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Uncouth Reflections, a group blog dedicated to grown-up pleasures, lists Our Favorite Things from 2014. Fabrizio del Wrongo is too kind about me.

 

Here’s a cover story in Harper’s by Sam Frank on “apocalyptic libertarians,” centering on the Less Wrong community and its leader Eliezer Yudkowsky.

 

From my Taki’s Magazine column:

Turing worship is related to two groups riding high in the 21st century: gays and nerds. The Imitation Game exploits Turing’s status as one of the relatively rare gay-nerd intersections to create a victim for our times.

Back in the previous millennium, The Onion headlined:

Gaywads, Dorkwads Sign Historic Wad Accord

… “For too long, wad factionalism has divided the wad community, senselessly pitting wad against wad in bitter inter-wad disputes,” dorkwad representative Tad Patrick Reems, 15, told reporters. “Now is the time for us to set aside our differences and join together in opposition of our common enemy—the mean, popular kids who have mercilessly inflicted locker-room wedgies upon us since time immemorial.”

Movies, however, take a long time to put together. Thus The Imitation Game’s notion of a gay-nerd alliance against the Haven Monahans now seems more clichéd than galvanising.

This is not to say that Turing doesn’t deserve his endless approbation.

Read the whole thing there.

 

From Paul Graham’s 2004 essay “What You Can’t Say:”

No one gets in trouble for saying that 2 + 2 is 5, or that people in Pittsburgh are ten feet tall. Such obviously false statements might be treated as jokes, or at worst as evidence of insanity, but they are not likely to make anyone mad. The statements that make people mad are the ones they worry might be believed. I suspect the statements that make people maddest are those they worry might be true…

Some would ask, why would one want to do this? Why deliberately go poking around among nasty, disreputable ideas? Why look under rocks?

I do it, first of all, for the same reason I did look under rocks as a kid: plain curiosity. And I’m especially curious about anything that’s forbidden. Let me see and decide for myself.

Second, I do it because I don’t like the idea of being mistaken. If, like other eras, we believe things that will later seem ridiculous, I want to know what they are so that I, at least, can avoid believing them.

Third, I do it because it’s good for the brain. To do good work you need a brain that can go anywhere. And you especially need a brain that’s in the habit of going where it’s not supposed to.

Great work tends to grow out of ideas that others have overlooked, and no idea is so overlooked as one that’s unthinkable. Natural selection, for example. It’s so simple. Why didn’t anyone think of it before? Well, that is all too obvious. Darwin himself was careful to tiptoe around the implications of his theory. He wanted to spend his time thinking about biology, not arguing with people who accused him of being an atheist.

In the sciences, especially, it’s a great advantage to be able to question assumptions. The m.o. of scientists, or at least of the good ones, is precisely that: look for places where conventional wisdom is broken, and then try to pry apart the cracks and see what’s underneath. That’s where new theories come from…

It’s not only in the sciences that heresy pays off. In any competitive field, you can win big by seeing things that others daren’t…

Training yourself to think unthinkable thoughts has advantages beyond the thoughts themselves. It’s like stretching. When you stretch before running, you put your body into positions much more extreme than any it will assume during the run. If you can think things so outside the box that they’d make people’s hair stand on end, you’ll have no trouble with the small trips outside the box that people call innovative.

When you find something you can’t say, what do you do with it? My advice is, don’t say it…

The most important thing is to be able to think what you want, not to say what you want. And if you feel you have to say everything you think, it may inhibit you from thinking improper thoughts. I think it’s better to follow the opposite policy. Draw a sharp line between your thoughts and your speech. Inside your head, anything is allowed. Within my head I make a point of encouraging the most outrageous thoughts I can imagine. But, as in a secret society, nothing that happens within the building should be told to outsiders. The first rule of Fight Club is, you do not talk about Fight Club. …

The trouble with keeping your thoughts secret, though, is that you lose the advantages of discussion. Talking about an idea leads to more ideas. So the optimal plan, if you can manage it, is to have a few trusted friends you can speak openly to. This is not just a way to develop ideas; it’s also a good rule of thumb for choosing friends. The people you can say heretical things to without getting jumped on are also the most interesting to know.

On the other hand, while whispering in the catacombs is better than no discussion at all, there are advantages to writing things down. As Graham explains in “Writing, Briefly:”

I think it’s far more important to write well than most people realize. Writing doesn’t just communicate ideas; it generates them. If you’re bad at writing and don`t like to do it, you’ll miss out on most of the ideas writing would have generated. … Write a bad version 1 as fast as you can; rewrite it over and over; expect 80% of the ideas in an essay to happen after you start writing it, and 50% of those you start with to be wrong …

And there are advantages to dragging your written thoughts into the public arena and challenging anyone in the house to show them wrong. One major benefit is that quite frequently somebody you don’t know shows up and proves you wrong. (But then you can then steal borrow his or her ideas.)

A few of us lunatics ignore Graham’s prudent good sense and write openly and honestly for the public in the hope that public discussion is good for our country and our world.

Of course, one problem with that is that it’s hard to make any kind of living off of such writing, especially in today’s climate in which advertisers don’t want to be associated with anything “controversial.”

Fortunately, I’ve found that I have generous readers. So, here’s The End of the End of the Year iSteve Panhandling Drive:

I now have six ways for you to send me money, including Paypal, fee-free bank transfers, and multiple tax deductible methods via VDARE.com:

First: You can use PayPal (non-tax deductible) by going to the page on my old blog here. PayPal accepts most credit cards. Contributions can be either one-time only, monthly, or annual.

Second: You can mail a non-tax deductible donation to:Steve Sailer P.O Box 4142 Valley Village,CA 91617-0142

Third: You can make a tax deductible contribution to VDARE by clicking here. (Paypal and credit cards accepted, including recurring “subscription” donations.) If you send VDARE a check make sure to put “I like Steve Sailer” on the Memo line. Note: the VDARE site goes up and down on its own schedule, so if this link stops working, please let me know.

 

Fourth: if you have a Chase bank account (or even other bank accounts), you can transfer money to me (with no fees) via Chase QuickPay (FAQ). Just tell Chase QuickPay to send the money to my ancient AOL email address(steveslrATaol.com — replace the AT with the usual @). If Chase asks for the name on my account, it’s StevenSailer with an n at the end of Steven. (Non-tax deductible.) There is no 2.9% fee like with PayPal or Google Wallet, so this is good for large contributions.

Fifth: if you have a Wells Fargo bank account, you can transfer money to me (with no fees) via Wells Fargo SurePay. Just tell WF SurePay to send the money to my ancient AOL email address steveslrAT aol.com — replace the AT with the usual @). (Non-tax deductible.) There is no 2.9% fee like with PayPal or Google Wallet, so this is good for large contributions.

 

Sixth: Google Wallet: send money via the Paypal-like Google Wallet to my Gmail address(that’s isteveslrATgmail .com — replace the AT with a @). (Non-tax deductible.)

Here’s the Google Wallet FAQ. From it: “You will need to have (or sign up for) Google Wallet to send or receive money. If you have ever purchased anything on Google Play, then you most likely already have a Google Wallet. If you do not yet have a Google Wallet, don’t worry, the process is simple: go to wallet.google.com and follow the steps.” You probably already have a Google ID and password, which Google Wallet uses, so signing up Wallet is pretty painless. You can put money into your Google Wallet Balance from your bank account and send it with no service fee. Or you can send money via credit card (Visa, MasterCard, AmEx, Discover) with the industry-standard 2.9% fee. (You don’t need to put money into your Google Wallet Balance to do this.) Google Wallet works from both a website and a smartphone app (Android and iPhone — the Google Wallet app is currently available only in the U.S., but the Google Wallet website can be used in 160 countries). Or, once you sign up with Google Wallet, you can simply send money via credit card, bank transfer, or Wallet Balance as an attachment from Google’s free Gmail email service.Here’s how to do it. (Non-tax deductible.) Thanks!

Happy New Year!

