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From The Guardian:

Some Californians have found a new drought scapegoat: immigration

Group called Californians for Population Stabilization says it’s a matter of simple mathematics, with 10 million more people living in the state than 25 years ago

Andrew Gumbel in Los Angeles
Tuesday 26 May 2015 18.34

Some people blame California’s enduring drought on the nut farmers. Others vent against those in Beverly Hills, who keep their estates green while neighbours in the flatlands turn off sprinklers under threat of heavy fines.

Now comes the latest, perhaps inevitable, scapegoat: immigration.

As somebody who lives in the the flatlands over the mountains from Beverly Hills, I’m struck by how many people, such as this Guardian reporter, assume unthinkingly that Beverly Hills residents and immigrants are antonyms.

But the Census Bureau reports that 37.4% of the residents of Beverly Hills are foreign born.

I guess we’re all supposed to have been programmed to believe that immigrants are necessarily “huddled masses,” which doesn’t fit well in our heads with living large in Beverly Hills.

But if you grew up anywhere within 20 miles of Beverly Hills, you’d have started noticing the place filling up with immigrants right after OPEC raised oil prices in 1973. Persians and Arabs who had gotten rich back home — let’s not ask how — were appearing in large numbers by 40 years ago. Rodeo Drive leapt up into the stratosphere of luxury with some of the impetus coming from crazy shopkeepers like new immigrant Bijan of Beverly Hills.

It’s really hard to be aware of patterns that your ideology doesn’t encourage you to regard.

The Jewish Journal of Los Angeles has eye-opening articles on the subject, such as:

Is Your School Too Persian? Is Beverly Hills Too Jewish?
by Dr. Afshine Emrani
May 14, 2014 | 7:09 am

Here’s where the conversation starts, not ends.

There is an open wound that is infecting all Jews in Los Angeles. While across the street UCLA students are battling rampant anti-Semitism, at many of our temples and schools, we are facing anti-Persian bigotry. “This school is way too Persian. I wouldn’t send my kids there.” Chances are, if you are not Persian you have whispered this.

With the growing and dominant Persian culture in Los Angeles, this week, Sinai Akiba Academy ran a bold ad in the back of The Jewish Journal entitled “”Too Persian.” Looks awful in print? It sounds worse in a whisper.” This ad is a product of some six months of deliberation and committee meetings made up of both Persian and Ashkenazi members to combat a growing prejudice. However, some Persians are upset over this ad. I wonder if those angry have not read past the title.

… I often wonder if there were a Chinese revolution and all Chinese Jews came over to Nessah Israel (a prominent Persian Temple in Beverly Hills) would the Persians there be as gracious as the Ashkenazis have been to us? And what if the Chinese Jews dominated Sinai Temple?

These are important questions to address. They are not meant to be derogatory, nor humorous. Some believe that we should ignore the problem and it will go away. Others create major divides. But a wound is not cured by being ignored. An infection needs demarcation, treatment. Talking about an abstract concept of diversity and tolerance does very little. We need to bring to surface concrete issues. Here’s where the conversation starts, not ends. …

As a culture, we Persians can be overwhelming. Many of us feel that our status, jobs, finances entitle us to everything. We speak Farsi around those who don’t understand us. We, too, whisper about the “White” Americans. …

A large part of sending our kids to a private Jewish school is for the friends they keep. But what example do we set when Persian children don’t attend Ashkenazi birthday parties or vice versa? To be sure, there are many Persians that don’t want to go to schools that have too many Persians. There are Persians who are upset that their children cannot get into Pressman because “they only take Americans.” There are Persians and Ashkenazis that would prefer to go to non-Jewish private schools to avoid Persians.

And here’s one from The Forward by a Persian Jewish Beverly Hills lady about how Beverly Hills was a boring white bread (excuse me, “cream cheese”) Ashkenazi place until her vibrant relatives arrived:

How Iranian Jews Shaped Modern Los Angeles

Gina Nahai November 4, 2014

In no time at all, we went from being unknown to notorious.When I moved to Los Angeles in August 1977, perfectly intelligent, well-meaning Americans would ask me if we had roads and automobiles in Tehran, or if I had taken a camel to elementary school every day. The ones who did know Iran wanted to talk only about the ruins in Persepolis or Queen Farah’s jewels. Most people just couldn’t tell Iran from Iraq, Arab from Iranian, Shiite from Sunni. And they certainly couldn’t fathom such a thing as an Iranian Jew.

Oh, what a difference a year can make. By the summer of 1978, the high-rise condominium buildings in Westwood were filled to capacity with Iranians, and the kosher businesses in Pico-Robertson were tending to ever-increasing numbers of new customers. You would think this was a good thing.

Say what you will (and believe me, people do ) about the way Iranian Jews have changed the social and economic landscape of Los Angeles; the place is a hell of a lot more interesting because of it. I know because I was here for the “before” pictures. My parents had a house in Trousdale since 1976; they had family in Pasadena and Beverly Hills. That’s how I learned about cream cheese, broccoli and “All in the Family” — we spent summers here, watched a lot of TV, and ate McDonalds a few times a week.

Before the Iranians came, Beverly Hills was a sleepy little village populated by cranky Eastern European Jews and polyester-clad Episcopalians from the Midwest. Hollywood was an embarrassing slum. Santa Monica was a communist enclave, downtown one large skid row. The food was rich, heavy and unsophisticated, fancy department stores catered to 80-year-olds, and you couldn’t breathe the air without risking lung cancer on any day of the week.

We can’t take credit for cleaning up the air, but with everything else, the sudden rush of a largely educated, well-off, and worldly people was a spark that lit up the region with much needed verve and color. The Muslims, who far outnumbered other Iranian immigrants, scattered across the state, from San Diego to Irvine to Palo Alto, from JPL to Google. The Armenians rebuilt Glendale. But, as for the Jews…

Not that the Ashkenazim see it this way, but Iranian Jews just about saved Jewish LA from the slow, quiet decline into which it had been pushed by increasing assimilation and growing indifference on the part of younger generations. In the early and mid-1970s in LA, the major synagogues on the West Side and in the Valley were beset by shrinking memberships, their day schools half full

The mid-1970s was before busing of blacks into public schools in Jewish neighborhoods. Iranian Jews didn’t have all that much to do with subsequent Jewish Flight from newly integrated schools other than they didn’t feel any guilt about making sure their kids didn’t go to school with the black masses.

; Shabbat dinner was something you ate at Junior’s Deli on Pico or Nate ’n’ Al’s on Beverly Drive, and you had to be seriously observant to fast on Yom Kippur or eschew leavened bread on Passover. I exaggerate, of course, though not by much. And I generalize, but only to make a point.

