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Last year I published Our American Pravda, making the case for the utter corruption and unreliability of the mainstream American media, both in the past and especially in recent years. The enormous lacunae I daily noticed in the pages of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other leading media outlets were a major motivation behind my creation of The Review, whose readership has grown enormously in recent weeks.

A perfect example of this dangerous MSM “conspiracy of silence” may be found in the growing confrontation with Russia over Ukraine, greatly accelerated by the death of almost 300 passengers aboard Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, shot down last month over Eastern Ukraine. The American media and its Western counterparts have almost unanimously placed the blame on anti-government rebels backed by Russia, and darkly insinuate that Russian President Vladimir Putin has the blood of those hundreds of innocent lives on his hands. London’s once-respected Economist magazine has repeatedly run shrill covers promoting the great threat of Putin and Russia to world peace, even featuring a photo of the former under the stark title “A Web of Lies.” There is the serious likelihood of a renewed Cold War against Russia and with the neoconized Republicans in Congress proposing legislation to incorporate Ukraine as an American military ally and deploy American forces there, the actual possibility of a military clash near the Russian border.

As readers know, I have been overwhelmingly consumed with my own software work in recent months and aside from closely reading the NYT and WSJ every morning, have devoted little time or effort to following the disastrous Ukraine situation. But just carefully reading between the lines of our elite MSM outlets and glancing at a few contrary perspectives presented on alternative websites have left me highly suspicious of our media narrative, leading me to wonder where the finger of guilt actually points.

For example, according to the official American story, MH17 was downed by rebels armed with a BUK anti-aircraft missile battery. As it happens, the pro-American Ukraine government possesses a large inventory of exactly those weapons, while it is far from clear that the rebels have a single unit, let alone the expertise to operate such sophisticated devices. Furthermore, there apparently exists radar evidence demonstrating that Ukraine fighter planes were in the immediate vicinity of MH17 just before it was shot down and there are firsthand reports from investigators on the ground that portions of the crashed fuselage showed strong evidence of having been hit the sort of heavy machine-gun fire employed in air combat. I find it extremely suspicious that the American government has repeatedly refused to release the evidence supporting its own narrative, while the Russian government has released copious evidence backing the opposing perspective.

We must bear in mind that the downing of MH17 and the deaths of the hundreds of mostly European passengers came as a fortuitous stroke of fortune for the embattled Kiev government and its neoconservative American backers, given that Germany and most of the other major European governments had just balked at approving the harsh anti-Russian economic sanctions being proposed by the White House. Cui bono?

Furthermore, this terrible suspicion that 300 innocent lives may have been sacrificed in a ghastly false-flag operation by an American-supported government is somewhat buttressed by earlier events. Consider that the overthrow of the democratically-elected and neutralist Ukrainian government was sparked by the massive bloodshed that erupted between riot police and pro-American demonstrators in the Kievan capital, as many hundreds on both sides were suddenly killed or wounded by an outbreak of heavy gunfire over a couple of nights. I found it very intriguing that soon afterward an intercepted telephone call between the pro-Western foreign minister of Estonia and European High Commissioner Catherine Ashton, later confirmed to be genuine, revealed that the bullets found in the bodies of both government police and anti-government demonstrators had apparently come from the same guns. The most plausible explanation of this strange detail is that the snipers responsible were professionals brought in to cause the massive bloodshed necessary to overthrow the government, which is exactly what soon followed. Again cui bono?

Am I certain about these facts, let alone the analysis built upon them? Absolutely not! As emphasized, I’ve been entirely preoccupied with other matters over the last few months. But if such obvious suspicions are apparent to someone who occasionally glances at the news reports out of the corner of his mind’s eye, the total silence of the American media and its huge corps of full-time professional journalists constitutes a very telling indictment. Personally, I think there’s a high likelihood that forces aligned with current pro-Western regime were responsible for the massacre in Kiev’s Maidan Square and a better than fifty-fifty chance they more recently shot down MH17, but I really can’t be sure about either of these things. However, I am absolutely 100% certain that the American MSM has been revealed as a totally worthless source of information on these crucial world events, although it can be relied upon to provide every last detail of Robin Williams’ troubled life or the endless foibles of the Kardashians.

In the interests of providing our readers at least some access to alternate accounts of why we may now be heading into a new Cold War against Russia—or even a hot one— I’ve recently republished a couple of Mike Whitney’s fine Counterpunch columns on the mysteries of Flight MH17, which cautiously raised questions rather than claimed to answer them, as well as those of the redoubtable Paul Craig Roberts.

Aside from attracting considerable debate from our website’s often “excitable” commenters, whose views range from the sensible to the deranged, our Whitney columns regarding MH17 had a far more important consequence. One of our left-liberal readers was shocked to read facts totally absent from the pages of The Nation, the Huffington Post, or any of the other left-liberal sites she visits. Out of curiosity, she contacted a very prominent left-liberal American academic, someone with special expertise in exactly that area of Europe. To her considerable surprise, he largely confirmed the outlandish “conspiracy theory,” saying that the evidence increasingly indicated that the American-backed Kiev government had shot down Flight MH17, either accidentally or otherwise.

 

The letters column of the Sunday New York Times Book Review carried a sharp attack on Nicholas Wade’s best-selling new book A Troublesome Inheritance by several individuals, organizers of a denunciatory public statement that they had persuaded some 139 prominent genetic scientists to sign.

Although these signatories may be credible experts in their own scientific fields, their participation revealed themselves to be total laughingstocks as public intellectuals, demonstrating that they had not even bothered to read the book they were so harshly condemning.

One of their central charges against Wade was that he had claimed that worldwide differences in IQ test results were due to recent natural selection and largely caused by genetic differences. Yet as Wade has now pointed out, he had actually made exactly the opposite suggestion, noting on pp. 192-3 of his book the strong evidence that large differences in worldwide IQ may be caused by environmental factors such as wealth and education, with changes in those conditions sometimes causing relative IQ rises of 10 or 15 points within just a single generation or so.

I am well aware of his position on this controversial topic because he had cited my own 2012 article Race, IQ, and Wealth as his source for this analysis. In that long analysis and the series of a dozen or more columns that followed, I had provided the overwhelming empirical evidence against what I termed “the Strong IQ Hypothesis,” drawing primarily upon the data gathered by leading IQ advocates such as Richard Lynn.

