October 19, 2013

Yasiel Puig is the new Pedro Guerrero

A rare but funny play in baseball is when a batter thinks he's bashed a homer so he stands at the plate posing in celebration of the magnificence of his blast, only to have the ball bounce off the fence back into the field and the hitter suddenly have to start running. Los Angeles Dodger rookie Yasiel Puig, who led the majors this season in bizarre stuff happening, did this during the recent playoff loss to St. Louis. The 245-pound Puig is so fast that he still wound up on third with a stand-up triple. (In the Dodgers' 9-0 loss in the last game of the series, the rightfielder made two errors, tying my career high for a rightfielder.)

When I was young, hitters always made a show of running as soon as they made contact, no matter how certain they were of having hit a homer. It was part of the anti-showoff etiquette of the age. (Also, in baseball, pitchers can throw at your head if they don't like you.) You owed it to your teammates not to take a chance you were wrong, and you weren't supposed to show up your opponents.

A friend of mine once noticed that his cabdriver was Nate "Sweetwater" Clifton, one of the first black NBA players. He asked him if they ever dunked in the early 1950s. Clifton replied that they dunked all the time in practice, but didn't in games because you weren't supposed to "show up" the other team.

To go back about as far as we can on Youtube, here's film of Babe Ruth's record-setting 60th homer of 1927. We know that Babe was pretty fired up at breaking his own record -- in the locker room afterwards he exulted, "Sixty! Count 'em, sixty. Let's see some other son of a bitch top that!" -- but he had immediately started jogging toward first while he watched the ball. 

Even with the most resounding home run of my youth -- Reggie Jackson's 1971 All Star Game blast off a light tower on top of the third deck in Detroit -- Reggie immediately started sauntering toward first base, although the only way that ball was staying in the park was if it hit the Goodyear Blimp. (By one estimate, the ball would have traveled 532 feet if it hadn't hit the lights.)

I'm not sure exactly when the transition to posing happened. Here's a video of Reggie Jackson's three homers in the final game of the 1977 World Series. On his mighty third homer, he still leans in the general direction of first base as he admires the ball's flight. Unlike Puig's triple, Jackson didn't immediately throw his arms up in celebration. So, the long-term trend toward posing was definitely continuing in the 1970s, but even Reggie felt some of the weight of the old ethos at the peak moment of his career in 1977.

By 1983 (e.g., Gary Matthews' playoff homer against the Dodgers) it seems like a corner had been turned, but that's just my recollection. My impression at the time in 1983 was that Matthews' flinging his bat away in a gesture of dominance was something new in baseball (and the announcers' retrospective comments seem to suggest this), but I'm sure it had precedents. (Throwing your bat like that would get you called out in Little League, but it was okay for Matthews.)

My previous memory of a player winding up with a triple after failing to run is Pedro Guerrero during his record-setting June 1985. Guerrero was perhaps the best National League hitter of the era (although his stats don't look like much due to park effects), but the Dodgers wanted him to play third base, where he racked up horrific fielding percentages. When they finally let him go back to playing the easier position of left field, Guerrero immediately set an all-time record for most home runs in the month of June. One homer he didn't hit that month was a 410-foot blast to straightaway center in St. Louis on which he only started to run after it hit the top of the fence.

A popular rhyme was:

Pedro, Pedro, Pedro Guerrero
His brain is as big as a sparrow

From the Associated Press in 2000:
A former major league hitter was acquitted of drug conspiracy charges Tuesday, after his attorney argued that his low IQ prevented him from understanding that he had agreed to a drug deal. 
Federal prosecutors argued that Pedro Guerrero, formerly of the Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals, told an undercover agent and an informant that he would guarantee payment for a $200,000 cocaine shipment. 
But Guerrero's lawyer, Milton Hirsch, told the jury that the four-time National League All-Star and co-MVP of the 1981 World Series was duped by his friend, Adan "Tony" Cruz. 
"He really never understood that he was being asked to involve himself in a drug deal," Hirsch said. 
The jury acquitted Guerrero after four hours of deliberation. 
Guerrero, 43, retired from baseball in 1992. Hirsch said he dropped out of sixth grade in his native Dominican Republic, and has an IQ of 70, Hirsch said. The Miami resident can not perform simple tasks, such as writing a check or making a bed, and receives a small weekly allowance from his wife, Hirsch said.

By the way, here's O.J. Simpson's 911 call in which Pedro's name comes up.

Nostalgia Time: Washington Mutual back in the news

From the NYT:
JPMorgan Chase and the Justice Department have reached a tentative $13 billion settlement over the bank’s questionable mortgage practices leading up to the financial crisis, a record penalty that would cap weeks of heated negotiating and underscore the extent of the bank’s legal woes, people briefed on the talks said on Saturday. 
To resolve an array of federal and state investigations into the bank’s sale of troubled mortgage securities to investors, the bank would be expected to pay about $9 billion in fines, according to one of the people. JPMorgan, the nation’s largest bank, will also very likely provide about $4 billion in relief for struggling homeowners, another person briefed on the talks said. 
It would also deal a reputational blow to JPMorgan, which emerged from the crisis relatively unscathed. Until this month, when the bank reported a quarterly loss tied to its varied legal expenses, the bank continued to earn money at a record pace. ...

