April 5, 2014

NYT: White male nerds - Can't live with 'em, can't get rich without 'em

"Glimpse is the most fun, private way to send disappearing photo and video messages."
From the New York Times, the story of a woman who shut down her MakeOut Labs startup to start a sexting app called Glimpse (modeled upon Snatchsnap).

But she quit because of all the sexists in the sexting biz. (Or at least she got the NYT to believe that.)

Stop snickering. It's a national crisis.
Technology’s Man Problem 
By CLAIRE CAIN MILLER   APRIL 5, 2014

Elissa Shevinsky can pinpoint the moment when she felt that she no longer belonged. 
She was at a friend’s house last Sept. 8, watching the live stream of the TechCrunch Disrupt hackathon on her laptop and iPhone. Entrepreneurs were showing off their products, and two young Australian men, David Boulton and Jethro Batts, stood behind the podium to give their presentation. “Titstare is an app where you take photos of yourself staring at tits,” Mr. Boulton began, as photographs of women’s chests on a cellphone flashed on the screen behind him. 
After some banter, Mr. Batts concluded, “This is the breast hack ever.” 
The crowd — overwhelmingly young, white, hoodie-wearing men — guffawed. 
Something in Ms. Shevinsky’s mind clicked. If ever there was proof that the tech industry needed more women, she thought, this was it. ...
Ms. Shevinsky felt pushed to the edge. Women who enter fields dominated by men often feel this way. They love the work and want to fit in. But then something happens — a slight or a major offense — and they suddenly feel like outsiders. The question for newcomers to a field has always been when to play along and when to push back. 

Uh, New York Times, in reality Ms. Shevinsky is not your maiden aunt, she's the CEO of Glimpse Labs. From her FAQ for her quasi-pornographic Glimpse App:
Q. "So, like, this is for pictures of my weenie?" 
A. "Um. Uh. Wut?" 
Q. "You know. SEXTING. I have this little dance I like to do...." 
A. "Oh, right. That. So, yeah - we’re great for photos and videos that you want to share with someone special. We’re excited about all the different things we can express to each other when we know we’re not being overheard. ..."

If I'd used Glimpse, I'd be Mayor!
As a commenter noted, although she may be getting tons of coverage in the New York Times for objecting to an app called TitStare, her own app could be called TitShow.

In other words, Ms. Shevinsky is a veteran promoter of semi-pornographic businesses who just exploited the clueless humorless feminism of the NYT to get a huge dose of free national publicity as the latest victim of the Rich White Man, Silicon Valley edition.

Well played, Ms. Shevinsky!

Back to the NYT's lamentation over the insensitivity shown to the blushing Ms. Shevinsky:
Today, even as so many barriers have fallen — whether at elite universities, where women outnumber men, or in running for the presidency, where polls show that fewer people think gender makes a difference — computer engineering, the most innovative sector of the economy, remains behind. Many women who want to be engineers encounter a field where they not only are significantly underrepresented but also feel pushed away. 
Tech executives often fault schools, parents or society in general for failing to encourage girls to pursue computer science. But something else is at play in the industry: Among the women who join the field, 52 percent leave by midcareer, a startling attrition rate that is double that for men, according to research from the Harvard Business School. 
A culprit, many people in the field say, is a sexist, alpha-male culture that can make women and other people who don’t fit the mold feel unwelcome, demeaned or even endangered.

And / or they quit the tech industry to be the wife and homemaker for one of those alpha males. It's like that giant hub-bub last year about how women students at Harvard Business School weren't getting as good grades as men, and it finally turned out to be because they were going out on so many dates with future captains of industry.
“It’s a thousand tiny paper cuts,” is how Ashe Dryden, a programmer who now consults on increasing diversity in technology, described working in tech. “I’ve been a programmer for 13 years, and I’ve always been one of the only women and queer people in the room. I’ve been harassed, I’ve had people make suggestive comments to me, I’ve had people basically dismiss my expertise. I’ve gotten rape and death threats just for speaking out about this stuff.” ...
Ms. Shevinsky never received death threats, but she experienced her share of come-ons and slights. A few days after Mr. Dickinson’s “It is not misogyny” tweet, she quit Glimpse. She had been aware of earlier cringe-making tweets in which her business partner had joked about rape or questioned even the most basic feminist precepts. (“Women’s suffrage and individual freedom are incompatible. How’s that for an unpopular truth?”) Still, she admired Mr. Dickinson’s technical skills and work ethic. Married and then 40, he was more experienced and serious about work than many other tech types she knew, and she said he always treated her with respect. 
But after the Twitter controversy, she decided that she just couldn’t work with him anymore. 
Ms. Shevinsky’s epiphany, however, wasn’t just about Mr. Dickinson or a couple of engineers. It was about computer-engineering culture and her relationship with it. She had enjoyed being “one of the bros” — throwing back whiskey and rubbing shoulders with M.I.T. graduates. And if that sometimes meant fake-laughing as her colleagues cracked jokes about porn, so be it. 

Uh, you're starting a sexting business ...
Two days after the TechCrunch show, Business Insider forced Mr. Dickinson to resign. The Australian entrepreneurs and TechCrunch each apologized. But incidents like these aren’t exceptional. 
“We see these stories, ‘Why aren’t there more women in computer science and engineering?’ and there’s all these complicated answers like, ‘School advisers don’t have them take math and physics,’ and it’s probably true,” said Lauren Weinstein, a man who has spent his four-decade career in tech working mostly with other men, and is currently a consultant for Google. 
“But I think there’s probably a simpler reason,” he said, “which is these guys are just jerks, and women know it.” 
The choice for people who are uncomfortable with the “bro” culture is to try to change it or to leave — and even women who are fed up don’t always agree on how to go about making a change. But leaving can be hard too. 
“There was only one thing I wanted to do,” Ms. Shevinsky said. “Be the C.E.O. of Glimpse.” 
When Ms. Shevinsky was introduced to engineering culture at Williams College, she got no hint of sexism. A political theory major, she learned to code from a boyfriend, and she described their engineer friends as “forward-thinking feminists.” 
She worked in product development for a number of start-ups and was a co-founder of a dating site.

MakeOut Labs
She settled in New York, where she got to know Mr. Dickinson at tech meet-ups. When she had a new business idea — a kind of Snapchat for adults that prevents people from taking screen shots of private pictures — she sought out his advice.

Last spring, they decided to build the app together. At first, they conceived it as a sexting product,

Uh ...
but later they shifted to a service that could be used by anyone concerned about keeping their messages safe from prying eyes. They called it Glimpse. 

That sounds totally non-sexting: "Glimpse."
By August, Ms. Shevinsky had closed her dating site to work on Glimpse. Mr. Dickinson, who had his full-time job at Business Insider, helped when he could. 
“I remember thinking just that I was so lucky that Pax was going to work with me,” Ms. Shevinsky said. “At the time I was still relatively unknown, and he was one of the best technologists I’d met.” 
Computer science wasn’t always dominated by men. “In the beginning, the word ‘computers’ meant ‘women,’ ” says Ruth Oldenziel, a professor at Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands who studies history, gender and technology. Six women programmed one of the most famous computers in history — the 30-ton Eniac — for the United States Army during World War II. 
But as with many professions, Dr. Oldenziel said, once programming gained prestige, women were pushed out. Over the decades, the share of women in computing has continued to decline. In 2012, just 18 percent of computer-science college graduates were women, down from 37 percent in 1985, according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology. ...
Tech’s biggest companies say that recruiting women is a priority. “If we do that, there’s no question we’ll more than double the rate of technology output in the world,” Larry Page, the chief executive of Google, said last spring. Yet at Google, less than a fifth of the engineers are women.

