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January 17, 2004
The "Creative Class"
This article in City Journal (Winter issue is out!) debunking Richard Florida's Creative Class theory of the rise of cities rings true. There are all sorts of issues with Florida's assertions, but the idea that creativity can be guided through city initiative, rather than coming up from the grass-roots seems most strange to me. Bike paths are not going to make many people move to Pittsburgh. When I lived in Portland, I met a non-trivial number of Pittsburghites, and they left the city even though Portland was tech-hell for the job market for programmers. Portland is a "hip" place, and a lot of creative people live there, but that doesn't mean it's an economic powerhouse. I encountered lots of underemployed people who made financial sacrifices to live there.
The next Tigress Woods?
The fact that she's 6'0 tall helps....
To my knowledge Steve is the only one out there talking aboout the rise of the Asian female golfer-well, seems like in 5 years he might have a lot more red meat to work with, hell, perhaps even a book idea.
For the record, here is the text of the article by Robert Kilroy-Silk which I referred to earlier:
Original Kilroy article, Express on Sunday, 4th January 2004
WE OWE ARABS NOTHING.
We are told by some of the more hysterical critics of the war on terror that "it is destroying the Arab world". So? Should we be worried about that? Shouldn't the destruction of the despotic, barbarous and corrupt Arab states and their replacement by democratic governments be a war aim? After all, the Arab countries are not exactly shining examples of civilisation, are they? Few of them make much contribution to the welfare of the rest of the world. Indeed, apart from oil - which was discovered, is produced and is paid for by the West - what do they contribute? Can you think of anything? Anything really useful? Anything really valuable? Something we really need, could not do without? No, nor can I. Indeed, the Arab countries put together export less than Finland.
We're told that the Arabs loathe us. Really? For liberating the Iraqis? For subsidising the lifestyles of people in Egypt and Jordan, to name but two, for giving them vast amounts of aid? For providing them w ith science, medicine, technology and all the other benefits of the West? They should go down on their knees and thank God for the munificence of the United States. What do they think we feel about them? That we adore them for the way they murdered more than 3,000 civilians on September 11 and then danced in the hot, dusty streets to celebrate the murders?
That we admire them for the cold-blooded killings in Mombasa, Yemen and elsewhere? That we admire them for being suicide bombers, limb-amputators, womenrepressors? I don't think the Arab states should start a debate about what is really loathsome.
But why, in any case, should we be concerned that they feel angry and loathe us? The Arab world has not exactly earned our respect, has it? Iran is a vile, terrorist-supporting regime - part of the axis of evil. So is the Saddam Hussein-supporting Syria. So is Libya. Indeed, most of them chant support for Saddam.
That is to say they support an evil dictator who has gassed hundreds of thousands of their fellow Arabs and tortured and murdered thousands more. How can they do this and expect our respect?
Why do they imagine that only they can feel anger, call people loathsome? It is the equivalent of all the European nations coming out in support of Hitler the moment he was attacked by the US, because he was European, despite the fact that he was attempting to exterminate the Jews - and Arabs.
Moreover, the people who claim we are loathsome are currently threatening our civilian populations with chemical and biological weapons. They are promising to let suicide bombers loose in Western and American cities. They are trying to terrorise us, disrupt our lives.
And then they expect us to be careful of their sensibilities? We have thousands of asylum seekers from Iran, Iraq, Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries living happily in this country on social security.
This shows what their own people think of the Arab regimes, doesn't it? There is not one single British asylum seeker in any Arab country. That says it all about which country deserves the epithet loathsome. GEORGE GALLOWAY, the member of parliament for Baghdad Central, as his tormentors describe him, called the British and American troops "wolves" and called for the Arab countries to rise up and fight them and to cut off oil from the combatants. Later he called upon British troops to refuse to obey "illegal orders". He has, predictably, been vilified. His comments have been termed a disgrace, disgusting, outrageous and so on.
He has been called a loony, naive, gullible and a traitor. There have been demands that George's constituency party should deselect him, that his constituents should not vote for him at the next general election, and that he should be deported to Iraq. No one, as yet, has demanded that he be put in the stocks or burnt at the stake, though no doubt this will come.
But why all the fuss? Why is everyone getting into such an excitable lather over the predictable remarks of a no-mark?
Who with any sense cares an Iraqi dinar for what dear George thinks? Like Clare Short, George is a licensed court jester. He acts the buffoon while she's the straight part of the act, though she exaggerates her sanctimonious seriousness.
Neither are taken seriously. Both are totally discredited laughing stocks that add to the variety of political life. At least George is open, honest and sincere.
(c) Copyright Express Newspapers 2004 The Express on Sunday
Incidentally, it seems that I (among many others) was wrong in accusing K-S of historical ignorance. The passsage 'After all, the Arab countries are not exactly shining examples of civilisation, are they? Few of them make much contribution to the welfare of the rest of the world' is clearly in the present tense, and implies nothing either way about Arab civilisation in the past.