$13 billion here, $13 billion there, pretty soon that adds up to ... well, not really all that much money in the context of the Mortgage Meltdown.
Many of the cases involve mortgages that JPMorgan itself did not sell. Rather, the bank inherited the legal liabilities when it bought Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual at the height of the financial crisis.

It's worth taking a look back at Washington Mutual's TV commercials. Here's another one. Notice a theme?

On 2/1/09, I profiled Washington Mutual's CEO Kerry Killinger in VDARE. Killinger had built WaMu into a giant by buying 29 other financial institutions over the previous two decades:
How did the Community Reinvestment Act worsen imprudent lending to minorities? 
It's not a popular question even to ask. "I want to give you my verdict on CRA: NOT guilty", said FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair: 
"And 'Let me ask you. Where in the CRA does it say to make loans to people who can't afford to repay? Nowhere.' The facts are simple, Bair said. The lending practices that are causing problems today were driven by a desire for more market share and revenue growth, not because the government encouraged certain lending practices." (FDIC's Bair Sets to Shatter CRA "Myth", by Kelly Curran, HousingWire.com, December 5, 2008.) 
Okay–but how does a bank get more market share and revenue growth? 
One major way: by buying other banks. And to do that, you have to pass through the CRA gauntlet. If you aren't willing to lend to people the government wanted you to lend to, then you were out of luck at mergers and acquisitions game. 
So, the CRA implicitly selected for Kool-Aid Drinkers, such as WaMu's Killinger. They're the ones whom the government allows to build empires. (Unfortunately, their houses turned out to be built on sand.) 
I missed understanding the impact of the CRA because I kept asking myself: "How could the CRA force a banker who thinks lending more to minorities is a bad idea to lend more to minorities?" I kept trying to imagine the CRA's effect on the already crazy-stupid WaMu, and how that couldn't have been all that significant. 
But I should have been thinking about the other side of the coin: all the sane-smart banks that didn't get to get big like WaMu did because the government rigged the acquisition process so that crazy-stupid banks were more likely to get merger approval. WaMu got permission from the government to make 29 acquisitions from 1990 onward. A smart-sane bank wouldn't. 
That WaMu sincerely believed that it was going to make a fortune handing big mortgages to mariachi singers, illegal immigrants, and Department of Motor Vehicle clerks etc. etc. seems clear. After all, WaMu not only originated about one out of every eight mortgages in the U.S., but it also held on to a fair number of them instead of securitizing them and dumping them on Wall Street. 
WaMu explained its minority-oriented strategy over and over again. Robert O'Connor wrote in Mortgage Banking, October 2003: 
"… Porter says that Washington Mutual takes the CRA very seriously. But he adds the bank regards the CRA as a floor rather than a ceiling. He says the company, and its employees, want to surpass the regulatory standard for institutions to meet the credit needs of their communities. Porter points out, for instance, that the bank's $375-billion, 10-year lending commitment was not necessarily dictated by the CRA. 'It was good from the company's perspective,' he says. 'It was good from the community perspective, and it actually gives us a higher bar that we want to achieve.' … 
"Despite the strength of its portfolio operation, Washington Mutual is also committed to the secondary market. Early this year, it entered into a five-year strategic alliance with Fannie Mae Fannie Mae: to encourage home-buying among a number of groups, including immigrants, minorities, first-time buyers first-time buyer  first-time buyer and people with low and moderate incomes. The goal is to generate $85 billion in mortgage lending." 
And here's a 2003 WaMu press release that sounds like Dave Barry wrote it: 
"Helping to build strong, vibrant communities wherever Washington Mutual does business is integral to the company's long-term strategy. The Community and External Affairs Division oversees all community investment and development activities to ensure that Washington Mutual fulfills its community goals in the most strategic way possible." 
Why was WaMu, with its derisible strategy, able to buy out so many big lenders? 
To understand it, think about it the other way around: why didn't more prudent financial institutions outbid WaMu for acquisitions? ...
The CRA drives the climate of opinion in the entire mortgage industry. If you wanted to be able to buy other banks, you had to play ball.
... Over time, the madness infects the entire culture of finance, as the government labels the prudent bankers automatic losers in the great game of acquisitions.
WaMu's 2001 purchase of Dime Bank [when it promised $375 billion in minority and lower income lending] may have been its crowning excess. But in the history of the downfall of the American economy, it wasn't as important as WaMu's 1990s move into California. WaMu and California went together like a match and dynamite. 
In 1997, WaMu was the second biggest thrift. When the biggest thrift, Home Savings of America (owned by H.F. Ahmanson and Co. of Irvine, CA), attempted a hostile takeover of its Southern California rival, the number three thrift, Great Western, WaMu entered as a white knight. This set off a CRA bidding war. The two competed to see who could promise the most lending to the politically favored. 
The Seattle Times headline on April 10, 1997 read "Wamu Loan Plan Trumps Rival—$75 Billion Inner-City Proposal Eclipses Ahmanson Bid." Reporter Don Lee wrote: 
"In the largest inner-city loan program ever proposed by a U.S. banking institution, Washington Mutual said today it will lend $75 billion to mostly lower-income and minority borrowers over 10 years if it successfully acquires Great Western Financial. Washington Mutual said the majority of those mortgages, consumer and small-business loans would be made in California. The proposal eclipses a $70 billion community reinvestment commitment made three weeks ago by Home Savings of America." 
After winning Great Western, Washington Mutual then bid for Home Savings itself in 1998, upping its Community Reinvestment ante to $120 billion.  
Grabbing Home Savings made WaMu the nation's number one lender of adjustable-rate mortgages. ... 
Then, when WaMu bought Dime Bank in 2001, it made a binding promise to lend for Community Reinvestment Act credit $375 billion. Sure, why not? 
The only problem is that $375 billion here, $375 billion there, pretty soon you are talking about real money.