 

J.L. David, via HyScience

A significant difference over the last couple of centuries between Britain and several of the Continental Powers, such as France, Germany, and Italy was that the British tended to enjoy the clash of parties in parliament, seeing it as great political theater, while the Continentals tended to find party politics unseemly and a roadblock to Getting Things Done. Thus, Continentals tended to periodically demand a Man on Horseback.

Former Obama Administration official Cass Sunstein is the husband of UN Ambassador Samantha Power and the propounder of such swell ideas as the government should battle conspiracy theorists by mounting secret conspiracies to hire agents provocateur to engage in “cognitive infiltration” of conspiracy theorist websites. In 2013, Sunstein wrote a column in favor of Bowling Alone entitled “Could Bowling Leagues and the PTA Breed Nazis?

Here’s the abstract of his latest, a timely effort in the wake of the Democrats losing the recent Congressional election:

Partyism

Cass R. Sunstein
Harvard Law School

December 14, 2014

University of Chicago Legal Forum, Forthcoming

Abstract:

“Partyism” is a form of hostility and prejudice that operates across political lines. For example, some Republicans have an immediate aversive reaction to Democrats, and some Democrats have the same aversive reaction to Republicans, so much so that they would discriminate against them in hiring or promotion decisions, or in imposing punishment. If elected officials suffer from partyism – perhaps because their constituents do – they will devalue proposals from the opposing party and refuse to enter into agreements with its members, even if their independent assessment, freed from partyism, would be favorably disposed toward those proposals or agreements. In the United States, partyism has been rapidly growing, and it is quite pronounced – in some ways, more so than racism. It also has a series of adverse effects on governance itself, above all by making it difficult to enact desirable legislation and thus disrupting the system of separation of powers.

You keep using that phrase “separation of powers;” I do not think it means what you think it means.

Under circumstances of severe partyism, relatively broad delegations of authority to the executive branch, and a suitably receptive approach to the Chevron principle, have considerable appeal as ways of allowing significant social problems to be addressed. This conclusion bears on both domestic issues and foreign affairs.

The “Chevron principle” refers to a 1984 Supreme Court decision limiting the judicial branch’s right to limit the power of the executive branch.

It never seems to occur to Sunstein that someday his wife won’t be in the meetings where they decide who to call a drone strike in on. Maybe we’ll soon see a paper from Sunstein called “Electionism” denouncing the divisive, time-wasting, outmoded tradition of holding Presidential elections when the current President is obviously addressing significant social problems with his amnesties and drone strikes.

 

I’m a big fan of Paul Graham’s advice essays, especially “What You Can’t Say,” so I don’t want to be too hard on him for parroting the standard talking points on immigration. But it’s worth recalling that he has stated that successful Silicon Valley start-up CEOs likely grew up in America simply because of the accent advantage it gives them.
From “Silicon Valley’s Start-Up Machine” by Nathaniel Rich in the NYT Magazine about essayist Paul Graham’s Y Combinator boot camp for entrepreneurs:

Several years ago, Paul Graham — whom everybody calls P.G. — began to film the interviews he and his partners held with prospective Y.C. inductees. When reviewing the footage, he focused on the interviews with start-ups that ultimately failed. Like any savvy marketing executive, he wanted to isolate patterns that portended ill, which he called “negative predictors.” He was already aware of a few — investors tended to be biased against older founders, for instance. “The cutoff in investors’ heads is 32,” Graham says. “After 32, they start to be a little skeptical.” And Graham knew that he had his own biases. “I can be tricked by anyone who looks like Mark Zuckerberg. There was a guy once who we funded who was terrible. I said: ‘How could he be bad? He looks like Zuckerberg!’ ”

… But after ranking every Y.C. company by its valuation, Graham discovered a more significant correlation. “You have to go far down the list to find a C.E.O. with a strong foreign accent,” Graham told me. “Alarmingly far down — like 100th place.” I asked him to clarify. “You can sound like you’re from Russia,” he said, in the voice of an evil Soviet henchman. “It’s just fine, as long as everyone can understand you.”

This was bad news for Strikingly’s David Chen, who moved in 2005 from Guangzhou to the United States to attend high school at Houghton Academy, in upstate New York. He spoke English fluently but struggled to pronounce words like “build,” “mobile” and, most ominously, “strikingly.” Yet Chen had clearly established himself as the fledgling company’s impresario and spokesman. …

One week before Demo Day, Graham told the Strikingly founders that Chen’s accent was too strong. The quiet, reserved Bao — who spoke less frequently than either of his partners despite being the group’s only native English speaker — would have to deliver the pitch instead. Bao denied that he was anxious, but as he tried to memorize the pitch, he grew even quieter than usual. “I haven’t gotten to the point where I’m comfortable with public speaking,” he admitted.

In other words, it’s a myth that tech billionaire entrepreneurs are magnanimously bringing poor Asians to America to start companies to compete with them.

The reality is that billionaires just want code-fodder. The number of H-1B visa workers who will prove competition for the Zuckerbergs is negligible.

 

Los Angeles has always been full of bizarre and entertaining local news, but the dominant Los Angeles Times traditionally found tabloid stories in poor taste.

Sam Quinones

In the last decade, however, it featured a first rate reporter named Sam Quinones who combined a taste for lurid crime stories with impressive big picture analytical chops. His 2008 LAT article “A familial mean street: Networks of relatives have bred crime on once-peaceful Drew Street, police say” was so good that I commented upon it at length in VDARE.

He focused on the extended family of that Mama Leon that had made Drew Street of Glassell Park in a prime location just north of downtown Los Angeles into a pocket battlefield:

“An illegal immigrant and mother of 13, [Maria] Leon has a lengthy arrest record and three convictions for drug-related crimes—for which she’s served no prison time, according to court documents. …

“Police said Leon, 44, and her extended family were deeply involved in the drug trade that has made Drew Street among L.A.’s most notorious.” …

“The Leons—and members of several other immigrant families on Drew Street whom authorities have charged with criminal acts—hail from the town of Tlalchapa in the state of Guerrero, which has a reputation as one of Mexico’s most violent regions. Police estimate that dozens of members of these extended families belong to the Avenues gang. …

“’It’s been a safety net for them to rely on each other—brothers, cousins and all,’ said LAPD Lt. Robert Lopez. ‘The likelihood of someone within your family ratting you out is really low.’”

“Police task forces, gang sweeps, arrests—even a 2002 gang injunction—have done little to break the bonds of family and culture that breed criminal activity on Drew Street, officials said. …

“The city said that ‘I’m not supposed to have gangs out in the yard’ in front of the apartment building, according to one landlord who requested anonymity, fearing reprisal. ‘I’m the one who is supposed to go and chase them out? I don’t think so.’” …

“Over the years, Leon had 13 children with five men, according to court records. Several of her sons are documented gang members, according to police. One of Leon’s sons, Daniel, was killed last month in the shootout on Drew Street after allegedly firing an AK-47 at officers.

“The close family ties on Drew Street, along with the poverty and overcrowding, have made it difficult for police to penetrate, authorities said. Police report having seen lookouts standing atop apartment buildings, watching for cops or rival gang members, ready to whistle or chirp their Nextels in warning.”

Now, Quinones is back with an article, “The End of Gangs” in Pacific Standard, on radical new strategies begun under Bill Bratton that the LAPD has been using to crush gangs, including cleaning up Drew Street.

Traditionally, the LAPD focused on arresting the “kingpins,” the leaders of the gangs. Kill the head and the body will die. This assumed there were a few really bad criminals and a lot of marginal kids who would straighten up and fly right once the malign influence of the kingpin was gone. Instead, removing the leadership just led to wars to become leaders.

So, LAPD started using federal RICO indictments to round up all the foot soldiers in massive military-like operations and then packing them off to federal penitentiaries in places like Arkansas.

FEW PLACES SHOW MORE clearly how CompStat, community policing, RICO indictments, and shifts in the real estate market can come together to alter a terrain than those nasty two blocks in Northeast L.A. around the corner from where Simon Tejada lives. …

As [Officer] Murphy introduced himself around, he kept private the knowledge that the department was preparing a massive RICO indictment against the Drew Street gang. This had come about because an LAPD officer who had patrolled Drew for several years had paid a visit to Chris Brunwin, the federal prosecutor. The two had worked together on the Highland Park gang case. In years past, the idea that an LAPD street officer would even know a federal prosecutor, let alone visit one, was hard to imagine. But the door was now open.

