Your Lying Eyes

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29 December 2005

Canadian Thinking in Vegas

Following up on the doomed Canadian approach to ethnic troubles, an op-ed (via Drudge) in the Las Vegas Sun by UNLV history professor Hal Rothman lectures his fellow Nevadans on the inevitability of Hispanic dominance in Vegas. A sample:
Like any other, the Latino community has its own problems and ways to resolve them. Yet for a group that makes up one-quarter of the Las Vegas Valley and 35 percent of the school district, Latinos appear too often in the crime news and not enough in other ways in coverage of the civic life of greater Las Vegas. We hear too little of what sustains this community, of its businesses and churches, of its celebrations and laments.
Maybe that's because there's too much committing of crime and not enough contribution in other ways to the civic life of greater Las Vegas. Here's the money quote:
As the influence of this community grows, the lack of attention from the rest of us will create an even larger divide that will someday come back to haunt us. In the recent chaos in France and Australia, we have seen how societies that fail to integrate minority populations pay for that shortcoming.
Good lord. How about what we have seen is how societies that allow in people from third-world countries eventually pay for that stupidity? Isn't that a lot simpler lesson to learn than figuring out how to "integrate" them?

Granted, Nevada doesn't control immigration policy and can't prevent legal residents from settling there. But they could prevent illegal residents from enrolling in their schools and report all illegals to the INS ICE. They won't do that, of course, because the gaming business enjoys the extra profits illegals offer, and the government in Nevada is no doubt controlled by these interests. That's the flaw in the professor's "integration" plea - the whole point of having Latinos in Nevada is cheap labor - the casinos aren't looking to them for accountants and lawyers.
The United States remains the best example of a polyglot nation; simply put, we bring all kinds of people under the tent better than anybody on Earth.
That's because we've got a lot bigger tent than pretty much anyone else on earth, so the white people just keep on moving away to other places once they can no longer send their kids to the public schools. Once development in the Las Vegas area maxes out, the demographic changes the professor predicts may well happen quicker than he thinks.

Wave of Violence in Toronto

Long associated with low homicide rates and safe streets, "Toronto the Good," as this city has long been known, has experienced a sharp increase in handgun shootings over the past year, largely among young black men who belong to gangs.
But not to worry - the Canadians have it all figured out. First, you have to identify the source of the problem:
Stressed families, poverty, and poor police rapport have all contributed to the growth of ghettos where, critics say, youth glamorize the "gangsta" culture and drop out of school early to join gangs to make quick money through drugs or prostitution.
Well, they sure zeroed right in on the fundamentals, didn't they? So what to do? Here's some great ideas they've already come up with:
Government officials have boosted funding for skills training for disadvantaged youth, while a handful of private companies have hired young interns from violent neighborhoods. Several churches in the most dangerous areas have introduced after-school sports programs, chaperoned by police and pastors, as well as counseling and the teaching of proper social skills to obtain employment.
Boy they are quick studies up there (they'll come up with "midnight basketball" eventually) - of course they're able to steal all our best ideas, including the magical effect of spreading around millions of federal dollars:
A coalition of 27 African-Canadian organizations...met with Prime Minister Paul Martin days after the funeral shooting and emerged with a promise for $50 million Canadian [US$42.9 million] over five years to develop programs for troubled youth and to craft a crime prevention strategy.
The linchpin for controlling crime, some say, begins at the border:
"We need stricter border controls - only 3 percent of cars crossing the border are even checked. We need support for our law enforcement to do undercover work to catch gun thieves and smugglers, and we need to pressure the US to take responsibility for its guns," says Wendy Cukier, president of the Toronto-based Coalition for Gun Control.
Oh, you thought when I mentioned border control you thought I meant that Canadians want to crack down on the number of minorities entering the country. No - why would you want to do that? The Canadians obviously have this down pat, and they know that no immigrant group could possibly be any more of a crime risk than native Canadians - it just looks that way to your lying eyes.

27 December 2005

Trolling for Terrorists

I'm still not sure how I feel about the reported massive data mining operation conducted by the NSA in search of terrorists. It sounds like every communication that leaves the U.S. was being analyzed for clues that it might be related to terrorist activities.
"It's really obvious to me that it's a look-at-everything type program," said cryptography expert Bruce Schneier, who has written several books about security. Schneier and others suspect that the NSA may be turning its satellites toward the United States and gathering vast streams of raw data from many more people than disclosed — potentially including all e-mails and phone calls from the United States to certain other countries.
I feel George Bush can be forgiven for taking it as his mandate after the 9/11 attacks to do just this. I also believe that the privacy expectations of most Americans are not particularly high, particularly when it comes to electronic information. Thus I don't expect these revelations are likely to hurt Bush directly, and may even be responsible for his slight bump up in the polls.

