October 26, 2013

Video: Bush's first attack on traditional credit standards to Increase Minority Homeownership, June 17, 2002


Heart of speech starts at 10:44

The 2002-2004 role of George W. Bush in setting off the housing bubble in the name of fighting racial inequality is still not widely understood. Republicans can't believe their hero would campaign to undermine traditional credit standards, and Democrats can't believe their enemy would wage war on down payments and documentation in the name of equality for minorities.

Another reason is that we get much of our history from Youtube, so if it's not on Youtube, it basically didn't happen. But Youtube dates from 2005; therefore, many of Bush's first term speeches are barely accessible.

I finally found one Youtube clip of Bush's first speech (June 17, 2002) promoting his White House Conference on Increasing Minority Homeownership, but it had been edited to understate the absolutely central rhetorical role of blacks and Hispanics in how Bush justified his program.

But hours of searching didn't turn up any other clips.

That seemed strange because Bush assiduously had his speeches videotaped and posted on WhiteHouse.gov. But, the Obama Administration quickly erased their predecessor's postings from WhiteHouse.gov. So, Google's standard place to look for Bush's speeches was largely wiped cleaned soon after January 21, 2009, leaving a big hole in the video historical record.

There is a federal archive for Bush's old speeches, http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/, but it is virtually text only. I'm a text guy, so that was fine for me, but I was long overlooking the Youtube Effect.

Fortunately, this weekend, after a couple of days of looking, I have stumbled upon UC Santa Barbara's American Presidency Project, which has a trove of videos of previous Presidents.

In the post below, I've posted a video of Bush's speech at his October 15, 2002 White House Conference on Increasing Minority Homeownership. But, it's a painful effort even by Bush's standards.

Therefore, above is Bush's considerably snappier June 17, 2002 speech on how down payment requirements hurt blacks and Hispanics, delivered at the St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal church of Atlanta. The opening 10+ minutes are Bush's usual shout outs to countless individuals in the audience. The meat of the speech begins at 10:44.

For some reason, I can't get Youtube to start it right at 10:44. Thus, the embedded video above begins with Bush meandering aimlessly for 20 seconds from 10:24 through 10:43, but then President actually gets it in gear and gives a surprisingly cogent outline of his disastrous plan.

Here's the best part of the transcript:
Three-quarters of white America owns their homes. Less than 50 percent of African Americans are part of the homeownership in America. And less than 50 percent of the Hispanics who live here in this country own their home. And that has got to change for the good of the country. It just does. (Applause.) 
And so here are some of the ways to address the issue. First, the single greatest barrier to first time homeownership is a high downpayment. It is really hard for many, many, low income families to make the high downpayment. And so that's why I propose and urge Congress to fully fund the American Dream Downpayment Fund. This will use money, taxpayers' money to help a qualified, low income buyer make a downpayment. And that's important. 
One of the barriers to homeownership is the inability to make a downpayment. And if one of the goals is to increase homeownership, it makes sense to help people pay that downpayment. We believe that the amount of money in our budget, fully approved by Congress, will help 40,000 families every year realize the dream of owning a home. (Applause.) Part of the success of Park Place is that the city of Atlanta already does this. And we want to make the plan more robust. We want to make it more full all across America. ...
A third major barrier is the complexity and difficulty of the home buying process. There's a lot of fine print on these forms. And it bothers people, it makes them nervous. And so therefore, what Mel has agreed to do, and Alphonso Jackson has agreed to do is to streamline the process, make the rules simpler, so everybody understands what they are -- makes the closing much less complicated. 
We certainly don't want there to be a fine print preventing people from owning their home. We can change the print, and we've got to. We've got to be wise about how we deal with the closing documents and all the regulations, but also wise about how we help people understand what it means to own their home and the obligations and the opportunities. 
And so, therefore, education is a critical component of increasing ownership throughout America. Financial education, housing counseling, how to help people understand that there are unscrupulous lenders. And so one of the things we're going to do is we're going to promote education, the education of owning a home, the education of buying a home throughout our society. 
And we want to fully implement the Section 8 housing program, homeownership program. The program will provide vouchers that first-time home buyers can use to help pay their mortgage or apply to their downpayment. 
Many of the partners today, many of the people here today, many of the business leaders here today are creating a market for the mortgages where Section 8 vouchers are a source of the payment. And that's good -- see, it's an underpinning of capital. It helps move capital to where we want capital to go. 
And so these are important initiatives that we can do at the federal government. And the federal government, obviously, has to play an important role, and we will. We will. I mean, when I lay out a goal, I mean it. But we also have got to bring others into the process, most particularly the real estate industry. After all, the real estate industry benefits when people are encouraged to buy homes. It's in their self interest that we encourage people to buy homes. (Applause.) ...
That's why I've challenged the industry leaders all across the country to get after it for this goal, to stay focused, to make sure that we achieve a more secure America, by achieving the goal of 5.5 million new minority home owners. I call it America's home ownership challenge. 
And let me talk about some of the progress which we have made to date, as an example for others to follow. First of all, government sponsored corporations that help create our mortgage system -- I introduced two of the leaders here today -- they call those people Fannie May and Freddie Mac, as well as the federal home loan banks, will increase their commitment to minority markets by more than $440 billion. (Applause.) I want to thank Leland and Franklin for that commitment. It's a commitment that conforms to their charters, as well, and also conforms to their hearts. 

I saw that $440 billion figure in the newspaper in 2002, and said to myself, "$440 billion here, $440 billion there, pretty soon ..."
This means they will purchase more loans made by banks after [African] Americans, Hispanics and other minorities, which will encourage homeownership. Freddie Mac will launch 25 initiatives to eliminate homeownership barriers. Under one of these, consumers with poor credit will be able to get a mortgage with an interest rate that automatically goes down after a period of consistent payments. (Applause.) 
Fannie Mae will establish 100 partnerships with faith-based organizations that will provide home buyer education and help increase homeownership for their congregations. I love the partnership. (Applause.) 
The Enterprise Foundation and the local initiative support corporation will increase efforts to build and rehabilitate more homes in inner cities at affordable prices by working with local community development corporations. 
In my home state of Texas, Enterprise helped turn the once decaying ideal neighborhood of Dallas into a vibrant community, by building homes that were sold to residents at affordable prices. The National Association of Home Builders will team up with local officials, home builder associations and community groups in 20 of our nation's largest housing markets, to focus on how to eliminate barriers, and encourage homeownership. 
The Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation will dramatically expand financial and home buyer education efforts to 380,000 minority families. The Neighborhood Housing Services of America will raise $750 million to promote homeownership initiatives in many communities. We're beginning to use the Internet better, so that realtors all across the country will be able to call up programs all designed to help minority home buyers understand what's available, what's possible, and what to avoid. The National Realtors Association will create a central data bank of affordable housing programs, which will be made available to agents, real estate agents, to help people. 
So these are some of the beginnings of a national effort. And I want to thank all those who are responsible for the organizations I just named for lending your talents to this important effort for America. You know, one of the things Presidents can do, is they can call the old conference. So I'm going to call one -- (laughter) -- just to make sure people understand, not only are we serious, but to let them check in. If they've signed up and said they're going to help, this will give everybody a chance to say, here's what I've done to help. It's what we call accountability. (Applause.) 
And so this fall, we're going to have a White House conference. It is a White House conference specifically designed to address the homeownership gap. It is a White House conference that will not only say, what have you done to date, have you got any new ideas that we can share with others as well. I'm serious about this. This is a very important initiative for all of America. See, it is a chance for us to empower people. We're not going to talk about empowering government, we're talking about empowering people, so they have got choices over their lives. (Applause.) 
I want to go back to where I started. I believe out of the evil done to America will come incredible good. I believe that as sure as I'm standing here. I believe we can achieve peace. I believe that we can address hopelessness and despair where hopelessness and despair exist. And listen, I understand that in this great country, there are too many people who say, this American Dream, what does that mean; my eyes are shut to the American Dream, I don't see the dream. And we'd better make sure, for the good of the country, that the dream is vibrant and alive. 
It starts with having great education systems for every single child. (Applause.) It means that we unleash the faith-based programs to help change people's hearts, which will help change their lives. (Applause.) It means we use the mighty muscle of the federal government in combination with state and local governments to encourage owning your own home. That's what that means. 