Nicholas Wade is hardly an insignificant figure, being a longtime science editor and reporter at The New York Times and perhaps America’s foremost journalist on evolutionary matters, whose previous bestsellers have gathered almost universal praise. Therefore, I find it very odd that his most strident critics apparently have not bothered to carefully read the book they were attacking.

One might suspect that the organizers of the vilification campaign perhaps quietly feared that Wade’s views were likely correct and that reading his persuasive book might reduce their zeal in criticizing it, much like the timorous ideological opponents of Richard Lynn had for years avoiding his writings, thereby failing to notice that he had scored a game-ending own-goal against his IQ-determinist theories.

In any event, I expect that this contretemps will at least quickly generate 139 additional book sales for Wade, or at least 139 quick visits to local academic libraries by cheapskate scientists.

 
• Category: Race/Ethnicity, Science • Tags: Nicholas Wade, Race/IQ 

Having been enormously preoccupied with software development work over the last few weeks, I was forced to sacrifice my own writing, but certain important recent developments are overdue for mention.

While I was deeply immersed in the intricacies of PHP and CSS, my small webzine marked its first major media success. As many readers may already be aware, our star blogger Steve Sailer scored a huge journalistic coup two weeks ago when he exposed the fact that world-renowned Marxist celebrity-academic Slavoj Zizek had plagiarized his review of Kevin MacDonald’s controversial books on Jews from the pages of American Renaissance, Jared Taylor’s small White Nationalist publication. This surprising juxtaposition of several bold-faced ideological names and extremist schools of thought attracted the mainstream media like flies, with the initial article in Newsweek accumulating a remarkable 700-plus tweets, more typical of a front-page story in The New York Times, and soon provoking additional pieces in NPR, Slate, the Huffington Post, Gawker, and numerous other MSM outlets.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this tidal wave of media discussion provided more public visibility in just a few days to MacDonald, Taylor, and Steve himself than any of them had received over the last several years combined, and perhaps this might even have been true of Zizek as well, since his world-famous name had previously been completely unfamiliar to me. Indeed, when I recently googled “Slavoj Sailer” the top result after the Newsweek article was a very amusing piece on an obscure ultra-right blog, conspiratorially suggesting that Zizek was actually a secret fan of MacDonald and Taylor and had deliberately plagiarized their White Nationalist writings in order to provoke a media firestorm and thereby better publicize their highly controversial ideas. If so, then the poor Marxist scholar must have grown very annoyed that it had taken almost a full decade for anyone in our feckless media and academic circles to blow the whistle on his utterly blatant theft.

I personally believe that the truth is far more mundane and similarly explains the enormous number of recent high-profile incidents of plagiarism by prominent academics, pundits, and other public figures. I doubt that any of these individuals, certainly including poor Zizek, ever knowingly stole the paragraphs in question. Instead, all these various figures have become far too preoccupied with their television appearances and other ego-gratifying celebrity-maintenance activities to do any writing of their own, and therefore delegate that thankless task to secret understudies, while skimping on their payments. Since the latter do not put their names on the finished product, they occasionally steal what they are too lazy or busy to produce on schedule, sometimes leading to public embarrassments for their flummoxed employers.

In the case of Zizek, the fraud was so gross that I suspect an even longer supply chain was responsible. Perhaps soon after the scandal broke, he was angrily yelling at the grad student whom he secretly pays \$1000 per month to ghost most of his Marxist tracts, after which that unhappy fellow sheepishly slunk away only to begin yelling at the college sophomore to whom he himself secretly sub-contracts the Zizek work in exchange for \$30 a week plus an occasional keg of beer. The sophomore himself hardly felt any guilt at all for his misbehavior, since he couldn’t understand why someone paid such paltry sums would do anything more than a bit of googling followed by copy-and-paste. Indeed, Zizek eventually admitted that “a friend” had given him the questionable text that he had published under his own name, perhaps neglecting to mention that he regularly provided his helpful “friend” a small monthly stipend in cash.

 

Meanwhile, my own philosophy is that plagiarism is completely necessary when the Internet is filled with so many fine writers, who deserve full credit and greater distribution for the excellent work they have produced over the years.

As an example of this, I am very pleased that we have now republished the full Internet archives of Robert Bonomo, a fascinating writer whose Cactus Land website I just stumbled across a few months ago. His pieces on the NYT’s constant excoriation of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the surrealistic media landscape of the Trayvon Martin Affair, and other highly controversial events of the recent or distant past are quite intriguing, and readers should form their own opinions on the persuasiveness of his analyses and reconstructions.

The other important addition to our small webzine has been the acquisition of the complete columnar and comment archives of Peter Frost, a prolific writer on anthropological issues, whose Evo and Proud blogsite yielded up some 400,000 words of articles and over a million words of comments, all of which are now immediately available at The Review, with future columns to run weekly.

I have been friendly with Peter for about a dozen years now, becoming acquainted with him through Steve Sailer’s old HBD list, an email discussion group now grown dormant due to the rise of blogs and twitter. I also owe Peter a special debt of gratitude regarding my own research. Several years ago, I happened to mention that during my college days studying under renowned evolutionist E.O. Wilson, I had worked out what might be a plausible model for the evolution of increased intelligence in the Chinese people, and Peter expressed considerable interest in seeing my old piece, which had just been gathering dust in the decades after my graduation. I hadn’t laid eyes on the paper in over a quarter century, but the organization of my archives proved its worth, and I managed to locate the old term paper in just five minutes among the 200 boxes of old papers that I keep in a storage unit. I quickly scanned the crude typescript and put it up on the Internet, where it generated quite a bit of discussion among several scientifically-oriented bloggers.

 
• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: Phil Rushton, Slavoj Zizek 

Last week I was invited to speak at the annual conference of the Education Writers Association, with the topic of my panel being the perspective of Asian-Americans on Affirmative Action policies in college admissions. Despite having the only white face among the four presenters, I believe my analysis made a useful contribution.