In other words, Larry's lying.
That’s a typical figure. Twenty percent of software developers are women, according to the Labor Department, and fewer than 6 percent of engineers are black or Hispanic. Comparatively, 56 percent of people in business and financial-operations jobs are women, as are 36 percent of physicians and surgeons and one-third of lawyers.
At tech start-ups, often considered the most desirable places to work, the number of women appears to be even lower. The companies generally don’t release these numbers publicly, but an engineer at Pinterest has collected data from people at 133 start-ups and found that an average of 12 percent of the engineers are women. 
Sexism exists in many places, but start-up companies have particular qualities that can allow problems to go unchecked. The lines between work and social life are often blurry, because people tend to be young and to work long hours, and the founders and first employees are often friends. And start-ups pride themselves on a lack of bureaucracy, forgoing big-company layers like human resources departments. They say they can move faster that way, without becoming bogged down in protocol. 
But a result can be an anything-goes atmosphere, said Julie Ann Horvath, a software designer and developer who publicly quit her job last month at GitHub, the coding website, saying that there was a culture of intimidation and disrespect of women. GitHub, founded in 2008, hired a senior H.R. executive only in January. 
“If there is no structure, that’s actually more harmful to marginalized people,” Ms. Horvath said in an interview while she still worked at GitHub. “It’s just unprofessional. Tech needs to grow up in a lot of ways.” ...
“In engineering, whoever owns the code, they have the power,” said Ana Redmond, a software engineer. When she worked as a senior engineer at a big company, Expedia, she said she was constantly underestimated by male colleagues and suffered because she was not willing to leave her children to work the hours needed to “own the code.”

Uh ...
Social media, where people carefully build their public personas, often become bullhorns for offensive comments. 
After the Titstare presentation, a commenter calling himself White_N_Nerdy wrote on Reddit, “I’m honestly trying to understand why anyone says that females are ‘needed’ in the tech industry.” He continued: “The tech community works fine without females, just like any other mostly male industry. Feminists probably just want women making more money.” 

Uh ...
That sense of being targeted as a minority happens at the office, too. That is part of the reason nearly a third of the women who leave technology jobs move to nontechnical ones, according to the Harvard study.

Or maybe because they discover they don't like technical jobs and shouldn't have listened to the feminist hype in the first place?

In summary, I'm shocked, shocked to hear of sexism in the sexting business. Have we no shame?

P.S. At the end of the article, Ms. Shevinsky gets a suitably chastened and sensitized Pax Dickinson back working for her, having gotten thousands of words of free publicity in the New York Times for their sexting app startup because it illustrates a grave societal crisis. Or something.

A cynic might wonder if the whole thing is a publicity stunt.

A general pattern is that as public discourse gets more bogged down by crimestop stupidity, it becomes easier for clever promoters like the amusing Ms. Shevinsky to put one over on even the bright people at the New York Times by pressing all the right ideological buttons.
   

Olde tymes at iSteve ...

Judging from today's Google searches, the whole world is suddenly interested in my 2001 UPI article on how the Nabisco ladies' golf tournament in Palm Springs functions as a national Lesbian Spring Break:
Lesbians Turn Out for Ladies Golf Championship
by Steve Sailer
March 26, 2001
 

UKIP winning hearts and minds of Brits

A major global political trend is the rise of immigration restrictionism wherever it is allowed to participate in an even footing in the national debate. For example, in Britain the fourth party United Kingdom Independence Party's Nigel Farage has been allowed to hold two televised debates with the deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, leader of the third party Liberal Democrats. Here are some video highlights.

From The Guardian:
Even Lib Dem voters thought Farage won the debate against Clegg 
Guardian/ICM poll finds 69% of viewers giving victory to the Ukip frontman, while just 31% think that Liberal Democrat leader won 
Nick Clegg suffered a resounding defeat in Wednesday's televised Europe debate with Nigel Farage, according to an instant Guardian/ICM poll. Of viewers giving a verdict, 69% said Ukip's frontman had won, with just 31% giving victory to the Liberal Democrat leader. 
Viewers also judged, by 49% to 39%, that Nigel Farage came across as having the "more appealing personality". By an emphatic 64% to 30% margin viewers thought he had the better arguments. 
Farage was judged the victor with ICM across all age groups and regions, and even among viewers who had been Lib Dem voters in 2010 – only 41% of those who had backed Clegg in the last election thought he came out on top, as against 59% who thought Farage did. 
Whereas only 7% of viewers say they are now more likely to vote Lib Dem in next month's Euro election, 38% say the same of Ukip.
     

"The Grand Budapest Hotel"

Wes Anderson movies, such as 2012's Moonrise Kingdom, generally get on my nerves quickly, but I quite enjoyed almost all of this one. 

Granted, this movie about the concierge (Ralph Fiennes as Monsieur Gustave) at a pre-WWII Austrian luxury hotel is almost entirely made out of frosting -- Viennese pastries and other desserts provide much of Anderson's inspiration for his extravagant art direction. There really isn't much else in the movie besides endless riffs on what the Austro-Hungarian Empire would have had the budget to look like if the unfortunate events of 1914-18 had not transpired. But, old-time Austria and Wes Anderson are made for each other. Anderson has the worldview of a talented, refined, wealthy, and spoiled 12-year-old boy, and for whatever reason Habsburgian styles are an excellent fit for him.

Granted, the movie's plot is just an excuse for Anderson to indulge his cinematic sweet tooth for all things visually mitteleurop√§isch. As usual, Anderson mostly just squares up the camera head on like he's making 2001. Anderson's constant dead center framing of shots -- And now look what I've dreamed up this time! -- gives the impression of a child who must have been endlessly praised for his creativity. But in The Grand Budapest Hotel his imagination almost lives up to the smugness of his cinematography.

And the constant guest appearances by Anderson's movie star friends, most of whom have discordantly American accents, start to get tiresome. (Is that Alan Arkin or Harvey Keitel as the con boss in the prison Monsieur Gustave gets sentenced to?) 

And, as in most Wes Anderson movies, there are remarkably few jokes. His movies always look like they are going to be extremely funny, but they almost never are, especially now that the careers of Anderson and his old college buddy, the genuinely amusing Owen Wilson, have diverged since their 1996 debut Bottle Rocket.

Fortunately, all the guest appearances really work just as a setup for the final cameo, in which Wilson, with his Texan accent, steps in temporarily at concierge for Monsieur Gustave as Monsieur Chuck. The joke is more or less: "Now you may be thinking that I, Owen Wilson, don't seem that culturally appropriate as the concierge of an Austrian hotel in 1932, and you may have a point; but, still, you gotta admit I would have been a great concierge and you would have given me a huge tip."
     

April 4, 2014

Thinking like a Russian about Croatia 1995 and Georgia 2008

I hadn't realized before how much the American-encouraged attack by Georgia on Russian-backed South Ossetia in 2008 looks to the Kremlin like the same playbook as the two American-planned Croat offensives against the Serb breakaway Krajina republic in Croatia in 1995. The second American-planned offensive by the Croats, Operation Storm, was the biggest land battle in Europe since 1945.

It's hard for Americans to remember all the times our side has militarily pushed around other sides. But the Russians remember, so it's worth it to recall how similar Croatia in 1995 and Georgia in 2008 look to the Kremlin.

Slavic Orthodox Serbia is a sort of mini-Russia that was at the core of a sort of mini-Soviet Union called Yugoslavia. So, Russians paid a lot of attention to what happened to Serbia in the 1990s, just as they did in 1914 when the Czar destroyed his dynasty in defense of Serbia.

Serbia is kind of a cultural outpost of Russia, the way Afghanistan is oddly like Arabia. Just as the Afghans have all the backwardness of the Arabs but without any oil, the Serbs have managed to make themselves highly unpopular without ever permanently achieving the defensive depth of the Russians.

The test run for Croatia's American-nurtured offensive capability was Operation Flash in May 1995. It was followed by the big Operation Storm in August 1995 that ethnically cleansed 150,000 or more Serbs from Croat territory. This was the largest European land battle since 1945.

