Friday, September 28, 2007

China's inaction in face of Burmese protests signals what is to come

The protests in Burma continue, with the Shwe military government giving little indication that it will bow to international pressure and back down in the face tens of thousands of religiously-led, democratic oppositional forces. Instead, the government has increased its martial presence, with armed soldiers on the steps of pagodas as the sun came up this morning.

President Bush has harshly censured the regime:
"We feel admiration and compassion for the monks and peaceful protesters calling for democracy... Every civilized nation has a responsibility to stand up for people suffering under a brutal military regime like the one that has ruled Burma for too long."
He added a little bite to his words by imposing economic and travel sanctions on some of the regime's top officials. China does not feel obligated to rid the world of tyranny, however. It blocked UN hand-wringing directed at Burma last January, and has been reluctant to share Bush's stance on the situation:
At a press conference in Beijing Thursday, Jiang Yu, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said, "We hope all parties continue to exercise restraint and properly handle the current issue." But when asked whether Beijing condemned the killings of protestors in Rangoon, Jiang declined to answer directly. She also criticized the foreign press for "exaggerating and hyperbolizing" allegations that China had failed to play a constructive role in resolving the conflict.
As the US continues to weaken on the international stage in the face of persistent trade deficits, the threat of inflation and recession, senescence, demographic decline, and the rapid growth of eastern nations, the torch of Human Rights Crusader will not be passed to Beijing. Instead, it will be extinguished. The PRC is not interested in dictating the social mores of other nations:
China has become the leading state sponsor of common thugs, from Burma to Sudan to Zimbabwe. It has positioned itself as a great power without the pesky complication of conscience, willing to court and support any dictator who supplies a tribute of natural resources.
Historian Toby Huff argues that the idea of conscience, tracing its roots back to the Paul of Tarsus and becoming institutionalized as a virtue in Western Europe from the medieval age onwards, is a critical ingredient in the development of a social structure that allows for scientific investigation and technological progress to flourish.

The Chinese government does not seem to agree, with little use for the Occidental understanding of conscience.

It is inaccurate to conflate the idea of conscience with morality in general. Confucian cultures place more weight on societal stability than on individual liberty than Western cultures do (which is part of the reason conservative Americans are more intrigued by Eastern philosophies than leftists tend to be). The idea of increasing the disruption of a sovereign nation's political order on behalf of those who are causing the disruption is not a moral imperative. If anything, refusing to get involved is.

Furthermore, China has a vigorous trade relationship with Burma. While Burmese exports to China are negligible, goods from China represent more than one-third of Burma's total imports, making the PRC Burma's leading supplier by far. Much of what comes from China goes to arm the military junta. Similar relationships exist with African and Muslim countries.

With so much outside pressure, Shwe may be forced to make concessions to the democratic opposition, whose leader he has infamously kept in perpetual detention and whose spokesmen he had arrested earlier this week. Specifically, his regime may be forced to cut lavish spending on itself to reverse the massive fuel-price increase it just levied on the population. China, feeling similar pressure, will likely take a harder line against the regime ahead of the bi-decadal appointing of the politburo and the 2008 Olympics.

But with more than one-sixth of the world's population, GDP and military spending that are set to pass the US to become the world's largest within the next five years, a high IQ, increasingly educated, and prideful Han population, the days in which China will feel obligated to shift course due to the exhortations of Western nations (even today, that really only applies to the US, as European influence has long-since waned) and their human rights NGOs are numbered.

By simultaneously invading, inviting, and becoming indebted to so much of the world, the US is ushering that day along with haste. Better for the US to re-evaluate the overextended commitments it already has piled up than to make gestures suggesting yet another one on behalf of monks in Rangoon. In the words of John Quincy Adams:
Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will [America's] heart, her benedictions and her prayers be.

But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.

She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example.

She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.
That we might again adopt this thinking, to ensure such an example will remain standing strong as the world's epicenter shifts to the East.

Amsterdam to dim the red lights

Amsterdam's Mayor Job Cohen has given the city the green light to start turning off the red lights:

If the city authorities have their way, the widely sold tourist T-shirt proclaiming that "Good boys go to heaven and bad boys go to Amsterdam" will become a relic. Indeed, those bad boys may soon struggle to find their way to the city's fabled red-light district of "storefront" prostitution. Last week one of the main entrepreneurs in the city's perfectly legal sex industry cashed in, selling his properties in the district. The buyer, for $35 million, was a not-for-profit organization backed by the city of Amsterdam. The plan is to convert the buildings in which prostitutes pose in the windows into apartments and more conventional commercial space.

From a strictly entrepreneurial point of view, this is not a good investment. The buyers reckon that the value of the properties may fall by $21 million, a deficit that the municipality would have to fund. But for the city elders, that may be the price of transforming the old city center, which they say has become clogged with undesired and outright criminal activities. While prostitution is legal in the Netherlands, the city has found the trade is a magnet for female trafficking and money laundering. "Our aim is to push back criminal activity, to gain more control over the area", Mayor Job Cohen commented.

Nor is the sex industry Mayor Cohen's only target: He also sees the buyout as a chance to begin clearing out the cannabis-selling coffee shops and what he calls "bad horeca" (the hospitality industry term meaning hotel-restaurant-cafe).
With the district nestled next to sacred structures like the Oude Kerk, built at the beginning of the 14th Century, you might say old Job has decided that for God he will suffer economic deprivation and the ire of aimless, pimply-faced young American travellers blazing toward the district like dogs in heat. And this time he's not going to moan about it, he's going to embrace it!

Libertarians claim that prostitution, illicit drug use, and in the extreme even public sexual acts and the removal of age boundaries restricting them, should be legally allowed. They are difficult to prevent, and in any case are victimless crimes.

The harrowing sex-slave trade in Southeast Asia and the cartel-controlled cities of Mexico aside, it is bad news for locals if such activities find a home in the community. It attracts the dregs of humanity, in turn increasing crime rates, lowering property values, and freightening off other forms of investment.

The problems the red light district is creating are cropping up in the heart of the Netherlands, one of the highest IQ, most affluent, and safest countries in the world, all attributes that better enable it to handle a libertine society. And still, in a city that has attained its contemporary international fame for the red lights, they are more trouble than they're worth.

In less endowed places, including the nearly third-world condition of most of the US' inner-cities, it is more troublesome still. Stabbings, shootings, and murders often occur in and around these centers. Property values are depressingly low and the idea of any other sort of sustainable economic development would be risible if it weren't so tragic. Celebrity status does not even guarantee protection.

The 'make it legal but not in my backyard' argument doesn't hold much ecumenical water. Unlike wanting to live in an area with higher property taxes to keep undesirables on the other side of the tracks, a prohibitive attitude towards the commercialization of red light activities is a net good, in that investment that would go into them instead can be used more constructively elsewhere, whereas increased governmental revenue from higher property taxes is hardly benign.

Parenthetically, this highlights a dispute I have with libertarian thought. It places too much emphasis on positive rights and not enough emphasis on negative rights. Thus, the kid in the souped-up Subaru can pump his base across the street, and if the vibrations irritate me, well, I can always move!

Further, it grants nothing to the claim of enhanced rights for those who've been in a place longer. An unskilled migrant whose clothes are still drying off from the waters of the Rio Grande has as much a right to a janitorial position as the dull native who just graduated from high school and is looking for work. In a world where people will still die for the land they live on, it strikes me as a recipe for perpetual conflict.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

DREAM Act remains but a dream, for now

The DREAM Act amendment, an amnesty provision that was to be attached to the upcoming defense authorization bill, has been dropped for the time being:

The prospects for immediate Senate action on the DREAM Act, which would grant legal status to hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants, disappeared Wednesday amid Republican opposition.
Reid apparently did not have the 60 votes needed to attach the furtive provision. This is a meaningful victory. The establishment tried a conventional assault in the open field against the American public that resulted in a stunning victory for an army almost entirely devoid of well-known leaders (what percentage of the public could have named one of Alabama's Senators, the sovereignty side's heroic panjandrum, before last May?).