January 16, 2004
Recently one reader ripped into David B for his recent post highlighting the racial disparities in the recent gang rapes in the London area-and the media's lack of attention to the matter. I think the latter point is crucial, because once you have a disjunction between public knowledge and private knowledge, distortions start creeping into social discourse and behavior (more later).
Look at Norway. Here is a statistic:
The Norwegian government, from Left to Right, is now encouraging assimilation and eduation of new populations who have not previously encountered the hyper-progressive gender situation that prevails in Scandinavia. Does culture have nothing to do with these rapes? Norway, like most of Scandinavia, has welfare benefits for residents that ensures a minimum standard of living. Why are men raping women like this when their basic needs are met?
The answer seems obviously at face value: men who come from societies where women exist as objects owned by the extended family, circumcscribed by codes of honor and enforced gender segregation, are not equipped to deal with women who have certain expectations of individual respect and dignity as autonomous agents.
Let me elaborate with a case that illustrates part of the problem:
In the 1960s the first guest workers came to Germany from Turkey. Many were Kurds from backward regions of that country, not individuals from Westernized Ankara, and they had a difficult time understanding the norms of German culture. For instance, many rapes occurred when men received "positive" signals from women, and once she assented to being alone with the man, he simply did not register any further inputs, including "no" or resistance to sexual advances. These were men who had note "dated," had not spent much time with the opposite gender where the individual was not related to them (unless they were married) and simply had few preconceived notions of how to react to a sexually assertive women.
This shouldn't surprise us, there has been a sexual revolution the West, and men now have re-calibrated their expectations of female behavior, but in the 19th century many American men might have not understood a sexually liberated woman outside of the context of a prostitute. In much of the world this change has not occurred-and I think Westerners must remember that it is a very revolutionary way of life that we lead.
Now, as for publically speaking of it. The biggest minority in Norway is Pakistani. They tend to commit many of the rapes. Though the vast majority of Pakistani-origin men are not rapists, it is plausible that the majority of rapists are of Pakistani-origin. One may speak of how everyone must be treated as an individual, but I doubt many would deny Norwegian women the right to begin to behave in an acturial fashion, making calculations of how to behave around Pakistani men as opposed to Norwegian men in the same social situations, making assumptions of how the former would behave differently from the latter. Some have been explicit about this, from a Mark Steyn column:
Not speaking of the problem publically, not insisting on changing the environment so that Pakistani-origin men are more full acculturated into Norwegian society, will result a de facto recognition of average differences, and behavioral modification in accordance.
Since Pakistani-origin males are fewer than 10% of the male population, Norwegian women can probably avoid them if they so choose. It is an inconvenience, but if the statistics remain as they are, I doubt anyone would expect anything less. But, remember that the majority of Pakistani-origin men are not rapists. A large proportion of the Pakistani-origin community is modernist, and wishes to live the Norwegian life just as their white co-citizens. The problem is a minority. While Norwegian women can avoid "the problem" in a predominantly white society, a modernist Pakistani-origin man will probably interact with white females frequently, and he will feel the impact of the negative behaviorial tendecies of people who look like him on a very personal level. Over time, a modernist may also simply withdraw from contact with white Norwegians, because they are tired of the generalizations that they must deal with.
Equivocating response is the worst response of all. The disjunction between public platitudes and personal opinions results in less information flowing through the system (though white Norwegian women might know that most rapes are committed by Pakistan-origin, they might not reflect on the fact their chances of being raped might still be very low-but such statistical analysis is fobidden), and distorts the interactions of all involved in the society. For white people in the West lack of acknowledgement of disparities in crime by race can be handled by simply changing private behavior and avoiding contact with minorities-but for the majority of the minority that does not behave in a pathological fashion, the rational response of the white minority has a much stronger impact.
I of course speak as someone that would on sight be identified as Pakistani-origin on the streets of Olso because of my physical appearence. A problem with multiculturalism is that in practice it becomes deterministic. My brown skin mean-for both liberal multiculturalists and acturially terrified Norwegian women-that I am one with "my South Asian Muslim brothers," never mind my professed atheism and ethusiasm for the liberation of women from their pedestal.
Some articles below....
Sometimes I like to joke that I'm "black Irish," since most Americans don't know what that means, and often find it as plausible as any of my other outrageous lies. Well, seems like there are many more black Irish in the near future of the Emerald Isle-Irish baby laws attract Africans:
By the way, somewhere between Eire & Igboland was born this woman.
January 15, 2004
We've been ragging on G.W. recently. Open thread for regular readers to tell us why he isn't just the devil's good twin (the devil being the Democratic nominee).
Remember, this is the man that threw up steel tarrifs for political reasons, and, now he wants to open borders (for political reasons? who knows)! If anything, it reminds me a bit of Gephardt-lite, the man who wants to open more competition to American labor and prevent free flow of goods and services between nations! Since Gephardt can't get that international minimum wage he wants, perhaps his solution was to let the internationals move into the United States so they could get the American one.
