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From Rolling Stone:

Meet the Woman Bringing Social Justice to Astrology

Chani Nicholas is transforming horoscopes from quips about finding true love and stumbling into financial good fortune to pointed calls to action


Chani Nicholas doesn’t care for the hulking Alex Katz painting, depicting a trio of suited white men, hanging behind the front desk of the Langham hotel in New York. It reminds her of the patriarchy, she tells me one rainy, starless night in February, as we take the elevator up to her hotel suite and sit on the couch. We’re wrapping up a conversation about privilege, gender equality and the zodiac when Nicholas, who’s become popular on Instagram as a kind of social-justice astrologer, notices a different art piece hovering behind her. This one, she likes. The painting, titled “Mona,” portrays a woman who shares a striking resemblance to Nicholas – dark hair with tight curls, sharp brown eyes, a strong jawline. She compares it to the painting in the lobby. “The hotel staff must’ve known not to put me in a room with a bunch of weird guys on the wall,” she says. “I’m basically an angry feminist who just happens to be into astrology and healing.”

Nicholas, 42, is transforming horoscopes from generalizations about finding true love and stumbling into financial good fortune to pointed calls to action with a left-leaning, social-justice agenda.

I recall astrology becoming fashionable again at the end of the 1960s. It was part of the huge explosion of mass-market anti-rational silliness — spoon-bending with your mind, talking to plants, ancient astronauts, peyote shamans, pyramid power, etc etc — that ensued from the drugs and radicalism of 1968 and largely died out in the early 1980s.

It was a stupid era, but kind of fun. The new Ctrl-Left astrology, however, promises to be dumb, dictatorial, and depressing.

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From the New York Times Magazine:

Sigrid Johnson Was Black. A DNA Test Said She Wasn’t.

The surge in popularity of services like 23andMe and Ancestry means that more and more people are unearthing long-buried connections and surprises in their ancestry.

By Ruth Padawer, Nov. 19, 2018

There’s much kvetching in the article about the inaccuracies, inconsistencies, and unreliability of commercial DNA testing, using the story of an adopted woman who was told her mother was white and her father was black.

But, if you read far enough into the article, as of Fall 2018, AncestryDNA said Ms. Johnson was 45% sub-Saharan African while 23andMe said she was 43.4% sub-Saharan, which is in line with what she now knows about her family history and her own life and looks.

Those sound like pretty convergent estimates to me. It appears that DNA testing for race is getting fairly reliable as it progresses, a far cry from 2009 when Larry David was told he was 3/8ths American Indian.

Moreover, AncestryDNA put Ms. Johnson in connection with her half-sister Ms. Smith, who had also been given up by their mother for adoption. They are very glad to have found each other.

But here’s a bigger question: We are constantly told things like “Race has no biological reality; it’s just a social construct.” But two different DNA testing services report that Ms. Johnson’s biological father likely traced somewhere around 85% or 90% of his genes to sub-Saharan Africa.

Does this mean the “Race does not exist biologically” dogmatists were just pulling our leg?

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An op-ed in the New York Times:

Trump’s Border Stunt Is a Profound Betrayal of Our Military

The president used America’s military not against any real threat but as toy soldiers, with the intent of manipulating a domestic midterm election.

By Gordon Adams, Lawrence B. Wilkerson and Isaiah Wilson III

The American military should only be used to protect vital American interests, such as those found in the Sahara and the Hindu Kush, rather than to protect trivial objectives like preventing a column of young foreigners from marching across the United States border.

Moreover, it’s inhuman to force American troops to sit around in America merely to deter border incursions of their homeland when everybody knows they are dying for some of that downhome Libyan cooking after a hard day fighting tribesmen they were on the same side as as recently as last month. From Defense One:

The U.S. military is officially fighting wars in seven countries, according to the White House’s latest war report. Known formally as the “Report on the Legal and Policy Frameworks Guiding the United States’ Military Force and Related National Security Operations,” the unclassified portion flags ops in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Niger — all under the banner of the same war authority granted in the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force to fight al-Qaeda-linked militants.

Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Niger. That’s where Americans belong, not Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, or California. Our men in uniform should only protect countries that Americans cannot:

A. Find on a map
B. Spell
C. Ideally, don’t dare try to pronounce

When George Washington warned against “foreign entanglements,” he meant our troops should be fighting perpetually in Somalia in some endless war of clan against clan. Our national grand strategy must remain:

Invade the World!
Invite the World!

Most of all, America must never fall so low as to mind our own business. Our philosophy must always be:

Aggression abroad
Submission at home

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One of the more comic bookish true stories in American history is that when the great inventor Nikola Tesla died in New York in 1943 at age 86, J. Edgar Hoover had his hotel suite searched in case Tesla had invented any war-winning super-weapons and not told anybody. What I hadn’t known, until commenter Mark Spahn mentioned it, was who did the searching. From Wikipedia:

Two days later the Federal Bureau of Investigation ordered the Alien Property Custodian to seize Tesla’s belongings. John G. Trump, a professor at M.I.T. and a well-known electrical engineer serving as a technical aide to the National Defense Research Committee, was called in to analyze the Tesla items, which were being held in custody. After a three-day investigation, Trump’s report concluded that there was nothing which would constitute a hazard in unfriendly hands, stating:

[Tesla's] thoughts and efforts during at least the past 15 years were primarily of a speculative, philosophical, and somewhat promotional character often concerned with the production and wireless transmission of power; but did not include new, sound, workable principles or methods for realizing such results.

In a box purported to contain a part of Tesla’s “death ray”, Trump found a 45-year-old multidecade resistance box.

There being not many Trumps in the U.S., Professor Trump was of course President Trump’s uncle.

A fine conspiracy theory: Professor Trump, of course, didn’t discover a Death Ray in Tesla’s rooms. Those are impossible. Instead, he discovered Tesla’s time machine. Professor Trump left it to his favorite nephew, which explains the President’s Biff Tannen-like career.

(See Back to the Future II, in which Biff uses time travel to become a famously rich casino owner known as the Luckiest Man in the World. For a contrary view of Trump from the same era, see Gremlins 2, in which real estate tycoon Daniel Clamp evolved over the course of making the movie from the bad guy into one of the heroes.)

Seriously, Professor Trump was deeply involved in radar research during WWII, at MIT and in Britain. The wartime history of radar was a glamorous topic in the postwar world, but has largely been buried in recent years by public interest in the secret development of computing at Bletchley Park.

Yet Steve Blank’s “Secret History of Silicon Valley” points to all the radar / anti-radar research during WWII as being even more fundamental to the rise of Silicon Valley, which was largely driven by defense spending for most of the 1950s into perhaps the 1980s. For instance, the two leading candidates for “Father of Silicon Valley,” William Shockley and Fred Terman, were both involved in radar/anti-radar work during the War.

Anyway, here’s a good place to dump some odds bits of history I was reading up on: British interest in radar in the 1930s seems to have been spurred by (false) reports that the Germans were developing a death ray. But when Watson-Watt and Wilkins reported back to the government that a death ray was impractical, they pitched the idea for radar, which of course turned out to be immensely useful during the 1940 Battle of Britain. Radar told the RAF when to scramble fighters to intercept German bombers and when to let the pilots rest and the crews work on the Spitfires. (Several countries were developing radar simultaneously, but the Brits were out in front during the crucial early 1940s.)