So the open border forces opted for guerrilla tactics. They'd slip it in under the public's collective nose, as a quid pro quo for thrashing GOP lawmakers stuck with the war in Iraq who feel their only political option is to dig in their heels and hope to spend their way out of the mess. The outcry was not as vociferous as it had been last spring, but enough of the public's scouts sniffed out the trouble and sounded the tocsin in time to force an amnesty troop withdrawal.

Vigilance being the eternal price, the war is far from over:

Durbin and immigrant rights advocates were dismayed by the setback but vowed to find other means to pass the legislation, which they have sought since 2001.

"There is no question that this issue doesn't stop here," said Cecilia Muñoz, senior vice president of the National Council of La Raza. "The longer we wait, the more talented young people we close the door of opportunity to."
Tautologically, Munoz is right, in the sense that at least a few of the migrants hoping to gain in-state tuition are 'talented', but the same logic suggests it would be more expedient to simply annex Mexico. Per capita measurements are what determine the quality of life, and in virtually every category considered, unfettered Hispanic immigration is pushing them in the wrong direction.

The legislation is deeply unpopular:
With conservatives being barraged with calls, faxes and e-mails from anti-illegal immigration groups that view the DREAM Act as amnesty, some Republicans who supported the measure in the past have been reluctant to do so now.
A minority of Senators (45-50) voted for the June amnesty. It is not only putative 'conservatives' who are feeling the heat. The American citizenry overwhelmingly favors a reduction in overall immigration, and that sentiment is only going to accrete in the face of looming clouds over the economic horizon.

That the reaction is so widespread illustrates how, well, truly widespread it is, as the opposition does not constitute the typical anarchist or far-left street protester. It's coming from people with families and careers with bloated schedules and all of the concerns of the daily grind on their mind. For each concerned citizen who picks up the phone or fires up the fax machine, many more are sharing his sentiment but taking the time to express themselves.

That is inspirational, but it is also a potential Achilles heel. I am told that Reid has promised to bring the DREAM Act to a vote by mid-November. Those on the sovereignty side with a public forum must not weary.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

COHO's Rita Valenciano accuses Minutemen of rape, murder

Local talk radio show hosts Mike Shanin and Scott Parks recently hosted Rita Valenciano, head of the bi-state Coalition of Hispanic Organizations. Valenciano's career is one of constant Hispanic rights and benefits advocacy. From her bio:
Valenciano currently serves as Executive Director of APOYO (Assistance to Parents of Youth Organization), a family support and education program serving predominantly Spanish speaking families who are low income and high-risk in Wyandotte County, Kansas. ...

As the owner of Valenciano and Associates since 1995, Rita facilitates diversity, dispute resolution and strategic planning workshops and seminars. She began her professional involvement in this field as one of the first Harmony facilitators in 1988. Kansas City Harmony is an initiative conceived through the efforts of former Mayor Emmanuel Cleaver to lead the KC area to greater diversity awareness.
Nothing wrong with or surprising about that. She is Hispanic, and she sees opportunity in pushing special interests that benefit the Hispanic community. That is the nature of a multicultural society--you act in accordance with the interests of your ethnic and racial peers.

What is noteworthy, however, are some of the things she said on the show. Specifically, when asked about KCMO Mayor Mark Funkhouser's stubborn refusal to ax Frances Semler in the face of economic threats from La Raza, Valenciano claimed that the Minutemen had committed several "rapes and murders" of Hispanic immigrants throughout the country. Parks, the more paleoconservative of the two hosts, asked where she was getting her information for such serious charges from, and if she could point to a specific incident. Of course she could not. When also pressured from Shanin, she offered a website that supposedly had all the goods on the criminals.

Even if the accusations were true, that should taint Semler about as much as William Jefferson's freezer money should color the perception of Dennis Moore. The organization both belong to does not condone the bad behavior in any way, and the vast majority of its members do not engage in it.

That said, see the evidence Valenciano points to for yourself. The site does not provide legal briefs, court cases, or even commentary. It contains videos of 'untward' behavior on the part of Minutemen (or at least they are claimed to be--with the exception of one video, there is nothing that identifies any of the people in the clips as such). The most legally questionable video is the one you see upon entering the site. Rapists and murderers for sure! More like working class whites who feel the illegal immigrant presence more than anyone else, caught expressing their frustration in crass ways. The majority of the clips involve anger directed at the cameraman, who has been hovering around the ralliers for hours. There is no physical violence at all. None.

Amazing that such baseless accusations are made by a prominent figure in the call to have Semler removed. The Kansas City Star and Tony's Kansas City, the two leading media outlets in the Semler hunt, have thus far failed to report on Valenciano's outrageous slander. In the case of the latter, it's particularly unsurprising though, as the eponymous Tony of TKC (Missouri's most influential political blog) is Valenciano's son, and like his mother, a committed Hispanic activist who viscerally opposed Mark Funkhouser in the mayoral election last November.

Also like his mother, Tony's not interested in factual debate. When I made my case, he responded to it thus:
I should start deleting comments again but the fact that this is posted on my jokey, dumbass blog makes me smile in my pants.
It is from this profound source that the top search result for "Frances Semler" leads. If you are so inclined, my initial take on the Semler saga is currently the second item returned, and has bounced back and forth between the top spot. Any bolstering linkage that might send a curious person to a sober evaluation of the situation before being bombarded with character smears (unsubstantiated save for Semler's Minutemen membership) directed at Semler and, by extension Funkhouser, would be helpful.

The whole sordid affair will blow over. Funkhouser is politically recalcitrant, and towering at 6'8'', he's not one to be easily intimidated. He'll stand by the 73 year-old Parks and Recreation board commissioner and grandmother just as he will stand by another appointment to the same position of a black man who founded the local chapter of an organization that supports reparations and black separatist education, if any of the major media players ever find that worth mentioning.

More Mexicans means more like Mexico

John Savage of Brave New World Watch has pulled together a list of thought pieces on Fredo Arias-King's July 2006 article entitled "Immigration and Usurpation: Elites, Power, and the People's Will". Distilling the fundamental commonality that runs through all of them, we get this obvious but often unremarked upon truism:

Bringing more Mexicans into the US will make the US more like Mexico.

If I had to sum up why I hold my position on immigration restriction with a limited merit system in one sentence (assuming I couldn't use an endless supply of commas), it would be the above.

Do we want our families to have to shell out the equivalent of $650 a year in bribes, on average, just to conduct the routine business of our lives? Do we want 40% of our population to be below the poverty line? Do we want a secular unemployment rate similar to that which was suffered during the Great Depression? Do we want an average IQ in the upper eighties? Do we want drug cartels to control entire cities?

These rhetorical questions are taken to the extremes, as they describe contemporary Mexico, not the evolving US-Mexican hybrid that used to be the United States. And there are counter-arguments available, such as the asserted vibrancy of Machismo or Chicano cultures, or the humanitarian element.

These only confirm the veracity of the truism, however. So to avoid this no-win situation, open borders advocates instead turn to dehumanizing those asking the questions, and claiming that Mexican immigrants are actually more American than Americans, in doing several things better than natives (these are never quantified), like working harder (despite greater welfare use and lower earnings), raising stable families (despite higher illegitimacy rates than natives), and the like.