Thinking short term
The Economist has a special report on Sub-Saharan Africa in their current issue. I have cut & pasted a full article on South Africa below (it is subscription only). This is what I found interesting:
This could be lifted out of a passage describing the New Economic Policy in Malaysia or the petrol-kingdoms of the the Arabian peninsula-where Islamic Studies is the main area of study for indigenous peoples, while "market dominent minorities," tend to go into more rigorous and practical fields like engineering or business (or come with degree in hand in the case of Saudi Arabia). There is some of this going on in the United States, with the expansion of "Studies" programs focused on identity politics.
In the United States this might be sustainable for an indefinite period, but in places like Saudi Arabia or Malaysia, where parasitic majorities are milking productive minorities, this is a recipe for future disaster. It is obviously cheaper in the short term to promote underqualified people, rather than bullying individuals into more practical fields, but in the long term all it does is defer structural transformations in societies that need to happen. I suggest that places like Saudia Arabia, Malaysia and South Africa get draconian fast-target groups who avoid the sciences and pre-professional tracks, and compell them to study in those fields for at least a few years. Science and business can be dull & dry, and if you are guaranteed a plush management position with a more "interesting" plan of study, why wouldn't you do it? People are rational actors....
“SOUTH AFRICA is very welcoming,” says Trevor Ncube. Two years ago, Mr Ncube, a jovial young Zimbabwean businessman, bought the Mail and Guardian, a struggling South African newspaper, and turned it around. Given where he comes from, it is not surprising that he finds his new surroundings congenial. Back home in Zimbabwe, the two independent weeklies he owns are constantly harassed and threatened with closure. In South Africa, a publisher's worries are more mundane: advertising rates, circulation figures and tough competition.
Africans flock to South Africa for the same reason that Mexicans head for California. The country accounts for 45% of sub-Saharan GDP. “South Africa works,” says Mr Ncube, and he is right. This becomes apparent as soon as you step off the plane. Johannesburg's airport is gleamingly first-world. The people behind the desks at passport control are courteous and efficient. Wave your plastic at Avis or Budget, and in no time you are speeding into town in a locally built Toyota. The phones connect, the wine is delicious and you are free to do pretty much what you want. Other Africans are envious.
In some ways, South Africa's recent history has been inspiring. Only ten years ago, 90% of its people were denied full citizenship. At the height of apartheid, blacks were barred from good jobs, schools and neighbourhoods (unless employed to mow a white person's lawn). Young whites were conscripted to strafe neighbouring countries. Violent protests made black townships ungovernable.
The collapse of the Soviet Union prompted the African National Congress (ANC), the main black liberation movement, to abandon socialism. This made majority rule a less frightening prospect for white South Africans. After long negotiations, the apartheid regime allowed a proper democratic election in 1994, which the ANC easily won. The much-predicted civil war never happened, and now seems inconceivable.
The first decade of democracy has not been trouble-free. More South Africans now die each month from AIDS than were killed during the two decades of political violence before liberation. The fear of violent crime blights most South African lives. The murder rate is lower than a decade ago, largely because political killings have stopped, but South Africans are still five times more likely to be murdered than Americans are.
The government is popular, though, largely because of its efforts to improve life for those who suffered under apartheid. It has built 1.4m brick homes for the poor, and delivered free water, up to a modest limit, to 26m of South Africa's 45m people. The ANC has also established Africa's largest welfare state, most importantly through the provision of old-age pensions, which have transformed black grandmothers into the main breadwinners for many rural families.
All this was done without printing money. Fiscal discipline has been exemplary: the government's budget deficit has been reduced from 9.1% of GDP in 1993 to an estimated 2.4% in 2003. Economic growth, which averaged a miserable 0.6% a year between 1981 and 1993, ran at a more respectable 2.8% a year between 1994 and 2002, outstripping population growth of 1.8%. South Africa is much freer than ever before, and a bit more prosperous.
Liberation has brought prosperity for some...
But that prosperity has not been evenly spread. The black middle class has grown bigger and wealthier; the government promotes blacks on principle, and private firms are obliged to do the same, under a raft of laws mandating “affirmative action”. According to Sampie Terreblanche, a left-wing academic, the richest 25% of blacks saw their incomes rise by 40% between 1974 and 1994 (as the worst apartheid restrictions on what they could do for a living were relaxed), and by a further 30% since 1994.
Poor blacks, however, have grown poorer. Mr Terreblanche calculates that the income of the bottom 45% of blacks halved between 1974 and 1994, and has contracted by another 10% since then. The main reason is that unskilled South Africans are finding it harder to find work. Unemployment among blacks has increased from 24% in 1970 to 40% in 1994 and more than 50% today. That people should have lost their jobs during the turbulent latter years of apartheid is not surprising, because the country was getting poorer. But why, as South Africa has grown richer over the last decade, has it continued to shed jobs?