Video: George W. Bush launches Mortgage Bubble, 10/15/02


October 15, 2002: White House Conference on Increasing Minority Homeownership

Highlights from the text of the President's remarks:
[00:27] You see, we want everybody in America to own their own home. That's what we want. This is--an ownership society is a compassionate society. 
    More and more people own their homes in America today. Two-thirds of all Americans own their homes. Yet, we have a problem here in America because fewer than half of the Hispanics and half the African Americans own the home. 
That's a homeownership gap. It's a gap that we've got to work together to close for the good of our country, for the sake of a more hopeful future. We've got to work to knock down the barriers that have created a homeownership gap. 
    I set an ambitious goal. It's one that I believe we can achieve. It's a clear goal, that by the end of this decade we'll increase the number of minority homeowners by at least 5.5 million families. ... 
[01:58]    Achieving the goal is going to require some good policies out of Washington. And it's going to require a strong commitment from those of you involved in the housing industry. Just by showing up at the conference, you show your commitment. ... 
[06:58] All of us here in America should believe, and I think we do, that we  should be, as I mentioned, a nation of owners. Owning something is freedom, as far as I'm concerned. It's part of a free society, and ownership of a home helps bring stability to neighborhoods. You own your home in a neighborhood, you have more interest in how your neighborhood feels, looks, whether it's safe or not. It brings pride to people. It's a part of an asset-based society. It helps people build up their own individual portfolio, provides an opportunity, if need be, for a mom or a dad to leave something to their child. It's a part of--it's a part of being a--it's a part of--an important part of America. ... 
 To open up the doors of homeownership there are some barriers, and I want to talk about four that need to be overcome. 
    First, downpayments--a lot of folks can't make a downpayment. They may be qualified. They may desire to buy a home, but they don't have the money to make a downpayment. I think if you were to talk to a lot of families that are--desire to have a home, they would tell you that the downpayment is the hurdle that they can't cross. 
... Another obstacle to minority homeownership is the lack of information. You know, getting into your own home can be complicated. It can be a difficult process. I had that very same problem. [Laughter] 
    Every homebuyer has responsibilities and rights that need to be understood clearly. And yet when you look at some of the contracts, there's a lot of small print. And you can imagine somebody newly arrived from Peru looking at all that print and saying, ``I'm not sure I can possibly understand that. Why do I want to buy a home?'' ... 
The other thing Kirbyjon told me, which I really appreciate, is you don't have to have a lousy home for first-time homebuyers. If you put your mind to it, the first-time homebuyer, the low-income homebuyer can have just as nice a house as anybody else.

Now, my argument that there was a direction connection between Bush's 2002-2003 campaign against down payment requirements on mortgages -- which he repeatedly rationalized in the name of the Ownership Society and fighting racial in equality -- and the subsequent housing bubble and crash and the ensuing Great Recession is not a popular one.

One of the few who have publicly suggested it is George W. Bush himself, who apologized for it on p. 449 of Decision Points, his 2010 memoirs:
"At the height of the housing boom, homeownership hit an all-time high of almost 70 percent. I had supported policies to expand homeownership, including down-payment assistance for low-income and first-time buyers. I was pleased to see the ownership society grow. But the exuberance of the moment masked the underlying risk. Together, the global pool of cash, easy monetary policy, booming housing market, insatiable appetite for mortgage-backed assets, complexity of Wall Street financial engineering, and leverage of financial institutions created a house of cards. This precarious structure was fated to collapse as soon as the underlying card—the nonstop growth of housing prices—was pulled out. That was clear in retrospect. But very few saw it at the time, including me."

Maybe we should take Bush's word for it ...

P.S., an earlier (6/17/02), more coherent speech by Bush demanding the same things can be seen on video here.

"Apple, Twitter and Tech’s Middle-Aged White Guy Problem"

From Yahoo Finance:
Apple, Twitter and Tech’s Middle-Aged White Guy Problem 
By Lauren Lyster | Daily Ticker – Thu, Oct 24, 2013 11:00 AM EDT 
Anyone who watched the Apple (AAPL) keynote this week (if you’re me) couldn’t help but notice that it was a parade of middle-aged white guys who came on stage to reveal the company’s latest and greatest. 
And Twitter, ahead of it’s planned IPO next month, has come under fire for the makeup of its board of directors: all white men. The executive team isn’t much better (all men except for the general counsel). 
And lest it seems like we’re picking on Twitter and Apple, the lack of women and minorities in leadership and director roles at tech companies is a broader problem.

You might think that the fact that the leadership team assembled by Steve Jobs in his second tenure at Apple -- one of the most successful in the history of American business -- was all middle-aged white guys might raise questions about the dominant assumption, but it never seems to. (Also, the Twitter guys seem to be really good at doing whatever it is that Twitter does.)

But the more evidence that piles up, the more automatic becomes the opposite inference, no matter how it implausible it seems when you try to put it into words: Apple would be so much more successful if it weren't for all those stale pale males that Jobs put together.

NYT: Countrywide subprime exec not guilty by reason of being a woman

Not guilty by reason
of femaleness.
The government finally managed to hold liable a mortgage executive this week (although in a civil, not a criminal, case). But, the executive turned out to be a woman (and a single mother to boot), so the NYT feels bad about the government's victory.
Bank’s Midlevel Executive Becomes a New Face of the Housing Crisis 
BY LANDON THOMAS JR.
Fuld. Cayne. Mozilo. Mairone? 
More than five years after the housing bust, the roll call of banking executives who have been blamed by the public for the crisis has grown ever longer. But when it comes to top managers who have been hit with a jury verdict for pushing dubious mortgages, the list is small indeed. 
The new name added this week was Rebecca S. Mairone, a midlevel executive at Bank of America’s Countrywide mortgage unit, who was held liable by a federal jury in Manhattan for having saddled the housing giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with bad mortgages that resulted in over $1 billion in losses. 
And while the jury verdict in the civil fraud case on Wednesday was hailed by Preet Bharara, the hard-charging United States attorney who has become the scourge of white-collar criminals on Wall Street, Ms. Mairone seems — on the face of it — the most unlikely of culprits to emerge from the housing debacle.  
The government’s lawsuit essentially contends that the ramped-up mortgage initiative that she oversaw put pressure on mortgage underwriters to originate riskier yet more profitable housing loans. Via a program nicknamed the Hustle, derived from the initials for “high speed swim lane,” Countrywide’s mortgage processors were “incentivized to, and repeatedly did, manipulate borrower information” like borrower income and other information so that the loans would qualify for federal mortgage guarantees, prosecutors said in their original lawsuit.

Look, I absolutely agree that it's ridiculous that the feds haven't won any cases against major mortgage executives for their activities before August 2007, but you can see why this case was easier: She ran Countrywide's Hustle program from August 2007 to April 2008. That's key, because the subprime bubble, which had been in big trouble since February 2007, definitely burst around August 1, 2007. I remember it well although I can't give you the exact day because I went away on a camping trip in late July 2007 and came back four days later in early August, turned on the computer, and ... oh, boy ... batten down the hatches, we're headed for rough weather.