… It saved us once and for all from an existence that had been precarious from the start and remained so, even during the best of times — the reign of Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlavi — because even then, we were dependent for our safety on the good graces of one man. The Iranian Jewish migration came at an exorbitant cost — emotional and otherwise — to the first generation, and though that’s not to be taken lightly, in the long run we are all better off for it.

For us it was a blessing in disguise. We would hear many Ashkenazim say:

There’s too many of them, they have too many relatives, their kids are spoiled, their wives too entitled, the men are too competitive in business, they’re all looking for a bargain and when they get one, they ask for even bigger discounts and concessions.

There’s too many of them and they’ve taken over Beverly Hills and Brentwood and Encino and Sherman Oaks and all the schools and synagogues, they turn up in the hundreds every time one of them dies and clog up the parking lot at the mortuary then they sit shiva for a week and receive hundreds more every day and clog up the street with their Bentleys and Maybachs.

There’s too many of them and they know they’re not liked so they pretend they’re anything but Iranian, they started out telling us they were Greek or Italian and some still do but the rest have moved on to claiming they’re Persian as if that’s different, but it’s like saying you served sausage for dinner instead of hotdog.

Note, please, that I said “many,” not “all” Ashkenazim feel this way. I know because they’ve told me, more than once, that this is how they feel. They usually start it with, “Don’t take this the wrong way but…”

The fact is, few people like having their backyards suddenly occupied by throngs of strangers, and all the more so if these newcomers look and act like nothing the locals have seen before. In the case of LA’s Iranian Jews, the culture shock to the natives was greater because the newcomers were unlike any previous group of immigrants: They weren’t poor, uneducated, lost and ashamed. If anything, they were too assertive, too proud of their cultural heritage, too determined to remain distinct and separate from the rest.

… And there were more serious grumblings: that Iranian Jews are cunning, sneaky, materialistic, vain, rude, intolerant and unwilling to assimilate.

I will say right now that some of us are those things.

… So Iranians don’t talk about themselves in public unless the news is good, and Americans shy away from going on record with their feelings about Iranians for fear of appearing intolerant. …

“All the trouble in this town started,” an American Jewish woman said to me one night before a packed crowd, “when the Iranians came and started to build those big houses.”

The person who said this was hosting a literary event at which I was the speaker. We were at her house in Brentwood Park, one of those neighborhoods where zoning laws require that every lot be at least an acre in size. The house itself was easily 10,000 square feet. I asked her if it was built by an Iranian. It wasn’t. I asked if Brentwood Park was developed by Iranians. It wasn’t. I asked if it wouldn’t be fair to say that the natives like big houses as much as the newcomers.

“But they’re buying everything up and down the street,” the lady said.

… The truth is, the Ashkenazim and Sephardim who dislike the Iranians do so not because of our differences, but because of our commonalities. We, Jews of all backgrounds, are not the easiest people in the world to live with.


Here’s a fun New Yorker article by Tad Friend, “Tomorrow’s Advance Man,” about former Netscape guy Marc Andreessen of the big Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. Something that’s not mentioned but that I always find interesting is that his partner Ben Horowitz is the son of famous writer David Horowitz.

Andreessen has lots of interesting things to say and isn’t terribly concerned about sometimes coming across as uncool.

I liked the part where Andreessen talks about his unhappy childhood in a Wisconsin farm town:

He had to drive an hour to find a Waldenbooks, in La Crosse; it was all cookbooks and cat calendars. So he later saw Amazon as a heroic disseminator of knowledge and progress. “Screw the independent bookstores,” he told me. “There weren’t any near where I grew up. There were only ones in college towns. The rest of us could go pound sand.”

Andreessen’s wife (whose father paid for much of Stanford’s recent rise to being a football power) points out:

The story underlying that story, Arrillaga-Andreessen told me—the secret—was that “Netscape was based on my beloved’s own inability, as a child, to access knowledge in a small town.”

That reminds me of just how awful most bookstores, small town or big city, were until the big Barnes & Nobles came along in the 1990s. The mall bookstores were just depressingly bad, shoving the worst imaginable books in your face. If you tried hard, you could find some good books on the back shelves, but getting to them made you hate books.

(For some reason, I failed to discover the local chain of Dutton independent bookstores in my area. That turned out to be embarrassing when the philosopher Dennis Dutton, the late founder of ALDaily.com, after finding out where I grew up excitedly emailed me about how I must have spent a lot of time in his parents’ famous old North Hollywood bookstore.)

I finally stumbled into a great bookstore, Stuart Brent’s on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, when I was 24. By the front door, the owner put a table of the dozen new nonfiction books that he felt you ought to read. The first two I picked up that day were William Manchester’s immensely readable Churchill biography The Last Lion and Modern Times by the then little known in America Paul Johnson.

My high school library and the small L.A. City public library on the corner were good, but I found the big university libraries at Rice and UCLA too immense to be pleasant, full of books that nobody had checked out in a decade (and with good reason).


From my new column in Taki’s Magazine:

Here’s another set of polarities to accompany previous concepts such as Fringe versus Core and High/Low versus Middle that are useful in grasping why some things in modern America are automatically assumed to be liberal and others conservative. This is a reductionist, one-dimensional perspective that hardly explains everything, but it does sum up broad tendencies:

Liberalism Is Expensive, Conservatism Is Cheap

Read the whole thing there.


David Brooks explains in the NYT:

Talent Loves English
MAY 26, 2015

Eight hundred years ago next month, English noblemen forced King John to sign the Magna Carta. It’s still having amazing effects on the world today. The Magna Carta helped usher in government with a separation of powers. It helped create conditions in which centralized authority could not totally control fiscal, political, religious or intellectual life. It helped usher in the modern Anglo-Saxon state model, with its relative emphasis on the open movement of people, ideas and things.

The Anglo-Saxon model has its plusses and minuses, but it is very attractive to people around the world. Today, as always, immigrants flock to nations with British political heritage. Forty-six million people in the United States are foreign born, almost 1 in 6. That’s by far the highest number of immigrants in any country in the world.

Canada, Australia and New Zealand are also immigrant magnets. The British political class was a set abuzz last week by a government report showing a 50 percent increase in net immigration in 2014 compared with 2013. The government has a goal of limiting immigration to 100,000 a year, but, in 2014, net inbound migration was estimated to be 318,000. Britain has the most diverse immigrant community of any nation on earth.

Some of the those people went to Britain from outside of Europe, but a great many flow from the sclerotic economies in the European Union: Italy, Spain and France. Compared with many other European countries, Britain is a job-creating paragon.

Across the English-speaking world, immigrants are drawn by the same things: relatively strong economies, good universities, open cultures and the world’s lingua franca.

The nature of global migration is slowly evolving, too. We have an image of immigrants as the poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free. According to this stereotype, immigrants are driven from their homes by poverty and move elsewhere to compete against the lowest-skilled workers.

But immigrants do not come from the poorest countries. Nations like Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Niger — some of the poorest countries in the world — have some of the lowest outmigration rates. Less than 3 percent of their populations live outside their borders. Their citizens don’t have the resources to move.

