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June 2004 Archive
The Jobs Iraqis Just Won't Do: An Iraqi blogger writes:
The new phenomenon that I want to talk about is bringing foreign workers to work in Iraq in the private sector. I was talking with some of my friends about the improvements in many of Baghdad’s restaurants when one of my friends said: “Did you see (Happy Time) restaurant has done recently? “No”, we answered. He added, “they’ve hired a new staff mainly from India”. One of the friends commented, “this seems to be happening a lot recently. I found recently that my aunt has hired a maid from Philippine. I asked her about it and she directed me to a new founded work agency that is specialized in hiring foreigner workers”.
The next day me and this friend went to see this agency as his family needed a babysitter. It appeared that there were many of such agencies and most of them were concentrated in the fancy neighborhood Al-Karrada. We had similar agencies back in the 70s and early 80s but after Saddam’s glorious victories and achievements people from outside Iraq began to be strangely disinterested in coming to Iraq!
It's worth mentioning that the families that are hiring such workers are mainly from the upper middle ( like my friend's) and high class.
I found there that it has become very common that some restaurants and hotels are using work agencies to get workers from Seri Lanka, India, Pakistan and the Philippines. Moreover, many families in Baghdad started to hire maids through work agencies; the family would pay 1300 $ for the agency to cover the travel cost of the maid who will get a monthly payment of 100 $ at least.
Foreign maids are probably less likely to let local kidnappers into your house, but, still , it doesn't say much good about the future of Iraq that this unproductive country is already importing foreigners to do the real work. In a country where the citizens don't produce anything and thus don't generate tax revenues, their welfare is meaningless to the ruler. All that matters is who owns the mineral rights (see, for example, the Congo), which makes politics into a death struggle to be the trillionaire who controls the oil.
The Problem with Assimilationism -- Larry Auster of VFR liked my review of the volume Tamar Jacoby edited entitled "Reinventing the Melting Pot: The New Immigrants and What it Means to Be American" so much that he offered this summary and gloss in his own succinct prose:
Even as we affirm that immigrants of all backgrounds can assimilate, we've dropped all efforts to assimilate them. Which means that we think the assimilation is automatic. But because we actually know that lots of people are really very different from us, AND since we would never employ common standards to help different people to assimilate to each other and so get along better, we actually very carefully chose our own associates only from those who already are very similar to us. So, for example, today's parents look for "good schools," meaning schools with students whose IQs are similar to their own children. This shows that the parents do not believe that very different people can get along productively, i.e., they don't believe in assimilation. And, further, having given up any attempt to assimilate different people through enforceable common standards such as America once had, any differences between children become even more troublesome, making it even more necessary to find schools with children who are just like one's own.
Thus the belief in effortless assimilation results in people segregating themselves more than ever. Just as the belief that all people are equal in innate abilities leads to the conclusion that anyone whose abilities are lower than those of some other group is an innately defective human being--rather than just a person who has lower abilities. The belief in sameness, without any larger reality that actually brings people together, results in segregation (though it's never called that.) The belief in equality of abilities without any common sense understanding of differences and without any belief in a transcendent results in thinking of a large part of the human race as defective. And of course, to avoid the latter conclusion, the need to believe that white racism is the real cause becomes more urgent than ever.
Then you go on to point out how Jacoby herself (the Ineffable Tamar) does the same thing. She claims to believe in effortless assimilation, but actually seeks colleagues who are very similar to herself.
Buckley says Iraq Attaq a Mistake: William F. Buckley Jr. is retiring at age 78 from control of National Review. He was one of the great Americans of the 20th Century. (Consider, for example, how much Ronald Reagan's worldview was molded just by reading National Review.) In old age, Mr. Buckley faded somewhat, as all men do, and his magazine became less brilliant, although mostly it suffered from its success. In its lonely early years, NR had, by necessity, relied upon independent minds, but in recent years the conservative movement had grown so vast that its pages and, especially, pixels became cluttered with the repetitious verbiage of team players, cheerleaders, talking points mavens, instant reaction experts, damage control gurus, bootlickers, pseudo-patriots (see below), Chalabi-lovers, and other forgettable figures.
Still, Mr. Buckley showed himself a class act at the end, telling the NYT, no doubt to the distress of the staffers he leaves behind:
"With the benefit of minute hindsight, Saddam Hussein wasn't the kind of extra-territorial menace that was assumed by the administration one year ago. If I knew then what I know now about what kind of situation we would be in, I would have opposed the war."
Perhaps David Frum will publish an updated version of his NR screed "Unpatriotic Conservatives" in which he adds Mr. Buckley's name to his enemies list.
The Neocon Worldview in a Nutshell -- Former Bush speechwriter David Frum -- who denounced as "Unpatriotic Conservatives" conducting a "war against America" those of us who had the common sense to be skeptical of the Iraq Attaq he helped foment -- wrote recently on NRO about "my friend Dean Godson, for many years the chief editorial writer of Britain's Daily Telegraph." Here's the revealing part in his description of Godson:
"His father was an American Jew born in Russia, so you might have expected him to concentrate his attention on the Arab-Israeli dispute. Instead, for no reason that any outsider could easily discern, Dean became profoundly concerned with the Irish quarrel -- and passionately committed to the lonely struggle of what may qualify as the world's least popular political constituency, the predominantly Protestant Unionists of northern Ireland."
Think about that for a minute.
Frum says he's baffled that the chief editorial writer of the leading Conservative newspaper in the United Kingdom chose to concentrate his attention on the guerilla war within the United Kingdom rather than on the problems of a distant land from which some of his ancestors migrated a couple of thousand years ago! (Also, it's hardly bizarre for the chief Tory editorialist to support loyalists in Northern Ireland who wish to remain subjects of the UK. It would be far stranger if the Telegraph's editorial voice didn't mind the prospect of the dismemberment of his country.)
This is one big reason why the neocons were so surprised that so many ordinary young Iraqi guys were steamed that foreigners were occupying their country: the kind of blood-and-soil patriotism and hatred of outside conquerors that the great majority of humans naturally feel is foreign to them, since the focus of so much of their patriotic enthusiasm is on another country overseas. Further, the neocons couldn't identify with occupied people enough to understand how the Iraqis would feel because the neocons so totally identify with the occupiers in Palestine. The neocons have made vast efforts to convince themselves that the Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip couldn't possibly be patriots, so they likewise couldn't imagine patriotic resistance to American occupiers by the ordinary Iraqis.
In his Farewell Address, George Washington explained the dangers of today's neoconservatism with prophetic clarity. Here's an excerpt (although there's quite a bit more about the dangers of Americans developing an infatuation with a foreign country):
"Sympathy for the favorite [foreign] nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification... Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But that jealousy to be useful must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests."
UPDATE: A reader writes:
"I somehow missed that bit by Frum. That hurts. Aren't there enough folks out there who think we Jews are rootless, clannish and disloyal without our purported champions giving people with such views aid and comfort? I know, I'm sure he didn't mean to suggest precisely what you tease out of his phrasing, but still."
I didn't have to do much teasing out. The simplest explanation is that that's just Frum revealing his inner emotions in an unguarded moment on his "Diary."
It's important to note that Frum-style confusion over national loyalty is rare among Jews -- this Godson that Frum is amazed by, for example, is clearly deeply absorbed by the problems of his own country rather than those of Israel. (Even the first generation of neocons were 100% American patriots up until middle age. I'm rereading Norman Podhoretz's second autobiography, Breaking Ranks, and Israel isn't even mentioned until p. 323. As far as I can tell, the older generation didn't care much about Israel until Israel's ascendancy was established by its smashing victory in the 1967 war -- everybody loves a winner, I guess.)
No, the problem is that a small number of Israel-Firsters have garnered inordinate influence within the conservative movement and the Bush Administration. They've imported the style of the Likud Party into American public life, where such policies are dangerously out of place. In fact, the American neocons can be more extremist than the more responsible Likud leaders -- note that the American neocons' 1996 recommendation to Likud Prime Minister Netanyahu to conquer Iraq was turned down.
Frum was the genius who decided that Iraq, its enemy Iran, and far-off, uninvolved North Korea constituted an "axis." This idea of his was so laughable that the President's "Axis of Evil" state-of-the-union speech in early 2002 appears to have been the moment when world opinion shifted from post-9/11 sympathy toward the United States to pre-Iraq Attaq fear of what the neocons in the civilian wing of the Pentagon were up to. Few phrases have done America more damage on the world stage than "Axis of Evil."
Yet, rather than shun Frum like the mini-Robert McNamara he is, National Review then hired him and gave him an almost daily soapbox.
What I object to is not America helping defend Israel, which I am all in favor of (although Israel is now so militarily dominant that threats to its existence at this point stem almost solely from its Battle of the Cradle with Arab mothers), but the Likudization of the Republican Party. Invading Lebanon in 1982 turned into the same mess for Israel that invading Iraq is turning into for the U.S., but some of the same people who advise the Likud Party pushed for the Iraq Attaq -- from within the U.S. Government!
"Is there anything more boring than Bill Clinton?" asks Paul Cella.
Sure: Hillary Clinton.
By the way, I must mention here my appreciation of the current First Lady, Laura Bush. (That's her name, right?) From what little I know about her, she seems to be a deeply boring person, too, but, to her everlasting credit, she has worked hard to keep her life private and thus avoid inflicting her monotonousness on the rest of America. That's not something you can say about the last 43 years of First Ladies.
[Okay, okay, I would like to know the full story behind how she happened to kill her boyfriend when she was 17. But that's it! No more.]
New VDARE.com column at left...
There's no such thing as "species"! -- Whenever I hear somebody claim "There's no such thing as 'race' because nobody can draw a hard and fast line between each and every racial group," I always think about how much trouble the federal government has in drawing lines between species for the purposes of the Endangered Species Act. Of course, there are such things as species, but delineating them isn't easy. For example, the NYT reports:
The Preble's meadow jumping mouse is a timorous nocturnal beast of the highland prairie, protected from human dominion in Colorado and Wyoming since 1998 by the Federal Endangered Species Act. Dr. Rob Roy Ramey II is a scientist at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science who will tell anyone who asks, including Congress, that he thinks the trouble with Preble's is that they are not threatened with extinction at all. Not even a proper subspecies, he adds. Dr. Ramey believes that the mouse got on the protected list based on guesswork and outdated science, and that it is genetically identical to its cousin, the Bear Lodge meadow jumping mouse, which hops in happy abundance in Montana and South Dakota.
This happens constantly. For example, billions of dollars of Southern California development was halted because one zoologist guessed that the rare California gnatcatcher was a different species than the abundant Baja gnatcatcher, but his later genetic study couldn't find any notable differences. (Here's my article on how the gnatcatcher controversy hurt the Los Angeles oceanfront golf course recently bought by Donald Trump.)