I can recall an NPR war correspondent explaining at the time that US military men had been training the Croats for months in how to fight like a modern Operation Desert Storm army, so it was going to be a pushover, which it was: four days of fighting and then it was all over except for the refugees. When people say violence never solves anything, well, Operation Storm pretty much solved Croatia's problems with having a large, violent Serbian minority.

Since then, however, a lot of opacity has been dumped on American involvement in preparing the groundwork for Operation Storm. Although it was the best executed military operation in a war that generally resembled an extended gang fight, not surprisingly some Croats ran amok and committed war crimes -- not as bad as what the Serbs did, in between the two Croat offensives, to Muslim men at Srebrenica in Bosnia in July 1995, but still not nice.

Also, parts of the U.S. government didn't tell other parts what they were up to. The U.S. Ambassador to Croatia, for example, appears to have been sincerely appalled by the huge ethnic cleansing by Croatia, but he wasn't kept in the loop of planning the offensive. Or something.

There was a UN ban on arms shipments to participants in the Yugoslav wars, so with official U.S. military involvement blocked from active involvement, the Croat government hired Military Professional Resources, Inc. of Alexandria, VA, which employs retired U.S. military officials to advise countries okayed by the U.S. government. Most notably, MPRI employed General Carl Vuono, who had been U.S. Army Chief of Staff from 1987-1991 (i.e., during Desert Storm; i.e., he knows what he's doing). Supposedly, Gen. Vuono was just in Croatia in 1995 to advise the Croatian army on how to "transition to democracy" and subjects like how to fight AirLand Battle 2000 never came up. I mean, if you were a Croatian general intending to open a front 390 miles long, why would you ask one of the main architects of Operation Desert Storm for tips and pointers on how to fight Operation Storm? You'd ask him for advice on democratic transitioningness instead. And the similarity of names of the operations is just a coincidence.

MPRI, interestingly enough, was in Georgia in 2008 training Georgian commandos. But, US involvement with the Georgian Army didn't have to be limited to deep state connections: because Georgia had just been put on the first rung for admission to NATO, 1,000 U.S. troops were in Georgia conducting military exercises with Georgian troops in July 2008: the Immediate Response training exercise. Within 10 days of the American troops leaving, 10,000 Georgian troops surged across the internationally established and peacekeeper maintained line of control into South Ossetia. But the Georgian commandos failed to take out the Roki Tunnel, and the Georgian army was defeated by Russian reinforcements. (Note that neither army performed terribly well.)

So, from the Kremlin's perspective, the Georgian 2008 attack looks a lot like the Croatian 1995 attacks. A major difference in the outcome was that the Yugoslav national army didn't come to the defense of the Serb breakaway republic of Krajina in 1995 the way the Russian national army came to the defense of the breakaway republic of South Ossetia in 2008.
    

Turkish PM supported by plastic surgery cult

Back on New Year's Day, I reported on the Gulenist cult that has taken over the Turkish police and is trying to overthrow prime minister Erdogan by bugging his phone calls while he discusses where to stash all the millions in cash he's skimmed. But to the surprise of Western analysts, Erdogan more or less won the recent municipal elections.

Although the business / test prep Gulen cult headquartered in the Poconos is out to get him, Erdogan is supported by the Adnan Oktar / Harun Yahya cult of Islamic creationists / plastic surgery addicts. I can't begin to understand what the Oktar weirdness is all about, but he seems to do verbal battle with Richard Dawkins on his television talk show in which he talks and talks while babes in heavy makeup laugh at his witticisms. There's something kind of Japanese about his TV shows.
     

Do Ivy League schools collude on admissions?

From The Wire:
Why the All-Ivy League Story Stirs Up Tensions Between African Immigrants and Black Americans 
By Arit John
The story of the first-generation Ghanian-American student accepted by all eight Ivy league schools is wonderful, but it also stirs up the tension between black Americans and recent African immigrants — especially when you describe him as "not a typical African-American kid." That's been the reaction to USA Today's profile on Kwasi Enin, a Long Island high schooler who got into the nation's most competitive schools through hard work and, according to IvyWise CEO Katherine Cohen, being African (and being male).

Here's a semi-off-topic question. Leaving aside affirmative action and all that, how unusual is it for a high school student to be accepted at all eight Ivy League schools?

Top colleges would have at least a couple of self-interested reasons for sharing information with each other on who they want to admit and agreeing not to make offers to their peers' favorites. They don't want to get into a scholarship bidding war over the best students; and they don't want their "yield" percentage to be driven down because they make offers to kids who get offers from everybody.

Into the early 1990s, the Ivies, MIT, and some other famous colleges had a price-fixing ring that met every year called the Overlap Group to make sure they didn't compete very hard over individual students.

The Elder Bush administration accused the cartel of violating the Sherman Anti-Trust. The Ivies shamefacedly denied wrongdoing but promised not to do it anymore. MIT, however, went to court, arguing that laws don't apply to elite colleges because, well, we're special. MIT lost in court in 1992, appealed, and then, as so often happens, the incoming Clinton Administration dropped the case they were winning on the ground that elite colleges are on their side.

Then Congress passed a 568 law that provides an anti-trust exemption. The 568 cartel was formed, but, notably, it doesn't currently include the four richest colleges: Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and Princeton. (Their lavish financial aid perhaps explains a little about why Harvard has gotten so good in basketball and Stanford in football.)

Okay, that's the background. Now can anybody answer: do top colleges get together and collude on who will make offers to the most desirable students? Obviously, all Ivies will want the black male who averages 750 on the SAT, but if they all make him offers, 7 out 8 will get their "yield" percentage dinged on the USNWR charts because he can only accept one acceptance.

So, do top colleges typically pre-arrange that they won't all offer acceptances to all the top candidates, but somehow the cartel broke down here? Or is the Overlap Group completely a thing of the past these days?
At one point the piece reads: 
Being a first-generation American from Ghana also helps him stand out, Cohen says. "He's not a typical African-American kid." 
"Not a typical African-American kid" is being read as an allusion to the lazy black American stereotype. The tension comes from the fact that some African immigrants buy into that stereotype, which gets turned into "Africans don't like black people." This has almost nothing to do with Enin, who is obviously a remarkable young man, and everything to do with how America perceives and portrays black Americans and African immigrants.  
In January, Luvvie Ajayi, a Nigerian-born immigrant, tried to explain "akata," a word some Nigerians use to refer to black Americans that translates into wild animal. (Note: A lot of Nigerians use akata to mean "ghetto" as well. My mom once told me I was dressed like an akata girl because I wanted to wear sweatpants in public.) She argued in a series of tweets, collected by Clutch, that the reason some Africans believe black Americans should be doing better is because they don't know about the history of black Americans but see their own success as a reason blacks should excel as well. "Africans who come to the U.S. are statistically more successful than African Americans and they think 'if I could do it, why not them?'" she wrote.  
American society holds that same view as well. A 2007 study covered by the Washington Post found that a quarter of black students admitted to elite colleges were African immigrants, though they only represented 13 percent of America's college-age black population. The study's authors several theories on why black immigrants do better, including "to white observers black immigrants seem more polite, less hostile, more solicitous and 'easier to get along with.' Native blacks are perceived in precisely the opposite fashion."  
Lani Guinier, a Harvard professor, argued instead that schools were attempting to "resolve historic wrongs against native black Americans by enrolling immigrants who look like them" but had different experiences. "In part, it has to do with coming from a country ... where blacks were in the majority and did not experience the stigma that black children did in the United States," Guinier said. Either explanation creates a divide — as if Africans can only succeed at the expense of black Americans, or vice versa.
     
One example of an affirmative action beneficiary who isn't actually descended from American slaves is the President of the United States.
    

