to found and run giant hospitals? Protestantism? Judaism? Islam?


And hostility to paganism -- that's what the Protestants, Jews, and Muslims complained about ... that Catholicism wasn't hostile enough towards paganism. It's hardly a surprise that the Renaissance started in Catholic Italy. Or that the Reformation was a reaction to the High Renaissance in Rome. Here's a minor modern example: my younger son's otherwise perfectly sane Lutheran school refuses to hold a Halloween party because that's too pagan, so it holds a "Harvest Festival." To a Halloween-loving Catholic like me, that sounds like nuts, but it makes perfect sense to Lutherans.



Chile ostracized for being "dull but virtuous" -- The NYT reports:


In sharp contrast to Argentina, Bolivia and Peru, not to mention the rest of South America, Chile these days looks "dull but virtuous," to borrow the title of a recent report by one Wall Street brokerage house. This is a country where most people actually pay their taxes, laws are rigidly enforced and the police only rarely seek bribes. That is unusual for Latin America and probably should be cause for celebration. Yet, it has the rest of the region looking at Chile as if there is something wrong with it because it is not what the Brazilians call "bagunça" or what the Argentines call "quilombo" - passionately messy, turbulent and chaotic... Today, Chile is a hypercapitalist state at a time when Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Ecuador and Uruguay are all moving leftward and questioning free trade and open markets.


One thing to keep in mind is that Chile was democratic for 40 years before Marxist Salvador Allende came to power in 1970. He lucked into office, winning 38% in a three way vote. Two years later, with his opponents trying to win two thirds of the parliamentarians so they could impeach and convict him, he held on by taking 43% of the vote. So, bad luck played a sizable role in Allende coming to power. He certainly never had a mandate to flush Chile's economy down the toilet during a boom era (Allende fell a month before the Arab Oil Embargo began.)


My impression is that the racial divide is much less of a problem in Chile than in nearby Peru and Bolivia. Most Chileans appear to be mostly white with a little Indian mixed in, so the social structure is not as caste-like as in the Altiplano countries, where in the highlands, most white women are unable to bring a baby to full term due to lack of oxygen. This means that large areas are populated primarily by Indians. Of course, Argentina has an almost all-white population, and it's a mess too.


UPDATE: A reader writes:


"Dull but virtuous?" Ah, the NYT and other major media have at least found a way to grudgingly ease into the acknowledgment of what everyone with a brain has known for years, that Pinochet's legacy, modern Chile, has been, by far, the least screwed up country south of the Rio Grande. Yes, the ethnic mixture of Chile helps, but it should have helped Argentina as well. But Argentina was 'cursed,' so to speak, with abundant resources per capita, which bred a political system based on competitive looting of the country's vast wealth. Skinny, mountainous Chile is land-poor and mineral-poor, so it has to work for a living.


One interesting indicator: LanChile is the only functional airline in Latin America, in some ways superior to America's major airlines. It provides safe, on-time service in clean planes and makes a normal return on investment. In the US, if an airline CEO tries to do that, the pilots hit the eject button, as they have recently done at American, United, Delta, Continental and US Airways. In Latin America, the penalties for effective airline management can be worse. Federico Bloch tried to run Central America's TACA Group of airlines as competitive businesses and had been making noises recently about escaping the excessive controls and forced bribes imposed by Latin governments on his airlines. Monday morning, on his way to work, Bloch was gunned into eternity.



Loyalty Oath to Affirmative Action required of applicants to UCLA Medical school! A reader sent me the following that he had to sign to apply to UCLA Med:


We, the faculty and students of the UCLA School of Medicine, in the spirit of understanding and unity, believe that a diverse student body is an integral part of our medical education and our development as compassionate caregivers. We acknowledge the history of diversity at our institution and understand the responsibilities we must assume in becoming members of the School of Medicine.


Foremost is the fostering of an environment where ideas can be freely exchanged without fear of judgment or persecution.


[Hmmmhmmmh ... It sounds like the one idea that can't be freely exchanged without fear of judgment or persecution is the idea that a diverse student body is NOT an integral part of your medical education. Also, what the heck is this "without fear of judgment" doing in a medical school? If I stand up in class and answer that the hip bone is connected to the funny bone, nobody is supposed to judge me?]


 We accept the charge to learn from our peers about the variety of backgrounds we represent, as well as embrace the opportunity to share our beliefs and values with one another. We agree to maintain the highest degree of decorum and professionalism while discussing our commonalities and differences. By adopting this philosophy towards our diversity, we hope to ensure our development as culturally competent physicians who will ably serve the variety of patients entrusted to our care.


[The notion that you'd become "culturally competent" by hanging around with upper middle class black and Hispanic med students is awfully lame.]


Adopted May 1997 by the UCLA Medical Student Council 

Adopted November 1997 by the UCLA School of Medicine Faculty Executive Committee


[Why was this passed in 1997? Presumably to intimidate potential whistle-blowers who might raise a stink about UCLA violating Proposition 209, which the voters of California passed in November 1996.]



Good News: Here's an update to my article in the May 10th American Conservative, now on newsstands. The LA Times reports:


A visiting psychology professor at Claremont McKenna College was formally charged by prosecutors Monday in connection with an alleged hate-crime hoax that had triggered antiracism protests and a one-day shutdown of the Claremont Colleges in March. The Los Angeles County district attorney's office charged Kerri Dunn, 39, with one misdemeanor count of filing a false police report and two felony counts of insurance fraud.


Prosecutors alleged Dunn had falsely reported that an unknown vandal spray-painted her car with racist and anti-Semitic slurs on March 9, while she attended a campus forum on racism. Officials also said Dunn submitted a false insurance claim, never paid, for items supposedly taken from her 1990 Honda Civic and for damage to the car, which had its windows smashed and tires slashed. Dunn is scheduled to surrender to authorities at Los Angeles County Superior Court in Pomona on May 19, the date of her arraignment.



The Wisdom of the People: A poll of 1311 Americans by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the U. of Maryland found:


Among the 57 percent of respondents who said they believed Iraq was either ''directly involved'' in carrying out the 9/11 attacks on New York and the Pentagon or had provided ''substantial support'' to al-Qaeda, 57 percent said they intended to vote for Bush and 39 percent said they would choose his Democratic foe, John Kerry...


Virtually all independent experts and even senior administration officials have concluded since the war that ties between Iraq and al-Qaeda before the war were virtually non-existent, and even Bush himself has explicitly dismissed the notion that Baghdad had a hand in the 9/11 attacks. Yet the March poll found that 20 percent of respondents believe that Iraq was directly involved in the attacks -- the same percentage as on the eve of the war, in February 2003.


Similarly, the percentages of those who believe Iraq provided ''substantial support'' to al-Qaeda (37 percent) and those who believe contacts were minimal (29 percent) are also virtually unchanged from 13 months before. As of March 2004, 11 percent said there was ''no connection at all'', up four percent from February 2003.


Some -- but surprisingly little -- change was found in answers to whether Washington had found concrete evidence since the war that substantiated a Hussein-al-Qaeda link. Thus, in June 2003, 52 percent of respondents said evidence had been found, while only 45 percent said so last month.


As to WMD, about which there has been significantly more media coverage, 60 percent of respondents said Iraq either had actual WMD (38 percent) or had a major programme for developing them (22 percent). In contrast, 39 percent said Baghdad had limited WMD-related activities that fell short of an active programme -- what Kay as the CIA's main weapons inspector concluded in February -- or no activities at all.


Moreover, the message conveyed by Kay and other experts appears not to be getting through to the public, adds the survey, which found a whopping 82 percent of respondents saying either, ''experts mostly agree Iraq was providing substantial support to al-Qaeda'' (47 percent) or, ''experts are evenly divided on the question'' (35 percent).


I'm still waiting for the poll that will find out what % of the public believes that Iraq seized all those American hostages at the U.S. Embassy back in 1979. I'm betting it's 40%.



The Wisdom of Steve: C'mon, admit it -- Just like me, you also assumed, deep down, that either you caught whooping cough from whooping cranes, or that whooping cranes were going extinct from whooping cough. Or, in my case, both.



New column at left...



Fallujah and Najaf -- We're still dithering over the military dilemma I outlined a couple of years ago in my review of Black Hawk Down: go in light with infantry and take a lot of casualties (like we did in Mogadishu in 1993) vs. go in heavy with tanks and bulldozers and inflict a lot of collateral casualties on civilians vs. don't go in at all? It's a tough call.



Kill Bill, Vol. 2 tanks in 2nd weekend -- Bizarrely rapturous reviews propelled Quentin Tarantino's so-so tribute to himself to #1 last weekend, but word-of-mouth hammered it in its second weekend, causing it to drop an ugly 59% in its second weekend (according to initial estimates). In comparison, The Passion dropped 37% from weekend 1 to weekend 2.



Blacks can't swim as well as other races -- At least not according to the North Miami police department, which dropped its swimming requirement so it could recruit more black officers -- at the request of black politicians. The CNN article points out that there is quite a lot of evidence that fewer blacks are good swimmers. This is usually blamed on lack of swimming pools, but the same pattern shows up in places like the South Carolina tidewater. A friend down there says he went swimming every day in summer as a lad, but never in a pool until he was 16. All the white boys went swimming in the estuaries, but the black lads stayed on the shore and fished.


The most likely explanation is that black youths in good condition tend to sink rather than float, due to lower average body fat percentage and denser bones (that's why blacks suffer less from osteoporosis). You can swim fine even if you can't float, but learning to swim is much scarier, so a lot of blacks don't ever learn.


A friend in Milwaukee says that the dominant American Red Cross method of teaching swimming is deeply flawed, especially for blacks. He has had a lot of success teaching low body fat percentage black youths to swim using the more reassuring "Norwegian Polar Bear" method. (Unfortunately, I can't find any links explaining this technique.)


But this illustrates a more general point. We are not supposed to talk about genetic differences between the races on the grounds that nothing can be done about them. But the reality is that less can be done to ameliorate any problems they cause if  we don't talk about them. We can find lots of workarounds to problems like the one that blacks face in learning to swim ... if we are allowed to put our brains together. But the current regime of polite censorship makes that very difficult.


UPDATE: A reader writes:


        Hey, black guys don't float as well as Wonder Bread white trash? I think we learned that at Parris Island in 1967. There was a miserable skill we all had to learn over three days called 'drownproofing.' Basically, it was a technique for staying afloat in the middle of an ocean for a day or two, without a life jacket, in case your ship went down and rescue was not too swift. Of course, there was very little chance of this actually happening by the late 1960s, but it was an opportunity to inflict panic and agony, which the Marine Corps never passed up.


       The technique relied on 1) completely suppressing the normal human instinct to keep at least the nose above the water line through an energetic dog-paddle and 2) absolutely obeying the instructions to execute a very slow set of rhythmic motions that elevated the nose above water about once per minute, perfectly fine for breathing.


       I hated it and had a lot of difficulty doing it at first, even though I had swum for more than a decade in neighborhood pools. Many of the black recruits had never learned to swim in their lives, living in cities or towns with no natural or artificial water. In addition, the DIs explained up front, a lot of blacks were just not as naturally buoyant as their flaccid, pale brethren.


       Nonetheless, we would all learn to drownproof, the same way, over the same three days. Easy or hard, it would be done. The DIs knew there is a simple technique for overcoming the natural human fear of being asphyxiated to death and sinking like a rock. Provide a greater fear. Whenever anyone, white or black, started to get desperate, flail around and make for the edge of the pool, the DIs would be standing there with big, long poles, pushing them back toward the center of the deep pool. Another DI would stand nearby, miming the correct motions for staying afloat and screaming, "Do It," plus a lot of attention-getting obscenities. Eventually, everybody got it right, often after a lot of agony. So all objectives were accomplished.


This raises another paradox: in a more liberal culture, such as America today, the cultural differences between the races are likely to be greater than in an authoritarian culture like the Marine Corps. Being screamed at by drill Instructors gets blacks to overcome their fear of sinking better than, say, watching Oprah.



Earth Day -- As Greg Easterbrook has tirelessly pointed out, almost all polluting chemicals (except greenhouse gases) are in decline in the U.S., so much of what environmentalists holler about is now Chicken Littleism. Of course, the reason pollution has declined so much is because of a massive web of government regulations. So, conservatives who use the decline in pollution to argue against pollution regulations don't have a leg to stand on.


What Easterbrook overlooks, however, is that when people complain about the environment going to hell, they are usually talking about more than chemicals. Typically, they are talking about increased crowding.


If you want to get a sense of how ultra-environmentalist Northern California uses environmental regulations to keep out hoi polloi, check out a new housing development called The Santa Lucia Preserve. After battles with the California Coastal Commission and other Regulators from Hell, the developers wound up being allowed only 300 homesites on 31 square miles (20,000 acres!) of some of the finest land in the world, hidden between Carmel Valley and Big Sur. That's one house per 67 acres. By law, 90% of the land will remain undeveloped forever. Homesites start at $900,000 and run up to $4.5 million for this view of the Tom Fazio golf course. Your house is extra.