Last I heard, there are 22 different definitions of species. The most widely accepted is Ernst Mayr's of a reproductively isolated breeding population. That makes a lot of sense, but you can see the practical difficulties in proving that various types of animals do or don't breed with each other and produce fertile offspring. Look how hard it was to get pandas to mate in captivity. There are also lots of logical conundrums: for example, it's common to find that the Eastern and Central zidgets mate with each other, as do the Central and Western zidgets, but not the Eastern and Western. So, how many species of zidgets are there? Further, there are types of beasts that we need very much to distinguish from each other, like wolves, dogs, and coyotes, that do indeed interbreed. That's why the three were always listed as separate species ... until 1994, when the leading taxonomic society switched and started calling wolves, dogs, and coyotes all part of one species. Nonetheless, the EPA defines the "red wolf," a wolf-coyote, hybrid to be an endangered species, and, to preserve the (already dubious) genetic purity of the red wolf race, is spaying coyotes to prevent them from miscegenating with them!
Yet, species is on a lot firmer ground than anything higher or lower in the Linnaean taxonomy, such as genus or subspecies. Thinking about racial groups as subspecies inherits these kind of problems with species, plus a host more.
On the other hand, you can't make race go away (as you'll note by reading the newspaper) just by defining it out of existence. That's why I've proposed a semi-radical redefinition of race. Rather than trying to approach it from the top down and wedge it into the pre-Darwinian Linnaean mold, with humans it makes more sense to flip it over and start from the bottom up: with the family. I define, in this important essay, a racial group as a partly inbred extended family. It's an extremely useful way of looking at one of the more important phenomena in the world.
America's Most Pressing Problem Solved by Illegal Immigration: I was out in the Hamptons on Long Island for the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills. On a tour of this glitzy resort region, we stopped at a parking lot at the beach where four young black guys were parking the cars of the guests at a party given by a famous and rich radical attorney. My host said that was rare -- you almost never see blacks having jobs in the Hamptons anymore. Over the last ten years, almost all the working class blacks in the Hampton have been pushed out of their jobs by the influx of illegal aliens who work for less.
Isn't illegal immigration wonderful? Look how it has solved America's most pressing social problem: those horribly high wages the summer people of the Hamptons used to have to pay to African-Americans.
Evilcons of the World, Unite! -- Some blogger calling himself Tacitus has announced that he has decided not to invite me to contribute to some website I've never heard of (and which sounds intellectually pathetic) because I am one of those horrible "evilcons." See, he was shocked to discover I once wrote "this squirm-inducing essay" on why I prefer watching black NFL quarterbacks to white NFL quarterbacks (because, on average, they are better at running with the football).
As Bugs Bunny would say, "What a maroon!" Tacitus should stick to squirming. He's better at it than thinking.
Hover your cursor over my head shot photo above until you can read the caption I put there a couple of years ago. (Also, check out the hidden caption on the photo of Mrs. Thatcher and myself.)
The term "evilcon" is a joke I made up as a pun on John O'Sullivan's categorization of myself as an "evolcon" in his 1999 National Review article "Types of Right." John wrote:
5. Evolutionary Conservatives. This is an almost wholly intellectual group (e.g., Steve Sailer, John McGinnis, Charles Murray)— not a politician brave enough to stand with them — who have realized two things: first, that lessons of the new science of evolutionary psychology are largely conservative ones about an adamantine human nature, the natural basis of sex roles, and so on; second, that the knowledge gained from the Human Genome Project and the rise of genetic engineering will throw up some fascinating and contentious political issues in the increasingly near future.
Everybody's got to have a label these days: neocon, paleocon, whatever. But I'm not sure that mine is working out. A few years ago in National Review, John O'Sullivan described Charles Murray and myself as the first "evolutionary conservatives" - i.e., conservatives who actually know something about the science of human nature. "Cool," I thought. Still, this "evolcon" label has not proven a good career move for Chas and me. That's "evolcon," not "evilcon," dammit!
Spiderman 2 -- Just as with the first movie, the action is too fast and the drama too slow. But, who am I to argue with a $115 million opening weekend?
All in all, Spiderman is still the Cadillac of nerd movie franchises.
The best thing about the new movie is director Sam Raimi's all-out assault on the butt-kicking babe fetish, that pseudo-feminist trope about how pretty girls can easily beat up big strong men that infests almost all of Raimi's competition. You know how in the climactic fight in every blockbuster for the last five years, the willowy 105 pound love interest will always punch out the bad guy to cheers from the audience? Well, in Spiderman 2, while Spidey (Tobey Maguire) and Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina), with his four extra robot arms, are battling it out at the end, Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) picks up a two-by-four and sneaks up from behind to whack the eight-limbed freak on the noggin (in itself, a rather old fashioned female movie move -- nowadays, we are mostly shown a semi-anorexic leading lady socking a burly bad man right on the jaw as if she was John Wayne). But, in Spiderman 2, unlike in every other movie this summer, the bad guy turns out to be stronger than the starlet. Without even turning around, Doc Ock dismissively flicks Mary Jane across the room.
Just to rub in his contempt for the butt-kicking babe cliché, Raimi repeatedly shows beautiful women reacting to Doc Ock's attacks not by slamming him around with their kung fu moves, but by looking straight into the camera lens from about 6 inches away and screaming for about ten seconds straight with their mouths so wide open their tonsils show. In one scene, three ladies in a row cut loose with extended screams. It would be awfully annoying if it wasn't so obvious that Raimi is just demonstrating his independence from this particularly stupid stereotype.
Military Intelligence -- Not an Oxymoron. In an article arguing against the draft, Fred Kaplan in Slate recounts some of the same points I mustered last year on the same topic in VDARE. Kaplan writes:
In 2002 (the most recent year for which official data have been compiled), 182,000 people enlisted in the U.S. military. Of these recruits, 16 percent were African-American. By comparison, blacks constituted 14 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds in the U.S. population overall. In other words, black young men and women are only slightly over-represented among new enlistees. Hispanics, for their part, are under-represented, comprising just 11 percent of recruits, compared with 16 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds.
Looking at the military as a whole, not just at those who signed up in a single year, blacks do represent a disproportionate share—22 percent of all U.S. armed forces. By comparison, they make up 13 percent of 18-to-44-year-old civilians. The difference is that blacks re-enlist at a higher rate than whites. (Hispanics remain under-represented: 10 percent of all armed forces, as opposed to 14 percent of 18-to-44-year-old civilians.)
Kaplan doesn't point out what others have noted: that blacks are less likely to be found in combat ranks than their total numbers would suggest. But a major cause of that is that lots of black women join the military, so I don't think it's fair to say that black men in the military avoid combat more than white men in the military do.
Then, Kaplan says something which I'm surprised the editors let slip into Slate, which, being owned by Microsoft, almost never says anything non-boring about race or intelligence and almost never-ever says anything about race and intelligence:
In 1981, African-Americans made up 33 percent of the armed forces. So, over the past two decades, their share has diminished by one-third. This decline began in the mid-'80s, when the military decided no longer to accept re-enlistments from soldiers who scored low on the aptitude test.
As a result, the scores have risen since the '80s. More than that, the aptitude of U.S. military personnel now exceeds that of American civilians.
Scores are divided into five categories. Categories I and II score in the 65th to 99th percentiles. Category IIIs score in the 31st to 64th percentiles, Category IVs in the 10th to 30th percentiles, Category Vs in the bottom 10th percentile. Here's how the scores break down, for recent recruits and for civilians:
Obviously, though, there aren't too many who score very high in the enlisted ranks. My wife got turned down by the Army many years ago for scoring too high on her IQ test. The military doesn't like wisenheimers who think they are smarter than their officers... and are right. Still, this is a strong overall IQ profile even without the really high scorers.
Black enlisted personnel score quite well on the military's aptitude test (some parts of which are the IQ test used in The Bell Curve). As I wrote before the Iraq Attaq in "The Army's Race Relations Secret Weapon":
It would be wonderful if racial gaps could be made to disappear with just a little discipline. But the Army has a secret weapon (for improving the racial situation): it carefully selects which applicants it accepts. Black and white recruits are quite equal even before they join up...
White and black enlistees come from families with similar incomes. A 1999 Defense Department study found that among American households as a whole, the average income for whites was $44,400 and for blacks $27,900. Among enlistees, however, the racial gap was almost non-existent. White recruits came from households averaging $33,500 per year versus $32,000 for blacks - i.e. a figure well above the black national average.
Perhaps most importantly, the Army is a heavy user of aptitude tests. A surprisingly high fraction of young Americans are ineligible to join the Army because of lack of intelligence – extrapolating from Charles Moskos and John Sibley Butler's figures, about a fifth of all whites and three-fifths of all blacks wouldn’t make the cut.
The brain power of those accepted is impressive. Moskos and Butler found that in 1994:
"83 percent of white recruits scored in the upper half of the mental aptitude test (compared with 61 percent of white youths in the national population), while 59 percent of black recruits scored in the upper half (compared with 14 percent of the black youths nationwide)."
In other words, the Army's black enlisted personnel score just as well on the general aptitude test as the average white American. (African-American officers average even better, of course.)
There are still differences, so whites tend to predominate in the most intellectually-challenging military jobs. Still, by drawing just from blacks with relatively high IQs, the Army has managed to sidestep a huge number of problems.
So the magic race relations bullet that the military has found turns out to be - IQ tests.
And keeping out the lower-scorers.
This will be hard to apply in America at large.
Does being happy make you prejudiced or does being prejudiced help you stay happy (and alive)? Jim Holt worries in the NYT:
The happier your mood, the more liable you are to make bigoted judgments -- like deciding that someone is guilty of a crime simply because he's a member of a minority group. Why? Nobody's sure. One interesting hypothesis, though, is that happy people have an ''everything is fine'' attitude that reduces the motivation for analytical thought. So they fall back on stereotypes -- including malicious ones.
Let's see, Holt is claiming that people like me who analyze the social behavior we see around us as well as government statistics in order to develop useful prejudices about the varying propensities of different demographic groups to commit crimes (e.g., blacks are imprisoned 9.1 times and Hispanics 3.7 times more than non-Hispanic whites, with Asians imprisoned less than whites) somehow suffer reduced "motivation for analytical thought"? Holt's implication that I, personally, don't engage enough in analytical thought fails to persuade.
A more interesting hypothesis is that people who have prejudices about which minority groups are more dangerous to be around on a street late at night (like, say, me or Jesse Jackson), are happier because we are less likely to be victims of crime and other nasty surprises.
I'm reminded of an anecdote I told in VDARE back in 2000:
Actually, now I come to think about it, I do recall meeting one (1) man who never engaged in racial profiling. At a wedding reception in 1985, I got to talking with someone from Grant's Pass, Oregon. He was most upset by how whites (other than himself) worried more about black muggers than muggers of other races. "That's pure racism!" he insisted.
I proposed to him a thought experiment. Say your wife's car runs out of gas in the middle of the night in a desolate neighborhood. She has no idea which way to walk to find a gas station. However, if she walks one way she has to pass by a half dozen black youths lounging on a corner. If she walks the other way, she would have to pass by a half dozen Indian immigrant youths. Which way would you prefer she went?