Another oddity: The Brits were almost a decade ahead of the Americans in having a television industry. The BBC started broadcasting interesting TV shows in late 1936. Sales of televisions in the UK in the late 1930s were almost three times the figure in the bigger United States.

Then on September 3, 1939, three things happened. Britain declared war on Germany, the Chain Home radar system came on-line, and the BBC put up a sign on its TV shows announcing that television broadcasting was suspended for the duration.

One theory that has been kicked around for decades is that the British government’s effort to promote watching television in 1936-1939, a curious luxury that no other national government indulged in during those stressful years, was a front for developing the industrial capacity to churn out a vast amount of radar equipment without the Germans noticing what they were up to. Britain’s TV set factories, for example, quickly switched over to producing radar CRT displays. On the other hand, in a limited amount of poking around, I couldn’t find anybody definitively confirming that theory, although some insiders in the effort believed it.

Speaking of English disinformation, I found out that the idea that I heard from my parents in the 1960s that eating carrots was good for your night vision eyesight was part of a disinformation campaign spread by the Brits to cover up their use of radar: the reason RAF pilots were shooting down German bombers was because they were fed a diet of carrots to improve their vision.

I ate a lot of carrots as a kid and my eyesight was really bad.

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From the London Review of Books:

Race doesn’t come into it

Meehan Crist reviews She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Powers, Perversions and Potential of Heredity by Carl Zimmer

Picador, 656 pp, £25.00, August, ISBN 978 1 5098 1853 2

In contrast, I gave Carl’s big book a less credulous review in Taki’s Magazine.

… We tend to think of heredity as having something to do with traits that are passed from generation to generation, but in many ancient societies, the words for ‘kin’ and ‘kinship’ often denoted connections of mutual responsibility.

… So what do we mean when we say ‘heredity’ today? Zimmer, who writes a column for the New York Times and whose previous books include Soul Made Flesh and Parasite Rex, as well as a co-authored textbook on evolutionary biology, is a trustworthy guide in this inquiry. … ‘We use words like sister and aunt as if they describe rigid laws of biology,’ Zimmer writes, ‘but these laws are really only rules of thumb. Under the right conditions, they can be readily broken.’ This is clear if you widen the lens, as Zimmer so artfully does, to explore multiple channels of heredity, including the microbiome, epigenetics and culture. Along the way, he reveals that the way we talk about heredity – he got his height from his uncle; she has her mother’s laugh – isn’t linked to science at all. At every turn, Zimmer tries to complicate the concept of heredity

Occam’s Butterknife for the win.

and challenge received wisdom about why we are the way we are.

Just like in Turkey, the person who comes up with the most complicated theory is the smartest.

This isn’t to say that all the complicated exceptions aren’t interesting and potentially important, just that it’s a worse way to go about learning about reality. It’s almost as if the goal of the book, and even more of this review, is to keep people from grasping the basics of genetics by getting them lost in the underbrush of exceptions.

You get half of your DNA from your mother and half from your father, but thanks to the specialised and ‘laughably baroque’ process of cell division known as meiosis, you and your sibling might get very different assortments of DNA from each parent. This explains why you may have more DNA from your maternal grandmother, say, than your paternal grandmother. Or why, if you have two siblings, you may be genetically more similar to one of them. Remarkably, researchers have found that a pair of siblings may share as much as 61.7 per cent of their DNA, or as little as 37.4 per cent. ‘Along the spectrum of inheritance, in other words,’ Zimmer writes, ‘some of our siblings are more like our identical twins, others more like cousins.’ She Has Her Mother’s Laugh is brimming with similarly surprising discoveries; and the cumulative effect is a radical destabilisation of the boundaries conventionally drawn around the individual, families, and even the human species.

A less politicized way to think of it instead of as “radical destabilisation” is that meiosis is random on average, but a little lumpy, like a child shuffling a deck of cards unadroitly.

So at the cellular level we are all what scientists call mosaics, ‘a rainbow of different genetic profiles’. Seen in this light, our intuitive tendency to equate genetic similarity with kinship looks a bit bizarre.

Alternatively, our intuitive tendency to equate genetic similarity with kinship looks extremely useful, just not perfect.

Zimmer cites research showing that out of any hundred pairs of third cousins, one pair wouldn’t share any identical segments of DNA.

Okay, so the kinship to genetic relationship glass at the third cousin level is 99% full.

Out of any hundred pairs of fourth cousins, 25 pairs wouldn’t share any identical segments. And yet, we would never say these cousins are not kin. When you look at heredity in terms of genes, using genes alone to define kinship (or even to draw strict boundaries round what it means to be human) starts to seem a little dubious.

Your biological family tree exists in a Platonic realm, somewhat like geometric shapes do. It’s very real, but there are multiple ways to figure out what it is, none of them perfect. Your genes derive from your family tree, but imperfectly randomly.

The question of who we are related to also bucks intuition on much broader levels of human ancestry. Leaving DNA aside, if we think of our ancestors simply as people who procreated with each other, we soon run up against an inescapable paradox: We think of genealogy as a simple forking tree, our two parents the product of four grandparents, who are descended from eight great-grandparents, and so on. But such a tree eventually explodes into impossibility. By the time you get back to the time of, say, Charlemagne, you have to draw over a trillion forks. In other words, your ancestors from that generation alone far outnumber all the humans who ever lived. The only way out of that paradox is to join some of those forks back together. In other words, your ancestors must have all been related to each other, either closely or distantly.

Sure, but the real implication is that you are kind of inbred. You have to be. Not enough people were alive to fill in all the trillion slots in your family tree back 40 generations ago around the time of Charlemagne 1200 years ago. If you are of European descent, for example, you are likely descended from Charlemagne by millions of paths. On the other hand, you probably don’t have any bits of Charlemagne’s DNA copied in your DNA. But if you are European you probably have some bits copied from from subjects of Charlemagne.

Being somewhat inbred is an inevitable condition that distinguishes an extended family that is a racial group from a plain extended family: a racial group is a partly inbred extended family.

… If you go back far enough in the history of a human population, you reach a point in time when all the individuals who have any descendants among living people are ancestors of all living people.

Sure, but you have to go back before modern humans, as we see no Neanderthal or Denisovan ancestors among most modern sub-Saharan Africans.

This is why, as has been repeatedly pointed out in recent years, every European alive today is a descendant of Charlemagne. Such ancestral tree-twisting is hard to keep up with, but it reveals that the obsession with being a ‘direct descendant’ of a celebrated historical figure has more to do with the way certain relationships are culturally valued – for example ‘legitimate’ v. ‘illegitimate’ children – than with science. In a sense, we are all royals, even if we don’t all have royal DNA in our genomes. And yet, we are obsessed with genealogies. ‘By one estimate,’ Zimmer writes, ‘genealogy has now become the second most popular search topic on the internet. It is outranked only by porn.’

It’s almost as if humans have reasons for being interested in genealogy, just as they have reasons for being interested in porn. Could it be that family trees and sex have something to with each other?

