Sunday, August 30, 2009


I watched the movie Adventureland on DVD last week. A few thoughts:

  • The movie mostly avoided easy stereotypes. The was particularly evident in the portrayal of Connell (Ryan Reynolds), the married guitarist and Adventureland electrician with whom Em (the delightful Kristen Stewart) is having a secret affair. This kind of character is routinely protrayed as metaphysically evil (think the cheating fiance' in The Wedding Singer), but here the character is allowed decent behavior as well as reprobate. The downside is that because the movie does not intend for us to hate him, it cheats by keeping his wronged wife safely offscreen for all but a couple of seconds. And while the movie is willing to apportion part of the blame for the adultery to Em, it puts the word "homewrecker" in the mouth of Lisa P. (Margarita Levieva), the beautiful but ditsy girl who gleefully spreads the word about the affair.

  • One instance of Connell's humanity is that, even as James (Jessie Eisenberg), the movie's protagonist, tells him of his feelings for Em (not knowing of her relationship with him), Connell gives James what seems like good advice on game:

    James: "I think I'm really in love with Em, but I'm not sure if I'm ready for a full-time girlfriend. I just had my heart broken by a girl at school."

    Connell: "Please tell me you didn't tell Em that."

    James: [Puzzled look]

    Connell: "You did tell her that! [Sigh] Look, I'm not saying you should never be vulnerable with a woman. I'm just saying you shouldn't play that card first."

    James: [shocked] "It's a card?"

  • Eisenberg, consciously or not, channels Woody Allen in his portrayal of James. It's frankly annoying. In fact, it's not especially clear to me why both Em and Lisa P. would be interested in him. He's not bad looking, but many of his mannerisms are stereotypically "beta".

  • Come to think of it, most of the characters with whom the audience is apparently supposed to identify are not only annoying, but annoying in what appears to be a particularly Jewish way. The Em, Joel, and James (I think) characters are all explicitly Jewish. I think they are intended to be taken as intelligent and "deep", whereas the Gentiles are cast as dim and shallow. But the actual effect achieved isn't especially positive. This is in marked contrast to the portrayal of Jewish characters in an earlier era.

  • For instance, the 1992 movie School Ties cast the strapping Irishman Brendan Frazier as a Jew with zero distinctively Jewish traits, all the more to make the eventual hostility to him seem irrationally bigoted. In contrast, consider this episode from Adventureland: after a single make-out session with Joel, Sue regretfully informs him that she can't date him because her Catholic parents object. While it should be obvious that Catholic girls are forbidden to marry (and therefore date) non-Catholics, Em flies into a rage at Sue, telling her she is antisemitic and probably homophobic (?) as well. Even in the context of the movie, this came across to me as sanctimonious hyperbole, but in the finale, James refers to it as something he likes about Em.

    In my review of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, I wondered aloud about the negative portrayal of the Jewish characters. I'm beginning to suspect that the makers of that film and this one are oblivious to the way these characters are perceived by Gentile audiences.

  • In a further nod to realism, when Connell's wife learns of his affair, she (again offscreen) has a fit, but ultimately stays with him. After all, Connell is still the alpha bad-boy guitarist, and thus still desirable. Art is catching up to reality: women don't divorce men for what they do, but for what they are. They then search for the most socially acceptable excuse at hand.

  • Further yet, James finds himself working at Adventureland because his father's demotion at work means that his parents can't afford to send him to Europe. It also means that James's father takes a status hit in the eyes of his wife, who becomes very prickly with him during the few scenes in which they appear. God, I hope I'm never unemployed.

. . . .

We here at Delenda are celebrating our very first link from Steve Sailer, in last Monday's essay. And wouldn't you know it would be the very week I took off from blogging.

I spent last week in a training class at a private university in upstate New York. I was in a class full of other engineers. Most of them seemed older and smarter than me, and I got the impression that most of them earned less money. They were also grateful to have jobs. It was kind of depressing that I was probably looking at my own best-case future.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Megrahi Watch

Mad at Scotland, America? Remove the mote from thine own eye! From Andrew C. McCarthy:

Binyam Mohammed, the accomplice of “Dirty Bomber” Jose Padilla who plotted a post-9/11 second wave of mass-murder attacks targeting American cities, is now living free (and on public assistance) in England after President Obama released him outright, without prosecution.

Obama’s Justice Department, meanwhile, gave a lesser-charges plea deal to Ali Saleh Kallah al-Marri, another member of al-Qaeda’s second-wave plot. The deal caps Marri’s potential sentence at 15 years and permits the judge to impose as little as the time Marri has already served, meaning about six years.

Several high officials in the Obama Justice Department, including Attorney General Eric Holder, must be recused from participation in various terrorism matters on conflict-of-interest grounds. This is because they or their firms represented numerous terrorists in litigation against the United States over the past eight years. And the Justice Department recently hired Jennifer Daskal, a left-wing activist from Human Rights Watch, to help shape its detainee policies. She has worked in behalf of terrorist prisoners for years. To give just a thumbnail sketch, Daskal has expressed doubt about the guilt of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (arguing that we may have tortured him into admitting to the atrocities he has repeatedly bragged about committing); has lamented that one detainee, “a self-styled poet,” suffered abuse in U.S. custody when he “found it was nearly impossible to write poetry anymore because the prison guards would only allow him to keep a pen or pencil in his cell for short periods of time”; and has argued on behalf of terrorist detainee Omar Khadr, who was 15 when he allegedly launched the grenade that killed U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Christopher Speer, because a prosecution of Khadr would violate his “rights as a child.” (Next month, Khadr will be 23.)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Thought for the Day

Via Age of Treason, The Daily Telegraph reports:

Tourists are being warned to steer clear of Asian hornets that are colonising France, after swarms of the aggressive predators attacked seven people.

Tanstaafl observes:

Odd . . . that even though all of the trouble-making Asian hornets were born and raised in France nobody has started calling them French hornets, nor do they pretend they can't or shouldn't notice any difference from the indigenous hornets. Curiously, the article also fails to emphasize that not all of the Asian hornets are trouble-makers. Nor does it assert that they are France's greatest strength, that France is a nation of insects, or that the undocumented migrant hornets are just coming to do the jobs French honeybees won't do.

Made my day.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Does Homeschooling Totally Rock?

Via Elusive Wapiti, apparently:

The Results

Overall the study showed significant advances in homeschool academic achievement as well as revealing that issues such as student gender, parents’ education level, and family income had little bearing on the results of homeschooled students.

National Average Percentile Scores

SubtestHomeschoolPublic School
Social Studies8450
  • a. Core is a combination of Reading, Language, and Math.

  • b. Composite is a combination of all subtests that the student took on the test.

There was little difference between the results of homeschooled boys and girls on core scores.

  • Boys—87th percentile

  • Girls—88th percentile

Household income had little impact on the results of homeschooled students.

  • $34,999 or less—85th percentile

  • $35,000–$49,999—86th percentile

  • $50,000–$69,999—86th percentile

  • $70,000 or more—89th percentile

The education level of the parents made a noticeable difference, but the homeschooled children of non-college educated parents still scored in the 83rd percentile, which is well above the national average.

  • Neither parent has a college degree—83rd percentile

  • One parent has a college degree—86th percentile

  • Both parents have a college degree—90th percentile

Whether either parent was a certified teacher did not matter.

  • Certified (i.e., either parent ever certified)—87th percentile

  • Not certified (i.e., neither parent ever certified)—88th percentile

Parental spending on home education made little difference.

  • Spent $600 or more on the student—89th percentile

  • Spent under $600 on the student—86th percentile

The extent of government regulation on homeschoolers did not affect the results.

  • Low state regulation—87th percentile

  • Medium state regulation—88th percentile

  • High state regulation—87th percentile

The study's significant blind spot is the failure to control for race -- although who can blame them? Why kick that hornet's nest when there's nothing in it for them?

Another useful control would have been marital status. Homeschooling families are almost always two-parent families, so the relevant comparison would have been with other two-parent families. There is no indication that this kind of data on the marital status of the public school control group was available to the researchers. This probably inflated the homeschool performance advantage.

On the other side, as near as I could tell, the categories the researchers did consider only applied to homeschooling families, not to the "control" group of non-homeschooled children. But this only understates the homeschool advantage. Had non-college-educated homeschool families been compared only with non-college-educated public school families, for instance, I would expect their percentile advantage would have been even more than it already was.

I'm a big fan of homeschooling, obviously, but the advantage shown here is so large, and the variation is so small, that it seems pretty obvious that there must be some control category that should have been applied, but wasn't. I just don't know what it is.

Still, though, it's heartening to see team homeschool doing so well.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What's in a Name?