"I would be completely indifferent," he replied.
"Well, then, for your sake, I'm glad you live in Grass Pants, Oregon."
"Where I live is irrelevant!" he responded triumphantly. "I've already been mugged three times!"
To be honest, I can't imagine getting much pleasure out of the techno-noir fantasy world. I had my share of little-boy, action-comedy fantasy pleasures when I was a child, but I put them aside as a teen when I discovered art, sex, and France. And since eroticism has always been central to my interest in Culture, my own fantasies tend to run off in the general direction of actresses, women, sailboats, beaches, Provence ... I'd never, ever choose to spend fantasy time in a drizzly, silicon-implanted, cyber-decaying, back-alley Tokyo. This world looks like a nightmare to me, and not an alluring one. It doesn't turn me on and make me want to battle it out with bad guys; instead it makes my brain hurt.
Hey: a half-baked, admittedly not-yet-very-catchily-expressed theory? That there are two classes of grown men: those who really love women, and whose fantasy lives are centered around women; and those who don't, and whose fantasy lives center around guy stuff. Group One: men for whom women are the great adventure. Group Two: men for whom women are at best supporting players in the great adventure.
Something that often surprises me about American men is how many of them belong to Group Two. They may want women around, and they may love how pretty and pleasing women can be. But woman as mystery; as source of life and creation; as poetry; as endlessly-tormented (and occasionally ecstatic) creatures of instinct, emotions, and ideas ... Well, doesn't it seem that remarkably few American men get fascinated by this package?...
Did you ever read the critic Leslie Fiedler? One of his theses was that much American art is basically juvenile -- boy stuff. "Moby Dick"? "Huckleberry Finn"? Adventure yarns for the pre-pubescent mind. His explanation for this phenomenon -- adult malehood as an extended boyhood -- is that part of what Americans were running away from when they fled the Old World (the ones who fled the Old World, anyway) was adult sexuality. Given half a chance, the typical American guy will sneak away from the gals and head out to the frontier, there to shoot guns and avoid bathing. It seems that the cyber-world is the up-to-date version of Fiedler's American frontier, doesn't it?
This line of thinking helps explain why American movies these days seem so eroticism-free, despite all the glossy pecs and tummies on display. It's bizarre how the foreground of American life features so much aggressive "sexiness," while the general gestalt -- the background texture -- is so exhaustedly un-erotic. American movies these days are generally corporate, cyber, Dolby, and techno. The gizmos and gimmicks are the new frontier, and they seem to be absorbing all the energy. And what's erotic about that? Roger Ebert, interviewed in Rosanna Arquette's silly documentary about movies and actresses, confessed to being surprised by today's young-guy moviegoers. "They aren't interested in sex!" Ebert marveled, more or less. "Back in my day, sexiness and actresses were a big part of why a young guy would go to the movies."
Colby Cosh's capsule video reviews: Colby has been concentrating more and more on Canadian affairs. For us Americans, it's a little hard to follow, but God knows Canada needs him. Here he takes a break to write single paragraph reviews of recent movies now on video. For example,
Road to Perdition: Tom Hanks plays a button man whose murdering ways get his wife and children (I forget exactly how many) killed, but who is healed and redeemed and whatnot as he flees his betrayers with his last surviving brat in tow. The whole thing's a very nice opportunity for the old man and the boy to get to know each other, and even to engage in a little comic business--at Al Capone's expense, no less! Too bad the pair chose to flee towards the town with a name ripped from the pages of A Child's Garden of Lameass Foreshadowing. Sam Mendes seems to have arrived just in time to answer America's undiscovered need for a stupid, gauche version of John Sayles.
"More and more, I tend to grade war movies on how well they give you a mental picture of the tactical situation... We Were Soldiers takes special care with the viewer's internal map, specifying the various points of Vietnamese access to the encircled U.S. landing zone."
To the more civilized male mind, much of the appeal of battle stories is their tactical resemblance to sports (no doubt, the causal relationship runs the other way around -- sports are interesting because they resemble the primordial preoccupations of battle and hunting). The second half of Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket might have been the best ever at making clear how important angles are in urban warfare. Today, 15 years after seeing it, I could almost draw a map of the setting: where the sniper was, where the Americans were pinned down, and what corners of what buildings gave them some cover.
Choppy editing like in Top Gun is the enemy of understanding. Same with sports movies, which almost never let you understand what's going on anymore. Back in 1979's The Black Stallion, however, Caroll Ballard could use long tracking shots in the horse race to make a beautiful point about the boy jockey's maturation in the crisis. Having fallen far behind at the beginning of the race due to the boy's mistake, his horse has almost caught up going into the last turn. There's an opening on the rail just wide enough for him to squeeze The Black through ... if he's a good enough jockey, like Willie Shoemaker was riding Fernando in his last Kentucky Derby win. The kid decides to go for it, then realizes that he's the worst jockey in the race but The Black is the best horse. So, he pulls back, then swings The Black way out wide on the turn -- it's the longer way home but away from trouble -- and the kid just lets the big horse blow away the competition down the stretch. So seldom do you see sports (or war) movies like this where everything is made clear.
Speaking of Canada, the basic problem with the place is that there is only one government ruling this vast expanse of land. With no military threats and a free trade pact America, there's no need for one leviathan up there. Worst of all, Anglo Canada failed to expel Quebec long ago. Freedom of speech has been undermined to keep Canada multicultural.
With independent Quebec blocking contiguity with the Atlantic provinces, the Maritimes, which have been destroyed by welfare paid for by the rest of Canada, should then be expelled for their own good.
Energy rich Alberta could become independent or petition to join America, where it would culturally fit in well with places like Colorado.
British Columbia could be it's own country, or join the U.S. where it would be a good match with Washington and Oregon.
That would leave Ontario and however many plains provinces as wish to stay with it as a coherent little country.
Clinton vs. Grant as Memoirist: A reader writes:
Interestingly, the best memoirs of an ex-President were written by a general who 1) did not write a word about his presidency and 2) wrote the book himself. Grant, like other 19th Century West Pointers, was taught to write clear, concise English because you had to be able to do that to issue effective orders that would not end in catastrophic confusion on the battlefield. Terseness and clarity became a lifelong habit. Editorial wisdom, or throat cancer, saved Grant from trying to write about his years in the White House, which probably bored him as much as they upset the intellectuals of his time.
Grant was magnificent in a crisis, but terribly prone to boredom, and thus drinking, once life was going well. Dying of cancer and faced with leaving a mountain of debts, he rose to Mark Twain's challenge and composed his autobiography while in pain and so poor that he had to accept a resort hotel's offer to write his book sitting on their the front porch as a tourist attraction.
The worst writing is probably done by very intelligent people, who can think of every dependent clause and useless qualifier, with no habit of writing discipline. The young Clinton's letter from Oxford to his draft board, whatever you think of the sentiment, was written much better than his memoirs.
I was struck by another difference between Grant and Clinton, at least from the excerpts of the latter. In recounting his youth, Grant wrote about encounters with the people around him, his father, his friends, local white trash and a horse-trader who took advantage of his trustfulness. A lot of Clinton's childhood memories are of his own emotional reactions to movies, pop music and political events as seen through the print and broadcast media. Sometime after W.W.II, children really did experience much of their lives sitting in front of a screen or an electric speaker. It may have been genuinely moving at the time, but it sure is tedious and trite in the recounting.
My wife's chief impression of Clinton's interview on Charlie Rose last night was his self-absorption. No funny stories about the summit where Yeltsin was so smashed he forgot he wasn't a Communist anymore, or whatever. Just Bill talking about Bill's feelings about Bill.
I think this, especially his Oprahized vocabulary, accounts for some of his popularity: the pleasure little people take in knowing that the big man with his finger on the nuclear button wallows in the exact same feelings of self-pity they do. They can feel his pain.
Out of the Mouths of 87-Year-Olds -- My father was trying to denounce rap music yesterday, but he couldn't quite remember what it's called. Fortunately, he stumbled upon the perfect mistake: "I hate that yap music."
A quarter century of waste of African-American male musical talent, and somebody finally figures out what to call it.
Did Clinton Have a Ghostwriter? When military men like Colin Powell and Chuck Yeager sign a contract to do their memoirs, they immediately search out the best possible as-told-to hack and give him the added inducement to join up by letting the ink-stained wretch have his name right on the cover along with Mr. War Hero's. Heck, Anthony Zinni let Tom Clancy put his name on the cover of his autobiography in typeface about three time's bigger than his own. That's why military memoirs are often good reads. Generals have big egos, but realistic ones: their self-esteem isn't tied up in being a writer, so they work well with pros.
In contrast, when Dan Rather got a big advance to write his autobiography The Camera Never Blinks, he subcontracted the actual writing to Mickey Herskovitz, but, Dan's ego wouldn't let him mention his ghostwriter's name.
So, what's the story on Clinton? Did he hire a hack?
Judging by his autobiography's opening sentence, with its brain-melting load of eleven prepositional phrases:
"Early on the morning of August 19, 1946, I was born under a clear sky after a violent summer storm to a widowed mother in the Julia Chester Hospital in Hope, a town of about six thousand in southwest Arkansas, thirty-three miles east of the Texas border at Texarkana."
I fear that he wrote it all by himself.
Having just gotten back from sitting around JFK for four hours, I was reminded of the opening of my upcoming review from The American Conservative:
In How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, Toby Young's lightly fictionalized memoir of flopping as a celebrity journalist in New York, his humiliations are artfully aggravated by simultaneous spots of preposterous luck enjoyed by his real life friend Sacha Gervasi, a fellow Fleet Street hack who ventured to Hollywood instead. When Young gets fired from Vanity Fair, for example, Gervasi sells a knock-off of "The Full Monty" for a half million.
But when I idly checked the invaluable Internet Movie Database last year, Gervasi's run of good fortune seemed kaput. His new screenplay was a claustrophobic-sounding fable about an Eastern European traveler stuck permanently in an airline terminal. It sounded like Waiting for Godot meets No Exit, with a dollop of The Trial for added moroseness. I couldn't help thinking of "The Simpsons" episode where Krusty the Klown - having lost the rights to feature "Itchy & Scratchy" cartoons - desperately substitutes Communist Czechoslovakia's favorite animated existentialists "Worker and Parasite."
I gleefully scanned down to see which minor-leaguers had blundered into putting Gervasi's career-killing concept on screen:
Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks.
I should have guessed that the only people who'd think a movie about hanging out at "The Terminal" for nine months sounded like fun would be superstars so rich that their only recent experience with airports is the five feet of tarmac between the limo and the Gulfstream.
UPDATE: Toby Young emails me: "I think you're the only person to connect the film with my book." (Toby used a pseudonym for Gervasi in his memoir, so I had to do about 10 minutes of Googling to find out that "Alex de Silva" was actually Sacha Gervasi."