Instead, immigrants tend to come from middle-class countries, and they migrate to rich, open ones. You might have thought that as the world gets more middle class, global immigration would decline because of more opportunity at home. In fact, the reverse is happening. As the developing world gets more middle class, immigration has increased because educational and income gains have led to ever higher aspirations.

The situation is complex. Less than a decade ago, six Mexicans migrated to the United States for every Indian or Chinese. But as Mexico has prospered, immigration has dropped. Meanwhile, as India and China have gotten richer, the number of Indians and Chinese living abroad has doubled.

Some of the Asian immigrants are quite wealthy. According to the China International Immigration Report, among Chinese with assets of more than $16 million, 27 percent had emigrated abroad and an additional 47 percent were considering such a move.

Hopefully before they get put in front of a firing squad in Beijing’s latest anti-corruption campaign.

And this talent pool has barely been tapped. According to a Gallup survey in 2012, 22 million Chinese wanted to move to the U.S., as did 10 million Indians, 3 million Vietnamese and a surprising 5 million Japanese.

In short, it might be time to revise our stereotypes about the immigration issue. A thousand years ago, a few English noblemen unwittingly heralded in a decentralized political and intellectual model. … It’s a model that is relatively friendly to outsider talent. We didn’t earn this model; we’re the lucky inheritors.

Meanwhile, globalization, with all its stresses and strains, has created a large international class of middle-class dreamers: university graduates who can’t fulfill their aspirations at home and who would enrich whatever nation is lucky enough to have them.

In this context, Hillary Clinton’s daring approach to immigration, supporting a “path to citizenship” for undocumented immigrants already in the United States, is clearly the right one. The Republican Party is insane if its conducts a 21st-century immigration policy based on stereotypes from the 1980s.

Okay …

I really should have trimmed more, but it’s such a seamless whole. Line after line, Brooks just keeps topping himself.

Anyway, what I was wondering was: Does anybody know what duty the Israel Defense Force has assigned David Brooks’ son, the one who enlisted in the Israeli army? It would be kind of ironic if Brooks the Younger turned out to be one of the Israeli soldiers keeping out African economic migrants at Israel’s new border fence, like in this photo:


From Britain in 1831

I wrote back in 2003:

UCLA sociologist Roger Waldinger observed, “Heavy immigrant densities make the Mexican-American districts into rotten boroughs, where only a small proportion of the adult population votes, a situation that does little to encourage electoral competition or mobilization.” (The term “rotten borough” comes from 18th and 19th-Century British politics, a time when some Parliamentary districts notoriously held but a literal handful of voters.)

The rotten borough effect is also visible in California’s congressional elections. For example, in the luxurious Hollywood Hills, in congressional District 30 where 8 percent of the population is Hispanic, veteran Beverly Hills Democrat Henry Waxman won re-election last November in a race in which all the candidates combined drew 184,000 votes. In distinct contrast, in nearby congressional District 31, a 70-percent Hispanic area that includes East L.A., Democrat Xavier Becerra gained another term in a contest in which 67,000 voters showed up.

This interpretation of the law that creates Hispanic rotten boroughs is not without its critics. In the majority opinion of the 1998 7th Circuit federal case “Barnett vs. City of Chicago,” Judge Richard A. Posner ruled, “We think that citizen voting-age population is the basis for determining equality of voting power that best comports with the policy of the (Voting Rights) statute. … The dignity and very concept of citizenship are diluted if non-citizens are allowed to vote either directly or by the conferral of additional voting power on citizens believed to have a community of interest with the non-citizens.”

That decision applies only to three Midwestern states, however. The Supreme Court has yet to rule definitively on the issue.

From today’s New York Times:

Supreme Court Agrees to Settle Meaning of ‘One Person One Vote’


WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to hear a case that will answer a long-contested question about a bedrock principle of the American political system: the meaning of “one person one vote.”

Obviously, we don’t give one vote to one person — or at least not yet we don’t let anybody who sneaks into the country vote. But we typically count them for drawing up state legislator and House districts, which seems like an oversight from the Warren Court’s era of low immigration.

The court’s ruling, expected in 2016, could be immensely consequential. Should the court agree with the two Texas voters who brought the case, its ruling would shift political power from cities to rural areas, a move that would benefit Republicans.

The court has never resolved whether voting districts should have the same number of people, or the same number of eligible voters. Counting all people amplifies the voting power of places with large numbers of residents who cannot vote legally, including immigrants who are here legally but are not citizens, illegal immigrants, children and prisoners. Those places tend to be urban and to vote Democratic.

It doesn’t always work that way. A lot of Republican-leaning districts in inland California used to benefit from having a lot of ineligible Hispanics counted in drawing up the district: e.g., Sonny Bono’s widow in Palm Springs. But Mary Bono lost to a Latino in 2012. Thus, it’s not a winning strategy for Republicans in the long term.

Also, there are several potential intermediate levels between counting everybody, whether here legally or illegally, and counting only eligible voters. For example, as Judge Posner suggests, you could count all voting age American citizens (including felons who have lost their voting rights since they are still our fellow American citizens). Or you could count legal immigrants as well.

The bottom line is that the current system of counting illegal immigrants is absurd, while other alternatives are least arguable.


From the New York Times:

Appeals Court Denies Bid to Let Obama Immigration Plan Proceed

A federal appeals court on Tuesday denied the Obama administration’s request to lift a hold on the president’s executive actions on immigration, which would have granted protection from deportation as well as work permits to millions of immigrants in the country illegally.

Two of three judges on a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, left in place an injunction by a Federal District Court judge in Brownsville, Tex. The ruling comes in a lawsuit filed by Texas and 25 other states against actions President Obama took in November. Many of the initiatives were scheduled to take effect this month.

The appeals court found that the states had sufficient legal grounds to bring the lawsuit and that the administration had not shown that it would be harmed if the injunction remained in place and the programs were further delayed.

Also denied was a request by the administration to limit the injunction to the states bringing the lawsuit. The ruling is a second setback for programs the president hoped would be a major piece of his legacy, raising new uncertainty about whether they will take effect before the end of his term and casting doubts on the confidence of administration lawyers that their case was very strong.

The lawsuit was filed in December and on Feb. 16, Judge Andrew S. Hanen, of Federal District Court in Brownsville ordered a preliminary injunction on the programs while he ruled on the constitutional issues in the suit.

In a statement, Ken Paxton, the attorney general of Texas, said Mr. Obama had tried to impose “a drastic change in immigration policy” without the consent of Congress. The appeals court decision is “a victory for those committed to preserving the rule of law in America,” Mr. Paxton said. “We will continue to fight the brazen lawlessness that has become a trademark of the Obama administration.”

White House officials said the ruling was not surprising, but they declined to discuss the next legal move for the administration.