Three factors seem important. First, under apartheid, blacks were deliberately deprived of education, leaving millions of them, as Mr Ncube puts it, unemployable. Second, the ANC has brought in new laws that make labour more expensive. Third, growth has not been nearly fast enough to make up for these structural problems.
...but not for others
There are two types of labour law. One sort is designed to improve working conditions, by mandating higher minimum wages, overtime rates, more maternity leave and so forth, and also makes it harder to sack anyone. This is marvellous for those who already have formal jobs, but it makes South African firms go into contortions to avoid hiring. The unskilled have lost out the most. “Look at that guy hawking oranges,” says James Lennox, head of the South African Chamber of Business. “If I was allowed to pay him what he would accept, I could create thousands of jobs.”
The other kind of labour law is designed to redress the wrongs of apartheid by compelling firms to promote more blacks, women and disabled people. Firms above a certain size are obliged to provide the government with annual reports outlining how they plan to make their workforce more “demographically representative” (ie 75% black, 50% female, etc) at all levels. Firms find this a hassle.
About half of South Africa's middle managers and a quarter of top managers are now black, up from hardly any a decade ago. Blacks have been promoted especially fast in the public sector. The government can pursue racial targets more easily, because it has no competitors and does not need to make a profit to survive. This makes the state less efficient. Since so many underqualified people have been promoted, the government has to hire an army of consultants to help them, who form what Ferial Haffajee, a local journalist, calls “a parallel bureaucracy”. Since, under “affirmative procurement” rules, black-owned firms can charge more and still win government contracts, fewer roads, bridges and houses for poor people are built than would have been without these rules.
Private companies compete fiercely for black talent. A black with sought-after skills is typically paid 15-20% more than a similarly qualified white, according to headhunters. Supply cannot match demand. There are many more blacks at university than ten years ago, but most choose soft subjects such as education and social sciences. In 2002, only 3,300 black high-school students (1% of the total) passed higher-grade maths. In the same year, only 246 of South Africa's 19,000 chartered accountants were black. Thabo Mbeki, South Africa's president, said he was disturbed, when he attended a graduation ceremony last year, to see that virtually all the students had specialised in “Biblical studies, Biblical studies, Biblical studies”.
Nonetheless, the government is convinced that many more blacks would have been promoted had racist white bosses not blocked their way. The director-general of the labour ministry, Rams Ramashia, threatened firms that failed to obey South Africa's new racial laws with being “fined to bankruptcy”.
The government is also trying to promote black share ownership. It has promised to issue a “black empowerment charter” for every industry, setting targets for the proportion of shares that must be transferred to blacks. Charters for the oil, mining and banking sectors have already been published. Details vary, but the general thrust is that about a quarter of South African shares should be in black hands within a decade or so.
Who will fund this colossal transfer of wealth? The total cost, according to Azar Jammine, chief economist at Econometrix, a consultancy, could be about 700 billion rand ($110 billion). That is equivalent to 10% of the country's money supply every year for ten years. Black South Africans do not have that kind money, nor could South African banks provide it without risk to their solvency. The government could foot the bill, but that would add ten points to inflation for a decade and lower the growth rate from 3-4% to 1-2%, estimates Mr Jammine, unless the assets somehow become more productive under their inexperienced new owners.
In practice, the cost will probably be split between the banks, the government, the firms divesting shares and the blacks buying them. Firms may win points for helping the government achieve its other objectives, by providing better training for blacks, for example. Some shares will go to funds with broad black ownership, but overall, the charters look like a hideously expensive way to enrich a small number of black people, many of whom will, on past form, be senior members of the ruling party. Empowerment, as currently practised, “has created no new products or independent new companies that are not propped up by large white corporations,” laments Moeletsi Mbeki, a prominent commentator and the president's brother.
Add value or fail
South Africa has a strong democratic culture, with a free press, an independent judiciary, a feisty trade-union movement and a large middle class. There are too many checks and balances for it ever to succumb to crude tyranny of the sort so common north of the Limpopo river. But the fact that the ANC faces no plausible electoral challenge is worrying.
South Africa's government is not particularly corrupt, but it could become so. If it remains in power for too long, the ANC could evolve into the kind of patronage machine that has so damaged virtually every other African country. Probably most of South Africa's black tycoons have links to the ANC. Cyril Ramaphosa, one of the richest, was the party's secretary-general, and the man who first promoted the idea of “empowerment charters”.
Looking further ahead, South Africa needs more genuine black entrepreneurs: people who build up their own businesses from scratch, rather than parlaying political connections into a chunk of a firm that someone else built; people who actually create wealth. Currently the whites pay most of the taxes, but their number is in long-term decline. Someone will have to take up the slack.
This article (free) in The Economist addresses the freeing up of movement between poor east-central Europe and western Europe with the expansion of the EU. One concern is the possibility of a drain on local resources by welfare seeking migrants, and it specifically mentions Gypsies.