Although "The Terminal" has proven a bust at the box office, Gervasi, the luckiest man in show biz, is already signed to write another film for Tom Hanks and one for Jim Carrey, too.
Anyway, Toby's How to Lose Friends and Alienate People is a worthy successor to Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies, Jay McInerney's Bright Lights, Big City, and the "Peter Fallow" sections of Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities. (Wolfe based the drunken, sponging British journalist primarily on Anthony Haden-Guest, the illegitimate brother of actor Christopher Guest, who is an English baron.)
Click here for new VDARE column on Larry Bird's "gaffe" -- And, yes, in the 3rd paragraph, that should be "U. of Miami," not "Miami U." Even Notre Dame could probably beat the Ohio liberal arts college.
Human biodiversity in Montana basketball -- A reader writes:
Every year the best Montana high school boy's basketball players are selected from around the state (12 of them) to play the best Wyoming high school boys. ... Three of the starting five boys on the Montana team were Crow speaking Crow Indians (I'm a Crow) and four of the five Wyoming starters were African-Americans.
I was then a school administrator on the Crow Reservation. My secretary's younger brother was one of the Crow kids. The advantages for the Crow were both genetic (average adult male height is 6'3"...our players averaged 6'7"), and life style (Crow boys start playing basketball soon after they begin to walk).
I talked to my secretary's brother (6"8") and asked him about the games. He had never played against African- Americans before. He was amazed at how high they could jump (even though much shorter than the Crow kids), and how strong they were. He was convinced that if the Crow were just an inch or so shorter that the Wyoming team would have wiped them out. He also felt that the 15 years experience he and the other Crow had also helped (he was 18)...
Bergman's Law states that a given species of mammal gets progressively taller the farther away from the Equator they get. Whitetail deer in Montana and Alberta are almost twice the size of Florida or south Texas deer. Moose in Alaska are much larger than those in Colorado, etc. [One refinement to the law for humans is that polar peoples, like Eskimos and Lapps, tend to be shorter than peoples in cold but not frigid areas.]
The MT/WY area is the furthermost south that the Crow Indians have ever lived in the past 15,000 years (at least). Mountain men referred to the Crow as the "Giants of the Plains" in the 19th. Century. In the Montana high school basketball circuit Crow are generally the tallest, followed by Blackfeet, then Cheyenne, Sioux, Cree, Atsina, Caucasians/Blacks, other Indians, Japanese (Big Horn County), and Hmong (shortest and mainly in Missoula County).
I'm home from the U.S. Open golf tournament -- New Yorkers love Phil Mickelson, who made a great effort but came a cropper on the next to last hole and lost to the indomitable Retief Goosen. On the train ride back to JFK, the sunburned mob of golf fans were stunned and depressed that Phil, the new Arnold Palmer, hadn't won.
By the way, Shinnecock Hills is a brutal test of golf, but for pure fun, the adjacent course, the National Golf Links of America, with its 300 sand traps has to be the most enjoyable Byzantine maze of a golf course this side of St. Andrews.
American Economic Recovery Not for Americans: The LATimes notices what Ed Rubinstein has been talking about in VDARE for months:
The report by the nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center found that workers who were not U.S. citizens claimed 378,496 jobs out of a net increase of 1.3 million from the first three months of 2003 through the first three months of this year. The share of jobs going to noncitizens — 28.5% — was particularly notable because workers who were not U.S. citizens accounted for fewer than 9% of all those holding jobs in the United States.
In my neighborhood, the low interest rates are subsidizing a lot of remodeling and rather pointless and tasteless upgrading of landscaping. (You can't just have a lawn anymore, you need to have a serpentine walk and some mounding.) Here in California, builders and landscapers employ huge numbers of illegal aliens. So, much of the cash the Fed has been pumping into the system winds up in the pockets of illegals.
George Washington's Farewell Address vs. the Neocons' Obsession: Blogging will be light for a few more days, so today's guest blogger is the Father of Our Country:
"So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.
"As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practice the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the public councils ?"
reader's point on the Germans adopting humility about their work and
everything else in Germany makes sense to me. And, whatever their
feelings or advertised attitudes about work, Germans seem to take their
professional responsibilities much more seriously than other Europeans.
Whenever I call a German businessman I haven't talked to in five years,
even using a five-year-old telephone number, I get a snappy, "Guten
Tag, Wolfgang," within two rings, anytime between 8:30 am and 5 pm
on a workday. Whether you call it pride or guilt, it seems to produce
the same very happy result.
Dysculturalism: We need an agreed upon pair of words that are equivalent to eugenic and dysgenic, only for nurture rather than nature. For example, if well-educated people adopt the children of poorly-educated women (as happens frequently these days), that would be eucultural, or whatever you want to call them. On the other hand, if more kids grow up in settings ravaged by crack, that would be dyscultural.
With that in mind, a reader writes on the topic of Jewish eugenics that current Israeli policies are dyscultural:
Whatever might have been the favored ideas of some pre-state Zionist leaders, the actual law of the State of Israel is both strongly pro-natal and nondiscriminatory on either a national or a health basis. This system of pro-natal incentives - which in particular encourage large families - have resulted in the perverse situation where the productive classes in Israel are subsidizing the large families common among the ultra-Orthodox (who are strikingly under-productive because of their refusal to join the armed forces and consequent inability to work legally) and among the Arab sector (who are also less-productive than Jewish Israelis, and who also are questionably loyal to the state). These two segments are a rapidly growing proportion of the Israeli population, with quite serious consequences for the long-term health of the state. Israel would be well advised to modify its pro-natal policies by giving larger subsidies for second third and fourth children, with no further subsidy for further children. This would encourage "mainstream" Israelis who now opt for 1, 2 or 3 children to have another child, without outrageously subsidizing Haredi and Arab families who want 8, 10, or 12 children and are a drain on the state. That won't make the problem go away, but at least Israelis could say they were no longer encouraging it!
Samuel Huntington from the Bronx -- A reader attended a lecture by the latest object of neocon hatred, Prof. Samuel Huntington of Harvard:
Well, Washington D.C. is slipping. When Sam Huntington discussed his latest book on Who Are We? at the local bookstore, there was only one black guy in a KKK costume at the entrance waving a sign comparing Huntington and Cheney to Hitler. Only one. This is progress.
Huntington gave a firm but moderate summary of his main points, which seem to me so common sensible that he could better be charged with banality than with outrageous views. The early questioners raised the trite objections politely, and he met them convincingly.
Interesting sub-point along the way: Huntington says an important element of America's foundational Anglo-Protestant culture is a strong work ethic. He cited surveys that show that, not only do Americans work harder and longer than other peoples, but 87 percent of Americans are proud of their work, versus much lower proportions in other nations, including an abysmal 30+ percent of Germans.
That German figure leaped out at me. Didn't the Germans originally have at least as strong an attachment to work as our WASP-y ancestors? What happened? Well, Germans spent a century or so organizing work under socialism and semisocialism and big corporations and big unions. We didn't.
And waves of generally assimilated immigrants happened in the US in the 19th and most of the 20th Century. Maybe, without these earlier immigrants, our hardworking Anglo-Protestant population would have divvied up the economic goodies and degenerated into a nation of "I'm All Right, Jack" slothballs, like the English did.
I don't think Huntington would object to that argument. He makes clear throughout that he is arguing about the importance of a national culture, not the racial ancestry of the individuals in it. His worries about recent Mexican and Latin immigration are that they will alter the culture, not the color, of the US.
And Huntington himself is interesting. Though carrying a WASP name and looking every bit the old New England gentleman, he talks like a Brooklyn Jewish guy of the 1930s. Or maybe this is just a generic, raspy urban accent. [He's actually from the Bronx.]
Ah, that old Brooklyn training. Whenever one of the lefty questioners got up to the mike and began to preface his question with a litany of rubbish, Huntington would cut him off with, "Yeah, I get the point."
He says he has to stay sharp for his classes of Harvard undergraduates, who he says are very bright, but does not need to break much of a sweat for his graduate students, who are considerably duller. Hmm. That does say something about what kind of person goes to graduate school in most of the social sciences these days. The less-than-brilliant with an ax to grind.
An important article on fighting AIDS in Africa -- Helen Epstein writes on "The Fidelity Fix" in the NYT Magazine:
As experts come to understand more about the African AIDS epidemic, it seems clear that regular sexual contact with more than one person is the key human behavior that enables the rapid spread of H.I.V. Since 2002, international organizations have promoted an approach called ''A.B.C.,'' which stands for abstain, be faithful, use condoms. But the ''be faithful'' part has largely fallen through the cracks, and that may well have undermined efforts to fight the epidemic.
It's not clear why most AIDS campaigns in southern Africa have avoided the subject of infidelity. Perhaps the topic seems weighted with moral judgment; perhaps Western advisers in particular feel it would be insensitive to raise it; perhaps they also feel it would be futile to try to change deeply rooted patterns of behavior. Even secular public-health workers have endorsed programs that encourage teenagers to abstain from sex until they are older -- as long as they are informed about other methods of prevention -- but they have been far more reluctant to tell adults what to do. Whatever the reason, programs to encourage monogamy have seldom been seriously tried in southern Africa. Government planning documents, United Nations agency reports, AIDS awareness campaigns and AIDS education curriculums are strangely silent on the subject. The Bush administration's $15 billion President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief discusses faithfulness, but while it sets aside 33 percent of H.I.V.-prevention funds for abstinence-until-marriage programs, it fails to segregate funds to discourage infidelity. In April, Daniel Halperin, senior H.I.V.-prevention adviser at the United States Agency for International Development, and colleagues put it this way in The British Medical Journal: ''Partner reduction has been the neglected middle child of the A.B.C. approach.''...
Studies show that people in southern Africa don't have nearly as many sexual partners as, say, homosexual men in San Francisco did in the 1980's, when reports of hundreds of sexual partners a year were not uncommon. Such behavior is rare in Africa, but many people -- like the boyfriends of Thokozile and Mcha -- do have a small number of longer-term, simultaneous or ''concurrent'' sexual relationships that may overlap for a few months or even years. This ''concurrency'' links sexually active people up in a giant network, not only to one another but also to the partners of their partners' partners -- and to the partners of those partners, and so on -- via a web of sexual relationships that can extend across huge regions. If one member contracts H.I.V., then everyone else in the web may, too.
Long-term concurrency is far more common in Africa than in Asia and in the West, where heterosexual people tend to practice ''serial monogamy.'' Martina Morris, a sociologist at the University of Washington, has shown that concurrency is more of a public-health danger than serial monogamy because it permits the virus to spread to others quickly, rather than trapping it in a single relationship for months or years. In addition, a recently infected person is much more likely to transmit the virus than a person who has been infected for a while. Thus, when a serially monogamous H.I.V.-positive person eventually finds a new partner, his ability to infect has been reduced. Someone at the hub of a network of concurrent relationships, however, is likely to infect all of his partners very rapidly when he is first infected.