Read the whole thing there.

Larry Summers rejects Netanyahu's offer to head Bank of Israel

From the Times of Israel:
‘Lawrence Summers rejects post of Bank of Israel governor’ 
Acting governor Karnit Flug said to be back in the running; Netanyahu rebuffed by former US Treasury secretary, says Channel 2

It would be interesting to know whether Summers replied in words to the effect of, "Sorry, I'm an American."

Perhaps not. The man Netanyahu wanted Larry to replace, Stanley Fischer (Israel's head central banker from 2005-2013), is also an American citizen. On the other hand, Fischer was born and raised in Rhodesia.

Liberalism is freedom for aggression

Caption in NYT 4/4/13:
"'When communism fell,' a Roma man told the photographers,
"You had to be dumb not to make money."
If you have good reading comprehension, an urge to read closely, and a strong memory, the The New York Times is an outstanding source of information. Unfortunately, those prerequisites are unusual enough that they don't even apply to the New York Times' own editorial board:
Scapegoating the Roma, Again 
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD 
Published: October 17, 2013

The Roma, sometimes called Gypsies, have been part of the European cultural landscape for centuries. They have also suffered greatly from discrimination and prejudice, particularly in times of economic crisis, when they become scapegoats.

That is happening now. Faced with stubbornly high unemployment and strained budgets, some European Union members are finding it easier to stigmatize and expel Roma than to provide them with the education, housing and employment they seek.  

Exactly how much do Gypsies "seek" education? John Updike wrote in 2004:
Gypsies must be the only significant ethnic group in France that actively discourages literacy and encourages truancy. Compared with them, the embattled immigrants from the Muslim world are models of aspiration to bourgeois order and enlightenment. 

But who cares about facts? The NYT editorializes onward:
In London, a Roma camp was dismantled over the summer and most of its residents sent back to Romania. In the Czech Republic, Roma children are still routinely segregated in schools. In Sweden, revelations that the police kept a secret registry of Roma families touched off a national storm. 

You can just tell by looking at Swedes that they're all secret fascists, just like the English and the Czechs. (I mean, didn't the Czechs have something or other to do with the Nazis in 1938?)
The Roma’s impoverished living conditions and inability to get legitimate jobs reinforce stubborn stereotypes of a people forced to live on society’s margins. 

In other words, the Roma have no agency. They aren't human, they are automatons who never choose anything about their lives and thus share no responsibility for their behavior. At least according to the Editorial Board.
France’s interior minister, Manuel Valls, has said the lifestyle of Roma from Romania and Bulgaria is so different that most cannot be integrated into French society and must be expelled. 
His comments have been criticized by other officials, and Amnesty International has condemned France’s numerous deportations. On Thursday, there were protests in Paris over the deportation of a Roma girl, who was pulled off her school bus. But Mr. Valls’s tough stance has earned him high ratings among many French citizens. 
Discrimination against the Roma is a direct violation of the E.U.’s Directive on Racial Equality and its official policy on Roma integration. Viviane Reding, the vice president of the European Commission and the E.U. justice commissioner, has severely upbraided France for violating E.U. rules protecting the free circulation of individuals. Her office warned that France faced E.U. sanctions over its treatment of the Roma. ...
With important municipal elections in France scheduled for next spring and the far-right National Front party on the rise, the actions of the Socialist government against the Roma look like political pandering. France’s president, Fran├žois Hollande, needs to confront his interior minister, come out strongly in defense of the Roma’s fundamental rights and join other nations in helping them secure the education and jobs they need and deserve.

Today, though, in the NYT:
Are the Roma Primitive, or Just Poor? 
By DAN BILEFSKY 
PARIS — THE cluster of Roma, handcuffed and caged-in behind glass walls, listened in silence as prosecutors accused them in court of selling child brides for up to about $270,000 in cash, valuing them based on their ability to steal. In a case that has riveted France, the prosecutors accused three family clans from Croatia of grooming girls and boys as young as 11 to steal as part of a gang that committed 100 robberies in France, Belgium and Germany in 2011. 
One 20-year-old witness told the court he had stolen about $600,000 in cash and jewels for his parents, or more than $7,000 a month, since age 13. Less skilled thieves could face punishment, including beatings by Roma elders. 
All but one of the 27 accused were convicted on Oct. 11 in Nancy, in eastern France, of forcing the children to steal, and received sentences from two to eight years. At the top of the network was a 66-year-old grandmother. 
Black dots represent 50,000 Gypsies
The case highlighted an increasingly rancorous debate here and across Europe about what some politicians call, rather ominously, the “Roma question,” a reference to the nomadic people, also known as Gypsies, who came from India to Europe centuries ago. An estimated 11 million are scattered across Europe. 
At a time of fiscal austerity, policy makers are raising a thorny question: after centuries of persecution and living on the fringes of society, can the Roma ever integrate into Western Europe? 
This month’s trial only intensified that debate when members of the defense team offered an unusual legal defense: rather than focusing on the argument that the Roma are forced to resort to crime because of poverty and discrimination, it claimed that in some cases they were simply following age-old Roma traditions and generally operate outside the norms of society in “the style of the Middle Ages.” ...