April 3, 2014

The Illinois Central theory of black dysfunction

The Annie E. Casey Foundation has a decent website of social statistics by state. Above is their map of % of black children living in two parent families, with stronger colors being better. Not surprisingly, the best percentages are found in states that blacks get to mostly through the military. Hawaii and North Dakota are tied for best at 65%. 

Wisconsin and Illinois are worst at 30%. It's kind of the Illinois Central Railroad ("I'm the train they call 'The City of New Orleans'") theory of the geographic distribution of black dysfunction.
  

"The wrong side of history"

If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a homophobic face - forever.

The financial logic of the Pardon Pollard movement

Beginning with Ronald Reagan, each American President has been subjected to a full court press to pardon the traitor Jonathan Pollard. Each has dropped the subject when fully apprised of the magnitude of his crimes. 

What's fascinating is how many of the most respectable Jewish organizations are so drawn to the worst possible individual to champion. Jonathan Pollard was a cokehead who offered to sell secrets to Pakistan and South Africa as well as Israel. It's almost as if the outrageousness of the endless campaign for the traitor's release is intended to provoke gentiles into reflecting poorly upon Jews, thus generating more donations to the Jewish organizations from Jews worried about anti-semitism.
     

Acemogluism in Arms

Celebrated MIT economist Daron Acemoglu, author of Why Nations Fail, is the Malcolm Gladwell of the 2010s. Normally, Acemoglu's ignorance and stupidity would be just a waste of TED Talk viewers' time, but now Acemoglu has a warlord fan.

From the NYT:
At Quiet Rebel Base, Plotting an Assault on South Sudan’s Oil Fields 
... Mr. Machar is plotting the offensive on the oil fields from a hide-out in Upper Nile State. It is a quiet outpost, save the incessant chirping of birds, and the former vice president keeps company with a small team of bodyguards. He has a satellite phone and a shiny touch-screen tablet in a battered brown case, and in his free time he is working through a paperback copy of “Why Nations Fail.”

Uh-oh.
   

Jonathan Pollard, all-around terrible person

Cocaine's a helluva drug.
It's testament to the power of insisting upon your version of The Narrative over and over that easily looked-up facts about the traitor Jonathan Pollard can simply be ignored. 

For example, rather than being an ethno-patriotic altruist who gave Israel 3,600 cubic feet of secret American documents out of sheer idealism, Pollard is an all-around terrible person as countless incidents in his life attest. Always has been. From his Wikipedia article:
Pollard grew up with what he called a "racial obligation" to Israel,[15] and made his first trip to Israel in 1970, as part of a science program visiting the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot. While there, he was hospitalized after a fight with another student. One Weizmann scientist remembered Pollard as leaving behind "a reputation of being an unstable troublemaker, the worst case of this kind in the history of the summer camp".[16]
... After completing high school, Pollard attended Stanford University, where he completed a degree in political science in 1976.[14] While there, he is remembered by several of his acquaintances as boasting that he was a dual citizen of the United States and Israel and claiming to work for the Mossad and to have attained the rank of colonel in the Israel Defense Forces. None of these claims were true.[17][18][19]  
Pollard was turned down for the CIA job after taking a polygraph test in which he admitted to prolific illegal drug usage between 1974 and 1978. ...The Navy asked for but was denied information from the CIA regarding Pollard, including the results of their pre-employment polygraph test showing Pollard's excessive drug use.[23] ... 
Two months after Pollard was hired, the technical director of NOSIC, Richard Haver, requested that he be terminated.[23] This came after a conversation with the new hire in which Pollard offered to start a back-channel operation with the South African intelligence service and lied about his father's involvement with the CIA.[23] Instead of terminating Pollard, Haver's boss reassigned him to a Navy human intelligence (HUMINT) operation, ... In the vetting process for this position, Pollard, it was later discovered, lied repeatedly: he denied illegal drug use, claimed his father had been a CIA operative, misrepresented his language abilities and his educational achievements, and claimed to have applied for a commission as officer in the Naval Reserve.[23] ... 
While transferring to his new job at TF-168, Pollard again initiated a meeting with someone far up the chain of command, this time with Admiral Sumner Shapiro, Commander, Naval Intelligence Command (CNIC) about an idea he had for TF-168 and South Africa. (The TF-168 group had passed on his ideas.) After the meeting, Shapiro immediately ordered that Pollard's security clearances be revoked and that he be reassigned to a non-sensitive position. According to The Washington Post, Shapiro dismissed Pollard as a "kook", saying later, "I wish the hell I'd fired him."[24] 
Because of the job transfer, Shapiro's order to remove Pollard's security clearances slipped through the cracks. However, Shapiro's office followed up with a request to TF-168 that Pollard's trustworthiness be investigated by the CIA. The CIA found Pollard to be a risk and recommended that he not be used in any intelligence collection operation. A subsequent polygraph test was inconclusive, although it did prompt Pollard to admit to making false statements to his superiors, prior drug use, and having unauthorized contacts with representatives of foreign governments.[25] The special agent administering the test felt that Pollard, who at times "began shouting and shaking and making gagging sounds as if he were going to vomit", was feigning illness to invalidate the test, and recommended that he not be granted access to highly classified information.[25] Pollard was also required to be evaluated by a psychiatrist.[25] 
Pollard's clearance was reduced to Secret.[25] Pollard subsequently filed a grievance and threatened lawsuits to recover his SCI clearance, and subsequently began receiving excellent performance reviews.[26] In 1982, after the psychiatrist concluded Pollard had no mental illness, Pollard's clearance was upgraded to SCI once again. In October 1984, after some reorganization of the Navy's intelligence departments, Pollard applied for and was accepted into a position as an analyst for the Naval Intelligence Command.[citation needed]
Shortly after Pollard began working at NIC/TF-168, he met Aviem Sella, a combat veteran of the Israeli Air Force, at the time on leave from his position as a colonel to gain a master's degree in computer science as a graduate student at New York University. Pollard told Sella that he worked for U.S. naval intelligence, detailed to him specific incidents where U.S. intelligence was withholding information from Israel, and offered himself as a spy. Though Sella had wondered whether Pollard was part of an FBI sting operation to recruit an Israeli, he ended up believing him. ... Within a few days, in June 1984, Pollard started passing classified information to Sella and received, in exchange, $10,000 cash and a very expensive diamond and sapphire ring, which Pollard later used to propose marriage to his girlfriend Anne. He also agreed to receive $1,500 per month for further espionage.[28] 
Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) investigator Ronald Olive has alleged that Pollard passed classified information to South Africa,[29] and attempted, through a third party, to sell classified information to Pakistan on multiple occasions.[30] Pollard also stole classified documents related to China on behalf of his wife, who used the information to advance her personal business-interests and kept them around the house, where investigating authorities discovered them when Pollard's espionage activity came to light.[31][32][33] 
During Pollard's trial, the US government's memorandum in aid of sentencing challenged "defendant's claim that he was motivated by altruism rather than greed", asserting that Pollard had "disclosed classified information in anticipation of financial gain" in other instances: 
The government's investigation has revealed that defendant provided to certain of his acquaintances U.S. classified documents which defendant obtained through U.S. Navy sources. The classified documents which defendant disclosed to two such acquaintances, both of whom are professional investment advisers, contained classified economic and political analyses which defendant believed would help his acquaintances render investment advice to their clients... Defendant acknowledged that, although he was not paid for his unauthorized disclosures of classified information to the above-mentioned acquaintances, he hoped to be rewarded ultimately through business opportunities that these individuals could arrange for defendant when he eventually left his position with the U.S. Navy. In fact, defendant was involved in an ongoing business venture with two of these acquaintances at the time he provided the classified information to them...[34] 
During the course of the Pollard trial, Australian authorities reported the disclosure of classified American documents by Pollard to one of their own agents, a Royal Australian Navy officer who had been engaged in a personnel-exchange naval-liaison program between the U.S. and Australia.[35] The Australian officer, alarmed by Pollard's repeated disclosure to him of data caveated No Foreign Access Allowed, reported the indiscretions to his chain of command, which in turn recalled him from his position in the U.S., fearing that the disclosures might be part of a "CIA ruse".