“Today, two judges of the Fifth Circuit chose to misrepresent the facts and the law,” a White House spokeswoman, Brandi Hoffine, said. “The president’s actions were designed to bring greater accountability to our broken immigration system, grow the economy and keep our communities safe. They are squarely within the bounds of his authority and they are the right thing to do for the country.”

The Justice Department could appeal the ruling on the emergency stay to the full appeals court, but legal experts said it was more likely that the administration would skip that conservative court and ask the Supreme Court to allow the programs to proceed.

The legal wrangling suggests that Mr. Obama and his aides may have underestimated the legal and political challenges to offering protections to more than four million illegal immigrants without a congressional vote.

Yeah, there’s such a thing as “prosecutorial discretion,” but DAs aren’t allowed to print up 5 million Get Out of Jail Free cards and hand them out to relatives of their political supporters.


Via @charlesmurray, at West Hunter anthropologist Henry Harpending writes:

Briefly we are likely to find dad males/coy females in ecological situations where male labor and resources are critical for successful reproduction. Think of labor-intensive agriculture, European peasants and Asian farmers, as examples. In the United States in the past, “working class” meant stable mated pairs who together provisioned and cared for children. An archetype of working class in American television was Archie Bunker.

Social organization with cad males and fast females is found prominently among tropical gardeners where women provide most of the food for themselves and their children as well as for the men, who are often just parasites on the women. The euphemism in economics for these societies is “female farming systems”. These share many characteristics with our industrial “underclass” in which women have no ecological force pushing them into long term stable pair bonds.

Notice that in each of the above descriptions there are two hands clapping: in cad/fast social systems neither a coy female nor a dad male does very well while in dad/coy systems neither a fast females nor a cad male does very well. The two polar social types are deeply rooted in contemporary politics. The zany feminism of the 1980s (“a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle”) precisely advocated the cad/fast setup. Our religious right with its chatter about “the natural family” and “stable marriages” and the like pushes hard for a dad/coy world.

Back to our our social engineers who know biology. They share a goal of a society in which dad males mate with coy females because children enjoy the care and security of a stable home and streets safe from gunfire. The new policy is simple: welfare payments are to be given only to males.

Henry promises an upcoming post with details on how to make this work.


From CBS in Baltimore:

It’s the deadliest month Baltimore has seen in more than 15 years. More than two dozen shootings over the holiday weekend alone have city police working around the clock.

I wouldn’t be surprised if, following the indictments of six Baltimore cops, the other cops are “working” a large fraction of each shift in the donut shop. That’s what happened when social justice came to NYC with Mayor John Lindsay in 1965. You can’t violate anybody’s civil rights while stopping for a donut.

Now, leaders hope community members come forward to help stop the violence.

From West Baltimore, to the East Side, Govans, to Reservoir Hill – a spike in weekend violence is plaguing all parts of the city. Over the Memorial Day Weekend alone – city police report 28 shootings and 9 homicides.

But the cops didn’t shoot any of the 28, so who cares?


From Vox:

Someone did a statistical analysis of New Yorker cartoons and it’s actually pretty depressing

Updated by Joseph Stromberg on May 25, 2015

But Matt J. Michel and the series’ other authors actually looked at real data — they coded every cartoon the magazine published in 2014 — and they came to some pretty depressing findings about the portrayal of non-white dudes in one of the country’s most liberal magazines.

Women and minorities are way under-represented in these cartoons …

Children might not read the New Yorker, but adults are impressionable too. The fact that the default setting for its cartoon characters is white and male — and that when women appear, they’re most often wives or mothers — subtly drives home stereotypes in much the same way.


A recent study of the Billboard pop charts over a half century, “The Evolution of Popular Music, USA 1960-2010,” by four scholars (including human biodiversity researcher Armand M. Leroi) has been getting a lot of publicity for identifying three years of pop musical revolution: 1964, 1983, and (more questionably) 1991:

The team started with the complete list of US chart topping songs in the form of the US Billboard Hot 100 from 1960 to 2010. To analyse the music itself, they used 30-second segments of more than 80 per cent of these singles — a total of more than 17,000 songs. …

Instead, they say that the evolution of music between 1960 and 2010 was largely constant but punctuated by periods of rapid change. “We identified three revolutions: a major one around 1991 and two smaller ones around 1964 and 1983,” they say.

The characters of these revolutions were all different with the 1964 revolution being the most complex. … soul and rock-related tags. At the same time, styles 3 and 6 declined, enriched for tags such as doowop.

The 1983 revolution is associated with an increase in popularity of songs with tags such as new wave, disco and hard rock and a decline in soft rock and country tags.

The 1991 revolution is associated with the rise of rap-related tags.

1964 was of course The Beatles, although the researchers say that styles were already changing, and thus The Beatles had the wind at their backs.

1983 was the year of MTV, when a lot of younger bands that were built for music videos shoved aside older bands that couldn’t compete visually. MTV introduced to a broad audience a lot of the colder tendencies in music that had been proliferating on the commercial fringes during the previous New Wave era, while the blues and soul-based styles had remained dominant on the pop charts since 1964.

But MTV bands tended to be one hit wonders.

I’m wondering, though, if this study is exaggerating 1991 as a year of change because there was a massive methodological shift in how Billboard created its pop charts early in that year. Before 1991 Billboard made a few calls to record stores to find out what was selling (and/or what the record companies were sending interns out to buy out to juice records up the charts).

But in Spring 1991 Billboard shifted to Nielsen’s SoundScan data from checkout scanners, which included big box retailers like Walmart. I can recall standing at a magazine rack in Walmart in late 1991 reading about how the music industry was recoiling in shock and disgust at the news that Garth Brooks and N.W.A. were actually superstars but nobody except their accountants had known. From a 1992 Spin article by Nathaniel Wice:

Last spring, Billboard’s chart compilers replaced the old corruption-prone system — which relied on store manager’s reports — with SoundScan, a computerized tally of retail sales. SoundScan revealed that marginal genres have much stronger sales than previously thought. Nirvana — and N.W.A., Garth Brooks, and Metallica — wouldn’t have come close to No. 1 under the old system. Of course, the charts don’t just report tastes; they also amplify and shape them.

Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” for example, was initially seen as too noisy for album-oriented rock radio stations, but there was no denying the SoundScan data that it was selling. So everybody started playing it and it became a gigantic hit.

So the change in Billboard’s methodology had real world consequences that this study is picking up. But since we don’t know as well what was selling in, say, 1990, it’s questionable to say that 1991 was the Most Important Year in Pop Music History.

By the way, 1991 was just a terrible year if you look at social statistics, particularly for blacks who were self-destructing, perhaps under the influence of gangsta rap groups like N.W.A. who were glamorizing the crack dealer lifestyle.