Trumwill has a post in which he discusses societal norms with respect to the conduct of weddings. The particular norm he examines -- that a father walks his daughter down the aisle to "give her away" -- wasn't one I had been required to think about during my own wedding. The future Mrs. Φ was very attached to the symbolism of this tradition, and as you might expect, I had no objections.

But one of the commenters brought up an issue that had rather more resonance: the last name. I have a vague sense that a fair percentage of women, even ones with no socio-political axe to grind, go through some "separation anxiety" with respect to their maiden names, and Mrs. Φ fell into this percentage. At some point, she made noises about keeping her maiden name, and this became one of the issues we discussed.

Supposedly, there are some cultures that are matrilineal, by which I mean women keep their last names and pass them to their children. (I don't have any specific examples of this, but I am assured that it is so.) Hypothetically, were I the product of such a culture, I would not have any objection to following its rules. I can't think of any theoretical reason why matrilinealism is superior to patrilinealism, or vice-versa.

But . . . in our culture, a man with a wife that keeps her maiden name is saying something very specific. He is aligning himself with . . . those people. And I had no desire to align myself with those people. I had no occasion to keep company with those people, nor did I aspire to. And it didn't matter to me that Mrs. Φ wasn't trying to make any kind of social statement about "equality" or anything. So this was, potentially, a deal-breaker.

Ultimately, the compromise, such as it was, was that she would keep her maiden name "for work". Ultimately, the work never materialized, Mrs. Φ got on the mommy track, and I'm pretty sure we haven't discussed the matter in nine years.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


In Sunday School this week, we studied Colossians 3:18-25. As is fairly typical of my experience, the group had a good discussion of the challenges couples face as they seek to love and submit, what these look like, and how best to be faithful to God's command.

Near the end, our pastor made an interesting observation. He said that in his long experience in ministry -- he is a "Boomer", while the rest of us are "Gen-X'ers" -- he has noticed a dramatic change in the attitudes of the couples under his care, both in group settings and in pre-marital counseling. It used to be, he said, that he could count on significant female opposition to the notion that they would be required to submit to their husbands. He would regularly struggle against the assumption that Col. 3:18 was somehow archaic, or didn't really mean what it said, etc. Whereas now, women are much more open to the principle of submission, more congnizant of God's sovereignty over marriage, and more hopeful that in this way their lives will bring glory to God.

I was considering why this change in attitudes occurred. I have three possibilities, not mutually exclusive:

  • Younger women have learned from the mistakes of their Boomer forebears that a constant striving for "equality" does not a successful marriage make.

  • Their larger socio-political victory complete, younger women feel freer to choose submission in marriage from a position of strength.

  • Evaporative Cooling: the kind of women likely to object to God's order in marriage have long since dissociated themselves from the kind of churches that Φ would likely attend.


Monday, August 17, 2009

What's a "Co-op"?

Has health-care reform been beaten? From the AP:

Facing mounting opposition to the overhaul, administration officials left open the chance for a compromise with Republicans that would include health insurance cooperatives instead of a government-run plan. Such a concession probably would enrage Obama's liberal supporters but could deliver a much-needed victory on a top domestic priority opposed by GOP lawmakers.

Under a proposal by Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., consumer-owned nonprofit cooperatives would sell insurance in competition with private industry, not unlike the way electric and agriculture co-ops operate, especially in rural states such as his own.

I'm pretty sure this will turn out to be the same thing in new packaging, either by design or by effect. These government co-ops will likely need an endless series of bailouts to stay solvent, and I expect Obama knows that once created, they won't be permitted to fail. Except they will lack direct accountability. Mmmm . . . where have we seen this before? Oh, yeah: the GSEs.

"I think there will be a competitor to private insurers," Sebelius said. "That's really the essential part, is you don't turn over the whole new marketplace to private insurance companies and trust them to do the right thing."

Obama's spokesman refused to say a public option was a make-or-break choice. "What I am saying is the bottom line for this for the president is, what we have to have is choice and competition in the insurance market," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Sunday.

I imagine the Left is in stitches at the appropriation of McCain's words from last Fall to mean almost the exact opposite of what he meant.

I'm going back to bed. I'll try to have something more interesting to say about this subject tomorrow.

Homeschooling and the Real Meaning of Freedom

A few posts back, I wondered allowed whether or not the American Civil Liberties Union would put much effort into opposing the "Lone Wolf Initiative" as they did opposing TIPS. Well, it turns out, they've been busy:

Pace High School [in northerm Florida] Principal Frank Lay and school athletic director Robert Freeman, who will go on trial Sept. 17 at a federal district court in Pensacola for [allegedly] breaching the conditions of a lawsuit settlement reached last year with the American Civil Liberties Union.

"I have been defending religious freedom issues for 22 years, and I've never had to defend somebody who has been charged criminally for praying," said Mathew Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, the Orlando-based legal group that is defending the two school officials.

An ACLU official said the school district has allowed "flagrant" violations of the First Amendment for years.

"The defendants all admitted wrongdoing," said Daniel Mach, director of litigation for its freedom of religion program.

In January, the Santa Rosa County School District settled out of court with the ACLU, agreeing to several things, including a provision to bar all school employees from promoting or sponsoring prayers during school-sponsored events; holding school events at church venues when a secular alternative was available; or promoting their religious beliefs or attempting to convert students in class or during school-sponsored events.

Mr. Staver said the district also agreed to forbid senior class President Mary Allen from speaking at the school's May 30 graduation ceremony on the chance that the young woman, a known Christian, might say something religious.

"She was the first student body president in 33 years not allowed to speak," he said.

The criminal charges, which carry up to a $5,000 fine and a six-month jail term, originated with a Jan. 28 incident in which Mr. Lay, a deacon at a local Baptist church, asked Mr. Freeman to offer mealtime prayers at a lunch for school employees and booster-club members who had helped with a school field-house project.

Mr. Staver said no students were present at the event, which was held on school property but after school hours.

"He wasn't thinking he was violating an order," he said. "Neither did the athletic director. He was asked to pray and so he did."

Mr. Mach said the event was during the school day and that Mr. Lay, the school's principal, has said in writing that students were present.

Judge Rodgers' order also included Michelle Winkler, a clerical assistant who was attending a school district event in February with other school employees at a local naval base. There, she asked her husband to offer a blessing for a meal, says the ACLU, adding that students were present and led the Pledge of Allegiance.

A few thoughts:

  • It seems pretty clear that the ALCU and their house-judge are trying to extend a settlement intended to cover students to adult venues.

  • "Trial" exaggerates the amount of due process the defendants are likely to get. I'm pretty sure that "contempt of court" is a judicial decree, not a trial by jury of one's peers. And since the judge in question has already indicated his judgement by issue the citation, it's a foregone conclusion how this will go.

I thought about this article in the context of an online debate on "the true meaning of freedom" helpfully summarized by Distributed Republic.

There are two schools of thought:

  • Rationalist Liberalism: committed to intellectual progress, universalism, and equality before a unified law, opposed to arbitrary and irrational distinctions and inequalities, and determined to disrupt local tyrannies in religious and ethnic groups, the family, the plantation, feudal institutions, and the provincial countryside. (Will Wilkinson's definition.)

  • Pluralism: An absence of monopoly characterized by the right of exit (Arnold Kling's definition).

Arnold Kling explains pluralism:

Neither my local supermarket nor any of its suppliers has a way for me to exercise voice. They don't hold elections. They don't have town-hall meetings where they explain their plans for what will be in the store. By democratic standards, I am powerless in the supermarket.

And yet, I feel much freer in the supermarket than I do with respect to my county, state, or federal government. For each item in the supermarket, I can choose whether to put it into my cart and pay for it or leave it on the shelf. I can walk out of the supermarket at any time and go to a competing grocery.

The exercise of voice, including the right to vote, is not the ultimate expression of freedom. Rather, it is the last refuge of those who suffer under a monopoly. If we take it as given that the political jurisdiction where I reside is a monopoly, then perhaps I will have more influence over that monopoly if I have a right to vote and a right to organize opposition than if I do not. However, as my forthcoming Unchecked and Unbalanced argues, the reality is that the amount of influence I have is shrinking while the scope of the monopolist is growing.

It's easy to see why such as Will Wilkinson hate this definition. For one thing, for Will Wilkinson, freedom means . . . agreeing with Will Wilkinson. That's pretty much it.

But for me, it's not a contest. Not even close. Think about it for a second. If I want my children's education to reflect my values, I have two choices:

  • Elect candidates supporting my values to my local school board, local government, state government, both houses of Congress, the president, and all three branches of the federal judiciary; or

  • Homeschool.

As a practical matter, homeschooling - the right of exit - is the only way to meaningfully exercise freedom. Everything else is just the freedom to do what Will Wilkinson orders me to do. In other words, tyranny.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Bleg: What to Do with a Gifted Child

I need some academic advice. Not for myself – I already know the answer to that problem: quit blogging! I mean for my children, and especially my older daughter.