Seymour Hersh reported in The New Yorker in 1999:
Had Pollard's case gone to trial, one of the government's major witnesses would have been a journalist named Kurt Lohbeck, who had a checkered past. He had served seven months in prison after being convicted of passing a bad check in New Mexico in 1977, but by 1985 he was under contract to the CBS Evening News. Lohbeck, who now lives in Albuquerque -- (he received a full pardon from the governor of New Mexico two years ago), acknowledged in a telephone interview that he was prepared to testify, if necessary, about his involvement in Pollard's unsuccessful efforts in 1985 to broker arms sales for the rebels in the Afghan war. At one meeting with a foreign diplomat, Lohbeck said, Pollard posed as a high-level C.I.A. operative. Lohbeck, who was then CBS's main battlefield correspondent in the Afghan war, told me that Pollard had provided him, and thus CBS, with a large number of classified American documents concerning the war. He also told me that Pollard had never discussed Israel with him or indicated any special feelings for the state. "I never heard anything political from Jay," Lohbeck added, "other than that he tried to portray himself as a Reaganite. Not a word about Israel. Jay's sole interest was in making a lot of money." 
Lohbeck went on to say that he had also been prepared to testify, if asked, about Pollard's drug use. "Jay used cocaine heavily, and had no compunction about doing it in public. He'd just lay it in lines on the table." In 1985, Lohbeck made similar statements, government officials said, to the F.B.I. 
Pollard, told by me of Lohbeck's assertions, sent a response from a jail cell in North Carolina: "My relationship with Lohbeck is extremely complicated. I was never indicted for anything I did with him. Remember that." '

Pollard reminds me vaguely of lobbyist-felon Jack Abramoff, except Pollard was out of control on cocaine instead of steroids.

In a sane world, Israel and many of its American supporters would cite Pollard's all-around awfulness as evidence that he's an anomaly, he's totally unrepresentative. They would downplay the arguments that he did it for Israel and play up the evidence that he was a cokehound with delusions of being an international man of mystery.

Instead, the opposite happens.
     

Dark suggestion, darker tropes

Front page of NYTimes.com right now,
illustrating my current Takimag.com column
Unlike Brendan Eich, fired today for having donated $1,000 to a 2008 initiative campaign, the great and the good are deeply concerned about the welfare of traitor Jonathan Pollard. Even more so, they are worried about whether or not their desire to help Pollard will encourage the Darkest Elements in American life. From the New York Times:
American Jews Divided Over Possibility of Spy’s Release 
By MARK LANDLER APRIL 3, 2014

WASHINGTON — Each year, just before Passover, Malcolm Hoenlein writes a letter to President Obama, requesting that he grant clemency to Jonathan J. Pollard, the American sentenced to life in prison in 1987 for passing suitcases stuffed with classified documents to Israel. 
This week, with his goal suddenly within reach, Mr. Hoenlein, the leader of an umbrella group of American Jewish organizations, has held off on sending the letter. He is waiting to see whether Mr. Obama will release Mr. Pollard as part of a prisoner exchange with Israel that would extend peace negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. 
Even now, nearly three decades later, Mr. Pollard’s case bedevils American Jews. While more and more of them believe the time to release him is long past — he spied for an ally, not an enemy, they say, and has expressed remorse — they are deeply divided over whether he should be used as a chit in a diplomatic transaction with Israel.
The talk of freeing him roused another ghost from the past: the dark suggestion that American Jews, like Mr. Pollard, inevitably hold divided loyalties and cannot be trusted in sensitive posts. 
If Mr. Pollard is given a hero’s welcome in Israel — a likely situation, given the Israeli government’s long campaign on his behalf — American Jews worry that it will cause a backlash in the United States, where Mr. Pollard is still viewed by many, especially in the national security establishment, as a traitor who sold his country’s secrets for cash. 
“Pollard represents the ultimate betrayal,” said Aaron David Miller, one of a circle of American Jewish diplomats who came of age at the time of Mr. Pollard’s arrest. “He is also a poster child for one of the darker tropes in American society: that Jews simply cannot have a single loyalty.”

Dark, dark, dark. To be precise, what's "dark" is not what Pollard and Israel did with American nuclear sub deterrent secrets (likely barter them to the Soviets); no what's "dark" is gentiles noticing.
Nowhere was the anxiety more acute than among Jews working in sensitive jobs involving the Middle East, jobs that were just opening up to Jews during the Reagan administration. 
Daniel C. Kurtzer, a former ambassador to Egypt and Israel, said he knew of Jews who were removed from projects involving Israel after Mr. Pollard’s arrest. Even now, he said, Americans with relatives living in Israel are sometimes denied high-level security clearances.
Dennis B. Ross, a senior adviser on the Middle East to both President Bill Clinton and President Obama, recalled fearing that his loyalty as a Pentagon policy analyst would be questioned after Mr. Pollard’s arrest. “Initially, there was a kind of abhorrence,” he said. “But the longer he’s been in, the more people ask questions.”

Note, please, that with the phrase "people ask questions," Ross is not referring to non-Jews asking questions about himself and the absurdity of the U.S. claiming to be a neutral honest broker on Israel-Palestine negotiations when Ross swings so much weight inside both Democratic and Republican administrations. He's referring to Jews questioning why Pollard hasn't gotten his hero's welcome in Jerusalem yet. They're the people who count.

Still, what could be darker than the possibility that someday Dennis Ross, who doesn't have an ethnically-biased bone in his body, might not be employed by the President of the United States as an honest broker to work out a fair peace deal between Israel and Palestine? The only thing darker, more hellish would be if somebody asked out loud whether or not it's wholly a good idea for Stanley Fischer to go from running the Bank of Israel to being eminence grise at the U.S. Federal Reserve.

Are Gentile-Americans allowed to expressed their views on Mr. Pollard and the question of dual loyalties in the news columns of the New York Times, or is that privilege restricted solely to Jewish individuals? Will the NYT run an article on what leading Gentile-Americans feel about leading Jewish-Americans' demands for the traitor's release, or is that question simply not on the table? Would the NYT even be able to find any prominent Gentile-Americans brave enough to criticize Jewish-Americans' loyalty on the record? We hear a lot from Jews speculating about the dark thoughts that must be surging through non-Jews brains, but we don't hear much in the official discourse of the media from anybody brave enough to express those dark thoughts themselves.
          

Gay McCarthyism notches another victim

The Washington Examiner reports:
Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich forced to resign for supporting traditional marriage laws 
BY JOEL GEHRKE | APRIL 3, 2014 AT 3:48 PM  
Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich resigned under pressure after gay rights activists demanded that he step down or recant his support of traditional marriage laws.

Mozilla provides the free Firefox blogger. Eich invented JavaScript back in the 1990s while working for Netscape.
Eich donated $1,000 to support Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative that amended the state's constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman. 

Proposition 8 passed, with especially heavy support from the black community.
"I don't want to talk about my personal beliefs because I kept them out of Mozilla all these 15 years we've been going,” Eich told The Guardian. “I don't believe they're relevant.” 
That wasn't an option. "CEO Brendan Eich should make an unequivocal statement of support for marriage equality," a Credoaction petition signed by almost 75,000 people said, per The Inquirer. "If he cannot, he should resign. And if he will not, the board should fire him immediately." 
When asked if his beliefs about marriage should constitute a firing offense the way racism or sexism does, Eich argued that these religious beliefs — and beliefs popular as of 2008 — should not be used as a basis for dismissal. 
"I don't believe that's true, on the basis of what's permissible to support or vote on in 2008," he told CNET. "It's still permissible. Beliefs that are protected, that include political and religious speech, are generally not something that can be held against even a CEO. I understand there are people who disagree with me on this one." 