Thus, in June 2008, three months into Bill Murphy’s tenure as a Captain III, thousands of police officers poured onto Drew Street and into nearby areas. SWAT teams from as far away as the East Coast came in to help. Seventy gang members were indicted.

As the SWAT trucks moved out that afternoon, city street cleaners moved in. They covered the graffiti, removed trash, cut down sneakers hanging from telephone wires, and swept streets that hadn’t been swept in a year. They repaired a fountain in the pocket park at the end of Drew Street. Officers began walking foot beats, and kept at it for the rest of the summer.

A grim setback came on August 2, when Drew Street gang members shot to death a deputy sheriff as he prepared for work one morning, but the murder proved the gang’s last gasp. Another RICO indictment quickly followed, with 90 members of the Avenues gang sent off to federal and state prison. Landlords, facing hefty legal penalties for allowing criminal activity on their properties, began evicting gang tenants. Then came the unheard-of: Residents started tipping off officers on which gang members had committed a series of robberies.

By the end of the year, kids were playing in the street. The Northeast Division grew adept at social media, using Twitter to announce crimes that had just happened.

Peace unlocked value. A new neighbor of Simon Tejada’s paid $350,000 for a house last year. Graffiti still occasionally pops up on Drew, but is quickly painted over. The incessant crack trade is gone, as are the menacing kids in hoodies lurking behind cars. Families no longer fall asleep to the sound of gunfire, helicopters, and screeching tires. The area has attracted several Filipino families with young children and no gang affiliations. In conversations I had with them, they seemed only vaguely aware of the street’s notorious history.

The city attorney’s office took possession of the Leon family’s Satellite House in a nuisance abatement lawsuit, and the city brought in massive machinery that devoured it in what amounted to a public exorcism. A community vegetable garden went up on the lot.

DREW STREET, HOBBLED BY overbuilding, remains vulnerable. Dense apartments keep attracting new low-income renters, many of them service workers from Tlalchapa, Guerrero, whose sons, like so many dislocated young men, may be drawn to gang life. Suspicion of the police is still strong. The same tenuous peace holds in many neighborhoods across Southern California.

So, the idea is that instead of going into one small neighborhood and arresting, say, the top eight gang leaders and sending them to local prisons, from which they continue to run things, you arrest 160 gang members and send them off to federal prisons halfway across the country.

It’s straight out of Machiavelli’s The Prince: don’t engage in a pitter-patter of repression against the local power structure that just allows resentments to fester. Instead, assert your authority over an area in one massive coup against the old power structure, and then the locals who are left will come around to your rule.

 

Venture capitalist and fine essayist Paul Graham writes in favor of Silicon Valley billionaires’ efforts to pass the Senate immigration bill, which increases H-1B visas from 85,000 new ones per year to 180,000.

Let the Other 95% of Great Programmers In

December 2014

American technology companies want the government to make immigration easier because they say they can’t find enough programmers in the US.

Anti-immigration people say that instead of letting foreigners take these jobs, we should train more Americans to be programmers.

Who’s right? The technology companies are right. What the anti-immigration people don’t understand is that there is a huge variation in ability between competent programmers and exceptional ones, and while you can train people to be competent, you can’t train them to be exceptional.

Exceptional programmers have an aptitude for and interest in programming that is not merely the product of training.[1]

The US has less than 5% of the world’s population. Which means if the qualities that make someone a great programmer are evenly distributed, 95% of great programmers are born outside the US.

Funny, then, how we mostly seem to wind up with upper caste Indians as H-1Bs. If you asked H-1Bs if programming talent was evenly distributed just within India, they’d scoff at the notion: “Untouchables? I say, that’s a good one!”

The anti-immigration people have to invent some explanation to account for all the effort technology companies have expended trying to make immigration easier. So they claim it’s because they want to drive down salaries.

But if you talk to startups, you find practically every one over a certain size has gone through legal contortions to get programmers into the US, where they then paid them the same as they’d have paid an American.

I was going to enumerate the non sequiturs, economic fallacies, and slippery changes of focus, but I’ll leave that as an exercise to the reader.

We have the potential to ensure that the US remains a technology superpower just by letting in a few thousand great programmers a year.

Okay, so let’s say “a few thousand” means 5,000. Then what do we need 85,000 H-1B grunts for, much less 180,000?

Let me refocus from Silicon Valley to another giant California industry that is highly talent-dependent and remains totally dominant globally: the movie industry.

Here, from Box Office Mojo, are the top three dozen box office smashes so far in 2014 at overseas theaters (i.e., excluding revenue from North America):

Transformers: Age of Extinction $842

Maleficent $516

X-Men: Days of Future Past $512

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 $506

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes $500

Interstellar $464

Captain America: The Winter Soldier $454

How to Train Your Dragon 2 $442

Guardians of the Galaxy $440

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies $405

Rio 2 $367

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 $363

Lucy $332

Godzilla (2014) $324

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) $286

Edge of Tomorrow $269

Noah $261

The Maze Runner $238

300: Rise of An Empire $225

The LEGO Movie $210

Gone Girl $191

RoboCop (2014) $184

The Fault in our Stars $179

Hercules (2014) $171

Annabelle $168

The Expendables 3 $167

Mr. Peabody & Sherman $161

Need for Speed $160

Penguins of Madagascar $160

Dracula Untold $159

22 Jump Street $140

Divergent $138

Non-Stop $131

Big Hero 6 $121

Neighbors $118

The Grand Budapest Hotel $114

And, finally, the 37th biggest movie outside of North America so far in 2014 is the first non-English language movie, by the Japanese animation master Miyazaki:

The Wind Rises $113

Now some of these movies are likely more British or New Zealander than American, but the first three dozen are all English-language movies with substantial American involvement. Everybody complains about Hollywood, but it’s a spectacularly successful export industry.

But here’s the relevant fact for thinking about Graham’s logic: Hollywood, unlike Silicon Valley, makes very little use of H-1B visas. Indeed, overall Hollywood is a high cost industry, with fairly strong unions and a lot of nepotism.

Hollywood’s world dominance is not because America has a monopoly on talent. When I went to Turkey in 2009 I was amazed by how spectacular their home-grown TV commercials were. And the best foreign talent — e.g., Mexican cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity, Birdman, The Tree of Life) does get to the United States, even though Hollywood seldom uses H-1b programs.

So, once again, what do we need H-1Bs for, much less vastly more H-1Bs?

 

Screenshot 2014-12-29 15.47.23

Here’s the link, and the article in Slate.

 

Whenever I read denunciations of The Bell Curve, I’m struck by how little subsequent data are cited. We hear a lot of a priori arguments that were musty when the late Stephen Jay Gould was trumpeting themand a lot of ad hominem anger, but few references to new data that have emerged in the 20 years since.

It’s not as if there isn’t a lot more data today.

What made The Bell Curve of particular importance was that around 1990 Murray and Herrnstein got their hands on a particularly rich data set: the federal 1979 National Longitudinal Study of Youth tracking of 12,000+ nationally representative youngish people combined with the Pentagon’s 1980 administration of the AFQT/ASVAB enlistment test to the NLSY sample.

This was due to the Pentagon’s 1976 misnorming of AFQT scores that led to the Stripes Era of the Carter Administration military. Non-commissioned officer kept calling up Senator Sam Nunn to tell him that there must be something wrong with the new test because a lot of the new recruits were dumb as a box of rocks. Nunn finally got the brass to look into this and, sure enough, they’d screwed up in determining the passing scores.

Fortunately, there was a nationally representative sample of 15 to 23 year olds already under steam in the NLSY and adding a good cognitive test like the AFQT to it would be of benefit to social scientists as well. So in 1980 most of the NLSY panel sat down and took the AFQT so the Pentagon would finally know how smart the average American youth was. This led to the Top Gun era of the Reagan Administration military. (I’m oversimplifying history, but the misnorming fiasco deserves to be better known.)