Alternatively, they are an extreme example of where the world is slowly heading. Berkeley historian Yuri Slezkine argued that Gypsies are "Mercurians" who increasingly thrive because they don't bother with old-fashioned stuff like farming and soldiering. That may sound nuts, but consider how much Gypsies have prospered in the post-Cold War World. For example, like lowbrow versions of Marc Rich, many got in on stripping metal from Eastern European factories.
“It is very difficult to interpret their behavior based on our own 20th-century standards,” Alain Behr, a defense lawyer who represented two of the accused clan chiefs, explained by telephone from Nancy. “This community crosses time and space with its traditions, and we in Europe have trouble to integrate them. Yet they have preserved their tradition, which is one of survival.” 
While not condoning the thievery, Mr. Behr said that what prosecutors had characterized as the practice of selling child brides was, in fact, part of a centuries-old tradition of Roma dowry. 
But Gregory Weill, the prosecutor, dismissed cultural explanations. He noted that when investigators descended on the ringleaders’ hometown in Croatia, they discovered the family’s imposing marble houses. In the clan’s caravans in northern France, he said, police officers found Mercedeses, Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses and Louis Vuitton purses.

Here are 20 photographs of rich Roma taken by Jesse Newman and published in the New York Times last April 4th.
... “Someone in the Middle Ages would not be able to launder money amassed by children,” he said. “They may have grown up in Eastern Europe. But they perfectly understood Western values. They were criminals." 

It's not hard to come up with a Hegelian synthesis of the theses of the defense and prosecution: Gypsies have a culture of crime.
Livia Jaroka, a Hungarian anthropologist who has studied the Roma and is the only Roma member of the European Parliament, maintains that decades of discrimination have resulted in endemic unemployment, extreme poverty, low education levels, segregated housing, human trafficking, substance abuse and high mortality rates. She argues that assimilation into Western European culture does not require abandoning Roma traditions as much as overcoming age-old stereotypes and investing in education, jobs and health care. 
“The cultural explanation for Roma criminality is nonsense,” she said in an interview. “It is about economics.” 
But critics counter that rights come with responsibilities and that throwing money at the Roma is futile, unless they fully commit to integration. 
One glimmer of hope is in Spain, which has some 750,000 Roma, nearly half under 25.

My vague impression is that Gypsies in Spain are more like blacks in America, a highly musical if troubled community, but not one in which parents routinely instruct their small children in crime. Why that is is vague. I've seen it attributed to General Franco promoting Gypsies as central to Spanish culture as part of his campaign to lure tourists, but I suspect there's much more to the story.

In general, it's difficult for countries to take serious steps to reform the predatory Gypsy culture under the prevailing climate of victimism.

------------------
The "freedom for aggression" phrase comes from a blogger called J.S. Bolton.

Gypsy culture

From yesterday's Los Angeles Times:
Greek police find mystery child during raid on Roma camp
by Carol J. Williams 
Greek police announced Friday that they were seeking the biological parents of a blond, blue-eyed girl about 4 years old who was found during a raid two days earlier on a Roma camp in central Greece, news media reported from Athens. 
The child, who was called Maria, was spotted by a female prosecutor who accompanied police on the raid and became suspicious of the girl's origins because she looked nothing like the couple who initially claimed to be her parents, the ekathimerini news site reported. 
DNA testing of the child and the couple caring for her showed they weren't related, the news website said. 
A 40-year-old woman and a 39-year-old man have been arrested on suspicion of child abduction, and authorities were looking into the possibility that the suspects were involved in child smuggling. The couple had registration documents for 14 children but only four were found at the camp, ekathimerini said. 
At least some of the documents appeared to be falsified because they indicated the woman arrested had given birth six times within 10 months. 
Police chief Vassilis Halatsis of Thessalia Province, the jurisdiction where the camp was raided Wednesday in the central town of Farsala, told the BBC that the couple gave conflicting accounts of how they came to have the child in their custody. The couple said she was handed to them by strangers, that she was found under a blanket, and that she had a foreign father, accounting for her Northern European appearance. 
Marietta Palavra, a lawyer for the detained Roma couple, was quoted by the Associated Press in Athens as saying the girl was taken as an act of kindness through an intermediary when she was just a few days old. 
Palavra observed that Roma and other Greeks have been known to make multiple registrations of their children to get more welfare benefits. 
"Just because [the suspect] had forged documents, it doesn't make her a kidnapper,” Palavra told the AP. “The couple loved the girl as if she were their own." 

