Sunday, September 28, 2008

Dating Capital

In my post Modern Romance, reader K notes that a possible explanation of "Dating Capital" can explain the disparity in dating outcomes. That men with friends who give them pickup pointers, and provide "wingman" services, can create more success for their buddies in the way that girlfriends can for their female friends, with make-overs and better haircuts and the like.

In order to test this hypothesis, it's probably useful to look at how two hypothetical 19 year old men would fare, in different eras, and compare their "dating capital" or skills gained by social networks to be able to attract women in a relationship. Let's create a hypothetical 19 year old man in Greeley, Colorado, in 1949. Create another, hypothetical 19 year old man in say, Boulder, Colorado, in 1998. Let's compare the two, their resources, and their hypothetical outcomes, to explore how they pass through the dating and relationship market.

First, let's examine the 19 year old man in 1998's Boulder Colorado. If he was lucky enough to mature early, physically, in High School, and have or create enough status for himself as an attractive male, he will have plenty of success with women and need very little "game" or "Dating Capital." He will have experienced early success with women, feel no anxiety or social fear (of rejection) in approaching them, and making conversation. He is likely to do well in College with the opposite sex, particularly if he maintains a high social status. With sports, particularly football or basketball, giving him high social status and appeal, or inherited wealth that affords outward markers like fancy cars, and the like. At no point, of course, will he find his grades reflect dating success. Grades and academic success are quite irrelevant, if not harmful. A successful young man with women will note that his contemporaries who do well in school, have in general very poor success with women. Principally, because lower levels of testosterone are associated with higher intelligence, and women avoid "smart men" who are "nerdy" like the plague. One study even showed that only 65% of MIT graduate students ever had sex. Further illustrating that process: 0% of Studio Art majors were virgins, but 83% of Biochem and Math majors were virgins. Any dating savvy young man with high status among women will conceal above average intelligence, or channel it into "high testosterone" activities such as fighter pilot, etc.

After College, a High Status, "Alpha" male will continue, quite likely, to find success among women, as long as he retains his status, by working in occupations that are found "sexy" by women, including occupations such as lawyer, advertising, media, and so on. Avoiding professions such as engineering, computer programming, accounting, and the like which women find "nerdy" and associate with lower testosterone men. Ten years later, at age 29, the young man is likely to have little problems finding dates, approaching women, and is likely to be quite comfortable with his romantic life.

However, there are unlikely to be very many men like this. The increase in divorce and single motherhood means less chance of inherited wealth. A few genetic lottery winners with early puberty and athletic success are likely to define this crowd, and those naturally handsome and tall. Probably, we are looking in the neighborhood of 10% of the 19 year olds from 1998.

But what of the hypothetical 19 year old in 1998, who did not mature early, physically,or find high status through athletics, or inherit wealth and status, or some combination? If he has an older brother to mentor him, or various friends who are able to teach him the trick of appearing high status, certainly he can do better for himself. It's likely that the increase in attendance in College is at least as much the desire to be around girls more. A blue collar auto mechanic of 19, competing for the same girls in a bar, as a 19 year old sophomore at the local college, is likely to lose out, all things being equal. Meanwhile, lots of alcohol and various social events, allow young men and women to intermingle, often inebriated past social inhibitions (and good judgment). Even young men who are not particularly "Alpha" or socially dominant can be "lucky" enough, in the words from the movie "Superbad," to be one girl's "mistake."

Increasingly, College, and particularly non-elite colleges, serve as social intermediary institutions to match young people, though only temporarily. The way Church and town dances and social events did, to bring young people of the opposite sex together. Elite Colleges, of course, like Harvard or Yale, have admissions generally balanced equally among men and women, while lower tier schools such as say, Syracuse University, have 56% women, and 44% men as their student body. The higher percentage of women in less elite schools pretty much requires the words of John Lovitz on "Saturday Night Live," ... "Ladies, lower your standards."

Naturally, competition for the most "Alpha" of men at most colleges is fierce. Conservative women commentators such as National Review's Mona Charen, or City Journal's Kay Hymowitz's finger men as a whole as the reason young women "act slutty" in their words, with more explicit behavior (compared to the past), clothing, and more. Young women clearly would prefer not to lower their standards, and the conduct condemned is not that of young women just mindlessly acting like robots to young men's demands as a group, but rather the need to capture the most Alpha of men in competition with many, many other women. It's a numbers game — the pool of Alpha men is smaller, and the pool of female competitors is larger. Hence the need to up the ante with more available sexual behavior, more revealing clothing, more consumption of alcohol and so on.

Exacerbated by the lack of any larger social context, of course. College years are conducted mostly in social isolation, with peers as the standards of conduct. Parties, and other socialization, do not take place among friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, and the like. That is a massive shift over time from the world of 1949.

But it's after College that the lack of "Dating Capital" does in the romantic success of the non dominant, non-Alpha male, in the case of the 19 year old from 1998.