A couple of months ago, the issue had unexpectedly moved to the fore of the national debate. Democrats in the California State Legislature had unanimously backed SCA-5, a proposed 2014 ballot measure intended to repeal Prop. 209 and thereby restore Affirmative Action, banned in 1996. Since the 1990s, California had effectively become a one-party Democratic state, and many expected the voters would roll back that controversial legacy of the Pete Wilson Era. Every Asian in the Legislature is a Democrat and every Asian had supported the repeal without hesitation.

But once word of the proposal filtered out into the general Asian-American community, massive opposition spontaneously erupted, and within three weeks nearly 120,000 Asians had signed an electronic petition denouncing the proposal. Their intense hostility centered on the restoration of racially-conscious admissions policies for the prestigious state university system, reflecting their widespread belief that this would eventually result in the establishment of “Asian Quotas,” denying Asian students an equal chance for admission to public universities.

When over a hundred thousand individuals unexpectedly join a grassroots protest, politicians pay attention and within a few days every Asian legislator had reversed course and declared opposition to the measure. California Asians are a core Democratic constituency, usually backing that party’s candidates in the 75% range, and the stunned Democratic leadership quickly tabled the suddenly divisive proposal, which threatened to split their electoral base.

During the weeks that have followed, liberal advocates of Affirmative Action policies argued that Asian-American fears of a looming Asian Quota were totally mistaken, the product of dishonest conservative propaganda and misleading coverage in the ethnic media. Indeed, these were exactly the arguments advanced by two of my fellow panelists, OiYan Poon of Loyola University and Robert Teranishi of UCLA. But although my presentation did not focus on the particulars of the recent California controversy, I think I demonstrated the underlying roots of the concern that had so galvanized the Asian community.

In late 2012 I had published The Myth of American Meritocracy, a lengthy critique of the admissions policies of America’s elite academic institutions. One of my central points was the overwhelming statistical evidence for the existence of “Asian Quotas” at Harvard, Yale, and the other elite Ivy League schools.

Over the last twenty years, America’s population of college-age Asians has roughly doubled and Asian academic achievement has reached new heights, but there has been no increase whatsoever in Asian enrollment in those elite universities and indeed substantial declines at Harvard and several other Ivies. Meanwhile, other top colleges such as Caltech that admit students based on a strictly meritocratic and objective standard have seen Asian numbers increase fully in line with the growth of the Asian population. These results were summarized in one of my graphs, soon afterward republished in a contentious New York Times symposium inspired by my findings.

AsianEnrollmentTrends

(The public ethnic and gender enrollment history for Harvard and every other American university is now conveniently available on our website).

Ivy League schools admit their students by a totally opaque and subjective process, only somewhat related to academic performance or other objective factors, and leading American journalists such as Pulitzer-Prize winner Daniel Golden have documented the powerful evidence that this system is laced with favoritism and even outright corruption. In recent years, Asian enrollments at all the Ivies have converged to a very narrow range and remained relatively constant from year to year, a remarkably suspicious result that seems strongly suggestive of an implicit Asian Quota. Indeed, the statistical evidence for a present-day Asian Quota is arguably stronger than that for the notorious Jewish Quota of the Ivies during the 1920s and 1930s, the existence of which was widely denied at the time by university administrators but is now universally accepted.

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, there had been widespread accusations of a similar policy of anti-Asian bias in admissions at the University of California system, but the passage of Prop. 209 outlawed the use of racial factors in admissions, and recent statistics indicate that Asian students are now admitted to leading UC campuses closely in line with their academic performance and without any numerical ceiling on their numbers. Asian parents in California can see with their own two eyes obvious evidence of an Asian Quota at most of America’s top national universities leading to their deep concern that a similar policy might eventually return to the University of California campuses.

Furthermore, Asian elected officials, Asian activists, and most Asian-American advocacy groups have kept silent on the likely existence of Asian Quotas at elite universities, thereby squandering any credibility they might have had during the contentious California debate. My own long article ran over eighteen months ago and despite its original publication in a magazine with a tiny circulation, quickly accumulated over 200,000 pageviews while the analysis was soon widely discussed in the New York Times and numerous other prominent publications. Indeed, Times columnist David Brooks ranked the piece as perhaps the best American magazine article of the year. But not a single Asian officeholder or traditional advocacy group took any notice or made any effort to hold the Ivies accountable on a matter of greatest concern to their own community.

 


Although my own academic background is in theoretical physics, I’m the first to admit that field seems in the doldrums these days compared with human evolutionary biology.

The greatest physics discoveries of the last couple of years—the Higgs Boson and strong evidence for Cosmological Inflation—merely confirm the well-established beliefs that physicists have had since before I entered grad school. It’s nice that such experimental evidence means that individuals such as Peter Higgs, Alan Guth, and Andrei Linde, whose names have been prominent in the standard textbooks for decades, have received or will surely soon receive their long-deserved Nobel Prizes, but little new has been learned. Or so is the impression of a lapsed theoretician who left that field over twenty-five years ago and who mostly follows it through the pages of the major newspapers.

Meanwhile, human evolutionary biology has been on a tear, partly due to the full deciphering of the human genome over the last couple of decades and our increasing technical ability to effectively read archaic DNA from thousands or even tens of thousands of years in the past. In recent years we have seen shocking discoveries that most humans possess small but probably significant Neanderthal ancestry and that important genetic changes have regularly swept through our genome. On the theoretical side, it was long assumed that human genes had changed little since Cave Man days, but we now understand that in some respects human evolution may have actually accelerated during the last ten thousand years as our rapidly growing population provided a much larger source of potentially favorable mutations, while agriculture and civilization were simultaneously applying strong selective pressures.

Although my other projects have prevented me from following these developments except through newspapers, blogs, and books, such evolutionary issues have long fascinated me. During the early 1980s I even participated in the field, studying under Harvard’s E.O. Wilson and felt that if physics had not been an option, evolutionary biology would have been my next choice. I remember telling all my skeptical friends in 1979 that Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene was probably one of the most important books of the decade, and I stand by that opinion today.

Yet although our understanding of the origins of modern humans and their biologically-influenced behavior has grown by leaps and bounds over the last couple of decades, these world-changing developments seem to have received extremely scanty coverage in the mainstream press, meaning that many of them have probably not penetrated into the public consciousness of those who are not academic specialists. The assumptions and world-views of most American intellectuals and journalists often seem stuck in the 1980s, clinging to ideas that are almost completely outmoded and incorrect, much like Soviet biology into the 1960s was still crippled by the Stalinist legacy of Trofim K. Lysenko, who had argued for the inheritance of acquired characteristics and purged all those biologists who disagreed.