I sort of missed the music of 1988-1992 because I bought a stripped down Accord in 1988 without a radio because I was tired of getting my car window smashed once a year by thieves in Chicago. Then in 1993 I got a job in the suburbs and got a second car, this one with a radio. I was a lot older by then, but I was surprised that the music on the rock stations sounded better when I was 34 in 1993 than when I had been 29 in 1988. So, yeah, the grunge era really was pretty good.


Belize is a country of 331,000 that’s a backwater even by Central American standards. But the Eye of Soros has now turned its attention upon Belize. From a giant article in the New York Times Magazine:

The Lonely Fight Against Belize’s Antigay Laws

Can one challenge to a statute criminalizing sodomy create a domino effect in the Caribbean?


… Opponents made much of the fact that Unibam receives all of its budget, around $35,000 a year, from foreign governments and foundations, including the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives, the Swiss Embassy in Mexico City and the Open Society Foundations. “Is Unibam being used for a foreign gay agenda?” one news station asked. The Amandala, the nation’s largest newspaper, published a page-­long editorial under the headline “UNIBAM DIVIDES BELIZE.” “Homosexuals are predators of young and teenaged boys,” wrote the editor in chief, Russell Vellos.

Almost nobody ever gets prosecuted under these laws: Belize is not the kind of place where laws get enforced as a matter of routine.

But Belize has a lot of poor young males, and even dusty, unenforced laws can deter business interests from investing heavily in the kind of gay sex tourism infrastructure seen in Haiti, Morocco, and many Latin American countries.

A couple of years ago, Moroccan citizens finally started to dare to protest the entrenched gay sex tourism industry when the King of Morocco pardoned a European pedophile.


I was walking down the street today and went past the block where there are now six mattress stores, all holding their Memorial Day Weekend Mattress Blowout. There used to be only three or so mattress stores on this block, but three more have opened in the last year or two to make sure that the neighborhood’s mattress-buying needs are fully met.

Similarly, down in Orange County there’s Anaheim’s Mile of Tile with approximately 150 tile and stone flooring stores in one spot. Here in the San Fernando Valley we’re not so blessed, but we do have the Block of Rock on Sherman Way.

John Nash, who was played by Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind and died last week at age 86 in a hired car crash, is the mathematician who worked out the game theory for why all the mattress stores end up in the same block.

By the way, always buckle your seatbelt when in the backseat of a car being driven by a professional. Harry Baldwin points out:

When I had a corporate job, I often used car services. I noticed that a lot of the drivers were noticeably bad at their job. At first I thought, shouldn’t a professional driver be better than the amateur, just as a plumber or electrician is better than the average do-it-yourselfer? Then I realized people don’t get a job as a driver because they’re good at driving. They get the job because they’re not good at anything else, either.


From the NYT:

Fusion Media Aims at Millennials, but Struggles to Find Its Identity

In 2011, when Isaac Lee, president of news for Univision, set out to persuade his company and Disney to back Fusion, a digital news service and cable channel he wanted to start, he promised nothing less than the holy grail: young viewers for the older media conglomerates.

He played a slide show in which a middle-aged white man transformed into a young brown woman. The executives present were dazzled.

… Fusion has grown quickly, with 250 employees and offices in Miami, New York, Washington, D.C., Boulder, Colo., and Oakland, Calif. …

Its web traffic late last year, according to internal figures obtained by The New York Times, dropped as low as 23,000 page views on some days.

Let’s see, 23,000 page views divided by 250 employees … let me get my calculator …

Mr. Madrigal described the organization in simple terms: “Fusion is a cable and digital network that is championing a more diverse and inclusive America.” It will do so by hiring those who are “naturally and natively interested in things that the rising generation of people in America are interested in,” he added. That will include television shows on topics like prisons …

After all, what advertiser doesn’t want a captive audience?

Fusion is also a cable television network, with some curious programming choices. For example, on Sundays it runs The Chris Gethard Show: The Public Access Years for 14 straight hours from 5 am to 7 pm.

The watch words of the Fusion TV network are “News, Pop Culture, Satire” — the goal apparently is to be a 24×7 The Daily Show with Jon Stewart for young English-speaking Hispanics.

But assuming that Fusion survives The Chris Gethard Years, is this a truly dazzling strategy?

Or is it a bunch of white executives strategizing over how to stick it to the old white men who watch Fox News by politically mobilizing the diverse masses of young brown women who, we’re assuming, are desperate for left-of-center political commentary? They are, aren’t they?

I’ve noticed that it takes a fair amount of Googling to find entertainment data, such as Nielsen ratings, for Hispanics. One reason for this is because Nielsen has a monopoly and thus traditionally does a lackadaisical job. Another reason is that Hispanic media choices are not very distinctive. They tend to like whatever everybody else likes.

This is in sharp contrast to black tastes, which are very black. Here are recent Nielsen ratings:

Ranked on Households
Week Ending May 10

# PROGRAMS Net Rtg P2+(000)
1 SCANDAL ABC 14.5 2656
6 BLACK-ISH ABC 6.4 1267
7 NCIS CBS 6.2 1085
8 CHICAGO PD NBC 6.0 1128
* Ratings based on 13.65 million African American TV homes.
Source: Nielsen

Blacks love Shonda Rhimes’ Scandal (starring Kerry Washington as a Washington PR fixer) and the NBA. Blacks ratings are much more concentrated than for Hispanics because blacks like shows with blacks in them and don’t really care about shows such as Big Bang Theory and Modern Family without major black characters.

And here are Nielsen ratings for shows in English among Hispanics, which look a lot like the overall ratings.

Ranked on Households
Week Ending May 10

# PROGRAMS Net Rtg P2+(000)
3 SCANDAL ABC 3.0 592
4 NCIS CBS 2.9 565
6 DWS: THE RESULTS SHOW-5/5(S)-05/05/2015 ABC 2.8 567
6 VOICE NBC 2.8 568
9 BLACK-ISH ABC 2.7 585
Source: Nielsen

Latinos like dancing, but in general this looks a lot like the overall ratings. Here are the ratings for everybody of all ethnicities, although for the following week (does it take Nielsen an extra week to massage their black and Hispanic ratings?)

Ranked on Households
Week Ending May 17

Rtg% Shr (000) # Rtg% (000)
1 NCIS CBS 9.3 16 10852 1 5.0 14939
2 DANCING WITH THE STARS ABC 8.6 14 10048 2 4.6 13479
3 NCIS: NEW ORLEANS CBS 8.5 14 9878 2 4.6 13610
4 DWS:THE RESULTS SHOW-5/12(S) ABC 6.7 11 7820 5 3.4 10159
5 BILLBOARD MUSIC AWARDS(S) ABC 6.5 11 7573 4 3.8 11181
6 VOICE NBC 6.2 10 7192 5 3.4 10051
7 BIG BANG THEORY, THE CBS 6.1 11 7082 7 3.2 9567
8 VOICE-TUE NBC 5.8 10 6698 9 3.1 9138
9 60 MINUTES CBS 5.7 11 6692 10 3.0 8989
9 GREY’S ANATOMY ABC 5.7 10 6636 13 2.8 8332
9 SCANDAL ABC 5.7 10 6591 16 2.7 8079

It doesn’t hurt the Hispanic ratings of Modern Family, a fairly sophisticated sitcom that the cast includes the highly entertaining Sofia Vergara, who is the ultimate evolution of the blonde bimba going back at least to Charo, but mostly English-speaking Hispanics seem to watch what everybody else is watching, only more so.