The hardest problem is meeting young women. As reader K noted, young men and women in large organizations might well be suited for each other, but would never meet in socially appropriate ways to conducting romance. A young male computer programmer might never meet other than a casual pass in the hallways, a young female human resources officer. However, the young woman, assuming she is attractive on some baseline, will have no problems meeting young men in bars. Increasingly, women are opting for single motherhood and rejecting the messy compromises of marriage. One might even argue that a man would have to have a much larger premium over a woman's status and wealth and position in life in order to be considered for marriage. Given women's ability to form single mother families on their own.

Let's examine our hypothetical young man, who was 19 in 1998, after College. Let's assume he had little "game" but was lucky enough in College, fueled by lots of alcohol, "mistakes," and the imbalance in the sex ratio. Suddenly, in the big city after graduation, his partial success in College comes to a screeching stop, and he's back in High School again. His dating success and failures are entirely dependent on his ability to impress his female peers in bars, within a few seconds. If he has friends who are successful with women, and are inclined to teach him how to proceed successfully, he has hope. If not, he has none, and soon falls into substitution with pornography and video games and other entertainments.

Meanwhile, young women have a large cultural resource available to them, in how to become more attractive. Their dating capital, besides their friends, resides in magazines such as Cosmopolitan, Glamor, and the like. Movies, television shows, books, and daytime talk shows like Oprah are filled with make-overs designed to maximize attractiveness. Young men, on the other hand, have the "lad" magazines such as Maxim, with pictures of young women and not much advice on how to approach them. Their dating capital is essentially, their friends and the Pick Up Artist books, seminars, and websites. It's catch as catch can, with most young men likely to lose out. There is no systemic effort to clue them into the requirements of women. Part of the problem is that "excessive" interest in women, including much effort spent in picking them up, is considered "unmanly," in the way that Don Juans are considered, still, unseemly and effeminate. A common complaint among the Pick Up artists like "Mystery" is that their fathers and larger society did not teach them the skills they needed to attract women.

Which is precisely the point. In 1949, mediating institutions such as Churches and local organizations in towns and cities put young men and women together. "Game" was not needed because women's selection criteria included what their friends, family, and community would think and approve of their choices. Anonymous hookups were not very common, and young women already knew well of a man's character, relatives, and conduct before he ever approached her at a dance. The world of 1949, Greeley Colorado, did not have anonymous strangers meeting in a bar, based on purely physical attributes and "Game." Let's now examine our hypothetical 19 year old in 1949.

Assuming the young man matured early, again like his hypothetical counterpart in 1998, and had relatively high status, he would have had little problem with women in his life. It's quite likely that he would have married relatively early, compared to his counterpart in 1998, given the relative marriage rates derived from the US Census Bureau below:

[Click on Graph to Enlarge It]

But of course, it's not him we are interested in. Rather, it is the 19 year old in 1949, who probably would not have had great success in High School with girls, but after High School would have had a far different world in front of him.

That world, would include far greater "Dating Capital" because of social intermediary institutions. In Greeley, that would include the staid Baptist socials and dances that Sayyid Qutb found to be a hotbed of lust and depravity. Game was far less a determinant of success, because each young women knew well each potential suitor, besides his demeanor and appearance. While he might be smooth and suave, in his approach (or lacking), she would know who his parents were, how much money he was likely to make, if he had any major character flaws, what his brothers and sisters were like, in other words a fairly complete picture of the man and his relatives, not to mention his standing in the community and what most of her family and acquaintances thought of him. Any choice a young woman made would not be an anonymous, one-time hook-up, but taking place in front everyone. Including, her parents, possibly even grandparents. Young men who were of "good character" but lacked Game had lowered success, perhaps, compared to those who had better Game, but not decisively. They got married in far greater numbers than those of today.

Lack of anonymous, consequence-less choice, available contraception that was both cheap and reliable, and far more information to both men and women, made the young man of 1949, far different. Not only did he marry earlier, and in greater numbers, but there were not penalties for lacking College degrees as there is today in the dating market. Partly that was because of cheaper real estate, higher real incomes for blue collar men. But more because there were a host of institutions that served to bring young men and women together after they already had a good idea of who they were. Even in big cities, people lived in fairly intact, stable, ethnic neighborhoods. This was as true of New York as it was of Chicago, or Pittsburgh. Neighborhood dances, often sponsored by neighborhood churches, were the primary means of finding a mate.

It's only fairly recently, after all, that the Pick Up Artists have become a feature in Western life. In 1949 they would have seemed as out of place as a Rap video played before the staid burghers of Greeley. Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne and Humphrey Bogart were considered the models of masculinity. A man was supposed to be stalwart, loyal, true, and tough, not smooth, highly verbal, and attuned to women's moods. Today, we have "sensitive" screen stars such as Josh Hartnett, Shia LaBeouf, and Leonardo DiCaprio. That cultural shift seems to be part of the huge change in what women selected for, over time.