So, if Herrnstein and Murray are wrong, we now have 20 more years of data from the NLSY79 tracking, which now includes thousands of children of females in the original study, including both mother and child IQ-like scores. You can access NLSY79 data here. The most recent published update is from 2012.

Plus we have the NLSY97 tracking study from 18 years later that has now been running for 17 years.

And we have lots of other long-term tracking samples, such as ADD Health.

Overseas, there is the Dunedin sample. The medical and dental school in the New Zealand city of Dunedin enrolled virtually every child born in Dunedin over a 12-month period in 1972-73 into this lifelong study. The subjects are now in their early 40s and their children are being enrolled as they reach age 15. A sizable documentary is being prepared on the results called “The Science of Us.” (Above is a brief trailer.)

Here are some selected papers published based on this universe of roughly 1000 individuals. (You can get the links to the papers here.)

Credit Scores, Cardiovascular Disease Risk and Human Capital

Is Chronic Asthma Associated with Shorter Leukocyte Telomere Length at Midlife?

Employment among schoolchildren and its associations with adult substance use, psychological wellbeing, and academic achievement

Community water fluoridation and intelligence: Prospective Study in New Zealand

Smoking Cessation and Subsequent Weight Change

Tobacco Smoking in Adolescence Predicts Maladaptive Coping Styles in Adulthood

Is Obesity Associated With a Decline in Intelligence Quotient During the First Half of the Life Course?

The p Factor: One general psychopathology factor in the structure of psychiatric disorders?

Prospective developmental subtypes of alcohol dependence from age 18 to 32 years: Implications for nosology, etiology, and intervention

Retinal vessel caliber and lifelong neuropsychological functioning: Retinal imaging as an investigative tool for cognitive epidemiology

Stability and change in same-sex attraction, experience, and identity by sex and age in a New Zealand Birth Cohort

Childhood and adolescent television viewing and antisocial behavior in early adulthood

The relationship between multiple sex partners and anxiety, depression, and substance dependence disorders: a cohort study

A 32-Year Longitudinal Study of Child and Adolescent Pathways to Well-Being in Adulthood

Persistent Cannabis Users Show Neuropsychological Decline from Childhood to Midlife

Does Being an Older Parent Attenuate the Intergenerational Transmission of Parenting?

Undercontrolled temperament at age 3 predicts disordered gambling at age 32: a longitudinal study of a complete birth cohort

Can Childhood Factors Predict Workplace Deviance?

Patterns of sexual partnering and reproductive history: Associations with timing of first birth in a birth cohort

Risk factors prospectively associated with adult obsessive-compulsive symptom dimensions and obsessive-compulsive disorder

Adolescent, and their parents, attitudes towards graduated driver licensing and subsequent risky driving and crashes in young adulthood

A gradient of childhood self-control predicts health, wealth, and public safety

The Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study: tips and traps from a 40-year longitudinal study

Consistency and reliability of self-reported lifetime number of heterosexual partners by gender and age in a cohort study

Adolescent screen-time and attachment to parents and peers

How common are common mental disorders? Evidence that lifetime prevalence rates are doubled by prospective versus retrospective ascertainment

Adverse childhood experiences and adult risk factors for age-related disease: depression, inflammation, and clustering of metabolic risk markers

Researching genetic versus nongenetic determinants of disease: A comparison and proposed unification

Predictive value of family history on severity of illness: the case for depression, anxiety, alcohol dependence, and drug dependence

And here’s the home page of psychologists Avshalom Caspi and Terrie Moffitt who have written some of the most ambitious papers based on the Dunedin population.

At James Thompson’s Psychological Comments, he summarizes an upcoming Caspi and Moffitt paper based on 40 years of Dunedin data where they look at who are net contributors and who are net consumers of the common weal.

This strikes me as potentially hugely useful in immigration policy. My opinion has been that our immigration system ought to try to exclude individuals (and thus their descendants) who are likely to cost far more than they pay in taxes. Here’s an upcoming study of a first world city over the last 40 years:

Are you a nuisance?

What if we were to take an objective measure? Track a thousand newborns, and keep a close account of the profit and loss ledger. At this point you may feel a trifle uneasy. Who are we to judge these matters? What price the jocular remark of a mute inglorious Milton? How could one possibly assess the wit of someone who lacks a Twitter account?

Furthermore, you may recoil at the possible results of such an enquiry. If some individuals turn out to be a nuisance and a high cost to society, what then? Should they be exiled to some other land whether the natives are even more generous and gullible, or should we intervene as best we can to make them into productive citizens?

The usual strategy of successful institutions these days, such as Harvard University or the New England Patriots, is to devote much care to whom they select.

These are not trivial matters, and the researchers were at pains to highlight the moral choices which arise from a clear headed evaluation of costs and benefits. In particular, their discussion pre-supposes a compassionate society, with redistributive taxation providing educational, health and welfare benefits. The question barely arises outside a welfare states. In such less kindly states, if people are a nuisance they are simply a nuisance, but not a direct cost, since no one will be paying them any benefits.

Terrie E. Moffitt & Avshalom Caspi used the ISIR 2014 conference to test reactions from assembled researchers about the findings so far, and about the issues which arise from them. They presented their data on the Dunedin study, a four-decade longitudinal study of a birth cohort of 1000 New Zealanders. They examined risk factors in childhood and measures of social, health, and economic costs in adulthood.

Adult social and economic outcomes fit the Pareto principle: 20% of the cohort accounted for approximately 80% of every outcome: the cohort’s months of social welfare benefits, years of absent-father childrearing, pack-years of cigarette smoking, hospital admissions, pharmacy prescription fills, criminal court convictions, and injury-related insurance claims. Moreover, high-cost individuals with one problem outcome tended to also have multiple problem outcomes. An ultra-high-cost sub-segment of the cohort was identified who accounted for 80% of multiple problems. …

The authors know all this, and realise that the beguiling Pareto observation is a post-hoc description, which of itself predicts nothing. In this case it simply asserts: there are some troublesome people, and they will account for most social problems. The critical question is: which kids will grow up to be responsible for a disproportionate amount of trouble (and can anything be done to make them behave better)?

The authors say: Risk factors measured in childhood that characterized this ultra-high-cost group were: low family socio-economic status, child maltreatment, low self-control, and low IQ. Effect sizes were very large. Predictive analyses showed that together, SES, maltreatment, self-control, and IQ measured in the first decade of life were able to predict 80% of the individuals who are using 80% of multiple costly services. We developed an index of the integrity of a child’s brain at age three years. This age-3 brain-integrity index was a strong predictor of the cohort members who four decades later became members of the ultra-high-cost population segment.

Implications: Much research has shown that childhood risk ‘X’ can predict poor adult outcome ‘Y’, but modest effect sizes discourage translation of findings into targeted childhood interventions. This study illustrates that the vast bulk of a nation’s social services, crime control, and health-care are expended on a relatively small population segment. During early childhood, this population segment is characterized by a small set of risk factors: low SES, child maltreatment, low self-control, low IQ, and poor brain integrity. Reducing these factors may bring surprisingly good return on investment.

The comments from the audience were that it would be an error to describe the neurological examination as an “index of the integrity of the child’s brain”. Brains are assumed to be present. Better to say that an examination of behaviour, skills and neurological responses shows that many of the troublesome children can be detected at that age.

The assessment is interesting. It includes the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test, which is simple and a good predictor. A word is spoken and the child has only to point to the one of four pictures which best describes the word. It has been doing good work since 1959 and is an excellent example of the power of intelligence measures: simple to do but profound in their implications. …

The core of the argument is a social one, and goes to the heart of policy making. The authors calculate that about 45% of the population are “low cost users”. In other words, they draw very little on community resources, yet pay most of the taxes that provide those services to others. The authors have identified some ultra high cost users who are a net drain on resources.

When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. Taking care of your own citizenry’s problem children is one thing, taking care of other peoples’ is something else.