Nevertheless, this is probably not quite the way this should be done. As long as it's just done to keep track of terrorist activity fine, but of course this can't be guaranteed and almost certainly will be abused. "We swear, we are only using these methods to keep track of terrorists...and of course drug dealers...and gun runners...and child sex rings...and troubled teens..." So the good thing is that this is being debated and will hopefully have a sensible resolution.

And let's take a moment to reflect on the importance of the MSM. This kind of reporting is completely beyond the ken of the blogosphere - only a major media power like the Times could have pulled it off. And let's remember that the Times sat on this for 2 years on the request of the Administration - an example of extremely important and responsible journalism.

24 December 2005

Hope I'm Not the Only One

...who finds this excrutiatingly funny. First, read this inane thread from Instapundit, as painful as it is (it will open in a separate window - don't close it - keep it open for reference). Then brace yourself and read the re-interpretation of this thread from Udolpho.

Immigration Warrior Finally Gets Some Respect

A profile in the New York Times provides a relatively balanced* portrait of anti-immigration warrior Tom Tancredo. A telling quote from the article: "This is a gesture to the xenophobic wing of the party, and that is alarming," said Cecilia Muñoz, a vice president at the National Council of La Raza. "It threatens extraordinary harm to people." When you read hyperbolic nonsense like that, you know there's some real progress being made.

* I.e., not a complete hit job

23 December 2005

Political Roundup

In response to a comment that I have been avoiding politics, here's a quick catch-up.
The Democrats are on a high right now, and the Republicans are on the run. Democrats can pretty much block anything they want to in the Senate. This is mostly traceable to Bush's weakness, which is traceable to Iraq - more precisely his loss of credibility. Because his reasons for invading Iraq - WMD and terrorist links - are no longer believed by most people, and his assurances that things would improve in Iraq have yet to appear even remote likely, the majority of Americans don't trust him. Add to this Tom DeLay's troubles. So now the Democrats have an easier time attributing Republican policies to nefarious motives. Social Security privatization? - just a Wall Street plot to make money off your retirment. Drilling in ANWR? - just an oil company plot to rape the environment. Wiretapping - isn't that what everyone was screaming about that we needed more of after 9/11? - maybe - but maybe you are just spying on Americans for...well, for whatever!

The next victim could be Judge Alito. The press has not been shy about joining the fray. Alito Urged Wiretap Immunity blares the WaPo headline, but what he wrote was a little different.
"I do not question that the attorney general should have this immunity, but for tactical reasons I would not raise the issue here," Alito wrote in the June 12, 1984, memo to his boss, U.S. Solicitor General Rex Lee. "Absolute immunity arguments are difficult to advance successfully" so "there is a need to choose our cases in this area with particular care."
Which doesn't sound quite so unequivocal as the headline. And several news outlets are highlighting yet another memo where Alito argued against Roe two decades ago. This constant pecking away by the mainstream press, coupled with the loss of credibility of Bush, the Republican leadership, and their backers could embolden Democrats to take a hard line against the nominee.

Italian-Americans - They Still Got It!

With the news this past week that the last of the great mafia dons, Vincente "the Chin" Gigante, died in prison, one is tempted to lament the passing of the great crime tradition that Italian immigrants forged in this country. Before the Mafia, crime in America had grown stale. The frontier-desperado so stirringly embodied in Billy the Kid, Jesse James, and Butch and Sundance had grown old with Dillinger and Pretty Boy Floyd in the early 30's.
But with their secret initiations, code of honor, and flair for the dramatic, the newcomers from Sicily injected some much needed vibrancy into the underworld. Anyone who has seen Goodfellas knows how amazingly creative Italian-American mobsters were at breaking the law and eliminating troublesome people. But all good things must come to an end and the Mafia is today a mere shell of its former self.
But the embers of criminal genius burn deep. There's a story out that NYC investigators are looking into an alleged body-part theft ring involving funeral parlors.
A grand jury in Brooklyn has been hearing evidence against at least a half dozen funeral homes in the borough and against Biomedical Tissue Services that they illegally profited by conspiring to sell stolen body parts. Authorities say indictments could be handed up early next year.
One celebrity's remains fell victim to the scam:
Authorities confirmed this week that investigators contacted Alistair Cooke's family after finding paperwork indicating his bones had been removed and sold by a Fort Lee, N.J., tissue bank, Biomedical Tissue Services, before he was cremated. Cooke...died from cancer last year at 95 in Manhattan...someone had falsified documents by changing his cause of death to heart attack, and by lowering his age to 85. Harvesting bones from cancer patients violates rules by the Food and Drug Administration.
But here's the part that tipped me off to this being no two-bit criminal enterprize:
The probe has generated other gruesome images. In one instance, the corpse of a Queens grandmother that investigators exhumed last month had nearly all the bones removed below the waist and replaced with PVC pipes.
So I had to read on to find out a little more about just who's behind this bizarre scheme, and I was not disappointed:
Authorities say the Brooklyn case stems from a deal struck between a dentist who started Biomedical Tissue Services, Michael Mastromarino, 42, of Fort Lee, and Joseph Nicelli, 49, an embalmer and funeral parlor operator from Staten Island. Investigators suspect Nicelli helped secure access to tissue and bones from funeral directors for $500 to $1,000 a body. Mastromarino allegedly would remove the body parts, then ship them to processors paying thousands of dollars per order.
It's gratifying to know that this kind of vibrant, illicit behavior has not been completely extinguished in the Italian-American community.