Shouldn't Eich at least have been burnt at the stake?

It's World War G and it needs to be waged on all fronts, domestic and foreign. America should conquer Crimea now, so the poor Crimeans can be free. We cannot rest until American troops install Masha Gessen as Imperial Procuratrix to bring those homophobes some democracy, good and hard.

(Speaking of Gay McCarthyism, the rumor that McCarthyism, as run by McCarthy's chief-of-staff Roy Cohn, was more or less of a Big Gay Hissy Fit was a major engine in U.S. Army attorney Joseph Welch's demolition of McCarthy in the Army-McCarthy hearings.)
 

April 2, 2014

Mandatory Finnish Content

Because Finland scores well on PISA tests, there has been much interest in that remote Northern land's rather laidback public education system. But that raises a problem: Finland hasn't been very diverse until recently despite having a huge border with a much poorer country (secret: land mines). So, many accounts of Finland's education system in America simply assert that immigrants do great in Finland. Only problem: not true. From a Google Translate version of a Finnish government account of the results of the latest PISA test, this one on "problem-solving:"
Immigrants fared poorly compared to the native population differences between the native population and the migrant pupils' problem-solving skills were high in all the participating countries. In Finland, the main population, representing the students 'scores averaged 526 points, while second-generation immigrant students' backgrounds ¬ an average of 461 points and a first-generation 426 points. In Finland, migrant and native population, the difference between success was greater than in the participating countries on average.
   

Urban League: "Hispanics faring better than blacks"

I've been following race and ethnicity statistics since 1972, and this NYT article could have been published at any point since then:
Report Finds Hispanics Faring Better Than Blacks 
By TANZINA VEGA  APRIL 2, 2014

Hispanics generally fare better than blacks in rankings of inequality in American life, according to a new report by the National Urban League to be released on Thursday. 
The annual report, called the State of Black America, for the first time this year also included a ranking of income inequality and unemployment for 77 American cities that had large black populations and 83 cities that had large Hispanic populations, based on data from the American Community Survey, an annual survey by the Census Bureau. ...
Nationwide, black Americans are twice as likely to be unemployed as whites (13.1 percent of blacks versus 6.5 percent of whites, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics). The rate for Hispanics was 9.1 percent. The report also focused on underemployment which includes those who are jobless and not looking or working part-time jobs but desiring full-time work. According to the report, the underemployment rate for black workers was 20.5 percent, compared with 18.4 percent for Hispanic workers and 11.8 percent for white workers. 
The report ranked metropolitan statistical areas where the unemployment gap between blacks and whites was both larger and smaller than the national average. Unemployment levels include those who are actively looking for work.
Topping the list with the smallest employment gap was the Augusta-Richmond County area in Georgia

Home of the Augusta National Golf Club
, where 13.3 percent of blacks are unemployed compared with 8.5 percent of whites, and blacks in that area are about 1.5 times more likely to be unemployed than whites. Other areas where the gap between black and white unemployment was smaller than the national average included the Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario region in California, the Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville region in Florida, the Las Vegas metro area, and the Chattanooga, Tenn., metro area. 

In other words, there seems to be more employment equality in areas that are favorable to business and whites are less educated.
The biggest employment gap was found in Madison, Wis., where 18.5 percent of blacks are unemployed compared with 4.4 percent of whites.

Must be all those uneducated white rednecks in Madison keeping the black man down.
Other cities with gaps that are larger than the national average included Lancaster, Pa.; Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, Wis.; the Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Minn., metro area; the Des Moines metro area; and Baton Rouge, La.

Most of these are unionized rust belt blue state cities.
There were also differences in income between blacks and whites. The region with the smallest gap in median income between blacks and whites was Riverside, Calif., which also had one of the smallest unemployment gaps between the two groups. In that area, the median household income for blacks was $44,572 a year compared with $57,252 for whites.

Riverside County is traditionally Republican, although it's moving toward the Democrats due to demographic change. It has lots of jobs in logistics -- i.e., the big warehouses that resort imports from China that land at the L.A.-Long Beach harbor are about an hour inland in places like Moreno Valley. Lots of South Central blacks looking for a better life away from gangs have moved to the Inland Empire.
In the Twin Cities metro area in Minnesota, one of the regions with the highest gap in unemployment between whites and blacks, the median household income for blacks was $28,784 a year compared with $71,376 for whites.

The Twin Cities are the most Scandinavian metropolis in the country. Paradoxically (but we ought to be used to this by now), Swedish-style policies tend to be good for Swedes and bad for blacks. They attract a lot of the poorest blacks (including African refugees).
   

The other George Kennan and American anti-Czarism

That anti-Czarism was a natural political response for 19th Century Americans is illustrated by the life of the Other George Kennan. The famous George F. Kennan (February 16, 1904 – March 17, 2005) was the intellectual architect of the successful Cold War strategy of containment. But he was the second George Kennan born on February 16 in his extended family to become an American expert on Russia. George F. Kennan's paternal grandfather's cousin George Kennan had been quite famous in his day as a Russia expert. 

The Other Kennan's political evolution as he learned more about the Czarist regime's repression of dissidents by exiling them to Siberia seems to me representative of mainstream American feelings: e.g., Kennan's growing anti-Czarism was supported by Mark Twain.

From Wikipedia:
George Kennan (February 16, 1845 – 1924) was an American explorer noted for his travels in the Kamchatka and Caucasus regions of the Russian Empire. He was a cousin twice removed of diplomat and historian George F. Kennan, with whom he shared his birthday.

George Kennan was born in Norwalk, Ohio ... 
In 1864, he secured employment with the Russian American Telegraph Company to survey a route for a proposed overland telegraph line through Siberia and across the Bering Strait. Having spent two years in the wilds of Kamchatka, he returned to Ohio via St. Petersburg and soon became well-known through his lectures, articles and a book about his travels. 
In his book, Tent Life in Siberia, Kennan provided ethnographies, histories and descriptions of many native peoples in Siberia, that are still important for researchers today. ... In 1870, he returned to St. Petersburg and travelled to Dagestan, in the northern Caucasus region, which had been annexed by the Russian Empire only ten years previously. There he became the first American to explore its highlands, a remote Muslim region of herders, silversmiths, carpet-weavers and other craftsmen. He travelled on through the northern Caucasus area, stopping in Samashki and Grozny, before returning once more to America in 1871. These travels and earned him a reputation as an "expert" on all matters pertaining to Russia. ...
Ilya Repin's 1884 "They Did Not Expect Him" about a return from Siberia
In May 1885, Kennan began another voyage in Russia, this time across Siberia from Europe. He had been very publicly supportive of the Tsarist Russian government and its policies and his trip was approved by the Russian government at the very highest levels. However, in the course of his meetings with exiled dissidents during his travel, notably Nikolai Mikhailovich Yadrintsev (1842–1894), Kennan changed his mind about the Russian imperial system. He had been particularly impressed by Catherine Breshkovsky, the populist "little grandmother of the Russian Revolution". She had bidden him farewell in the small Transbaikal village to which she was confined by saying "We may die in exile and our grand children may die in exile, but something will come of it at last." He also met a teenage Leonid Krasin during this trip.[1] 
On his return to the United States in August 1886, he became an ardent critic of the Russian autocracy and began to espouse the cause of Russian Democracy. Kennan devoted much of the next twenty years to promoting the cause of a Russian revolution, mainly through lecturing. Kennan was one of the most prolific lecturers of the late nineteenth century. He spoke before a million or so people during the 1890s, including two hundred consecutive evening appearances in 1890-91 (excepting Sundays) before crowds of as many as two thousand people. ... He became the most prominent member of the Society of Friends of Russian Freedom—whose membership included Mark Twain and Julia Ward Howe—and also helped found Free Russia, the first English-language journal to oppose Tsarist Russia. In 1891 the Russian government responded by banishing him from Russia. ...
Kennan was vehemently against the October Revolution, because he felt the Soviet government lacked the "knowledge, experience, or education to deal successfully with the tremendous problems that have come up for solutions since the overthrow of the Tsar." President Woodrow Wilson did read and weigh Kennan's report to him in 1918 on the haplessness of the Bolshevik government,[2] but Kennan eventually criticized Wilson's administration for being too timid in intervening against Bolshevism. 
"The Russian leopard has not changed its spots... The new Bolshevik constitution ... leaves all power just where it has been for the last five years--in the hands of a small group of self-appointed bureaucrats which the people can neither remove nor control."—Kennan's last criticism of Bolshevism written in the Medina Tribune (a small-town newspaper), July 1923.
       