Everyone knows about the Roma (Gypsy) genocide by this point. When I was in college I did a research paper on the Gypsies of Europe, and one thing to note was how bestial the European nations behaved toward them, deep into the 19th century there were parts of Germany where nobles hunted them for sport (I found one painting where a German noble holds aloft the heads of a Gypsy woman and her child that he has just run down and decapitated). But...life is more complicated than the propoganda, and I found that the Gypsy attitude toward the gadje (non-Gypsy) was one of total contempt and lack of moral feeling. Just as Europeans treated Gypsies like animals, the victims themselves had no conception of moral relations with their host peoples, cheating, lying and deception were considered acceptable so long as the person who was being exploited was a gadje.
The Gypsy way is highly successful-there are millions all over Europe, and their numbers are increasing with the spread of modern medicine in their communities.
Update: Here is some text from a letter written by Roma (Gypsy) activists to PRI:
Because Gypsies were highly mobile and suspicious of the authorities compared to Jews, it seems plausible that a lower percentage were caught and killed by the Nazi regime.
Connoisseurs of political correctness may enjoy two stories that are currently entertaining or infuriating readers in Britain.
First, the Kilroy scandal. Robert Kilroy-Silk is a TV presenter (and former Labour Member of Parliament) who hosts a popular TV discussion programme called Kilroy on the BBC (a kind of up-market version of Jerry Springer). Not content with his huge income from this source, Kilroy-Silk also writes articles for newspapers. A recent article criticised Arabs as ‘limb-amputators, suicide-bombers, and women-repressors’, all of which might seem fair comment. (It’s a pity that Kilroy-Silk spoilt it by describing Iran as an Arab country, and asking rhetorically ‘What have Arab countries ever given the world?’, thus revealing both historical and geographical ignorance.) But he has drawn down on his head the wrath of Muslim organisations and the PC establishment. The BBC has suspended Kilroy while it considers whether Kilroy-Silk can maintain the ‘impartiality’ expected of BBC presenters (try to keep a straight face while reading this). Trevor Phillips, the Chairman of the preposterous Commission for Racial Equality, has called for a police investigation of possible ‘incitement to racial hatred’. (Phillips is a black journalist. By a remarkable coincidence, he is also a friend of Tony and Cherie Blair. Just what are the odds against that? As for the Commission for Racial Equality, it is a publicly-funded body set up to promote ‘racial equality’. Needless to say, most of its staff and members are black or Asian. Its last Chairman (before Phillips) was forced to resign after drunkenly assaulting a policeman and threatening to use his contacts with police bosses to get him fired. The Commission also has the distinction of a large number of complaints of racial discrimination among its own staff - black against Asian, Asian against black, Caribbean against African - you name it.)
But surprisingly, Kilroy-Silk has not made the usual grovelling public recantation and ritual self-flagellation expected in these circumstances: he has admitted to factual errors, but defends his right to freedom of speech. He has strong public support, and even the BBC are now getting nervous. If his BBC contract is cancelled, the chances are he will get an even better-paid job with another station.
The other story concerns the London Metropolitan Police. It is reported that several white police officers are planning to sue the Met for ‘racial discrimination’. The basis of the complaint is that they have been disciplined for minor breaches of police rules while similar or worse breaches by non-white officers have been ignored. In the background is the case of the notorious Superintendent Ali Dizaei. Dizaei is of Iranian origin, and is one of the highest-ranking ethnic minority policemen in Britain. He is also a leading figure in the Metropolitan Black Police Association. (But wait - I hear you ask: are Iranians black? Well, you know what Humpty-Dumpty said about definitions.) Dizaei is evidently a nasty piece of work. There have been complaints against him for several years. The police authority prosecuted him on corruption charges, but the jury in their wisdom acquitted him. The authority then did a deal with him, under which they dropped their internal disciplinary proceedings, and paid him £80,000 compensation, while he dropped proceedings against them for racial discrimination, and admitted to serious misconduct. Notably, he admitted that he had threatened a former mistress (he has several) that he would put her name on police records as a prostitute, and get his subordinates to harass her. (His admission on this point should earn him no credit: he was stupid enough to leave the threats on her answering machine, and she kept the tape, so he could hardly deny it.) You might well think that in these circumstances he is lucky to avoid instant dismissal, let alone to get compensation!
But again, there is a glimmer of hope. The independent Police Complaints Authority has refused to drop its own investigation, and its Chairman is reported to have said ‘What is at stake is the integrity of the disciplinary process. We can’t have one officer getting special treatment because he is a senior black officer’. Really?