America’s own Lysenko is surely the late Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, whose platform in the prestige media and widely assigned books have massively influenced entire generations of college students and thinkers. Unfortunately, just like his Soviet counterpart, Gould promoted ideologically motivated misrepresentations of reality, sometimes backed by outright scientific fraud, and people who read his books are regularly absorbing falsehoods.

In a further parallel to the Soviet case, Gould and his Marxist circle of friends and allies, including Richard Lewontin, Steven Rose, and several others, regularly sought to purge or otherwise silence their most honest and courageous colleagues. During the 1970s, Harvard’s Wilson became their particular target for daring to publish his landmark book Sociobiology: The New Synthesis, and their wild ideological charges led radical student demonstrators to demand the university fire one of its brightest tenured stars and even to physically assault the mild-mannered Wilson at a meeting of the American Academy of Sciences. Although Gould seems to have been a rather mediocre scientist, some of his radical allies such as Lewontin were first-class researchers, but also ideologues who allowed their politics to dictate their science.

While I was a graduate student at Cambridge University during the mid-1980s, these events occasionally came up in casual discussions across the dining tables. On one such occasion, a former grad student of Lewontin’s said that during the height of the sociobiology controversy he had asked his mentor why he was leveling such ridiculous accusations against a colleague, with the reply being that those accusations were admittedly scientific nonsense, but they served the political interests of Marxism, which was far more important. Meanwhile, given Gould’s strength in words but his weakness in thinking, I find it reasonably likely that he simply believed many of the absurdities he was spouting.

As the years and the decades have gone by, I’ve always assumed that Gouldism was about to lose its grip on American intellectual life, but that assumption has always proven wrong. The totally absurd notion that genetics plays a relatively small role in influencing most human behaviors represents a zombified belief, absorbing endless seemingly fatal scientific wounds at the hands of prominent scholars but remaining almost unkillable, more like a religious dogma than a scientific doctrine.

For example, in 2002 Harvard’s Steven Pinker, one of America’s most prominent evolutionary psychologists, published The Blank Slate, an outstanding critique of this incorrect reigning dogma, which specifically included a lengthy debunking of Gould, Lewontin, and their circle. Not only was the book a huge seller and glowingly discussed throughout the MSM, but I was stunned to read an equally favorable review in The Nation, pole-star of America’s political Left. I naturally assumed that the full collapse of Gouldism was underway, an impression enhanced once the august New York Times later published an article describing an important instance of Gould’s scientific fraud.

But a year or two ago, when I heard smart intellectuals still citing Gould, I asked a prominent academic how that would possibly be the case. He explained that whereas in the 1990s, probably 99% of intellectuals believed in Gould, the massive revelations of recent years had merely reduced that support to 95%, leaving Gouldism almost as entrenched as ever. Whereas worldwide support for Stalinism substantially collapsed following Khrushchev’s 1956 “Secret Speech” Gouldian nonsense seems to have largely avoided that fate.

 

But perhaps that is now about to change.

One of the oddities of American intellectual life is that although a full-fledged scientific revolution in human genetics and evolution has been taking place for the last couple of decades, very little of this has been reported in the mainstream media, perhaps because the findings so totally contradict the numerous falsehoods that so many senior editors presumably imbibed during the introductory anthropology courses they took to satisfy their science distributional requirement as undergraduates.

 

Last week I noted in a column that the California Republicans in the Education Committee of the State Senate had joined an 8-to-0 vote to repeal Proposition 227 and restore Spanish-almost-only “bilingual education” in our schools.

The academic performance of over a million immigrant student had doubled in the four years following the implementation of intensive English immersion programs, so presumably the goal of the Republicans (and their Democratic co-conspirators) is now to un-double that performance and restore the system as it was in the past.

Just a few years ago, the educational successes of Prop. 227 were still so keenly recalled that even the erstwhile champions of bilingual programs heatedly denied any intent to restore the disastrous system. But politicians have exceptionally short memories, and with all the bilingual activists and bilingual researchers having spent some time lobbying them in Sacramento about the wondrous benefits of teaching young immigrant children everything in Spanish in order to help them learn English, their empty heads have been spun around and their votes have reversed.

Various other individuals share my amusement about this ridiculous situation. Harvard Professor Steven Pinker, one of America’s foremost psycho-linguists reminded his 126,000 twitter followers about the “Bizarre chapter in educ politics: So-called bilingual education (= keep Eng away fm kids when they can best learn it)” and Francis Fukuyama, another very prominent intellectual, tweeted out my column to his own 29,000 followers, as did Debra Saunders of the SF Chronicle and numerous others.

In general, the reaction all across the Internet to the Republican reversal on bilingual education was scathing, and others shared my view that it might constitute the last nail in the coffin for the dying California GOP that had once dominated the state during the eras of Reagan and Nixon.

Still, it would only be fair to note that the Republican position did receive strong support in certain ideological quarters. Richard Spencer, one of America’s leading White Nationalists, strongly endorsed the restoration of bilingual education and opposed requiring Hispanic children to learn English. Many of the commenters on Jared Taylor’s similarly-hued website took the same position, with one of them very clearly summarizing their perspective:

Good! Anything that disadvantages hispanics vs poor whites is in our racial interest.

Bilingual education often turns into defacto segregation, where whites get to be in normal classes with fewer hispanics. This could be the best thing for white kids trapped in California public schools. The hispanic kids won’t end up learning enough English to escape their educational barrio.

When the hispanics graduate with their worthless bilingual degrees, they won’t be able to speak English well enough to compete with the white kids for jobs. They’ll end up mopping floors and mowing lawns for the rest of their lives.

I’m done “doing the right thing” if it means helping non-whites at the expense of whites. If Jose and Guadalupe want their dumb kids to speak mexican dialect spanish as their only language, I hope the little bambinos enjoy their jobs scrubbing toilets for minimum wage.