The best known victim was economist Adam Smith. His first full-scale biographer, John Rae, wrote in 1895:
"In his fourth year, while on a visit to his grandfather's house at Strathendry on the banks of the Leven, [Smith] was stolen by a passing band of gypsies, and for a time could not be found. But presently a gentleman arrived who had met a gypsy woman a few miles down the road carrying a child that was crying piteously. Scouts were immediately dispatched in the direction indicated, and they came upon the woman in Leslie wood. As soon as she saw them she threw her burden down and escaped, and the child was brought back to his mother. [Smith] would have made, I fear, a poor gypsy."

Child abduction is certainly no longer common among Gypsies, but the economic logic was explained in Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire: mutilated children make better beggars because they excite more pity among passerbys, but do you really want to mutilate your own child?

World War R

As affluent whites push blacks out of Washington D.C., it has suddenly become crucial for the Washington NFL team to drop its name of "The Washington Redskins." Because it's the symbolic stuff that really matters.

So, what would make a good replacement name for the Washington football team? Some suggestions:

The Washington Palefaces
The Washington Pandas
The Washington Gentrifiers
The Washington SWPLs
The Washington Mall
The Washington Consensus
The Washington Sacajaweas
The Washington Gergens
The Washington Lobbyists
The Washington Close Personal Friends of Prince Bandar
The Washington Pundits (But would that be anti-Asian Indian?)
The Washington People of Pallor
The Washington V-22 Ospreys
The Washington IRSs
The Washington NGOs
The Washington NPRs
The Washington Ridesharers
The Washington Helium Reserve
The Washington Bailouts
The Washington Printing Presses
The Washington Skyboxes
The Washington Magical Negroes
The Washington Beltways
The Washington Talking Heads
The Washington Spinners
The Washington Wide Stances
The Washington Cthulhus

Can political polarization become baked in through assortative mating?

From Political Behavior in 2012:
The Dating Preferences of Liberals and Conservatives 
Casey A. Klofstad • Rose McDermott • Peter K. Hatemi 
Abstract: American politics has become more polarized. The source of the phenomena is debated. We posit that human mate choice may play a role in the process. Spouses are highly correlated in their political preferences, and research in behavioral genetics, neuroscience, and endocrinology shows that political preferences develop through a complex interaction of social upbringing, life experience, immediate circumstance, and genes and hormones, operating through one’s psychological architecture by Hatemi et al. (J Theor Politics, 24:305–327, 2012). Consequently, if people with similar political values produce children, there will be more individuals at the ideological extremes over generations. This said, we are left with a mystery: spousal concordance on political attitudes does not result from convergence over the course of the relationship, nor are spouses initially selecting one another on political preferences. We examine whether positive mate assorta- tion—like seeks like—on non-political factors such as lifestyle and demographics could lead to inadvertent assortation on political preferences. Using a sample of Internet dating profiles we find that both liberals and conservatives seek to date individuals who are like themselves. This result suggests a pathway by which long- term couples come to share political preferences, which in turn could be fueling the widening ideological gap in the United States.

The authors hypothesize that notable differences would be apparent up after 5 generations.

October 18, 2013

Life before videotape: How baseball teams celebrated in 1965 and 2013

In recent decades, major league baseball teams celebrate the last outs of playoff series with giant gangtackles of joy. For example, here are the Los Angeles Dodgers last week whooping up the final out of their quarter-final series. (They just got eliminated in the semifinal series, with presumptive Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw, pitching on four days rest, getting beat 9-0.)

On Crossing Wall Street, Eddy Elfenbein points out that it wasn't always like that:
On Youtube, I recently stumbled across the complete Game 7 of the 1965 World Series. 
What I found fascinating was the restrained celebration after the final out. Perhaps it shows how much American culture has changed over the past 48 years. 
If you skip ahead to 2:20:16, you can see the final out. SPOILER ALERT – Sandy Koufax strikes him out. But notice how subdued the celebration is. Of course, the game is in Minnesota and not Los Angeles, so that certainly is a factor. Everyone is happy but it’s far from the over-the-top New Year’s-like manic celebrations we see nowadays. No man-pile. No confetti. Just hearty handshakes.

One possible reason for this change is that people tend to behave today in ways that will make the highlight reels. The arrival of videotape in the early 1960s (the first use of instant replay was the Army-Navy football game of 1963) is one reason why Baby Boomers tend to assume that history began around the time of the JFK assassination and the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show: they saw the same clips over and over.

Think of it as a sort of Darwinian selection for behavior that will make the replay. One thing that television likes is energy.

For example, Sandy Koufax's final strikeout in 1965 is not a video Iconic Moment, even though in text it's a quite well-known event, perhaps the most celebrated Jewish sports accomplishment of the 20th Century. Koufax, the best pitcher in baseball, had clinched the pennant in the next to last regular season game on October 2. So, he was scheduled to start the first game of the World Series on October 6 on his usual 3 days rest, which would allow him to start Games 4 and 7 as well with 3 days rest. But he refused to pitch Game 1 because it was Yom Kippur. Then he lost Game 2. But he threw a shutout in Game 5 and then came back on two days rest to win the final game 2-0.