Meanwhile, out on the streets, the police have other things to deal with. According to the Daily Telegraph (14 January), gang rape attacks in London are now occurring at a rate of about one a day. Most of the suspected rapists already have convictions for mugging and other street crimes. According to the report, ‘Scotland Yard is treating the evidence with care because it has sensitive racial overtones.... Suspects of African/Caribbean appearance were identified in 49 per cent of attacks. A further 13 per cent were committed by men of Indian/Pakistani appearance.’ (These numbers are not as disproportionate as they seem, as non-whites are about 25 per cent of the population in London, and higher than that in the run-down areas where most street crime occurs.) You might well wonder how the Met could have the political incorrectness to publicise these figures. Well, they didn’t: according to a Telegraph editorial, ‘Scotland Yard has done nothing to publicise these statistics, which were uncovered by our reporter scrutinising the Metropolitan Police Authority website’. No doubt the Met are already looking at the website to see if the figures can be concealed more effectively in future!
How the ape got its big brain
Here are some popular press articles on this:
Science Daily News
This doesn't seem to be a gene that led to the "Great Leap" about 40,000 years ago-but something that might be a candidate for the more gradual increase in brain capacity among hominids over the past 2 million years.
An important thing to note is that the gene associated with a highly abnormal phenotype (microcephaly) also had variants that produced natural phenotypic variation, because without phenotypic variation there could have been no natural selection. One should keep this in mind when some disingenuously claim that there is a stark distinction between those genes implicated in mental retardation and those involved in normal variation. The two sets have highly nontrivial overlap.
Update II (from Razib): Future Pundit comments.
January 14, 2004
How smart is Bush?
Smarts isn't everything-Jimmy Carter probably had the highest IQ of recent presidents, but if "people skills" is what G.W. is pushing as his strength, listening seems like it would be important. If Bush's "gut" agrees with your own political position, I guess it doesn't matter, but if you disagree, fat chance of convincing him otherwise....
Now, what about the Democrats? I think it is plausible that Dean and Kerry have Bush's intellectual aptitude, but are probably more curious about the world around them (not too hard, frankly). Joe Lieberman is an example of the benefits of the meritocracy, as is Wes Clark, probably the mental superstar of the bunch.
Update: Busy says about space & all that: "the desire to explore and understand is part of our character".
P.S. I don't think lack of curiousity would concern me much if G.W. hadn't embarked on an imperial program around the world. Back in 2000 Gore seemed more like the nation-building hawk, I dismissed Bush's lack of knowledge about world affairs on the hunch that he wouldn't have to do much as far as international policy went.
The whole thing seems kind of pseudoscientific to me. How can Simonton quantitatively assses Bush's "integrative complexity" without testing him under controlled conditions? It reminds me of those assignments of IQ scores to historical figures - total guesses with some scientific-sounding jargon behind them.
$Everyone Loves a Jewish Girl$
Yeah, the above shirt is offensive, but there's offensive, and then there's offensive. This reminds me of the old Chris Rock line that he didn't get why people objected to "positive" stereotypes. He noted that he'd be really excited if people said stuff like, "Yeah, blacks are good with money, let that guy manage my investments," or "Let's cheat off the black guy! You know they're smart!"
By the way, here's a thought for a stereotype shirt:
I got to this story via the Beliefnet Blog which frames it in contrast with the fact that Jesus is my Homeboy T-shirts are still on sale. That's kind of stupid seeing how as the evangelical Christian Right debased their own culture to make "Jesus cool" by rolling out weirdlings like Christian Rap and Christian Nudism.
Brazil & racial admixture
The article that indicates that there has been some disassociation between geographic ancestry and racial phenotype in Brazil is out as full text for free online: Color and genomic ancestry in Brazilians. Here is the part that made it into the papers:
I think all goes well until the last paragraph. Note that the article is emphasizing the Brazilian context, until the conclusion, where it simply drops any Brazilian qualifier-and makes it appear that this result is generalizable. But the fact is that a paper showing the strong relationship between self-reported racial origin and genetic ancestry by geographic region had come out just before the Brazil paper (they even thank one of the authors of the latter paper in the acknowledgements for a sample!)....
January 13, 2004
Nuclear Space Ships
It is possible to establish a moon base and send a manned mission to Mars fairly cheaply. And all with (mostly) existing technology.
Check out Project Orion.
Nuclear pulse propulsion (or External Pulsed Plasma Propulsion, as it is termed in recent NASA documents) is a proposed method of spacecraft propulsion that uses nuclear explosions for thrust. It was briefly developed as Project Orion by ARPA. It was invented by Stanislaw Ulam in 1957, and is the invention of which he was most proud.
In simple terms: Think of a cat with a string of firecrackers tied to its tail. Now imagine that with nukes. And a spaceship instead of a cat. That's Orion.
The main argument against this wonderful technology is an irrational fear of nuclear fallout. No really. The Linear No-Threshold radiation exposure model is only useful for environmentalist kooks. See here: http://web.ccr.jussieu.fr/curie.100/fulltext/jaworowski.html
And if you are not hot on using Orion to send men to other planets, it still has an incredibly practical use. It is the perfect technology for moving asteroids out of Earth-collision orbits when necessary.