The illegal immigrant population in the US is moving us in the direction of an answer in the affirmative to that question-set. Shouldn't those who advocate open borders be forced to deal with questions like these, with the expectation of some riposte that goes beyond merely character assassination?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Free thought most safely undertaken far away from University

Three recent high-profile stories relating to the world of American academia:
Lawrence Summers, the controversial former president of Harvard University, has been replaced as the planned speaker at a UC Board of Regents dinner next week
after complaints from faculty members. [1]

Columbia University said it does not plan to call off a speech by Iran's president despite pressure from critics including the City Council speaker, who said the Ivy League school was providing a forum for "hate-mongering vitriol." [2]

The Columbia Political Union voted late Monday night to cancel Gilchrist’s [Minutemen Project founder] Oct. 4 appearance, the New York Post reports.

The student group said in a statement that "it has become clear this event cannot take the form we had originally hoped it would and could not effectively accomplish the goals we had hoped it might."

Last year critics questioned Columbia’s commitment to free speech after Gilchrist was physically and verbally attacked by student protesters. [3]
Holocaust denial is given academic legitimacy at an Ivy League institution, while asserting national sovereignty and entertaining the idea that the "men are from Mars, women are from Venus" aphorism extends beyond the toilet-seat battle are so hateful that educational omertas must be enforced upon them.

What else really needs to be said about the state of secondary education (at least on the soft-sciences side) in the US?

That Columbia President Lee Bolinger launched into the Iranian President does not negate the contrast. If Gilchrist or Summers (though since he wouldn't be dealing with the subject relating to his 'hate speech', this does not even apply to the latter) had to absorb the same sort of harsh introduction that Ahmadinejad did as a condition of being allowed to speak, would that opening of debate had made their respective appearances worthwhile in the eyes of the pressure groups (and faculty) that lobbied for their excommunications? To the contrary, such 'inflammatory' rhetoric only made the whole Ahmadinejad ordeal an even more ridiculous dog-and-pony show than it already was.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Raising IQs key to keeping corpulence under control?

Poverty used to be roughly synonymous with not being able to get enough to eat. The poor kid had the sunken, sallow face and the skinny arms. Since it's inception in the mid-sixties, the poverty threshold has risen without taking increases in the material standard of living into account (it is basically three times the cost of nutriotionally-adequate yearly food costs). Today, the poor kids are the tubsters whose parents would rather buy high-starch foodstuffs that take little preparation time than cook actual balanced meals. Hence the contemporary correlation between the poverty rate and the obesity rate is a positive .45 at the state level.

The maudlin media has evolved with the changing waistlines of America's poor, with stories of how they must now eat themselves into obesity, since that's what is most available to them (thanks to the hard-nosed realists who retail in the realm of the underclass, carrying greater quantities of the stuff their patrons actually buy).

Lugubrious reporters try to paint it in Marxist terms. Yes, it is implicitly implied, America's poor have enough to spend on food, but only enough to buy (lots) of junkfood. Their economic disadvantages keep them from eating enough fruits and vegetables. That's absurd. A four-serving size can of green beans costs less than a king size Snickers bar does.

Might it be, instead, that the poor tend to be more impulsive and have a greater time preference than the rest of society? This immediate orientation means the good taste now weighs (heh) heavier in the mind than health benefits foregone, relative to the longer-term orientation of the burgher who foregoes the burger for the salad. More bluntly, those of lower intelligence are likely to eat less healthily because the realization of the benefits that come in doing so are difficult to pinpoint and only accumulate over time, whereas the sugary stuff tastes good now. Similarly, they are less likely to engage in physical activity for the sake of the health benefits derived in doing so.

The self-destructive tendencies of the duller underclass illustrate how the more intelligent, affluent a society is, the more libertarian it can afford to be in its social and economic frameworks. As a society trends toward Idiocracy, its governmental structure necessarily becomes more authoritarian and increasingly intervenes in the lives of its citizenry, through regulation of personal behaviors, wealth transfers, and the like.

Yet, at the state level, the inverse relationship between obesity (p6-7) and estimated IQ is only a modest .22. The fat numbers come from Trust for America's Health August 2007 report, in which obesity was calculated using the Body Mass Index. The BMI can be problematic, as it considers an NFL linebacker with 8% body fat to be obese.

The BMI shortcomings are personal. When I was in ROTC my freshmen year, I finished first or second in the program on the two-mile run portion, consistently in the 10:40s, in every monthly PT out of 80 pretty fit guys. Yet at the weigh-in I was consistently deemed overweight with a BMI of 28 (I'm 6'1", 210 lbs). I've plenty of problems, but physical fitness definitely isn't one of them.

Still, my vain personal bone aside, these imperfections are going to be sufficiently smoothed out over entire state populations. Athletic Coloradoans might prefer mountain biking more while fit Floridians enjoy pumping iron on the beach, but the overall distortion should be marginal.

Why, then, the modest relationship between fitness and intelligence? One caveat to the IQ estimates using NAEP data is that they are a measure of current adolescent intelligence, a glimpse of the intelligence levels that can be expected in the future. In states that are relatively demographically stable, this caveat may not mean so much. In areas such as the Southwest and the South, it becomes more important.

Fortunately, the study included, for the first time, rates of heftiness among children ages 10-17. Falling smack in the middle of that age range are the 14 year-olds who constitute the NAEP results used for the IQ estimates. The inverse relationship between corpulence and IQ among these youngsters is a much more robust .60.

Meh, maybe it's just a coincidence? But consider the Vietnam Veteran IQ estimates that come from the baby boomers who are now running the country. The inverse correlation between those estimates and obesity rates among adults is .62, almost exactly the same as the relationship between the two attributes for teenagers. The Vet and NAEP estimates are similar, but not identical. Some of this variance is surely attributable to changes in states' composition over the last four decades, as the Trust for America's Health study and the aforementioned relationships suggest.

David Brooks, who, if he'd paid a little more attention to the predictive power of IQ in terms of determining the viability of a liberal democracy, might not have been one of the most unrestrained, vociferous supporters of the Iraq plunder, says paying attention to IQ reduces us to obsessing over "electrical impulses and quantifiable pulses". Uh, the sociological and statistical work on IQ in books like The Bell Curve, of pundits like Steve Sailer, and papers like that of VCU's Professor McDaniel, do not deal with this much at all.

Well Mr. Brooks, in addition to the material standard of living, infant mortality, wealth, life expectancy, criminality, employment, educational attainment, and livability, among others, comes the relationship between IQ and physical health as measured by tubbiness. If IQ was meaningless--essentially a randomly assigned number--it wouldn't correlate with anything. If it was merely a rough proxy for some other measurable trait, it wouldn't relate to some variables more strongly than whatever that it is putatively proxying for does.

Virtually every way it is looked at, IQ correlates positively with favorable social variables and negatively with pathological ones. Human resources are of crucial importance to any institution's success. It's past time we looked at IQ as a valuable human resource that should be cultivated.

People like Brooks want to kill the idea of innate differential intelligence (or temperament, physical dexterity, etc) because their ideologies are at essence institutionally biased. The neocon right (free markets, equal representation, and democracy) wants to claim an equal playing field will lead to equal opportunity and maximum prosperity. The big government left (redistributive income, universal healthcare, affirmative action) wants to claim it can direct equality and prosperity into existence. For both of these broad ideologies to work, people must be blank-slates responding identically in identical situations. That's becoming increasingly difficult to maintain in the face of quantitative sociology and advances in human genetic sequencing.

Feeling threatened, they're lashing out sophomorically, asserting that everyone who is anyone knows--knows!--IQ is bunk, so why are you thinking about it? NPR's Talk of the Nation ran a ridiculous 'hit segment' on the putative moribundity of IQ several weeks ago that was frustrated over and over by callers who persistently took more moderate positions on the subject.