We Are Still Evolving - But Now What

Read here (and all the associated links) to learn about a new study which shows that human evolution continued apace after we left Africa 60+ thousand years ago. Among genetic material showing signs of active evolution are those affecting the immume system, diet, reproduction, and the central nervous system (and you know what that means).

Until about 200 years ago, the "fittest" people - those who would have the most descendants - were the more economically well off - so the richer you were, the better for your genes. But today, with our improved health care, cheap food and sanitation, the less successful (the poor) have no problem propagating their genes, while the better off find spreading their genes hardly worth the effort. Oh well, nothing we'll have to worry about for a few thousand years.

21 December 2005

Katrina: The Scandal That Wasn't

I'm talking about the alleged MSM 'exaggerations' and 'distortions.' On NPR this morning (I'll provide a link later when it's available - Update: link now available) there was a story on how independent groups have been collecting rape reports months after the tragedy. Despite zero publicity, 42 rape reports have been compiled, most of them gang or stranger-rapes, which are very unusual crimes (in normal circumstances, New Orleans averages a rape every other day). Steve Sailer has more (though he didn't find a link either he has it now with extended excerpts).

Those who go on about the MSM's distortions tend to be constructing MSM strawmen. I monitored the news pretty closely and didn't hear anything that sounded, even in hindsight, to have been sensational. There was one report of a young girl gang-raped and murdered in the Superdome. The reporter talked to people claiming to be eye-witnesses. One woman who described the scene gave her name and the reporter included it in the article, and others corroborated it. So the news organization is supposed to bury this story, because the police say they haven't heard anything about it, in the midst of absolute chaos in one of the country's worst natural disasters? Now that would be a frightening prospect - the news media only reporting on stories that have official collaboration.

20 December 2005

So How Is The Hunt for Osama Going?

For some reason every news outlet in the country felt the need to pounce on Bush's split-second mixing up of Saddam and Osama in his press conference Monday. He was relating how news leaks in the 90's alerted bin Laden to the danger of his using a particular cell phone, which he promptly stopped using - and momentarily said "Saddam" - I guess this was supposed to be Freudian, but a silly thing to focus on. Bush's story though does point up the difficulty of the hunt. When we can't use technology like cell phones to track him down, we're limited to human intelligence - informants, and in that part of the world, that can get awfully dicey. I imagine the search for bin Laden to be not unlike this:
I felt, almost immediately, the presence of a spell to hide [his] presence. There is not a soul in this city (I came to suspect) that doesn't know the secret, and that hasn't sworn to keep it. Most people, when I interrogated them, pleaded unbounded ignorance; they didn't know who [he] was, had never seen the man, never heard of him. Others, contrariwise, had seen him not a quarter of an hour ago talking to Such-and-such, and they would even show me the house the two men had gone into, where of course nobody knew a thing about them - or where I'd just missed them, they'd left just a minute earlier. More than once I balled my fist and hit one of those tellers of precisely detailed lies smack in the face. Bystanders would applaud the way I got my frustrations off my chest, and then make up more lies. I didn't believe them, but I didn't dare ignore them.

J.L. Borges
The Man On the Threshold
Collected Fictions

17 December 2005

It Can Get A Lot Hotter

2005 is either the hottest year on record or the 2nd hottest year. Either way, it fuels concerns about global warming, particularly if you're a polar bear.

So how much warmer can the climate get? Did you read about the recent discovery of 700,000 year old human remains found in Britain?
Along with hippos, rhinos and elephants, early humans were evidently roaming the banks of these rivers. They did so during a warm interglacial period, and much earlier than hitherto thought for this part of Europe...the range of these pioneers expanded temporarily in parallel with an expansion of their familiar warm, Mediterranean-like habitat.
A balmy, Mediterranean climate - right there in Britain! And that's without any fossil fuels to warm up the joint. We're in an "interglacial" right now. So even without our help, temperatures still have a ways to go before they top out.

16 December 2005

Understatement of the Year Award

Well, he got it in just under the gun, but film critic Chris Knight of the National Post has pocketed the coveted Your Lying Eyes Understatement of the Year Award. In a review of Brokeback Mountain, the film about a pair of improbable homosexual lovers, he states, without even a hint of irony:
The subject matter hasn't hurt the film among critics
Yes, shocking isn't it that film critics didn't reject the film out of hand - particularly given what a stodgy, straight-laced, majority-culture-oriented, resistant-to-self-conscious-breaking-of-social-taboos lot they are.