 

Over at 28 Sherman, SoBL has links to all 106 New York Times articles referencing “Michael Brown” that the Newspaper of Record published just from August 10 to August 30. That’s five per day!

As you’ll recall, the Myth of Michael Brown collapsed in mid-August due to two revelations. On August 15, the convenience store video appeared showing gentle giant Michael Brown violently shoving the poor little Asian store clerk who tried to stop him from stealing. Then two days later, the Brown family’s privately-hired coroner announced Brown wasn’t shot in the back. His wounds were fairly consistent with the cop’s story.

Unfortunately for the New York Times, the national media in general, the town of Ferguson, the Democratic Party in November, Zemir Begic, NYPD Officers Liu and Ramos, and America in general, the Megaphone had apparently passed its Point of No Return by August 14, 2014. Here’s SoBL’s list of New York Times headlines datelined the day before the revelatory video:

08/14/14 Perlroth “Hackers’ Efforts to Identify Officer Create Turmoil”

08/14/14 Kennedy and Schuessler “Ferguson Images Evoke Civil Rights Era and Changing Visual Perceptions”

08/14/14 Vega “Vigils Planned Nationwide Over Ferguson Shooting”

08/14/14 Peters “Missouri Unrest Leaves the Right Torn Over Views on Law vs. Order”

08/14/14 Southall “Protest in Missouri at Police Killing of Teenager Is Chronicled on Social Media”

08/14/14 Beavers and Shank Opinion article “Get the Military Off of Main Street”

08/14/14 Schwartz, Shear and Paulson “New Tack on Unrest Eases Tension in Missouri”

08/14/14 Nyhan “How Race Undermines Obama’s Bully Pulpit on Ferguson”

08/14/14 Blinder and Eligon “For Missouri Governor, Test at an Uneasy Time”

08/14/14 Bosman and Apuzzo “In Wake of Clashes, Calls to Demilitarize Police”

08/14/14 the NYT editorial Board convene for an opinion piece. “The Search for Calm in Missouri”

As they say: Wow, just wow …

The next day, August 15, the store video came out. I hadn’t been paying much attention to this distant police blotter item, but that day I posted:

Ferguson Fiasco: It’s an Election Year …

There are a lot of advantages in terms of self-respect to waiting until you know what you are talking about. It’s easier to look at yourself in the mirror if you don’t rush to judgment in accordance with your resentful rages and dreams of exploiting some remote random event as a political masterstroke.

For the New York Times, however, which had pushed all its chips into the center of the table, htey must have realized they were in too deep with no hope of extricating themselves gracefully so they just had to brazen it out.

So there was a Plan B: Shout louder and don’t mention the camera footage in any headlines. None of the scores of NYT headlines for the rest of the month mention the existence of security camera pictures of Brown setting off on his violent crime spree in the convenience store.

New York Times subscribers would have to read closely to find out the truth. For example, here is the peeved NYT article on 8/15 grudgingly admitting the existence of the store footage. It’s a pretty bizarre piece of reporting that makes palpable The Megaphone’s anger that authorities are revealing facts that undermine The Narrative:

Emotions Flare in Missouri Amid Police Statements
By TANZINA VEGA, TIMOTHY WILLIAMS and ERIK ECKHOLM AUG. 15, 2014

FERGUSON, Mo. — One day after roiling tensions over the police shooting of a black teenager here began to subside, emotions flared anew on Friday as the police identified the officer involved but also released evidence that the victim was a suspect in a convenience store robbery moments before being shot.

The manner in which the police here released the information, which included a 19-page police report on the robbery but no new details about the shooting, led to the spectacle of dueling police news conferences, one led by a white officer who seemed ill at ease and defensive, and the other dominated by a charismatic black officer who expressed solidarity with the crowd even as he pleaded for peace.

The white officer, Thomas Jackson, the police chief in Ferguson, gave a series of incomplete accounts that sowed confusion about whether the officer who shot the teenager knew he was a suspect in the robbery. The black officer, Capt. Ronald S. Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, expressed his displeasure with how the information had been released.

“I would have liked to have been consulted,” he said pointedly about the pairing of the shooter’s identity with the robbery accusation.

All week, community members had demanded the name of the officer who killed Michael Brown, 18, last Saturday, but when it finally came, it was accompanied by surveillance videotapes that appeared to show Mr. Brown shoving a store clerk aside as he stole a box of cigarillos.

Mr. Brown’s family, their lawyer and others in the community expressed disgust, accusing the police of trying to divert attention from the central issue — the unexplained shooting of an unarmed young man.

“It is smoke and mirrors,” said Benjamin L. Crump, a lawyer for the Brown family, of the robbery allegations. “Nothing, based on the facts before us, justifies the execution-style murder by this police officer in broad daylight.”

The videotapes seemed to contradict the image portrayed by Mr. Brown’s family of a gentle teenager opposed to violence and on his way to college.

Captain Johnson, who grew up in the area and had been brought in by the governor on Thursday to restore peace after days of confrontations between demonstrators and the police in riot gear and military-style vehicles, said he had not been told that the authorities planned to release the video of the robbery along with the name of the officer. But he sought to calm people down, saying, “In our anger, we have to make sure that we don’t burn down our own house.”

Captain Johnson won over many but also faced skepticism over his role along with anguished questions about who the police really represent and the lack of educational and economic opportunities in Ferguson.

“I find it utterly disgusting,” one man shouted at him. “What am I supposed to tell my people? It looks like you’re a figurehead.”

Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, stood next to Captain Johnson at their news conference and emphasized that the details released Friday were not “the full picture.” He added, “I think the focal point here remains to figure out how and why Michael Brown was killed and to get justice as appropriate in that situation.”

Later Friday, the Justice Department, which is conducting a separate civil rights investigation into the killing, announced that teams of F.B.I. agents would be canvassing the neighborhood where shooting took place in the next several days.

The day began when Chief Jackson said at a news conference that the officer who shot Mr. Brown was Darren Wilson, who has served almost three years in Ferguson and two in another local department and had no disciplinary charges. Officer Wilson, who is white, has been placed on leave, and his location is unknown.

But the release of his name was overshadowed by the simultaneous announcement of the robbery allegations, leading to questions about timing and motives.

In a later news conference, on Friday afternoon at Forestwood Park, a sports complex in Ferguson, Chief Jackson said that Officer Wilson had not been aware that Mr. Brown “was a suspect in the case” and instead had stopped him and a companion “because they were walking down the street blocking traffic.”

But that only highlighted the central issue: How did an officer’s interaction with an unarmed young man escalate into a deadly shooting?

The videotapes, from an unidentified convenience store, show a tall burly man, identified by the police as Mr. Brown, shoving aside a clerk as he left the store with an unpaid-for box of Swisher Sweets cigarillos. According to a police report, Mr. Brown was accompanied at the store by his friend Dorian Johnson, who was also with him when he was shot.

Mr. Johnson has admitted being in the convenience store with Mr. Brown and told investigators from the F.B.I. and St. Louis County that Mr. Brown did “take cigarillos,” Mr. Johnson’s lawyer, Freeman Bosley Jr., a former mayor of St. Louis, told MSNBC.

Standing near a store that was vandalized during protests this week, Mark Jackson, who has participated in the demonstrations, expressed skepticism about police motives in describing the robbery. “They just want to make the case seem more reasonable on their side,” he said. “But at the end of the day, the man didn’t have a gun, so they didn’t have to shoot him.

In his afternoon appearance, Chief Jackson sought to explain why the information was released on Friday.

And isn’t that the real story here? It’s not about what Michael Brown did, it’s about how dare anybody who doesn’t own The Megaphone, such as the police chief, try to make The Narrative more factual? This Narrative is way, way above Chief Jackson’s pay grade, and nobody who is anybody wants to hear his stupid facts until The Megaphone has at least had a chance to come up with a strategy for spinning them. Because he surprised The Megaphone, all we can do now is just try to distract from the facts by shouting louder until Election Day.

 

From Janet Maslin’s review in the New York Times of Becoming Richard Pryor by Scott Saul:

Mr. Saul has also found a lot of people who had violent conflicts with the famously mercurial Pryor but did get to see him at very close range.