If these blank-slatists, especially on the neocon right, believed IQ testing, correlation, and research to be worthless, they'd allow it to occur without protest. Just like irrational racial discrimination, right? The market will punish it. Of course, the market rewards it because it brings rewards in the market, which is why companies try to sneak in things like the Wonderlic test wherever they can (my employer uses them) even with the sword of Griggs v. Duke Power hanging over their heads, why the military and academia make extensive use of aptitude testing, and why business moguls like Bill Gates have leveraged it to attain greatness.

As maintaining an appropriate weight becomes more of a choice (in the sense that almost everyone has the ability--although not necessarily the genetic predisposition--to choose whether or not he will become obese), intelligence will become an increasingly important factor in determining obesity rates in the first-world. Part of the strategy employed to deal with burgeoning healthcare costs should be to take steps to increase the average IQ of the population through eugenic birthing incentives (and the ending of disincentives like the EITC and the child tax credit), changes in the tax code, a restrictive merit immigration policy, the liberal use of genetic testing and sperm banks, and the like.

Magic: The Gathering and Cecil, Kain, Rydia, Tellah, Edward, Rosa, Yang, Palom & Porom, Cid, Edge, and FuSoYa

Germane to this addition is a word on the oft-commented upon contemporary decline in cultural creation. Much of it has gone into video games. This retrospective evinces how the material in FFIV is deserved of serious attention as a cultural object, with complex character relationships, and a larger moral imperative of those with varying grievances to unite in fighting totalitarianism.

In role-playing games the message tends to be one focused upon fighting totalitarian evil in the name of freedom--not so much of the individual, but what Jim Pinkerton calls the Shire. The genre is pretty Tolkienesque, illustrated further in the cross-fertilization in music, card games, television shows, and movies, but with significant Japenese, and how the Japanese-view-the-West, cultural influences.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Increasing mileage by driving more efficiently

Steve Sailer posted recently soliciting advice on making a vehicle purchase that will reduce his fuel costs. I regularly hear complaints about EPA fuel economy estimates being unattainably high, even after they were adjusted downward. I don't mean to question anyone's integrity, but I don't buy it. They are attainable, and surpassable, if you drive parsimoniously. In fairness, I live in the Kansas City metro area, which despite having 2 million people, isn't even among the top 50 most congested places in the country, so I'm enjoying a bit of a built-in advantage.

I drive like a grandpa and I get nearly 28 mpg in my '97, V-6 Taurus. The EPA puts it at 17 city, 26 highway. About 75% of my driving is the latter, which still puts me four miles above the estimates. At 15,000 miles, that translates to an annual savings of around $250 at current gas prices. Not a large amount, but not pennies either. And, apparently, most drivers do not even attain the EPA estimates, so the savings are comparatively even more substantial.

Parenthetically, yes, I know GL model is only 145 horsepower (with one of the most aerodynamic bodies on the road, which is why it was used for so long in NASCAR racing), but that is irrelevant to the question of underperforming or outperforming EPA fuel efficiency estimates.

How to optimize your fuel economy? Here's what I've done, with much success:

- Never take the RPM above 2,500. This is a measure of how hard your engine is working. By watching it, you are essentially watching an efficiency gauge. It means accelerating slower out of stops. Before your automatic shifts, it'll want to float above that mark (this is a major reason manuals get better mileage), but if you decelerate just a bit, it'll shift earlier.

- Top out at 60 mph, give-or-take a few, in cruise control as much as possible. Fuel efficiency plummets past this speed for most vehicles (assuming your engine isn't a V-10), as can easily be witnessed by watching how your RPM will climb around 100 for every couple of mph you tack on. That math isn't working out in your favor.

- No windows or A/C. This is death, I know. But both cut about 10% away from your efficiency. Run the vent, or consider the sweating out a cathartic experience. The A/C consumes the same amount of energy irrespective of speed, so if the ascetic practice doesn't work for you, use the windows when you're cruising around in the city (the faster you're going, the more drag open windows are creating--having them down becomes less efficient than the A/C at around 45 mph) and the A/C when you're on the highway.

- Keep the tires near their maximum recommended PSI (usually in the low forties) and make sure they are evenly inflated.

- Stay in one of the center lanes while on the highway. You don't want to be a jerk and keep swifter drivers from passing, but staying in the far right lane is an efficiency killer, because you'll inevitably have to take off the cruise control as people merge on and off.

- Try to make city driving as much like highway driving as possible. Anticipate signal changes from afar. The left turn lane travelling opposite you will directly precede your green light. Scout that out from a distance, and begin breaking lightly or picking up as appropriate. If you're not in danger of missing the signal change, coast forward, even if you have three blocks to the light. It's satisfying to zip by the hothead who just blazed by you only to stop at the intersection that you just cruised through (as you were cruising by him).

- If you're idling, waiting to pick someone up, do so in drive. The engine burns more gas in park and neutral. Better yet, just turn off the engine. Your starter (via the battery) is what gets the workout when you ignite, not so much the engine. Unless it's less than a minute or so, you're better off killing it.

If you have the gumption, try these things for the entire duration of your next tank. To get an accurate reading of your mpg, you'll need to stop fueling at the 'click' (don't top it off), and reset your short odometer immediately after filling. When you fill up the next time, again stop at the click, take the miles driven and divide it by the gallons you have just put in to get your new mpg.

You'll be surprised to see you've extended your output somewhere in the vicinity of 50-100 miles, depending on tank size.

Why so much effort to save $5 a week? Well, it's a game. It's a better utilization of competitive disposition on the road than other manifestations of that competitive nature are! It assuages some of the guilt by lowering the amount of gas you have to buy, sort of like eating all the food on your plate instead of throwing some away--supply and demand dictates that in either of the 'bad' behavior cases, you are making the respective commodity more expensive for everyone else. And since American vehicles account for one-tenth of daily oil consumption, if we all knocked off 15% of our gas usage, we'd be saving more than one million barrels each day, or keeping $30 billion in revenue out of the hands of some of the uglier places on earth each year.

I should purchase a more fuel efficient vehicle, and I will, when it becomes economically sane to do so. But these savings have no accounting cost--indeed, they're likely a net benefit. My car, despite the notorious acronym, has 130k miles on the original engine and transmission, and runs like a champ. A steady pace is easier on you when you scamper, and it's easier on your car when you drive (there's a joke among runners and bikers that driving hard is a way of compensating for slothfulness on foot, sort of like guys driving big trucks, but not as vulgar).

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Liberation of Africa, AIDS go hand-in-hand

The National Party under Botha would've been more adept at handling the HIV problem in South Africa than the ANC is today. Even utter ignorance would be preferable to how Mbeki's government is going about it:
South Africa has the highest number of people infected with HIV in the world. Health advocates estimate that nearly 1,000 South Africans die from AIDS-related illnesses every day and 500 to 1,000 more are newly infected with HIV. However, the government's record on fighting HIV/AIDS has been dangerously inconsistent. ...

President Thabo Mbeki has a well-publicized suspicion of anti-retroviral treatments. Of late, the government has shown no vigor in trying to meet its goals.
Fine, but the President delegates this kind of thing to his ministries to deal with. That's not reassuring:
Enter Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, South Africa's minister of health. She reportedly shares the president's distrust of anti-retroviral medications and has become public enemy No. 1 among AIDS activists, who refer to her as "Dr. Beetroot" or "Dr. Olive Oil." They accuse her of dragging her feet on drug programs — including one that would protect babies from contracting HIV from their mothers.

Last year, Tshabalala-Msimang represented South Africa at an international conclave and extolled the power of salad fixings — beetroot, olive oil and a variety of fruits and vegetables — to fight the effects of HIV.
AIDS is annually sending more than 300,000 to an early grave in South Africa alone (there are four other smaller African nations with higher prevalency rates). The National Party's apartheid regime, in contrast, killed hundreds or thousands, or perhaps tens of thousands in some of the tit-for-tat political violence between the National Party and the ANC and PAC and their respective sympathizers, in more than five decades of existence. Hard numbers are hard to come by (partially for political reasons, as they are relatively diminutive), but the worst incident has come to be known as the Sharpeville Massacre, in which 69 protesters were killed in nervous police fire.