Γ aspires to be a medical doctor. As a homeschooled student, she is now two-plus years ahead in her Math-U-See curriculum, and comes home from the library with stacks of books on science, which she reads voraciously. I’ve been thinking ahead as to what we should do with her if/when we’ve exhausted secondary-level material to teach her.

In a post that I can’t seem to find, Steve Sailer recommended that ambitious high school students abandon high school entirely after their sophomore year in favor of community college, from whence they can transfer into a four-year program and graduate two years early. I’ve been considering* this in the context of our own local community college. It’s well-regarded, not far from where we live, and pretty cheap for us county residents. Plus, it offers a program in “Liberal Arts and Sciences” that will fulfill the freshman and sophomore math, science, humanities, and Soc. Sci. requirements of the state’s universities and easily transfer for this purpose, even for students intending to major in science, engineering, and pre-med. So why hang around in high school if you are ready for college?

Well, actually, I can think of several possible reasons why it might not be a good idea:

  • Transfering into a local state school would be easy. But transferring into anywhere else would be difficult. Schools typically admit transfers only to replace dropouts, and the more competitive the schools, the fewer dropouts they have. The Ivy League, MIT, etc., graduate 99% + of their entering freshmen. So competition for a transfer slot is even more heated than for freshman admission. (MIT, for instance, almost tells you not to bother.

  • Adding to the difficulty is that many colleges won’t consider a high school student with college credits (as opposed to AP credits) beyond some threshold value as anything other than a transfer student, even if they took those credits while high-school-aged. (A notable exception to this is the Service Academies, which regard all selectees as freshman regardless of their previous college experience. The downside is that while the credits transfer, a cadet still must take a full course load every semester.)

  • As Half Sigma has pointed out, the top schools are looking for “demonstrated leadership potential”, which in practice usually means extracurricular and athletic achievement in high school. My daughters compete in figure skating, but I’m not sure what a homeschooled student can do to look competitive. Further, while the community college does have clubs and such that might fill this bill, my daughter would be competing for recognition with older students. (Despite her academic prowess, Γ’s social maturity is at best on par. I guess the apple never falls far from the tree.)

That’s my take on the problem. Does anyone have any insight on the best way to proceed?

* This is where I make the usual disclaimer about how this will be all her decision, etc. I’m just thinking about the direction in which I should, you know, advise her. Yeah, that's it . . . .

Saturday, August 15, 2009

David Axelrod Loves Me!

. . . . because he sent me an email:

From: "David Axelrod, The White House" []

Dear Friend,

We're friends!

This is probably one of the longest emails I’ve ever sent, but it could be the most important.

Across the country we are seeing vigorous debate about health insurance reform. Unfortunately, some of the old tactics we know so well are back — even the viral emails that fly unchecked and under the radar, spreading all sorts of lies and distortions.

So let’s start a chain email of our own. At the end of my email, you’ll find a lot of information about health insurance reform, distilled into 8 ways reform provides security and stability to those with or without coverage . . . .

Let's count 'em:

1. Ends Discrimination for Pre-Existing Conditions: Insurance companies will be prohibited from refusing you coverage because of your medical history.

Oh goody, kind of like I can buy fire insurance after my house has already burned down. Seriously, if I can't be discriminated against because of pre-existing conditions, then I have no incentive to buy insurance until I'm already sick enough that my expenses exceed my premiums. This is guaranteed to drive premiums to . . . infinity?

2. Ends Exorbitant Out-of-Pocket Expenses, Deductibles or Co-Pays: Insurance companies will have to abide by yearly caps on how much they can charge for out-of-pocket expenses.

Why? What if I want a policy that exchanges higher deductibles for lower premiums? Shouldn't I be willing to forego coverage for any medical expenses I can pay out of pocket? This is guaranteed to drive premiums up.

3. Ends Cost-Sharing for Preventive Care: Insurance companies must fully cover, without charge, regular checkups and tests that help you prevent illness, such as mammograms or eye and foot exams for diabetics.

In addition to my criticism above, that these kind of regular checkups are cheap enough to pay out of pocket, are these checkups really cost effective for everybody? Shouldn't I be in an at-risk category to need them? Isn't this just subsidized hypochondria?

4. Ends Dropping of Coverage for Seriously Ill: Insurance companies will be prohibited from dropping or watering down insurance coverage for those who become seriously ill.

I'm pretty sure this is already against the law.

5. Ends Gender Discrimination: Insurance companies will be prohibited from charging you more because of your gender.

I read somewhere that lifecycle medical expenses for women are about twice what they are for men . . . unless she has children. Then they become three times as high. So this, in effect, becomes a transfer of wealth from men to women. (Or rather, from single men to men with wives. Sorry, guys, sucks to be you!)

6. Ends Annual or Lifetime Caps on Coverage: Insurance companies will be prevented from placing annual or lifetime caps on the coverage you receive.

This doesn't sound like a bad idea, but you have to pay for what you get. It's guaranteed to drive premiums up.

7. Extends Coverage for Young Adults: Children would continue to be eligible for family coverage through the age of 26.

Why? Shouldn't 22 - 25 year-olds be paying for their own coverage? Isn't this just a subsidy for D.A. and everybody else still living in his parents' basement? Isn't this a subsidy from families who were sufficiently successful at their parenting to avoid this situation to families who weren't. But the bottom line is, you have to pay for what you get. It's guaranteed to drive premiums up.

8. Guarantees Insurance Renewal: Insurance companies will be required to renew any policy as long as the policyholder pays their premium in full. Insurance companies won't be allowed to refuse renewal because someone became sick.

Isn't this already against the law? Okay, so far I count two redundancies, and six factors that will make private health insurance even more unaffordable than it already is.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Gran Torino

I saw the movie Gran Torino on DVD a while back. A few thoughts:

  • Eastwood plays a retired autoworker whose neighborhood in a Detroit suburb that has “turned yellow” with the slow-but-steady influx of S. E. Asian refugee immigrants. These immigrants become easy prey to the Asian youth gangs operating in their midst. Eastwood despises them for their alien ways and their refusal to maintain their houses and lawns to white suburban standards. But when Eastwood, quite unintentionally, protects the son of his next-door neighbors, their overflowing gratitude becomes the basis for mutual acceptance and friendship.

    So what could be more American that making friends with your neighbors?

  • But the movie, with low-key but unmistakable poignancy, presents the other side of this equation. The immigrants bring with them both the criminal gang and the easily exploitable community. Their presence really does provoke white flight. Their culture and language really do impose negative externalities on the native population. There is a term for this that American expatriates learn as they prepare for their life in foreign countries:

    Culture Shock: [T]he anxiety and feelings (of surprise, disorientation, uncertainty, confusion, etc.) felt when people have to operate within a different and unknown cultural or social environment, such as a foreign country. It grows out of the difficulties in assimilating the new culture, causing difficulty in knowing what is appropriate and what is not. This is often combined with a dislike for or even disgust (moral or aesthetical) with certain aspects of the new or different culture.

    Do not pity the expats: they choose to undergo this experience for their own reasons. But Eastwood and his erstwhile white neighbors did not choose it, and I can think of no reason why it should be thrust upon them by their own government.* Yes, Eastwood adapts. But he shouldn't have to.

  • The ending was awful, for two reasons. First, although I’m not an expert on the law, I’m not convinced that the gang’s conviction for murder would be the slam-dunk that the movie wanted us to believe. Eastwood’s character was, in fact, on their property. He did behave provocatively. The Asian gang could testify that Eastwood had confronted them with a firearm before, and if their defense counsel succeeded in locating the members of the Hispanic gang, then it would be easy to establish this behavior as a pattern. So a not-unwarranted claim of self defense would be their obvious course.

    And second . . . what kind of message is this? The argument that Christianity obligates its adherent (such as Eastwood was) to forego private revenge has some theological merit, but Eastwood’s alternative – suicidally baiting the gang into killing him – does not. In the meantime, Eastwood’s neighbors have learned nothing about self-defense, trust in law enforcement, or responsible citizenship.

* The movie tells us we should “blame the Lutherans.” What’s that about?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

On Getting Chucked from a French Swimming Pool

French Muslims are back in the news:

French pool bars Muslim woman for 'burquini' suit

A Muslim woman garbed in a head-to-toe swimsuit _ dubbed a "burquini" _ may have opened a new chapter in France's tussle between religious practices and its stern secular code.

Officials insisted Wednesday they banned the woman's use of the Islam-friendly suit at a local pool because of France's pool hygiene standards _ not out of hostility to overtly Muslim garb.

Under the policy, swimmers are not allowed in pools with baggy clothing, including surfer-style shorts. Only figure-hugging suits are permitted.