Update: The inestimable C. Van Carter provides a refreshingly contrarian take.

15 December 2005

Back to Square Zero on Stem Cells?

Based solely on the fact that their boosters were seeking taxpayer funding rather than private investment, I had assumed that embryonic stem cells(ESC) were unlikely to provide any concrete benefits for years to come. But then this South Korean ends up accomplishing something that sounds like a real breakthrough and boy, was I wrong, I thought - they're at least 10 years ahead of schedule! Alas, it looks like I wasn't wrong after all, as it appears the "breakthrough" was a total fraud. I don't know what the funding arrangement was for the South Korean research, but the money to be made from research grants must be terribly tempting for a scientist to be willing to throw away his career by faking results. And with lots of people in the USA willing to "invest" billions of dollars of other people's money in ESC's, we should be glad there's an active coterie of pro-life extremists shouting "Stop!"

Quadruple Murders Come in Threes

Hopefully this is a freak occurrence, but there are three recent quadruple murders in the news:

  • Ind. Man Faces 4 Murder Charges in Killings - Simon Rios was found contemplating suicide on his front stoop after strangling his wife and three daughters. The wife had apparently voiced some dismay at the unemployed man's failure to do some household chores.

  • Boston Investigators Seek Suspects in Slayings of Four Men Shot in Basement of House - The victims were part of a rap group who used the basement to rehearse, and were in their late teens/early twenties. The murders pushed the number of homicides in Boston this year to a record 71.

  • Four shot to death in illegal Paterson after-hours club - The four victims - three men and a woman - were all Hispanic, the owner of the property is Hispanic, and all the local interviewees in the article were Hispanic, except for Twenty-five year Paterson Councilman Thomas Rooney, who commented (regarding the after-hours clubs, but could just as well been referring to the murders themselves one gathers) "these things go on in Paterson, and have for years and years." Paterson, NJ of course, was the setting for a fabled triple murder in the sixties.

14 December 2005

Iranian Leader's Rant

I feel slimy even entertaining this jackal's ravings, but I'm not sure the following is entirely without merit:
If you say and insist it's true that you killed 6 million Jews in crematoria during World War II, then why should the Palestinians pay for that? Our proposal is that you give a piece of your land in Europe, the U.S., Canada or Alaska. If you do that, the Iranian people will no longer protest against you.
It's not clear that he's being a literal "Holocaust Denier" - "a myth under the name 'Massacre of the Jews,' and they hold it higher than God himself, religion itself and the prophets themselves." The meaning of the word "myth" here, given that it's a translation, might not necessarily translate to "lie." At any rate, that is what "we" - the West - did - we killed 6 million Jews and then atoned for it by granting the Jewish people a nation in the Middle East. But it's probably a little late to do anything differently now. And isn't this just what the neocons want - this cherished democracy spread around the world - so people can elect anti-Western demagogues to lead them?

Death Penalty Still Popular

I love this:
Despite growing signs of public worry that some innocents may be mistakenly sentenced to death, the failure of a celebrity-laden campaign to block California's execution yesterday morning of Crips founder Stanley "Tookie" Williams reflected a national political landscape in which the public has yet to turn against capital punishment on moral grounds.
Wait - you mean being lectured by the likes of Mike Farrel, Jamie Foxx, Joan Baez and Snoop Dog didn't move the populace to change its stance on capital punishment? Candlelight vigils with people singing "We Shall Overcome" did not inspire the vast American populace to suddenly feel deep compassion towards frightening, violent hulks like Tookie? The American people are just full of surprises.

12 December 2005

Germs Not Genes

Popular notions of genes seem to be somewhat perverse. Things like intelligence and behavior, which in the animal world are rather obviously genetically determined, are assumed to be purely environmental in humans; while diseases such as cancer, which make having lots of ancestors kind of hard, are popularly thought to be genetic. A few years back Greg Cochran, the author of the much discussed paper on the genetic basis of Jewish intelligence, proposed that common fatal diseases will eventually found to be caused by pathogens and not coded in our genes.

A new study has just been published suggesting that childhood cancers may be caused by common viruses such as colds and influenza. The researchers analyzed records going back 60 years and found that childhood cancers tended to cluster in time and place much as one would expect with contagious disease. One of the authors stated that some genetic predisposition would be needed for the infection to turn deadly, but it's not clear why he makes this claim - is it implied by the study's findings or just speculation? "The virus would hit this [pre-existing] mutant cell and cause a second mutation, prompting the onset of cancers like leukemia or brain tumors." It doesn't sound like they've got this part worked out real well, so I presume there's still much more to find out - hopefully this study will lead to funding for more such studies.