So, Mairone was flogging an obviously already dead horse to squeeze out the last bit of profit from by scraping through the bottom of the ... well, this metaphor is out of control, but you get the point. The quality of lenders had been dropping spectacularly year after year. But by August 2007 when everybody knew the game was up, the only possible borrowers left were ...
Ms. Mairone’s lawyers claim that she had no such ambition and that she has become a prominent scapegoat — paying the price for being a successful, suffer-no-fools female executive trying to effect change in an insular, predominantly male corporate banking culture. 
... As her lawyers tell it, Ms. Mairone, a 46-year-old single mother, regularly worked 12-hour days and was on the road a week out of every month. When she could, she sneaked out of the office to take her now 14-year-old daughter to a Girl Scouts event or her son, now 19, to a karate tournament. 
Some executives — especially other women — liked her, depositions show. 
Others did not. One in particular, Edward O’Donnell, a mortgage executive whom Ms. Mairone passed over for a promotion, stands out in this regard. 
It would be Mr. O’Donnell who would bring the case to the government. In the wake of the jury’s decision, he is expected to earn a $1.6 million whistle-blower reward after the case is resolved.

Whistleblower = Good
Male Whistleblower = Probably a lying backstabber pretending to be good
It is unclear yet what penalties Ms. Mairone will face, as they will be set by the presiding judge at a later date.
In court depositions, however, female Countrywide employees expressed admiration for Ms. Mairone’s take-charge ways. In their view, Ms. Mairone’s stylish dress and demeanor, along with her business acumen, were just what was needed to shake up the backslapping boys’ club of bankers that sold mortgages nationwide.

Oh boy ...

While I can understand the New York Times' argument that she must be innocent by reason of not being a man, let me point out that by the same logic, she must be guilty by reason of being white.

It's a conundrum ...

October 25, 2013

Mossad v. the president of France

The French government has complained for decades that the "Anglo-Saxon powers" have been electronically spying on the rest of the world, with roots going back to the now-famous Enigma Project during WWII. 

But a new report in Le Monde suggests that the U.S. implied to France that Israel -- not the U.S., Britain, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand (the "Five Eyes") -- carried out the 2012 cyber attack to bug then-President Sarkozy's telephone. 

Not surprisingly, the Daily Mail has the most fun interpretation of the Le Monde revelation.
Was ISRAEL behind the hacking of millions of French phones and NOT the U.S.? 
Extraordinary twist in spying saga revealed 
Agents said to have intercepted 70 million calls and text messages a month 
France had previously blamed the United States of America 
U.S. was first suspected of hacking into Nicolas Sarkozy's phone in 2012 
Americans insisted they have never been behind hacking in France 
Comes after it emerged German officials are planning trip to U.S. to discuss allegations Angela Merkel's phone was hack by the NSA 
The German Chancellor said President Obama's reputation has been shattered on an international scale because of espionage scandal

The Israeli press, Haaretzs and the Jerusalem Post, has been more restrained, focusing mostly on the cyber-attack on the President of France, rather than on 70 million messages a month.

As I pointed out in June, Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden were clever to avoid the mistake of bringing up Israeli snooping too early in the discussion of the NSA, since the I-word triggers the crimestop reflex in well-trained adults. 

It's incredible how effective at shutting down inquiries are the questions: "Why are you asking? Why do you want to know?"

My answer is always: Because knowledge is better than ignorance.

But increasing numbers of people can easily be browbeaten into feeling guilty about wishing to become less ignorant.

Bill Sharman, RIP

Bill Sharman, the great player for the Boston Celtics and coach for the Los Angeles Lakers has died at 87. He may have done more than anyone else to make professional basketball a more intelligent game.

Sharman was a mystery man to younger basketball fans because he had to retire from coaching at age 50 in 1976 because he'd permanently wrecked his vocal cords shouting to his players over crowds. After that, he couldn't speak loud enough to coach anymore.

I suspect if Sharman were starting coaching today, he'd establish a trend by always using a wrap-around mike and clip on speaker to alleviate the vocal stress. After all, he was one of the great innovators in the game's history. 

As Bob Cousy's backcourt mate, he had the idea of efficiency in scoring over raw scoring, constantly leading the NBA in field goal and free throw percentage on Boston's champion teams. He was also into fitness in an era when his teammates, such as Tommy Heinsohn, were into whiskey and chain smoking Lucky Strikes.

Then, according to Bill Simmons, Sharman more or less invented modern NBA coaching. Before Sharman, pro coaching (in contrast to high school and college coaching, which was much more instructive about fundamentals) consisted of offering players helpful advice like, "Don't let Monroe score a lot tonight" or "Try to block out Willis so he doesn't get too many rebounds." Coaches were used to teaching young players how to play the game, but the NBA was full of mature players who knew how to play, so there didn't seem to be much for NBA coaches to do.

Sharman brought the modern coaching mindset to the NBA. Basketball coaches don't work as hard as football coaches, but there are a lot of small edges they can attain by watching game film and other kinds of careful study.

He's most famous for inventing the morning pre-game shootaround, but that's mostly because it ties into a funny Wilt Chamberlain story. When Sharman announced light morning practices before night games, Jerry West and Gail Goodrich told him that they'd be there, but no way was Wilt going to make it.

But, Sharman was the best coach Wilt ever had. In 1971, he convinced Wilt to stop trying to score much and just play defense and rebounding like his old rival Bill Russell, who had won eleven NBA titles to Wilt's one. With Wilt enthusiastically on-board as a born-again team player, the Lakers won 33 straight games and an NBA title.

Obama Administration: Moynihan's Law of Canadian Border kinda right

Countries/states scoring ABOVE average.
The federal National Center for Education Statistics has released a report linking the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress test scores by state to the TIMSS math and science tests of 47 countries.

There is always a ton of noise in these kind of figures, but a few general patterns can be recognized for those not morally averse to pattern recognition.

Here are the countries and American states that did better than the international average for 8th grade math. The top 5 in the world are Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Japan. 

What do these countries have in common? It probably has something to do with, uh, how they hand out homework, or something.

Then come five American states: Massachusetts, Vermont, Minnesota, New Jersey, and New Hampshire.

What do these states have in common?

Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan calculated in 1993 that there's an r = .52 correlation between a state's test scores and its distance in miles from the Canadian border.

It must be the hockey.

Bottom state was Alabama (466); bottom country was Ghana (331). 

In case you are wondering, the NCES report doesn't mention race. So don't even think about it.

And here's the bottom of 8th grade science (not math):

Obama Administration: Crime up again in 2012

A Justice Department press release says:
For Second Consecutive Year, Violent And Property Crime Rates Increased In 2012 
By Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs 
Published: Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013 - 7:05 am 
Violent and property crime rates rose for U.S. residents in 2012, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today. These estimates are based on data from the annual National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) which has collected information from victims of crime age 12 or older since 1973.

The NCVS is a giant survey of 162,000 people about whether they were the victims of crime in the past year. Here's the new report (PDF).

This is different from the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting, which tabulate the cops' numbers. The victimization survey explains:
The annual increase in violent victimizations in 2012, based
on the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ (BJS) National Crime
Victimization Survey (NCVS), was consistent with the overall
increase in violent crime shown in the findings from the
FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program (table 9).
The increase in property victimizations from the NCVS was
inconsistent with the FBI’s finding of a slight decline in
overall property crime. ...
The number of violent crimes known to the police as
measured by the UCR increased by 0.7%, from 2011 to 2012,
and the number of property crimes declined by about 0.9%.
During the same period, the number of violent crimes in
the NCVS increased by 17.7% and the number of property
crimes increased by 15.0%. 

Maybe smartphone theft is up, but people don't bother to report it?

The DoJ press release continues:
The violent crime rate (which includes rape or sexual assault, robbery, aggravated and simple assault) rose from 22.6 victimizations per 1,000 persons in 2011 to 26.1 in 2012.

That's a 15% increase per capita in one year, 18% in absolute numbers. Not good.

Fortunately, the homicide rate inched downward in per capita terms.
Crime not reported to police and simple assault accounted for the majority of this increase. Violent victimizations not reported to police increased from 10.8 per 1,000 persons in 2011 to 14.0 in 2012, and simple assault rates rose from 15.4 to 18.2 per 1,000. The rate of violent crime reported to police did not change significantly from 2011 to 2012. 
The rate of property crime (which includes burglary, theft and motor vehicle theft) increased from 138.7 per 1,000 households in 2011 to 155.8 in 2012, primarily due to an increase in theft.