Typological confusions: The New York Effect and scaling subjectivity with facts
Regular readers know I like to prattle on & on about "typologies," the ways people classify and systematize classes. In the realm of politics I've occasionally banally pointed out that "ah, another consequence of political perspective X being 'several steps' away from the referent," and so forth. But I didn't have a cute little name for it. I thought of one (and people can tell me if others have used the term, it seems so natural), The New York Effect.
Remember the famous map where all of the United States to the west of the Hudson is just an amorphous mass? This is obviouslly overstating it, but I think it is no reach to assert that New Yorkers tend to find the obvious and great differences between Iowans and Nebraskans trival from their perspective perched on top of the cultural world. It seems a crass generalization to assert that New Yorkers might think that the difference between the Upper East Side and Upper West Side is more consequential than the difference between the Upper Midwest and the Great Lakes States, but in their everyday life, this is a fine assumption, because precision and granularity are necessary in the case of the former and not in the latter.
You can rescale this easily to to nation-states, Americans used to (we hope) confuse Iran & Iraq, based on syllabic similarities. The United States is the New York of the world. But the New York Effect is not limited to the heights, when I moved to eastern Imbler as a teenager, my friends simply clustered my previous locales, upstate New York and western Pennsylvannia, together. They were both "back east," end of story. Of course, the area of upstate New York that I lived in was a part of greater New England, while in western Pennsylvania I was palpably on the eastern edge of the industrial Midwest, so to me the distinction was important. But what did it matter to hicks in the sticks?
So, imagine a "social space," which correlates closely, but not exactly, to physical space (it is three dimensional insofar as obviously one location on the map is made up of a layer cake of ethnicities, classes and religions, and actually is more than 3-dimensional, but it makes analogies harder if I take it that far). From the perspective of any given individual in this social space, precision and clarity of typological distinctions is greatest among neighbors, and drops off sharply in proportion to distance.
Yes, I know that this is a trivial and banal assertion, but this needs to be re-stated today, because this banality has been neglected in our modern age and I believe that it is partly the cause of the monster that is Post-Modern solipsism: the obvious fact that subjectivity exists is conflated into its ontological necessity and primacy in all areas of intellectual discourse.
So perspective matters, and how you classify people can distort your conception of the issues, and lead to fallacious propositions based on the "truths" that you hold. Not too complicated.
But I think people also need to "decompose" the vectors or variables (use whatever analogy is easy for you, you'll see what I'm getting at) that synthesize themselves in each individual to shift, color and set ones position in social space. How do you get into someone's head, how do you anticipate what decisions they'll make? Well, you have to know their values.
There are some "values" that are pretty universal. Love of self, love of family, kith, kin, etc. etc. The problem though I think is that people project the reality in their own social place all over the place, so they assume the same weightings for other people. Let me explicate with a specific example.
Take an American, and to simplify, let me assume that this individual makes decisions based on the following variables:
individual + family + faith + neighborbood + city + nation + ethnic group
I didn't put them in any particular order aside from shifting from the smallest atomic unit toward larger ones, but there is obvious overlap here, and the higher levels of organization don't always nest inside each other (faith can be transnational, national, regional, etc.). Additionally, the decisions implied by one variable (individual) might conflict with another (family). Finally, the weights are crucial. They differ from person to person.
In some individuals, many variables are basically null. Someone who lives on an isolated farm has little city affiliation, since they don't live in a city. Of course, they could have been born in a city, or they could have relatives in the city. This illustrates that I'm obviously simplifying, but I think that it works to first aproximation. Additionally, the variables may interact in peculiar ways, some conflicting, others co-varying, others have causal implications.
Let us imagine someone living in the city of Kabul. Let's imagine their variables....
individual + family + faith + neighborbood + city + nation + ethnic group
Now, here is where the problem comes in. I think that many Americans simply transfer weights and make decisions based on this. Additionally, as I noted, there are already issues of typological precision when you shift far away from your point in social space. From instance, while for an American the "tribal clan" is a null variable, not something we really consider, for the Afghan it is crucial. The relative weightings of individual, family and faith are probably shifted. As for "neighborhood" or "community," that is a sketchier concept in the context of nomads.
Finally, when it comes to race or ethnic group, I think Americans have convinced themselves that the rest of the world has their rational-explicit typology in mind, and have slotted the same weights and values to "Pashtun," "Tajik," "Hazara" and "Uzbek," as they normally do to "black," "white," etc. But the weights are very different, and my reading suggests that ethnicity really isn't important as a stand alone concept to Afghans. Rather, ethnicity in this context is an emergent property of several factors, including birth, but also religious confession, lifestyle and what not.
You can transfer some of the same conundrums to Iraq. Subconsciously, I believe that Americans are decomposing values and making judgements of Iraqis based on simply transfer of the same equation they implicitly use in their own life. Shia and Sunni are two explicit groups-forget that inter-religious marriage is rife and that most of the Shia probably converted to that religion in the 19th century when they switched lifestyle from nomadism to agriculture!