That's true. I went to the public (i.e. non-hotel) swimming pool in Istres ten years ago. I came out of the changing stall (they didn't have changing rooms, only stalls) wearing American style trunks. I think I had barely got my feet wet when a lovely French girl [sigh] lifeguard came over to chat. She figured out pretty quickly that I was American, and in broken English told me that street clothes were not permitted in the pool. I tugged out the edge of the lining to show that it was a swimsuit, but she pointed to the speedos that the other male swimmers were wearing and indicated that this was what was expected. She told me -- and this is a direct quote -- "some French men are . . . dirt?"

"Um . . . do you mean 'dirty'?" I offered helpfully.

She then went looking to see if they had any swimsuits in the lost and found that I could wear. Yeah, kinda personal, but I was a hardcore swimmer back then, and I counted on the chlorinated water killing anything, you know, dirty.

The Return of TIPS

Time to dust off that eternal vigilance. From USA Today:

Feds try to detect 'lone offenders'

Federal authorities have launched an effort to detect lone attackers who may be contemplating politically charged assaults similar to the recent murders of a Kansas abortion doctor and a Holocaust museum security guard. [Oddly, the Virginia Tech and Pittsburg massacres, which killed far more people, don't make the list. - Φ]

The effort, known as the "Lone Wolf Initiative," was started shortly after President Obama's inauguration, in part because of a rising level of hate speech and surging gun sales.

"Finding those who might plan and act alone, the so-called lone offenders ... will only be prevented by good intelligence, the seamless exchange of information among law enforcement at every level, and vigilant citizens reporting suspicious activity," said Michael Heimbach, the FBI's assistant director for counterterrorism.

Secret Service spokesman Malcolm Wiley said the FBI is sharing information with his agency.

. . .

ACLU policy spokesman Michael German, a former FBI agent, said the government effort resembles a form of "predictive policing" that can sometimes result in the improper profiling of people based on race, ethnicity or political leanings.

Yet former Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff said the lone attacker has been a "persistent problem," primarily because information about those plots is very closely held.

. . .

Hate groups have multiplied across the USA, from 602 in 2000 to 926 in 2008, reports the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist groups and works to limit their activities. Mark Potok, director of the center's Intelligence Project, said the lone attacker is an extension of the "leaderless resistance" concept of activism advocated by white supremacist Louis Beam.

". . . vigilant citizens reporting suspicious activity." Now where does that sound familiar? I can't quite place it . . . .

Oh, yeah. The Terrorism Information and Prevention System.

Here is how USA Today reported on that program back in 2002:

New 'watch' program poses troubling privacy issues

Enlisting the public to help fight the war on terror makes a certain amount of sense. Just as ordinary Americans thwarted a shoe bomber on a Paris-to-Miami flight last December, truck drivers can — and already do — spot and report suspicious activity along routes they frequent.

But the Justice Department's Terrorism Information and Prevention System (TIPS) goes beyond encouraging the public to report questionable behavior. By enlisting a handpicked group of workers, some with access to private information, the program threatens Americans' privacy rights.

That fear has been expressed across the political spectrum. The American Civil Liberties Union, the National League of Cities and House Republican leader Dick Armey have all denounced the government's plan to ask workers, such as mail carriers and UPS truck drivers, to collect and report suspicious events that could be recorded in a national database, possibly for years.

Though details about TIPS' operation are still being developed, Justice officials say that volunteers will limit their observations to "public" places; homes are off limit.

But before the government launches an army of informants, it needs to answer troubling questions . . . .

In fact, Congress was sufficiently dissatisfied with the answers to those "troubling questions" that it specifically prohibited TIPS in the 2002 Homeland Security Act.

Here are some "troubling questions" of my own:

  • Does anyone detect a difference in the tone of USA Today's coverage of these two initiatives?

  • Does anyone get the impression that the ACLU is just going through the motions this time around?

  • Does anyone expect Congress to prohibit the Obama initiative?

The world wonders.

I've long said that American citizens should enjoy "privileges and immunities" (like, for instance, guns and "hate speech", whatever that is) that aliens should not. But I'm consistently overruled on this: our elites have decreed that we must grant aliens the same rights as citizens.

But maybe I was right after all. Aliens don't seem to have the same rights as citizens.

They have more.

This bait-and-switch reminds me how we were told for years that in order to preserve our freedom of political speech, we mustn't restrict porn. And then came "campaign finance reform" that regulates political speech more than porn.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Reader

I saw the movie The Reader on DVD a while back. A few thoughts:

  • Before you groan about "yet another Holocaust movie", I want to point out that this one is surprisingly double-edged. Ralph Fiennes plays Michael Berg who, as a young man (played in flashback sequences by newcomer David Kross, b. 1990) has an affair with the much-older Hannah Schmitz (Kate Winslet, b. 1975 -- about right). Hannah, it turns out, had been a guard in a Nazi concentration camp and was implicated in the deaths of a hundred or so Jewish female prisoners. Michael, in possession of mitigating (though not exculpatory) evidence, mulls whether to come forward in her defense. Ultimately he doesn't. The movie is pretty explicit in showing that the same political correctness that prevented Germans from speaking up in behalf of the Jews in the '30s is now at work preventing people from speaking up for anybody accused of a war crime. And in so doing, the film invites the audience to have some sympathy for a very stupid, morally obtuse SS camp guard. You don't see this every day.

  • Be grateful for America's legal system. The "trial" in which Hannah is sentenced to life imprisonment is a Star Chamber kangaroo court in which the judges are also the prosecutors, and Hannah has no legal counsel. The miscarriage of justice that we witness is an excellent argument for our adversarial system.

  • A word about the affair. It occurred to me that Michael's sexual relationship with Hannah had on him exactly the effect that I would expect. He really loved her, not just in a lustful way, but in a thoroughly romantic, goofy beta kind of way. He's loyal to her, notwithstanding the designs of his female classmates. He contrives a cross-country bike trip with her. Hannah's emotion distance pains him, and the movie draws a pretty straight line between her betrayal (she disappears when she is afraid her illiteracy will be discovered) and Michael's lifelong difficulty maintaining relationships. This was a remarkably conservative theme.

  • A word about the sex. The Reader is the most genuinely erotic mainstream film I have seen since Exit to Eden 15 years ago. My impression is that, after the well-deserved failure of the movie Showgirls, Hollywood pretty much abandoned the art of the sex scene in any but the most non-erotic, comically absurd context. I'm not sure why this is, or even if my thumbnail history is correct. Perhaps with the widespread availability of cable and Internet, and with them the easy access to pornography, Hollywood decided that the market was getting squeezed.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Abuse of "Disorderly Conduct"

Via Distributed Republic, a post at about the abuse of police discretion:

One such problem is the ever increasing number of pretexts on which the authorities can interrogate, search, assault, and arrest citizens. The authority figure, equipped with endless excuses to initiate an interaction with the citizen, from an expired tag to a false burglar alarm to an alleged whiff of what might be a controlled substance, uses his or her superior knowledge of legal arcana to find some way to put the citizen behind bars. For instance, what struck me when reading the policeman’s account of the Gates incident was a small detail: the repeated use of the term “tumultuous.” It appears three times in the brief report in descriptions of Gates’ behavior. Why was the cop fixated on this SAT word?

Turns out, it appears in the Massachusetts statute defining disorderly conduct. The cop goaded the agitated Gates into stepping outside of his house (he made sure to give a reason for this in the report – poor acoustics in Gates’ kitchen!) to create the grounds for an arrest. The cop already knew the specific – though vague and debatable – adjective he should use in his report to make the charge sound incontestable to the lawnorder crowd.

This makes me think back to an experience during the Abortion Wars of the 1980s. An Operation Rescue affiliate had become active in the large metropolitan area where I was in college, and while I had no taste for confrontation, let alone trespassing charges, I nonetheless lent my presence in their support.

Both the city and state political structure were monolithically Democrat back then, and the police, to the applause of the local media, had been turned loose on pro-life sit-ins, using choke-holds to drag non-violent protesters off to the wagons. Even when they weren't trespassing, the police refused to separate or otherwise protect pro-lifers from physically aggressive counter-demonstrators. This was the context in which the following occurred.

During one protest, when there was no sit-in or counter-demonstration -- indeed, the clinic hadn't even opened that day -- I got bored listening to the Hail Mary* and wandered around taking pictures. Some distance from the protest, a knot of police officers were having a conversation. From the other side of the street, I took, or started to take, their picture.

"Put that camera away!" barked one of the officers.

Wait a second, I thought. Is it against the law to take your picture? I assume I have some kind of first amendment right to take pictures in public. But I'm not a lawyer, so who knows? And I'm not a member of the press, so even if I do have the right, I don't have lawyers on retainer ready to defend that right. So . . . I did like I was told.