We have excellent B&W video of catcher Johnny Roseboro trotting out to the mound to sincerely congratulate Koufax, followed by the other Dodgers on the field (but not in the dugout), but it's not a famous clip because everybody behaves in a dignified fashion. The Dodgers of 1965 probably felt that since the whole country was watching, they should be on their best behavior. And to whoop it up more would be showing up their opponents and their opponents' fans. And that would be unsporting.

One-party rule is so much more efficient

The top story in the New York Times:
California Seen as Example for How to Curb Partisanship 
By ADAM NAGOURNEY5:32 PM ET 
New election rules in California, once a symbol of government dysfunction, may be having their desired effect of leaching some of the partisanship out of politics.

Clearly, we must elect a new people to make the trains run on time.

October 17, 2013

A lotta drama, a lotta instability, not a lotta money

From the Witherspoon Institute's Public Discourse blog:
A Married Mom and Dad Really Do Matter: New Evidence from Canada 
by  Mark Regnerus

A new academic study based on the Canadian census suggests that a married mom and dad matter for children. Children of same-sex coupled households do not fare as well.

... A study published last week in the journal Review of the Economics of the Household—analyzing data from a very large, population-based sample—reveals that the children of gay and lesbian couples are only about 65 percent as likely to have graduated from high school as the children of married, opposite-sex couples. And gender matters, too: girls are more apt to struggle than boys, with daughters of gay parents displaying dramatically low graduation rates. 
Unlike US-based studies, this one evaluates a 20 percent sample of the Canadian census, where same-sex couples have had access to all taxation and government benefits since 1997 and to marriage since 2005. 
[Douglas Allen] he was able to isolate and analyze hundreds of children living with a gay or lesbian couple (either married or in a “common law” relationship akin to cohabitation). 
So the study is able to compare—side by side—the young-adult children of same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples, as well as children growing up in single-parent homes and other types of households. Three key findings stood out to Allen: 
- children of married opposite-sex [i.e., normal] families have a high graduation rate compared to the others; children of lesbian families have a very low graduation rate compared to the others; and the other four types [common law, gay, single mother, single father] are similar to each other and lie in between the married/lesbian extremes. 
- Employing regression models and series of control variables, Allen concludes that the substandard performance cannot be attributed to lower school attendance or the more modest education of gay or lesbian parents. Indeed, same-sex parents were characterized by higher levels of education, and their children were more likely to be enrolled in school than even those of married, opposite-sex couples. And yet their children are notably more likely to lag in finishing their own schooling. 
... What is surprising in the Canadian data is the revelation that lesbian couples’ children fared worse, on average, than even those of single parents. 

A lotta drama, a lotta instability, not a lotta money. Many lesbian couples are, in effect, single mothers squared.

Poor children now majority in public schools in South, West

In the southern tier, only Arizona escapes the worst category
From the Washington Post:
Study: Poor children are now the majority in American public schools in South, West

By Lyndsey Layton, Published: October 16 E-mail the writer 
A majority of students in public schools throughout the American South and West are low-income for the first time in at least four decades, according to a new study that details a demographic shift with broad implications for the country. 
The analysis by the Southern Education Foundation, the nation’s oldest education philanthropy, is based on the number of students from preschool through 12th grade who were eligible for the federal free and reduced-price meals program in the 2010-11 school year.

Low-income students made up at least half the public school student population in 17 states in 2011, a marked increase from 2000, when four states topped 50 percent.

The meals program run by the Department of Agriculture is a rough proxy for poverty, because a family of four could earn no more than $40,793 a year to qualify in 2011. 
Children from those low-income families dominated classrooms in 13 states in the South and the four Western states with the largest populations in 2011, researchers found. A decade earlier, just four states reported poor children as a majority of the student population in their public schools. 
But by 2011, almost half of the nation’s 50 million public-school students — 48 percent — qualified for free or reduced-price meals.

Some of the deterioration from 2000 to 2011 is due to 2000 being an extraordinarily prosperous year. Another cause is the increasing inequality of the economy. And having a single number nationwide is misleading because of increasing differences in the cost of land.

But clearly, just from looking at how low incomes are concentrated in warmer weather states, much has to do with demographic change, especially the long run effects of immigration.

In 2011, among the 15 states south of the famous 36'30" latitude, only Arizona escapes falling into the worst category. Perhaps that state's politicans' much denounced resistance to illegal immigration plays a positive role?

Only New Hampshire remains with less than 30% of public school students not qualifying for reduced price lunches.

The essence of Stuff White People Like is disliking other white people

I've only been hunting once, on my late father-in-law's farm, and we never saw a single dove all day. But I still have opinions on what is sporting and unsporting.

Hunting elephants with an AK-47 from a helicopter: unsporting.

Hunting cape buffalo on foot with any weapon less powerful than a bazooka: sporting.

But, the most crazily sporting thing I've heard of recently is what a young hunter named David Mayer did last year. He scuba dove 85 feet down in Puget Sound, but without a spear gun. He found a 9-foot-wide, 80-pound Great Pacific Octopus. From Marnie Hanel's NYT Magazine article:
The giant Pacific octopus was curled inside a rock piling, both its color and texture altered by camouflage. Mayer judged it to be his size, about six feet, and wondered if he could take it on alone. He lunged at the octopus, grabbing one of its eight arms. It slipped slimily between his fingers, its suckers feeling and tasting his hand. He reached for it again, and again it retreated. Able to squeeze its body through a space as small as a lemon, the octopus was unlikely to succumb to his grip. He poked it with his finger and watched it turn brighter shades of red, until finally, it sprang forward and revealed itself to be a nine-foot wheel charging through the water. 
The octopus grabbed Mayer where it could, encircling his thigh, spiraling his torso, its some 1,600 suckers — varying in size from a peppercorn to a pepper mill — latching onto his wet suit and face. It pulled Mayer’s regulator out of his mouth. His adrenaline rising, he punched the creature, and began a wrestling match that would last 25 minutes.