Anne Applebaum ponders World War G

Anne Applebaum, wife of the Polish foreign minister, writes in her column in Slate / Washington Post:
TBILISI, Georgia—Halfway through an otherwise coherent conversation with a Georgian lawyer last week—the topics included judges, the court system, the police—I was startled by a comment he made about his country’s former government, led by ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili. “They were LGBT,” he said, conspiratorially.    
What did that mean, I asked, surprised. Were they in favor of rights for sexual minorities? For gay marriage? Were they actually gay? He couldn’t really define it, though the conversation meandered in that direction for a few more minutes, also touching on the subject of the former president’s alleged marital infidelity, his promotion of female politicians, his lack of respect for the church. 
Afterward, I worked it out. The lawyer meant to say that Saakashvili—who drove his country hard in the direction of Europe, who pulled Georgia as close to NATO as possible, who used rough tactics to fight the post-Soviet mafia that dominated his country

Who also started ... a ... tank ... war ... with ... Russia, but who can remember that?
—was “too Western.” Not conservative enough. Not traditional enough. Too much of a modernizer, a reformer, a European. In the past, such a critic might have called Saakashvili a “rootless cosmopolitan.” But nowadays the insulting code word for that sort of person in the former Soviet space—regardless of what he or she actually thinks about gay people—is “LGBT.”      
It was an eye-opening moment. Like Ukraine, Georgia is a post-Soviet republic that has tried to pull itself out of the sphere of Russian influence. Unlike Ukraine, Georgia does not have a sizable Russian-speaking population, and Georgians even have cause to fear Russia. Since their 2008 invasion, Russian troops have occupied the Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, about one-fifth of the country. Russian tanks are parked a few hours drive from Georgia’s capital. 
Yet despite the absence of Russian speakers, a form of Russia’s anti-Western ideology can be felt in Georgia, too. It’s a minority view that drifts in through religious leaders—part of the Georgian Orthodox Church retains old ties to Moscow—through some pro-Kremlin political parties and Russian-backed media. But it finds indigenous support, taking the form of xenophobic, anti-European—and nowadays—anti-gay rhetoric. 
   
I quote this because it's the perfect set-up for my new column in Taki's Magazine.

Keep in mind that I admire Anne Applebaum. She's always impressed me as a good person. Her faults -- she's a little earnest and lacking in self-awareness -- are the faults of good people. She's an above-average quality representative of the American media's center-right, so her cluelessness about who has had the whip hand in World War G is illuminating about the self-interested obliviousness that has been driving this dangerous confrontation.
       

Neo-Czarism: But is it good for the gays?

From my new Taki's Magazine column:
There’s inevitable bad blood between Russians, for whom pro-czarism is the natural political inclination (for reasons of geography and history, Russia is a backward place, so its political traditions are backward), and American Jews, whose ancestral traditions are fervently anti-czarist. 
Thus, Putin’s reconstruction of a functioning Russian state after the disasters of the 1990s was inevitably going to turn out to be more or less neo-czarist. In turn, a strong Russia predictably triggered anti-pogrom alarms among American Jews. Since there aren’t actual pogroms, much of Jewish animus and angst got displaced into its 21st century proxies: neoconservatism (as in the case of the State Department’s Victoria Nuland) and gay activism (Radio Liberty’s Masha Gessen). 
Both Russians and American Jews have perfectly understandable reasons for feeling the way they do. Fortunately, this psychological disjunction needn’t lead to war or even to simple jingoism. After all, we live on different continents. Both sides ought to be able to recognize and laugh off their inevitable bigotry and malice. 
The central cognitive problem for America, however, is that gentile Americans aren't allowed to notice, much less laugh at, Jewish predilections, nor even mention the level of Jewish influence in the American media and government (consider the careers of Gregg Easterbrook and Rick Sanchez).
   
Read the whole thing there.
   

How long can a conspiracy be kept secret?

One common argument against the existence of any and all conspiracies is that it's impossible to keep secret any project requiring more than a few individuals. 

This sounds plausible, but is it? After all, I grew up around massive secret projects. Friends of the family worked on the crown jewels of the national security state, such as Area 51, the U-2 spy plane, the awesome SR-71, and the F-117 Stealth Fighter. 

Stealth work began in 1975 at both Lockheed and Northrop (which eventually became the B-2 Stealth Bomber) and Lockheed had a stealth prototype, Have Blue, flying at Area 51 by the end of 1977. Carter's defense secretary Harold Brown announced the existence of stealth in August 1980, claiming that leaks in the preceding days had made it impossible to keep the entire concept secret anymore. Republicans angrily claimed he spilled the beans early to defuse Reagan's attack on Carter canceling the B-1 program. The Russians apparently were still clueless about stealth. (It came as a surprise to me, too.)

Airline pilots frequently spotted the otherworldly-looking Skunk Works planes being tested out of Area 51, especially the 2000 mph 80000' altitude SR-71 which covered enormous amounts of territory and caused sonic booms (the SR-71 was announced fairly quickly by LBJ). One theory is that the U.S. government encouraged rumors of flying saucers at Area 51 to discredit these highly credible witnesses.

But all these pale in comparison to the huge Bletchley Park decoding operation in WWII England, which had a staff of nearly 10,000 working on site by the end of the war, and didn't surface in the popular press until the early 1970s. It required the history of computing to be rewritten.

Besides decoding the German Enigma machine, there were other projects at Bletchley that weren't declassified until much more recently, such as Tunny, the breaking of Hitler's personal cipher.

An obituary in today's NYT:
Jerry Roberts, Last of Team of British Code Breakers, Dies at 93 
By PAUL VITELLO   APRIL 2, 2014
Jerry Roberts, the last surviving member of the British code-breaking team that cracked strategic ciphers between Hitler and his top generals, helping to hasten the end of World War II, died on March 25 in Hampshire, England. He was 93. 
His death was confirmed by the Bletchley Park Trust, a nonprofit group that administers the Victorian estate north of London where the British government lodged Mr. Roberts and hundreds of other code breakers during the war, among them linguists, mathematicians and puzzle masters of various backgrounds. 
Mr. Roberts, a German linguist, was part of a small top-secret group assembled in 1941 to help decrypt messages picked up in radio signals between Hitler and his field marshals on the front. The team’s very existence remained a secret until 2006, when the British government declassified wartime intelligence files.

This 2006 date seems exaggerated. Here's the obituary in The Telegraph from 2002 of Roberts' colleague W.T. Tutte:
PROFESSOR BILL TUTTE, who has died aged 84, was responsible for one of Bletchley Park's greatest codebreaking achievments during the Second World War when he cracked the teleprinter cipher, known as Tunny, which Hitler used to communicate with his generals. ...
This was a far more complicated mechanism than the famous Enigma cipher machine, since the Lorenz SZ40 had 12 wheels compared with the three or four on the Enigma. 
It also led to Bletchley Park's other great achievement, the construction of the world's first semi-programmable electronic computer, Colossus, which was used to decipher the Tunny messages.