It's a good thing I did. It turns out that neither having the right to take pictures, nor even being a member of the MSM, would have saved me. Police routinely arrest people who attempt to photograph or film their activities. Of course, charges aren't always filed, and the actual charge is never "photographing police", which is not against the law. The charge becomes "disorderly conduct," which in practice means basically whatever behavior the cops don't like.

* In retrospect, the Abortion Wars were a Godsend for interfaith relations and religious tolerance. Prior to these demonstrations, I "knew" only bad things about Catholics and Catholicism. And yet here we were, evangelical Protestants and Catholics, standing arm in arm for a cause about which we were all passionate, and meanwhile learning each others' liturgy. The Catholics presumably picked up some sweet hymns, and I can still recite the "Hail Mary". (Though, of course, I don't, what with it being idolatrous and all).

Link Love for Trumwill

Trumwill has an excellent post in which he considers, in the context of the Sodini murders, the circumstances when the search for root causes is constructive and when they are merely masturbatory.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

A Subversive Thought, Addressed

Regarding the question from my last post, here, with assists from my commenters, is an effort to resolve the apparent incongruity.

  • The premise of the question is flawed. It's not really HBD full-stop vs. root-causes. Rather, HBD is a tool of analysis applied to both cases. For instance, nothing about Human Bio-Diversity requires us to deny that broad social trends -- high immigration, lax social mores, the death of the manufacturing sector -- have worked against the ability of American blacks to find an economically and socially useful role in society. On the contrary, we've been pointing this out for years. But acknowledging HBD does undermine the premise of the political Left: some variant of how racist white folks oppress blacks and make them dysfunctional. (This is in contrast to the radical Left, which asserts that it isn't really dysfunction.) But what was plausible 40 years ago is remarkably less plausible today.

  • Likewise, HBD gives us a key for understanding female mate choice and its long-run consequences. The "alpha-beta theory" is often characterized by its adversaries as saying, in the words of Trumwill:

    [M]en who mistreat women are "alpha" types with dominant personalities and a lot of romantic options and that women could avoid being mistreated by coupling with beta types, who have fewer romantic options and more passive personalities.

    Now admittedly, I really do think that something like this is true, on average. But, first, I will acknowledge that actually following this advice would involve real trade-offs, and second, I don't think that women will follow this advice merely because the advice is offered. I think the natural female tendency toward hypergamy was for many thousand years constrained by culture and economics. These impediments have eased, and we are seeing what we are now seeing. I think this is bad, because I think a free society cannot long survive it.

  • Similarly flawed is the assumption that HBD, in itself, is being offered as a solution; rather, it's a tool of analysis that helps us sift through policy alternatives. Again, after 40 years of Leftist social policy designed to "fight racism", we've succeeded at almost nothing except perhaps creating a class of resentful, paranoid affirmative-action beneficiaries typified by Michele Obama. Meanwhile, Steve Sailer doesn't say "man the barricades" in response to black poverty. He recommends changing the value of low-skill labor on both the supply side (by reversing the flow of unskilled labor into the U.S.) and the demand side (by using trade policy to revitalize our manufacturing sector).

    Likewise, an understanding of HBD recommends two different but not necessarily contradictory approaches to the problem of beta sexual impoverishment:

    • On the micro level, betas should learn game (the PUA community); and

    • On the macro level, we must reverse the social policies of the last 40 years (social conservatives).

    Personally, I recommend both. I appreciate the criticism that the social conservative program is unlikely, but at least legally and socially enforced monogamy has the advantage of having worked at widely distributing sexual access and, yeah, also sustaining civilization.

  • As commenter Justin suggested, the problems have different levels of containability. If by "manning the barricades" you mean agressive policing, stiff sentencing, de-facto segregation, widespread firearm ownership and the Castle Doctrine, we have, in fact, done these things, and we have been rewarded with a drop in black-on-white crime to manageable levels, Lily Burke notwithstanding. So long as we stop doing dumb policies, like enforced integration, or inventing "rights" to vagrancy, we will probably be okay.

    But what can we contain George Sodini? The fact is that we need beta computer and engineering nerds doing what we do if we want our society to function; thus, society needs to socially reward our work, including giving us the opportunity to marry and have families. But while my impression is that most women begin appreciating our virtues by the time they reach their 30s, the fear is that our continued slide into hypergamy will push that age upward and multiply the Sodinis of the world. But other than whine about "misogyny" and guns, I haven't seen a single feminist solution to this problem.

    The world worked in the pre-feminist era. Yes, many women found "Marriage 1.0" oppresive, but it did offer something for everyone and assured maximum buy-in by the majority of males. It may be true that the road home is not politically realizable, but its existence is not fanciful. The same cannot be said with respect to race. There was never, anywhere, at any time, a utopia of racial equality. Nor can there ever be, saith HBD.

  • On a more personal level, I think commenter Peter put it well: "Many men in the blogosphere, perhaps especially in the HBD segment, see Sodini as different from themselves in degree rather than in kind." Quite true. I can see myself in Sodini, not in his violence, but in his suffering and disillusion. Those of us who grew up before the age of the internet, and who therefore relied on our mothers for advice about girls, believed that intelligence, conscientiousness, and Gal. 5:22 were qualities that would gain us the favor of women in general and help us secure wives and families in particular. And then, eventually, reality bites.

    This may not have anything to do with HBD directly. I think the personality type of those of us willing to swallow The Red Pill of HBD is also the personality type likely to have endured the disillusion of what really attracts women. Our relations (or lack thereof) with women give us a lower investment in parroting politically correct opinions. Call us highly analytical with a social-skills deficit.

  • As commenter PeterW and others pointed out, we didn't conjure the meta-narrative ex nihlo. Sodini himself left a reasonably articulate account of why he would do what he did. Granted, the justification offered by criminals for their crimes is usually more self-serving than objective, but in the case of Sodini, we seem unable to uncover any reason not to accept his claims. Had Sodini been fat, or poor, or stupid, or abusive, his life would not be receiving nearly the sympathy that it has. But Sodini was none of these things. He was a well-compensated professional. He was in excellent physical condition for a man his age. His claim to "nice guy" status was verified by all who knew him. He was exactly what an earlier generation of women would have considered a "good catch". And yet to this generation, he couldn't make himself desirable.

    In contrast, the typical urban criminal brings little but base motives to his work. If you've ever watched the show The First 48, you quickly learned that urban murderers aren't very interesting. They are stupid and depressing. Such ex post root-cause explanations for their actions, whatever their merits, are proferred by pointy-heads in ivory towers, far removed from the reality.

That's my effort to resolve the issue.

Subversive Thought for the Day

Occasionally, when I'm day-dreaming instead of actually working on my prospectus like I should be doing, I mentally game my own arguments, testing them for weak points or inconsistencies. This isn't always necessary; usually, we do this in the comment section, where the back-and-forth of debate sharpens our ideas and lets us know what works and what doesn't work. But sometimes, I think up my own challenges.

It is in this spirit of self-examination that I take on the role of liberal interlocutor and ask the following:

Why is it that the Half Sigma / Steve Sailer blogging community, when confronted with, say, the murder of Lily Burke, or the crimes in Knoxville and Wichita and God-knows-where-else, we sound the HBD trumpet and rush to man the barricades? But when George Sodini murders an aerobics class, suddenly we get all root-causey and meta-narrative-social-justicy?

I actually have an answer, or rather, several possible answers, to that question. But I wanted to start by throwing it out there for your contemplation.

Absence of Context

If you missed it, be sure to read Roissy's spirited takedown of Conor Friedersdorf's "musings on game" from a while back.

I've got my own bone to pick with young Conor:

In recent months, I've had several people ask me why it is that I criticize my own team in blog posts . . . . [T]he answer for some people I criticize is that they're just not on my team, and they shouldn't be on yours either.

What follows is a clip of Glenn Beck interviewing former CIA analyst Michael Scheuer. The clip, taken not from the Fox website, but from a YouTube reproduction of a Media Matters post, presents Scheuer saying with almost no context:

"The only chance we have as a country right now is for Osama bin Laden to deploy and detonate a major weapon in the United States -- because it's gonna take a grassroots, bottom-up pressure -- because these politicians prize their offices, prize the praise of the media, and the Europeans. It's an absurd situation again, only Osama can execute an attack which will force Americans to demand that their government protect them effectively, consistently and with as much violence as necessary."

A couple of points here. First, I do not count myself among the fans of Glenn Beck, whose on-air persona I find . . . lacking stability. Second, I do not endorse Scheuer's statement. But let's be honest about the context here. Scheuer is arguing that America's political class won't be roused to defend the country short of another terrorist attack.