NASCAR's secret: Why is watching Chevy Luminas go around in an oval so incredibly popular? I think the answer is staring us all in the face: because white American guys (and American companies) always win. Heck, the drivers are almost all British-Americans with a sprinkling of German-Americans like the Earnhardts. (I looked at one list of NASCAR champs and only one had a name that ended with a vowel).


Stock car racing would make a great Chauvinistic Feminist women's sport at the next Olympics. You know how the American public goes ape over some women's team every couple of years -- like softball at the 1996 Olympics or hockey at the 1998 Winter Olympics or soccer at the 1999 World Cup? Our gals always crush a few teams full of midgets and cripples in the opening rounds, then eke out the gold medal in the final over the only other country in the world (always either Norway, China, or Canada) whose women are at all interested in the game. (And then we lose all interest whatsoever when our poor women come back in four years). Well, folks, we're running out of sports where American gals would be assured of gold, so after we act on my suggestion and add women's football to the Olympics (allowing us to enjoy such heartwarming moments as hearing the announcer say: "Final Score: USA 77 - Thailand 0"), it'll be time to go to the limit and make Women's NASCAR an official Olympic event. USA! USA! USA!



Our new pal in Iraq -- Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN envoy whose plan for remaking the Iraqi government is getting respectful interest from just about everybody, has an interesting past. Back in the mid-1950s, he was a diplomatic representative of the FLN, the National Liberation Front of the Algerian rebels during their ferocious eight year long war of independence with the French (1954-1962). I'm sure Brahimi's a great choice to help us out in the imperialism business.



South Africa, ten years later -- The funny thing about all the adulation directed at Nelson Mandela is that his greatest act of statesmanship is almost unknown. You may vaguely recall that the first open election in South Africa in 1994 was accompanied by huge lines at the polling booths and scenes of chaos at vote-counting centers. The media predicted it might take weeks to tabulate all the ballots. Then, almost instantly, the final, official results were announced, with no one objecting that that was logistically impossible.


Several years later, The Economist explained what happened: The vote counting was indeed chaotic and looked to go on indefinitely, but early returns conclusively showed Mandela's African National Congress winning a crushing victory that would give it the 2/3rd's majority needed to write the new constitution all by itself. So, Mandela called together the leaders of opposition parties and told them he was rigging the results to restrict his own party to about 5/8ths of the seats so that the new constitution would require some support from other parties to pass. He also gave local control of the Cape province to the white-led party and the KwaZulu province to the Zulu party. Not surprisingly, the opposition was deeply grateful and while many within the ANC were angry, they could hardly overrule Mandela.


The future of South Africa will probably resemble that of Zimbabwe, but the fact that destiny is still sort of in the future is a tribute to Mandela.



Two South African friends discuss crime: On the other hand, in the experience of a lot of white South Africans, the difference between Zimbabwe and South Africa is just that the Zimbabwean government is more honest about what it wants criminals to do to whites. Here's one South African's account of how life has become full of interest:


Since Christmas within the circles of friends and acquaintances we have had:


- From our bible study group: one man tried to save the life of his neighbour who was shot coming home from holiday -- he failed.


- People arrived at another person's door after their car was hijacked -- they were too frightened to let them in until they could check that they were genuine. 


- My mother in laws car was stolen from just outside our house - it was only outside less than 15 minutes as she were waiting to leave. 


- My wife and my neighbour were attacked as they were standing outside the gate chatting...they came after them with guns but fortunately my neighbour heard them and chased them off. 


- My neighbour came home from a restaurant...his wife noticed a suspicious car...which then drove into my neighbour's property and tried to hijack them. A gun battle happened and the hijackers ran off---but my neighbour, although unhurt, came very close to being shot, as seen from where the bullet marks were. 


- Then on Friday, when they were out, they broke into the house through 2 security gates and helped themselves ( to add insult to injury they seem to be using my mother in law's cars that they stole). 


- Other friends were broken into in the middle of the night and had a 3 hour vigil where the robbers took everything they could lay there hands on -- fortunately they were not hurt and their daughters not raped....but the robbers still showed their contempt by urinating on their books and art work


The police are black, bored and disinterested..just there to take case numbers.



Another South African replied:


The trouble with "security measures" is that they trigger an arms race between criminals and the general population. When enough people get car alarms and immobilizers/gearlocks/etc., the criminals escalate to carjacking. Likewise with burglar bars, home alarms, dogs from hell, and personal weaponry: then they will ambush you at stop lights, in your driveway, or by placing rocks in the road and nabbing you there. Even if you carry an Uzi, they will get you sooner or later. Satellite tracking services and secret codes only make things worse: they have to shoot you to stop you from reporting the car stolen, or they have to torture you to get the code.


The law of personal security is that a measure is only effective when your neighbours don't have it. Then they will be victimized instead of you. I once lived next to a "dominee" (vicar) who had no security measures of any kind. That set my mind at ease, since that made my own mild measures (6 foot fence, ridgebacks, ...) effective. Of course, your neighbours will rapidly catch up with you ...


This is why the standard police response all over the world to crime (hide your stuff, be careful) is self-serving claptrap. The only way to stop crime is to apprehend and eliminate the criminals. Security measures are, on a society-wide scale, totally ineffective. The state in South Africa lost the ability to catch and imprison criminals around about 1993. It is now bandit country on large parts of the highveld/Reef. The Cape is still OK for the most part, but the bandits will simply move there when John and his family equip themselves with anti-personnel mines and built-in flamethrowers in their car doors



NFL IQs -- It's always fun to look at the IQ scores of pro football draft prospects on the NFL's mandatory Wonderlic test. Here's the latest, converted from the 50 question Wonderlic scoring system where 20 right answers = 100 IQ and each additional right answer is worth 2 points (adapted from AOL -- not on the Web):


Kickers 118 Average -- 5 Prospects 

Centers 115 Average -- 21 Prospects

Quarterbacks 111 Average -- 21 Prospects

Offensive Guards 109 Average -- 21 Prospects

Offensive Tackles 108 Average -- 20 Prospects

Inside Linebackers 107 Average -- 9 Prospects

Tight Ends 104 Average -- 19 Prospects 

Fullbacks 104 Average -- 7 Prospects 

Punters 103 Average -- 6 Prospects 

Running Backs 102 Average -- 23 Prospects

Outside Linebackers 100 Average -- 29 Prospects

Defensive Ends 99 Average -- 30 Prospects

Defensive Tackles 99 Average -- 31 Prospects

Wide Receivers 99 Average -- 50 Prospects

Safeties 96 Average -- 25 Prospects 

Cornerbacks 95 Average -- 30 Prospects


These scores are about a half standard deviation (7.5 points) higher than other NFL Wonderlic scores I've seen in the past. My guess is that the players' agents have recently figured out how to "teach to the test," helping their clients score better on this fairly important measure of NFL potential. But, even with that exaggeration, there's not much evidence that college football players are dumb, except in comparison to the real students at the better sort of college like Michigan or USC. Football is a complicated game.


Centers typically score high because they are the "quarterbacks" of the offensive line. On each play, they analyze the defense and call audibles giving instructions to their fellow linemen -- see Mark "Black Hawk Down" Bowden's recent Atlantic article "A Beautiful Mind" for details.



Formula 1 vs. NASCAR -- A reader writes:


The most often noted difference between Formula 1 and NASCAR is the contrast between the European elitism of the former and the more down to earth American character of the latter. Most magazines and talkboards point to these differences: in NASCAR the cars are relatively equal and not too technologically complex; each driver/team has a relatively better chance of winning a race; fans get to meet the drivers; the drivers look like regular Joes, many of them overweight and balding; lots of dramatic crashes and wheel to wheel racing - the latter contrived due to a WWF-like caution flag system designed to make the racing artificially close; the cars resemble the ones we drive to Wal-Mart in, etc.


For these reasons most F1 fans see NASCAR fans as less serious about motorsports and often attracted more to the communal aspects of being a spectator than the sport itself. I tend to agree though as an anti-elitist Ulster-Scot with a feeling of kinship to the American South I reject the snobbish and bigoted views of so many F1 fans - North American as well as European - who sneer at "inbred Bud-swilling racist rednecks." Indeed a lot of North American F1 (and even Champ Car) fans seem to think they are more sophisticated than their fellow countrymen, especially if they follow NASCAR. Unfortunately this view was reinforced by the recent negative reaction from the NASCAR community to Toyota's, the first non-American manufacturer, plans to join the series. Such a seemingly xenophobic attitude stands in stark contrast to the internationalist enthusiasm of American F1 fans getting up early on a Sunday to watch foreign teams - even Ford's team is British - and foreign drivers racing mostly in Europe and Asia. That said, European F1 fans often lack such an internationalist spirit: many Italians see Ferrari as a nationalist symbol; and Germans are fanatical about Michael Schumacher while most British see him as the embodiment of everything they hate about Germans, many of them even cheering when he was carried off on a stretcher after his terrible crash at the 1999 British GP.


One rarely mentioned difference between the two series - though I personally wouldn't mention it to a group of Good Ole Boys - is the more feminine nature of NASCAR's appeal. In NASCAR the overwhelming emphasis is not on the cars or strategy but on the drivers with the personality factor looming large. NASCAR fans usually have a very strong attachment to a particular driver and want to get to know his personality and feel some connection to him. While men are not immune to this it is something that appeals more to women. Thinking back to when I lived in the UK I can't think of a single female I knew who had any interest whatsoever in Formula 1 yet something like half of NASCAR fans are female. I suspect the proportion of female fans for other major sports, except perhaps tennis, is significantly lower. It's illustrative that the only F1 driver to capture female attention in recent years was Eddie Irvine, a man better known for his Irish brogue and time spent with models on his yacht than his time behind the wheel. 


Yes F1 fans care about the drivers and wish they had at least some personality - most sound like corporate spokesmen doing damage control - but for most of us a driver's nationality, skills, and behaviour on the track are of more importance than whether he's a nice approachable guy. Other things that are of great interest to most of us watching F1 - launch control, lap times, BMW versus Mercedes engines, Michelin versus Bridgestone tires, the French versus British teams, German versus British driver, and especially race strategy - just don't interest most women. Perhaps F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone's recent complaints about the lack of interesting personalities in F1 came after noticing NASCAR's huge female fan base.



Bush is ahead in 3 of 5 polls taken since April 12 -- Partly this reflects the fact that the main thing Kerry had going for him was that he kept winning primaries, and thus he seemed like a winner. Unfortunately for Kerry, the primary season was so frontloaded that he hasn't won anything lately, so he doesn't seem like a winner anymore, so now everybody's wondering what was so great about the guy anyway.


But, it also reflects the kind of bounce a President gets when he screws up really badly in his foreign policy and the country rallies around him because, while he may be a moron, he's our moron, dammit. JFK's approval rating went up after the Bay of Pigs. That's how Jimmy Carter beat off Ted Kennedy in the horrible spring of 1980. The problem for Carter was that his reflexive support from the public peaked too soon and by the general election, the country was heartily sick of him.


Politically, Bush gives the impression that he's a dead man walking. The fraction of the population that actually pays attention to public events is deciding that Bush isn't cut out for the job, that he's a detriment to America. That realization is likely to trickle through to the rest of the electorate over the next half year. Of course, he only has to beat Kerry, so there is some hope for him.


Still, I hope that the President does the right thing by his country and party, that he takes the courageous and self-sacrificial step that his father failed to do in 1992 when it became clear Bush Sr. was too old and tired to handle another term: retire. If Bush Jr. walked away now and let the GOP choose a candidate (Bill Frist, I would guess), I think the GOP could hold the White House in November and probably in 2008. Bush might still eke out a win over Kerry, but four more years of this incompetent would likely turn the country over to Hillary in 2008.



War Nerd has a new column on Iraq.



Whom should Bush fire?" Noah Millman reviews the cases for dumping Powell, Rice, Tenet, Rumsfeld, and Cheney and makes his pick, here.



A reader draws an important distinction between Bush and Reagan:


It's interesting to me that people always talk about whom Bush should fire rather than the easier thing: fire Bush. Even Don Imus, who is supporting Kerry, gives Bush a break and says that Rumsfeld, Cheney, et al should be fired, that the President is a decent, honest man served badly by his team.


I sense a strong Reagan-element going on here with Bush -- because, like Reagan, they assume he's too dumb to actually think of policy, they don't hold him accountable for that policy. Plus, people like Bush as a person (except for the core Bush is Hitler group on the left). 