Like I said, your family tree exists Platonically, like perfect circles and triangles. This doesn’t mean you can perfectly determine it from a DNA scan, but that’s another tool that has become useful in knowing more about your family tree in recent years.

In 2002, a geneticist called Jonathan Pritchard and his team at Oxford, collaborating with Noah Rosenberg at Stanford, found they could use a program they’d designed called Structure to identify clusters of people based only on their DNA. The program scanned genetic variation and assigned each individual’s DNA to one or more groups of ancestors who shared similar variations. When the researchers set the parameters of the program to sort people into five groups, they found clusters that matched the continents the people lived on, which meant the program roughly grouped Africans, Eurasians, East Asians, Pacific Islanders and people in the Americas. Crucially, these ancestral groups didn’t have sharp boundaries. ‘Where two clusters met on a map of the world,’ Zimmer writes, ‘the researchers found people who had some DNA that linked them to one group, and some that linked them to the other.’

This is sort of true, but it’s funny how nobody ever notices the exceptions to this cliche, even though they are some of the biggest features on the surface of the globe, such as the Atlantic Ocean.

For example, in 1491, the Atlantic Ocean was a pretty sharp boundary among “people in the Americas” and Eurasians and Africans. There may or may not have been some genetic exchange in the prior few thousands years, such as the historically recorded Vikings in North America or the recent bizarre finding that, apparently, some Amazonian tribes have a small percentage of genes that look like those of Andaman Islanders in the Indian Ocean, but, in general, as of 1491 the Atlantic was an awfully sharp boundary.

And, anyway, how is a sharp boundary crucial? What’s the sharp boundary between young and old or hot and cold? People could walk from, say, China to France in 1491, but how many did? In 1491, could you tell people in China apart from people in France, even if in Turkestan there were people who were kind of in-between?

In fact, he and his collaborators found that ‘the overwhelming amount of genetic diversity was between individuals. The genetic differences between major groups accounted for only 3-5 per cent.’ Rather than defining biological boundaries between racial groups, cutting-edge genetic studies like Pritchard’s suggest a dissolution of these boundaries.

As the late anthropologist Henry Harpending pointed out, racial differences in genes are on the same scale as we see in our extended families. For example, he noted, that if he were informed that he had a grandson he’d never met and drove over to meet him and saw ten boys playing on the front lawn, would he be able to distinguish his grandson from the other boys who aren’t his grandsons? … He’d have a better than random guess, but it wouldn’t be easy to single out one out of ten. On the other hand, could he distinguish one white boy from nine non-white boys? Sure. Race and grandchild relationships turn out to be pretty similar in genetic magnitude.

… ‘But any resemblance between genetic clusters of people and racial categories concocted before genetics existed can have no deep meaning.’

But, oddly enough, the genetic clusters of people and racial categories concocted before genetics by looking at people and testing their biochemistry and asking them where their ancestors came from and so forth and so on give highly similar answers. Not perfectly similar. For example, Carleton Coon in 1965 theorized that just as the Laplanders of Scandinavia appeared to have some East Asian ancestry, the heavily bearded Ainu of Northern Japan were likely to have some Caucasian ancestry. Well, the first turned out to be sort of true, but the Ainu don’t appear to have any particular relation to Europeans.

Just because your genome has variants statistically more similar to variants in the genomes of other people on the same continent, that doesn’t mean you are all members of some shared biological ‘race’, or that you share a similar skin colour, that ubiquitous cultural marker for race.

Just because your ancestors and mine come from the same continent and you and I share the gene markers of people from that continent doesn’t mean that you and I share some biological “race” because, obviously, … well … because Carl Zimmer says you don’t.

… More recently, David Reich’s Who We Are and How We Got Here, as well as his March op-ed in the New York Times, ‘How Genetics Is Changing Our Understanding of “Race”’, prompted an impassioned response.​* In an open letter published on Buzzfeed 67 scientists flatly stated that Reich ‘misrepresents the many scientists and scholars who have demonstrated the scientific flaws of considering “race” a biological category’.

Because what could David Reich know that 67 Buzzfeed scientists plus Carl Zimmer don’t know?

… To drive this point home, Zimmer shows how the emerging field of paleogenetics uses the DNA extracted from ancient skeletons to offer an even longer view of human history, revealing that we are all genetic mongrels and any notion of biological racial purity is just a fantasy. Among the outmoded biological concepts that science suggests we need to abandon is that of a ‘white’ race.

White people don’t exist, but white guilt is forever.

I reviewed Zimmer’s book in June in Taki’s Magazine.

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One of the questions that I brought up in my review of Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff’s The Coddling of the American Mind was whether the usual high degree of unhappiness found on college campuses is getting worse. This could just be random noise, but here’s an article from New Zealand finding a similar trend:

Demand for university counselling services grows 25 per cent in two years

Adele Redmond 05:00, Nov 17 2018

More than half of students who responded to a recent NZUSA mental health survey said they had considered dropping out. University students say they are on suicide watch for friends and flatmates as demand for on-campus counselling grows.

One in 13 university students – 13,000 in total – accessed campus counselling services last year, nearly a 25 per cent increase on the 10,500 who used the services in 2015, according to data released to the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) by all universities except Lincoln.

Haidt and Lukianoff point to Jean Twenge’s recent book iGen. She looks at a lot of American data, such as the General Social Survey, and surmises that people born from about 1995 onward, who went through junior high school and high school with social media on smartphones, are not on average in good shape emotionally.

In general, research universities have not been very enthusiastic about researching the topic of psychological damage that universities might be doing to young people.

I’m a big fan of social science but over the decades I’ve seen very little social science done by universities on close-at-hand topics such as what kind of living arrangements are most conducive to the flourishing of college students. For example, I went to college at Rice U., which has a “college” system of dormitories where you stay in the same dorm for four years. And each dorm has its own dining hall, with family-style meals at set times. (I believe some Ivy League colleges has similar arrangements.)

The downside is that the food was cooked in a central kitchen and trucked around to the dorms’ dining halls, so it was pretty dismal by the time it arrived. Also, you didn’t get any choice, you just got whatever was being served. The upside is that you have a relatively stable community of about 250 people that you eat and live with for a year, and next year, 75% of the same people are back. It’s like a giant fraternity house, except you are assigned to a “college” largely at random.

Is that a better system psychologically, less anomie-inducing, than the more conventional dorm and dining hall set-up?

I don’t know. It would seem like an interesting question for a research university to research, but if that research is ever done, I haven’t heard about it.

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With the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 11-0, from the Chicago Sun-Times:

He ran for judge, lost, changed parties, took Irish name, won Cook County race

Phillip Spiwak lost a judge’s race as a Republican. But he won after changing parties to Democrat and changing his name to Shannon P. O’Malley.

Abigail Blachman | Injustice Watch

… Irish-sounding names have long given Cook County judicial candidates an electoral edge. It also might not have hurt that O’Malley’s first name is gender-neutral in a year when Democratic women won elections up and down the ballot. …

He won by nearly 2,300 votes over Republican Daniel Fitzgerald despite failing to get the recommendations of bar associations after declining to submit information about his qualifications. …

“Daniel Fitzgerald” is clearly lacking in sufficient Vitamin I for Cook County politics. I suggest he change his name to “Clancy X. MacFitzgerald.”