Unfortunately, the rest of the article deteriorates because Epstein can't wrap her Western feminist mind around the crux of the African problem, which is that African men tend to be not jealous enough to do what it takes to keep their lovers from sleeping with other men. In Africa, women tend to view men as sex objects rather than as providers, but, Epstein, as a white American feminist indoctrinated about the horrors of patriarchy is completely clueless about that.
What could African men do to keep their women monogamous? One thing they could do is get jobs so they can bring home the bacon to the wife and kids. Then, when the wife starts making eyes at the handsome guy next door, you threaten to leave and take your paycheck with you. Instead, in Africa women do the great majority of the work (80% of it by one estimate), so a man's threat to leave if cuckolded isn't as big a financial threat. Africa needs more patriarchy.
As you might have noticed, patriarchal monogamy would be a good solution to many of Africa's problems besides AIDS, such as Africa's extreme poverty.
You'll also note that many of the problems of the African-American community are descended from the lesser degree of monogamy they brought with them from Africa. This is one of the most important facts in all of the social sciences but it's also one of the most censored facts. James Q. Wilson's recent book The Marriage Problem is probably the best general source for the link between African sexual patterns and American social problems.
A Pretext for War is the new book by veteran intelligence agency expert James Bamford, whose 1982 book on the NSA, The Puzzle Palace, introduced the public to that mysterious entity. From a review in Time:
But the intelligence community's shaky performance also made the agency vulnerable to another kind of attack: the one mounted by a group of hard-line neoconservatives who took over at the Pentagon and in the Vice President's office when Bush became President. Long suspicious of the CIA if not openly hostile to it, the neocons came into power asserting internally that the agency couldn't shoot straight and therefore its judgments couldn't be trusted.
The Bush hard-liners had long believed that stability could come to the Middle East and Israel — only if Saddam Hussein was overthrown and Iraq converted into a stable democracy. Led by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, they were installed at various national-security choke points in the government, and nothing moved without their O.K. Bamford comes very close to stating that the hard-liners were wittingly or unwittingly acting as agents of Israel's hard-line Likud Party, which believed Israel should operate with impunity in the region and dictate terms to its neighbors. Such a world view, Bamford argues, was simply repotted by the hard-liners into U.S. foreign policy in the early Bush years, with the war in Iraq as its ultimate goal. Bamford asserts that the backgrounds, political philosophies and experiences of many of the hard-liners helped to hardwire the pro-Israel mind-set in the Bush inner circle and suggests that Washington mistook Israel's interests for its own when it pre-emptively invaded Iraq last year.
The result was a war built on sand — and a CIA that lacked the will to take on its masters. Douglas Feith, a senior Pentagon official, set up several secret offices in the Pentagon that received data from Israel's own intelligence teams and coordinated its findings with them, partly as a way to get around CIA caution in the region. Bamford reveals that the original source of the spurious allegation that Saddam harbored "mobile biological-weapons labs" did not come from the brother of a top aide to Ahmad Chalabi whose code name was Curveball, but from an Israeli tip going back to 1994. Bamford quotes anonymous CIA agents who say that they suspected that much of the hard-liners' intelligence on weapons of mass destruction (WMD) was bogus but there was pressure from within and without to shut up about it.
Noah Millman has made a strong case that Iraq was hardly Israel's #1 target -- from Israel's perspective, Syria and Iran are bigger pests. Instead, the American neocons thought invading Iraq would be great for Israel, and the Likud government hardly objected to our taking out one of their lesser enemies for them.
Jewish eugenicists -- From the fine Israeli newspaper Haaretz:
"A shocking new study reveals how key figures in the pre-state Zionist establishment (i.e., Israel before it became an independent country) proposed castrating the mentally ill, sterilizing the poor and doing everything possible to ensure reproduction only among the `best of people.'"
Why is this supposed to be shocking? You'd have to be a stooge for all the politically correct propaganda to think that no Jews were ever interested in eugenics. Eugenics was highly popular among leftists and centrists at the time, including many Jews. John Glad, former director of the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies in the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the chief translator of The Black Book on the German Slaughter of Jews (Holocaust Library,1980), wrote in the Jewish Press:
"In the Weimar Republic, many Jewish socialists actively campaigned for eugenics, using the Socialist newspaper Vorwarts as their chief tribune. Max Levien, head of the first Munich Soviet, and Julius Moses, a member of the German Socialist Party, believed strongly in eugenics. A partial list of prominent German-Jewish eugenicists would include the geneticists Richard Goldschmidt, Heinrich Poll, and Curt Stern, the statistician Wilhelm Weinberg (coauthor of the Hardy-Weinberg Law), the mathematician Felix Bernstein, and the physicians Alfred Blaschko, Benno Chajes, Magnus Hirschfeld, Georg Lowenstein, Max Marcuse, Max Hirsch, and Albert Moll... The most prominent American eugenicist of Jewish extraction was the Nobel Prize laureate Herman Muller."
Muller moved to the Soviet Union and tried to convince Stalin to implement a eugenics program. Stalin, however, backed nurture over nature, putting the quack Lysenko in charge of Soviet biology and sending many Darwinian geneticists to the Gulag. Surprisingly, Muller got out of Russia alive.
In any case, eugenics was definitely not the tail wagging the Nazi dog. Glad writes:
"I performed a random search of 100 books dealing with German history during the Weimar and Nazi periods and which contained subject indexes; 96 of them do not show any mention of eugenics, and the mentions in the four that do are cursory. Clearly eugenics was not the ideological driving force behind National Socialism, but rather an afterthought."
Nor is eugenics foreign to the Jewish tradition. Nomi Stone writes:
"Jewish writings contain references to genetics and eugenics as far back as the Bible and Talmud. In Jewish law, it is prohibited to "marry a woman from a family of epileptics or lepers lest the illness be transmitted to future generations."
Further, eugenics has staged a successful comeback among Orthodox Jews due to Tay-Sachs disease. Stone writes:
"Tay-Sachs is an autosomal recessive disorder: if both parents are carriers of the defective gene, there is a twenty-five percent chance that the child will have the disease, and a fifty percent chance that the child will be a carrier of the gene. The confluence of these factors is quite rare, however, as the carrier rate in the population at large is 1/250. However, the disease is comparatively rampant in the Ashkenazi Jewish population; 1/27 Jews in the United States carries the gene."...
"Rabbi Joseph Eckstein pioneered an entirely new approach to Tay-Sachs disease in 1985, in light of the fact that he found all the available options either unappealing or irreconcilable with halachic (Jewish) law. His solution: to eliminate the gene from the Jewish population entirely. [No, this program only redistributes the genes so fewer people get two, while slightly more would have one -- assuming that carriers of one gene marry people with no genes.] Eckstein is the founder of an international genetic testing program called Dor Yeshorim, the "generation of the righteous." In the program, Orthodox Jewish high school students are given blood tests to determine if they have the Tay-Sachs gene. Instead of receiving direct results as to their carrier status, each person is given a six-digit identification number. Couples can call a hotline, if both are carriers, they will be deemed "incompatible." Individuals are not told they are carriers directly to avoid any possibility of stigmatization or discrimination. If the information were released, carriers could potentially become unmarriageable within the community.
During 1993, 8000 couples were tested, and eighty-seven couples who were previously considering marriage decided against it as they were at risk for having a child with the disease. The program then, aims to eradicate the disease through the venue of choice of mate."
The alternative is typically "is an amniocentesis several months into the pregnancy and then an abortion if the fetus has Tay-Sachs disease." Is that more moral?
Another alternative for couples who are carriers is artificial insemination. Stone writes, "This choice seems incongruous with the Jewish identity, and the very intimate link felt between the blood line/gene map and one’s ancestors and descendants."
The NBA Police Blotter: Here's a new book out this week: Out of Bounds: Inside the NBA's Culture of Rape, Violence, and Crime by Jeff Benedict. "Based on a first-of-its-kind investigation into the criminal histories of 177 NBA players from the 2001–2002 season, Out of Bounds shows that an alarming four out of every ten NBA players have a police record involving a serious crime."
A new VDARE.com column at left...
War Nerd on Saudi Arabia...
In an era when there's an increasing number of European and South American white players in the NBA, what happened to white American basketball players? : A reader writes...
First, they do as African-Americans do. Is there a kid today that doesn't dress like with a hip-hop sensibility, if not in total? Just about all teen fashion is influenced by it, because Hip-hop culture is everywhere, thanks to MTV. So even the white kids in French Lick these days are no longer on an island -- they have a window into what's cool. And it's not only dress -- with all the reality and personality tv out there, their habits and ways are also spreading. So they not only dress like 'em, they act more like them. I'm not sure if you've seen the New Balance commercial for their basketball shoe. It's a bunch of blacks and one white guy, who is the focus of the commercial. Except that the white guy acts no different than the blacks -- he trash talks, has a "black-cent", walks like them, hell, even plays like them in that he's the best player on the court! That's pretty much what is happening to the white basketball player. It's no longer cool to be a white jump shooter, like Steve Kerr, John Paxson or Fred Hoiberg. You have to have more of a black game, like Jason Williams of Memphis. Of course the great folly is that whites aren't good at playing a black style because [drum roll, please] they're white!
Second, video games. Where I live, if I see a kid over 13 and younger than 20, it's a rarity. Where are they? I assume they are all indoors playing PlayStation (or surfing the net). I have a few friends a few years younger than me and I'm amazed at their love of PlayStation. Well, younger, white kids with parents that let them have their way and can't say no are living in an alternate universe that is video games. Kinda tough to become the next Larry Bird if you spend more time shooting hoops on the TV than in your driveway.
"The Neocons' Man in Iraq" -- Here's the beginning of my article in the July 5th issue of The American Conservative:
One of the many conundrums revolving around Ahmed Chalabi, that International Man of Mystery, is why so many neoconservatives took seriously his assertions that he was devoted to democracy. In the Wall Street Journal, for example, Seth Lipsky extolled the convicted embezzler as a "democratic visionary." Why did it never occur to them that Chalabi might simply be blowing smoke? More broadly, why hadn't it dawned upon the neocons that their obsession with this kind of ideological declaration is outdated?
Hadn't liberals been embarrassed by megalomaniacal Cuban and Nicaraguan revolutionaries who orated passionately about democracy while they were hiding in the hills, but once in power quickly came to feel: "Hey, we didn't spend all those years in the jungle living on fried iguanas just to be voted out in some maricon election." Hadn't conservatives been burned by the thuggish Jonas Savimbi, the Angolan rebel who said all the right things about elections and free enterprise, but whose murderous behavior seemed to be based on the personal philosophy that: "I am the biggest Big Man, and therefore anyone who gets in the way deserves to step on one of my landmines."
Last February, an Oxford Research survey found that only 0.2 percent of Iraqis consider Chalabi the "leader they trust the most." Yet, the neocons long assumed that a majority in Iraq would vote for a man on the lam from a sentence of 22 years hard labor in neighboring Jordan for fraud in the collapse of the Chalabi family's Petra Bank.