There's plenty to disagree with here. You never know what you are going to get from a terrorist attack. Osama bin Laden predicted that 9/11 would persuade America to abandon the Middle East and embrace Islam; as it turned out, he was wrong. Meanwhile, I would have predicted that 9/11 would have caused us to curtain our student visa program and begin returning Muslim aliens to their countries of origin. I, too, was wrong. Who, other than their advocates, would have predicted two 8-year-and-counting wars and a new mammoth security bureacracy as our response? So be careful what you predict to be the downstream effects of this or that act of violence that you don't fully control.

But it should be obvious to everyone, including MM and, by extension, Friedersdorf, that Scheuer is not advocating another attack on the U.S. to get his preferred policies implemented. Friedersdorf's implicitly endorsement of that slander shows him to be either incredibly disingenuous, or incredibly stupid.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Does Religion Make You Smart?

Via Overcoming Bias, a report on some interesting correlations between undergraduate fields of study and religiosity:

Majoring in biological sciences, engineering, or vocational areas all increase religiosity about the same relative to not going to college. Majoring in education encourages religion even more, while majoring in physical science has about the same effect as no college. Majoring in humanities reduces religiosity relative to no college, and majoring in social science reduces it the most.

With the exception of education, which is widely recognized as the major the collects the dregs of the college-graduate population, it would appear that the majors that increase religiosity are high g-loaded quantitative disciplines chosen by the top scorers on standardized tests: engineering and physics. Meanwhile humanities and social science, whose students are found on the left side of the bell curve, are the least religious.

Somebody with more time and energy should look at these correlations more closely, but on the surface, it appears to refute Half Sigma's GSS-inspired assertion that religion makes you stoopid.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Starting Salaries

Via Distributed Republic, a Salary Report from that lists both the starting median salary and the mid-career median salary by school and field of study (though not both at the same time). A few thoughts:

  • As a relative matter, these numbers are about what one would expect. Ivy League, Standford, MIT, etc. dominate state schools. Engineering dominates Liberal Arts. Interestingly, "engineering schools" (a category which includes Stanford and Cornell but not Harvard or Yale, even though all of them offer engineering degrees) dominate the "starting salaries" rankings while the Ivy League dominates the "mid career salaries" rankings. This confirms my impression that engineering buys a stable middle-class life rather than a chance at great wealth.

  • In absolute terms, however . . . frankly, I choke at some of these numbers, and I would be curious to see a histogram of the salary data rather than just the median. I've been very skeptical of salary reports like these ever since Half Sigma (I think) showed how Law schools, by the way they skew their samples, cook the books to make their graduates appear more successful than they really are. Those book-cooking methods are presumably available to all schools across all disciplines. Take, for instance, Georgia Institute of Technology. lists the median starting salary of its graduates as $59k and the median mid-career salary as $105k. This is roughly in line with the data for engineering graduates: $60k and $102k respectively for EE, for instance. The problem is that Georgia Tech doesn't just offer degrees in engineering. It has colleges of architecture, management, and liberal arts, fields with starting salaries far below those of engineering. The salary data for these majors ought to weigh Georgia Tech's averages down, but somehow in this survey they don't. Further, do these numbers include the unemployed? Those working outside the field? That's why the distribution, not just the median, is useful.

  • Does this kind of hanky-panky bias the relative results? Or is it a tide that has lifted all boats? For instance, do state schools take more latitude in inflating their numbers than the Ivy League? Less latitude? Is there something about the way the data is collected that inflates apparent salaries in engineering more than those in social work? Less? I'm guessing not, but does anyone have any insight into this question?

  • Considering the extent to which the Fedrul Gummint underwrites so much of higher education, it ought to insist on uniform, meaningful, difficult-to-game metrics and reporting standards for this kind of information. I think students, parents, and taxpayers deserve to know in detail what their career profile is likely to look like, given their school, major, and academic performance therein. Of course, count on higher ed's lackeys in Congress to help colleges hide this information. How much better to shovel money at their political supporters while mindlessly parroting the propaganda about the benefits of a college education.


I saw the movie Hitch on television the other night. The movie came out in 2005, so I'm sure that it has been "done" to death by the blogroll already. I probably can't compete with their insights, but I'll give it a go.

  • Will Smith (I will use the actors' names), the professional PUA coach, brags to his married friend Michael Rapaport about his "sweaty" and "varied" sex life. But when Jeffrey Donovan seeks to procure his services to help him obtain what he frankly admits will be a one night stand, Smith sniffs, "Sorry, I only help guys who like women." At face value, this is startling hypocrisy. Smith's character is not exactly conspicuous in his monogamy; as the consummate babehound, he does not aspire to marriage or even an LTR. How Smith supposedly carves a moral distinction between his behavior and Donovan's is a mystery, I don't know. But I'm probably using the wrong hermeneutic; more than likely, the movie is shrinking back from its own logic and wants to assure feminist viewers that, really, Smith only uses his power to do good rather than evil. For instance, the movie never shows us the downside of what must be his numerous non-LTRs.

  • Notwithstanding the "variety" of his own personal experience, Smith is shown coaching men in wooing the "girl of their dreams," and in so doing makes a claim for "game" that no real-life PUA coach ever makes. To the extent that I understand it, one of the core principles of PUA technique is developing a mental state in which no one woman becomes an object of fixation. I believe they call it an "attitude of abundance" or something. And more practically, while PUAs claim to help attract women in general, they acknowledge that the odds that even the best practitioners of game will be able to persuade any particular woman to go home with them are still pretty low.

  • Having said all that, the tactical advice that Smith dispenses is still pretty good, especially how to cultivate an air of "alphaness": show dominance, stand up straight, don't let your mouth hang open, don't talk too fast, have a few set-piece conversation plays and act aloof. (But no requirement to actually be aloof, as I pointed out earlier.) These aspects of the film ought to be required viewing for every nerdy high school student who moons* helplessly over women (like, um . . . Φ, for instance).

Readers: I'd like to know your thoughts on the movie. Please feel free to post links to your own reviews in the comments so I don't have to search your blogs individually.

* Our office has a bunch of high school students, a number of them women, working as summer interns in fairly cramped conditions. So I overhear things. Like, for instance, one young lady complaining to another about a mutual friend from high school: "He's always staring at me! I'll be talking to somebody else, and when I happen to glance around, I'll catch him watching me." On the one hand, I totally get this behavior. Our eyes are naturally drawn towards beautiful things. We almost definitionally take pleasure in looking at them. But when that thing is a female, that female is very likely to be creeped out by your stare. (Trust me: I've creeped out plenty of women doing exactly this.) And if she catches you, don't look away; that only makes you look furtive and amplifies the creep factor. You may as well stare her down that that point. But better yet, if you want to look at a beautiful girl, go start a conversation with her. I know it's scary, but if you don't have an agenda other than an excuse to look at her, then you have a lot less pressure than if you are running game. Also, once you've started the conversation, maintain eye contact. This, too, is difficult; hell, I'm 41, and it still takes a supreme act of will not to study my own shoelaces. But look at it this way: you've already paid for the conversation by overcoming your fear of starting it, so don't throw away the visual pleasure of looking into her eyes.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

George Sodini, R.I.P.

No doubt the usual people will soon have a post telling us how the late George Sodini is yet further proof that inside every beta is a murderer struggling to get out. Ironically, Roissy and Half Sigma implicitly endorse this view by blaming the women in his life for having driven him to violent despair.

Maybe. But that analysis kind of requires us to believe that murder-suicide is a reasonable response to rejection and loneliness. I rather think that some third cause - insanity - was behind both the loneliness and the violence. Judging by the picture Half Sigma posted, Sodini doesn't appear to have any physical reasons to repulse women. I'm guessing that whatever dark demon drove him to walk into an aerobics class and start shooting women was the same demon that frightened away potential dates.

On the other hand, I would also have expected that demon to handicap his career, which it evidently didn't. In general, his case does make me question our ability to judge sanity by obvious functionality.

UPDATE: Half Sigma has done yeoman's work pulling together Sodini's internet footprint. In Mala Fide has an excellent series of posts with his own and others' thoughts.

Having looked through most of this, I have to admit that I see scant evidence of homicidal maladjustment. Only loneliness, desperate hope, and, finally, despair.

Desegregation: Where Do We Go From Here?

In the wake of my posts criticising desegregation and calling for the repeal of civil rights laws, commenter Justin reasonably asked what kind of end-state I am hoping to achieve. In truth, my expectations are modest.

As I responded in the comments and have written in other posts, the middle class and up, in the name of finding "safe neighborhoods" in "good school districts", have in fact purchased significant segregation for ourselves, not only from blacks but from lower-class whites as well. And we have done so without having to confront in the incongruity between our private choices and our public commitment to "diversity" and "tolerance". It's difficult to image us joining a political coalition to grant to proles by policy that for which we had to pay so dearly.