Especially women. Their stories about him are anything but funny, and not even knowledge of what Pryor must have learned during his boyhood can erase the horror that he inflicted as an adult. The stories of beatings are just business as usual; the woman beaten about the head with two brandy bottles, one in each fist, takes it up a notch. Those who chose to stay with him had to get used to coming home and finding him in bed with somebody else (usually female, but not always; he acknowledged his bisexuality). Sometimes, they were ordered to participate, willingly or not. One escaped for a while but was eventually wooed back with gifts including a chinchilla coat. She came home a while later to the ghastly smell of chinchilla on fire.

A big difference between Cosby and the late Pryor is that Cosby held on to much of his money (his net worth is estimated to be in the mid 9 figures), so he’s a deep-pocketed target for lawsuits. I doubt if Pryor, who earned huge paychecks in the late Seventies and early Eighties, ever had two nickels to rub together for long.

 

I have no idea who hacked into Sony Pictures, but The Interview might be pretty funny if you’ve never seen a Seth Rogen buddy comedy before, or a Seth Rogen-like buddy comedy from the Apatow mafia, such as Jonah Hill’s amusing 21/22 Jump Street franchise. If you’ve seen a bunch, however, this one won’t be terribly fresh.

In contrast to last summer’s misfire Neighbors in which Rogen tried to play a wild man in the tradition of John Belushi and Chris Farley, in The Interview he’s back to his strong suit of playing the weak but reasonable character, as in 2013’s funny This Is the End.

Rogen is the producer for a trashy cable TV interview show hosted by his idiot best friend James Franco. To earn more respect from their colleagues in TV infotainment, they decide to land a big interview with the dictator of North Korea, Kim Sum Ting. A beautiful CIA lady agent persuades Franco to agree to assassinate Kim with a ricin-poisoned handshake to win her heart, even though much of the limited number of laughs in the movie come from Rogen raising his eyebrows with concern whenever Franco says something that suggests he’s really a homosexual.

The premise of the movie is that Kim is a “master media manipulator.” But obviously that’s not true outside of North Korea, so the movie lacks satirical interest.

It’s an interesting career strategy question how fast comic actors/writers should pump out content after they’ve finally broken through to popularity. For example, This Is the End in the summer of 2013 was fine, but Neighbors and The Interview seem half-baked. On the other hand, Neighbors made $150 million at the domestic box office despite costing only $18 million to shoot.

It’s a very good thing after years of living in a dumpy North Hollywood apartment to wake up and find out that America suddenly finds you hilarious. But the clock immediately begins ticking on this golden age in your career. Americans found Jerry Lewis very, very funny for a certain number of years and then were puzzled by why the French kept finding him funny. Jim Carrey may have had the strongest, most agile facial muscles ever, but eventually people lose interest in going to Jim Carrey movies.

Is the window of the public finding you funny measured in absolute time (X number of years) or in relative time (Y number of feature films)? After sound came along in the late 1920s, Charlie Chaplin responded by working immensely long on each film. This worked great in City Lights (1931), but less well in Modern Times (1936), with something of a comeback in The Great Dictator (1940).

An oddity in this case is that the proteges recruited by Judd Apatow in the 1990s to be his alter egos are both collaborating with each other (in a kind of comedy cartel) and competing with each other in satisfying the public’s appetite for a certain kind of comedy movie. For example, the first time I saw Rogen and Hill onscreen together, I asked my wife, “So these guys are playing brothers, right?”

So, while it might behoove Rogen to slow down and work harder on each of his movies, it is also reasonable for him to be concerned that his frequent colleagues are also extruding product on their own with or without him, so maybe he should get while the getting is still good.

 

For years I’ve been pointing out that two bulwarks of Democratic Party campaign fundraising and prestige, Silicon Valley and Hollywood, don’t have to play by the Diversity rules that most of the rest of American business is supposed to play by.

Every few years since the 1990s, Jesse Jackson would try to shake down the Tech Industry and he’d be laughed out of town. Silicon Valley and Hollywood were too liberal, too rich, too powerful, too successful in the global marketplace (America can only wish we had as big a share of jetliners, much less cars, as Silicon Valley and Hollywood have of their respective markets) to let Jesse Jackson throw a wrench in the works.

But 2014 was the year in which liberal ideology overwhelmed liberal hypocrisy. From New York Times columnist Joe Nocera:

Silicon Valley’s Mirror Effect
DEC. 26, 2014

“If meritocracy exists anywhere on earth, it is in Silicon Valley,” wrote David Sacks in an email to The Times’s Jodi Kantor.

Kantor was working on an article, published in The Times on Tuesday, about the Stanford class of 1994 — the class that graduated a year before Netscape went public, and, for all intents and purposes, started the Internet economy. She was exploring why the men in that class had done so much better in Silicon Valley than the women.

Sacks, meanwhile, was one of the most successful members of the class. At Stanford he wrote for The Stanford Review, “a conservative-libertarian campus newspaper,” where he befriended Peter Thiel, a fellow libertarian.

And were wildly unpopular dissidents on campus for opposing the regime of diversity worship that Jesse Jackson’s Hey Ho Western Civ Has Got To Go protests had imposed on Stanford. Obviously Thiel and Sacks were wrong because Science. Blacks and women (nobody ever seems to care enough about Mexicans to mention them, even though there are many millions in California) are just as likely to found successful companies once Jesse Jackson gets to revamp education. I mean, who are you gonna believe is smarter: Jesse Jackson or Peter Thiel?

Then, in 1998, Sacks, Thiel and a handful of others — overwhelmingly white and male — founded PayPal, which made them all very rich. Since then, the PayPal Mafia, as these men are known in Silicon Valley, have seeded companies, founded companies and sold companies — in effect, financing another generation of (mostly) young white men.

So, Sacks and Thiel have tested their discredited theories, using themselves as their test subjects, and …

… But, as Kantor pointedly asks in a short introduction to Sacks’s email, if Silicon Valley is truly a meritocracy, “why do mostly men prevail?”

Why do mostly men prevail in the NBA?

This is a question that has become increasingly urgent. This summer, Jesse Jackson shamed a number of important Silicon Valley companies, including Google, Facebook, Apple and LinkedIn, into publishing a breakdown of their employees by race and sex. The numbers are appalling — something the companies were forced to concede once the figures became public. At LinkedIn, 2 percent of the work force is black, and 4 percent is Hispanic. Google is 70 percent male, with 91 percent of its employees either white or Asian. Facebook: 69 percent male and 91 percent white or Asian. When it comes to leadership positions or board seats, the numbers are even worse. Can this really be the result of “meritocracy?”

Yes.

There aren’t many women or African-Americans working in Silicon Valley who would agree.

Why the constant insensitivity, the microagressions against the missing Mexicans not working in Silicon Valley, Mr. Nocera?

“Silicon Valley’s obsession with meritocracy is delusional,” Freada Kapor Klein, the co-chair of the Kapor Center for Social Impact, told The Los Angeles Times in May.

How did Freada Kapor Klein get to be the co-chair of the Kapor Center for Social Impact?

“Unless someone wants to posit that intelligence is not evenly distributed across genders and race, there has to be some systemic explanation for what these numbers look like.”

I want to posit that intelligence is not evenly distributed across genders and race.

Her husband, Mitch Kapor, designed Lotus 1-2-3, the seminal spreadsheet program that helped to make the IBM PC famous,

Question answered!

 
• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: Diversity, Silicon Valley 

In the long-running struggle of mass immigration v. democracy, mass immigration wins again. From the NYT:

Sweden Strikes Deal to Avoid Vote Expected to Strengthen Far Right

By STEVEN ERLANGER DEC. 27, 2014

LONDON — Sweden’s mainstream political parties announced a deal on Saturday to preserve a minority center-left government, adopting the center-right’s budget for next year and thus avoiding early elections that looked to strengthen the far right.

The bargain, announced by Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, cancels the early elections he had announced for March, which would have been the first snap elections in Sweden since 1958.