In 2010, Albert Klumpp did a study that found judicial candidates with Irish- and female-sounding names in Cook County had an advantage, particularly in primaries or retention votes. But Klumpp says it’s more likely that O’Malley won not because of switching names but because he switched parties.

Poor Albert Klumpp might have a much better job, such as Cook County Recorder of Deeds, if only he weren’t named “Albert Klumpp,” which sounds like the fat kid in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. So, maybe, Aloysius Kelly?

… Candidates in Cook County changing their names to Irish-sounding names happened often enough that the Illinois legislature passed a law requiring that a candidate’s old name also be listed on the ballot if the name change was made within three years before the election.

I’m reminded of the conversation in The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh between two Englishmen in 1940s Hollywood:

‘How are things at Megalo [Movie Studios]?’ asked Sir Ambrose.

‘Greatly disturbed. We are having trouble with Juanita del Pablo,’ [says Sir Francis Hinsley, a publicist at Megalo].

‘”Luscious, languid and lustful”?’

‘Those are not the correct epithets. She is—or rather was—”Surly, lustrous and sadistic.” I should know because I composed the phrase myself. It was a “smash-hit”, as they say, and set a new note in personal publicity.

‘Miss del Pablo has been a particular protégée of mine from the first. I remember the day she arrived. Poor Leo bought her for her eyes. She was called Baby Aaronson then—splendid eyes and a fine head of black hair. So Leo made her Spanish. He had most of her nose cut off and sent her to Mexico for six weeks to learn Flamenco singing. Then he handed her over to me. I named her. I made her an antifascist refugee. I said she hated men because of her treatment by Franco’s Moors. That was a new angle then. It caught on. …”

‘And now there’s been a change of policy at the top. We are only making healthy films this year to please the League of Decency. So poor Juanita has to start at the beginning again as an Irish colleen. … She’s working ten hours a day learning the brogue and to make it harder for the poor girl they’ve pulled all her teeth out. …

‘I’ve spent three days trying to find a name to please her. She’s turned everything down. Maureen—there are two here already; Deirdre—no one could pronounce it; Oonagh—sounds Chinese; Bridget—too common.

Off topic, but I just noticed that the basic idea for the famous scene in the Coens’ Hail, Caesar! of an English director trying to teach a cowboy actor a drawing room accent is from the 1965 movie adaptation of The Loved One with John Gielgud, as Sir Francis, trying to instruct Dusty Acres how to speak like James Bond.

The 1965 The Loved One, with a screenplay by Terry Southern that’s kind of a cross between Dr. Strangelove and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, is a notoriously Not Good movie, but I wonder how many more rudiments of good ideas could be mined from its bulk?

For example, as I pointed out a few years ago, Billy Wilder’s famous Sunset Boulevard started out as an adaptation of The Loved One (the 1948 novel, not its 1965 movie adaptation), but the studio couldn’t get Waugh to sell the rights, so Wilder switched to an original story with one scene in common, the man from the animal mortuary bit.

Waugh would likely have been better off selling the rights so Wilder could film the adaptation than 15 years later so Tony Richardson could shoot it.

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William Goldman, perhaps the most famous screenwriter of the later 1970s, author of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Princess Bride, has died at 87. Mark Steyn has an obituary.

Generally speaking, books about screenwriting are written by people who aren’t very successful at it. For example, Story by Robert McKee (who is played by Brian Cox in Adaptation) is an impressive combination of how-to and motivational books. But McKee had time to become the leading screenwriting coach because he wasn’t in all that much demand as a screenwriter.

Goldman, in contrast, was an extremely highly paid screenwriter. But during a brief recession in the movie business in the early 1980s he wrote a memoir/how to book, Adventures in the Screen Trade. The most famous quote in that book:

“Nobody knows anything…… Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what’s going to work. Every time out it’s a guess and, if you’re lucky, an educated one.”

For example, in Goldman’s heyday, sequels, such as the Jaws sequels, were typically low budget affairs that weren’t expected to come close to the original in box office. Now, in contrast, it’s assumed that sequels ought to average at least as much as originals.

Why? Are audiences less easily bored? Have screenwriters gotten more skilled since Goldman’s day? Less apathetic? Has the increasing globalization of movie audiences reduced the risk?

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November is an odd month to bring this topic up, but from Science a few years ago:

Is the sun getting you high?
By Nadia Whitehead Jun. 19, 2014 , 12:00 PM

Do you like to spend your days basking on the beach or relaxing in a tanning bed? You may think you do it for cosmetic reasons—that natural glow does look good on you—but new research suggests you might have another motive. Mice frequently exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light show symptoms of drug use and addiction, suggesting that every time you seek out the sun’s rays, you may just be looking for a high.

“This is an idea that has been staring us in the face forever,” says Steven Feldman, a dermatologist at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, who has studied the psychological effects of tanning. “There’s been a sudden rise in skin cancers, and dermatologists have been cautioning patients about sun exposure,” he says. “Yet people aren’t cutting back on their time outdoors, and the whole industry of tanning beds has grown extraordinarily fast.”

This seems like an under-researched phenomenon. Perhaps the last time I went to a tanning salon was in the 1980s, but I can recall coming out of one on a cold night in Chicago in February feeling euphoric as if I’d just spent a few hours in the summer sun.

This effect seems like the basis of a variety of industries: tanning salons, winter vacations in Florida, second homes in Palm Springs so Los Angelenos can escape to the desert “to get some sun,” nudist colonies, and so forth. But I don’t much about it at all.

What’s the biochemical cause of tanning euphoria?

Does sunscreen block the euphoria? If so, would it be possible to make sunscreen that still lowers the risk of skin cancer while allowing some of the euphoria?

Is it tied to Seasonal Affective Disorder, either as a cure or cause?

What percentage of Americans are affected by it?

Does that percentage differ by race, by hair color, eye color, etc.?

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The Ferguson Effect is one of the more blatant in the history of social science. It occurred both on a modest scale nationally, and on an acute scale locally in cities where BLM triumphed, such as St. Louis in 2014, Baltimore in 2015, and Chicago in 2016. But it’s not part of The Narrative. From CityLab in 2016:

Study: There Has Been No ‘Ferguson Effect’ in Baltimore

… Many factors played a part in the city’s homicide spike—but not the one most often cited.

The 2014 killing of Michael Brown by police turned the word “Ferguson,” the name of Brown’s Missouri hometown, into a call for action against police violence. Proponents of aggressive policing styles, however, have managed to appropriate the term to fit an opposing agenda. While the Ferguson cause has been about exposing the devastating consequences of the over-policing of black neighborhoods, the “Ferguson Effect” is a campaign about over-hyped, alleged crime waves overtaking urban landscapes.

… But can Baltimore’s homicides be attributed to the so-called “Ferguson Effect”?