Frankly, I regard the current effort to return a million California schoolchildren to Spanish language classrooms more as an amusing bit of idiocy than as any serious threat to the educational revolution of the late 1990s. We must remember that California schools have now been teaching immigrant children English for the better part of a full generation, and nearly all of them have become perfectly fluent and literate in that language, which they obviously want their children also to learn.

Most Latinos are working-class or working-poor and being busy with their own lives, don’t pay a great deal of regular attention to what the politicians in Sacramento are saying or doing. But if they discover that the local schools have suddenly stopped teaching their children English and shifted them into Spanish language classes instead, that bizarre educational change will produce a tidal wave of popular anger and outrage, threatening the gullible politicians responsible with annihilation.

As an approximate analogy, just a few months ago every Asian Democrat in the California Legislature voted to repeal Prop. 209 and reestablish racial preferences in state university admissions. But once ordinary Asians got wind of this development, which would almost certainly would have led to the reestablishment of Asian Quotas in California colleges, the popular outcry was so enormous that all the Asian Democrats immediately reversed their positions and their legislative leaders quickly killed the suddenly divisive measure, which had previously enjoyed near-unanimous Democratic backing.

As an even better parallel, consider the instructive political fate of Nativo Lopez of Santa Ana. His powerful political machine had rendered him a feared local figure to both Democrats and Republicans alike, whom he regularly insulted and attacked with total impunity, even running profanity-laced radio spots against California’s reigning Democratic governor without suffering any retaliation. But after he proclaimed himself a diehard supporter of bilingual education and refused to implement the English language programs required by Prop. 227, he provoked a grassroots uprising by angry Latino parents and was recalled from office, losing by a forty point margin in America’s most heavily Latino immigrant city.

Even over a dozen years ago, long before the educational facts were so fully established, “English in the Schools” enjoyed nearly 80% support among Democrats and Republicans, and those numbers and intensity were identical for Latinos. Meanwhile, American popular discontent with the endless failures of our political elites, both Democratic and Republican, is at an all-time high. California Republicans are already on the verge of slipping into minor party status and the reestablishment of bilingual education in our schools might place the Democrats on the same trajectory. Perhaps a non-partisan “English Party” would arise to replace both of them in power.

 

But if the ignorance and gullibility of most American political leaders are universally acknowledged and the subject of endless ridicule by our media elites, perhaps the latter should occasionally look into a mirror.

Anyone can find a ridiculous article by a lowly and unknown junior reporter and tear it to shreds, so let me instead point to a particularly egregious recent example at the opposite end of the spectrum.

 

On Friday, several top national Republicans including Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Tim Pawlenty all publicly declared their support for raising the federal minimum wage. Such a dramatic political breakthrough—obviously coordinated at the highest levels—greatly increases the likelihood it will actually happen, and tens of millions of low-wage American workers will see a large rise in their annual incomes.

When I first published my 12,000 word article almost three years suggesting a large hike in the minimum wage as a possible solution to a wide range of our social and economic problems, I stood very much alone.

I can’t think of a single significant Republican or conservative who publicly supported a higher minimum wage at that point. Even most of the more highly regarded economic liberals such as Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz had long since relegated the minimum wage to the policies of the past, taking its place in the history books alongside violent factory strikes and coal miner organizing, instead focusing their advocacy on more modern means of assisting the working poor, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit. And given my self-professed ignorance of economics, the 3,000 words I devoted to making a case for a federal minimum wage in the \$10 to \$12 hourly range were quite cautious, presenting it as a speculative policy suggestion rather than a ringing declaration.

Although various rightwing bloggers quickly endorsed my proposal and National Review discussed it respectfully, the main support unsurprisingly came from the left, with economist James Galbraith and the late Alexander Cockburn enthusiastically backing it, whence the idea gradually entered Democratic policy circles, eventually leading to Sen. Tom Harkin and others to introduce legislation in early 2012. Shortly afterward, the New America Foundation asked me to produce a focused policy paper on the same subject, which attracted much greater attention to my ideas, and led to various speaking engagements and follow-up columns in the year that followed. But still nearly all the growing support for a big minimum wage hike came from liberals, with Republicans mostly ignoring or dismissing the idea.

That all began to change six months ago, when I paid my \$200 initiative filing fee and launched my effort to place a \$12 minimum wage measure on California’s November 2014 ballot. As my campaign drew considerable media attention, prominent conservatives began considering the issue in a new light, noting my arguments about the hundreds of billions of social welfare subsidies inherent in the current system and recognizing that rewarding work while cutting welfare was a traditionally conservative idea. In the weeks that followed, leading conservative figures such as Phyllis Schlafly and Bill O’Reilly endorsed a minimum wage hike, as did ultra-libertarian billionaire Peter Thiel. Even Walmart’s chief spokesman seemed to support the idea in a Bloomberg interview, though he quickly retreated, perhaps under political pressure from the Congressional Republicans.

But although these trends were very heartening, they were confined almost entirely to ideological circles, without any significant backing from Republican officeholders or candidates. Just in the last few weeks, the Senate Republicans successfully filibustered a minimum wage hike, while the House Republicans refused to even consider bringing the measure to the floor, maintaining their phalanx of near-unanimous opposition. The effort to raise the minimum wage seemed dead at the national level, though a wage hike in California and various other states seemed reasonably likely this year.

But on Friday, that settled political landscape was transformed as Mitt Romney, the most recent Republican presidential nominee, declared his support on the MSNBC show of Joe Scarborough, himself a former Republican Congressman. As the most recent Republican presidential nominee and a cadet member of America’s ruling financial oligarchy, Romney stands as a Republican pillar, and given his notorious caution such a his decision would only have come after exhaustive discussion. It appears certain that a major segment of the Republican Establishment has decided to embrace rather than oppose the minimum wage case, presumably after extensive polling and focus group analysis.

I think Romney and his advisers fully recognize that if he had taken this sort of economic position two years ago, he would be sitting in the White House today rather than traveling the rubber-chicken circuit, and perhaps a third major run for the presidency lurks in the back of their minds. One of the incidents that doomed Romney’s 2012 candidacy was his remark that 47% of all American voters paid no income taxes and were therefore deaf to GOP economic arguments. I have pointed out that a \$12 minimum wage would shift tens of millions of American low-wage workers into the net taxpayer class, and perhaps Romney’s people have considered this point.