The deal preserves the Lofven government, only three months old, which lost a key parliamentary vote when the anti-immigration Sweden Democrat party joined the center-right in refusing to support the government’s budget.

The Sweden Democrats became the third-largest party in the elections in September, winning 12.9 percent of the vote and riding a wave of anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim feeling that has touched most of Europe’s traditionally liberal societies.

The importance of Saturday’s deal is to isolate the Sweden Democrats, who had said that they would use the proposed March elections as a referendum on immigration. …

The Sweden Democrats, who were gaining further support in opinion polls, condemned the deal as anti-democratic and said that they would seek an opportunity to force a no-confidence vote in the government, but expectations were that the other parties would support Mr. Lofven in such a vote. …

The arrangement is complicated, but it means that Mr. Lofven abandons his own government’s budget and follows the center-right’s budget, though he can make some changes in the spring. After that, the center-right parties, which form the Alliance bloc, pledged to abstain from voting against the government’s budgets in a deal that is supposed to last until 2022. The main parties also agreed to coordinate policy on pensions, defense and energy issues.

 

A recurrent subject here at iSteve over the years has been the career of Chris Sailer, who graduated from Notre Dame H.S. in Sherman Oaks, CA 18 years after I did. (We’re not closely related — the name Sailer is a little more common than you might think.) A legendary high school football field goal kicker and an All-American at UCLA, Sailer didn’t make it in the NFL. But he has since revolutionized placekicking tutoring in ways that offer a variety of insights into more general trends in our society.

From the NYT:

Skill Level of N.F.L. Kickers? It’s Good. Really Good.
By JOE LEMIRE DEC. 24, 2014

At 42, Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri is one game away from becoming the fourth kicker in N.F.L. history to convert every single kick over a full season. He has made all 47 extra points and all 28 field goals, including three of at least 50 yards.

Yet it is the overall rate of success these days that is truly intriguing. This season, N.F.L. kickers have converted 62.5 percent of field-goal attempts beyond 50 yards. In Vinatieri’s rookie season, in 1996, that 62.5 percent rate was roughly the league standard on kicks between 40 and 49 yards. Twenty years before that, in the 1970s, kicks between 30 and 39 yards were made that often.

… Kickers have been successful on 83.9 percent of all field-goal attempts this season, the third-highest rate on record, trailing only last year’s 86.5 percent and 2008’s 84.5 percent. The 11 seasons with the highest rates are the 11 most recent seasons. …

My guess would be that fan excitement is maximized when the chance of success or failure is around 50-50 rather than today’s 84-16. George Blanda won an MVP in 1970 as a backup quarterback and placekicker, in part because field goal kicking was so hit or miss that any hits made the kicker look heroic rather than merely competent.

Of the top 15 kickers in career field-goal percentage, 12 are active. The most accurate kicker in league history is the Baltimore Ravens’ Justin Tucker (89.6 percent). Tucker is one-tenth of one percentage point ahead of the Dallas Cowboys’ Dan Bailey, who until Sunday was alone above 90 percent for his career; a 52-yard miss put him in second place, at 89.5 percent.

… The pivotal step in his development — as with most younger kickers — was attending a privately run camp, run by Chris Sailer Kicking. Sailer, 37, a two-time all-American kicker and punter at U.C.L.A., has become the nation’s pre-eminent kicking instructor; he says 13 of the 32 starting N.F.L. kickers attended his camps. …

When Sailer went to U.C.L.A. in 1995, he was one of about a dozen kickers and punters to have a scholarship, he estimated. Vinatieri had a partial grant to Division II South Dakota State in the early 1990s. Now, the majority of Division I programs offer scholarships for specialists, all of them full rides, with camps and showcases helping college coaches recruit because wind does not appear on game film.

… Also valuable to kickers has been a concurrent increase in scholarships for long snappers, and Sailer’s kicking camp has a companion run by the former U.C.L.A. long snapper Chris Rubio.

… Folk raved about the precision of his long snapper, Tanner Purdum, who monitors the rotations and velocity of his snaps. Likening the ball to a clock face, Folk said the ideal was for his holder to receive the ball with the laces on top, in the 12 o’clock position, so that he could set the ball straight down without adjustment.

The NFL is vastly profitable at the moment so it has few incentives to innovate with the rules. (It has been experimenting with the Pro Bowl all-star game to make it more interesting.) But it’s about time to try out new rules to make kicking less of a sure thing that only draws attention to placekickers when they fail.

It would be pretty easy to bring together, say, 8 top NFL placekickers during the off-season for a TV trashsport in which they compete at various feats of strength and skill involving potential kicking challenges that could someday be incorporated in the rules: kicking field goals and extra points from extreme angles; kicking with higher cross bars; kicking with a top to the goal like in soccer so kicks must be kept lower; dropkicking; bending kicks in the manner of David Beckham; making the goal a netted rectangle 8 to 18 feet off the ground and let the other kicker play goaltender, and so forth.

Let the experts try these goofball ideas out and see what the public likes.

One problem with kicking competitions is that they require about half a football stadium, and that makes for some glum television if the stadium is empty and silent. However, big football crowds do assemble during the off-season in college football stadiums for the spring intra-team scrimmages that help determine who will start in the fall. Alabama and Auburn, for example, come close to filling their stadiums with their most ardent fans in the spring. An ESPN off-season trashsport could probably piggyback off those crowds who would likely happily show up early or stay late to cheer an hour-long kicking contest involving top NFL kickers trying out oddball challenges.

 
future pondering 3

Future-pondering

 
Steve Sailer -- NSA facial recognition defeated

NSA facial recognition technology-defeating

Merry Christmas!

 

From the New York Times, their spin on the 23andMe racial admixture data that I’ve been writing about for a year or two.

White? Black? A Murky Distinction Grows Still Murkier
DEC. 24, 2014

Actually, as the genome data has gotten more precise in the 21st Century, the big surprise has been how white are American whites. I wrote an article back in 2002 about some early Penn State data, but as more genetic markers have been analyzed, the picture has gotten less murky and white Americans have turned out to be extremely white.

by Carl Zimmer

… In the United States, there is a long tradition of trying to draw sharp lines between ethnic groups, but our ancestry is a fluid and complex matter. In recent years geneticists have been uncovering new evidence about our shared heritage, and last week a team of scientists published the biggest genetic profile of the United States to date, based on a study of 160,000 people.

The researchers were able to trace variations in our genetic makeup from state to state, creating for the first time a sort of ancestry map.

“We use these terms — white, black, Indian, Latino — and they don’t really mean what we think they mean,” said Claudio Saunt, a historian at the University of Georgia who was not involved in the study.

The data for the new study were collected by 23andMe, the consumer DNA-testing company. When customers have their genes analyzed, the company asks them if they’d like to make their results available for study by staff scientists.

My guess is that most people who pay to have their ancestry analyzed are older. It’s not uncommon, for example, for the recently retired to get into genealogy.

Over time the company has built a database that not only includes DNA, but also such details as a participant’s birthplace and the ethnic group with which he or she identifies. …

On average, the scientists found, people who identified as African-American had genes that were only 73.2 percent African. European genes accounted for 24 percent of their DNA, while .8 percent came from Native Americans.

The usual estimate is that African-Americans are about 80% black. I’d suspect that this lower figure here may be an artifact of the selection process: paying to have your DNA analyzed probably appeals more to wealthier and whiter African-Americans, such as Henry Louis Gates.

Latinos, on the other hand, had genes that were on average 65.1 percent European, 18 percent Native American, and 6.2 percent African.

Once again, an artifact of the selection process. This sample is clearly not representative of the Mexican-American masses. Typically, studies of non-self-selected Hispanics in the Southwest, such as patients at a hospital, typically find the European and Native American ancestries to be of roughly comparable size.

The researchers found that European-Americans had genomes that were on average 98.6 percent European, .19 percent African, and .18 Native American.

Of course, 98.6% white, 0.19% black, and 0.18% Indian only adds up to about 99%, so apparently there is some wiggle room in these numbers. But let’s just use the numbers as printed.