Mbeki has begun emulating Mugabe's disastrous land redistribution plan in Zimbabwe that has seen, starting with the ominous ending of the Lancaster Agreement at the end of the eighties, white Zimbabweans forced to sell their farmland at a tenth of market value in an economy with quadruple-digit inflation rates. A year later, that 10% payout is actually worth less than 1% of what the farm is. Stealing real assets during an inflationary period is especially damaging, since they hold their real value while paper plummets.

He is also emulating, or sharing in, the beliefs of King Mswati of neighboring Swaziland, whose attitude on AIDS prevention is similarly toxic. The king's top adviser on cultural matters, who also hosts a national radio program, is especially antagonistic:
Talk-show host Jim Gama was at his provocative best, answering letters from listeners who sought traditional Swazi solutions to the daily problems of modern life in this tiny African nation. ...

Mr. Gama, who has called condoms "un-Swazi" and vowed never to use one himself, warned an HIV-positive man that the groups fighting AIDS in Swaziland "are full of half-truths and lies."
This is what the end of white rule in sub-Saharan Africa looks like. While the IQ gap between white and black Africans averages about 30 points (similar to the difference in African American and Ashkenazi Jewish average IQs in the US), it's not just hopelessly incompetent leadership that is to blame. Cultural norms create a breeding ground for the spread of HIV:
Health workers, research scientists and even the king's own AIDS council have concluded that polygamy, child marriage, widow inheritance and a culture in which women are virtually powerless have contributed to the disease's spread. A Swazi born in 1991 could expect to live 65 years. One born today will, on average, never see his 36th birthday, according to a new study led by Alan Whiteside, a Swazi-born economist specializing in AIDS at South Africa's University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Geez, a decline in life expectancy of three decades, cutting Swazi longevity in half. Zimbabwe, once the breadbasket of Africa that, despite two-thirds of its labor force being employed in agriculture, today cannot even feed itself. This is where South Africa is heading as its Euro-descended population continues to dwindle and the ANC continues to plunder those who remain.

The moral aspersions cast upon the West for setting sub-Saharan Africa on its self-destructive path stem from two major actions. Introducing it to the modern world and then failing to continue to lead it. The latter is generally portrayed as some sort of moral triumph, but that assumption is absurd in the face of contemporary Africa, which is experiencing greater poverty, higher mortality, and more instability than it did during colonial rule or minority white native rule.

Never having brought modern institutions, economic systems, and Western culture would've served Africans better than what has come to pass. Those who celebrated the socially debilitating sanctions against South Africa's 'apartheid regime' have the current state of southern Africa to answer to.

But what has come to be will have to work itself out. To the extent that the West can ameliorate the situation, it should do so through working to insure that nutritional supplements and birth control devices are distributed and used as ubiquitously as possible.

Pious winning the game they don't even know they're playing

Pat Buchanan has a recent VDare column that deals with religious fecundity.

That's a topic of great personal interest. I'm persistently frustrated by evo-bio thinkers who overwhelmingly disdain religiosity, even as it is clearly a procreative winner. Those who believe most in the Darwinian game are performing atrociously from the break, while those who refuse to recognize the game is even being played are running the table over and over and over again.

Oklahoma and Arizona, unable to deport, get illegals to self-deport

Arizona, led by state representative Russell Pearce, is following closely on the heels of Oklahoma, as both states take immigration enforcement into their own hands:
A new Arizona state law to require employers to verify the immigration status of employees is being blamed – and credited – for chasing illegal aliens out of the

It's the second such development in just the last week: WND reported earlier how a new Oklahoma law requiring the deportation of arrested illegal aliens was prompting an exodus from that state.
Further, the laws make the harboring of an illegal immigrant a felony. Understandably, the numbers of illegal migrants leaving the two states in anticipation of the laws, which go into effect in November (Oklahoma) and January (Arizona). Whatever the exact numbers, they're not negligible:

Business owner Simon Navarro has been in business there 11 years, and said the tough law has chased away 30 percent of the state's Hispanic population.

"Two months [in July] ago I heard 25,000 Hispanics have left Oklahoma [the bill first passed the state's House on March 1]," he told the station. "They are leaving. A lot have already left.
If accurate, that comes to about 200 people per day. In Arizona, estimates in the same ballpark are being made:

"I would say we are losing at least 100 people a day," Elias Bermudez, founder of Immigrants Without Borders and host of a daily talk-radio program aimed at undocumented immigrants, told the newspaper.

These laws do not allow for either of the states to deport aliens on their own. That is solely the prerogative of the Federal government, an unenthusiastic ally. Further, the laws do not go into effect for months. Yet illegal immigrants are leaving in significant numbers, many heading back to Mexico. This exposes the false argument that we cannot deport all of those already here. Tautologically true, I suppose, but only because most of them will leave of their own volition before anyone from ICE can get around to making them do so.

To the extent that non-emotive arguments are made in favor of open borders, they tend to focus almost exclusively on the putative economic loss immigration restriction would cause. But because immigrants, especially the largely unskilled illegal immigrant population, earn substantially less than natives, total economic output is focused on, rather than per capita output:
The newspaper said a study released in July forecast economic output would drop annually by at least $29 billion, or 8.2 percent, if all non-citizens, which include illegal aliens, were removed from Arizona's workforce.

An estimated 14 percent of the 2.6 million workers in Arizona are foreign-born; about two-thirds of non-citizens are undocumented, officials said.
That is what is being trumpeted in opposition to the Arizona law. So the total economic pie shrinks 8.2%, while the number of people sharing the pie shrinks 14%. That means per capita economic activity increases by almost 7%. Poverty leaves, as do many of the problems it entails. The standard of living rises, and the Arizona economy becomes less third-worldly.

But total output decreases! Following this line of reasoning, the next logical step is to annex Mexico, thereby increasing the size of the US economy by 9% in one fell swoop! That's the ticket, keeping in mind that Bangladesh is an order of magnitude wealthier than Luxembourg!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Senate amendment 2237, or amnesty revived

The precocious Marcus Epstein has a full-length column on the impending "DREAM Act" amendment to the pending defense bill in the Senate. The thing is going to hit the floor soon. A couple of points I couldn't agree with him more on:
The biggest loophole: because illegal aliens often operate under the table, there is no way to prove how long they have been in the country, and how old they were when they first came. This bill envisages no upper age limit, so any illegal alien can say they came here under the age of sixteen. According to Kris Kobach, in a Heritage Foundation Backgrounder, "a 45 year old can claim that he illegally entered the United States 30 years ago at the age of 15." [A Sleeper Amnesty: Time to Wake Up from the DREAM Act, September 13, 2007]. All they need to do to "prove" they were under 16 when they broke into this country is…sign an affidavit.
To repeat, this is to be a legislative extension of the dubious interpretation of the 14th Amendment. More than just 'precedent', Durbin and his open border allies (including Republicans Chuck Hagel and Richard Lugar) want to expand and codify birthright citizenship so that it becomes adolescent citizenship.

Excepting Canada, which benefits from the enormous buffer zone that is its southern neighbor, the US is the only first-world nation that grants birthright citizenship. Several of our Senators want to aggrandize that American 'exceptionalism' further. The public overwhelmingly opposes this, and when they tried to hastily push it through, they were bodyslammed. So now they're going to try and slip it through under the radar.