But what's interesting is that appears that while Reagan's and Bush's Teflon-ness rests on character and honesty and just plan "likeable", their weaknesses appear to be of a different character. Specifically, Bush lacks curiosity, knowledge and discipline. His strength is with managing all the pieces that feed him that info. Reagan, on the other hand, appears to have been much more knowledgeable about his "key" subjects: namely, taxation and the fight against communism. Reagan's weaknesses appear to have arisen because of inattention, aloofness, or not being enough on the ball organizationally [SES adds: also, being old and getting shot]. So while Bush runs a tight, loyal ship, he depends on others for info. Reagan had deep knowledge of his areas of focus (despite his intellectual credentials, his letters, radio "writings" and other sources convince me he read voraciously and thought a great deal about the Soviet question and taxation), but was a hands-off manager that allowed others to free-lance and get him in trouble.



Attention, racing fans! I'm working on something that involves the contrast between NASCAR and Formula 1. What would European F1 fans find baffling about NASCAR and what would NASCAR fans find amusing about F1 fans?



Anybody know Kerry's SAT scores? I'd like to recycle my ever popular "How smart are the candidates?" article for 2004. Has anybody heard any SAT, IQ, ACT, GRE etc scores for Sen. John F. Kerry?



Out of Africa in 8 convenient maps -- Friedrich von Blowhard converts Spencer Wells' population genetics history book "The Journey of Man: A Genetic History" into eight simple maps. A very helpful summarization.



Intellectual Property -- An awful lot of bloggers write at vast length, criticizing intellectual property laws as too restrictive. I don't have any expertise in this area, but here are two comments:


- Copyright lengths were recently extended dramatically, in large part to protect Disney's hold on Mickey Mouse. But the law should be able to distinguish between Mickey Mouse -- a concept into which Disney has continually invested many millions over the years right up to the present -- and more common creative products into which no investments have been made since they were first published. Thus, the law should distinguish between constantly evolving products like Mickey Mouse and static ones of the same vintage like Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms. It is reasonable that Disney maintain control over Mickey Mouse while Mariel Hemingway could stop receiving checks from Grand-Papa's novel.


- All the fuss in the blogworld over evil corporations extending copyrights seems like a case of the guns of Singapore facing in the wrong direction. From a strategic standpoint, the really big intellectual property problem is that the Chinese are stealing us blind by counterfeiting everything we own a profitable patent upon, yet this vastly more important issue than Mickey Mouse gets little attention.


UPDATES: Reader write:


I fail to understand the "libertarian" opposition to intellectual property (IP) rights as they are a form of property rights and I was under the mistaken impression that "libertarians" supported property rights. IP rights have grown in importance as "knowledge" and "know how" have become more valuable than hard assets. You are exactly correct that China and other "developing" nations are stealing the United States (and Europe) blind when it comes to IP rights. Would the libertarians view the theft of someone's physical assets with such approval? Creativity remains one of the areas where the USA and Europe maintain an advantage against cheap labor developing nations. In this case, upholding the rule of law makes sense both from a principled and self-interested viewpoint. After all, there is no such thing as a free lunch and if the dilution of IP rights continues we could see a reduction in the creativity that libertarians claim to admire.



I believe IP laws should not provide any sort of protections for a period greater than about 20 years for any product. Modifications are no different than creations and should not be protected any differently. Just because an IP owner has created or acquired the rights to a product, why should that owner be able to effectively extend the period of protection by making a possibly trivial modification? So, rights on the modification are OK, but rights should not be extended on the modified.


I believe there are too many losses to society by restricting the ability to others to make use of what are effectively natural developments that others would have similarly produced.



If your stomach is strong, check out for pictures of how even celebrities can turn out bad under the knife.



Six-speed transmissions -- One prerequisite for good gas mileage at the higher speeds that Americans ought to be allowed to drive is a six-speed automatic transmission, so you can be in the optimal gear while driving 100+ mph. Good news: Ford and GM are teaming up to develop one to share between them.



My 68 Amazon book reviews -- If you can't get enough of me, here are the 68 book reviews I've posted on Amazon.



White Bread -- One of the most common racial epithets that white liberals use to denigrate other whites in their never-ending quest for status is "white bread." The funny thing about the "white bread" epithet is that it's black ghetto dwellers who are the biggest consumers of white bread these days. I went into a supermarket near the corner of Florence & Normandie where the 1992 LA Riot broke out, and, sure enough, practically all the varieties of bread on sale were white.



Dog Bites Man! -- Kenyans win both men's and women's division of the Boston Marathon. Kenyan Men have won 13 of 14 Boston Marathons. The only time they didn't was the year ran Jon Entine's article on why Kenyans win. The funny thing is that the marathon is not the Kenyan's best distance -- the 3000 meters is.



New column at left...


Responses to it: 

"I've long noticed that liberals are often operationally conservative in some ways or at least elitist. They live in places, such as Evanston, that are full of historical preservation, they listen to the local classical music radio station, attend the symphony and opera. In short, I find I have more in common culturally with liberals than conservatives. Part of this is due to the populist and rural base of conservatism but there is more to it than that I think. One writer characterized liberals as "talking left and living right." And I don't think its just liberal guilt as I've never noticed that these people feel guilty about much of anything."


I don't believe in "white liberal guilt" either, except perhaps in the case of the occasional older white Southerner. It just seems like white liberals want to be seen as morally and culturally superior to white hoi polloi on racial issues as a form of status competition. 



That's a fascinating analysis. I was raised in the beautiful Monterey Bay Area, but have lived the last 20 years in the San Gabriel Valley, so I've lived both North and South. The Leftism of the North always bothered me, but as you say, that has resulted in a more pleasant environment for the real American. Meanwhile the 'conservative', anything-goes South has turned into another Tijuana or Mexico City. A man cannot live and eat ideology. I'll take the relatively pristine, elitist, leftist N. Cal, over the 3rd-world SoCal. I'm rightwing, but someday I hope to live in N. Cal again.


(In the North, the exceptions to this rule are the agricultural areas where labor-intensive strawberries are grown. In such areas, high-density slum Mexican housing is needed, to house all the strawberry pickers).


Indeed, in the 1990s, hundreds of strawberry-pickers in the Salinas area were discovered living in caves.



Question: Why is Israel always referred to as "America's ally?" I certainly understand why America is called "Israel's ally" -- the President endorsing Mr. Sharon at the precise moment when we are trying to convince Iraqis to calm down, trust us, and stop killing our boys is a definite example of America sacrificing its interests for Israel. (This is not to say I'm against Sharon's Plan -- it seems fairly reasonable -- but from America's point of view, the timing of Bush's endorsement, as Mickey Kaus has noted, is awful.) 


But has Israel ever made any significant material sacrifice of its own interests to help us out, such as sending troops to fight in Korea or Vietnam? I'm sure Israel has helped us out with some intelligence work, but has it ever been at a sacrifice to themselves? I don't expect Israel to sacrifice for us -- until the last 25 years they had a very, very narrow margin of safety, and even since Camp David it hasn't been all that sizable. I certainly don't hold it against them that they don't do much for us. 


But maybe they made some real sacrifices for us that I'm not aware of. If so, please let me know and I'll print them.


Otherwise, I'm going to assume that this is just an example of the wisdom of Ben Franklin's adage that to get somebody to like you, get them to do you a favor.


UPDATE: A reader responds:


Well, there's a lot of intelligence sharing, as you note. And during the Cold War, they were an ally in that they were lined up mostly against states that were allied with the Soviet Union. (And those states mostly went into the Soviet orbit during a period of marked coolness between the U.S. and Israel - the Eisenhower Administration.) Israel also ran a bunch of errands for the U.S. that we couldn't acknowledge during the Reagan Administration - stuff like running guns and money to the Contras. There are Israeli (and Saudi) fingerprints on various parts of Iran-Contra. That stuff didn't have any obvious direct benefits for Israel. Israel offered to help out in the recent Iraq war, but the offer was (for obvious reasons) declined. I'm not sure that if they offered to send troops anywhere (which would not be the most sensible thing for them to do - it's not like that have a huge manpower surplus) we'd agree to take them, for the obvious political reasons.



Sci-Fi novelist Orson Scott Card on gay "marriage:"


Supporters of homosexual "marriage" dismiss warnings like mine as the predictable ranting of people who hate progress. But the Massachusetts Supreme Court has made its decision without even a cursory attempt to ascertain the social costs. The judges have taken it on faith that it will do no harm. You can't add a runway to an airport in America without years of carefully researched environmental impact statements. But you can radically reorder the fundamental social unit of society without political process or serious research.


The Dutch have legalized gay "marriage" (although it doesn't seem terribly popular there). Why don't we wait one generation and see what happens over there?



LINKS FIXED: Frank K. Salter, the sociobiological political scientist, has a couple of important new academic books out. Here's the Amazon page for his Welfare, Ethnicity, and Altruism: New Findings and Evolutionary Theory. The other is the cheaper On Genetic Interests: Family, Ethny, and Humanity in an Age of Mass Migration, with a review by Hiram Caton



Islam and Polygamy: William Tucker, one of the writers who alerted me to the far-reaching importance of family structure back in the 1980s, writes in The American Spectator, that building a democracy in Iraq is a fool's errand due to polygamy:


Islamic cultures are different. Except for Turkey, the most fragilely Westernized Islamic nation, there has never been a successful democracy in the Moslem world. Islamic cultures haven't even achieved reproductive equality, which is something that Western society has had since the Greeks.


What is "reproductive equality"? It revolves around that core value of Western culture -- monogamy -- as opposed to that old "heathen" custom, polygamy.


Islam is the only major world religion that sanctions polygamy. Mohammad allowed his followers to have four wives (the same number he had). About 12 percent of marriages in Moslem countries are polygamous. This is not as bad as East and West Africa, where successful men often take more than a hundred wives and where almost 30 percent of marriages can be polygamous. But the solid core of polygamy at the heart of Islamic culture is enough to produce its menacing social effects.


What are those effects? Do the math. Into every society is born approximately the same number of boys and girls. If they pair off in monogamous fashion, then each one will have a mate -- "a girl for every boy and a boy for every girl." In polygamous societies this does not occur. When successful men can accumulate more than one wife, that means some other man gets none. As a result, the unavoidable outcome is a hard-core residue of unattached men who have little or no prospect of achieving a family life.


The inevitable outcome is that competition among males becomes much more fierce and intense. Mating is an all-or-nothing proposition. Women become a scarce resource that must be hoarded and veiled and banned from public places so they cannot drift away through spontaneous romances. Men who are denied access to these hoarded women have only one option -- they can band together and try to fight their way into the seats of power.


AND THAT IS WHAT happens, endlessly. The entire history of Islam is a story of superfluous males going off into the desert (literally or figuratively) and deciding that the religion being practiced by the well-furnished elites of the cities is "not the true Islam." They then burst back upon the cities, violently attempting to overthrow the established authority. The Shi'ites, the Wahabis, the Assassins (yes, that's the origin of the word), the Muslim Brotherhood -- all are the fruit of this eternal warfare in Moslem societies between the "ins" and the "outs."


The only defense Islam has been able to construct for itself is to recruit these unattached males, inculcate them into the religion, and convince them that if they turn their violence and sexual frustrations outward¸ they will be rewarded with "70 virgins in heaven." This is how the ranks of martyrs and suicide bombers are created. Martyrs and suicide bombers are men who have internalized the fundamental axiom of polygamous society -- that some men are expendable.


This can be overstated. After all the Palestinians aren't very polygamous at all. Yassir Arafat, for example, has one wife (and she's Christian). Still, this fundamental Arab conception that life isn't a struggle for freedom but for dominance is a major reason why the President just doesn't get Iraqis, and is constantly surprised by their ingratitude at his liberating them from Saddam. Polygamy definitely plays a role in this. As does it's side effect: buggery of weaker males. You can see why Arabs care so intensely about being the man on top -- it's an awful lot better than being the man on the bottom.



Speed limits as a wedge issue: A Texan Democrat reader writes that during the 1988 campaign, he came up with some policy suggestions to help the Democrats seem less like they hate Middle America. He got them to Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, then running for Veep:


"One of those things was to drop Federal control of speed limits.  Bentsen liked it and brought it up to the Dukakis crowd and the New England liberals went ballistic.  Puzzled the heck out of Bentsen, so he tabled that issue.  I think that it would have done what I suggested -- it would have and made Dukakis seem a little less like Harold Wilson (just a little less), but what do I know?  And it apparently upset Dukakis and his people a great deal."


I presume the latest Massachusetts liberal to run for President has learned from his predecessor's many mistakes, but giving the states speed limit freedom could well be a bridge too far for any Democratic nominee, making it a terrific issue for Bush. Obviously, it's not a huge issue, but look how Bill Clinton rode school uniforms to a second term back in 1996. Bush's dad did an excellent job of making clear to people who don't follow politics closely that Dukakis was way out in left field, and Bush Jr. needs to get to work emulating him.