I don’t know which way the sample’s biases push this figure for whites, but in any case: whiteness in modern America turns out to be not very murky at all. These findings of 0.19% black and 0.18% American Indian are tiny numbers.

Think about your family tree back nine generations ago, which would mostly be in the 1700s. You have 512 slots in your family tree nine generations ago (two to the ninth power). The 23andMe numbers suggest that for the average white American, 1 of your 512 ancestors nine generations ago was black and 1 of 512 was Native American.

Here’s another way to think of it. If the average self-identified black is 73.2% black and the average self-identified white is 0.19% black, then the average black in America is 385 times blacker than the average white. That doesn’t seem very murky to me.

These broad estimates masked wide variation among individuals. Based on their sample, the resarchers estimated that over six million European-Americans have some African ancestry. As many as five million have genomes that are at least 1 percent Native American in origin.

There are about 200 million whites, so that means a little over 3% have any black ancestry that can be found by 23andMe.

One in five African-Americans, too, has Native American roots.

Dr. Mountain and her colleagues also looked at how ancestry might influence ethnic identification.

Most Americans with less than 28 percent African-American ancestry say they are white, the researchers found. Above that threshold, people tended to describe themselves as African-American.

Katarzyna Bryc, a 23andMe researcher and co-author of the new study, didn’t want to speculate about why people’s sense of ethnic identity pivots at that point.

The sample size is quite small in this 1/4th black range. The traditional working of the one drop rule tended to push individuals away from 3/4th white / 1/4th black over the generations.

I suspect that this may also be an artifact of 23andMe appealing to genealogy hobbyists, whereas, say, elite African-Americans derive much of their eliteness from their ability to claim African ancestry so they aren’t in a hurry to pay money to find out how white they are: e.g., Professor Gates wasn’t all that excited to find out he’s about half white (if it had turned out he was all white, well, good-bye career).

 

As I wrote in Taki’s a week ago in “Clusterfake,” even before the black civil rights protester assassinated Officers Liu and Ramos in New York City:

The crack-up accelerated this fall with some undocumented shopping in memory of the late Michael Brown. Chaos in Democrat-run cities like St. Louis and Oakland does little to burnish the Democratic brand with voters. In Pat Buchanan’s recent memoir The Greatest Comeback, he recounts how at the Democratic Convention in August 1968 he and Norman Mailer stood together watching the liberal ruling party destroy itself as hippies battled Mayor Daley’s cops in the streets of Chicago. As part of the 1964 Democratic ticket, Hubert Humphrey had won 61.1 percent of the vote. In 1968, he earned only 42.7 percent.

You’ll recall that when Republicans were perceived to have a political problem after the 2012 election due to the growth of the Hispanic vote, Democrats such as Chuck Schumer and Barack Obama offered collegial, sincere, deeply compassionate advice to Republicans: “Give illegal aliens the vote: you’ll fall further behind on each one, but you’ll make up for it on volume!”

So now that the Obama coalition is splintering, the Republican Brain Trust is attempting to garner Strange, New Respect from the New York Times by helping heal wounds among the Democrats. From the NYT:

Law and Order Issues, Once G.O.P.’s Strong Suit, Now Divide Party

By JONATHAN MARTIN and ASHLEY PARKER

DEC. 24, 2014

WASHINGTON — Since the Watts riots in Los Angeles in 1965, generations of Republicans from Richard M. Nixon to the first George Bush have deftly capitalized on the anxiety of white voters over crime and urban unrest, winning elections with appeals for law and order and unbending support of the police.

But in recent years, with crime plummeting and the party struggling among minority voters, some Republicans have turned away from the tough talk and embraced efforts to reduce the number of black men in prison and overhaul the criminal justice system.

Now the violence and protests after two grand juries declined to prosecute white police officers who killed black men, as well as the killings of two New York City police officers, have angered some of the party’s most ardent defenders of the police. Republicans find themselves debating how to maintain their traditional embrace of law enforcement while not alienating minority voters or ignoring systemic criminal justice issues.

So, who should the Republicans be listening to at the moment: the hard men of the Tri-State Republican Party, Rudy Giuliani and Peter King, who have had decades of experience and success battling Rev. Al? Or naive Flyover idealists like Rand Paul and various Beltway intellectuals? The New York Times has an opinion on what would be good for the Republicans.

The divisions have spilled out on television in recent days. Former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York declared on Fox News that the protests were leading to violence and that “all lead to a conclusion: The police are bad, the police are racist. That is completely wrong.”

Representative Peter T. King of New York said his fellow Republicans cannot be timid about criticizing activists like the Rev. Al Sharpton, who Mr. King said used racially charged terms to portray the killings of African-Americans by the police in Ferguson, Mo., and on Staten Island.

“I just think if anything, Republicans somehow get scared off of the issue if race comes up and they somehow back away, and that allows people who want to make it a racial issue to be heard,” Mr. King said in a telephone interview.

The President of the United States has gone out of his way to tie the prestige of his office to Reverend Al’s various racist hoaxes and fiascos. Should that not bring comment?

What makes this moment more complex for Republicans, however, is that Mr. Sharpton is not the only one who has criticized police mistreatment of minorities and the broader justice system: Leading Republicans, including Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, governors and Christian conservatives, have been rethinking issues ranging from the militarization of the police to sentencing guidelines.

Newt Gingrich …

You can always count on Newt for the sound response.

… After years of instinctively siding with the police — with Ronald Reagan railing against “arson and murder in Watts” in his 1966 campaign for governor and Mr. Bush using Willie Horton’s furlough to defeat Michael S. Dukakis — Republicans are now more divided when it comes to crime and law enforcement.

Obviously, Ronald Reagan “railing against ‘arson and murder in Watts'” doomed his political career, which is why he kept losing to Democrats who didn’t object to arson and murder. Same with George Bush’s loss to Dukakis in 1988: the Democrats mobilized the vast pro-rape constituency and rode it to the White House.

Few prominent figures sided with the authorities in the aftermath of Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, for example, and Mr. Paul notably spoke out about the treatment of young blacks by the police.

Why in the world doesn’t the RNC maintain a discreet office of investigators to check into some of these media confabulations that the Democrats try to ride? The Obama White House carefully coordinates with the national media to promote things like Rape Culture hysteria in order to produce useful media firestorms like the UVA Night of Broken Glass. Where’s the Republican counter to this? Self organizing volunteer crowdsourcing has done a lot to expose Democrats’ frauds, but the Republicans paying for some quiet shoe-leather investigations would help a lot.

Conservatives beyond Mr. Paul were disturbed by the military-style tactics and equipment of the Ferguson police during the protests in the weeks after Mr. Brown’s death.

De-militarization was tested by the Democrats running things in Missouri and it already flopped back in August.

… The conservative brain, particularly among Republican elites, may find itself in conflict with the conservative gut, at least that of the party rank and file.

The Conservative Brain Trust …

“This is an obviously deranged guy who shot his girlfriend and then shot the cops,” said David Boaz, the executive vice president of the libertarian Cato Institute, arguing that conservatives who blame protesters for the killings are akin to those who blame right-wing radio for the shooting of the former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Classic Megaphone tactic for implanting false memories — remind the audience of something spewed by the Megaphone for a few days that turned out to be completely false, but treat it as if it were true, or at least debatable.

… Strong support on the right for the police has continued even after the deaths in Ferguson and on Staten Island: A Gallup poll this month showed that 66 percent of Republicans rated the honesty and ethical standards of the police as “very high” or “high” while only 36 percent of Democrats said the same.

Already, some hard-line Republicans are seizing the moment and attacking Mr. Paul, who was been the most outspoken in his party about the need for racial outreach and changes to policing and sentencing, and even met with Mr. Sharpton last month.

You’d have to be an angry, stupid hardliner to attack the Obama-Sharpton axis right now. No Strange, New Respect for you!

In summary, the White House, the Democrats, and the national media have been promoting blood libels this year to angry up their black, feminist, and not quite in the right head constituencies. Traditionally, blood libels lead to arson and looting of shops, nights of broken glass, and murders. Not surprisingly, that’s what has ensued in Obama’s America in 2014.

 
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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