Up 12 percent per capita.
The rate of theft victimization increased from 104.2 per 1,000 households in 2011 to 120.9 in 2012. 
In 2012, 44 percent of violent victimizations and 54 percent of serious violent victimizations were reported to police. These percentages were not statistically different from 2011.  The percentage of property victimizations reported to police declined from 37 percent in 2011 to 34 percent in 2012. ...
Violent crime rates increased slightly in 2012 for blacks but remained stable for whites and Hispanics.

Those are rates of being victimized by crime, not in committing crime.

So, hard to say what's going on, but the 2011 and 2012 news, while not terrible, hasn't been good after modest declines in crime during the early years of the recession.

October 24, 2013

Common Core: Not as bad as it could be!

Over the years, I've read a lot of K-12 educational standards. They tend to be eye-glazingly abstract, general, and boring. For example, one widely endorsed math problem solving strategy is:
First principle: Understand the problem
Second principle: Devise a plan
Third principle: Carry out the plan
Fourth principle: Review/extend

You can't argue with that ...

Compared to this tradition, the controversial new Common Core standards, while tedious, appear to be written by people with some acquaintance with how intelligent, well-educated people think. The Common Core standards even use examples:
CCSS.Math.Practice.MP7 Look for and make use of structure. 
Mathematically proficient students look closely to discern a pattern or structure. Young students, for example, might notice that three and seven more is the same amount as seven and three more, or they may sort a collection of shapes according to how many sides the shapes have. Later, students will see 7 × 8 equals the well remembered 7 × 5 + 7 × 3, in preparation for learning about the distributive property.

Other innovations include emphasizing more nonfiction in English classes and more statistics in Math classes. (Both are reasonable suggestions for evening out the sex biases in traditional curricula: boys favor nonfiction, while girls find it hard to stay interested in higher level continuous math, which is aimed at producing engineers, whereas discrete math is more immediately useful for things like measuring human behavior.)

My impression from reading some of the Common Core is of a fairly masculine intelligence behind it. A Google search doesn't indicate anybody else has noticed this, however.

Still, the discreetly sensible side of some aspects of the Common Core isn't likely to have much impact on practice. Instead, people in positions of influence in public education simply won't notice the better stuff, and will instead use the commotion mostly as justifying whatever fads they are into at the moment. For example, the LAUSD superintendent has used the prospect of the Common Core to rationalize his spending a billion dollars on iPads right away without any clue what's involved in such a massive rollout.

Update: Breaking news, the LAUSD superintendent just resigned.

UpUpdate: Now he appears to be only threatening to resign if he doesn't get a big vote of support.

High stakes testing could, theoretically, change the practices of public schools by encouraging teaching to the test. But, public education is largely missing the kind of brainpower and realism that could think through how to rewrite the upcoming Common Core-based state tests to encourage better practices in schools. If they put Charles Murray in charge of Common Core testing they might get somewhere, but that isn't going to happen.

Facebook and Twitter v. fracking

Over the last 35-40 years, I've read an enormous number of behind-the-scenes articles about the technology innovators of Silicon Valley, starting with accounts of Intel in the mid-1970s. In contrast, I've read very few about innovators in non-alternative energy: i.e., oil and gas. (Alternative energy has been well covered in the press.)

For a long time, this made sense because computer innovation had been explosive while oil and gas was only progressing steadily. But, in recent years, I've been reading (and watching a fine movie) about the geniuses behind Facebook and now Twitter, the latter of which gives us much of the communicative capability of the telegram:
Vicksburg has fallen stop Last Confederate bastion on Mississippi surrenders to Grant after long siege stop Union can now block rebel reinfo

With Twitter, unlike Western Union, you can now use periods instead of the word "stop," but with Western Union you could actually use more than 140 characters to round out your thoughts, so it's kind of a toss-up.

(By the way, the previous sentence is 73 characters too long for Twitter.)

In contrast, in recent years, technological innovation in the oil and gas business has been revolutionary with the widespread introduction of fracking, which is changing the global economy and the map of geopolitical power. For most of my life, it wasn't that hard to remember more or less which places had oil and/or gas and which poor bastards didn't. Over the last few years, however, that has been changing fast. 

Now, fracking is not unrisky. I, personally, am happy that they are working the bugs out (I hope) in North Dakota rather than in my backyard. (But let's keep this in perspective: a previous giant project in North Dakota was building ICBM silos, which put North Dakota tops on the list of targets for a Soviet first strike. Compared to thermonuclear ICBMs raining down, fracking can't be that bad (right?). A quarter of a century belatedly, let me say: Thanks, North Dakota.)

Yet, I know very little about the innovators behind fracking, other than from comments by jody. I'd guess that Texans were disproportionately represented, but I really don't know.

A reader writes:
Hydraulic fracturing has been around a long time.  At least fifty years in the U.S.  and at least forty in California.

Most people have no idea how oil drilling works and what percentage of oil is extracted from a well.  

Who, me?

The rest of his very informative email is below the fold:

Instead of H-1B, why not American women coders?

From the NYT:
I Am Woman, Watch Me Hack

By CATHERINE RAMPELL 
When she was a little girl growing up in the Bronx, Nikki Allen dreamed of being a forensic scientist. As a teenager, she liked studying science in school, and she thought forensics offered a way to give back to her neighborhood. Not insignificant, the job also looked pretty cool — at least based on the many hours of “CSI” Allen had watched on TV with her aunt.

Allen, who is now 16, had considerably less interest in computer programming. ... 
Computer science is an incredibly promising major, especially for a young woman.

No, it's not. The richest, most powerful people in the country (e.g., Bill Gates, Orrin Hatch, Mark Zuckerberg, etc.) are engaged in an open conspiracy against American programmers. Defeat them, and maybe it would be.
... Yet just 0.4 percent of all female college freshmen say they intend to major in computer science. In fact, the share of women in computer science has actually fallen over the years. In 1990-91, about 29 percent of bachelor’s degrees awarded in computer and information sciences went to women; 20 years later, it has plunged to 18 percent. Today, just a quarter of all Americans in computer-related occupations are women.

In public discourse, there's a common assumption that women in the workplace is this amazing new idea that was just invented last week. The reality is that feminism back in 1969 was pushing on an open door and quickly became the standard. Why wouldn't it? Did corporations not want more workers competing for jobs?

(For example, the Equal Rights Amendment swept through Congress in 1972 and was approved by 30 states  by the end of 1973, only failing to gain ratification when Phyllis Schlafly won over the public by pointing out problems it would cause that were unanticipated in the celebratory rush to approve it.)

As these numbers point out, programming was more popular among young women a generation ago than it is today. Admiral Grace Hopper, main inventor in 1959 of COBOL, the verbose programming language that was the standard of Corporate America up through Y2K, was famous in the 1980s.

There are a lot of reasons that computers have faded as a career for women, such as programming languages becoming more abstract. And H-1B visas have flooded the market with Asian males.

I want to make a few points that are often overlooked:

American working women don't benefit from the kind of globalized winner-take-all competition that Mark Zuckerberg and popular economists assume are indisputably good. American women like 9-5 jobs that aren't all-consuming. They prefer jobs where you can also have a life. Opening up the workforce to global competition for American jobs is often assumed to be a way for women to strike back at white males, but the evidence is in and that turns out to be a very bad idea. Exacerbatig the War of the Sexes is just another successful divide-and-rule tactic of the Top Dogs.

In particular, American employers' evident animus against American programmers over about 45 and desire to replace them with young Asian men would logically make programming an unattractive career to women. Because of the biological clock, a lot of women would prefer to work harder in their 40s and 50s after their kids get to school than in their 30s.
One of the biggest challenges, according to many in the industry, may be a public-image problem. Most young people, like Allen, simply don’t come into contact with computer scientists and engineers in their daily lives, and they don’t really understand what they do. And to the extent that Americans do, “they think of Dilbert,” explains Jeffrey Wilcox, vice president of engineering at Lockheed Martin. (“Dilbert” being shorthand, of course, for boring, antisocial, cubicle-contained drudgery, conducted mostly by awkward men in short-sleeve dress shirts — a bit like “Office Space,” only worse.) “I think it’s just about telling our story better,” Wilcox said. “We as engineers, and I’m guilty of this, we’re not great storytellers.” 