Eventually, he emerged alive and cooked the octopus for dinner.

That's about the fairest fight imaginable. I mean, a Homo erectus would have at least taken a rock with him.

This made Mayer a hero with Seattle's locavore community for harvesting a local, legally huntable and highly abundant foodstuff using the absolute minimum of technology. After all, as Hanel notes, octopus salad is one of the celebrated dishes served at the foodiest restaurants in Seattle.

Nah, I'm kidding. Mayer instantly became demonized in Seattle.

Why?

Well, much of it has to do with the culture war between coastal and inland white people. Mayer is from an inland exurb of Seattle, and exhibits all the class markers of Stuff White People Don't Like:
According to the permit he had just purchased at Walmart, Mayer was allowed to catch this sea life and cook it, which is exactly what he set out to do. He wasn’t much of a chef, but he had experience foraging for his dinner. Mayer had attended a high school known for its Future Farmers of America program; he also knew how to slaughter cows and castrate bulls. Now he was going to community college ...

By the way, this doesn't particularly represent a money divide -- scuba divers are seldom poor and Mayer, like Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate, practiced his scuba diving in his parents' swimming pool. Unlike The Graduate, however, he had his friends attack him in the pool so he could improve his underwater octopus wrestling skills.

Instead, this represents a cultural difference related, in large measure, to population density.

Species do not exist!

Most of the career incentives in the paleoanthropology business encourage scientists to declare whatever piece of ancient skull they dig up represents a new species previously unknown to science, or even a new genus. 

But what does it mean to say that two bones from different eras represented different species? We barely have a workable definition of species for living creatures. Ernst Mayr's definition -- can and/or will two individuals mate and produce fertile offspring -- is about the best we've got, and it has obvious problems. (For example, are dogs, coyotes, and wolves different species or not? If they are all one species, should the Endangered Species Act apply to wolves? What about the protected Red Wolf, which is actually part coyote? Etcetera etcetera).
Skull Fossil Suggests Simpler Human Lineage 
By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD

After eight years spent studying a 1.8 million-year-old skull uncovered in the republic of Georgia, scientists have made a discovery that may rewrite the evolutionary history of our human genus Homo.

It would be a simpler story with fewer ancestral species. Early, diverse fossils — those currently recognized as coming from distinct species like Homo habilis, Homo erectus and others — may actually represent variation among members of a single, evolving lineage. In other words: just as people look different from one another today, so did early hominids look different from one another, and the dissimilarity of the bones they left behind may have fooled scientists into thinking they came from different species.

In other words, different races existed back in Ye Olde Days, just like today. Of course, that, in turn, raises the question of "What is a race?"
... Dr. Lordkipanidze and his colleagues said the differences between these fossils were no more pronounced that those between any given five modern humans or five chimpanzees. The hominids who left the fossils, they noted, were quite different from one another but still members of one species.

Or maybe not. Maybe they wouldn't breed together because they disliked each other's smell. Who knows?

Yet, all these inherent uncertainties don't mean Species Do Not Exist.

October 16, 2013

Modern Family: The Venn Diagram of Why Lesbians Aren't Gay

The popular sitcom Modern Family acts out the Venn diagram of why lesbians aren't gay from 0:30 to 0:55 in this clip.

Where all the money is

Via Mickey Kaus, Kristen Williamson transcribes a Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute event from CSPAN:
Maybe feeling comfortable in his surroundings and forgetting the event was streaming live over the internet, Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) took the opportunity to get a little boastful about the prospects of amnesty legislation: 
“There’s virtually nobody organized against comprehensive immigration reform…We have the growers and the farm works. When we have the AFL-CIO and the Chamber of Congress agreeing. We have the high-tech industry…”
"And probably the most significant factor is there is no money on the other side of this issue. There’s nobody out there ready to spend $100 million to defeat comprehensive immigration reform. 
"In fact, all the money is on the side of pushing it. And just a couple weeks ago we met with Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook and he’s raised, well, a lot of his own money, but he’s raised $50 million to run ads supporting people who will support comprehensive immigration reform and to pressure people who may be on the fence.”

NYT: World War T versus World War G

For awhile now, I've been predicting that the structure of the dominant contemporary mindset means that with the triumph of gay marriage, a need will be felt for a new front in the elite culture war on average people, with "transgenderism" (a catch-all phrase for a variety of complaints) the most likely salient. 

I must thank the New York Times for tirelessly generating new evidence that my prediction of World War T was on the money.