Similarly, while the political salience of re-segregation increases with the relative size of the black population within a jurisdiction, so too does the political difficulty in achieving it. Whatever their misgivings about desegregation, it is also difficult to imagine minority communities acquiescing to a policy that brings them no benefit and imposes psychic costs.

So I am not really expecting a revolution in re-segregation, even with the repeal of civil rights laws. Now that I think about it, the primary short-term effect of a return to an originalist interpretation of the 14th Amendment would be license to municipalities like Louisville and Seattle to undertake their integrationist busing schemes. But while I have great sympathy for whites who suffer the nonsense foisted on them by elites, the solution should not be a race to the federal courts. The solution should be to depose the elites and elect new ones that will govern on their behalf.

But let me step away from the political difficulties and address the policy issue. Assuming that all things were both legally and politically realizable, I would put forth a couple of principles. First, I would say that no white public school student should be forced into minority status in her own country. One of the most heartbreaking stories of Race and Education was of the town (whose name I would tell you if I hadn't already returned the book to the library) with a little white school of 500 students and a larger black school of some 3000 students that were forced to merge by judicial decree. Unsurprisingly, this destroyed the community, as all the whites with the means to flee did so. My policy would be to allow the white school to set a quota on black students, and the black school to set a quota on white students. This wouldn't necessarily mean absolute segregation. Actually, my preference would be academic screening of all black applicants to the white school such that their mean aptitude did not fall significantly behind the mean aptitude of the white students. For every black student X number of IQ points above the white average, we could admit one X number of IQ points below the white average. This would keep the black students from clustering at the bottom of the class and likely screen for other socially desirable traits.

But would this be acceptable to the community? During the desegregation era, the support for segregation in some communities was so strong that many whites abandoned the public school at the first black student who put her foot through the door. Emotions ran high back then, and I would like to think that this represented anger at the loss of local control rather than metaphysical hatred of minorities. But I could be wrong! Which leads me to the second principle: social stability. It should be the responsibility of local politicians to know the limits of local tolerance and stay within them. Yes, that means catering to racism of which they do not approve. Nor should they approve of it. But we've seen the alternative: communities reach a "tipping point" as whites flee, leaving the community darker, which causes more whites to flee, which leave the community darker yet, and so on. This tipping point will vary with locale. Φ's lily-white little school district quite happily graduates one or two blacks a year. My daughter's previous school was stable at 2% black and 5% Hispanic. It depends.

I will admit that little of this is politically likely. "Diversity" has become the new civil religion to which whites are devoted at least as much as minorities. It is true that as long as the Supreme Court is willing to grant to whites the equal protection of the civil rights laws, then those laws will run counter to the goals of the civil rights establishment, at least in our current political environment. But to self-consciously turn from it would be tantamount to mass apostasy. It's fun to think about it though.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Race and Jobs in Ocean Hill

One of many ironies described in Wolters' Race and Education is that, once civil rights' activists had wrested community control of their schools away from whites, they sought to give it to blacks:

Community Control

While some white scholars emphasized class conflict, many blacks embraced a racialist perspective. This was especially apparent in Ocean Hill-Brownsville, the New York City district that became the most publicized example of the community control movement of the late 1960s and 1970s. Here, as in many inner cities, the average achievement of the African American and Puerto Rican children lagged behind that of white students More than 70 percent of black students were below grade level in reading, and 85 percent in math. Yet, although nonwhites made up 95 percent of the population in Ocean Hill-Brownsville, most of the teachers were white. To complicate the situation, many of the white teachers in the district moved to mostly white schools as soon as they satisfied a union rule that allowed teachers to transfer after accumulating five years of service. "This stripped black-majority schools of teachers just as they were beginning to mature professionally." [Jerald E. Podair, The Strike That Changed New York: Blacks, Whites, and the Ocean Hill-Brownsville Crisis]

Although many of New York's black leaders initially had favored integrated education, after 1965 a preference for the community-centered approach was evident in many black neighborhoods. This preference coincided with the popularity of "black power" and its emphasis on building institutions in the black community. To the surprise of some, many business corporations also favored community control, believing that it offered social peace. The Ford Foundation threw its influence behind community control, and so did the New York Times. Community control also gained the support of the white New Left and was especially attractive to black intellectuals and activists. "By 1966 . . . a coalition of government, business, and media elites, white leftist intellectuals, radical teachers, and black activists, and educators, had, for diverse reasons, formed around the idea of community control of education in black neighborhoods." [Podair]

Advocates of community control took exception to a merit system that had led, by the mid-1960s, to a situation where only 8 percent of the teachers , 2.5 percent of the supervisors, and 1 percent of the principals in New York City were black, although black youths by then constituted 30 percent of all students. Under a system that had been developed by the central school board and the mostly white teachers' union, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), prospective teachers were required to graduate from college and pass a teachers' certification examination. To achieve tenure or to become a department head or school administrator, teachers had to take additional graduate courses and pass still more tests.

The UFT conceded that individual tests could be improved by considered teh test system basically fair. Supporters of community control, on the other hand, wanted to eliminate the examination requirements for hiring and promotion. It was all right, advocates of community control said, to require that prospective teachers must be college graduates who had received a teaching certificate. But placements and promotions should depend on performance on the job and service to the community. Mindful of the students' low test scores, community controllers purportedly wanted to "rescue pupils from the stultifying grip of the white civil service bureaucracy." The UFT, however, said that community control would lead to teachers being "hired and fired not on the basis of educational competence, but on the basis of race, political conformity to parochial community prejudices, and favoritism." [Diane Ravitch, "Community Control Revisted," Commentary, 1972]

A brewing controversy came to a head in 1968, one year after the schools of Ocean Hill-Brownsville had become part of a Ford Foundation-funded experiment that created autonomous local boards of education in a few of the poorest school districts. The governing board in Ocean Hill-Brownsville then voted to end the employment of eighteen white teachers and supervisors (and one black who was mistakenly thought to be white). Later the local board also removed more than three hundred additional teachers who walked out in protest against what the board had done. The governing board also appointed several African Americans and one Puerto Rican as principals in Ocean Hill-Brownsville, even though their names were not on the list of those who had taken and passed the required examination. At the time, only four blacks were listed among the almost one thousand candidates on the elementary school principals' eligibility list.

In its rush to provide more jobs for African Americans, the local board did not hold hearings, saying that the white teachers were simply being transferred or reassigned to other schools. Yet the UFT held that involuntary transfers were punitive and therefore required submission of charges and an impartial hearing. When evidence was belatedly presented to Judge Francis E. Rivers, who happened to be a black man, the judge ruled that the white teachers and supervisors were entitled to keep their jobs, finding that they had been singled out for retaliation, not because of incompetence but because they had criticized the idea of community control. Judge Rivers held that due process required that tenured teachers not be deprived of their jobs except for cause and with a hearing.

When the local school board disregarded Judge Rivers' report as merely advisory, the UFT called a strike, and fifty-four thousand of New York’s fifty-seven thousand public school teachers heeded the call. Eventually there were several strikes and complicated negotiations that have been described elsewhere. Denying Major John Lindsay's charge that the strike was racially motivated, union president Albert Shanker insisted that it was about due process protections for teachers. If a white school board reassigned a black teacher arbitrarily, Shanker said, the union would support the teacher. "This is a strike to protect black teachers against white racists in white communities and white teachers against black racists in black communities."

The strike was suspended when Mayor Lindsay offered assurance that the white teachers could return to their positions. Yet in Ocean Hill-Brownsville, the local board was adamant. "We do not want the teachers to return to this district," the board declared in one statement. When the returning teachers reported for work, they had to force their way through angry crowds. Once they entered their schools, they were told to attend orientation sessions, and as one group walked into the auditorium at Independent School 55, "approximately fifty community residents, most from the Brooklyn branch of CORE [Congress on Racial Equality], surrounded them, brandishing sticks and bandoliers of bullets, While the men cursed the teachers, threw the bullets at them, and threatened to 'carry you out in pine boxes,' [the top local administrator] quietly observed the scene, offering no assistance to the frightened educators." After students attacked several white teachers at Junior High School 271, the school principal "herded them into a locked classroom for their safety. Police rescued them later in the afternoon."

These scenes impressed some observers as a reversal of Little Rock, with black mobs now surrounding white teachers, but the union insisted it would not be intimidated by what UFT president Shanker called "a primitive type of tribalism." Because a disproportionately large number of the teachers were Jewish, as were the leaders of the UFT, the dispute also smacked of anti-Semitism. The local African American Teachers Association (A-ATA) called for the separation of black and white teachers in cafeterias and lounges, and one leader of the group read aloud a student’s poem dedicated to Shanker. The Poem began, “Hey, Jew boy, with that yarmulke on your head / You pale faced Jew boy  I wish you were dead.”