I think Nerd Liberation over the last few decades has inclined women away from computers. If you go back far enough, nerds were culturally invisible, just as they tended to be invisible in real life to many women. But now it's hard to be oblivious.
Public narratives about a career make a difference. The most common career aspiration named on Girls Who Code applications is forensic science. Like Allen, few if any of the girls have ever met anyone in that field, but they’ve all watched “CSI,” “Bones” or some other show in which a cool chick with great hair in a lab coat gets to use her scientific know-how to solve a crime. This so-called “CSI” effect has been credited for helping turn forensic science from a primarily male occupation into a primarily female one.

That has to be the worst career choice in the world. There aren't actually a lot of criminal masterminds out there to engage in battles of wits with (there are mostly idiots doing horrible things), locals governments don't have gleaming high tech crime labs with wall-sized computer touch screens like on the TV shows (they have a lot of good-enough-for-government-work fluorescent tube lighting), and any career that gets taken over by women suffers a decline in pay and prospects (at least if you are a veterinarian you get to work with cute pets).

(In defense of CSI, however, I suspect that it has slightly reduced the crime rate by depressing young potential criminals into assuming they'll never get away with crimes because the cops have these science fiction crime labs that always get their man.)
There is, of course, no pop-culture corollary for computer science. A study financed by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media

Huh?

I saw Geena Davis in 2000 rushing through the drugstore without her makeup on. Let's just say that the lovely Geena the you know from movies and television has devoted much of her waking existence to thinking hard (and effectively) about makeup.
found that recent family films, children’s shows and prime-time programs featured extraordinarily few characters with computer science or engineering occupations, and even fewer who were female. The ratio of men to women in those jobs is 14.25 to 1 in family films and 5.4 to 1 in prime time. Whenever high-ranking people in the tech industry meet, whether at the White House or a Clinton Global Initiative conference, one executive says, “we almost always walk away from the discussion having come to the conclusion we need a television show.” 
Nearly every tech or nonprofit executive I spoke with mentioned their hope that “The Social Network” has improved the public’s perception of programmers.

I really don't think that was Aaron Sorkin's intention. I suspect the public was most impressed by the realization that Zuckerberg made $10 billion before he was 30. All of Sorkin and Fincher's expert efforts to make Zuckerberg look bad counted for very little with the public's perception next to the simple fact that he made $10 billion for a few years' work.
They also mentioned how bummed they were that the hit film didn’t include more prominent female characters. Meanwhile, the National Academy of Sciences now offers a program called the Sciences and Entertainment Exchange that gives writers and producers free consultation with all kinds of scientists. Natalie Portman’s character in the superhero movie “Thor,” for instance, started out as a nurse. After a consultation with scientists introduced through the exchange, she became an astrophysicist. 
Casting Sofia Vergara as a hacker with a heart of gold may seem an eye-roll-worthy suggestion, but the Labor Department has estimated that there will be 1.4 million job openings for computer-related occupations this decade. The skills required to fill these jobs can be imported from places like India and China, or they can be homegrown. ... The young girls at home watching “CSI” represent a sizable American talent pool that has yet to be tapped.

It would be racist to homegrow them. What would the Zuck say?

October 23, 2013

Is the world just getting plain stupider?

From the op-ed page of the New York Times:
Twitter, Women and Power 
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF 
Twitter is on schedule to go public as a company next month, a sparkling symbol of innovation, technology — and stale, old thinking reflected in a board of seven white men.

I'd explain how this sentence encapsulates on multiple dimensions what's been going wrong with public thought, but I'm already over my 140 character limit, so forget it.

The Trouble with Texas, continued

A reader responds to my column in Taki's on Texas:
Mr. Sailer, 
I just read your article and, coincidentally, am back from Texas after several years away. This time I had a chance to go south of San Antonio to within about 60 miles of the Mexican border. I must say the Mexican transformation is nearly complete. If it weren't for the sporadic Texas/US flags flown every now and then, I would have told you I was in Mexico just by observing the surroundings. They had little shantytowns, dilapidated trailers, impromptu markets on the side of the road (called Mexican Wal-Marts by the locals), etc.  
Mr. Cowen should consider buying some real estate down there so he can enjoy the future today. He should keep his house unlocked though because it's common down there for illegals to pass through and sometimes they need a place to sleep and will break in the doors of locked ranches to get water/food/guns/etc. If you keep the door unlocked you at least won't need to fix the frame after it's over.  
In terms of your comparison to whites wanting a large hispanic majority to get their social spending, but not realizing that the replacement help doesn't have what it takes to produce sustaining wealth. I try explaining this idea to friends of mine and I think many of them get it except for the most diehard liberals that have never been to heavily Mexican areas (let alone even have a passport to see these places firsthand).  
I try to reduce the problem to thinking of the United States as a large company. The company grew large through the effort of the older employees, their work ethic, and their drive to work as a team. And just like a company, bad hiring practices can quickly destroy the culture and bring the whole thing down relatively quickly.  
For instance, let's imagine Microsoft adopted a new hiring policy that: 
1) Hired anyone regardless of qualifications or ability to fit into the company culture.  
2) Allowed those hired to bypass the HR department and bring in their immediate and extended family members who need a job whether qualified or not. 
3) Further allowed people to enter the building illegally, and then required HR to give them full employee benefits and not remove them. 
4) Did not remove employees even when it was obvious they were stealing, committing serious crimes, and abusing employee benefits.  
5) Stated that even though the new hires were dramatically less qualified than employees leaving/retiring from the company in terms of education and achievement, that they are going to make up the gap through sheer hiring quantity of similar employees.  
6) That any employee who objected to the new hiring practices would be threatened with punishment and fired for their opinions. 
If I was an investor that saw those things going on, what would I do? Well I'd sell the stock immediately and probably short the stock if I felt especially greedy. 
Welcome to America, Inc. I can't wait to see the quarterly reports from that company in 20 years. It is going to be ugly.

Tyler Cowen: "Why Texas Is Our Future"

From my new column in Taki's Magazine:
Is Texas about the best fate that a heavily Hispanicized America can hope for? In a future United States that won’t be able to generate all that much per-capita wealth, is Texas‘s system of cheap labor, cheap land, cheap taxes, and cheap government the only plausible future for the economy? 
These are questions I’ve kicked around for much of the 21st century. My long-time readers will note that several of my old ideas on affordable family formation and the differences between red states and blue states comprise the backbone of Tyler Cowen’s cover story in the current issue of TIME, “Why Texas Is Our Future.” The parts of Cowen’s article that aren't derived from me are not all that well thought out, but his long feature is interesting as an example of the weird, almost Straussian influence I seem to have on what’s considered cutting-edge thought in the mainstream media.

Read the whole thing there.

Pot v. Kettle, Greenspan v. Fannie Mae

Alan Greenspan has a new book out, and he puts part of the blame for the Recent Unpleasantness on Fannie Mae. Of course, this outrages Democratic pundits like Brad DeLong.  

It's depressing that more than a half decade later, few seemed to have learned anything to help them move beyond the tired talking points. How can it not be important to develop a non-partisan, non-ideological history of the Housing Bubble and how that contributed to the great crash?

The usual liberal v. conservative categories don't work well to explain what happened. We need a new understanding that in the 21st Century, the Top Dogs, like Angelo Mozilo and Kerry Killinger of WaMu, regularly use the moral symbolism of oppressed minorities to bend traditional restraints to enrich themselves at the expense of the public.

Below is some documentation on Fannie Mae's role at the key moment in late December 2004-early January 2005 when the Bubble metastasized, to allow you to judge for yourself the culpability of the various players.