The evidence for that kind of attribution is “very weak,” according to a study released Tuesday by the Johns Hopkins University sociologists Stephen L. Morgan and Joel A. Pally. Between August 2014 (when Brown was killed and the Ferguson riots erupted) and April 2015 (when Freddie Gray died in Baltimore while in police custody), most violent crime in Baltimore actually decreased, the researchers found. …

That violent crime escalated after [Freddie] Gray’s arrest, death, and the subsequent riots [in March 2015] is irrefutable, and Morgan and Pally explain that a “Gray Effect” may have overcome Baltimore.

If the word “Ferguson” was permanently and exclusively attached back to its original meaning, we might find evidence of an “effect” when it comes to a number of recent, inspiring events: the bringing down of Confederate monuments, the ousting of Chicago’s police chief, or the recent Chicago protests that forced Donald Trump to cancel a rally. Such events are more fitting of the “Ferguson Effect” tag, and they’re things that Black Lives Matter activists actually had a hand in. Anyone who tries to steal “Ferguson” to tie its meaning to rising crime is simply trying to distract people from the real, progressive effect that organizing since Ferguson has had on society.

Of course, Chicago went on to have an extremely homicidal 2016, following the 11/23/2015 release of the videotape of the very bad shooting of Laquan McDonald, which led to multiple triumphs of progressives over the CPD over the next few months.

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From the New York Times Magazine:




Suggestion: when writing about IQ and race, DON’T USE ALL CAPS.

I was corresponding once with a Nobel Laureate who emailed in all caps. I finally got up the courage to suggest that he just type in all lower case, because, you know, the all caps kind of make it look like you are shouting. He responded: “BUT I AM SHOUTING.”

… But [economist Daniel] Benjamin has remained committed to genes, and in 2007, as genome data became cheaper and more plentiful, a new method for connecting genes to outcomes emerged: genome-wide association studies (G.W.A.S.). With the candidate-gene method, you had to essentially guess which genes might be involved, and usually got it wrong. “With G.W.A.S., you look at the whole genome and let the data tell you where there’s variation,” Benjamin says.

Once a G.W.A.S. shows genetic effects across a group, a “polygenic score” can be assigned to individuals, summarizing the genetic patterns that correlate to outcomes found in the group. Although no one genetic marker might predict anything, this combined score based on the entire genome can be a predictor of all sorts of things. And here’s why it’s so useful: People outside that sample can then have their DNA screened, and are assigned their own polygenic score, and the predictions tend to carry over. This, Benjamin realized, was the sort of statistical tool an economist could use. …

As an economist, however, Benjamin wasn’t interested in medical outcomes. He wanted to see if our genes predict social outcomes.

In 2011, with a grant from the National Science Foundation, Benjamin launched the Social Science Genetic Association Consortium, an unprecedented effort to gather unconnected genetic databases into one enormous sample that could be studied by researchers from outside the world of genetic science. In July 2018, Benjamin and four senior co-authors, drawing on that database, published a landmark study in Nature Genetics. More than 80 authors from more than 50 institutions, including the private company 23andMe, gathered and studied the DNA of over 1.1 million people. It was the largest genetics study ever published, and the subject was not height or heart disease, but how far we go in school.

The researchers assigned each participant a polygenic score based on how broad genetic variations correlated with what’s called “educational attainment.” (They chose it because intake forms in medical offices tend to ask patients what education they’ve completed.) The predictive power of the polygenic score was very small — it predicts more accurately than the parents’ income level, but not as accurately as the parents’ own level of educational attainment — and it’s useless for making individual predictions. Like other G.W.A.S., this one reveals patterns but doesn’t explain them.

And with a data set this big, the patterns provide a lot of information. The authors calculated, for instance, that those in the top fifth of polygenic scores had a 57 percent chance of earning a four-year degree, while those in the bottom fifth had a 12 percent chance. And with that degree of correlation, the authors wrote, polygenic scores can improve the accuracy of other studies of education.

For 19 years, Benjamin and his colleagues were looking for fundamentals. Now, they say, they’ve found them. The genes with which you are born travel during your life through a mediating layer of biology and social experience — racism, puberty, vacations, illness, industrial accidents, sexual harassment, poverty, divorce — that seems so complicated as to be unmeasurable. But their study, part of a field now called “geno-economics,” claims to measure, in part, the degree to which our genes determine who we become. How is that possible? And in an era of dramatic political divisions, predatory companies and systemic inequality, should we really be mapping genetics to social outcomes?

THE LIST OF authors on Benjamin’s study is like an academic bus crash: sociologists and economists jumbled with epidemiologists, psychiatrists and geneticists. But Dalton Conley, a professor of sociology at Princeton, is perhaps the most personally and professionally complicated jumble of them all.

“I grew up as a white kid in a largely African-American and Latino neighborhood full of housing projects,” Conley says. “My parents were lefty artists. At a certain point they lied about our address to move me to a public school in Greenwich Village, so I had a daily commute across the socioeconomic landscape.” …

Conley describes his early academic work as “lefty sociology.” His Ph.D. thesis was on the black-white wealth gap and he dedicated his early career to studying the transmission of health and wealth between parents and children.

Conley pointed out that while the white-black IQ gap seems too big to be explained by the white-black income gap, it’s not too big to be explained by the white-black wealth gap. But, of course, which way does causality more flow: from wealth to IQ or from IQ to wealth? And which would be more causally relevant to IQ: income, wealth, or consumption?

At N.Y.U., Conley kept getting into disagreements with geneticists, arguing that their methods were dangerously naïve. It seemed to him implausible that studying only twins — the gold standard of genetics research — was enough to teach us the difference between nature and nurture. But over time, he decided that it wasn’t enough to just argue. Conley is an academic, and even within that tortured group he is something of a masochist. At that time he was a tenured professor, the kind of gig most people see as the endgame of an academic career, and yet he decided to go back and grind out another Ph.D., this time in genetics.


He went into his program believing that our social environment is largely the cause of our outcomes, and that biology is usually the dependent variable. By the end of his time, he says, the causal arrow in his mind had pretty much flipped the other way: “I tried to show for a range of outcomes that the genetic models were overstating the impact of genetics because of their crazy assumptions.” He sighs. “But I ended up showing that they’re right.”

Now he says he’s convinced the benefits of studying polygenic scores are worth the risks. “I still have some queasiness about what can be done with this research, how politically explosive it can be,” he says. “But as someone who wants to drill down into human behavior, I don’t think we can ignore it anymore.”

Benjamin and his co-authors included a long F.A.Q. document that carefully explained the limits of their findings, not least that they shouldn’t be used to create some sort of half-baked genetics-based educational policy. …

If what Benjamin’s study claims to measure is controversial, consider what it doesn’t measure. The study only draws on the DNA of white people — Europeans, Icelanders, Caucasians in North America, Australia and the United Kingdom. And that’s in part because only those groups, along with Chinese nationals, have given over their D.N.A. in large enough numbers to achieve the statistical power that geno-economics researchers need. I shared Benjamin’s paper with Jesus Hernandez, an urban sociologist who spent 30 years working for the state of California and at the University of California, Davis, and now runs his own research firm mapping the distribution of things like transportation, housing and education to predict social outcomes. Later, when I reached him by phone, he laughed bitterly. “We always do white people first,” he says, “because it’s easiest.” …

But even if the same numbers of people from all races provided their data, one group would still have to be excluded from the study: people with recent genetic roots in Africa, which is to say both Africans, African-Americans and many Latinos. This racial exclusion has to do with the origins of modern humans. When a group of people on what is now the continent of Africa decided, some 50,000 to 70,000 years ago, to go see what the rest of the world was about, they formed what geneticists call a “population bottleneck.” The small group that walked off the continent formed the small gene pool from which all non-African people — whether a Caucasian or a Han Chinese — descend. So the genes of people within the much larger, much more ancient gene pool of Africa (including those brought to the United States and elsewhere by slavery) are so much more diverse that researchers would need a far larger sample — at least two or three times as large, Benjamin says — to even have a hope of finding measurable patterns. Benjamin and his collaborators in fact tried applying the polygenic score derived from European DNA to African-Americans and found the method didn’t work well enough to be useful.