Genocide, slavery, uncomfortableness: Colleges are convulsed these days by charges that somebody made somebody else feel "uncomfortable." For example, according to Tom Wood's invaluable Americans Against Discrimination and Preferences ( email list, the Georgetown Hoya student newspaper reported:


Georgetown’s Faculty Senate passed three resolutions yesterday that responded to recent allegations of racial intolerance in the university community. The Faculty Senate passed one resolution that called for diversity training at the New Faculty Orientation for tenured faculty and adjunct and visiting professors, an educational pamphlet about cultural sensitivity and the implementation of measures to allow students to discuss insensitivity at department meetings and to file a complaint with a department chair or dean.


Veronica Root (MSB ’05), president of the Black Student Alliance, addressed the faculty governing body about several incidents where students felt uncomfortable in the classroom. Root described some specific incidents, including one where her professor polled the class about ways to gain admission to Georgetown and one student replied that being a minority helped applicants, drawing laughter from the class and the professor. “This began to affect my learning environment, and really hasn’t been comfortable for me since then,” Root said.... 


The discussion throughout the meeting centered on methods to address remarks like the one Root highlighted about a joke made during a class. Ensuring that professors know how to appropriately respond to similar incidents in the future, Root said, would help reduce the belittlement she said she had suffered. 


Tempers flared at one point when Mark Danielson, an associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Georgetown University Medical School, suggested that the statement made in Root’s class raised a valid point about affirmative action in college admissions, and that the student could have also suggested that family legacy or wealth could also help gain admission. While Danielson said that it might have been out of line for students and the professor to laugh, he urged the Faculty Senate to consider that Georgetown does support affirmative action in admissions. But other faculty members disagreed with Danielson, including History Professor David Goldfrank. “That kind of racial slur is absolutely disgusting,” he said. “There’s something really wrong that no one in the classroom thought to speak up.”


In my new American Conservative article on the Claremont Hate Hoax (almost all new material!), which should be out on newsstands within a couple of days, I write:


"The university's main concern appears to be to make students feel "comfortable," a word that reappears constantly in Claremont publications despite the obvious hopelessness of the project. The only way to make 19-year-olds feel comfortable is to wait 30 years while they sag into their well-padded maturities. Right now, they are teenagers and their surging hormones have far more important emotions for them to feel than comfort. Adults, however, who make careers out of encouraging kids to mold permanently self-pitying identities around their transient social discomforts have much to answer for."



If you were watching the last episode of The Apprentice, you might have been wondering about one of the two dream jobs Donald Trump offered the winner: managing his new Trump National Golf Club in Southern California overlooking the Pacific. The Donald proclaimed that it would be better than Pebble Beach. Well, I played it before Trump bought it and unless Trump has bought off every environmental regulatory agency in the world, it won't ever be in Pebble's class. Still, it's an enjoyable course and a wonderful addition to the LA area. The story behind the course, including the 18th hole that fell into the Pacific and bankrupted the family that spent 30 years trying to build a golf course there, is fascinating and instructive one for what it says about the politics of environmentalism. I wrote it in 2001.



An issue that Bush could win with! Give Americans the freedom to drive as fast as Europeans. More specifically, allow big flat empty states to raise their speed limits to 90 without the National Highway Transportation Safety Agency suing them.



Porn film industry hit by HIV scare: That reminds me -- I have a question: Why does the world need new porn films? There must be 100,000 hours of pornography on film. Even the most pathetic addict couldn't watch it all in one lifetime. So why does the world need thousands of hours of new porn every year? Are the porn industry's crack R&D labs constantly inventing new sex acts? Or, as Elvis Costello claimed, is there no such thing as an original sin?


I understand that this is a supply driven market -- there are a lot of women out there who want to star in dirty movies. But, this is clearly not, generally speaking, a wise career choice. If the government shut down the making of new pornography, there'd still be plenty of old product for customers to buy, but there would be fewer women wrecking their lives.


After all, it's not unknown for an entertainment industry to go on for decades with virtually no new product -- 99% of all the classical music compositions bought this year will be from before 1970 or so.



Could Bush and/or Clinton have prevented 9/11? Well, sure, if they knew now what they knew then. But I think that's too high a standard to hold Presidents to. I think the standard for evaluating Presidential culpability for bad things should be whether or not I, Steve Sailer, knew about it ahead of time. For example, I knew that invading Iraq was asking for trouble. The last 12 months have proven to be a bigger surprise to the President, despite all his advisors and intelligence agencies, than to me. That's not good.


But, I definitely did not know that Osama's minions were going to knock down the WTC on 9/11. It was a complete surprise to me. I stayed up late the night before writing a book review of a Kurt Cobain biography. 


Sure, I didn't get The Memo and Bush did, but nobody back then knew that it, out of the gazillion memos the federal government generates each year, was going to be The Memo.


What I did know was that Bush was taking a chance by trying to win Arab/Muslim votes by cutting back on two anti-terrorist policies: ethnic profiling at the airport and the use of secret evidence against terrorist suspects -- i.e., testimony by informers who would die if they appeared in court.


Ann Coulter writes:


"Last week, 9-11 commissioner John Lehman revealed that "it was the policy (before 9-11) and I believe remains the policy today to fine airlines if they have more than two young Arab males in secondary questioning because that's discriminatory." Hmmm ... Is 19 more than two? Why, yes, I believe it is. So if two Jordanian cab drivers are searched before boarding a flight out of Newark, Osama bin Laden could then board that plane without being questioned. I'm no security expert, but I'm pretty sure this gives terrorists an opening for an attack. In a sane world, Lehman's statement would have made headlines across the country the next day. But not one newspaper, magazine or TV show has mentioned that it is official government policy to prohibit searching more than two Arabs per flight."


Being a partisan, Ann doesn't point out that this was a Bush initiative countering a tougher system put in place by Al Gore. But she does go on to make a good point about 9/11 Commission member Jamie Gorelick's responsibility for hurting the prosecution of bad guys with some 1995 Clinton Administration guidelines she wrote.



I just got back from driving Highway 1 through the Big Sur. The highlight was McWay Falls in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, which looks like a fantasy artist's depiction of paradise -- a waterfall that tumbles directly onto the beach of an aquamarine cove.



An excerpt from my article on Kill Bill vs. The Passion in the May 10th issue of The American Conservative:


"The Passion" is also routinely lambasted for assuming that viewers enjoy a certain familiarity with the most influential episode in the history of Western Civilization. I overheard the following conversation in a screening room on Rodeo Drive:

Man: "'The Passion' really doesn't work as a movie. I mean, if you don't know who the characters are, you can't figure out what's going on. And why is he washing people's feet?"

Woman: "It's like Gibson expects you to know the story already."

Man: "And it's so historically inaccurate. The men didn't have long hair back then."

Woman: "Now, what I really like is The Da Vinci Code."


In contrast, Tarantino is constantly applauded for cramming "Kill Bill" with countless esoteric references to obscure Seventies rubbish. He has tapped into a deep vein of nostalgia for the crud that everybody watched as adolescents. Okay, I confess, I loved David Carradine in "Kung Fu" when I was 13, too. But, then I grew up.



By the way, regarding "The Passion"... Go see it. It's excellent.



What this country needs is a good 90 mph speed limit: I recently drove up to Monterey from L.A. Jerry Pournelle told me that rather than take the boring I-5, I ought to take his favorite route farther west: "It’s two lane highways, no traffic, not patrolled in my experience." (Jerry wrote about the route in his last fantasy novel with Larry Niven "The Burning City.") 


Well, it is patrolled in my new experience. I cut off I-5 and I didn't go ten miles down a dead flat, dead straight, almost utterly empty desert highway when a cop comes up behind me at 100 mph and gives me a speeding ticket. And it's a big one -- going 86 in a 55 zone.


Governments are making a lot of money off speeding tickets these days because modern cars can run quietly at much, much higher speeds than just a couple of decades ago. It's absurd that America has perhaps the lowest speed limits in the advanced world even though it has some of the emptiest countryside.



Giving Iraqis somebody else to hate: The fastest way to nation-building psychologically is to have an outside enemy to unite people in shared fear and loathing. Bismarck, for example, understood this well and united all the German statelets by provoking France to declare war upon Germany in 1870. Similarly, both Pakistan and India have internal reasons for not settling their squabble over Kashmir. They are each remarkably variated internally, so hating the other country over Kashmir gives each a way to emotionally unite their peoples.


In recent days, some degree of nationalism (as opposed to ethnocentrism) has emerged in Iraq in opposition to the U.S. I don't know how far this will go (probably not far), but it does suggest one danger: that we are midwifing a new nation-state built around anti-Americanism.


This raises the question I've long had over what in the world is Ahmed Chalabi's hold over important elements within the Administration. Is it financial? It's not hard to buy, or at least rent, intellectuals and wonks. We come awfully cheap -- just fly us to some conferences and tell us how wonderful we are and we'll look kindly upon you. Still, that hardly seems adequate.


My guess is that Chalabi's hold over the Defense Dept. civilians like Douglas Feith is that he promised to make Iraq anti-anti-Israel. They hoped that when he became ruler of Iraq, he would start a domino effect in the Middle East away from anti-Israeli policies.


Of course, that would just strip away one of the cheapest ways that Middle Eastern rulers have to psychologically unite their peoples. Now that Israel has such overwhelming military superiority that nobody expects Arab countries to actually fight Israel, opposing Israel rhetorically is a cheap way for a ruler to provide his furious tribesmen with a common enemy to share. 


I presume that's one reason Chalabi has proven to be so unpopular with his countrymen -- they see him as having sold his soul to Israel's staunchest backers in the U.S. in return for American backing. That's too bad because otherwise I'd be tempted to say: just give Chalabi Iraq and let's walk away from Iraq. But, obviously, he is an irrelevancy without the Defense Department citizens backing him up with American soldiers. (The other reason against this is the horrendous precedent it would set: You can have America hand you a country just by corrupting a segment of America's intelligentsia.)



Nation-Building in Iraq is finally working: The fighting in Fallujah has given the Shi'ites and Sunnis something in common: they both hate America. The Washington Post reports


Intense, sympathetic and often startlingly graphic coverage on Arab channels has deepened a vein of nationalism, stirred in part by still unconfirmed reports of high civilian casualties. Over the weekend, in the living room of a decidedly secular family, a woman wept over the images on a screen she finally leaned forward and kissed....


The popular response -- of Shiite and Sunni giving aid, shelter to refugees and even volunteers to the fight -- has pushed fears of an Iraqi civil war to the background. The fighters in Fallujah are said to include Mahdi Army militiamen loyal to the radical cleric Moqtada Sadr...


Some here are already speaking with the sense of history -- that powerful, deeply symbolic myths are being created. "What is striking is how much has changed in a week -- a week," said Wamid Nadhmi, a political science professor at Baghdad University. "No one can talk about the Sunni Triangle anymore. No one can seriously talk about Sunni-Shiite fragmentation or civil war. The occupation cannot talk about small bands of resistance. Now it is a popular rebellion and it has spread."



Fred Reed's on fire:


Now, as I understand it from the White House itself, it's all because of three diehard Saddamites, two terrorists, and an outside agitator. Yes. The White House says ninety-nine and forty-four one-hundredths percent of Iraqis love us, and want us to bomb them and invade them, and starve them with embargos, and only a few soreheads don't like it. And I believe the White House. You can only lie so long before you slip up and tell the truth. I figure they're about due.


But I want to understand about strategy. Yesterday, it said on CNN, the White House bombed a mosque full of people and killed forty of them, to make them democratic. It was because the two terrorists or maybe the outside agitator was inside. Being as I am unwashed and don't know much, I'd have said it wasn't the shiniest thought in the idea basket. You got a country full of people who take religion real serious, and so you bomb a church in the middle of services. But what do I know? Somebody called Mark Kimmitt, a brigadier general, said to CNN, "When you start using a religious location for military purposes, it loses its protected status." If they hid in mosques again, we'd bomb them again, he said.


Now that he has explained it, it makes sense to me. If bombing one church doesn't make them democratic, and love us, then bombing some more churches will. It wouldn't fly in West Virginia, but that's a different culture. Arabs like being bombed...  If I were part of the Iraqi Resistance, I couldn't think of anything I'd like more than some damn fool blowing up mosques. It would save fortunes on recruiting expenses.... I reckon the two most effective outside agitators must be Kimmitt and Paul Bremer...


One thing the White House has done real well is housetrain the press. Even I can see that. Reporters today are well behaved suckups, like those fuzzy little lapdogs you could glue to a stick and use for a duster. Notice how we never hear anything about old Saddam? (Note that I'm on first-name terms with him.) I guess it's not our business, and the papers aren't going to ask. Ever hear honest interviews with the troops in Iraq? Naw. That's not our business either. I mean, they're not our sons, brothers, husbands and neighbors or anything. But you can bet that ninety-nine and forty-four one-hundredths percent of our soldiers love what they're doing, and care deeply about democracy in Iraq, wherever it is.