Admittedly, Romney is very much an establishmentarian Republican, whose conservative credentials are mixed at best, and he hardly inspires the party faithful. But Romney’s support for a minimum wage hike was immediately echoed by former Sen. Rick Santorum, a darling of the hard-right and Christian conservatives, whose enthusiastic supporters had enabled his under-financed presidential campaign to sweep several states and give Romney enormous trouble in 2012. When the top two Republicans from the most recent presidential campaign—representing entirely different wings of the party—simultaneously endorse a minimum wage hike, something is definitely afoot. And former governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, also once considered a viable presidential or vice-presidential nominee, quickly joined the chorus.

I think a powerful conventional wisdom may be forming among Republican consultants and pollsters that the economic concerns of ordinary Americans must be forcefully addressed and that the traditional conservative nostrum of cutting taxes on the rich has long since passed its expiration date. As Santorum said in his interview, the Republicans are perceived as the party of Scrooge and that must change if they have any chance of winning a national election.

Raising taxes to fund massive new social welfare programs would be an ideological anathema, but raising the minimum wage and thereby automatically reducing social welfare spending is a different matter entirely and also vastly more popular, both among liberals and conservatives.

 
• Category: Economics • Tags: Minimum Wage, Republicans 

After almost seventeen years history may be about to repeat itself in California politics, though perhaps with a strong element of farce. Late last week, the Senate Education Committee voted 8-to-0 to place a measure on the November 2016 ballot repealing Prop. 227 and restoring “bilingual education” in California public schools. The long-dormant Language Wars may be returning to American politics, and based on the early indicators, the G.O.P. may have totally abandoned any support for English in the schools, with not a single Republican casting a No vote on the proposal.

Although many might be surprised by this political alignment, I am not. When I launched my “English for the Children” initiative effort in 1997 to replace California’s failed system of Spanish-almost-only “bilingual education” with intensive English immersion, I sought to avoid the political partisanship that could easily taint a project touching upon delicate ethnic issues. As matters turned out, I got my wish, and our campaign was among the most bipartisan in state history, being opposed by nearly every prominent Democrat and also nearly every prominent Republican.

Requiring that English be taught in public schools was opposed by the Chairman of the state Republican Party and the Chairman of the State Democratic Party, as well as all four party leaders in the State Senate and Assembly. President Bill Clinton came out to California to campaign against us. All four candidates for governor, Democrat and Republican alike, denounced the measure and together starred in a powerful television spot urging a No vote, ranked by many as the best advertisement of that election cycle. We were opposed by every California union, every political slate, and almost every newspaper editorial board, and were outspent on advertising by a ratio of 25-to-1. But despite this daunting array of influential opponents, our initiative still passed with one of the largest political landslides of any contested measure in state history, winning over 61 percent of the vote.

As is traditional with California initiatives, our critics hoped to win in the courtroom what they had lost at the ballot box and bilingual advocates immediately sued to block the law. However, in the weeks that followed, four separate federal judges ruled in favor of Prop. 227 and the law that had passed in the June vote began to be implemented statewide as the new school year began in September. All of California’s thousand-odd school districts were required to teach young immigrant children in English as soon as they started school, though some bitterly resisted and dragged their feet.

The consequences were quite remarkable. Although nearly every state newspaper had editorially opposed the change in educational policy, once their journalists began visiting the schools to report the results of such a sweeping educational transformation, the many dozens of major media stories produced were uniformly glowing, with teachers, parents, and children all very happy with the change, and everyone surprised how quickly and easily the students were learning English in the classroom.

The following year, academic test scores for a million-plus immigrant students in California rose substantially, confounding naysayers and putting the story back on the front pages of the major state newspapers. And in 2000, immigrant test scores continued their rise, leading to a front-page story in the Sunday New York Times and major coverage in the rest of the national media. The founding president of the California Association of Bilingual Educators publicly declared that he had been wrong for thirty years and bilingual education didn’t work while English immersion did work, becoming a born-again convert to “English” and appearing on CBS News and the PBS Newshour to make his case.

During the first four years following the passage of Prop. 227, the academic performance of over a million immigrant schoolchildren taught in English roughly doubled, while those school districts that stubbornly retained their bilingual education programs showed no improvement whatsoever. English-learners in English immersion classes academically outperformed their counterparts in holdover bilingual education programs in every subject, every grade level, and every year, racking up performance advantage of 80-to-0.

The political trends showed a similar trajectory, with Arizona voters passing an almost identical ballot measure by an even wider 26 point margin in November 2000 and the electorate of Massachusetts, arguably America’s most liberal state, favoring “English” by a colossal 32 point landslide in 2002, incidentally putting supporter Mitt Romney in the governorship as a political side-effect. Then in 2003, Nativo Lopez, one of California’s most diehard remaining backers of bilingual education, was recalled from office in Santa Ana by Latino parents outraged over his opposition to “English,” losing by a 40 point margin in America’s most heavily Latino immigrant major city.

With that last landslide vote over a decade ago in America’s most heavily Latino immigrant city, resistance to “English” completely crumbled and bilingual education largely disappeared from schools in California and much of the rest of the country while even the term itself almost completely vanished from public discourse or media coverage.

For decades since the 1960s, denunciations of bilingual education had been a staple of conservative campaign rhetoric—the so-called “language wars”—but with the provocative educational policy having disappeared, the rhetoric eventually followed and fewer and fewer elected officials or political activists even remembered that the program had once existed. A couple of years ago, Peter Brimelow, editor of the leading anti-immigration webzine VDare.com, included a rare denunciation of bilingual education in one of his columns, but felt compelled to explain the meaning of the term, which may have become unfamiliar to his younger anti-immigrationist readers.

Meanwhile, virtually all immigrant children in California quickly and easily learned English as soon as they entered school, and no one thought the process difficult or remarkable. Whereas for decades bilingual education theorists had claimed that it took seven to ten years for a young child to learn English—a totally insane claim that was ubiquitous in our schools of education—everyone now recognized that just a few months was usually time enough, with the new goal being for Latino children to learn English in pre-school and therefore become fully English-proficient before they even entered kindergarten.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Bilingual Education 

When I first began investigating the minimum wage a couple of years ago, one of my early surprises was its sharp decline across the decades, having fallen by roughly one-third in real value since its 1968 peak.