Few things get SJWs angrier than male nerds contributing to the common good for free. For example, from the Crooked Timber blog for conventionally minded academics:

Where are the women in the history of open source?


Hi – Sumana Harihareswara here. You might remember me from my April guest post about free/open source software, licensing, and codes of conduct in open communities. … Today I’m considering where we got frameworks that we free software/open source folks often take for granted, and specifically what might have been erased from our intellectual heritage due to sexism.

What’s missing?

If you ask some people about the history of free software, you hear about Richard Stallman creating the GNU Public License and formulating the Four Freedoms. …

Some people will tell you a bit about Stallman, and then discuss how Eric S. Raymond wrote “The Cathedral and the Bazaar” and articulated more pragmatic language for open source folks to use, and how permissive licenses helped popularize open source. …

But in any case — where the f*** are the women?

Getting paid to program?

I recently started looking back at the narrative I’ve been told about the origins of free and open source software, the male-centric narrative about Richard Stallman and Eric Raymond that I’ve repeated a zillion times as a teacher. I’ve corrected my understanding of my general software engineering heritage to correct for biases, so I’ve reclaimed a heritage that has tons of gender diversity. But what about my open source history? Approximately every field in history has suppressed or hidden contributions by women, so I figure it’s safe to assume that open source philosophy is similar, and proceed on that basis. Whom am I missing?

You can do a reality check on the notion that the contributions of women to computer programming were covered up in the past simply by looking up the Pentagon’s massive attempt to impose its Ada language on the programmers of the world. Back in the 1970s’s the Department of Defense wanted to radically reduce the number of programming languages in use by contractors, so it sponsored a new language, which it named after Lord Byron’s daughter. Ada was a huge deal when I took a course in programming in 1980. From Wikipedia (which, granted, is mostly written for free by men):

In May 1979, the Green proposal, designed by Jean Ichbiah at CII Honeywell Bull, was chosen and given the name Ada—after Augusta Ada, Countess of Lovelace. … The Military Standard reference manual was approved on December 10, 1980 (Ada Lovelace’s birthday), and given the number MIL-STD-1815 in honor of Ada Lovelace’s birth year. …

Ada attracted much attention from the programming community as a whole during its early days. Its backers and others predicted that it might become a dominant language for general purpose programming and not just defense-related work. Ichbiah publicly stated that within ten years, only two programming languages would remain, Ada and Lisp. Early Ada compilers struggled to implement the large, complex language, and both compile-time and run-time performance tended to be slow and tools primitive. …

In 1987, the US Department of Defense began to require the use of Ada (the Ada mandate) for every software project where new code was more than 30% of result, though exceptions to this rule were often granted. …

The Department of Defense Ada mandate was effectively removed in 1997, as the DoD began to embrace COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) technology.

You may recall Ada as another costly Pentagon boondoggle, but obviously your memories are poisoned by sexism.

Similarly, if you are of a certain age, you may recall how 1940s programmer Admiral Grace Hopper of COBOL fame was constantly feted in her old age with honors and promotions. Wikipedia lists 29 different honors bestowed upon her from 1969 onward, but that’s lumping together the more than 40 honorary degrees she received. But once again, the Wikipedia list was probably put together by some man for free, so it’s no doubt sexist.


A reader sends a story from Montreal alleging that an apparently prominent French language war correspondent maybe sort of kind of made up some of his biggest scoops. I never heard of the guy before, so I have no opinion on the allegations. But it’s an opportunity for me to transcribe a famous passage from Scoop, the 1938 novel about foreign correspondents covering the Ethiopian War, by Evelyn Waugh:

That afternoon Corker told William a great deal about the craft of journalism … Many of Corker’s anecdotes dealt with the fabulous Wenlock Jakes. “… syndicated all over America. Gets a thousand dollars a week. When he turns up in a place you can bet your life that as long as he’s there it’ll be the news center of the world.”

“Why, once Jakes went out to cover a revolution in one of the Balkan capitals. He overslept in his carriage, woke up at the wrong station, didn’t know any different, went straight to a hotel, and cabled off a thousand word story about barricades in the streets, flaming churches, machine guns answering the rattle of his typewriter as he wrote, a dead child, like a broken doll, spread-eagled in the deserted roadway below his window — you know.

“Well they were pretty surprised at his office, getting a story like that from the wrong country, but they trusted Jakes and splashed it in six national newspapers. That day every special in Europe got orders to rush to the new revolution. They arrived in shoals. Everything seemed quiet enough but it was as much as their jobs were worth to say so, with Jakes filing a thousand words of blood and thunder a day. So they chimed in too. Government stocks dropped, financial panic, a state of emergency declared, army mobilized, famine, mutiny and in less than a week there was an honest to God revolution under way, just as Jakes had said. There’s the power of the Press for you.

“They gave Jakes the Nobel Peace Prize for his harrowing descriptions of the carnage — but that was color stuff.”

Jakes is usually said to be modeled (not terribly fairly) on John Gunther, the Chicago Daily News reporter who wrote numerous bestsellers such as Inside Europe and Inside U.S.A., but is best known today for his sad memoir Death Be Not Proud about his teenage son’s death from a brain tumor.

As part of the usual lattice of coincidence, when reading up on Don Draper of Mad Men, I noticed that the first episode, which culminates with Don flooring his Lucky Strike cigarette clients by dreaming up the cornball slogan “It’s Toasted,” is a very loose adaptation of the life story of early 20th Century Chicago ad man Albert Lasker.

This was the classic example of Mad Men’s strategy of pandering to viewers by both wowing them with period porn, but then reassuring them that, while life in the U.S.A. in 1960 may look better than your own life, everybody back then was so unhip as to think “It’s Toasted” was a great slogan. So aren’t you glad you don’t actually live in an era so uncool that workers all left the office right at 5:15 PM?

In reality, “It’s Toasted” comes up in Lasker’s life story as an example of how unhep Lucky Strike was before Lasker got the account in the mid-1920s and set about to liberate women to smoke in public. In the business press, Lasker stories are everywhere, many of them lifted from the 1960 authorized biography Taken at the Flood: The Story of Albert D. Lasker by … John Gunther.