Thus, in today's NYT, six Experts in Such Matters discuss:
Room for Debate: Is ‘Gay Rights’ a Trans Ally? 
The gay-rights movement has racked up some big wins in the past few years. First it was: “Obama Ends ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Policy.” And then: “Supreme Court Bolsters Gay Marriage With Two Major Rulings.” But time and again, federal measures to protect transgender Americans have faltered.
Does it still make sense to think of trans rights as part of the gay-rights movement? Or at this point, is it a different campaign with different goals? 

This is not to say I made my World War T prediction purely in the abstract from my understanding of the underlying mechanisms of the zeitgeist. Instead, it's a combination of how pattern recognition and abstracting reasoning should work together in a virtuous circle, making you better able to notice what's going on.

In contrast, elite culture at present encourages Americans to not think critically about current trends. Don't ask cui bono about whatever is the current media fixation. Instead, you should over certain the sins of an increasingly distant past.

This week, for example, continuing a trend of the Obama Years, the hottest topic is ... slavery.

October 15, 2013

I'm going to be on an album cover

I was only vaguely aware that they still make vinyl records, but a French band has requested permission to put this photo (taken by my father) on the cover of their upcoming EP of songs about the spirit of Christmas. 

If a sevenish me guarding my loot by brandishing a BB gun that could put somebody's eye out doesn't represent the True Spirit of Christmas, well, I don't know what would.

October 13, 2013

Do charter schools most help whites?

An op-ed in the Buffalo News by a couple of University of Buffalo social science professors:
Charter schools have limited ability to close student achievement gap 
By Adeline Levine and Murray Levine 
... Four large-scale studies by two respected research institutes, CREDO and Mathematica, comparing charter schools with traditional public schools were reported in 2013. Major newspapers, apparently relying on the press releases, trumpeted that charter schools had shown astonishing results in closing the achievement gap between disadvantaged and not-disadvantaged students. 
Achievement tests are the major yardstick used to assess schools. CREDO conducted three national evaluation studies comparing the achievement test performance of students in charter schools with matched students in traditional public schools. Mathematica studied middle schools in the well-regarded KIPP charter school chain. All four studies compared the amount of “gain” or “growth” in achievement test scores over a school year, not the actual levels of achievement. Even with gains, the achievement level may still be well below norms for the test. 
Buried deep in its report, one CREDO study states, “Only when the annual learning gain of these student [minority/poverty] subgroups exceeds that of white or non-poverty students can progress on closing the achievement gap be made.” Charter school minority and economically disadvantaged students made some very small gains in reading and math when compared to matched controls in public schools. However, the difference in achievement growth between white non-poverty students in traditional public schools and minority/poverty students in charter schools is the most relevant comparison. 
The average gain, in standard deviation units, for minority or poverty students in charter schools when compared to their counterparts in traditional public schools, was about 0.03. However, the average gain for non-minority, non-poverty traditional public school white students was 0.80. The gain was up to 27 times the gain for poverty or minority students in charter schools. The Mathematica study of KIPP middle schools showed similar large gaps in gains. 

I haven't read these reports, so I can't attest to whether the Levines are interpreting the studies correctly.

But, this assertion is not out of line with what I've read in many, many articles on charter schools. The usual goes something like this: "Students from impoverished black and Hispanic neighborhoods were given the opportunity to participate in a lottery for a charter school funded by billionaires that hires only Ivy League grads who all work 90 hours per week. Remarkably, the students now score above state averages."

Okay, but how much would white and Asian students improve if they were given the same resources?

I don't know, but the usual assumption around the world throughout history has been that higher potential students tend to benefit more from the best teachers. For example, Plato benefited more from Socrates' socratic teaching method than did Xenophon. In turn, it's usually been assumed to be a good thing that Aristotle had Plato for a teacher. Today's consensus about K-12 schools, however is that, in effect, Socrates should have given less attention to Plato and more to Xenophon, while Plato should have found some field hands to instruct rather than Aristotle. And don't get me started on how Isaac Barrow mentored Isaac Newton instead of somebody with lower test scores. And why in the world did Dean Smith coach Michael Jordan instead of some young man shaped like George Costanza?

(The other bit of sleight of hand is that blacks and Hispanics make up a majority of public school students in some big states, and a substantial minority in many others, so comparing non-Asian minorities to the state median isn't the black and white comparison that people with outdated demographic models in their heads naturally assume.)
The CREDO Institute states: “For many charter school supporters, improving education outcomes for historically disadvantaged is the paramount goal.” While all of the groups in both kinds of schools show gains over the years, the achievement gap remains, as it always has when students from homes in poverty are compared to non-poor ones, in this country and internationally. The “paramount goal” to level the field is not being met by charter schools. 
... What excuse do charters have for the persistent achievement test gap between disadvantaged students in charter schools compared to non-disadvantaged students in the public schools? And why continue down a path where the numbers show that the national policy favoring charter schools will make the majority-minority gap worse?

Because raising all groups' test scores is a good thing?

I've long argued that the elite consensus on the proper goal for K-12 education -- to raise black and Hispanic performance by roughly one standard deviation while preventing whites and Asians from improving (which is what it would take to Close the Gap) -- is obviously wrong-headed. A fairer, more feasible goal is to try to raise every group's performance by half a standard deviation.
*******

Okay, I'm going to take a break from posting and approving comments for a few days to catch up on a whole lot of family business that has been piling up while I write.

See you in a while.