This drop was greatly magnified when we considered the economic growth of American society given that our per capita GDP had roughly doubled during that same period, meaning that the minimum wage had declined by almost 70% relative to average income. A 70% drop in a crucial parameter of our wage structure is quite remarkable and clearly explains why lower wage workers could generally support their families a few decades ago, but today subsist in desperate poverty despite massive government social welfare subsidies. I emphasized some of these statistics in my December 2013 New York Times piece on the subject, pointing out that even raising the minimum wage to \$12 per hour would merely make up a fraction of this long lost economic ground.

I was hardly the first person to note these remarkable facts, and earlier that same year Sen. Elizabeth Warren had pointed out that if the minimum wage had merely kept pace with the growth in average per capita income, it would have reached a rate close to \$22 per hour. Given such figures, the increases to \$9 or \$10.10 advocated by the Democratic leadership in Congress stood revealed as the paltry and pusillanimous goals that they were.

The devastating power of this simple economic point is easily apparent to the business lobbyists tasked with blocking an increase, and they have regularly suggested that this argument is totally misleading because it ignores that the gains in national economic output have hardly been uniform across all sectors. The doubling in real per capita GDP has been driven almost entirely by increases at the high end, in sectors such as computer software, finance, and biotechnology, with little of it due to changes in the value of the work produced by janitors and waitresses. They argue that wages must follow productivity and if the output of nannies is roughly unchanged from forty years ago, it is absurd to expect their real hourly wages to double or triple. On the face of it, this rejoinder seems quite telling, and I have never seen an effective rebuttal provided in the numerous articles and columns by liberal wage advocates I have read on the subject.

However, let us step back a little and ask ourselves to consider the definition of “productivity,” especially for a service-sector worker of the sort we are considering. Now as both I myself and my sharpest libertarian critics have emphasized, I have absolutely no professional expertise in the “dismal science,” but productivity is obviously directly related to the rate at which economic value is generated and economic value is defined in terms of market prices. So if the hourly wage of a cleaning lady is \$9 and the price charged for her service is \$11 (including overhead), those figures represent her productivity.

But suppose the minimum wage were raised to \$11, boosting her personal wages to \$12 per hour and the all-in cost of her services to \$14. Assuming her job remained in existence, which it probably would, the market price and productivity of her work would have grown by one-third, although her scrubbing and washing remained completely unchanged. And her new, higher wages would remain just as closely aligned with her new, higher personal productivity as had been the case earlier since productivity is defined based on wages and costs for the service involved rather than the other way round.

Moreover, minimum wage critics have endlessly touted the recent CBO report analyzing the impact of a wage hike. Yet according to that report, some 98% of impacted low-end workers would see dramatic rises in their wages while only about 2% might lose their jobs as a consequence. So according to this analysis, the proposed minimum wage hike would raise the economic productivity of 98% of America’s low-wage workforce—could any politician ask for a better talking-point?

Perhaps my self-declared economic ignorance is shining through at this point, and my expert critics in the economics professoriate can seize on these naïve suggestions to ridicule and humiliate me. I urge them to do so. But it seems to me that much of modern economics is more intended to obfuscate and confuse rather than enlighten, and the disastrous American economic policies of the last decade or so tend to strengthen my suspicion in this regard.

These days, a large fraction of the more vocal and visible economics experts draw much or most of their incomes from the financial subventions of our Oligarch class, and perhaps coincidentally, their claims and the personal interests of their benefactors seem rather closely aligned.

We have been discussing the productivity of low wage workers, but let us now consider the productivity at the other end of the economic spectrum, which has allegedly risen so rapidly over the last few decades and thereby supposedly justifies the massive financial rewards there accrued.

How do we measure the productivity of a hedge-fund manager, a service-sector worker who annually earns \$50 million for his management skills and financial manipulations? Unless I’m missing something, the only metric available is the market price he charges for his services, namely that same figure of \$50 million per year. So just as has been claimed by those pro-market pundits, his income closely corresponds to his productivity, but his is merely a restatement of the relevant definitions. If the painter of blotchy canvasses can sell them for tens of millions of dollars, his economic productivity is enormous even if his artistic skills are minimal.

This same argument would presumably apply on the international scale as well. If an African dictator or the current God-Emperor of North Korea’s Kim Dynasty allocates to himself 5% of the entire national income of his impoverished country, the annual dollars involved may reach into the billions, demonstrating that his economic productivity exceeds that of almost any brilliant American business tycoon, even though the likely benefits he provides to his suffering country are hugely negative. Perhaps the Sultan of Brunei may spend most of his days playing polo or watching TV, but his ongoing productivity—as manifested in the diligent 24-7 gushing of his oil wells—remains far greater than that of any investment banker or elite lawyer.

So when regular columnists in Forbes or other publications cite the fact that over the last generation or two, the economic productivity of our elites has skyrocketed while the productivity of most other Americans has stagnated, I suspect they are simply restating the leftist claim that the rich have gotten richer while no one else has. But it’s nice to hear those sentiments coming directly from such a contrary source.

 

Meanwhile, on a more practical matter, I’ve become much more hopeful that a California minimum wage hike along the lines of that contained in the initiative I failed to qualify for the November ballot may soon be achieved via different means.

 
• Category: Economics • Tags: Minimum Wage 

Earlier this week unfortunate Americans were shown the advantages of a functioning political system as the German government announced it would establish a minimum wage of \$8.50 Euros or almost \$12 per hour.

In the past Germany had had a minimum wage, but the extremely high level of labor unionization had ensured very high hourly wages for the overwhelming majority of ordinary workers. However, in recent years, an increasing share of new jobs had not fallen under these agreements, often being low-wage positions in the service-sector, and labor leaders had decided to address this growing problem by establishing a reasonable minimum wage for all workers as their top political priority. Business groups and conservatives initially resisted this proposal, arguing economic damage might result. But after considering the facts and the data, their opposition dissipated, and the cabinet of Germany’s right-leaning government has now adopted the idea, which will soon become law. Germany has one of the world’s best economies, with unemployment far below the American level and the standard of living well above.