Looking at the bibliography on Wikipedia, there are sources for the Tunny decryption going back to 1993, but that's still a half century after William Tutte broke Tunny in a tour de force of cryptography.

Roberts' NYT obituary continues:
By 1941, Bletchley Park cryptographers had already deciphered thousands of messages transmitted by lower-level German commanders in the field, thanks to the work of the mathematician Alan Turing, who in 1940 cracked the daunting German secret code that the British called Enigma. But they were stumped by the even more complex ciphered messages being transmitted among Hitler and the generals Erwin Rommel, Wilhelm Keitel, Gerd von Rundstedt and Alfred Jodl. 

April 1, 2014

LA Times: "High deportation figures are misleading"

From the Los Angeles Times:
High deportation figures are misleading 
Immigrants living illegally beyond the border area are less likely to be deported under 'deporter in chief' President Obama, contrary to widespread belief.

By Brian Bennett 
April 1, 2014, 8:55 p.m. 
WASHINGTON — Immigration activists have sharply criticized President Obama for a rising volume of deportations, labeling him the "deporter in chief" and staging large protests that have harmed his standing with some Latinos, a key group of voters for Democrats. 
But the portrait of a steadily increasing number of deportations rests on statistics that conceal almost as much as they disclose. A closer examination shows that immigrants living illegally in most of the continental U.S. are less likely to be deported today than before Obama came to office, according to immigration data. 
Expulsions of people who are settled and working in the United States have fallen steadily since his first year in office, and are down more than 40% since 2009. 
On the other side of the ledger, the number of people deported at or near the border has gone up — primarily as a result of changing who gets counted in the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency's deportation statistics. 
The vast majority of those border crossers would not have been treated as formal deportations under most previous administrations. If all removals were tallied, the total sent back to Mexico each year would have been far higher under those previous administrations than it is now. ...
Until recent years, most people caught illegally crossing the southern border were simply bused back into Mexico in what officials called "voluntary returns," but which critics derisively termed "catch and release." Those removals, which during the 1990s reached more 1 million a year, were not counted in Immigration and Customs Enforcement's deportation statistics. 
Now, the vast majority of border crossers who are apprehended get fingerprinted and formally deported. The change began during the George W. Bush administration and accelerated under Obama. The policy stemmed in part from a desire to ensure that people who had crossed into the country illegally would have formal charges on their records. 
In the Obama years, all of the increase in deportations has involved people picked up within 100 miles of the border, most of whom have just recently crossed over. In 2013, almost two-thirds of deportations were in that category.
At the same time, the administration largely ended immigration roundups at workplaces and shifted investigators into targeting business owners who illegally hired foreign workers. 
"If you are a run-of-the-mill immigrant here illegally, your odds of getting deported are close to zero — it's just highly unlikely to happen," John Sandweg, until recently the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in an interview. 
Even when immigration officials want to deport someone who already has settled in the country, doing so is "virtually impossible" because of a lengthy backlog in the immigration courts, Sandweg said. Once people who have no prior removals or convictions are placed in deportation proceedings, actually removing them from the country can take six years or more in some jurisdictions, Sandweg said. 
Deportations of people apprehended in the interior of the U.S., which the immigration agency defines as more than 100 miles from the border, dropped from 237,941 in Obama's first year to 133,551 in 2013, according to immigration data. Four out of five of those deportees came to the attention of immigration authorities after criminal convictions. 
Many of those convictions are related to crossing the border — the other big consequence of the change in the way border removals are handled. 
A growing number of people caught trying to cross the border now have a formal deportation order on their records. Entering the country without legal authorization is not a crime.

Why not?
But once a person has been deported, he can be prosecuted if he reenters the country.  ...
The turn away from deporting immigrants from the interior of the country amounts to an open invitation for people to come to the U.S. on a legal visa and stay, said Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.). 
"It just cannot be the policy of the U.S. that if somebody gets past the border and gets to St. Louis or Memphis or Austin, Texas, or New York, they are not going to be deported," Sessions said. "The administration is systematically failing to enforce immigration law uniformly."
    

CNN: White males inventing too much stuff

From CNN:
In largely white male tech world, why capitalism needs an upgrade 
By Mitchell Kapor and Benjamin Todd Jealous

Mitch Kapor and Ben Jealous worry that a lack of diversity in tech firms is stalling innovation
Startups succeed, they say, when they meet unmet needs. Innovators from diverse backgrounds can uncover fresh, unsolved problems
Editor's note: Tech pioneer Mitchell Kapor is the co-founder of the Kapor Center for Social Impact and Kapor Capital. Benjamin Todd Jealous, the former president and CEO of the NAACP, is a venture partner at Kapor Capital. Both Kapor and Jealous serve on the board of the Level Playing Field Institute. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the authors. 
(CNN) -- When Frederick Hutson left prison in 2012 after serving four years on marijuana-related charges, he realized he had gained something more than his freedom: insight into an overlooked consumer market. 
Many inmates are stuck in an age before Instagram or Facebook, relying on envelopes and pay phones to connect with family on the outside. 
So Hutson founded Pigeonly, a photo-sharing and low-cost phone call service that has already helped 50,000 incarcerated individuals connect with their loved ones, maintain their ties to society, and remain a presence in their children's lives.

And, via Pigeonly, order hits on the stool pigeons who put them behind bars.
Last year there were eight states where zero Latino students took the Advanced Placement exam in computer science, and 11 states in which no black students took the test. In three states, not a single female student sat for the exam. 

A bigger problem is that the Latinos, blacks, and, to a lesser extent, women, didn't do so hot on average when they took the test. If black Puerto Rican females were acing the AP exam at a high rate when they were allowed to take it, it would be obvious that getting more to take it is a high priority, since even diminishing marginal returns would just bring the pass rate down to the white male average. But when those legally privileged individuals who take the AP Computer Science exam currently are failing it at a high rate, well, expansion will increase the failure rate.
It is no surprise, then, that 99% of venture capital-funded startups in 2010 were founded by whites or people of Asian descent, the vast majority of whom were men. The result of this pipeline problem is an enormous amount of untapped talent and a tech sector that fails to reflect the demographics of its users.

We really, really need a term for whites and Asians when talking about subjects like computers.
Underrepresented populations are uniquely prepared to do what the tech sector claims to do best: innovate.

Sure they are.
     

New PISA test on real world problem solving

The tireless PISA folks are back with the results of a test of math-related real world problem solving among 15 year olds in 44 upscale countries. (Check here for sample questions like how to find the quickest route on a map or how to adjust an air conditioner). The U.S. did not bad, scoring a little above the average for rich countries, but not as good as the Asians or the white countries with smart immigration policies (Canada, Australia, Finland). 

OECD average 500
Singapore 562
Korea 561
Japan 552
Macao-China 540
Hong Kong-China 540
Shanghai-China 536
Chinese Taipei 534
Canada 526
Australia 523
Finland 523
England (United Kingdom) 517
Estonia 515
France 511
Netherlands 511
Italy 510
Czech Republic 509
Germany 509
United States 508
Belgium 508
Austria 506
Norway 503
Ireland 498
Denmark 497
Portugal 494
Sweden 491
Russian Federation 489
Slovak Republic 483
Poland 481
Spain 477
Slovenia 476
Serbia 473
Croatia 466
Hungary 459
Turkey 454
Israel 454
Chile 448
Cyprus 1, 2 445
Brazil 428
Malaysia 422
United Arab Emirates 411
Montenegro 407
Uruguay 403
Bulgaria 402
Colombia 399

Shanghai came down to earth after its stratospheric scores on the last two PISAs. Poland was also down v. its PISA scores. Otherwise, there would appear to be a fairly high degree of correlation at the national level between the triennial PISA test of book smarts and the new PISA test of real world smarts, which is what the g Factor theory of intelligence would predict.