Reiterating, many Republican Senators, in dire straits because of the continued Iraq mess and who are not really opposed to open borders anyway, will likely be willing to include these attachments in return for getting the military spending they want. Let's try and disrupt that relationship of convenience that will be doubly-disastrous for the US:
That it was attached to a defense bill, rather than a "comprehensive immigration reform" bill, was probably intended to give Democrats leverage by conceding the Republicans’ defense agenda in exchange for support of DREAM ACT.
Contact your Senators (information here). Voice opposition to this furtive attachment. If you don't have the time to express yourself in your own words, cut-and-paste the letter template I've written here.

Give an early notice to your House member as well (information here). To the extent that we have one, the House is our citadel. We need those representatives to feel our opposition as well. They passed the resolution on to the Senate without any surreptitious immigration attachment, and they'll have the opportunity to kill it in conference committee even if Durbin and company get their way.

If those in the sovereignty camp do not remain vigilant, the inspiring defeat of the combined forces of the cosmopolitan Establishment will be but a Pyrrhic victory. Complacency in the wake of what transpired last June would be disastrous. Please, please make your voice heard and your opinion known.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

WSJ, along with DHS, gets in a few quick punches ahead of next week's Senate amnesty

The WSJ's op/ed, in tandem with its usually objective 'Hot Topic' section, have launched a typically dishonest one-two punch in front of the open border Senators' furtive attempt to attach several amnesty provisions to defense legislation that will be discussed next week (and the DHS has joined the fray as well). There's nothing new here, while the lilliputian steps Gigot and the boys have taken (admitting in a round-about-way that the 44% figure for Bush's share of the Hispanic vote in '04 was wrong, advising against ethnic pandering, etc) continue. A quick repudiation of the most conspicuous falsehoods:
In the mid-1990s after California Governor Pete Wilson embraced Proposition 187, which denied education and health-care benefits to the children of illegal aliens, Latino support for Republicans fell to 25% from 53%, and GOP support among Asians and women declined as well.

Pete Wilson was a moderate on his way out in 1994. He took the pulse of the California public and backed the overwhelmingly popular Proposition 187, which was killed when it was ruled unconstitutional, but kept him in for five additional years. The Hispanic flood continued, and the once Republican stronghold became forever Democratic, as several other 'swing states' undergoing a similar demographic transition are inevitably going to become.

Moving on:
Hispanics are now about 8% of the electorate...
According to the Pew Hispanic center, that's a decade or so away if current trends continue. In 2002, Hispanics votes comprised 5.3% of the total in 2002, 6.0% in 2004, and 5.8% in 2006:
... but they're projected to become 20% by 2020 and one-quarter of the total U.S. population by 2050.
Uh, that's what the Republican party should be trying to avert. Nowhere is it etched in stone that such projections must be borne out. The vast majority of Americans support the idea of confounding those estimates by completely ending illegal immigration and reducing legal immigration.

The swing states are lillywhite, although the WSJ won't tell you so:
Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Arizona all boast heavy Latino populations and are states that a GOP Presidential candidate probably has to carry unless he can pick up states on the West coast or in the Northeast that Republicans haven't won since the 1980s.
Actually, more than half of the country's Hispanics live in California or Texas, two of the most electorally reliable states. Of the ten most competitive states in the 2004 election, only two are proportionally more Hispanic than the nation at large, New Mexico (third closest) and Nevada (seventh closest). The other eight (in order of competitiveness)--Wisconsin, Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota, and Oregon, have (far) smaller Hispanic proportions of their total populations than the country does as a whole. Clearly, the "key swing states" are much whiter than the rest of the electorally predictable states are. So in reality the size of the national Hispanic vote overstates, not understates, the actual importance of the Hispanic electorate in Presidential elections.

Since 1996 to the last Presidential election, the GOP has netted 1.3 million extra Hispanic votes, even granting the risible 44% figure in 2004. Over the same time period, it has picked up 11 million white voters. Maybe trying to tailor a message to the swaths of traditional, middle class families in the Northeast isn't so bad an idea.

The WSJ, which has offered prudent political advice in the past, such as opposing the minimum wage increase, supporting a disastrous and hopeless war in Iraq, and supporting seminal steps for an EU-esque North American bloc, refers to the putative wisdom of:

Karl Rove, Ken Mehlman, and Matthew Dowd [who] took note of what was appening long before their Democratic counterparts...
All three of these characters have jumped ship (Dowd appears to favor Obama for '08), as the Republican party they steered into an iceberg continues to sink.

The boys slander Tancredo (who they refuse to let write in his own defense on their op/ed pages, even though they have repeatedly attacked him), calling him the Pied Piper. Fortunately, the op/ed page makes a poor piper itself, attracting only the establishment elites with their playing.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Switch to blogspot, everybody's doing it!

Steve Sailer's blogspot account previously served only an archival function. Last December, he began using it as a forum for reader commentary as well. Now, he's using it as his primary posting location. Due to technical problems, is indefinitely on hold. I've edited my roll to reflect that.

I've wondered why more writers do not go the same route. It does require getting accustomed to the occasional irritating idiosyncrasy. I suppose having the .blogspot tail is like playing a gig with a Yamaha. If you're pincered only by the www. and .com, on the other hand, it's like your strap's attached to a Martin. Except as it relates to internet postings, the sound is identical.

Prestige and minor adjustments aside, Blogger accounts have almost no restraints, as the templates can be completely reworked. Except during scheduled maintenance, they are virtually always accessible. That's a benefit of being backed by Google instead of some local host. Further, they're free. Given the difficulty in running a lucrative blog due to endless competition and the expectation of the potential reader not to have to fork anything over, this advantage can at least remove the accounting cost of pursuing an existence in the blogosphere.

Best of all, a Blogger address generally gets preferential treatment in Google searches. Search for "Bruce Bartlett Fairtax", and Google has me on the front page, while I'm nowhere to be found on Yahoo or MSN. Google "Frances Semler", and my humble internet abode will be the third item returned, in front of CNN, WND, and the Kansas City Star. At, it's not among the top ten. "IQ by state" puts me outside the top 20 on Yahoo, but inside it on Google.

The query by query difference is modest, and sometimes other search engines (particularly Yahoo), will give a more prominent place to the blogspot site than Google will. But most of the time, Google seems to favor its own. Search for "state standard of living" on Google, Yahoo, Ask, MSN, and Dogpile. Steve's blogspot post tops only Google's returns.

Does it really cost $8,000 to send an illegal back to Mexico?

According to ICE, it does. I can fly to Playa del Carmen for an all-inclusive week-long stay at a fancy resort for less than a third of that, including travel expenses. This estimate is only for a one-way plane (or bus) ticket. It sounds expensive:
It would cost at least $94 billion to find, detain and remove all 12 million people believed to be staying illegally in the United States, the federal government estimated Wednesday.

That a deportation campaign would actually require finding, detaining, and extraditing the entire illegal population residing in the US to be successful is bunk. When Operation Wetback, which provides the best historical case study for a contemporary deportation effort, was executed in 1954, for each person removed by enforcement, between seven and eight left voluntarily.

A few sporadic, high-profile raids and talk about a partial barrier that still hasn't been built has been enough to cut attempted border crossings by a precipitous 30% this year, while affecting a similar rise in the number of deportations. Clearly, money spent on the back-end is being recouped to some degree at the front-end.

In the face of this mild increase in enforcement, most Mexicans believe the Bush administration is deadly serious about ending unfettered border crossings. This mentality has probably led many who considered hopping on over to channel their energies into something constructive at home.

The estimates were made thus (without potential legal hurtles factored in):
He said the amount was calculated by multiplying the estimated 12 million people by the average cost of detaining people for a day: $97. That was multiplied by the average length of detention: 32 days.

ICE officials also considered transportation costs, which average $1,000 per person.

But that amount can vary widely, the spokesman said. Some deportees are simply driven by bus across the border, while others must take charter planes to distant countries, he said.