09 December 2005

Another Voice on the Pinker Lecture

Finally - via Gene Expression - there's another view on the Steven Pinker lecture I attended last week on Why Jews Are So Damn Smart - and it's worth the wait. Written by a young Jewish woman, it's deliciously sardonic - and respectful of the underlying premise. A sample:
If there's one thing that Jews love more than gentiles raving about Jews, it's Jews raving about Jews, which is probably why a lecture I attended last week was completely packed with Jewish blue-hairs.
There's also a podcast available, which I highly recommend.

What's With the Babe Teachers Seducing Teenage Boys?

Debra Lafave
Debra Beasley Lafave (as with assassins, it is de rigeur to use 3-part names to refer to teacher-seductresses) was dealt a blow in her effort to stay out of prison. She was supposed to be sentenced to three years house arrest and 7 years probation for having sex with a 14-year old boy in Florida. But a judge in one county has balked at the deal, so she may yet do some "hard time".

The bleeding heart in me (yes, there is one down deep, way down) can't see putting this pathetic creature behind bars. But then I realize that in some other societies she would have suffered far worse than prison (the only question being whether she would still be alive when they burned her body). But it all boils down to who you view as the victim.

In modern America, the 14-year old boy is considered the victim. Being seduced by this gorgeous 23-year old woman would probably not be every 14 year old's idea of victimhood - more like a dream come true. Now psychologists will assure us that the boy is just as much a victim in this situation as a girl seduced by a man. Perhaps true to an extent, but these cases aren't big news because people feel sorry for the boys. One expert remarked: "When a woman is an offender, it’s treated differently — especially if she’s attractive. It shakes everybody’s conception of what should be."

Exactly. It turns our world upside down. Attractive young women are an extremely valuable commodity to society - Debra Lafave on her wedding daythey are the most desirable of mates. Wealthy, powerful men seek out young beauties and shower them with gifts - each hoping his alpha-genes can mix with her nubile genome. For such a precious natural resource to be squandered on some teenager is an offense against nature. It is so perverse we naturally assume these perpetrators to be mentally disturbed.

But what about the double standard - why do we punish men more than women in statutory rape cases. Here's Super Liberal Susan Estrich:
None of these women is "Mrs. Robinson" and none of these boys will escape the injury and stigma that rape victims too often suffer. In many respects, being a boy can make it even harderharder to come forward in the first place, harder to testify, harder to deal later on with the complex of emotions and feelings that can so easily get in the way of a healthy sexual relationship.[Emphasis childishly mine. She goes on...] What makes all of these cases particularly egregious is...the abuse of power inherent in the teacher-student relationship. All of this is so clear when the man is the teacher and the girl is the student that it is striking to see how automatically most of us apply the double standard.
For liberals, civilization began some time last century, and so they view all laws as protecting the oppressed against the powerful - for example, they like to think that statutory rape laws are there to protect our children against predators, when of course they serve the same function as laws against burglary - to protect our property against thieves. A man seducing a teenaged girl is doing what comes naturally - just like a thief stealing jewels or a prized heffer. Draconian punishment is meted out to livestock thieves and rapists alike. But turn the tables and what do you have? Teenaged boys are valuable (as potential hunters, warriors or simple farmers), but their virginity is not. The procreational capabilities of young men are effectively limitless - you can't "steal" that. So what's to punish?

Still, do we really want adult women seducing teenaged boys? Society has little to fear from the odd sensational case that pops up every few months. But if it becomes common, this is probably not something we'd want to encourage - or fail to discourage. Marriage is in trouble enough - men's fears of their wives running off with wealthier men or cuckolding more masculine men's children add enough strain - we don't need to add teenage boys to the mix as well (can you say MILF?). So I say - throw the book at the little tart!

08 December 2005

Well No Wonder Dogs Look Just Like Their Owners

The genome of the domestic dog has been sequenced!
Scientists are publishing today the complete DNA sequence that makes a dog a dog, and it turns out to be uncannily close to what makes a person a person..."It's basically the same gene set in dogs and humans"
Surely then this must spell doom for the myth of biologically distinct species?
Dogs attract keen research interest in part because of their astounding variety of sizes, physical forms, coat colors and, of course, behavioral traits. If some of these variations can be traced to genes, results may shed light on more subtle variability in other species, including humans.
Or not so subtle. Dogs are amazingly varied, primarily due to their being purposely bred to be different by humans. The only other animal so heavily influenced by human intentions in mating behavior is, of course, man. And what do you know? Humanity also displays an astounding variety of sizes, physical forms, skin colors and, of course, behavioral traits.

Time to Sharpen the Blade

You remember in March of the Wooden Soldiers when Santa ordered 600 1-foot soldiers but Stan Laurel thought he ordered 100 6-foot soldiers? Well, it was just revealed that earlier this year, when a client of Mizuho Securities in Japan placed an order to sell one share of stock for 610,000 yen, somone entered the transaction as 610,000 shares for 1 yen! Stan Laurel's mistake nearly cost Ma Peep her shoe-house. This trading error, on the other hand, cost Mizuho $225 million.