"Divisive" and "Controversial" Issue Turns out to Be Unifying and Commonsensical: Below is a classic example of how liberals try to rule out of polite society any issue they can't win on the merits.
NICOLA BYRNE IN DUBLIN
Scotland on Sunday
FOR a country that takes pride in its warm welcome for visitors, one type of tourist will no longer be tolerated in Ireland. Amid accusations of racism, the electorate was last night due to pass a controversial referendum curbing so-called "citizenship tourism" by restricting rights for children born in the country to foreign nationals. Results from early exits polls suggest the referendum, labelled divisive by opponents, has been passed by a comfortable majority.
In reality, it turned out to be about as non-divisive as a democratic election can possibly be: around 80% of voters endorsed it. Further, as the article admits down below, "Ireland will now join every other country in the EU in not automatically granting citizenship by virtue of birth in the country." Boy, that's "divisive!"
So, when will America join the civilized world in denying tourists and illegal aliens the right to unilaterally give their babies citizenship in our country?
10th Anniversary of O.J.'s Murder Spree: From my famous article on interracial marriage, "Is Love Colorblind?" --
Probably the most disastrous mistake Marcia Clark made in prosecuting O. J. Simpson was to complacently allow Johnny Cochran to pack the jury with black women. As a feminist, Mrs. Clark smugly assumed that all female jurors would identify with Nicole Simpson. She ignored pretrial research indicating that black women tended to see poor Nicole as The Enemy, one of those beautiful blondes who steal successful black men from their black first wives, and deserve whatever they get.
Marcia wanted women, Johnnie wanted blacks, so they ended up with a highly disproportionate fraction of black women on the jury, and Johnnie turned out to be right: Race trumped gender.
Graduate degrees by state -- Washington D.C.: first in grad degrees, first in liberal voting, but last in NAEP scores for 8th grade public school students. In this table, there is a correlation between voting for Gore in 2000 and graduate degrees. Liberals seem to prefer to live in more stratified, inegalitarian societies.
The more I see of these tables by state, the better that Colorado and Virginia look.
Washington, D.C.: 23.6 percent
Are liberals smarter than conservatives? A reader writes:
I came across some data that is consistent with the data you presented showing no relationship between IQ and political persuasion. The General Social Survey asks respondents ten vocabulary questions and sums the number answered correctly as well as asking people where they fall on a seven point continuum ranging from extremely liberal (1) to extremely conservative (7). The correlation between these two variables for 19,369 respondents was -.03 [i.e., zilch]. I'm sure one important reason why there is no positive association between conservatism and intelligence is that the right half of the bell curve is indoctrinated in liberalism in college, and for some of them it sticks.
Ten things Bush can learn from Reagan:
A reader writes:
1. Develop curiosity about this world. Learn about this world. There are things that highly evolved beings like Humans oughta know.
2. Read. It's good for ya.
3. Have certain principles in politics (and stick with them).
4. Never take your voters for granted.
5. Develop humility and never think of yourself as greater than the last man on the street.
6. Be calm and composed. Never use foul words, don't lose your fuse and don't berate your advisors.
7. Learn to listen to what people say but never let anyone dominate the decision making process. Be your own man.
8. Don't develop a siege mentality. Learn to brush aside the snide remarks of your opponents without losing your composure.
9. Don't ape the Democrats, You're a Republican.
10. Be loyal to your own country and its people. Not Mexico.
"The Stepford Wives" -- I haven't seen the troubled new version of the 1975 feminist fable about how suburban men are murdering their wives and replacing them with dutiful robotic housewives, but, clearly, the only possible way to make this horror-fantasy-comedy relevant to 2004 would be to reverse the premise. Have the wives murder their unsatisfactorily normal husbands and replace them with robots who are programmed to be sensitive but macho hunks with the interests and tastes of gay men and who do tons of housework but also have executive jobs where they make more money than their wives do, or whatever impossible combination women want in men these days.
Reagan and Evil Space Aliens -- Something I always liked about President Reagan was that he'd occasionally point out that if extraterrestrial invaders were attacking, all of us Earthlings would team up right quick. For example, he told the United Nations:
"Perhaps we need some outside, universal threat to make us recognize this common bond. I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world."
It's an illuminating counterfactual, both because it instantly reveals how small the difference among us are in the big perspective, yet also how unlikely are the circumstances in which we would put them aside.
Unfortunately, when I Googled to find this, I saw that a large majority of the sites that quote Reagan on this are UFO nuts who assume that Reagan was letting slip the secret that we really are under attack from evil space aliens. Almost all the rest of the sites were Reagan-haters quoting this to prove that Reagan was some kind of UFO nut himself. I had to page through about 100 references on Google before I found this CNN documentary that treats the quote as the useful philosophical insight that it was.
Memo to Statesmen: Never engage in interesting intellectual speculation -- your citizenry can't handle it.
President Bush's eulogy for Ronald Reagan:
"He believed that bigotry and prejudice were the worst things a person could be guilty of."
Yeeeesh. How about, "He believed that being responsible for either the triumph of the Soviet Union or the nuclear annihilation of America was the worst thing a person could be guilty of."
The funny thing is that Bush the Littler really is a flat out True Believer in multiculti bilge. When Karl Rove appeared before derisive Republican Congressmen to defend the President's Invite-the-World guestworker plan, he gave up trying to defend that it was good for American citizens or good for Republicans. He just told them that it was the President's whim to allow virtually anyone in the world to movie to America if he could get a minimum wage job offer, so they'd better get in line behind the Great Leader. They didn't. (History may well record that the conservative crack-up that cost Bush re-election began on Jan. 7, 2004 when Bush shattered his own image among conservatives of infallibility and reliability by offering a downright loony immigration plan.)
If Bush were a Supreme Court justice, the liberal press would be full of articles about "the strange new respect" he's generating because he's "grown" in office (i.e., been more liberal than expected). But, it doesn't work that way for Presidents. See, Justices are in for life, so liberals have to cajole them into surrendering their principles. In contrast, they just want to vote Presidents out, no matter how much they compromise. Look at Nixon: he was a much more liberal President than, say, Bill Clinton, (for example, for two years his chief domestic adviser was Daniel Patrick Moynihan, later a liberal Democratic Senator), but did it help him become tolerated by liberals? Yeah, right.
"Napoleon Dynamite," a $400,000 comedy that was snatched up at the Sundance Festival for $3 million by Fox Searchlight, is the first feature written by two Brigham Young University graduates, 24-year-old director Jared Hess and his pregnant wife Jerusha. The director says, "The characters are inspired largely by people I grew up with in Idaho, especially by my five younger brothers."
At the screening I attended, Hollywood's Bright Young Mormons were out in force as the theatre resounded with the lovely laughter of wholesome-looking starlets from the Great Basin. The twenty-something crowd found the small town misadventures and eventual triumph of an ornery high school geek (voted "Most Likely to Find Sasquatch") a cartoonish but redolent delight. This mild, PG-rated film is winning bellylaughs from gentiles under-25 too, so the studio is now rolling it out to 1,200 theatres...
One of the less remarked demographic trends is that the makers of "Napoleon Dynamite" represent the future. As coastal sophisticates fail to reproduce themselves, an ever-increasing percentage of young white people come from conservative, religious backgrounds. Mormon Utah has by far the highest birthrate, of course, but in the 2000 election, the 19 states with the highest white fertility all voted for Bush, while nine of the ten states at the bottom of the white birthrate list voted for Gore.
The majority of the review along with a review of "Maria Full of Grace" is in the new issue of The American Conservative.
Will Iraq cost GOP control of Congress? -- The latest LA Times poll shows registered voters preferring Democratic candidates for House of Representatives by a horrifying 54-35 margin. That's an outlier, but here are the Democrats' margins in other recent polls: 13, 2, 9,3, 7, 2, 7. In contrast, in 2002, the GOP won by 5. It's starting to smell like 1994 in reverse.
Will Richard Perle be the new Strobe Talbott? Speaking of Voltaire, one of his best lines came after the British over-reacted to the loss of Minorca (not Malta, as I said earlier) in 1756 and had the Royal Navy admiral in charge hanged for treason. Voltaire quipped, "The English like to hang an admiral now and then to encourage the others."
One serious problem with American public life is that we don't. Famous men can botch things up massively and yet pay no price in their career. There has been a lot of schadenfreude recently about how the neocons who prodded us into this Iraq mess will never work in Washington again. Yet, some of them, such as Elliot Abrams, who already screwed up royally during Iran-Contra, embarrassing one Republican President, have wound up in positions of power in this Administration, embarrassing a whole new generation of Republican President. So, we may well see Douglas Feith, Michael Rubin, the rest of the whole gang of incompetents resurfacing in, say, a Frist Administration way down the road.
The most spectacular example of a man failing his way up the ladder might be Strobe Talbott. During the Reagan Administration, the old Kremlin-watcher (he translated Khrushchev's autobiography) pounded out one Time Magazine cover story after another thundering about how Reagan was handling the Soviet Union all wrong and would plunge the world into catastrophe. As you may have noticed, Talbott turned out to be 180 degrees wrong about the biggest issue of his life. But did this harm his career? Nah. His old college buddy Bill Clinton appointed him Deputy Secretary of State and put him, you guessed it, in charge of Russian relations. Once again, he proved worthless, uttering barely a peep as our pal Yeltsin and his cronies robbed Russia blind.
Having been almost as wrong about Russia as he was about the Soviet Union, was he unable to find prestigious work? Of course not! He's now President of the Brookings Institution, the premiere Democratic government-in-exile, and is no doubt polishing up his resume in the hopes that John Kerry will make him Secretary of State. Talbott would probably round out his career by blundering the world into a situation where China ends up conquering Russia, and then he'd totter off in his dotage to head the World Bank.
French Court Declares Voltaire Obsolete:
"Former French actress Brigitte Bardot was fined 5,000 euros (6,000 dollars) by a Paris court for writing a book in which she declared disgust with her country's tolerance of Islam."
Whatever happened to: "I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it"? Oh, well, I guess Diversity Sensitivity is more important than freedom of speech.
Seriously, diversity, in practice, is the enemy of free speech.
Reagan on starting wars: In 1983, he said:
"The defense policy of the United States is based on a simple premise: The United States does not start fights. We will never be an aggressor. We maintain our strength in order to deter and defend against aggression--to preserve freedom and peace."
Razib is back from Bangladesh with a data dump of impressions. Here's one:
Sometimes I wonder if Bangladeshi society will ever progress if their women remain so tied into maintaining their kin networks. Let me elaborate, women spend far too much of their time utilizing their "social intelligence" in my estimation. This is a general female tendency, but, in Bangladeshi society with its extended familial obligations, and the fact your friends and your cousins overlap almost to an identity, the constant chit-chat about social BS seems overwhelming (to me at least, the reputation of the family that your female third cousin by marriage married into is not something that should require 1 hour to discuss). Many of my female cousins do as well in school as my male cousins, but as the years go by, they seem to be drawn into the world of social gossip, to the point where most do not pursue any career after their degree (many go into purdah as well). These familial obligations also extend to males insofar as you are always expected to put up near relatives if they come to town. Spending all your time at the office seems implausible to me in a society where social interaction with near relatives serves as a crucial lubricant of the kinship networks that exist in place of civil society.