Fannie Mae was hamstrung by an accounting scandal for a few years that kept it from participating fervently in the nascent Housing Bubble of 2002-2004. But late in 2004 Daniel Mudd became interim CEO and quickly made a deal with Angelo Mozilo to buy up Countrywide's crummy mortgages. You can see a major inflection point in the Housing Bubble following this. 2004 was a bubble year, but the bubble went wild in 2005 when Fannie came back in aggressively and financed Mozilo's wildest ambitions. So Bush and Mozilo and the like launched the bubble in 2002-2004, claiming to be loosening downpayment and documentation requirements it in the name of home ownership equality for Hispanics and blacks. With regulators told to stand down, private enterprise got the party rolling. But then Fannie jumped in just when we needed some adult supervision to take away the punch bowl.

From the New York Times on October 4, 2008:
"Shortly after he became chief executive [in December 2004], Mr. Mudd traveled to the California offices of Angelo R. Mozilo, the head of Countrywide Financial, then the nation’s largest mortgage lender. Fannie had a longstanding and lucrative relationship with Countrywide, which sold more loans to Fannie than anyone else. 
But at that meeting, Mr. Mozilo, a butcher’s son who had almost single-handedly built Countrywide into a financial powerhouse, threatened to upend their partnership unless Fannie started buying Countrywide’s riskier loans. 
Mr. Mozilo, who did not return telephone calls seeking comment, told Mr. Mudd that Countrywide had other options. For example, Wall Street had recently jumped into the market for risky mortgages. Firms like Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and Goldman Sachs had started bundling home loans and selling them to investors — bypassing Fannie and dealing with Countrywide directly. 
“You’re becoming irrelevant,” Mr. Mozilo told Mr. Mudd, according to two people with knowledge of the meeting who requested anonymity because the talks were confidential. In the previous year, Fannie had already lost 56 percent of its loan-reselling business to Wall Street and other competitors. 
“You need us more than we need you,” Mr. Mozilo said, “and if you don’t take these loans, you’ll find you can lose much more.” 
Then Mr. Mozilo offered everyone a breath mint.

Apparently, quickly after this historically catastrophic meeting between Countrywide and Fannie Mae, Mozilo issued a pledge to lend a trillion dollars to minorities and lower income borrowers:
"ORLANDO, Fla., Jan. 14 [2005] /PRNewswire/ -- Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., a national leader in expanding homeownership across America, today announced an extension of its We House America(R) initiative to fund $1 trillion in home loans to minorities and lower-income borrowers and communities through 2010. 
"The $1 Trillion We House America Challenge, expanded from $600 billion announced in 2003, embodies Countrywide's long-standing commitment to lead the mortgage industry in closing the homeownership gap for minority and lower-income families and communities," said Countrywide Financial Corporation Chairman and CEO Angelo Mozilo, who announced the initiative at the International Builders' Show in Orlando.
"For several years now, Countrywide has been a leading lender to minorities and lower-income households," Mozilo said. "I am proud of our lending record and pleased to announce the expansion of our lending commitment to $1 trillion. ... 
The company will continue to develop innovative programs emphasizing non-traditional lending criteria, thus helping to address challenges Mozilo has made to the industry, such as calling for improved underwriting systems that eliminate the over-reliance on traditional credit scores that can mask a borrower's true credit-worthiness. Countrywide is already responding to this challenge with the launch last year of its successful Optimum Loan program. That program addresses major obstacles for hard-to-qualify borrowers, such as allowing for non-occupant co-borrowers, other secondary income, and pooled funds for down payments. 
Mozilo said. "We have also called upon one of our esteemed directors, the Honorable Henry Cisneros, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and a former mayor of San Antonio. Henry will put to use his long and respected experience as an advocate for affordable housing who understands the benefits to communities of homeownership. He has graciously agreed to lend his support and expertise to this effort with the goal of assuring Countrywide's continued leadership in innovative, responsible and flexible mortgage products." 
Secretary Cisneros said of the initiative, "Countrywide's $1 trillion commitment is very tangible proof of this company's commitment to fair, affordable and responsible lending. This company is leading the industry in closing the homeownership gap ...

I, for one, welcome our new Natural Republican overlords

Thomas Edsall writes:
There is a fundamental disagreement along racial and ethnic lines about what causes poverty. This is demonstrated in a June 2012 Pew survey that asked “In your opinion, which is generally more often to blame if a person is poor, lack of effort on his or her own part, or circumstances beyond his or her control?” Whites were split, 41-41, but strong majorities of blacks and Hispanics answered “circumstances beyond his or her control,” 62-28 and 59-27, respectively. 

Hispanics: They are only 18/21st as economically liberal as blacks!

All the GOP has to do to win the Latino vote is Get Our Message Out.

Open Borders update from U.N.

With our intellectual vanguard looking forward to increased immigration and putting average Americans on a bean-based diet, it's worth considering just how many relatively poor foreigners there might turn out to be in the future. 

The U.N. puts a lot of effort into projecting populations. Obviously, they should be taken with a grain of salt, but reading them is better than putting your fingers in your ears and chanting "I can't hear you!"

The Daily Mail reported in June:
Global population to soar to 11 billion by 2100 as African population quadruples 
Projection is 800 million more than a previous UN forecast of 10.1 billion  
Researchers had expected fertility in Africa to more fall quickly  
By JILL REILLY 
PUBLISHED: 10:29 EST, 13 June 2013  
The world’s population will reach almost eleven billion by the end of the century because of soaring birth rates in Africa, according to new research. 
... Researchers had expected fertility on the poorest continent where a woman will give birth to an average of 5.2 children in her lifetime, to fall more quickly than it has. 
The current African population is about 1.1 billion and it is now expected to reach 4.2 billion, nearly a fourfold increase, by 2100.

Professor Adrian Raftery, of the University of Washington, said: 'The fertility decline in Africa has slowed down or stalled to a larger extent than we previously predicted, and as a result the African population will go up.'

The UN's tables make interesting reading. 

For example, the population of Tanzania was 7.7 million in 1950, and it's now 49.3 million. The projection for 2025 (in 12 years) is 69.3 million, in 2050 (in 38 years) is 129.4 million, and in 2100 it's seven googol gazillion 275.6 million.

Nigeria, in contrast, isn't expected to grow as fast as Tanzania, in percentage terms:

1950: 37.9 million
2013: 173.6 million
2025: 239.9 million
2050: 440.4 million
2100: 913.8 million

I certainly don't take these UN projections as gospel, but you have to say they are interesting. I realize, however, that's not a universal opinion. Even though immigration is on the table in the House, few in American public life seem aware of these UN projections or their implications for immigration policy.

I would suspect, however, that the government of Israel pays closer attention to UN population forecasts than does the government of the United States. Perhaps rather than the government of Israel trying to hire failed American officials like Larry Summers and Ben Bernanke, the government of the United States should try to hire successful Israeli officials with strong track records of preventing illegal immigration?

October 22, 2013

A vision for America's future: Let them eat beans!

Popular economist Tyler Cowen has provided us with a vision for the future of average Americans whom all elements of responsible opinion -- Marco Rubio, Chuck Schumer, Bill Gates, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the strawberry growers, Mark Zuckerberg, Rupert Murdoch, Carlos Slim, Ted Cruz, and Michael Bloomberg -- can unite behind:


Of course, the stage after that of converting America to a globalist economists' utopia will be:

Assume a can of beans!

And, finally, America will reach the the nirvana of the economists:



(These are all from the comments on this and theprevious post, where there a lot of other good one-liners.)