The upsetting thing here is the human tragedy that will no doubt follow this. In such an honor-bound society, such an egregious error will no doubt be deeply felt not just by the unfortunate executor of the faulty trade but a legion of supervisors above him. In the Land of the Rising Sun, shame can destroy lives for much less.

06 December 2005

The Alito Nomination: Here We Go Again

Like John Roberts before him, Samuel Alito seems poised to present himself as the second coming of David Souter. "Me - a conservative?! Pshaw - I was just blowin' smoke for them Reagan boys!" Maybe that's why Bush nominated Harriet Miers - he figured it would be a lot less exhausting nomination if the nominee didn't actually have any principles to hide. At any rate, as much as I hate to admit it because he's so annoying, E.J. Dionne has a really good column making this point.
You would think that Alito and his supporters would welcome a principled discussion of Roe. In fact, they want to change the subject. When Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) asked Alito about that letter seeking a promotion, she said he told her: "First of all, it was different then. . . . I was an advocate seeking a job. It was a political job. And that was 1985."
The problem is that you can't be a conservative and support Roe - that decision was offensive to conservative philosophy at every imaginable level. While you wouldn't want to establish a litmus test for a SCOTUS nominee, you could really establish a litmus test for conservatism based on the question "Do you think Roe was an awful decision?" Any answer milder than "Yes!" should raise serious doubts about the questionee's conservative pedigree. That doesn't mean that a conservative couldn't work around Roe without overturning it today - but he can't accept its "reasoning." But then even the mere suggestion that he thinks Roe to be problematic will unleash on Alito the righteous hounds of the left in all their fury. The ensuing uproar will, if nothing else, raise the risk level of the proceedings.

Much easier just to dance around it, not say anything that could arouse the public - by this calculus, it's better to risk the certainty of appearing disingenous than to risk being honest and quoted out of context. And so we'll have another frustrating round of hearings - frustrating for liberals who can't get a straight answer to simple questions, and frustrating for conservatives who have to pretend they don't believe the principles they actually hold.

The Tyranny of Federal Funding

For decades liberals in Washington lorded it over states and local communities via their control of the purse strings. Because federal taxes are so heavy, localities can't really draw too much more blood out of their taxpayers and so are dependent on the federal government kicking some of its revenues back to the states in the form of highway grants, educational assistance, medicaid, etc. By threatening to withhold these funds, the federal government gets to have a lot of say in matters it has no business poking its nose into in the first place - everything from environmental regulations to blood-alcohol-content thresholds.

But today in the Supreme Court a law requiring equal treatment of military recruiters at college campuses was being challenged by various law schools. The law schools object to the military recruiting their students because it discriminates against homosexuals. For reasons I can't fathom it's apparently okay for the university itself to welcome these bigoted military recruiters to selectively recruit their students; but for the law school - which is part of the university - it is beyond the pale! The justices for the most part appeared to be equally incredulous. But regardless, the point is that law schools aren't literally required to welcome the recruiters - they'll just lose millions in federal funding for their universities if they don't. The federal government of course uses such funding mandates to enforce all kinds of other anti-discrimination policies. Add to this the fact that unlike, say, funding education, raising armies is one of the few things the federal government is actually supposed to do - I'd say the Defense Department has a pretty solid case here.

05 December 2005

Rice Stands Her Ground

I haven't been keeping up very closely with the CIA-secret-prison-clandestine-flights scandal, but it seems like an indication of just how short our memories can be. Imagine for a moment that it were revealed sometime during 2002 that the Clinton administration had this policy of secretly whisking off suspected terrorists in Europe and interrogating them in old Soviet-era prisons, but the Bush administration came in and put an end to them prior to 9/11 - just imagine the uproar. As is it was there was no end to the outrage over how ineffective the CIA had become after years of emasculation. So now we're doing something about it - yeah, we're playing hardball, but isn't that what everyone demanded after the horrific attack we suffered?
Washington has been on the defensive over the issue for several weeks. Now it has decided to take on its critics and to force European governments to acknowledge their awareness of CIA activities on their soil. Miss Rice said that intelligence gathered by the CIA from "a very small number of extremely dangerous detainees" had "helped prevent terrorist attacks and saved lives" in Europe. "So now before the next attack we should all face the hard choices that democratic governments face."