I see hope, howsomever. I have read that we are getting advice from Israel on pacifying Moslems... Skeptics and other traitors say that the Israelis are the most provably clueless people alive when it comes to pacifying Moslems. They've been at it for fifty years and some guy still blows up in a shopping mall every twenty seconds...


Now, some people tell me that I'm all soft and squishy on terrorism and need to learn about realpolitik. They may be right. As best I can see, realpolitik is a mood of self-congratulatory pugnacity accompanied by complete witlessness about how people work. It is usually associated with paranoia and the empathy of a table-leg. And it isn't spelled well.   [More...]



Upcoming: The Passion vs. Kill Bill: Vol. 2 -- I explore the many links between these two antithetical movies in the May 10th issue of The American Conservative (out in about a week). It's a good one. Excerpt:


"There's nothing wrong with Tarantino's brain, just with the junk he stuffs in it. Moreover, his talents, while broad, don't mesh well together. He should instead direct other's scripts, while reserving his own writing -- with its vivid but absurd monologues and grandstanding convolutions -- for the stage."



More on vitamins and minerals -- Perhaps the most distinguished social scientist of the last 40 years writes me:


"This essay of yours [IQ: Truth can set us (and Africa) free], and your earlier review of the Lynn-Vanhanen book [Thoughts on IQ and the Wealth of Nations], are some of the best things you have written. 


"I would add only one thing: correcting vitamin and mineral deficiencies can also reduce the risk of impulsive violence. That kind of rage is seems to be associated with low levels of zinc and high levels of manganese. Unfortunately, canned milk, made with soy-based products, elevates manganese levels in babies before their bodies can handle the overload, and that kind of milk is more commonly used by low-income than by middle-income mothers. Hence, even in this country, we may be making some children both dumber and more violent than is appropriate. The data on mineral-violence links can be found in studies of juvenile delinquents and in infant monkeys, and the world-wide evidence is growing."



John Wayne and the Alamo -- One thing I'd like to add to my column on the new Alamo movie is that the John Wayne-directed 1960 version was highly respectful of the Mexicans, perhaps more than the new version is. Wayne loved Mexico. He shot many movies in Durango, and vacationed there as well, and owned a home in Acapulco. (When I took a boat tour of Acapulco in the 1970s, the guide proudly pointed out the home of "Yon Wen," which caused some puzzlement among us gringos.) Like many macho Americans, Wayne felt at home in Mexico's culture. He just didn't like its political system.


Update from a reader: 


Your blog entry on John Wayne is a point I have long noticed. Wayne's Alamo film bends over backward to be favorable to the Mexicans, in particular to the soldados storming the mission. Remember the line, "I killed many a brave man today." By the way, I agree with this piece of dialogue. The 1960 film has the Mexican Army appearing somewhat like Napoleon's Grand Army. It's puzzling that a few weeks later they were routed in twenty minutes. In a way, they were peons stuffed into Napoleonic uniforms.


The tactical situation at the Alamo was the only way Mexicans could win a battle against Americans. Bowie had defeated a force twice his at San Antonio the previous December, and San Jacinto soon occurred. In the 1846-48 War, the Mexicans were routed in every battle despite superior numbers.


Finally, you ought to hear a Mexican-American friend of mine talk about the Mexican ruling class. He tells me that most Americans don't really understand how bad Mexican rulers have been.



Clifford May writes in NR: "President Roosevelt waited until after World War II to put in place a commission to investigate what mistakes led to Pearl Harbor. That was a wise move..." Especially for a dead guy. (FDR died 4/12/45.)


Actually, the first of many inquiries into Pearl Harbor convened on 12/18/41. And, perhaps unfairly, the two commanding officers at Pearl Harbor were peremptorily fired to encourage the others. Has anybody in the Administration been fired for being wrong? It seems like you only get fired for being right.


May claims, "Increasingly, it seems the 9/11 Commission is losing its way. Its mission is to learn lessons — not to lay blame. Its mission is to come up with recommendations for a more effective antiterrorism strategy." In reality, we have an election coming up, and it would make a travesty of democratic principles if the public wasn't allowed to learn the facts necessary to evaluate the competence of the Bush Administration.



Let the recriminations begin! Speaking of Cliff May, one of these days a lot of conservative publications are going to have to clean house and dump many writers whose judgment has been shown to be terrible. Similarly, isn't it about time that prominent warbloggers like Instapundit and Andrew Sullivan become formerly prominent warbloggers?


On Saturday, Sullivan bloviated:


"THE SILVER LINING: I'm going to be writing more about the positive possibilities that are now opening up in Iraq. My own view is that the violence is an inevitable consequence of the various factions in Iraq feeling their way toward filling the power vacuum. This is not only unavoidable; it can be revealing. What we need in Iraq are future leaders, who have real followings, and can deliver them in a political process. The showdown with al Sadr and the Sunni rump is the necessary first stage to accelerate this process."


Look, the way Iraqi thugs are making themselves into "future leaders, who have real followings" is by killing Americans. That's how they attract followings. 


Stick a fork in Sullivan. His 15 minutes of fame should have been done a long time ago. Same with Instapundit and his perpetual motion mutual admiration society.



The Cause of the Shi'ite Revolt -- We captured Saddam. Greg Cochran argues that therefore the Shi'ites aren't scared of the Sunnis anymore, so now they are out to get us.



Phil Mickelson wins The Masters -- Mickelson had been the greatest American ever who had never won one of the four major championships, so lots of fans had written him off as a choker. Sunday, though, he shoots five under par over the last nine holes, including sinking a walk-off birdie putt on 18 to beat Ernie Els.


Fans and sportswriters love to attribute losing to moral failure. The notion that victory and defeat in an individual tournament is governed by probability distributions is anathema, but it's generally more true than the sportswriters' cliches about "He just wanted it the most."


Most amateur golfers choke under pressure, but almost all of them are weeded out long before they become frequent winners on the PGA tour like Mickelson. That's one reason why people talk so much about the best player never to have won a major -- almost everybody who ought to have won one, has won one, so the few who haven't stand out like sore thumbs. The best Americans to have never won a major are guys like Doug Sanders, Mike Souchak, Calvin Peete, Scott Hoch, and Bruce Lietzke. (It's harder for foreigners to win a major championship because three of the four tournaments are held in America.)


The boring fact is that Mickelson was mostly just unlucky not to have won a major before yesterday. He also had been unlucky to be in his prime during Tiger Woods' era, just as Arnold Palmer (whom Phil resembles in his go-for-broke strategies) stopped winning majors after Jack Nicklaus reached 25. Phil's not quite as good as Arnie, but Tiger's best is better than Jack's best. (Whether Tiger stays near his best as long as Jack did -- 24 years between first and last pro major victory-- is another question.)


Hopefully, will now see a ding-dong battle for #1 between Phil and Tiger. We haven't seen anyone challenge Woods for the top spot since David Duval's prime in early 1999. Golfers mature late -- Palmer's best year was 1960 when he was 30, Nicklaus' was 1972 when he was 32, Hogan's was 1953 when he was 41 -- so these two will be around for a long time. (Of course, I thought the same thing about Duval, who is only 32 but has dropped off the face of the earth.)


Phil probably isn't the smartest player on tour (Tiger probably is, at least in golf smarts), so weird things happen to him -- like five-putting from 18 feet away -- almost as often as they happen to John Daly. But, that just makes him more lovable.



New column at left...



Ingratitude toward conquerors is an old Middle Eastern tradition: "All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?" -- John Cleese as the rebel leader of the People's Front of Judea in Monty Python's Life of Brian.



Rwanda vs. Burundi: The NYT runs an interesting article that mentions the contrary strategies Rwanda and Burundi are using to defuse their Tutsi vs. Hutu conflicts. As background, the Hutus are the indigenous banana farmers. The tall Tutsis migrated down from the highlands of NE Africa several centuries ago and traditionally dominated the Hutus. Independence and democracy gave the Hutus the chance to get power at the ballot box, which set off a cycle atrocity and revenge within each country, culminating in the 1994 Hutu slaughter of Tutsis and moderate Hutus.


The Tutsis are now back in power in Rwanda (as they so often seem to come out on top when not being massacred) and they are trying to abolish the concept of ethnicity. Nobody is allowed to mention ethnicity. If you try to start an ethnic political party, you will be jailed. Is this a plan to end the hatred or just a ploy by Tutsi politicians to crush opposition? Or both?


In contrast, in Burundi, the government is divvied up between Tutsis and Hutus, with the presidency rotating between one tribe and the other. Quota systems try to balance out the power of each tribe.


The third plausible-sounding alternative, which has never been tried, is separation: the Tutsis get Rwanda, the Hutus Burundi. 


Abolishing ethnicity might work if there has been a lot of intermarriage, meaning that lots of people have relatives who are Tutsi, Hutu, and mixed. On the other hand, if intermarriage is low, then the plan seems like a cynical attempt to maintain the Tutsi ascendancy.



An Apology -- I noticed that I'm backed up in replying to many of the best emails I've gotten recently. As I may have mentioned earlier, I often don't reply immediately to some of the most interesting emails I get because they require more thought on my part, so I just leave them for later. Unfortunately, sometimes I then never get back to them, precisely because they are so good.



More on Height -- There's another reason why Europeans have caught up with Americans in height that's genetic but not racial -- the recent decline in inbreeding in Europe. Most Englishmen married somebody living 900 feet away on average, according to one study (which found that the introduction of the bicycle almost doubled that traditional radius or romance). People tended to become some kind of cousins to most of their neighbors via multiple genealogical pathways. Inbred people tend to be shorter.


Americans, on the other hand, tended to be well mixed up, both by the trip across the ocean and by subsequent moves within America. It doesn't take much to eliminate most of the deficits caused by inbreeding. So, if a Puritan man married a Puritan woman in Boston, and they were from towns 30 miles apart in England, their kids wouldn't suffer much deficit. Repeat for another generation and it's almost all gone.


There were some exceptions to this process. Italian immigrants tended to cluster on streets according to their home village, and they stayed quite short. But WWII shook up Italian-American society and the next generation tended to marry anybody Italian, and the generation after married anybody Catholic.


But, now, sedentary Europeans have cars and find their mates over a much larger radius, so the inbreeding depression that held them down for a long time is no more of a problem for them than it is for Americans.



A comment on the fighting in Iraq from a man with a lot of combat experience:


It doesn't matter what weapons the insurgents have. Did you watch their tactics? Spray and pray. Run around shooting in the general direction of the enemy. They are as dangerous to their own people as they are to ours.


The Marines will systematically kill them.


Those people I see on TV are not soldiers, they are not warriors; they are clowns with guns. The Viet Namese and their Chinese allies were smart and dangerous. These people are mostly dangerous, but they are as dangerous to themselves as anyone else.


The danger in this stupid war is not that we will lose it, or even that we will lose many troops. It is in what that kind of war does to our army.



The same gentleman, who has a lot of national security experience as well, defends Condi Rice:


You may have the wrong notion of what a National Security Advisor is.


Reagan's first one, Dick Allen, was Possony's protégé and one time student, who had some experience in political work -- we worked together in the Nixon 68 campaign, and for a little while we both had offices in the EOB before I got booted out by Haldeman -- but he had the credentials, PhD from Georgetown and such like.


The National Security Advisor is an odd post. Rice has the notion that her job is to decide what actions to put in front of the President. This isn't a stupid notion. Everyone wants to see the President, and everyone wants to get his list of stuff done. Everyone thinks his hair is on fire and he is entitled to have the President pee on it.


The National Security Advisor has unlimited access. She can literally walk past the Chief of Staff and interrupt the President. Few have that kind of access. Her job is to use that wisely, and while I am entirely outside on this administration it doesn't look to me as if she has done it badly at all.


Clarke is the typical disgruntled bureaucrat with 20-20 hindsight. None of his memos suggest any action more drastic than High Level Meetings. As if Meetings would do a damn thing.


We were not going to war before 911 and Clarke's only specific and concrete recommendation was that we invade Afghanistan although he didn't put it that strongly. The President wasn't going to do that.


We do not have the kind of armed forces that let us do covert ops on the scale it would have taken to take out bin Laden and his people and close out al Queda. Neither, any more, do the Brits, although MI5 was formidable and ruthless in its day. That day is pretty well gone.


Rice may not be as brilliant as Kissinger, but she's not stupid. And I am not entirely certain that I want Kissinger in that job.



A popular favorite on the film festival circuit, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter … and Spring is a quiet, exquisite-looking South Korean movie about a modern Buddhist monk's surprisingly lurid life on his floating mini-monastery. 