Tyler Cowen: 90% of Americans will (and should) have a more bean-centric Mexican lifestyle

To sum up, Mr. Cowen believes that America is dividing itself in two. At the top will be 10% to 15% of high achievers, the “Tiger Mother” kids if you like, whose self-motivation and mastery of technology will allow them to roar away into the future. Then there will be everyone else, slouching into an underfunded future of lower economic expectations, shantytowns and an endless diet of beans. I’m not kidding about the beans. 
Poor Americans, writes Mr. Cowen, will have to “reshape their tastes” and live more like Mexicans. “Don’t scoff at the beans,” he says. “With an income above the national average, I receive more pleasure from the beans, which I cook with freshly ground cumin and rehydrated, pureed chilies. Good tacos and quesadillas and tamales are cheap too, and that is one reason why they are eaten so frequently in low-income countries.”
So what am I to do to save my sons from this bean-filled future?  

I realize I'm a wacko extremist, unlike all the mainstream intellectuals such as Tyler, but maybe instead of 85 or 90% of Americans living more like Mexicans, the government should try to, you know, restrict immigration

NYT: "Skill Gap Among 1-Year-Olds Adds to Push for Pre-K"

Here's the front page headline in the NYT for the Hart-Risley study redux article I mentioned earlier:
Skill Gap Among 1-Year-Olds Adds to Push for Pre-K
By MOTOKO RICH 4:18 PM ET 
A study found that at 18 months children from wealthier homes could identify images of simple words they knew much faster than children from low-income families. 

Uh, how is the President's plan for universal public schooling for four-year-olds going to solve The Gap among one-year-olds?

By the way, wouldn't "Motoko Rich" be a great name for the Bad Girl in a James Bond movie?

An Oscar-nominated look at life in a Roma village

With the culture of the Roma much in the news, it's worth recalling that the famous opening scenes of a critically acclaimed, Oscar-nominated film were shot in the Roma (a.k.a. Gypsy) section of the Romanian village of Glod:
From the Associated Press:
GLOD, Romania (AP) — The name of this remote Romanian village means "mud," and that's exactly what angry locals are throwing at comedian Sacha Baron Cohen
Cohen used Glod's Gypsies as stand-ins for Kazakhs in his runaway hit movie, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Now offended villagers are threatening to sue the film's producers for paying them a pittance to put farm animals in their homes and perform other crude antics. 
Residents and local officials in the hardscrabble hamlet 85 miles northwest of Bucharest said Tuesday they were horrified and humiliated to learn their abject poverty and simple ways were ridiculed for a movie now raking in millions at box offices worldwide. 
"We thought they came here to help us — not mock us," said Dana Luca, 40, sweeping a manure-stained street lined with shabby homes of crumbling brick and corrugated iron sheeting.

October 21, 2013

Destination 8 Months and 29 Days Before Birth

Breaking news in the New York Times:
Language-Gap Study Bolsters a Push for Pre-K 
By MOTOKO RICH 
Nearly two decades ago, a landmark study [Hart-Risley] found that by age 3, the children of wealthier professionals have heard words millions more times than those of less educated parents, giving them a distinct advantage in school and suggesting the need for increased investment in prekindergarten programs. 
Now a follow-up study has found a language gap as early as 18 months, heightening the policy debate. 
The new research by Anne Fernald, a psychologist at Stanford University, which was published in Developmental Science this year, showed that at 18 months children from wealthier homes could identify pictures of simple words they knew — “dog” or “ball” — much faster than children from low-income families. By age 2, the study found, affluent children had learned 30 percent more words in the intervening months than the children from low-income homes. 
The new findings, although based on a small sample, reinforced the earlier research showing that because professional parents speak so much more to their children, the children hear 30 million more words by age 3 than children from low-income households, early literacy experts, preschool directors and pediatricians said. In the new study, the children of affluent households came from communities where the median income was $69,000; the low-income children came from communities with a median income of $23,900.

The next study will find that rich children and poor children are on average different at birth. And eventually a study will find that rich children and poor children are different at 8 months and 29 days before birth.

But not a day sooner!

NYT tries to deal with gypsy child-stealing

The New York Times gets around to reporting on the Greek gypsy story:
Roma Couple Ordered Jailed by Greek Authorities 
By NIKI KITSANTONIS and DAN BILEFSKY 
ATHENS — A Roma couple was ordered jailed on Monday over the alleged abduction of a child who was found during a police raid on an encampment in central Greece last week. The case has fueled speculation about human trafficking and illegal adoption rackets, and heightened scrutiny of Roma populations across Europe. 
The couple, identified by the police as Christos Salis, 39, and Eleftheria Dimopoulou, 40, insisted during five hours of testimony that they adopted the child from a Bulgarian woman.

The crucial detail being left out at this point is that they offered multiple stories about the child before, apparently, now settling on the Bulgarian one.

On the other hand, I wouldn't rule out completely the idea that the gypsy scamsters may have gotten the girl in some kind of quasi voluntary transaction with the girl's mother or other relations rather than through sheer kidnapping.

First, the idea that they may have obtained the little blonde girl voluntarily from a part-gypsy mother, perhaps a drug addict or prostitute, is not wholly implausible.

While genetic studies shows that gypsies originated in India, gypsy-acting individuals come in a wide variety of phenotypes. I was once ripped off in a classic gypsy scam by two Caucasians, one of whom looked Armenian or Lebanese, while the boss looked liked a 400-pound version of Danny Devito (yes, he was as charming a sight as that sounds). The woman with them was gypsy-looking, but under the streetlights it was easy for me to assume she was just a run of the mill Mexican.

To coach each other during the scam, the scamsters occasionally switched from American-accented lower class white-style English (kind of like how the characters talk on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) to some unknown language. Interestingly, whatever this language was, they spoke the mystery language with regular American English accents. The psychological effect was quite strange: it was as if these guys were speaking English but your brain had stopped processing your own language. Perhaps it was some kind of Thieves' Cant. Were they gypsies? Irish travelers? Somebody else who had picked up gypsy culture on their own? Beats me.

It's not unknown in history for a group to take on aspects of a culture that they aren't related to by blood. For example, the great Russian novelists like Tolstoy were fascinated by how Christian Cossacks, typically Slavic serfs who had run off to Russia's southern steppe frontier, took on much of the horse-based culture of their Muslim enemies like the Kazakhs and the Chechens. (By the way, that's what Borat is ultimately about: Kazakhs = the hated Cossacks in Sacha Baron-Cohen's mind. And f you want to see what a gypsy village looks like, that's where Baron-Cohen filmed the section set in Borat's home town.)

The Irish travelers might be similar to the Cossacks in picking up traits from the gypsies. Or may not. Who knows, maybe some American carnies, say, study the gypsy style for clues on easy money? Or maybe it is all independent but convergent cultural evolution toward a lifestyle of mostly nonviolent criminal parasitism?

In summary, while it's correct to say that gypsies trace back genetically to India, their culture includes a sizable penumbra of people of various degrees of European ancestry. So, I wouldn't completely rule out that this little blonde girl had a gypsy-identifying mother and that one of the defendants' many stories of how they acquired her might be more true than the theory they they just snatched her off the street.
Ms. Dimopoulou had a second identification card giving her name as Selini Sali with a different date and place of birth. They will stand trial on charges of abducting a minor and forging official documents. ...
The case comes amid an increasingly acrimonious debate in Europe over how to integrate the Roma, a nomadic people who came to the Continent centuries ago from India, and who are also widely known as Gypsies. 
In France, President Fran├žois Hollande intervened over the weekend after a 15-year-old Roma girl was removed from a school bus and expelled to Kosovo, along with her parents and five siblings who had been living illegally in France for five years. After the case led to protests by student groups across the country, Mr. Hollande said the girl, Leonarda Dibrani, could return to France to finish her studies, but that her family would not be able to join her.

The case of Maria the little blonde girl comes as an unwelcome wrench in the gears of an international elite multiculti campaign led by the NYT based around the 15-year-old gypsy girl being arrested and deported with her family back to Kosovo by French authorities. (That was an ideal case for promoting The Narrative about white bigotry: this was a 15-year-old gypsy girl who was still in school.)

This kind of unwelcome news story drives the global Establishment nuts: they've got this human interest story all lined up to push their dominance, and then suddenly the Daily Mail and economically struggling papers like the L.A. Times discover a much more interesting human interest story that undermines the Narrative.