From an American perspective, all sides in this debate behaved in an almost magical manner. On the one hand, the German unions deployed all their political influence to raising the wages of all workers rather than on focus their efforts on further augmenting the dollars and benefits of their own narrow membership. On the other side, business groups objectively considered the facts and decided that any resulting negative effects were too small to be worth waging a major political struggle, leading them to concede the issue. The notion of Capital and Labor cooperating together to advance the interests of society as a whole rather than battle for their own narrow special interests is a very strange idea in modern American society.

Indeed, America’s Democrats had made no effort to raise the minimum wage during the two years that they controlled both houses of Congress and now that they have recently revived the issue, they apparently have little chance of mustering the sixty votes they need to pass a \$10.10 minimum wage in the Senate], let alone attracting the majority of Republicans required for a vote in the House. Some Democrats are considering a lower figure, but there is no sign there would be sufficient Republican support for that either. So our own Congress appears likely to remain deadlocked on the issue, while the German minimum wage shoots up to a figure over 60% higher than ours.

There are some efforts to raise the minimum wage in various American states, through legislation or initiative. However, most of these states are small ones and the proposed levels are usually in the eight or nine dollar range, well below even the \$10.10 figure being considered in Congress.

The one major exception to this is California. A few weeks after my own proposed \$12 minimum wage initiative began attracting considerable media coverage, Democratic legislators led by State Sen. Mark Leno of San Francisco topped it with a \$13 per hour proposal, which recently passed its first legislative hurdle on a party-line vote.

Given that California’s cost of living is 30% above the national average, a \$13 minimum wage for the Golden State is not at all an unreasonable figure. The Democrats hold commanding super-majorities in both houses of the Legislature and since the bill only requires a simple majority to become law, its chances would seem to be reasonably good. Indeed, two of California’s largest cities—San Francisco and Los Angeles—are considering raising the local minimum wages to a figure as high as \$15 per hour, and such proposals have drawn the public approval of moderate and politically influential billionaires, whose words carry a great deal of influence in such matters as well as indications of strong public support.

Although I am obviously disappointed at the failure of my own \$12 minimum wage initiative to make the November ballot, if my proposal played a useful role in spurring the Legislature to raise the minimum wage to something in the same range or higher, I’ll regard my \$200 Filing Fee as having been very well spent.

A renewed focus on basic economic issues by the liberal wing of California’s totally dominant Democratic Party would anyway be a very welcome change from the situation of the last couple of decades in which avant-garde social issues have drawn nearly all the ideological enthusiasm and donor dollars. Meanwhile, the abandoned majority of ordinary California workers suffered under greater and greater economic hardships in their daily lives, leading to Golden State poverty rates that were the worst anywhere in America.

When we consider the initiative campaigns of the last fifteen years, I can’t recall a single one directly aimed at improving the economic lot of our state’s millions of working-poor, as opposed to giving them the right to smoke medical marijuana or send their children to voucherized schools.

Indeed, at the end of the 1990s one of California’s leading liberal consultants told me that the wealthy donors in his circle showed absolutely no interest in funding the sort of working-class economic issues that had once been central to the Democrat Party, and this explained the lack of ballot measures on such topics. Hilda Solis’s 1996 minimum wage measure had barely scraped together the dollars necessary for qualification before winning a landslide victory at the polls. Instead, that top Democratic consultant joked with me that the ideal initiative for attracting liberal dollars would be one entitled “Save the Gay Whales from Second-Hand Smoke.” But perhaps that is now starting to change, though not quickly enough to put my own initiative on the ballot.

Over the years it has become obvious to me that the political world contained a curious paradox, with important issues attracting either heavy funding or large public support, but rarely both. However, this contradiction is more apparent than real and a moment’s thought reveals the simple explanation of this seeming mystery. Any prominent issue that possesses both dollars and popular appeal is quickly victorious and therefore disappears from the political landscape,

Today in California, the polls show overwhelming support for a large rise in the minimum wage, and the idea has now been endorsed by multi-billionaires of the left, right, and center. Let’s hope that such potent combination of dollars and voter sentiment quickly produces enacted legislation and causes the issue to permanently vanish from the political radar screen just as would be suggested by my theory.

 
• Category: Economics • Tags: Minimum Wage 
RonUnz1
About Ron Unz

A theoretical physicist by training, Mr. Unz serves as founder and chairman of UNZ.org, a content-archiving website providing free access to many hundreds of thousands of articles from prominent periodicals of the last hundred and fifty years. From 2007 to 2013, he also served as publisher of The American Conservative, a small opinion magazine, and had previously served as chairman of Wall Street Analytics, Inc., a financial services software company which he founded in New York City in 1987. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from Harvard University, Cambridge University, and Stanford University, and is a past first-place winner in the Intel/Westinghouse Science Talent Search. He was born in Los Angeles in 1961.

He has long been deeply interested in public policy issues, and his writings on issues of immigration, race, ethnicity, and social policy have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, The Nation, and numerous other publications.

In 1994, he launched a surprise Republican primary challenge to incumbent Gov. Pete Wilson of California, running on a conservative, pro-immigrant platform against the prevailing political sentiment, and received 34% of the vote. Later that year, he campaigned as a leading opponent of Prop. 187, the anti-immigration initiative, and was a top featured speaker at a 70,000 person pro-immigrant march in Los Angeles, the largest political rally in California history to that date.

In 1997, Mr. Unz began his “English for the Children” initiative campaign to dismantle bilingual education in California. He drafted Prop. 227 and led the campaign to qualify and pass the measure, culminating in a landslide 61% victory in June 1998, effectively eliminating over one-third of America’s bilingual programs. Within less than three years of the new English immersion curriculum, the mean percentile test scores of over a million immigrant students in California rose by an average of 70%. He later organized and led similar initiative campaigns in other states, winning with 63% in the 2000 Arizona vote and a remarkable 68% in the 2002 Massachusetts vote without spending a single dollar on advertising.

After spending most of the 2000s focused on software projects, he has recently become much more active in his public policy writings, most of which had appeared in his own magazine.


Personal Classics
The Surprising Elements of Talmudic Judaism
The Shaping Event of Our Modern World
Analyzing the History of a Controversial Movement