Finally, the department looked at personnel costs, bringing the total to roughly $94 billion.
There is reason to assume, unrealistic as the premise that the only way to get illegal immigrants to leave is to detain and deport them is, that this estimate is inflated.

According to these numbers, personnel costs come to half of the total bill--$45 billion. That strains credulity. If the undertaking took two years, that would translate to 450,000 additional ICE agents working full-time for the entire duration with annual salaries of $50,000. By comparison, the entire Department of Homeland Security, of which ICE is a part, totals only 208,000 employees. On a total budget of only $7.8 billion, ICE will deport around 275,000 migrants this year.

My hope that Julia Myers would be a sovereignty paladin may have been overly optimistic. Then again, she may be proffering these numbers in an attempt to substantially boost ICE's budget, which, as far as government expenditures go, would be a worthy increase.

Piecemeal amnesty to be attached to defense bills by vulpine Senators

Early next week, the Senate will take up defense proposals. Roy Beck has been alerted that several Senators have come together and will attempt to attach immigration provisions onto the bills that come up for approval. Many Republican Senators, in dire straits because of the continued Iraq mess and who are not really opposed to open borders anyway, will likely be willing to include these attachments in return for getting the military spending they want. Let's try and disrupt that relationship of convenience that will be doubly-disastrous for the US.

Write, fax, or call your Senators (find their contact information here). Feel free to cut+paste what I've sent to mine (below), or use anything therein as a talking point.


Dear Senator ____,

Please do not allow for the DREAM Act attachment (amendment 2237) to be surreptitiously added to the Defense bill next week. It is a gross expansion of so-called 'birthright citizenship'--which is founded upon a very questionable interpretation of the 14th Amendment--to 'birthright-plus-minor citizenship', allowing those who were not yet adults when they first illegally entered the US to become permanent residents by making a few token gestures. What does granting amnesty to those who claim they were minors when they flaunted US sovereignty do for our collective national defense? The American public expressed their overwhelming opposition to an attempted Senatorial amnesty earlier this year. That collective opinion has not changed.

The SKIL Act attachment is also problematic. The reason I, and so many of my friends, went into the financial and accounting fields, instead of engineering, is that the former two paid as well or better than the third. This, despite the elevated difficulty of obtaining an engineering degree compared to either of the two business degrees. Why? Because of our H1-B program. By allowing businesses to keep wages down by paying foreign workers little (and letting citizens pick up the difference in terms of forgone tax revenue), we are ensuring that Americans find those fields increasingly less attractive. It's a vicious circle. If nothing else, we should at least laden H1-B applications with every possible incentive to get these high-skilled workers to become US citizens. Make the granting of the Visa contingent upon a deposit that is forfeited unless they remain in-country for a decade, or punish employers who cannot get their workers to stick around.

The H2-B Visas are the worst of all. The idea that there are jobs in which no one will do, when those jobs require virtually no skill set, is risible and requires a complete disregard for the fundamental rules of basic economics. Perhaps few will do the jobs at $4 an hour paid under-the-table. Well, then the very profitable agro-industry will have to pay a little more. If labor costs become too high to operate a certain business segment, then drop it. The US cannot compete on low-cost internationally. It's never going to be a core competency until we resemble Brazil. Let's go the technological route--fund some mechnization programs for agriculture instead.

We need a merit immigration system that ensures migrants are net taxpaying, wealth-creating, healthy, proficient in the English language, and well-educated. We need to be sure of these things prior to admitting entry. The immigration question must focus not on what is good for foreigners, but what is good for the average American citizen. After all, that is putatively your raison d'etre.



Thursday, September 13, 2007

Breaking out of the Relative Happiness Trap?

Reading Gregory Clark's A Farewell to Alms, I was impressed (see comments in the link) by his thoughts on the relationship between wealth and happiness. Basically, it is a zero-sum game, but it takes place within societies rather than between them. Human happiness, then, is relative. On page 16, Clark writes:

It is evident that our happiness depends not on our absolute well-being but instead on how we are doing relative to our reference group. Each individual--by acquiring more income, by buying a larger house, by driving a more elegant car--can make herself happier, but happier only at the expense of those with less income, meaner housing, and junkier cars. Money does buy happiness, but that happiness is transferred from someone else, not added to the common pool.
That provides insight into many of life's vexing problems, like why wealthy executives such as Andrew Fastow risk everything else in their lives for an even bigger payout, or why stars like Kurt Cobain or Owen Wilson see suicide as an escape from misery. Call it the C. Montogomery Burns' syndrome:

Homer: You know Mr. Burns, you're the richest guy I know [but not the richest guy Burns knows]--way richer than Lenny.

Burns: Oh yes, but I'd trade it all for a little more.
I would add physical health into the mix, although comparisons there may similarly be tied to peer groups (eg, the success of support groups like Weight Watchers and Alcoholics Anonymous).

It isn't only seen at the upper echelons of society. It provides a window into why winning a local little league championship can send the team's coach into ecstasy, or why WoW players will throw everything they have into being the first to reach level 80 come next January.

From an evolutionary perspective, this makes sense. Achieving a state of perpetual happiness does not serve a species well. A continual competitive drive, made unending by the almost infinite upward and downward mobility that can afflict people in the modern world, propels the population forward.

But it means that even as all boats rise, the dispositions of their captains are not so uniform in their ascension. What's good for the species isn't necessarily embraced by the individual member of that species, with death being the most obvious example. Death allows for mutations and selection to occur. Without it, there would be stagnation, overpopulation, and likely eventual extinction (recombinant DNA and other forms of genetic engineering aside).

Might the virtual world allow humans to break out of this happy-neutral trap? As virtual competitors become increasingly realistic and complex, will beating them raise overall happiness? Less along the lines of Second Life, with a similar competitive dynamic (it's a virtual world, but the significant characters you interact with are other actual people, so that if you outdo one of them in chess, the happiness shift occurs as it does in the real world) than of World of Warcraft, where the avatars defeated in raids are not tied to any real person they represent. When beaten, they absorb some unhappiness (expunging it from humans), and give up happiness in return, which enters humanity when it is transferred to the victorious players (who are real).

For now, real-life competitors are more satisfying to beat, but that's because artificial intelligence isn't human enough, yet. We're getting there, though.

I had been out of the virtual entertainment world for several years, but have recently jumped back in with Dragon Quest VIII for the PS2. It was released three years ago, but the universe is enthralling. It's complex, intimate, and emotionally arousing. As I gain on the archvillain, I become happier in a way that is not merely superficial. Trying to stop the archvillain from murdering a defenseless abbot in the game doesn't increase my adrenaline as much as trying to stop a real-life murder from taking place would, but the gap is narrowing.

Is there a corresponding unhappiness that comes with this? Maybe, in that when I lose, there's a deadweight loss as my transferred happiness is squandered on the fictional. But most of the time, I win.

The virtual antagonists must be formidable enough for me to derive satisfaction in beating them. If they are pushovers, I derive no happiness from outdoing them, just as Burns' extending his affluence relative to Lenny doesn't do for him what overcoming Warren Buffet does. But to gain happiness from the endeavor, I must win most of the time. It can't always be the military academy:

Lisa: I can't do this, Bart. I'm not strong enough.

Bart: I thought you came here looking for a challenge.

Lisa: Duh! A challenge I could do!

The creators of these virtual unhappiness-absorbers need to challenge me, but it has to be a challenge I can do.

The danger of this solipsistically-realized happiness goes back to the contrasts between what benefits a species and what benefits its individual members. The competition, in which there are winners and losers, propels us forward. When the losers are created for no other reason than to lose in the end, the rewards for winning against them do not equip humanity with much to blaze forward with.