Filmed at tree-rimmed Jusan Pond in mountainous Juwangsan National Park, the only sets are the hermitage-on-a-raft, an ornate gatehouse on the shore, and the rowboat that connects them. Most Buddhist monasteries in Korea are hidden away amidst picturesque crags because the Confucianism-espousing Choson dynasty that came to power six centuries ago drove organized Buddhism out of the cities and villages.


G.K. Chesterton pointed out in Orthodoxy: "No two ideals could be more opposite than a Christian saint in a Gothic cathedral and a Buddhist saint in a Chinese temple… The Buddhist saint [sculpture] has a sleek and harmonious body, but his eyes are heavy and sealed with sleep. The mediaeval saint's body is wasted to its crazy bones, but his eyes are frightfully alive." Meditation, though, is notoriously uncinematic, so writer-director Ki-duk Kim injects a fair dose of worldly action.


He structured his film like Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons." It begins in flowery spring with the protagonist a child monk bored by all the harmony. With boyish cruelty, he ties stones to a fish, a frog, and a snake. When he wakes up, he finds that his mentor, the old monk (who bears a disconcerting resemblance to Billy Crystal), has tied a heavy, lesson-teaching rock to him.


In the next segment, it's high summer at the two-man temple and the young monk is now 17. A woman drops off for some spiritual healing her ill daughter, who is pallid but still movie starlet beautiful. The lad has never laid eyes on a girl before, but he likes what he sees. His initial approaches are dorkiness personified, but eventually he gives her some of that old Marvin Gaye-style sexual healing, which puts the glow back in her cheeks after weeks of contemplating the universe had failed.


The rest of my can be found in the April 26th edition of The American Conservative.



Holy Shi'ite, Batman! Once again we are seeing why the Shi'ites have, for the last 1300 years, traditionally maneuvered themselves out of power. Sitting in the demographic catbird seat as Iraq's soon-to-be ruling majority, with America about to give them a One Man, One Vote, Once election, a significant number couldn't resist biting the hand that was feeding them the country. Worse, almost none of the many Shi'ites who think Sadr is a hotheaded child could be bothered to seriously resist his highly resistible rise.


Back on March 26, 2003, with American troops rolling through Shi'ite-dominated southern Iraq, with hosannas of triumphalism rising from the conservative press, I published an article pointing out one little worry: there was no dancing in the streets. Excerpts from 54 weeks ago:


Commentary: No dancing in Iraq yet

LOS ANGELES, March 26, 2003 (UPI) -- Through Wednesday morning, the invasion of Iraq had wracked up a historic record for most miles penetrated into enemy territory per soldier killed by hostile fire. Yet, one disappointment to the White House has been the paucity of video of Iraqi civilians dancing in the streets to celebrate their liberation. Instead, civilian attitudes have ranged from pleased to hostile, with the average response seemingly somewhere between neutral and sullen.


Some of the architects of the war remain confident they'll get footage like that taken in 2001 after the conquest of Kabul during the Afghanistan conflict. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz told the British Broadcasting Corp. on Monday: "I think when the people of Basra no longer feel the threat of that regime, you are going to see an explosion of joy and relief." And there were reports that indeed some residents were rising up against Iraqi troops.


Still, it's worth reviewing reasons why the Shiite Muslim Iraqis of the south may have seemed not terribly appreciative of the United States' estimated $74.7 billion war to eliminate their dictator, Saddam Hussein. Probably not all of these apply, but they are worth keeping in mind.


-- As Wolfowitz noted, with Saddam's forces still operating guerrilla fashion in much of southern Iraq, it would be prudent for American sympathizers to just keep their heads down and try to stay alive at present. Wolfowitz, a long-time advocate of the war, pointed out: "Saddam is still maybe alive and certainly his goons and his assassination squads are still there."...


-- While American planners hoped that Shiites would view the allies as their friends in struggle with Iraq's Sunni rulers, Middle Easterners don't always subscribe to the catch phrase that "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." Sometimes, he's just one more enemy.


-- Since Sept. 11, 2001, Americans have worried more about Sunni Muslims such as Osama bin Laden and (the mostly secular) Saddam, but, traditionally, Shiites have not been well disposed toward the West. The Iranian Shiite Ayatollah Khomeini constantly denounced the United States as "the Great Satan."


-- Saddam's fedayeen irregulars have been using the kind of tactics -- dressing as civilians and pretending to surrender -- that inspire itchy trigger fingers among nervous American soldiers. One of Baghdad's goals might be to encourage a U.S. massacre of its civilians in order to outrage Iraqis and the rest of the world against America...


-- In the same manner that the poll ratings of George W. Bush and Tony Blair have surged since last Wednesday, Iraqis may be rallying round the flag as well. Throughout the world, humans have tended to fight to defend their land from invaders, no matter what the invaders promise.


Other reasons are particularly germane to Arab cultures.


-- For example, it's not surprising that Iraqis haven't shown much trust toward the allies. By American standards, Iraqis don't even trust other Iraqis much. Throughout the Arab world, it's common for the "radius of trust" to not exceed much beyond the extended family. This makes them poor at going on the offensive in war...


-- On the other hand, family loyalty can make them good at guerilla fighting, terrorism, feuding and other pastimes in which small groups dominate. The Iraqis of southern Iraq have more pressing matters to concern themselves with than U.S. expectations. Tyrants and conquerors come and go, but feuds go on and forever. With no civil authority in much of southern Iraq at present, the night of the long knives is again at hand. 


-- While people have been farming between the Tigris and the Euphrates since the invention of agriculture, Iraqi culture also reflects some of the ancient manners of the nomads. Just as American cattlemen in the Old West learned to shoot first and ask questions later, desert-dwelling herdsmen long lived beyond the rule of law. They were greatly in danger of having their herds rustled if they showed signs of weakness. This encouraged a strong concern for honor: a fear of being insulted. Invasion could be interpreted as the ultimate insult. Even if Iraqis believe the Allies are coming to help them that could be considered a slur, an assertion that they need help.


-- Finally, we might be seen as violating the principle of hospitality, which is important in Arab cultures. As Ben Franklin pointed out, the best way to get someone to like you is not to do him a favor, but to ask him to do you a favor. Similarly, Arabs prize hospitality highly, but there are obligations upon guests as well as hosts. Guests should be dependent upon hosts. In that regard, the mighty allied war machine is not a good guest.



The Masters Tourney and the decline of the black caddy -- I wrote last year:


Few images make modern Americans, black or white, more uncomfortable than that of a white golfer strolling down a manicured fairway with his black caddie trudging behind him. For three generations, the black bag-toter was a fixture at country clubs and on the PGA Tour, most notably at Augusta National, site of this week's Masters Tournament. By now, though, they are almost all gone, replaced at most courses by whizzing golf carts, and at the big-money tournaments by well-educated and remarkably well-paid white caddies.


One of the last black caddies on the Tour is Freddie Burns, who has carried Hal Sutton's bag for over 20 years. He pointed out: "In 1981, there were twice as many black caddies as whites. Now I'm the only one carrying a top-50 bag."


Blacks are not just missing out on the new affluence of Tour caddies. The decline of the black caddy has crippled black advancement in tournament golf. As the first article in this two-part series, "The decline of the black golf pro," recounted, in this age of Tiger Woods, the floodgates were supposed to open to non-white talent, but instead the number of black pros has shrunk...


Top caddies, black and white, were traditionally a raffish lot, with nicknames like Hobo and Six Pack Jack. Willie "Cemetery" Poteat was one of the black caddies who wore Augusta National's white jumpsuits. He caddied in the Masters and always carried Dwight Eisenhower's bag during presidential visits. A ladies' man, Cemetery got his nickname after somehow surviving having his throat slashed by a jealous rival...


Quite a few golfers now employ relatives as caddies. This keeps the caddie's payment in the family. For example, Jack Nicklaus won his first five Masters titles using one of Augusta National's black caddies, Willie Peterson. But in 1986, Nicklaus won his famous sixth Masters at age 46 with his son Jackie on his bag. A few players, such as Steve Stricker, have their wives carry for them, although brothers are probably the most common kind of relative.


Questions of trust and reliability incline pros to hire friends and family. If, say, you pay your caddie $105,000 on Sunday at La Costa in San Diego and tell him to show up Tuesday at the Doral in Miami, you don't want to have to bail him out of jail Monday in Las Vegas. But if he's your brother, you can always threaten that if he doesn't show up, you'll tell Mom.


Most importantly, the decline of the black Tour caddie is symptomatic of a much larger shift in American race relations and employment patterns. While caddying has become more prestigious among whites, younger blacks have sharply turned against it and most other servile jobs, seeing them as holdovers from slavery and Jim Crow. Novelist Peck observed: "The idea of filling a subservient role that their parents were happy to take just isn't acceptable anymore."

The veteran black caddie Alfred Dyer (a/k/a Big Rabbit) carried for South African legend Gary Player all over the world for 18 years. And he told "Because of Gary Player and caddying I was able to put my son through college at Princeton University. I tell all the young kids today to caddie. But a young black kid today don't want to caddie, he can make more money doing the wrong things, and that's a shame! Caddying was a great way to grow up, learn the game, stay out of trouble."


Whites' attitudes have changed, too. As novelist Bob Peck noted: "The old-fashioned white man was completely comfortable using a black man in a subservient role, but at some point this became the wrong thing to do." These new attitudes among blacks and whites engender racial tension, and golf pros don't like extra tension. Their jobs are pressure-packed already. So, they avoid discomfort by hiring other whites.


Examining the ramifications of these trends across the economy, these psychological changes might have had a negative impact on black employment levels. Even beyond the golf course, many whites are sidestepping this racial minefield by simply not trying to hire blacks for service jobs.   [More...]



The Passion's overseas box office is now up to $80 million. The number one overseas market so far is Mexico, which is very unusual, since Mexico is not a big market for movies. The fourth place country after the UK and Mel's Australia is Catholic Poland. It's hard to predict how big it will turn out to be internationally.


For comparison, here's the international box office for the crypto-Christian Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. The striking aspect is how popular the movie was in Northwestern Europe. For example, it made almost a million bucks in tiny Iceland, which has less than 1/1,000th the population of the U.S. If it had been that popular in America, it would have made a billion dollars domestically, instead of $375 million. It did extraordinarily well in the cultures celebrated by Tolkien: English, Nordic, Teutonic, etc.



The Alamo -- I just saw the movie, which opens Friday. I try to never study up on a movie before seeing it, but then do research afterwards. Question: How much do we really know about what went on inside the Alamo, since the final defenders all died?



Emeka Okafor -- The 6'-10", 252 pound star center on the U. of Connecticut's national championship basketball team (men's division) is probably headed to the NBA a year early because he's on track to graduate in three years with a 3.8 GPA in Finance. He scored 1310 on the SAT. He is the son of Nigerian immigrants (his father is working on his third master's degree), but was born in Houston.


Ever since the great Hakeem Olajuwon burst on the college basketball scene in 1981, seemingly heralding a tidal wave of African talent, the number of African star basketball players has proven disappointing. Most have come from the elite (for example, Duke's Luol Deng is the son of a former Sudanese cabinet minister), with only Manute Bol coming from the poor masses. My impression is that poor people in Africa are significantly shorter than either rich people in Africa or African Americans, and thus haven't contributed many big men to the game.


Why this B-ball trivia is important -- I suspect that many of the same conditions that cut down on the height of Africans also hurt their IQ scores, which tend to average a full 15 points below those of African-Americans. As I wrote recently, a UN report pointed to several vitamin and mineral deficiencies in the diet of poor Third Worlders that can significantly cut the national IQs of poor countries.


My point is that the average IQ found in African nations of 70 looks partly environmental. Things like nutritional deficiencies, infections, lack of mental stimulation, etc. probably contribute at least partly to the gap between Africans at 70 and African-Americans at 85. (Since African-Americans are only about 17-18% white, according to the latest studies, white genes are unlikely to explain all this gap.) Some of these environmental problems are not particularly daunting. Steps like iodizing salt would certainly cost billions of dollars, but definitely not hundreds of billions and probably not even tens of billions of dollars. If iodizing salt and fortifying grains with iron, steps taken decades ago in America to eliminate cretinism and other health problems, would raise the continent's average IQ from 70 to, say, 75, that would be a wonderful first step. Certainly, nobody else has come forward with a more constructive suggestion about what to do about Africa.



Raising the IQs of African Americans would likely be more difficult, since they are already well-fed and not as prone to infectious diseases as their cousins in Africa. Still, it could be amenable to a well-funded effort. I wrote in back in 2000 in a series on how to help the left half of the bell curve:


The basic concept of focusing on the earliest possible time remains promising. Since IQ is mostly determined by biology, it makes the most since to focus on biological improvements. The single most promising program would be to encourage breastfeeding. The Associated Press reported on 9/22/99:

"The survey by University of Kentucky nutritionist James Anderson [which appeared in the October, 1999 edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition] looked at 20 different studies comparing the brain development of infants who had been breast-fed with that of infants who had been given formula." Our study confirms that breast-feeding is accompanied by about a five-points higher IQ than in bottle-fed infants," Anderson said." -- Tim Whitmire, AP, 9/22/99.