Because sub-Saharans are genetically rather different from the rest of humanity. That’s a logical implication of the celebrated Out-of-Africa theory of modern human origins that emerged in the 1980s, even though it was first assumed that Out-of-Africa meant less divergence between sub-Saharan Africans and the rest of humanity.

If you go back to a book of classical physical anthropology like Carleton Coon’s 1965 bestseller The Living Races of Man, Coon figured Europeans and sub-Saharans were closer to each other than they were to East Asians, New World Indians, and Australians. In Coon’s thinking, the giant mountains of central Asia were the main divide, not the Sahara and Congo rainforest. But early DNA evidence in the 1980s eventually pointed toward a sub-Saharan vs. everybody else model.

And that’s kind of how people act today: when they say “Celebrate Diversity” they deep down most intensely mean “Celebrate Sub-Saharans.” Today’s prejudice in which blacks get many more diversity Pokemon Point points than, say, East Asians, Mexican mestizos, American Indians, Samoans, Australian aborigines, or Andaman Islanders turns out to be rather reasonable, genetically speaking.

You might argue that African-Americans aren’t really all that diverse, other than their level of white admixture. In response, you will be told the cliche that Africans have the most genetic diversity, but that’s primarily due to to genes that don’t affect much but are useful for tracking ancestry.

In the real world, African Americans tend to have fairly similar strengths and weaknesses. But that doesn’t matter because blacks, as a group, are considered to be the most Diverse.

The word “diversity” is notoriously slippery in meaning, but the way modern Americans seem to use it as referring to a sort of Vitamin D that is good for you. Blacks have the most Vitamin D, and so the more blacks you have the more Diverse you are, which is for your own good.

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As of early 2018, Turkey had 245 journalists locked up, the most in the world. On the other hand, I haven’t heard of Turkey murdering any journalists, the way the Saudis murdered Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul.

Okay, Wikipedia has a list of “Journalists Killed in Turkey,” which lists 9 journalists who have died violently in Turkey in Erdogan’s 15 years in power, but some of those were apparently murdered by non-government criminals.

From DW:

US denies it will deport Erdogan foe Fethullah Gulen to reduce heat on Saudis

The State Department has denied a report claiming the Trump administration was mulling how to deport Gulen. The move was reportedly designed to ease pressure on ally Saudi Arabia after a journalist was murdered.

Gulen is a sort of one man iSteve meme come to life. He is an Islamic cult leader who has been holed up in Saylorsburg in the Poconos since the 1990s. My guess is that he is the American deep state’s pro-American Turkish government-in-waiting. His followers run well over 100 charter schools in the U.S., where they are accused of skimming money through immigration fraud and other sharp dealing. The FBI was raiding the Gulen charter school racket in 2014, but then the scandal disappeared. My baseless speculation is that the CIA explained to the FBI that, sure, local American taxpayers were being ripped off by Gulen’s charter school, but it was all in the good cause of having a friendly potential government for the Straits of Constantinople.

He used to be Erdogan’s ally in battling the secularist military, because Gulen’s followers had taken over the police in Turkey via running the test prep centers. Gulen’s guys framed the generals for Erdogan in various show trials, but then they turned on Erdogan over his corruption in 2013, releasing incriminating wiretaps of Erdogan saying he had no more room in his house to store all the bales of money he has ripped off.

Erdogan blamed Gulen for the failed 2016 coup, although I haven’t seen much evidence that it wasn’t just the military, as in previous coups.

Anyway, don’t deport Gulen, but reopen the FBI investigation into his charter schools.

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Here’s a new study that vindicates what entrepreneurial actress Suzanne Somers was saying in her diet books in the 1990s: that starch and sugar are worse than fat. From the NYT:

How a Low-Carb Diet Might Help You Maintain a Healthy Weight

Adults who cut carbohydrates from their diets and replaced them with fat sharply increased their metabolisms.

By Anahad O’Connor, Nov. 14, 2018

It has been a fundamental tenet of nutrition: When it comes to weight loss, all calories are created equal. Regardless of what you eat, the key is to track your calories and burn more than you consume.

But a large new study published on Wednesday in the journal BMJ challenges the conventional wisdom. It found that overweight adults who cut carbohydrates from their diets and replaced them with fat sharply increased their metabolisms. After five months on the diet, their bodies burned roughly 250 calories more per day than people who ate a high-carb, low-fat diet, suggesting that restricting carb intake could help people maintain their weight loss more easily.

The new research is unlikely to end the decades-long debate over the best diet for weight loss. But it provides strong new evidence that all calories are not metabolically alike to the body. And it suggests that the popular advice on weight loss promoted by health authorities — count calories, reduce portion sizes and lower your fat intake — might be outdated.

“This study confirms that, remarkably, diets higher in starch and sugar change the body’s burn rate after weight loss, lowering metabolism,” said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, the dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, who was not involved in the research. “The observed metabolic difference was large, more than enough to explain the yo-yo effect so often experienced by people trying to lose weight.” …

Dr. Mozaffarian called the findings “profound” and said they contradicted the conventional wisdom on calorie counting. “It’s time to shift guidelines, government policy and industry priorities away from calories and low-fat and toward better diet quality.” …

But experts like Dr. Ludwig argue that the obesity epidemic is driven by refined carbohydrates such as sugar, juices, bagels, white bread, pasta and heavily processed cereals. These foods tend to spike blood sugar and insulin, a hormone that promotes fat storage, and they can increase appetite.

One bowl of Cheerios always made me hungrier for a second bowl, which made me hungrier for a third bowl.

Let me emphasize, however, that people are different, so don’t weight my experiences for more than they are worth. Human biodiversity is real. This is a problem for diet research, which is constantly looking for the One True Diet.

The subjects on the low-carb diet also had the sharpest declines in a hormone called ghrelin, which is produced in the stomach. Ghrelin promotes hunger and body fat, and it lowers energy expenditure. Suppressing ghrelin may be one reason the low-carb diet increased metabolism, the authors noted.

Dr. Ludwig emphasized that the results need to be replicated by other investigators and he stressed that the findings do not impugn whole fruits, beans and other unprocessed carbohydrates. Rather, he said, the study suggests that reducing foods with added sugar, flour and other refined carbohydrates could help people maintain weight loss by increasing their metabolisms at a lower body weight.