I learned about the story last Friday from the LA Times, which splashed it big without all that many excuses for gypsies.

Why? Gypsies kidnapping little blonde girls is exactly the kind of story that would intrigue Los Angeles' immense number of Latinos. In my experience, Mexicans are fascinated by the concept of malevolent gypsy fortune tellers putting curses on people. (For example, I'd never heard of Sam Raimi's 2009 horror film Drag Me to Hell when it came out, but L.A. Mexicans love it.) In the good old days, the high-toned LAT could ignore the tabloid tastes of Mexicans as long as the Mexicans kept paying for used car adds in the LAT's giant classifieds section, but post-Craig's List, the Grey Girl has to pander to L.A.'s new lowbrow demographics that the LAT so long editorialized in favor of acquiring.
At a time of grinding austerity and persistent unemployment across Europe, minorities and migrants are facing a growing political and economic backlash. The Roma, blighted by poverty and living in squalid housing on the outskirts of some European cities, have been singled out for attention.

An alternative interpretation of the sequence of cause and effect is that the Roma have been, predictably, doing things that attract attention. The main change is that the expansion of the EU allows gypsies to travel from their bases in Eastern Europe into richer, more naive Western Europe. When I say it was predictable, I mean I predicted this trend in a 2004 VDARE article "A Gypsy Is Haunting Europe ..." The NYT continues:
An estimated 11 million Roma are scattered across Europe. 
In Greece, officers’ suspicions were raised when they spotted the girl, who has light blond hair, pale skin and green eyes and bore no resemblance to the other camp residents. Subsequent DNA tests proved that she was not related to the Roma couple who were harboring her, the police said. ...
The Roma couple had given conflicting explanations to the police about how they acquired the girl – including that they had found her outside a supermarket when she was infant. Ultimately, they said they had adopted her after she was abandoned by her birth mother, a Bulgarian national. 
Panagiotis Tziovaras, the head of the Larissa police department, said Monday that it was possible the Roma couple was involved in human trafficking, state records showed them to have a total of 14 children registered in different parts of Greece. But he stressed that it was too early to draw any firm conclusions. 
“It could be an abduction, an illegal abduction, she could be a trafficking victim,” he said in a telephone interview. “We’re looking at all these options.”

We can't yet conclude that the child was kidnapped from her mother. In the chaos of gypsy culture, she might have been born to, say, a fair-skinned gypsy prostitute and traded along as a valuable commodity for use in begging and organized thievery. Gypsies use children all the time in their scams, and a child who doesn't look gypsy is less suspicion-arousing than their own children who do look like stereotypical gypsies. Also, if you are thinking about maiming a child to make her a better beggar, as in Slumdog Millionaire, you might wish to stockpile other people's children.

Child-stealing is an old stereotype about gypsies (e.g., the four-year-old Adam Smith was abducted by gypsies). Because it's a stereotype, it's fervently believed by the Great and the Good that it absolutely can't be true. That would mean that average people sometimes correctly notice patterns, and we can't have people noticing things for themselves. It's central to the dominant mindset that regular people can't notice patterns. Whether "can't" is used empirically or morally is left vague, with upholders of the conventional wisdom switching from one to the other.

My guess is that gypsy child-stealing really was a pattern, but it has largely disappeared because it elicited such ferocious reactions from the victims' communities. Europeans will put up with a lot of gypsy bad behavior, but not with child-stealing.
Documents found in the couple’s possession suggested that Ms. Dimopoulou had given birth to six of the 14 children within a 10-month period, the police official said, adding that Ms. Dimopoulou also had two police identity cards with different details and that Mr. Salis had been arrested for armed robbery in the past. 
... He said Maria’s case had “opened a Pandora’s box about what’s happening with the Roma and the exploitation of children in Greece but also in Europe.” He said there were no statistics to indicate how many children were victims of such rackets “because the authorities have not tackled the issue for fear of being accused of racism.” 
Representatives of the Roma community in Farsala appeared on several Greek television channels on Monday, asserting that Maria had been well-cared-for at the camp. The head of the Farsala Roma community, Babis Dimitriou, said that the real parents of the child were a Bulgarian Roma couple who had been at the camp last week during the police raid but had left. He expressed fears that the case would fuel discrimination against Roma in Greece and beyond.

After all, we can't have gypsies learning that there are boundaries of bad behavior that they can't cross, that child-stealing has consequences.

It will be interesting to see whether the global elite media gin up some other human interest case involving oppressed gypsies victimized by bigoted whites to distract from this one, or will drop the whole subject and imply that only lowbrows are at all interested in gypsies.

You might think that the keepers of the conventional wisdom would have decided to go easy on gypsy news the way they go easy on black crime news. It should have been utterly obvious that gypsy culture is extraordinarily sociopathic and parasitical, but instead, the NYT and co. chose to make a big deal out of the oppression of gypsies by whites. Maybe they just can't help themselves?

The inevitable embarrassment is now happening, but, as with the Trayvon Martin fiasco, if your hands are on the megaphone you can rewrite history a lot better than if your hands aren't.

For the NYT to drop its obsession with white oppression of gypsies and using gypsies as the main salient in the Immigration Wars seems easiest, but much of what you read in the prestige press is driven by a hyper-Leninist neurotic logic that "He who says A must say B ... and C and D and E and F." For example, if we let somebody get away with saying in public A -- "Gypsies have an unfortunate culture and they should try harder to be less of a burden on the rest of humanity" -- pretty soon they'll be shouting F from the church tops, and then the peasants with pitchforks will be coming after us.

I think this kind of neuroticism is bizarrely implausible, but you aren't supposed to criticize it, so it tends to fester and expand over time.

Is "Stereotype Threat" mostly publication bias?

Although the social sciences are considered a bastion of progressivism, it's remarkable how few data-driven ideas they generate in support of their ideology. We can get a feel for this by noting how rare are the "exceptions to the rule" studies that become immensely popular due to bolstering the dominant worldview, such as Hart & Risley's finding that black people don't talk enough and Claude Steele's little study of Stereotype Threat in which he induces black students at Stanford to score lower on a low stakes test of his devising than their high stakes SAT scores would predict. (I wrote about Stereotype Threat in VDARE.com in 2004, suggesting it's not hard to get across the message to black or female students that the professor wants them to not exert themselves fully on this meaningless test. That you can "prime" groups of people to work less hard on an unimportant test does not prove that you know how to make them score higher on an important test.)

Lately, the evidence has been mounting that the existence of Stereotype Threat is quite dependent upon the file drawer function: studies finding its existence are quickly published while studies not finding its existence are in much less demand.

Developmental Psychology
An Examination of Stereotype Threat Effects on Girls' Mathematics Performance 
Colleen M. Ganley, Leigh A. Mingle, Allison M. Ryan, Katherine Ryan, Marina Vasilyeva, and Michelle Perry 
Online First Publication, January 28, 2013. doi: 10.1037/a0031412
... Conclusion 
Taken together, the findings from published research, unpublished articles, and the present studies reveal inconsistency in the effects of stereotype threat on girls’ mathematics performance. The discrepancy in results from published and unpublished studies suggests publication bias, which may create an inaccurate picture of the phenomenon. A recent review suggests that this publication bias may also be an issue in the literature on stereotype threat in adult women (Stoet & Geary, 2012). Overall, these results raise the possibility that stereotype threat may not be the cause of gender differences in mathematics performance prior to college. Although we feel that more nuanced research needs to be done to truly understand whether stereotype threat impacts girls’ mathematics performance, we also believe that too much focus on this one explanation may deter researchers from investigating other key factors that may be involved in gender differences in mathematics performance. For example, there are a number of factors (e.g., mathematics anxiety, mathematics interest, spatial skills; see Ceci & Williams, 2010) that have been shown to be consistently related to mathematics performance and mathematics-and science-related career choices and may warrant more research attention than does stereotype threat.

And here's another study reaching a similar conclusion.