From a 2008 NYT article on Mad Men by Alex Witchel:

Weiner was born in Baltimore, the third of four children, and he lived there until his family moved to Los Angeles in 1975, when he was 9.

His father, Dr. Wiener, worked at Johns Hopkins in the Baltimore ‘hood, so it’s not implausible to wonder if the Wieners were guilty of the the now much denounced practice of “white flight.” As we all know, when white people leave cities due to black criminality, they are actually causing, using their White Privilege Time Machine, the black criminality they reacted to.

“Mad Men” a few seasons ago actually took a surprisingly realistic line on the rise of black crime in NYC in the 1960s: suggesting that it happened (i.e., it wasn’t some kind of mass white psychosis) and that it was bad.

But having engaged in white flight is a psychologically fraught topic for white liberals, especially for white liberal Jews who are in the business of telling everybody else how to remember the past, so it tends to lead to issues that may ramify in indirect fashions.

His family, perhaps looking for a very high quality neighborhood that couldn’t flip black, moved to the oldest old money neighborhood west of downtown, Hancock Park, near the La Brea Tar Pits and the LA County Art Museum. While most of the wealthy neighborhoods in the city of Los Angeles are heavily Jewish, Hancock Park was only moderately Jewish and even had old money WASPs like the Chandlers, the family that owned the L.A. Times, living there.

His father, Leslie P. Weiner, is an acclaimed neuroscientist; the neurological care and research center at the University of Southern California is named for him. His mother, Judith, graduated from law school in the 1970s but never practiced.

Weiner defines his upbringing as “middle class.”

Of course, all this class stuff is relative. You might say that Wiener’s class glass is 99 percent full, but that’s not how he looked at it. He looked at the old money WASPs who lived on his street and was tormented by his class glass being 1 percent empty.

That’s how you get ahead in this world.

I’m reminded of how George W. Bush, growing up, always felt that rich Eastern liberals were putting him down for being a Texan. Granted, his grandfather Senator Prescott Bush was a rich Eastern liberal Republican United States Senator, but that wasn’t the point, the point was that GWB felt motivated by the sneers of rich Eastern liberals and that resentment pushed him to rise higher in his career than many who knew him young expected of him.

Weiner attended the Harvard School in Los Angeles, now Harvard-Westlake. Despite his difficulties there — A.P. History was his one success — he got into Wesleyan, from which he graduated in 1987. “My major was a program that combined philosophy, literature and history,” he recalled. “It had no grades, and I remember getting my first comments back and my father looking at my comments and saying: ‘Isn’t this interesting? I can read this comment and I can see that you got a C.’ ”

What do his parents think of the show?

“I think they love the show,” he said.

He thinks? They haven’t told him?

“Ah, not really. I think they like to tell other people more than they like to tell me.”

Daddy issues, kind of like GWB ..

After Wesleyan, Weiner got into U.S.C. film school with some direct lobbying of the dean by his father. “He was instrumental in making sure I got in, with my academic major that had no grades,” Weiner said. “My family has never shied away from supporting me in being a writer. Our house is filled with books; my parents are both incredible readers.”

Just as George W. Bush eked into Yale and Harvard Business School with some background privilege and family pull, Matthew Weiner eked into the best known track to Hollywood success — Wesleyan and USC Film School — with some background privilege and family pull.

In both cases, it just made them resent their chosen bad guys more (interestingly, both more or less conceived of their enemies as Establishment WASPs: the personification of everything GWB hated about Yale was the school newspaper editor Strobe Talbott III, who went on to be the main Democratic expert on Russia).

And that anger-is-an-energy phenomenon motivated them to rise high in their careers.

Such is the way of the world.


Mad Max and the Feral Kid, Road Warrior, 1981

My son called my attention to the fan theory going around that Mad Max: Fury Road is a more satisfying movie if you assume that Tom Hardy is not playing Mel Gibson’s character Max.

Instead, assume Fury Road takes place about three decades after the first three movies, and that Hardy is instead playing Max’s orphan sidekick from Road Warrior, the Feral Kid, now grown up. The Feral Kid is the nonverbal wild child Max sends out on the hood of the truck in climax of the great car chase in Road Warrior.

This would make some aspects of Fury Road better:

- Hardy’s struggles with his diction, swinging from grunts to over-formality, don’t sound much like Gibson’s character’s easy affability, but make more sense if you assume Hardy is playing the former mute child who didn’t learn how to speak until he was about ten.

- It makes a tic in the screenplay less annoying: Charlize Theron keeps asking Tom Hardy his name, and finally toward the end he says, big whoop, “Max.” That’s the name on the marquee, right? But what if Hardy’s character isn’t named Max? Maybe “Max” is to him more of an honorific that he has finally earned for himself over the course of this movie by emulating the legendary hero he knew before he could speak.

- Hardy kind of looks like a grown-up movie star version of the Feral Kid.

- Fury Road’s hero’s flashbacks to a lost loved one are to a little girl, but Mad Max famously lost a little boy to the bad guys in the 1979 first movie.

- The circumstances of Fury Road, such as the pervasive problem of birth defects among young males caused, presumably, by mutations due to nuclear war fallout, make more sense if you assume this movie takes place a generation after the earlier movies.

- And it holds open the option of casting Mel as the aged Max in a future sequel.

I’m sure there are holes in this theory, but it makes me like Fury Road considerably more than I did before I heard it.

The Age of Franchises in movies has some interesting effects on storytelling, such as making a virtue out of keeping your options open. You can float trial balloons over the Internet and see what fans think.

By the way, at the end of Road Warrior, the Feral Kid narrates that, after learning how to talk, he eventually became the leader of the Good People Tribe:


A nonwhite and a white: Matthew Weiner and George Lucas

One of the more striking aspects of Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner’s recently flurry of interviews is his repeated distinction between Jews and “whites.” I wanted to come up with a picture of Matthew White with a black person to see if system of categorization makes much sense, but while Weiner gets his picture taken frequently, he does not get his picture taken with blacks or other nonwhites very much at all. The only black I could find him photographed with is film critic Elvis Mitchell below. For comparison sake, above is Weiner with George Lucas, who is primarily of British ancestry.

For example, from Salon:

Two nowhites: Elvis Mitchell and Matthew Weiner

MONDAY, MAR 30, 2015 03:59 PM PDT

Matthew Weiner on “Mad Men” and the Jewish experience: “It’s the same story as Don’s identity”

Weiner discussed depicting “Jews coming into their own in postwar America” at a Museum of Jewish Heritage event


This weekend, “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner sat down with New York magazine film critic Matt Zoller Seitz at New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage …

“I don’t like sweeping generalizations about the show, but if you want to say it’s the story of how we all feel like outsiders, absolutely,” said Weiner (who joked that “the only insider in this whole thing is Roger”). Throughout the evening, Weiner repeatedly emphasized the horizontal experience of marginalization; as he put it, “That [assimilated Jewish] identity is the same story as Don’s identity — how do we become white, how do I get my kid to go to Wesleyan so he can be in that line, what’s it going to take?” (Wesleyan, by the way, is where Weiner went to college.)