If I recall my Suzanne Somers biochemical theory correctly, while vegetables are carbohydrates, they take longer to digest than Cheerios, so they don’t make you instantly hungry for a couple more servings of vegetables.

Anyway, never trust me for diet advice.

Trust Suzanne Somers.

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From Eidolon, Donna Zuckerberg’s Classics mag:

Black Athena, White Power
Are We Paying the Price for Classics’ Response to Bernal?

Denise Eileen McCoskey

Denise Eileen McCoskey is a Professor of Classics and affiliate of Black World Studies at Miami University (Ohio). She is the author of Race: Antiquity & Its Legacy, and past recipient of the John J. Winkler Memorial Prize. In 2009, she won the American Philological Association Award for Excellence in Teaching at the College Level.

Nov 15 Art by Mali Skotheim

… In the mid 1990s, a few months before starting my first teaching job, I remember sitting in a lecture hall and listening to a talk on Ptolemaic Egypt. After the lecture, as we all milled about, a black woman from the audience quietly approached the speaker and asked: “Was Cleopatra black?”

Excited that this question, which had become the subject of growing intensity outside the academy, was being raised in the context of a formal classics lecture, I eagerly awaited the response. It came quickly and damningly, for the speaker simply waved a hand disgustedly. Then she turned her back.

… As I look back now, I realize that my feelings of alienation — my recurring sense that many of my colleagues’ questions were valued in ways that made no sense to me while the ones I wanted to ask were forbidden — cannot be separated from the fact that I came of age as a classicist in the time of Black Athena.

My goal in reflecting back on Classics’ encounter with Black Athena (beginning some thirty years ago now) is not to open old wounds — or at least not open them casually — but to insist that we cannot effectively combat today’s use of Greece and Rome by white nationalists until we admit our own role in bringing such ideology about, until we grapple honestly with the fact that in no small way Classics’ response to Black Athena is coming home to roost.

For those who didn’t live through it, the sheer scale of Black Athena’s cultural impact can be difficult to comprehend (but here is a nice starter bibliography). It was a time when questions about the roots of ancient Greek civilization — and especially its connections to Africa — were everywhere — from television documentaries to Italian dub trance music to the cover of Newsweek magazine.

Appearing in the same year as Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind (1987), Black Athena soon became part of larger conversations “about how to teach the foundational ideas of Western culture” in American universities. Although the subject matter of Black Athena was deceptively straightforward — as author Martin Bernal phrased it: “Black Athena is essentially concerned with the Egyptian and Semitic roles in the formation of Greece in the Middle and Late Bronze Age” (volume 1, p. 22) — such brevity of purpose belied the ways Black Athena sought not only to re-examine the early development of Greek culture, but also to raise pointed questions about the ways early classical scholars had produced a distinctly whitewashed version of Greek origins throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, one that emphasized the alleged purity of Greek culture as well as its superiority over Egypt.

Outlining the development of this approach to Greek history, which Bernal called the “Aryan Model,” in volume 1 of Black Athena, Bernal used archaeological and linguistic evidence in volumes 2 and 3 to argue for a “Revised Ancient Model,” one based in large part on the view the Greeks had of their own cultural origins (their “Ancient Model”), a view that acknowledged early phases of Egyptian and Phoenician colonization, as well as the continuing influence of these cultures on their own.

Egyptian hieroglyphics emerged about 5,000 years ago. Ancient Egyptian high culture emerged very early in human history and then was remarkably stable for thousands of years. So, it would hardly be surprising if Ancient Egypt, like the Fertile Crescent, had influence on Greek culture at the time of or before, say, the Trojan War (about 3200 years ago). Egypt and Babylon were way ahead of Greece, so it’s hardly unlikely that Greeks would have borrowed from the older civilizations, as Greek writers like Herodotus and Plato suggested. [Update: Commenters have challenged my assertion that Plato asserted this, so I withdraw it. There may or may not have been a connection between Plato (and/or Socrates) and the earlier Pythagoras. In turn, Pythagoras was alleged to have studied the wisdom of, especially, Egypt, along with Persia, the Hebrews, India, Iberia, and the Celtic cultures.)

On the other hand, the famous later Greek efflorescence of 2500 years ago (Socrates, etc.) is a remarkable event in world history.

… Bernal’s treatment of race was often mischaracterized, for despite the work’s provocative title, skin color was actually quite peripheral to Bernal’s project. Indeed, Bernal seemed to many of his readers to hedge by stating simply that there were some Egyptian pharaohs “whom one can usefully call black” (vol. 1, p. 242). Bernal’s stance on Egyptian Blackness was panned in a footnote to Greg Thomas’ 2009 book Hip-Hop Revolution in the Flesh: Power, Knowledge, and Pleasure in Lil’ Kim’s Lyricism (evidence of the incredibly wide-ranging influence of Black Athena). When pressed to clarify his position, Bernal would later label Egyptian civilization “fundamentally African,” while declaring the population itself “mixed,” one that got “darker and more Negroid the further up the Nile you went.”

When faced with criticism about his title, Bernal openly admitted that “African Athena” would have been more accurate, infamously adding that his publisher insisted on the title by stating: “Blacks no longer sell. Women no longer sell. But black women still sell!” (Arethusa special issue, pp. 31–32).

Much of the confusion stems from that old Brits often used “black” to refer to dark-haired / dark-eyed people, which is extremely confusing for Americans, where “black” has long meant sub-Saharan African. So African Americans would read old books in which some Oxford professor would refer to Ancient Egyptians as “black” and assume that he meant sub-Saharans.

Moreover, Americans tend not to be very aware of what North Africans look like and assume that people north of the Sahara must be closely related to people south of the Sahara. In most of North Africa that isn’t true, although the Nile is the one corridor where you wouldn’t be major danger of dying of thirst as you cross the desert. On the other hand, the upper Nile is harder to move along that you might expect.

Fortunately, the rapidly progressing science of ancient DNA scans should allow us to answer many of these questions about racial ancestry.

Professor McCoskey is a devout member of the Race Has No Biological Reality cult.

But of course what African American Afrocentrists really desire is to be told that Cleopatra was biologically black.

Say it were announced tomorrow that the long lost Tomb of Antony and Cleopatra:

She shall be buried by her Antony:
No grave upon the earth shall clip in it
A pair so famous.

had been definitively discovered. And it contains an intact, un-graverobbed mummy of Cleopatra, and that David Reich’s lab at Harvard is to analyze her DNA. If Reich then announced that Cleopatra’s DNA is, say, 3/8ths sub-Saharan African, black American Afrocentrists would feel overjoyed and vindicated. As well they should.

Now, I find this scenario unlikely. What we know about her ancestry, which is quite a bit for someone from so long ago, points to southeastern Europe. Her ancestor was Alexander the Great’s general Ptolemy from Macedonia. My guess is that the 1990s Afrocentrist obsession with Cleopatra is just more of the kind of thing Waugh had fun with in Scoop when the Ishmaelite consul-general orates to William Boot:

“As that great Negro Karl Marx has so nobly written … Who built the Pyramids? A Negro. Who invented the circulation of the blood? A Negro.

But if DNA evidence upheld the view that Cleopatra was significantly sub-Saharan, then they would be right.