My point? Just as there some evidence that shows scientists become far less innovative after marriage, I wonder if the social pressures that intelligent Bangladeshi youth face means that they can never realize any real break-throughs (generalize this to societies that emphasize "family values"). For example, I can never imagine parents approving of their son or daughter spending their free time writing open source code when they aren't coding for a company, when they could be cementing bonds with relatives or arranging their future marriage and so cultivating their extra-kin network (which becomes part of the kin network).
"Bedtime for Bonzo" -- The problem with that much chortled over but seldom seen 1951 film is not that it's silly, as Richard Corliss assumes in Time, but that it's too serious. It's actually a meditation on the role of nature vs. nurture in criminality. Ronald Reagan plays a liberal scientist who wants to marry the daughter of the dean of his college. But the dean, an old-fashioned eugenicist/hereditarian, resists because Reagan's father is a career criminal. The reactionary old fogy wrongly believes that Reagan could have inherited a flawed character. So, to prove that environment matters more than inheritance, Reagan resolves to raise a chimpanzee to know right from wrong. So, this movie constantly denounced by liberals actually is actually a liberal attack on conservative ideas!
Reagan as an actor, Part 2 -- An announcer today mentioned that when Reagan and Carter rode together to Reagan's inaugural, Reagan tried to put the outgoing President at ease by telling funny nonpolitical stories about Hollywood moguls he had dealt with. When the humorless and clueless Carter got out of the limo, he asked an aide in bafflement, "Who is this 'Jack Warner' he keeps talking about?"
Richard Corliss in Time offers some condescending observations on Reagan's acting, but Sam Karnick comes closer to the mark in NRO, nicely skewering Corliss: "It is an interesting irony that the same people who derided Ronald Reagan's abilities as an actor, dismissing him as a B-movie bum, also frequently claimed that his success as a politician was entirely due to his acting ability."
Sam makes the astute point:
"On the deficit side, Reagan the actor is somewhat opaque emotionally in this film, as he frequently was throughout his acting career. It is often difficult to see, for example, that he feels true passion for the people he encounters; instead, he seems to be driven most deeply by abstract ideals and moral passions. This, too, was sometimes manifested in Reagan's personal life, especially in the contrast between his obviously deep and abiding love for his second wife and his oddly distant relationships with his children... This emotional opacity does not appear to me to constitute a great flaw in Reagan's film work, for it is merely the flip side of his idealism. It does, however, sometimes limit audiences' ability to identify and sympathize with his characters, and that is indeed a weakness for an actor."
Actors almost never think -- they feel. As Raymond Chandler wrote in The Little Sister: "If these people didn't live intense and rather disordered lives, if their emotions didn't ride them too hard -- well, they wouldn't be able to catch those emotions in flight and imprint them on a few feet of celluloid ..." That's why actors' political views are almost always silly. They really can't think past the first level of cause and effect because their primitive emotional reactions are so powerful. That Reagan, a man who preferred generalization and abstraction to emotional engagement with the people around him (he loved anecdotes about people because he could use them to illustrate larger principles), became a sizable movie star in Hollywood before bad luck eroded his career away, is quite remarkable. That he handled the dimming out of his stardom better than 99% of actors do is not surprising.
James Surowiecki's The Wisdom of Crowds -- I'm reading the new book by The New Yorker's business writer on how the judgments of large numbers of people are sometimes better than the judgment of experts. The first person to study this quantitatively was, as with so many other topics in the human sciences, Francis Galton, Darwin's smarter half-cousin. When Galton was 85 he visited a fair where people were guessing the weight of an ox. Hoping to show that the average person was pretty dopey, Galton obtained all 800 guesses and was startled to find that the average was off from the truth by only 0.1 percent. So, the octogenarian wrote up his surprising finding for Nature. (What a man Galton was!)
Surowiecki goes on to note that research shows that crowds are good at guessing how many jellybeans are in a jar and similar stunts because errors cancel each other out. Unfortunately, he doesn't offer explanations for why crowds are bad at guessing other facts. For example, although opinion pollsters don't like to conduct surveys that show that the average person is fairly ignorant about many of the topics pollsters ask about, I recall one in which the average estimate of what percentage of the population was black came out to 37% (actually, a little under 13%) and Jewish was 15% (actually, a little over 2%). I suspect that very few people check their arithmetic in their heads and say to themselves, "Whoa, that would mean white gentiles would be only 48% and that's too low."
The key part of the book consists of applying the old efficient markets hypothesis of stock picking (the concept that you can't beat the market on a regular basis) to other areas (although Surowiecki never mentions that 35 year old idea phrase, probably in an effort to make his book sound more novel). But he doesn't really explain why pseudo-markets like the Iowa Election Market tend to be more accurate than traditional predictive tools like the Gallup Poll, although the answer is obvious: because they piggyback off traditional sources of information like Gallup. For example, participants in the IEM look at not just the Gallup Poll but a dozen others. Without these pollsters spending large amounts of money to generate information, however, the market players would be pretty clueless. Similarly, if the crowd takes the average of the 11pm weather forecasts of the weatherguys on Channels 2, 4, and 7, they may well beat the best individual forecast, but that doesn't mean the crowd could beat the professional weathermen -- unless the pros first tell them what they think the weather is going to be.
In general, efficient markets are based on a fundamental free-rider conundrum. For example, it's a good idea not to try to pick stocks and instead to just buy into an index fund that just buys a basket of stocks equal to the S&P 500 (or whatever). Why spend time and money trying to outguess the market when the market is quite efficient? Good question. But if everybody did that, the market wouldn't be very efficient at all and then you'd be better off trying to outsmart the market.
Fortunately for the efficient markets hypothesis, we live in an age when information sources are absurdly generous, so it's easy to free-ride.
"Who Is the War Nerd? Umpty-Umpth Part" -- A reader writes:
I've been reading eXile.ru since you pointed to it on your blog. Shooting from the hip, I don't think Brecher's columns are being ghostwritten. Dolan's columns tend to go on and on and on, absolutely, single-mindedly hammering on the same theme. Ames' work, however, is more spontaneous. It tends to jump all over the map.
Perhaps that's why some suspect a collaboration. The War Nerd lies somewhere between the two. Brecher's stuff can digress, but for the most part his essays are focused and stunningly well researched. Nothing Ames or Dolan have written strikes me as being nearly as serious--or considering Brecher's dark humor, I guess the word I should use is "weighty." Even Ames's long Kosovo piece you linked to seems more of an attempt to reach an arbitrary number of bad reasons instead of the kind of integrated and deeper analysis you get from one of Brecher's pieces. In short, if the War Nerd is a put-up job, then Ames or Dolan or both should consider getting a job writing novels or screenplays, for they are geniuses when it comes to creating a character.
Also, if we're going to say that similarity in thought implies a single writer, what can we say about NRO? I rarely click on their articles anymore because they all say the same thing. Hibbs, Owen, Hanson, Goldberg, Lowry, etc, it doesn't matter. You pretty much know what they're going to say before you read it. You can't say that for the Exile and its writers, even if they are just one man.
"Who Is the War Nerd? 231st Part" -- A reader writes:
The War Nerd is Mark Ames, editor of the eXile.ru, period.
-Their writing styles are the same.
- Having grown up in Northern California (Saratoga), Fresno is someplace Ames knows about.
- Ames was a Republican until about 1991, leaving it for similar reasons as the War Nerd.
-Ames has said that he sometimes takes stimulants and stays up for days straight writing a whole issue of the eXile himself.
-Here's the clincher. This is Ames in 1999 carefully explaining, using impressive knowledge of the military history and hardware, why bombing the Serbs is a bad idea.(You'll like his point #6.)
Point #29 sounds a familiar note:
"29. We'll have to listen to more crap from fat armchair hawks like Tom Clancy. They'll bore their wives and clog the internet with coaching metaphors and tech jargon. Clancy will also get another Waffen-Twerpen novel out of it, just when the dork had finally run out of scenarios. Do you really want that?"
Mark Ames is - just like his alter ego - very much a bitter nerd, still angry at the tall jocks he knew in high school, and the adults they grow into:
It also explains why the War Nerd isn't interested in a paying writing job - he's already up to his ears in one. And why he corresponds only through Mark Ames. It's the simplest explanation.
Send me more suggestions on this burning question. America wants to know!
A number of people have sent me this article, but I don't see much in it:
President George W. Bush’s increasingly erratic behavior and wide mood swings has the halls of the West Wing buzzing lately as aides privately express growing concern over their leader’s state of mind. In meetings with top aides and administration officials, the President goes from quoting the Bible in one breath to obscene tantrums against the media, Democrats and others that he classifies as “enemies of the state.” Worried White House aides paint a portrait of a man on the edge, increasingly wary of those who disagree with him and paranoid of a public that no longer trusts his policies in Iraq or at home.
This sounds like any high pressure organization. What's changed, I'd guess, is that Bush doesn't look like a winner anymore to the people around him, so the personality quirks that seemed like the stigmata of his greatness as recently as New Year's Day now look like disastrous flaws. His aides, worried about blowing a re-election that looked like a sure thing, are looking for excuses. And who better to blame than the boss?
Reagan's brains -- Colby Cosh makes the important point that:
"Even amidst today's chorus of encomiums, you are not likely to hear many speak the unlikely truth: that between the two of them (Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher), Reagan might have had an equal or better grounding, personally, in the literature of political freedom. Americans suppose Reagan to have been the more "instinctive" proponent of free markets and free minds, but he and Thatcher took similar paths, and Reagan did it quicker, with less help. He didn't have Hayek living round the corner, nor a Keith Joseph applying the spurs to his political program. The American public and punditariat have still not absorbed Edmund Morris's discoveries that Reagan wrote the copy for his own radio broadcasts in the 1970's and his own speeches before he arrived at the White House; that he was an aggressive and sure-handed editor of his speechwriters' work as president; and that his papers contain "page after legal page of reasoned prose" in his own hand. Even Morris is still a little mystified about where it all came from."
The beautiful Reagan Library on a mountaintop at the west end of the Simi Valley has lots of Reagan's handwritten manuscripts on display, such as important letters he sent to Gorbachev. They read better than my handwritten drafts. Similarly, the transcripts of his 1970s radio broadcasts were published recently, along with numerous photographs of his handwritten drafts. He was an excellent pundit (and much else besides). His speechwriter Peggy Noonan pointed out in her book on Reagan that his own first drafts of speeches were heavy on statistics. The staff had to go through and make them more emotional.
It's odd to think of Reagan as an absent-minded professor type, but in many ways, that's what he was, an abstracted intellect. He knew he had a certain amount of brainpower and he devoted a very high percentage of it to thinking about the issues. The rest he concentrated on how best to communicate with the public, en masse. He gave very little of himself to the individuals around him, except for Nancy.