Here are some of the other fascinating ideas that came up:

On Rachel Mencken:

It can be tough to remember at this point, considering the number of mistresses Don has had, but one of his first extramarital relationships on the show was with Jewish department store heiress Rachel Mencken. Right from the get-go, her presence was a way for the show to explore the racism that was such an integral part of everyday American life. (As Pete Campbell observed in the pilot: “Adding money and education doesn’t take the rude edge out of people.”)

“The Jewish part of it, the female part of it, all of it was basically to establish the segregation, even in New York City,” said Weiner (who also reminded the audience that one of the early lines in the pilot was Don telling Rachel, “I’m not going to let a woman talk to me like this.”) Weiner explained that Pete’s line about “adding money and education” is something that he heard said in front of him as a child, growing up assimilated in a predominantly non-Jewish community, and that he wanted to show that this sort of “casual” racism can still be deeply harmful. “It is institutional, and it is villainous, and it is a separation,” he said. “And being of color, there’s no way to cross it.” …

One of Weiner’s goals, he suggested, was to simultaneously remind people of the overlap between Jewish culture and the culture at large, while also pointing out Jews’ non-white status and the sophisticated anti-Semitism that surrounded it — the fact that no matter how much Jews were able to pass, they always remained Other. …

Weiner also addressed early speculation that Don was Jewish, saying the idea was “totally surprising” to him, and that the name Dick Whitman wasn’t a reference to Don’s poeticism; rather, it was meant to indicate “White man.”

Other recent Matthew Weiner quotes making similar points:

- “I wanted to talk about America’s love affair with Israel. I love this idea of people like Don, who is white, looking at us and seeing us as heroes.”

- I think boutique agencies breaking off also started to bring Jews into the picture. These these were white agencies, populated by white people, using all of the typical philosophies that are used to exclude people.


It may seem excessive to continue to analyze the motivations of Mad Men creator “Matthew Weiner” in depth. But he is an influential individual. If I enter into Google News, not Google overall, just the official news sites:

“Mad Men” Weiner

I get this count of pages:

About 7,070,000 results (0.48 seconds)

To give that some perspective

“secretary of state” kerry

Brings up:

About 556,000 results (0.46 seconds)

In Haaretz, Matthew Weiner explains, “Sterling Cooper is modeled on my high school,” which was Harvard-Westlake Prep in the Hollywood Hills.

Getting personal with the nice Jewish boy behind ‘Mad Men’

Matthew Weiner opens up about his landmark show, identity, anti-Semitism, and U.S. nostalgia for the sixties.

By The Forward and Anne Cohen | Mar. 27, 2015 | 1:46 AM

… A. I was raised with a real Jewish intellectual identity. Freud, Marx and Einstein — those were the holy trinity of the household I grew up in. …

Q. I want to talk about a scene from the show’s first season, in which the Israel Tourism Board approaches Sterling Cooper for an advertising campaign. It’s an interesting plot line. How did you come up with it?

A. When we started the show, I really only had a few episodes I knew I was going to do and that was one of them. I wanted to talk about America’s love affair with Israel. I love this idea of people like Don, who is white, looking at us and seeing us as heroes.

Q. You once mentioned that the show portrays America’s “sophisticated” or “casual” anti-Semitism. What is that?

A. I experienced direct anti-Semitism in my youth. Sterling Cooper is modeled on my high school.

See? I’m not making this stuff up. The more interviews Weiner gives, the more it turns out that Mad Men is driven by Weiner’s objectively bizarre but highly useful feelings of self-pity and ethnic animus.

Weiner’s prep school, Harvard-Westlake of Studio City on Coldwater Canyon in the Hollywood Hills (current tuition $33,500), was the arch-rival in debate of my high school, Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks down in the flats (current tuition $14,050).

Of the 120 kids in my class there were 20 Jews and people would talk about how the school was half Jewish.

Weiner is obsessed with this statistic. In interviews with him I’ve read, he’s given estimates for how Jewish his class at Harvard Prep was of one-tenth, one-eighth, and now one-sixth. He’s probably still upset over an L.A. Herald Examiner article from his time there 1981 that said “an estimated 40 percent of the student body is Jewish.”

That line Pete Campbell says in [the Season 1 pilot], I heard someone say: “Adding money and education doesn’t take the rude edge out of people.” Obviously I remembered it.

Indeed you did, Matthew, indeed you did.

There’s also institutional anti-Semitism. Like, ‘You’re okay — I don’t like your people in general — but you’re ok.’ Even Don is in that boat. It’s not like anyone ever pretended that there wasn’t anti-Semitism. I wanted to express my feeling of being a minority, marginalized on some level because of overrepresentation in cultural aspects of the United States in general.

This is a subtle argument Weiner is making: Weiner wants to express his feelings that Jews are marginalized because they are overrepresented in formulating American culture. It’s a little bit like saying Bill Gates and Warren Buffett need to express their feelings of being a minority, marginalized on some level because of overrepresentation in plutocratic aspects of the United States in general and thus have to salve their emotions by playing golf together at Augusta National.

All of these jokes that we make about ourselves are based on stereotypes. I’ve experienced direct anti-Semitism because for some reason or other I’ve been in situations where people didn’t know I was Jewish. And like Sal [the closeted Sterling Cooper art director who gets fired after a client comes on to him], I had to stand there while people said horrible things. So, for me to own this part of the story was important.

Q. How does your Jewish identity shape the way you think about characters?

A. I think it does. Whether it’s women or gays or people of color — I’m from a middle class family and I’ve had advantages, but I side with the outsider and the underdog. I have two older sisters, I have a mom who’s Trudy Campbell’s age and I totally identified with everyone from Betty Friedan to Helen Gurley Brown. I have, for lack of a better word, a minority experience. When they’re talking about everybody they’re not talking about you — I have arrived but conditionally.

A half decade ago, I asked American Jews to please start developing a sense of noblesse oblige about their fellow American citizens. But what’s in it for them as a career strategy? How much good did noblesse oblige do the old WASP elite?

Weiner’s fabulous career demonstrates that what pays these days is not nobility but pettiness.


Christopher Beam writes in an article on the new wave of American-influenced Chinese stand-up comics:

Humor is stubbornly provincial. Comedic tastes differ by region, and most jokes don’t translate well. A Japanese interpreter once translated a joke that Jimmy Carter delivered during a lecture as: “President Carter told a funny story. Everyone must laugh.”

Now, that’s funny.

Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

Steve Sailer is a journalist, movie critic for Taki's Magazine, VDARE.com columnist, and founder of the Human Biodiversity discussion group for top scientists and public intellectuals.

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