03 December 2005

More on Pinker: Goyishe Kopf

I somehow forgot this little anecdote that kicked off Steven Pinker's lecture the other night. I don't have the details down exactly, but basically Pinker was talking about his grandfather who owned a garment factory where they made neckties. One day Pinker's father went to visit him and was told he was in a backroom. There Pinker's father saw the grandfather working on fabric with a sewing machine. He asked him what he was doing. He was working on the cut-out remnants of fabric and "if I sew them a certain way I can get a few exta ties out of the lot." Ok, said his father, but why are you doing this rather than one of your workers. The grandfather looked at him, poked a finger to his head, and said "Goyishe Kopf" - Gentile brains!
The story gives a flavor of the kind of audience Pinker was addressing - it's telling that several of the older audience members around me laughed at the "Goyishe Kopf" - they didn't need to wait for the translation. I think part of Pinker's message with the story was to set the table for the audience that the idea of superior Ashkenazi intelligence should be nothing shocking - they all know it already even if they don't admit it.

02 December 2005

Some Strawman with that Red Herring, Sir?

Bryan Caplan of Econlog approvingly references this quote from a letter by blogger Don Boudreaux to the WSJ on immigration:
[O]pponents of openness often allege that immigrants come here to free-ride on taxpayer-supplied welfare. That this allegation is a canard is revealed by the innumerable restrictions that Congress puts on immigrants' options to work. If limits on immigration were truly grounded in fears that immigrants are largely shiftless spongers, why would Congress spend so much ink and effort preventing immigrants from finding gainful employment in America?
Huh? What? WTF? No, we allege that immigrants a) undercut the low-skilled wages of American citizens and b) are a drain on our health, education, and law-enforcement resources, among other things. But I've never encountered any allegations even resembling a charge that immigrants are "shiftless spongers." Where'd they come up with that one? You almost get the feeling that these guys have never even bothered to listen to an actual anti-immigration argument. The good news is that a few of the guys on our team go to town in the comments - not that Caplan or Boudreaux are listening.

Pinker on Jews, Genes and Intelligence

Steve Sailer noted on his blog that Harvard Professor Steven Pinker would be giving a lecture at the Institute for Jewish Research in Manhattan on Jews, Genes, and Intelligence. And so I dutifully got myself on the PATH train to midtown NYC Thursday evening. The talk was based on the paper "The Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence" by Greg Cochran, Jason Hardy and Henry Harpending. For background, here's an article in the Economist, here's Steve Sailer's take, and here's Pinker on Nature vs. Nurture.

Though the moderator thanked him for a very 'even-handed' presentation on a controversial topic, to my ear what Pinker presented was a spirited endorsement of the Cochran-Hardy-Harpending (CHH) paper. The presentation generally seemed to fill the need to present these controversial ideas to a very interested audience by a trusted authoritative source. It didn't seem to me that Pinker added anything that Cochran or Harpending could not have provided themselves except proximity to NYC and comfortably strong Ashkenazik credentials. Overall Pinker emphasized the reasonableness of the authors' hypotheses, the generally better quality of the genetic evidence over the environmental, the non-rational basis of much of the opposition, and the paper's strong foundation in the current state of knowledge.

What follows is a rather lengthy account of what I saw. ...Read more

Pinker began the lecture reciting the litany of Jewish achievements: though only 3% of the U.S. population, Jews make up 40% of partners of top law firms, xx% of Natioanal Academy of Science members, yy% of Oscar winning screenwriters, etc., etc. And then pointed out that Jews test higher on IQ tests, anywhere from 7 to 15 points above the European average regardless of socio-economic status (SES). But this advanced achievement causes conflict in how Jews view themselves or wish to be viewed. Jewish domination in elite circles feeds conspiracy theories of Jewish cabals; suggestions that Jews are genetically different are repugnant in the wake of the Holocaust; and Zionism views Jews as a whole as an ethnic group, not as a race.

After this preamble, Pinker basically proceeded to step thru the arguments (i.e., hypotheses) presented in the CHH paper.

Hypothesis I: The Jewish IQ advantage is largely heritable. Pinker noted the irony that even the existence of intelligence is not recognized by many intellectuals. "I find it remarkable that intellectuals deny that intelligence exists because intellectuals are obsessed with intelligence." They constantly discuss the intelligence of colleagues, students, spouses. They are concerned with lead poisoning's lowering of IQ and the injustice in executing low-IQ prisoners and the intelligence of the current President of the United States. [Note that this is a favorite theme of Steve Sailer's]. Pinker though quickly pointed out that a blue-ribbon panel appointed by the American Psychological Association defined the consensus view as embracing intelligence as a real and stable property; that IQ is a good measure of it; that it is a good predictor of success in life; and it is from 50 - 80% heritable. He did point out that while intelligence may be highly heritable, this does not necessarily mean that group differences in intelligence are heritable and referenced the corn seed thought experiment (or tomato seeds). But as far as group differences between Jews and non-Jews, this should be highly testable using twin/adoption studies.