This humorous excerpt from a Futurama episode demonstrates the species-individual conflict well, with the corrupting influence being not unhappiness-absorbing nemeses, but bots absorbing something else.

Being rewarded with the ultimate prize is great for the individual, but the eternal struggle to grab that reward builds civilization! If everyone has the reward at hand, and there are no real losers (and hence no need for individual members to compete with one another to propel the species forward), we're in trouble.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

If measurement could be more precise, the perceived relationship is stronger, not weaker

A favorite Sailer post consists of an amalgamation of reader suggestions on ideas that journalists (and everybody else) should keep in mind.

I have another to add, that I've seen ignored on several occasions. As someone fairly well-versed in statistics, it's obvious. But as someone who frequently struggles to grasp so many things that more informed people find effortlessly intuitive, I'm confident some will find it being explicitly spelled out quite helpful.

In the comments of an Arnold Kling post on the intelligence-livability relationship in the US, a skeptical reader writes:
What I find odd is the acceptance of the state as a boundary -- I've lived primarily in two very heterogenous states, Texas and Washington, and they are not fairly characterized by a sum over the entirety. But that is fairly typical.
He is insinuating that the correlation between IQ and livability is questionable because I've used data at the state level to run a regression. But the less precise the use of state-level data is, the stronger the true relationship between intelligence and livability actually is. The more noise extant in the measurements, the lower the observed correlations are going to be. As the sample size increases, the likelihood of it being otherwise rapidly approaches zero (an n of 50 is more than sufficient for this). In attempting to undercut the observed relationship, he is actually suggesting that it is more vigorous than I relate.

If I suspected a relationship between the percentage of land paved with asphalt and population density in the US, my suspicion would be confirmed by relating the two at the state level. Say I find the two correlate at .40 (I'm assuming that this supposed relationship isn't contested even though I'm not using actual figures). New York has a higher proportion of its land devoted to roads and a greater population density than Alaska does.

But Anchorage has more asphalt and neighbors than does the area 50 miles north of Utica. The effect of internal 'inconsistencies' like these are lessened by a similar analysis on the county level. Most US counties have few people and few roads. A relative few have lots of people and lots of roads. The correlation jumps to .80.

Arguing that, because the state-level comparison isn't perfect, there is probably little relationship between population density and land devoted to roads is to get it backwards. Because the state-level comparison isn't ideal, a more precise comparison will show that the real relationship is considerably stronger.

That same sort of argument is constantly employed against the utility of IQ data. Because IQ tests are not perfect measurements and only approximate overall intelligence, that IQ and infant mortality correlate strongly does not mean that thus-far unmeasurable Intelligence and infant mortality are related in any way. Of course, if IQ, as a sloppy measure of intelligence, is related to infant mortality, a crisper measure of intelligence will be, outside of extreme (randomly occuring) anomaly, be more strongly related to infant mortality than imperfect IQ.

Or consider my state IQ estimates that were followed by VCU Professor Michael McDaniel's estimates. They were arrived at similarly, but McDaniel's numbers were more precise. And, of course, they correlated more strongly with other good-faith IQ estimates than mine did.

Essentially, as in life generally, in measuring statistical relationships, the perfect is not the enemy of the good.

Islamic incompatibility

John S. Bolton offers a staggering (yet still non-exhaustive) list of the fundamental differences in the core principles of Western liberalism and Islam. In light of this, it is difficult to see how any genuine, self-described liberal could celebrate Islamic immigration into Europe and North America as a step toward greater social harmony through understanding.

Less bleakly, though, there is some understanding taking place, albeit not the variety of understanding the borderless leftists have putatively hoped for.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

La Raza, NAACP consider leaving if Semler does not

The Semler saga drags on, still mostly under the national media radar. The absurdity of the groups attacking Semler and her supporters is too blatant for leading leftist sources to delve into. It'd be a repeat of the New York Times incredible obsession with the presumed guilt of the three lacrosse players involved in the Duke rape hoax, albeit on a less serious scale (trying to ruin a career instead of entire lives).

But the country's two largest racist groups are thinking about taking their annual conventions elsewhere if the 73 year-old grandmother's head doesn't roll:

The nation's largest Hispanic civil rights organization is warning it may move its 2009 convention from Kansas City because of a controversial city park board member.

The National Council of La Raza is already looking at other cities after the appointment of Frances Semler, an anti-illegal immigration activist, said Janet Murgua, La Raza's president.

City Councilmembers have also heard concerns from members of the NAACP, which is expected to hold its 2010 convention in Kansas City. The city hasn't heard directly from officials of the national organization.
The city government is simply too racist! Nevermind that the Minutemen painstakingly (and painfully) make it a point to show that the "Minuteman believes that just as ethnicity, race, religion and all such factors are incidental and do not affect our God-given, constitutional equality as American citizens, such factors are also irrelevant in the debate over illegal immigration. There is no tolerance among Minutemen for racism or bigotry - E Pluribus Unum - Out of Many, One." Nevermind that most Americans (54%) have a favorable opinion of the Minutemen, while relatively few (22%) disapprove. Nevermind that an overwhelming majority (66%) of Americans feel current immigration levels are too high, while a paucity (2%) believe they are too low.

It's common knowledge that La Raza translates into English as "The Race". Uh, huh. The evidence of Semler's criminality, besides her membership in the local Minutemen chapter, is her affinity for Pat Buchanan. That is, of course, worse than openly encouraging and helping organize massive protests by hundreds of thousands of illegals in open defiance of federal law. It's clearly worse than inviting Hugo Chavez to speak to your constituency, as La Raza member Jose Serrano (D-NY) has done.

The NAACP's position is more ambiguous. Black America is hardly fond of unfettered Hispanic immigration. The KCMO Democratic party is hardly an antagonist. After all, Mark Funkhouser replaced a WASPy former crew for one that the minority activist groups were cheering just days before Semler's dirty little secret was made public:

Mayor Mark Funkhouser today took a slap at the parks department for decades of 'elitism and cultural divisiveness' in naming his appointments to the Board of Parks and Recreation Commissioners.'

The commissioners have often been chosen from among the city's wealthiest,' Funkhouser said, pointedly making his announcement in Troost Park in the city's poorest council district. 'In fact, the reason the parks board is separate from the city management structure at City Hall is because the city's elites wanted it to be free from the influence of regular folks. With the appointment of this board, I am signaling a change.'

One of the other newly-minted commissioners, Ajamu Webster, is a founding member of the National Black United Front's local chapter. The NBU Front's homepage describes it as "a coalition made up of individuals and organizations working together for the benefit of all people of African descent." Among the NBU Front's major causes are support for reparations payments and African-centered black separationist schools (in the US!).

Apparently, this not-so-subtle racism does not concern either group like Selmer's explicitly non-racialist racism does.

Returning to the NAACP's hesitancy, how the silence of Semler, appointed to be a Board of Parks and Recreation commissioner, will stack up against the words of Julian Bond cannot be something the group's national leadership is eager to find out about. Talk about the kettle calling the porcelain "black"!

I do not care that these two groups are more 'racist' than the Minutemen. Nor do I care that they are entertaining the idea of holding their annual conventions elsewhere. Well, actually, that's not entirely veracious. I'd love for them to go elsewhere. But I do want to point out the hypocrisy in attempting to extort a leftist mayor for alleged 'racism' that cannot be found and only insinuated when the groups behind the extortion are so blatantly involved in what they allege Semler should be censured for.

As a racial realist, I also want to point out how, in the US, renowned for its egalitarianism and universal acceptance, multiculturalism is a constant engine of strife. Racial and cultural diversity inevitably lead to less freedom of speech, thought, and representation. Those clamoring for open borders and more biological diversity for the sake of biological diversity want less harmony and less amiability towards the free-flow of diverse ideas.