The New York Effect, and the transferrance of decision making equations is important, since the United States of America is now a de factor imperial power. The long arm of our military is moving very far out into the sea of social space, and making decisions based values and judgements formed in very different waters where the variables are set in a far different context (and sometimes x is assigned a totally different value, but we still keep the same variable label, confusing us further).
Re-introduce an understanding of cultural scale!
Americans can read maps. We know the difference between feet and meters, we know that Moscow is about twice as far as London, etc. We have the spatial issues under control, they're easy to pin down. This is what most Americans think of when it comes to geography. But there's more there.
People are not a spot on a map, but a bundle of values, set in the context of history (temporal space) and physical locale. We need a sense of cultural scale. Right now, I don't think many Americans have it.
When I was in high school, my social studies teacher noted that geography and its sister disciplines were being rolled back due to budget cuts. A friend of mine, who was an avid humanist, quipped, "they're just facts about distant places!" Exactly! They give one a sense of cultural scale, on top of the obvious spatial differences.
Why do people read literature? Because it makes a comment on the human condition. Because it lets us be someone else, see the world from their perspective, synthesize viewpoints, enriching your understanding of how people interact with the world around them.
Why read geography, history, etc.? Because it makes a comment on the human condition. While literature puts you in the mind of individuals and plots that differ from your own, geography and history gives you a sense of cultural & temporal scale. It reminds you that people are both different and the same. It allows you to implicitly decompose values in your head, reconsider weightings, and try and map out other reigons of social space. Caesar Augustus was a sickly insecure small-town hick who believed in household spirits (numina)-but he also ruled an empire from Normandy to Syria! That is an understanding of scale on multiple levels.
Much of social science has no theory. We need facts to construct internal models. The mental equations are rough & ready, and ultimately we never really spell them out, but to calibrate them we need data points to give us some function to work with.
In today's educational system, I'm afraid that the rise of theory and contempt for mere facts has resulted in the confusions we see today. The irony of sensitive feminists making broad brush generalizations about the human condition, no matter mere facts, is very ironic, but definitely enabled by the cuts in the fact-based cirriculum on the level of secondary school. I suspect that kids who enter college would be less enthralled by factless Post-Modernist theories if they had facts to make sense of the world in the first place! The reality of subjectivity would be less likely to lead into a headlong rush into solipsism if students had tools to re-orient their viewpoint in an objective way, actually see the world from the perspective of others, informed by their values and their concerns.
And the irony of it all is the rush into solipsism hasn't led to a respect of different perspectives/"realities." Let me give an explicit example: I have been accused to "self-hatred." How exactly does that work? I'm not thinking about considering suicide in the near future!
Here is how it works, look at the values I listed above:
individual + family + faith + neighborbood + city + nation + ethnic group
I have a tendency to diss on faith and ethnic group. So obviously I hate myself, right? As you probably guessed by now, I think a problem here is the weightings. I don't weight much as far as religion or race go, simply don't identify much with Islam or South Asians. My weightings are shifted toward the individual. As I've noted before, values can conflict, and what is rational from the perspective of the individual might not be when it comes for higher levels of identification. If you reduce (or conflate) me to my natal religion (which I reject) or genetic code (which I take as a parameter that fashions who I am, but has no transcendent importance to me), sure, I'm "self-hating." But religion us basically a null variable for me, and when it comes to decision making, "what's good for my race," doesn't really play a part in my thinking. I'm kind of narcissistic.
When people accuse of me "self-hatred," actually they're trying to say that I don't put enough value on group identity variables as opposed to individual values. Funny, huh? This from people who often put "objective" in quotes and like to "deconstruct" "universal" "paradigms."
Conservatives & Playboy have won the culture wars!
I simply have to keep ragging on that stupid article, We’re Not Losing the Culture Wars Anymore, because I think it drags City Journal's rep down. Here is an NRO piece defending (sort of) Playboy because it's the best of the worst. Here is the funniest part:
Defining deviancy downward anyone? You know the military does not consider Playboy smut either.
January 11, 2004
The Atlantic Monthly has made a collection of Lafcadio Hearn articles available from its archives.
From his 1895 The Genius of Japanese Civilization:
Without losing a single ship or a single battle, Japan has broken down the power of China, made a new Korea, enlarged her own territory, and changed the whole political face of the East. Astonishing as this has seemed politically, it is much more astonishing psychologically; for it represents the result of a vast play of capacities with which the race had never been credited abroad, and capacities of a very high order. The psychologist knows that the so-called "adoption of Western civilization" within a time of thirty years cannot mean the addition to the Japanese brain of any organs or powers previously absent from it. He knows that it cannot mean any sudden change in the mental or moral character of the race. Such changes are not made in a generation. Transmitted civilization works much more slowly, requiring even hundreds of years to produce certain permanent psychological results...