According to Pinker, evidence that the Jewish IQ advantage is environmentally based is circumstantial, but whatever the evidence may be it should be subject to the same scrutiny as genetic evidence. And he pointed out that twin and adoption studies have shown that whatever the environmental causes may be, family upbringing is not among them. Whether it's twins reared apart or adoptees vs. birth-children, there's nothing about the parents or siblings that seem to matter.

As to the influence of Jewish cultural norms, he brought up some counter-anecdotes to dipute that Jewish parents have traditionally emphasized scholarship and learning. In sum, he said that environment can only go so far and that the evidene for environmental influence on IQ is weaker than the genetic evidence.

He continued thru the CHH hypotheses.

Hypothesis II: The Ashknazim were highly endogamous with very little outbreeding
III: They were funneled into middleman occupations by being kept out of farming and crafts
IV: These occupations (money lending, primarily) were ones where intelligence provided a distinct advantage
V: Financial success translated into reproductive success - i.e., more children. Unlike today, in the past - before the Demographic Transition in the 18th century, more wealth meant more children. And he referenced Tucker's Law.
VI: Ashkenazim are associated with unusually high frequencies of certain rare genetic diseases which cluster around neurologically-related genes. The prevalence of these disorders has often been attributed to drift - i.e, random mutations occurring within a genetically isolated populations. But CHH calculate the odds of such random mutations clustering around sets of related genes as improbably low, and that further analysis suggests that these mutations show tell-tale signs of selection.
VII: That the presence of these diseases are associated with increased intelligence. There is already evidence that one Ashkenazi disease, Torsion Dystonia, is clearly associated with elevated IQ.

Pinker concluded his summation of the paper by pointing out that the evidence is, on the whole, "iffy", that each of the seven hypotheses are reasonable on their own but must all be true for the theory to be true - but it's highly testable using sibling/twin studies etc., and that the paper "is a good example of falsifiable science."

But - he asked his audience - is it Good For the Jews?

On the one hand, Yes, everyone already knows about high levels of Jewish achievement, and better that they attribute it to higher native intelligence than to conspiracies or general aggressiveness; that as "middlemen", Jews are often thought of as parasites and bloodsuckers, and so it's good that people understand the role of intelligence in filling these role.

On the other hand, Maybe Not. If intelligence can be genetic, what about certain other personality traits - maybe they're heritable too. Pinker left it up to his audience's imagination to fill in the blanks as to what these traits might be.
Regarding Sephardic Jews, Pinker asked Greg Cochran if some of this might apply to them as well. Cochran thinks there would be some similar findings but not as strong.

Then there is the concern about what this might imply about other population differences such as African-American vs. European-American. Pinker sees the issue of population diffences being denounced on several levels. There is the general repugnance towards any genetic explanation for anything. There is a tendency to deny such a thing as intelligence and to deny the very notion of distinct human groups - the myth, as he called it, that race does not exist. Reality, he pointed out, will not go away. If it's true, we cannot deny it away. The truth cannot be anti-Semitic.
There is a distinction between Fairness and Equality, he asserted. When the Declaration of Independence states that all men are created equal, it did not mean that all men are clones. Political equality means that we treat each individual fairly and not as a member of a group - then we don't have to worry about group differences.

He then addressed the "We shouldn't go there" argument - that research such as this should be restricted as immoral - such as we restrict experiments that could endanger people. But here it's not the conduct of the research that's considered dangerous but the ideas themselves - ideas should not be restricted.

He offers some positives from genetic studies. Genetics have affirmed the history of the Jewish people as originating from the Mid-East, and have even affirmed the validity of the Cohanim-line of priests. Genetics also sheds light on the history of "under-documented" regions such as Africa and southwest Asia as well as pre-historic human migrations.

Final Thoughts - genetics engenders lots of hand-wringing - two of the biggest fears are 1) cloning and 2) genetic enhancement - so-called "designer babies." Pinker doesn't worry about these much. A clone is really just having a twin as a baby and once people realize that they're not literally making a copy of themselves we will find that cloning is not very popular. As far as genetic enhancement, the CHH paper is an excellent example of how difficult and dangerous this could be and so is unlikely to be attempted with much success. Pinker's own biggest fear - that the world right now is unprepared to deal with the inevitable genetic uncovering of group differences.

There was a Q&A which pretty much went over the same material. Here are some items of interest:
Q: Should the bar for publication on this type of controversial material be set higher? Pinker: Perhaps, but it's important to get the questions out there so they can be investigated
Q: What about the Khazar-origin theory of the Ashkenazim? Pinker: A minority view and not supported by genetic evidence.
Q: What about adoption of non-Jews by Jews? Pinker: The effect of the adoptive family on intelligence reduces to zero by adulthood.
Q: What about Jews under-performing between 1650 and 1900? Pinker: Not sure that's true - European Jews were seldom poor and seldom lived in ghettos until more recent European history [Pinker might have mentioned the effect that the Pale of Settlement had on Jewish life in the late 19th century.]