The crucial question: does this five-point increase endure - or does it fade, like Head Start's advantage? If it were permanent, this would offer the single easiest way to narrow the black-white IQ gap. Only about 30% of African American children are breast-fed versus about like 60% of white children. Thus, raising black breastfeeding rates to the white level could theoretically increase black average IQ by 1.5 points, or 10% of the white-black IQ gap. This may not sound like much, but its effects on the right end of the black Bell Curve would be substantial. It would increase the number of blacks with IQs above 115 by around 20%.


This would dwarf any the benefits of the Gates Scholars program. And it would probably cost less. It's just a marketing problem. Bottle-feeding is prestigious among blacks for the same reason that Cadillacs are more prestigious: black status symbols lag a few decades behind white fashions. It wouldn't take a huge push to make breast-feeding trendy among blacks.


If, say, the world's 2nd richest man, Larry Ellison of Oracle, is tired of rooting through Microsoft's garbage cans, here's a classier way to stick one in Bill Gates' eye. Ellison could pay for a definitive study of the long-term impact of breastfeeding. If it turns out as hoped, then he could finance a campaign to get new mothers to breastfeed.


In summary, it can be painful to speak honestly about such a sensitive topic as IQ. But only realism will allow us to do anything beneficial about it.



Freedom or Dominance: I fear that one of the Administration's fundamental misconceptions about Iraq was the assumption that Arabs value freedom most of all. In reality, I suspect they prize dominance most highly We assumed we could hand them their freedom and they'd be grateful to us for our selfless sacrifice, or, at worst, appreciate our enlightened self-interest. But Arabs have no history of the powerful giving anyone their freedom, so they assume it is a trick and a trap. In Arab thought, the only way to prevent the dominant from exploiting you is to be the dominant one yourself.



New American Conservative article on baseball and steroids at left.



Caesarean sections & IQ: As you would expect, there's a moderate relationship between brain volume and IQ (around 0.4 when the brain is measured by the highly accurate MRI) -- after all, human brains got radically larger over the last 5 million years as we got smarter, so there is clearly a connection. One limiting factor, though, is that big-headed babies are more dangerous to birth. Big skulls don't pass through the birth canal as well. The invention of the Caesarean section has relieved that bottleneck in much of the world. Perhaps some of the Flynn Effect of rising scores on IQ tests stems from more bigger-headed babies being born and fewer women with the genes to give birth to bigger-headed babies dying in childbirth?



Campus Identity Politics -- What's the deal? I visited the Claremont colleges for background for an article I'm writing on the hate crime hoax, and I'm still trying to figure out the psychology behind why so many students are evidently obsessed with identity politics. Being obsessed by your own identity seems so boring, especially when you are 19 and haven't done much of anything to make your identity interesting. Can somebody help me understand this?



Homosexual recruitment on campus -- One thing that struck me was how institutionalized homosexual recruitment is on campus. Here was one poster on bulletin boards:


Queer? Questioning? An Ally? Male? Female? Transgender? Gay? Bi? Lesbian? Poly?

Want to get involved and help other kids figure it out too?

Be a QQAMP Mentor

The Queer, Questioning, and Allied Mentor Program of the Claremont Colleges.


Is this kind of thing common on other campuses? Does anybody ever worry about the university's liability if a "mentor" were to infect his freshman with HIV? This "ally" business seems particularly sinister, like an attempt to use political correctness to turn the naive into fresh meat.



A reader writes:


Nice article in Outlook Section of Sunday's Washington Post by pollster Richard Morin on a survey that found that Corporate Human Resources managers consistently:


1. Underestimated the importance of pay in attracting the best workers.

2. Underestimated the importance of intelligence in determining workers' performance.

3. Underestimated the importance of management setting clear goals in determining workers' performance




4. Overestimated the importance of employees participating in decisions in determining workers' performance.

5. Overestimated the importance of work effort in determining workers' performance.


In other words, corporate HR managers are not paid to know anything about what actually makes a good recruit or helps their companies get the most out of him in his job. They are paid to memorize the fake theories of the regulators and unions and racial pressure groups. And then they start actually believing the fake theories, which makes them entirely useless for recruiting or helping to manage employees, which means line managers systematically avoid HR in making any decisions.


Now this is an interesting achievement for the regulatory and pressure-group culture. Federal environmental and safety laws may sometimes be excessive, but they don't make company compliance officers forget basic science, physics or mechanics. Unions may in a few cases extort above-market wages and work rules from companies, but they do not make CFOs forget accounting rules. But in the much softer management sciences, habitual conformity to bad rules can make the principal 'experts' forget reality and memorize fantasy.



Some data on the Paul Hornung gaffe: From John Steigerwald in the Valley News Dispatch:


The average SAT score of an incoming Notre Dame freshman is 1,360. The average SAT score for black high school students in 2003 was 857. The average SAT score for a white high school student in 2003 was 1,026. [Actually, those scores are for college-bound seniors. For all seniors, the averages would be lower if everybody took the test ... not to mention, all the high school dropouts would drive the averages down even lower.] The average SAT score for Notre Dame football players in 1997 (I couldn't find results from more recent years) was 899. So, Notre Dame has had lower standards for all football players for quite a while.


See if you can find a perennial Top-10 Division I football program in this list: Stanford, Northwestern, Duke, Vanderbilt, Rice, Virginia, Oregon State, SMU, Pacific, Wake Forest. That's the list of the programs with the 10 highest SAT scores.


Notre Dame ranked 12th on that list. The University of Miami ranked 80th with an average SAT score of 803. Ohio State was 69th at 818. Do you think Notre Dame would be adding more white players or more black players if its average SAT scores dropped 200 points and was ranked below Miami? Would the increase in wins be proportionate to the drop in SAT scores?


Paul Hornung knows that Notre Dame has a lot of black players, but he also knows that his alma mater has limited itself to taking black players whose academic records predict an ability to do Notre Dame work. Notre Dame work is a lot tougher than Miami work. According to the average SAT scores of players -- black and white -- Miami is recruiting players -- black and white -- who are below average students. Notre Dame is recruiting black players who are better than average students. Hornung would like to see Notre Dame be a little less picky because he knows that would result in better players -- black and white -- and more wins.


Isn't it striking that if you use facts and logic in writing about race in sports, you wind up at the Valley News Dispatch, but if you just make up self-contradictory bilge, you get to work for the New York Times?


Some more data, this time from Phil Arvia in the Southtown Economist (notice a pattern here?):


According to the 2003 Racial and Gender Report Card compiled by Richard E. Lapchick for the Institution for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida, the NFL in 2002 was 65 percent black, 33 percent white and 2 percent other. WSCR's Doug Buffone checked the first 64 picks in the last NFL draft and said on the air Thursday that 52 of those players were black. In the last Pro Bowl, 38 of the 44 starters were black.


And Brian S. Wise in Intellectual Conservative has some inside sources on how Notre Dame won its last national championship back in 1988:


Having been born and raised in South Bend has allowed me the chance to accumulate a few sources inside Notre Dame’s football program over the years; one was unavailable for this column, another told me that the things people should know are generally those they aren’t supposed to know at all. For example, that academic exceptions have been made when it mattered most, especially under Lou Holtz between 1986 and 1990. Todd Lyght (cornerback), Tony Rice (quarterback), Raghib Ismail (wide receiver), Bryant Young (defensive lineman) and Jerome Bettis (running back) are just five examples of very good players admitted with less than stellar academic backgrounds. All but Rice played in the NFL, they all managed to graduate. The point is that if the University truly had standards set in stone – as it suggested in a press release Wednesday – none of those players, and in that I mean none of them, would have ever been admitted.


Said my source, “If Tony Rice’s transcript and SAT scores were brought into the admissions office today, they would be set on fire.”


Quarterback Rice is said to have been one of only two "Proposition 48" athletes ever admitted to Notre Dame (i.e., he had to sit out the 1986 season because he couldn't meet the Prop. 48 standards). Under Proposition 48, student athletes were required to have a minimum SAT score of 700, or an ACT score of 17, and a minimum GPA of 2.0 in at least 11 courses in core classes, according to the NCAA Web site. Rice scored a scintillating 690. According to the anti-SAT Fairtest organization:


NCAA data on student-athletes' academic performance prior to the 1986 implementation of Prop. 48 reveal the discriminatory impact of these rules. The data, reanalyzed by the McIntosh Commission on Fair Play in Student-Athlete Admissions, show that had Prop. 48 been in effect in 1984 and 1985, it would have denied full eligibility to 47% of the African American student-athletes who went on to graduate, but just 8% of the white student-athletes. More recent NCAA research shows that the test score requirement disqualifies African American student-athletes at a rate 9-10 times the rate for white students.


More good stuff on ND recruiting from Return to Glory by Alan H. Grant:


During Lou Holtz's 11-year reign, the Irish came within two games of winning two more titles after 1988. Holtz had come in and done exactly what he had been asked to do: restore the power of the football program. But for the folks up top, whose priorities were slowly shifting back to academic pursuits, that was just about enough. For Holtz, the beginning of the end came in 1995. Coming off a 6-5-1 season, Holtz tried, unsuccessfully, to convince the admissions department to embrace a fleet "precocious" kid named Randy Moss. At the time, Moss was the West Virginia high school player of the year in both football and basketball, and he had committed to come to Notre Dame. But after Moss had been in several fights at school and was arrested for kicking a student who he mistakenly believed had written racial slurs on a desk, Notre Dame withdrew its commitment to him.


Had it been 1985 rather than 1995, things may have been different. But that trophy from 1988 still maintained a pretty fresh glow, so the admissions department decided it could do without Randy Moss...  [Moss, of course, went on to be one of the greatest receiving talents of all time, but also one of the biggest jerks in the NFL.]


Notre Dame isn't the only university concerned with its image. There's a certain status that accompanies any scholastic university with successful sports teams. Take Duke University for instance. Some folks in Durham, North Carolina, swear that there's a vested interest in keeping the performance of the school's football team well below that of its storied basketball team. There's a reason for that. To field a good hoops team, you need just two or three excellent players. Schools like Duke, and Stanford for that matter, can dominate on the hardwood without visibly compromising their academic integrity. But football demands more than two or three bodies. It demands at least 50 guys who can compete with anyone in the country. And with 117 schools on the Division I-A level, all vying for those same players, it's just a fact that you can't routinely sign enough guys to fill your team without sacrificing some of your academic standards.


In other words, if you field a consistently dominant football team, your school's "meathead factor" is raised exponentially. Therein lay the rub for Notre Dame. They wanted it all. They desperately wanted to compare themselves to Duke and Stanford in the classroom, but they also wanted to be like Nebraska and Miami on the football field. Bob Davie had repeatedly said that what Notre Dame was asking him to do?compete for the national championship with players who were held to a higher academic standard than their opponents?was impossible. This was the same struggle that had plagued Notre Dame football for decades. It made the position of Notre Dame head coach one of the most demanding in college football.


In summary, Hornung was talking in a realistic fashion (if in shorthand -- obviously, some white athletes can't make ND's standards, either) about very real issues that each university must deal with. The torrent of abuse directed at Hornung reflects how immature our society has become. We hero-worship these jocks, so we hate anybody who mentions any of the grubby realities of college sports.


My eyes were opened to this when I was 22 and worked in a summer job with a guy who had just gotten his MBA from UCLA. A few years before, he had been an All-American football player at UCLA, where his nickname was Dr. Death, but he'd been too small for the NFL. We got around to talking about why USC kept beating UCLA. He had a very simple explanation: "The USC players will do whatever it takes to win because THEY KNOW THEY WILL BE REWARDED." He had to say it about three times before naive little me caught on. But, I haven't forgotten.



The Richard Clarke v. Condi Rice debate: When will the mass media ever get around to the real story about the Bush Administration's unpreparedness? To win Arab Muslim votes, Karl Rove had the Bush Administration drop two of the Clinton Administration's anti-terrorism policies. That's a lot worse than saying that the Administration didn't put enough priority on terrorism, which is true, but nobody else was very concerned either. As I wrote on the evening of 9-11-2001:


Bush had called for laxer airport security


LOS ANGELES, UPI, Sep. 11 -- Ironically, in an attempt to appeal to the growing number of Arab-American and Muslim voters, exactly eleven months ago George W. Bush called for weakening airport security procedures aimed at deterring hijackers. On October 11, 2000, during the second presidential debate, the Republican candidate attacked two anti-terrorist policies that had long irritated Arab citizens of the U.S…."…


Bush said during the nationally televised debate, "Arab-Americans are racially profiled in what's called secret evidence. People are stopped, and we got to do something about that." Then-Governor Bush went on, "My friend, Sen. Spence Abraham [the Arab-American Republic Senator from Michigan], is pushing a law to make sure that, you know, Arab-Americans are treated with respect. So racial profiling isn't just an issue at the local police forces. It's an issue throughout our society. And as we become a diverse society, we're going to have to deal with it more and more."