In contrast, the Presidents Bush are both Reagan's opposites: masters of charming people one on one. Neither Bush was particularly good at charming people en masse. The brilliant opening to Richard Ben Cramer's "What It Takes" describes Bush Sr. walking along a rope line of a few dozen VIPs and security men to get on the field of the Astrodome to throw out the first pitch at the All-Star Game, exchanging smiles and personalized jokes with each individual as an individual. To the people on the line, bigshots and working stiffs alike, it was a dazzling performance, but on national TV, Bush just looked spastic. In contrast, Reagan, who seldom bothered to try to remember individuals' names, always looked Presidential as he walked.
Bush the Second has his father's natural skills and weaknesses as a politician, but he's studied Reagan and improved on the visual side.
While Reagan was passionately interested in the issues, Bush the First took a more a professional interest in them. My impression is that Bush the Second doesn't really like to study the issues much at all, which is his main weakness.
New VDARE.com column at left...
Francis Fukuyama weighs in with a review of Samuel P. Huntington's Who Are We? called "Identity Crisis: Why we shouldn't worry about Mexican immigration."
A reader jots:
Fukuyama never gets around to offering any coherent answer to that question. Says immigration from moslem countries would be worse. uh huh. And mexican immigration would not be such problem if it were not for multiculturalism. uh huh. He does not say when that is going to go away. This is what passes for logic among really big picture thinkers like FF: X is not really a problem if I can envision some counterfactual scenario wherein X would not be a problem. Sigh.
In Senegal, 47% of marriages are polygamous according to an LA Times story. In mostly white Morocco to the north, only 3% are polygamous: "plural marriages are maintaining a stronger hold in black West Africa than in many Arab states." Of course, as is usual, this article makes no mention of all the Senegalese bachelors left over.
Chalabi uber alles! Danielle Pletka, vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, writes in an LA Times op-ed entitled: "U.S. Only Wounded Itself When It Betrayed Chalabi:"
"Of all the charges, passing secrets to Iran is the most serious. It is gravest, obviously, for the American who supposedly told Chalabi that we had broken Iranian codes. That person is governed by U.S. laws, and if he exists, he should be prosecuted. Chalabi, on the other hand, is a foreigner and owes us no fealty..."
Doesn't he owe us about 100 million clams worth of personal fealty? Not too mention the couple of hundred billion we've spent on his pet project? Even if he hadn't been the beneficiary of the Bush Administration's mad crush on him from 2001 to 2003, the American Enterprise Institute's notion that Chalabi, being a foreigner, has a moral and legal right to betray American secrets to the Iranians is a curious one indeed. We ought to arrest him now, just like we arrested Noriega when he was President of Panama.
Exactly what hold does Chalabi have over the American Enterprise Institute that could make them gabble like this? Does Chalabi possess Rasputin-like sexual magnetism? I really don't think so, but then what is the reason?
Ronald Reagan, RIP -- Peter Brimelow makes the key point that Reagan was such a successful President that many of the problems he was elected to deal with have been nearly forgotten. For example, remember inflation? Remember the Energy Crisis? Remember the long lines at gas stations in 1979? Reagan eliminated the chance that would recur by getting rid of Nixon's price controls on gasoline within a month of taking office. Most spectacularly, the Iranian hostage crisis evaporated when the frightened ayatollahs released the hostages while Reagan was giving his first Inauguration Address, before he could get back to the Oval Office and start pushing buttons. Most importantly, the threat of nuclear war that the Soviet Union posed is gone, along with the Soviet Union.
Reagan as a man -- The leftist historian Jim Chapin always pointed out that while he disagreed with Reagan's policies, he deeply admired the man's character and resilience. As a fairly young man, Reagan had seized the brass ring -- he'd become a genuine Hollywood movie star. (He was not, as you'll hear repeatedly this week, a B-movie actor, but an A-list leading man, one of the more popular stars in the world in the early 1940s.) Then, despite remaining sober and a consummate professional, his career slowly collapsed as he repeatedly just missed out getting the studios to give him the good roles. Most famously, Humphrey Bogart took "Casablanca" and "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" away from him. Obviously, Reagan wouldn't have been as great in them as Bogie was, but with Reagan in the lead roles, they still would have been career-making movies.
A lot of men wreck themselves with the same level of stardom as Reagan achieved early on -- Dennis Quaid, for example, wasn't the biggest star of the 1980s, but he nonetheless managed to become a coke addict and ruin his prime. But an even greater number of stars who suffered the bad breaks Reagan endured as the 1940s wore on would have become bitter drunks or lazy golfers or pathetic dinner theatre actors still hoping for the big comeback. Reagan, instead, built a titanic new career for himself.
Who is the War Nerd? 7th Part: One of the most knowledgeable sounding emails I received when I suggested that "Gary Brecher" might not be a real person, argued that he sounds like a collaboration between the eXile's editor Mark Ames and Ames' mentor John Dolan. Here's an article by Dolan about attending an academic conference in Budapest on the "Culture of Periodicals." Dolan writes:
"They wanted the eXile to take part, us being such a cutting-edge e-zine and all. To be honest, they wanted Brecher, but he doesn't go outdoors when he can avoid it, let alone make road trips to Europe. So I offered myself to the conference organizers as substitute."
Hmmmhmm ... Anyway, here are some book reviews by Dolan that show his interests and approaches are the same as the War Nerd: an ex-Delta Force commando's memoir and an analysis of Yeltsin-era organized crime. And here's an article on the Mongols. On the other hand, the stuff under Dolan's name isn't as good as the War Nerd's columns. So, the question remains open.
Josh Marshall claims: "Here at Talking Points Memo we've repeatedly noted the tendency for Republicans (and also non-Republicans) to argue that non-white voters somehow aren't quite real voters. The point is often framed as noting how up-the-creek Democrats would be without black voters."
Of course, this is about 179 degrees backward. For two decades we heard about how the GOP was doomed by the gender gap unless they shifted to the left on issues like gun control to get more women to vote for them. Simple logic shows that Democrats faced the mirror image problem, but that was, until very recently, seldom mentioned in the press because of the underlying, never-really-thought-about assumption that there was something wrong about appealing to the male vote because males don't really deserve to have their votes counted equally along with more deserving victim groups.
Similarly, we've all read hundreds of articles about how the GOP must win more of the growing Hispanic vote, so therefore the Republicans must further open the illegal immigration floodgates. As I've pointed out in VDARE.com since 2000, however, the logical alternative is for the GOP to win a slightly higher percentage of the white vote, but that alternative is almost never discussed in the press because the idea of a party trying to appeal to white voters is just too evil to contemplate. Yet, in fact, that is exactly what the GOP did, to win the 2002 elections, boosting their share of the white vote in House races from 55% in 2000 to 59% in 2002. (I bought and crunched the 2002 VNS data from Roper.)
Provocatively, if voters had to take a current events quiz and their votes were then weighted by their scores, white males would indeed turn out to be the most real voters. (Russell Kirk said men should be weighed, not counted.) But, I'd be perfectly happy if the press simply acted like everybody's vote counts equally (which they do), no matter how unfashionable their ethnic and gender identities might be.
"Get your Red Hot Chalabis!" -- I used to live next to Argyle Street in Chicago, which is full of Vietnamese restaurants run by people who had had the misfortune of siding with us during the late unpleasantness in their native land. Far fewer Iraqis are identifying with us, but I wonder what kind of cuisine those who do will purvey in America after we airlift them off the roof of the American Embassy. Personally, I think a "Chalabi" sounds like a particularly tasty hot sandwich, although it probably will not be prudent to order one from a refugee restaurateur since he'd likely spit in it while you weren't looking.
Imprisonment statistics -- "The incarceration rate for black men born in 1945-49 was 10.6 percent by the time they were in their early 30s, but increased to 20.5 percent for those born in 1965-69. Among white men the overall risk of imprisonment grew from 1.4 percent to 2.9 percent over the same time period. ... Among blacks, 30.2 percent of those who didn't attend college had gone to prison by 1999 and 58.9 percent of black high school dropouts born from 1965 through 1969 had served time in state or federal prison by their early 30s."
The total imprisonment rates are actually quite a bit higher because this study ignores local jails, which account for about 1/3 of all prisoner-days. So, the usual estimate that about 30% of black males are incarcerated at some point in their lives sounds about right.
Also, the black to white ratio is actually worse because, this, like most crime studies lumps most Hispanics in with whites. The best study I've seen that tries to disentangle this came up with these ratios: the black to white imprisonment rate is 9.1 to 1, while the Hispanic to non-Hispanic white ratio is 3.7 to 1.
Critics rave over newest Harry Potter -- except me. I dunno. There wasn't anything terribly wrong with it, but it struck me as a little less entertaining than the last one. I realize it was made by a prestigious foreign director rather than by Chris Columbus, but I always thought Columbus did an underrated job with the first two. He could easily have fouled up setting the template (and no director ever had more pressure riding on him not to screw up), whereas Cuaron has an easier job tweaking a successful series. The changes he made aren't huge (e.g., more filming outdoors during the day, but the weather is consistently depressing, and that got me down -- I'm pretty emotionally sensitive to the weather during a movie), and they didn't strike me as making it much better. But, it's basically another Harry Potter movie and if you like Harry Potter movies you'll find this one good enough.
Probably more relevantly, though, my 11-year-old said the new one was the best one yet.
CIA director gone -- It's good to see somebody finally getting (presumably) the boot over all the Administration's screw-ups, although Tenet probably wouldn't have been at the very top of my list to be axed. If I was Bush, I'd fire the liars first, then the incompetents.
Good to see Ken Griffey Jr.'s healthy again -- After three seasons of major injuries, Griffey's power is back. He was the one slugger during the Nineties that you knew for sure didn't take steroids because he didn't even lift weights. He hit 55 homers in back to back seasons, so that shows what a clean player can do these days. Of course, Griffey was always special -- he was recognized from his rookie season as the most physically beautiful player since DiMaggio. I don't think Griffey was the best ballplayer in the Nineties -- Bonds got a lot more walks -- but he was close. Even if Griffey dropped dead today, he'd go in the Hall of Fame -- his career so far is is directly comparable to that of Hall of Fame centerfielder Duke Snider of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who was great for just six years of so, only Griffey was significantly better in his best half dozen years.
Weirdest WSJ headline of the week:
U.S. diplomatic architecture is increasingly dull.
The new U.S. Embassy in Baghdad will likely fall short aesthetically.
WSJ staffer Catesby Leigh is concerned that too much design emphasis is being put on concepts like "blast resistance" and not enough on making an architectural fashion statement. Where do they get these people? Personally, for the Baghdad Embassy, I'd look to the Maginot Line School of Bastion Design.
A new War Nerd column -- "Darfur: A Whole New Hell." This one's on the horrible war of extermination in the west of the Sudan.
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