That’s how science works.

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From CNBC:

Jeff Bezos predicts we’ll have 1 trillion humans in the solar system, and Blue Origin wants to help get us there

Blue Origin’s aim is to lower the cost of access to space, Jeff Bezos said during a surprise appearance at Wired’s 25th anniversary conference.

Bezos said he will spend a “little more” than $1 billion annually to support Blue Origin.

Sara Salinas | @saracsalinas, 15 Oct 2018

Blue Origin founder and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos predicts we’ll have 1 trillion humans in the solar system one day — and he laid out Monday how the rocket company plans to help get there.

“I won’t be alive to see the fulfillment of that long-term mission,” Bezos said at the Wired 25th anniversary summit in San Francisco. “We are starting to bump up against the absolute true fact that Earth is finite.” …

Last week, the U.S. Air Force selected Blue Origin and others to develop a domestic launch system prototype. The Pentagon deal awards Blue Origin $500 million for the development of the New Glenn rocket.

“We are going to continue to support the [Department of Defense],” Bezos said. “If big tech companies are going to turn their back on the U.S. Department of Defense, this country is going to be in trouble.”

I’m guessing Bezos is talking about humanity someday building a Dyson Sphere just outside the orbit of the Earth.

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My impression is that it’s a tricky call, and I’m glad Britain is not my country so I don’t have to have an opinion.

What do you think?

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Commenter Chrisnonymous makes a good point:

By far, the most interesting aspect of the war on white women and blonde hair is the revealed preference vis-a-vis Judith Rich Harris’ theory of selection for white skin:

I believe, though I cannot prove it, that three—not two—selection processes were involved in human evolution. The first two are familiar: natural selection, which selects for fitness, and sexual selection, which selects for sexiness. The third process selects for beauty, but not sexual beauty—not adult beauty. The ones doing the selecting weren’t potential mates: they were parents. Parental selection, I call it…

I think it’s pretty obvious that when you read between the lines with complaints like Pinkett-Smith’s and also Thessaly La Force’s, that there is a big heap of jealousy involved, but note that it often manifests itself not as adult jealousy of sexy blonde women but as relived childhood jealousy of other, beautiful blonde children.

Here in Japan, lots of girls want to be blonde princesses, and the women want blonde babies. My guess is that this pattern lives itself out worldwide, even among lots of brunette white girls and women.

“Absolutely. All throughout my childhood. I do remember experiencing being teased by white women in regards to my hair, how I looked, feeling belittled,” Pinkett Smith said.

The teasing might have happened, but note that feeling belittled can happen along with teasing rather than as a result of it.

There’s an interesting phenomenon although I’m not sure what its name is (perhaps “towheadedness”?) in which northern European kids tend to be blonder up through perhaps age 6 than from 7 to 12. Perhaps it’s a “parental selection” phenomenon in which children are more strikingly attractive to parents during the vulnerable ages 1 to 6 than when they are hardier from 7 to 12.

My vague impression from old photos is that when I was a child I had blond hair, at least in summer, while as an adult I had medium to light brown hair.

On the other hand, in Christmas pictures my hair is darker. For example, from the cover of the French rock band Sudden Death of Stars‘ single “What Is Christmas For?” here I am at some point in the 1960s a few days after the winter solstice:

It’s an interesting methodological problem that it’s hard to nail down the hair color of many Europeans because it changes from winter to summer. I can recall reading one July an article by P.J. O’Rourke writing about visiting Stockholm in February and him not seeing many blonds. But when I went out for a walk around Chicago’s Loop, lots more corporate guys had blonder hair than I expected. But that’s what happens in summer.

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As real estate prices in Seattle have grown to California levels, Amazon famously looked all over the country for where to place a “second” headquarters. Lots of observers naively assumed it would go for a nice place with a some room to grow, such as the Denver area.

Amazon ended up slicing the baby in half and awarding one HQ to Long Island City, NY and another to Crystal City, VA. The latter is right next to Washington DC’s in-close Ronald Reagan airport, and the former isn’t a suburb like it sounds, it’s a waterfront neighborhood in Queens across the East River from Times Square — i.e., perhaps the most in-town place you can be in NYC without being on Manhattan.

Some of these decisions no doubt are related to how much shakedown local officials were willing to pay. But an interesting point was made by Spotted Toad [link fixed].

A couple of years ago he pointed out how smart capitalists, and Jeff Bezos didn’t get to be the Richest Man in the World by not being smart, like Unaffordable Family Formation. It helps them squeeze more work out of workers:

The firms like being in places too expensive to raise a family– families are distractions, at least in the short-run. And once the smart set is composed of people living with roommates in their late 20s and early 30s, in the kind of neighborhoods that Arab princes and Chinese tycoons use as credit mobility vehicles, in a metropolitan mating market that facilitates everything but commitment, one can’t help but feel that the concentration of economic activity in spots of white-hot unaffordability will intensify, rather than relax.

Good call.

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One of the oldest Wall Street jokes was is from a pre-WWII book by Fred Schwed:

Once in the dear dead days beyond recall, an out-of-town visitor was being shown the wonders of the New York financial district. When the party arrived at the Battery, one of his guides indicated some handsome ships riding at anchor. He said,

“Look, those are the bankers’ and brokers’ yachts.”

“Where are the customers’ yachts?” asked the naïve visitor.

I haven’t looked into this question, but are we absolutely sure that online advertising via Facebook and Google really works as well as markets assume?

My rule of thumb is that the stock market knows a lot more than I do about the valuation of stocks, so I’m not all that contrarian. My basic shtick is to not be oblivious to the obvious. If the stock market says Facebook’s capitalization $414 billion, well, the amount of hard thinking that has gone into that number is a lot more than I could reproduce, so I take it for what it’s worth: the single best skin-in-the-game estimate of Facebook’s market cap.

On the other hand, even if proof that online advertising is currently as effective as the huge market caps of big online firms seem to assume, the stock market could believe that even if this hasn’t gone through the formality of taking place, it’s only a matter of time. There’s just too much money at stake to fail. A famous knockoff of Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” by a Facebook employee laments: “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads.” So it might be rational to assume it’s bound to happen.

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From my new movie review in Taki’s Magazine:

Killing Time With the Coen Brothers
by Steve Sailer

November 14, 2018

The Coen brothers’ eighteenth movie, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, might be their whitest yet, despite Mrs. Joel Coen, Frances McDormand, having devoted her Best Actress speech at last March’s Oscars to demanding “inclusion.”

Since Blood Simple in 1984, Joel and Ethan Coen have never much concerned themselves with anybody’s demands for “representation.” Yet Buster Scruggs takes this old tendency of theirs to a new high.

An anthology of six premises for cowboy movies that the Coens have come up with over the years, Buster Scruggs features a cast—the biggest names in it are Liam Neeson, Brendan Gleeson, James Franco, Tom Waits, Tim Blake Nelson, and Tyne Daly (in, curiously, a role that would normally be played by McDormand)—whom the Hispanophilic John Wayne would have found problematically lacking in diversity. Heck, Bonanza featured more nonwhites than does Buster Scruggs (which will debut this Friday on Netflix).

Read the whole thing there.

Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

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

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