In the debate, Bush conflated two separate policies that Arab-Americans and Muslim-Americans felt discriminate against them: the heightened suspicions faced by Middle Eastern-looking travelers at airport security checkpoints and the government's use of ‘secret evidence’ in immigration hearings of suspected terrorists. Yet, despite Bush's confusion, Arab-Americans appreciated his gesture. Four days after the debate, the Arab-American Political Action Committee endorsed Bush.


"The day after Bush's remarks, 17 American sailors died in a terrorist attack in the Arab nation of Yemen [carried out, we now know, by the same Al-Qaeda organization that blew up the World Trade Center]. …


"This year [2001], both Bush and his Attorney General John Ashcroft have called for an end to racial profiling… Of course, if Arabs and Muslims are disproportionately more likely to hijack airliners, and the profiling system does not end up disproportionately targeting them, then the system wouldn't work very well at preventing hijackings.


"To ensure that no disparate impact is occurring, the Bush Administration carried out in June [2001] a three-week study, first planned by the Clinton Administration, of whether or not profiling at the Detroit airport disparately impacts Arabs. The results of the study have not been released. Nor is it known whether the secret profiles have been relaxed - they are kept secret in order to keep hijackers guessing. However, on June 6th Attorney General Ashcroft told Congress, "We want the right training, we want the right kind of discipline, we want the right kind of detection measures and the right kind of remediation measures, because racial profiling doesn't belong in the federal government's operational arsenal."...


Besides airport profiling, Arab-American activists long demanded the repeal of the "secret evidence" section of the 1996 Anti-Terrorism Act. To prevent terrorist gangs from murdering U.S. government secret informants, this law allows the government to provide evidence from unidentified moles in the immigration hearings of foreigners suspected of terrorist links. The government has deported or detained a number of Arabs hoping to immigrate to the U.S. due to testimony by witnesses they were never allowed to confront.


"Although [then-Senator Spencer] Abraham's bill repealing the use of secret evidence died in 2000, during his confirmation hearing, Ashcroft endorsed the ban on secret evidence. He told Congress in June that the Bush Administration has not used secret evidence.


"As the practice has come under increasing attack, the number of Arab immigrants detained on secret evidence has dropped sharply. Hussein Ibish of the American Arab Anti-discrimination Committee told UPI in June [i.e. four months before 9-11]: ‘Two years ago there were 25 in prison. Now we're down to only one.’



Iraq -- Shi'ite militias loyal to the young hothead cleric Moktada al-Sadr killed seven of our boys yesterday in a mass uprising across Iraq. Previously, the Shi'ites had been sitting on the sidelines enjoying the spectacle of us killing their old enemies, the Sunnis, for them. Al-Sadr's goon squads don't represent all the Shi'ites, of course. But, we must keep in mind, that he and the other strongmen in Iraq have their Eyes on the Prize: the trillions of dollars worth of oil in the ground. What wouldn't they do for a million megabucks? Expect more such uprisings as the contestants in the Trillion Dollar Scramble position themselves for the day after the Americans go home.



Speaking of a trillion dollars, the 1997 study by the National Academy of Sciences found that that immigrants with less than a high school diploma wind up costing $100,000 more over their lifetimes in government spending than in taxes collected. So, if there are, say, 10 million immigrants in that category, then they will cost us one trillion dollars. A trillion here, a trillion there, pretty soon ... aw, to hell with it.



New column at left...



The War Nerd is back: That phony fight in Pakistan and Richard Clarke are on his mind.



Does clutch hitting exist? Baseball players and announcers all believe that certain players are "clutch hitters" who are especially good in pressure packed situations, while baseball statistical analysts do not believe the phenomenon exists. However, there's a lack of conceptual clarity. For example, a distinction should be made between coming through in clutch situations with a typical ballgame versus coming through in clutch ballgames, such as the post-season.


Certainly, "choke hitters" -- ones who fold under pressure -- exist, but they tend to get weeded out long before they reach the major leagues. Professional golfers are frequently exposed as choking in the major championships, but hitting a golf ball is generally harder than hitting a baseball from the standpoint of handling pressure, since the golfer must begin the stroke himself, whereas the batter is simply reacting to a thrown pitch. In general, batting just isn't particularly hard work, so you'd expect batters to give full effort every time they come up to the plate.


All in all, you'd expect batting averages to be lower in Late Inning Pressure Situations (LIPS) because there is such a thing as clutch pitching. For example, in pressure situations, managers will often pull their tired pitchers and bring in star relievers who provide a lefty-lefty or righty-right matchup that favors the pitcher. (The opposing managers will sometimes respond by bringing in a pinch hitter to restore the lefty-righty matchup, but pinch hitting averages are lower than normal.) 


Moreover, pitchers can often dial it up a notch when they are in a jam. For example, Orel Hersheiser said his arm could throw a handful of 95 mph fastballs per game, so he'd throw 90-92 until he got in a crucial situation, then reach back and blow one past the batter. 


On the other hand, it seems much more likely that some hitters do better in the post-season. The important thing to keep in mind is that players should put up worse numbers in the post-season than the regular season because the quality of opposition is so much higher. For example, the three players with the most World Series appearances are the old Yankees: Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, and Whitey Ford. Whitey won 10 and lost 8 in eleven World Series, versus a spectacular 236-106 career record in regular seasons. He certainly wasn't a choker. It's just hard to get much ahead of .500 when pitching against the National League champs. The Mick batted .257 in twelve WS's versus .298 in the regular season. Nobody ever called Mantle a choker -- it's just harder when you're facing Warren Spahn and Sandy Koufax all the time. Yogi hit .285 in the regular season and .274 in 14 World Series, which is, relatively speaking, excellent.


Currently, Derek Jeter's statistics in 99 post-season games are almost identical to his regular season performance, which suggests he is truly a clutch player in that dimension. Of course, one way to achieve that is to slack off during the regular season. Of course, that can be smart if you then arrive in the post-season refreshed and ready to rip. It's fairly common in basketball. Late in his career, Michael Jordan would show up for training camp a month late and play himself into shape during the early regular season. But, he'd have more energy left for the playoffs. Similarly, bad boy Dennis Rodman contrived to get himself suspended part way through each season, but then would return stronger than he left. Baseball is a less tiring sport, but now that there are three levels of playoffs, it would make sense to coast a little to save up strength for the long October grind.



Baseball is back -- Sports Illustrated's annual baseball issue is devoted to the revolution brought about by the fad for Bill James-style statistical analysis of players, with teams hiring 28 year olds who haven't played the game since Little League as General Managers. (Clearly, I was born 20 years too early -- I got my MBA in statistical modeling of marketing and financial models back in 1982. I actually thought about becoming a baseball statistical analyst back in the 1980s, but there was no demand then.)


One side effect not mentioned in the SI articles is that the trend away from evaluating players on batting average and toward on-base average shows that baseball teams had been unduly biased in favor of Hispanic players. They didn't realize that the greater propensity of Hispanics to swing at pitches outside the strike zone was a bigger problem than they realized. 


Last season I wrote:


The reason that scientific general managers like Toronto's J.P. Ricciardi are modestly more likely to sign more white players than traditional general managers is because the old, less logical norms for evaluating ballplayers tend to slightly overrate Latin Americans.

For example, players with Spanish names (lumping both foreign and American-born Latinos together) were on average 15 percent more likely to steal bases per plate appearance than everyone else in baseball. Yet, because both groups were successful 68 percent of the time, it's not clear how many more runs, if any, all that extra stealing contributed.


More importantly, although they are slowly improving, Hispanic players are on average less likely to accept walks than whites or African-Americans. "It's not easy for a Latin player to take 100 walks," said Sammy Sosa early in his famous 1998 season. In 2002, Hispanics had a combined batting average of .264, while everyone else together hit .260. On the other hand, the Hispanic "walk average" was 0.060, while the non-Hispanics' bases on balls ratio was 0.069, a significant 14 percent higher, leaving the non-Latinos with a better on-base percentage. 


The patience gap has declined somewhat, from 16 percent in 1992 and 19 percent in 1982, probably because Latinos have largely closed the power gap. Twenty years ago, non-Hispanics hit home runs 42 percent more often than Hispanics, but that difference was 4 percent last year. The last 15 years have seen the emergence of Hispanics with excellent batting eyes like Delgado, Edgar Martinez and Rafael Palmeiro. Billy Beane, for instance, rescued Erubiel Durazo, a young man who does not "look good in a uniform" because he has strangely short arms, from the Arizona bench. He's currently tied for third in the American league in walks.


Still, this huge increase in slugging has not made the shortfall disappear.


Nobody is sure why this inequality exists, but it has been around for decades. American Negro Leaguers playing winter ball in the islands back in the 1930s were amazed at the kind of pitches at which their hosts would swing.   [More...]



A reader (from the Links list at left) replies:


The stylish and entertaining Fred Reed is, as occasionally happens, overstating the case about bee stings. I grew up in the country--not the deep deep boondocks, but certaintly very far from a "protected urban setting"--and didn't receive my first bee sting until the age of 19. My sister, who is mildly allergic to the stings, didn't find out until well past menarche. Bees are, after all, brightly coloured and make a rather distinctive noise.


As you say, there is a genetic "arms race" between bees and humans. There are at least two other factors to consider. (1) The modern hysterical parent, who is prone to wildly exaggerating the threat from bees just as he is the threat to her peanut-allergic child in a school setting. (I'm using the impersonal "he" here, but let's face it--we're talking about a "she".) (2) Bees aren't a particular problem in the middle of a barley field--they're attracted to flowers. How long have human beings been cultivating and devoting arable land to suburban-style gardens? Selection pressure from centuries of apiarism might also be considered here as a third element.




Link: Apr. 7, 2004 14:41:00 E-mail me iSteve home


Fred Reed challenges Darwin -- Fred offers some puzzlers. How did the following evolve? These kind of challenges are very useful because they when they are solved, they improve understanding of how Darwinism works in practice. I'll intermingle my thoughts, unindented.


(1) A fair number of people are deathly allergic to bee stings, going into anaphylactic shock and dying. In any but a protected urban setting, children are virtually certain to be stung many times before reaching puberty. Assured death before reproduction would seem a robust variety of selective pressure. Yet the allergic haven’t been eliminated from the population. Why is it that miniscule, unobserved mutations over vast stretches of time can produce major changes, while an extraordinarily powerful, observable selective pressure doesn’t? The same reasoning applies to a long list of genetic diseases that kill children before they reach adulthood. (Yes, I too can imagine plausible explanations. Plausibility isn’t evidence.)


Poisonous snakes give a clearer picture -- the snakes are co-evolving along with our defenses against their venom, so it's a constant arms race and we can't expect to ever win because it's more important to the snakes to have deadly venom than it is to us to survive their venom (because snakes rely on their venom but we can try to avoid getting bit). On the other hand, the randomness of allergies to bee stings seems puzzling. Presumably the number of deaths from bee stings each year is too low to matter. That may be why people aren't naturally afraid of bees the way we are of snakes. Indiana Jones' snake phobia is quite common. In India, snakes kill a lot of people very year.


(2) Homosexuality in males works strongly against reproduction. Why have the genetic traits predisposing to homosexuality not been eliminated long ago?


This is a classic unsolved mystery. I reviewed some of the theories in "Gay Gene or Gay Germ?"


(3) Pain serves to warn an animal that it is being injured, or to make it favor, say, a wounded leg so that it can heal. Fair enough. But then why did we evolve the nerves that produce the agony of kidney stones—about which an animal can do absolutely nothing?


Don't know.


(6) People have a wretched sense of smell and mediocre hearing. Why? The pat explanation is that people evolved in open territory, where sight is more important than the other senses. People walked erect, keeping their eyes well above the ground so that they could see farther. As noses became smaller, there was less room for the olfactory apparatus. Is much of this not palpable nonsense? Horses have eves at about the same altitude as people, yet have acute senses of smell. Anywhere but in perfectly open territory, a sense of smell is obviously important in detecting predators, as it is at night, when many things hunt. Excessively small nasal apparatus? Cats and rats have little room for olfactory equipment yet have acute senses of smell. Do sensitive ears take up more space than sorry ones?


Do these senses take up much space in the brain? I don't know. Brain volume is a scarce resource for several reasons. Gray matter is expensive: it burns a lot of food for energy and it generates a lot of heat causing problems for people trying to stay cool. Also, baby's heads are so huge that childbirth is dangerous for women.


Jerry Pournelle's "pet" theory is that when humans teamed up with dogs, we offloaded smell processing to them, allowing us to devote our brains to contemplating the Higher Things.




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