. . .

The controversy in Ocean Hill-Brownsville would not have been so emotional at the time, or so significant in retrospect, if it had been merely a dispute over providing more jobs for blacks or protecting workers’ rights, Its importance derives, at least in part, from the fact that the two sides had different opinions with regard to a basic question. Why did the academic achievement levels of blacks lag behind those of whites? Most teachers attributed the low test scores to disinterested students and parents, while most people in the community blamed disengaged teachers, especially white teachers. “Each side blamed the other for the poor performance of most black students. White teachers blamed black families and communities; black parents blamed the teachers and the schools.”

Many residents of Ocean Hill-Brownsville took exception to the teachers for allegedly “shift[ing] the blame for academic failure away from the school and teacher and toward the pupil’s family and community.” Thus Rhody McCoy, the top administrator in the district during the height of the controversy over community control, said that most white teachers, “for all their protests about supporting civil rights and admiring Martin Luther King, didn’t believe in the ability of a black child to learn just as well as a white one.” Elaine Rooke, the president of the Parent-Teacher Association at Junior High School 271, also accused the white teachers of having “bad attitudes.” “They don’t live in the neighborhood,” Rooke complained, “and they rush out of the school and the neighborhood before three o’clock.” Although Rooke conceded that white teachers rarely used overtly racist language, she said the teachers were “condescending and patronizing toward black children.” The teachers seemed to think that their middle-class way of life was superior to the customs that prevailed in Ocean Hill-Brownsville.

A few thoughts on all of this. First, Shanker and the UFT should be applauded for asserting their right to equal protection of the laws. If the Civil Rights Act (and, it is argued, the 14th Amendment) forbid employment decisions based on race, and especially something so egregious as a racially motivated firing, intimidation, and violence, then the white teachers of Ocean Hill had the same right to those protections as, say, Ruby Bridges (and in fact, they received far less protection against far more discrimination). Equal protection is exactly what the 14th Amendment is really about.

But in a sense, this is a procedural position, and dodges the policy question: what should Ocean Hill have done, and what should the law permit? Steve Sailer referred to this passage of the book in a post pointing to the importance of public sector unions, here and in the Ricci case, in protecting white civil servants from urban political machines intent on discriminating against them in favor of appeasing politically powerful interests groups. And in this, we are agreed.

But I am also aware that a position in favor of objective civil servant hiring standards costs neither of us anything. We know in advance that objective standards will favor members of our race, and we enjoy the benefits of high[er] quality teaching, fire protection, and other public services while suffering none of either the material or psychic costs of having our race effectively shut out from the benefits of public employment.

So let's perform a thought experiment. Let's pretend Ocean Hill was a Christian community in city in which Ashkenazi Jews were the majority. Given that the mean Ashkenazi IQ exceeds that of white gentiles almost as much as the white IQ exceeds the black IQ, it is not difficult to imagine that, were they the majority, that Jews would easily dominate a competitive civil service system -- indeed, they apparently already dominated the actual Ocean Hill school system. It is also easy to imagine that, in a majority Jewish city, the subject of the relative underperformance of Gentile children in school would be much discussed.

So what would we do? Would we submit to the belief that our community was at fault? Would we meekly accept Jewish assertions that we suffered from academically "disinterested students and parents"? (Remember that frank acknowledgement of IQ differences are beyond the Pale.)

Maybe, but I doubt it. For one thing, it would be easy for us to perceive a condescending attitude from Jews about "Goyishe Kop", or to invent it. But more rationally, we might believe several things.

First, the social solidarity of our community would be important to us. We may or may not share many values and history with the surrounding Jews, but those differences that did exist would be especially salient. We would rationally desire that our schools transmit those values and history to our children, and we would further believe that fellow Christians would be especially suited to this task.

Would there be tradeoffs? In the actual Ocean Hill, Wolters documents how the local board eventually succeeded in replacing white teachers with black ones, although they did it by attrition rather than mass dismissals. And academic performance fell. James Coleman, an education researcher in the Johnson Administration, discovered that teacher intelligence did correlate with educational outcomes, and that white teachers got better outcomes from black ones for this very reason, all else being equal. But he suppressed these findings, and the Ocean Hill of 1968 didn't know about them.

But should they have cared? The magnitude of the effect on educational outcomes surely matters. The fact is that nothing else worked, then or since, to raise the level of black achievement to white levels. Returning to our thought experiment, our Christian community may not have especially high expectations for what the schools can accomplish, and may think that Gentile teachers have sufficient ability to accomplish it. Maybe the Jews get better results, but those results have costs. First, the belief, true or not, that our values, mythology, solidarity, and self-esteem were being undermined. Second, the jobs. Public sector employment is a wonderful thing for those who have it, and public sector employees (it is widely held) generate positive externalities for their communities. And we ought not discount the psychic benefits of knowing our group is getting its share of the public till. These are the tradeoffs.

Similarly in the Ricci case. Here again, I applaud Frank Ricci for standing up for his rights under the law, and the Supreme Court indubitably reached the correct decision under the terms of Civil Rights law. But also again, it is easy for me to say this. Steve Sailer rightly points out that incompetent firemen mean more horrible flaming deaths, but what do we say to the black person who asks, "okay . . . how many flaming deaths?" Sure, it sucks if that flaming death is yours, but playing the odds is not inherently irrational.

I know the answer I want. I want competent public services, and I decline to be governed by the kind of people who subvert those services in the name of racial quotas. But I would also like to respect the self-government of blacks who answer differently, so long as they, and not I, reap the consequences of their decisions.

So once again, I propose a grand bargain. Do you want affirmative action? Do you want racial set asides and political patronage? Repeal the Civil Rights Act. I'll give you all the affirmative action you can stand in any jurisdiction over which you achieve political control. I'll even give you Ricci . . . and Seattle and Croeson and Bakke. And in return, I want Griggs, and New Kent, and Brown. And the opportunity to set the hiring standards and education policies in any jurisdiction we control, free of judicial oversight. Call it a "prisoner exchange."

That's my offer.

Monday, August 03, 2009

The Wreckage of Desegregation

Race and Education documents in heartbreaking detail the social destruction wrought by America's frenzy of forced school integration. It tells of the political seduction of legal scholarship that led the NAACP to make historical arguments in Brown v. Board so badly supported that not only did the Supreme Court reject them, but the authors themselves would later admit that they had made them in bad faith. It tells of the "social science" arguments that, notwithstanding the Brown court's endorsement, were so flimsy that the defendants didn't bother addressing them, much to their chagrin. It tells of solidly performing middle class schools destroyed by the influx of minorities, of white children subjected to intimidation and violence, and black students brought face-to-face with their own academic inferiority. It tells of schools, districts, and entire cites hollowed out by increasingly imperialistic efforts to force whites to do what they wold not do: share social space with large numbers of minorities.

Race and Education tells of the mounting evidence that neither desegregation nor racial proportionality did anything to help either the academic achievement or the social assimilation of the underclass. It tells of continued elite efforts to force integration long after America's black community had largely rejected school integration as a worthwhile pursuit.

And at the end of it all, what did we have to show for it? Barely more integration than we had when we started, substantial declines in school safety and academic excellence, and vast social disruption.

What a tragedy.

Here's my question: what drove all this? I can understand hiring quotas and racial set-asides; these clearly transfer resources from whites to blacks, and thus have their own built-in constituency. I can understand affirmative action in university admissions, which purport to do the same thing, although these transfers often turns out to be chimerical. But who benefitted from forcing black children into white schools? Who benefitted from forcing white children into black schools?

Could it all have been about making war on white communities?

Sunday, August 02, 2009

More News from the "Religion of Peace"

From the AP:

Hundreds of rioting Muslims attacked Christians in eastern Pakistan on Saturday, burning and looting their homes in a rampage that killed six Christians, including a child, and wounded 10 others in the latest violence against minorities in the conservative Muslim country.

The unrest started late Thursday, when members of a banned extremist Muslim organization began torching Christian homes in a village in the Punjabi city of Gojra after allegations that a Koran had been defaced, Federal Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti said.

Violence flared again Saturday, when shots were fired on a peaceful Muslim rally passing by a Christian neighborhood, said local minister Dost Mohammad Khosa. It was not clear who fired the shots, he added.

Television footage showed baton-wielding crowds running through the streets, blocking traffic and a railway line. Ransacked furniture lay outside blackened and burning homes, while a group of people rushed a man with burn injuries on a wooden hand-pulled cart through the streets.

Gunfire could also be heard.

Authorities said the six people killed included a child and four women. Mr. Bhatti said about 40 Christian homes had been burned since Thursday.