In the world of 1949, it seems that many other aspects of a man's character and personality mattered as much as Game, effectively neutralizing the Dating Capital advantage, or alternatively, spreading out Dating Capital by making other aspects besides smoothness, power/status, and confidence matter.

The world of 1949, however, is unlikely to ever return. Is there a systemic way to spread out Dating Capital to most young men? It doesn't seem possible, because no matter how well known "Game" becomes, there will always be a race to be the one with the "most" Game, as women simply choose the most Game-worthy candidate. Moreover, much of the spreading of game seems haphazard. Those with friends who have it, and are willing to share, and teach, benefit, those who do not, largely remain outside, clueless. It would seem almost impossible for women's choices to be informed by factors other than Game in a bar, given the largely rootless, anonymous urban culture most young people live within. The world of 1949, where even those who lacked "Game" (most men) had a good chance at romance and marriage, depended after all on stability, community, and social connections. All of that, is just gone.

After all, a man in 1949's Greeley Colorado would be astounded to learn that a bit more than fifty years later, men would pay $50 an hour just to have someone alongside them, giving them tips on how to pick up women. That's what the Church dances were for!
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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Modern Romance

Last year, Time Magazine both declared the modern love story dead, and asked who killed it. The story even cited two teen-age girls, all of 17 years, who had turned to Audrey Hepburn movies of the 1950's for their romantic movie fixes. Among the complaints is the audience reluctance to believe in happy endings, or even romance, amidst a society pushing endless consumerized sex and alternatives. Romance was explicitly compared to middle-management recruiting.

But read carefully the complaints of young men, lacking status and prestige and that indefinable "something" that women desire, and there will be a different story. Over at Roissy in DC, a blog devoted to male "Pick Up Artist" tales and dating advice (largely for men), both male and female commenters will acknowledge that a growing number of perfectly fine young men miss out on the dating scene, particularly in their twenties, because they lack any understanding of how their female contemporaries choose partners, and end up sidelined, frustrated, and angry. All around, an unhealthy situation, particularly long-term.

This situation occurs because modern romance is broken. It's broken in films, television, books, and in the real life that influences the culture and in turn is influence by culture. But to understand WHY modern romance is broken, we must first understand how romance functioned in the past, and how different Western romance is and was from almost every other culture.

It's useful to go back, all the way back, to 1949 and Greeley, Colorado. To examine the insight of one of History's most dangerous but obscure men, Sayyid Qutb, on the dynamics of Western romance.

Qutb, born to relative obscurity and poverty in Egypt, traveled to the United States on a scholarship to study at among other places, Colorado State College of Education, in Greeley Colorado. The man who's books, including "Social Justice," and "Milestones" are considered the founding intellectual works of Al Qaeda, did not enjoy his time in the United States. A lifelong bachelor, who lamented he could not find a Muslim woman of "sufficient" purity to be his wife, he found the overt sexual freedom and openness of American women profoundly threatening.

Executed in 1966 by Egypt's Nasser government for his role in a jihadist plot, Qutb throughout his writings found the United States and the open, Western society a monumental threat to Islamic society. His writings have been cited by both Osama bin Laden, and Ayman al-Zawahari, as justification for their jihadist campaigns. But it is his outsiders view of how American men and women conducted themselves that is most of interest to us now.

Qutb came from a tribal, polygamous, and rigid society. Marriages were not made out of love, by men and women freely assessing one another, and marrying out of their own free will. Rather, they were arranged affairs between families. Dowries, status of each family, the relative advantages and losses of each family, dominated those arrangements. Sexuality, and the open display of such, much less freedom of choice, profoundly threatened the ability of clan and tribe to perpetuate their closed system. It's to be expected that Qutb would not think much of Western society. But it's precisely because of that alien culture that his insights are useful.

At the time of his visit, in 1949, Greeley Colorado was a planned community. Situated in the plains North of Denver, the town outlawed alcohol and was populated mostly by conservative Baptists. The town was filled with temperate, prosperous, conservative, and family oriented people. But something in that town provoked profound hatred and contempt in Qutb. In his book, "The America I have Seen," he noted:

The American girl is well acquainted with her body's seductive capacity. She knows it lies in the face, and in expressive eyes, and thirsty lips. She knows seductiveness lies in the round breasts, the full buttocks, and in the shapely thighs, sleek legs — and she shows all this and does not hide it.

Jazz is his [note: the American male's] preferred music, and it is created by Negroes to satisfy their love of noise and to whet their sexual desires ...

They danced to the tunes of the gramophone, and the dance floor was replete with tapping feet, enticing legs, arms wrapped around waists, lips pressed to lips, and chests pressed to chests. The atmosphere was full of desire...

Well, yes. Even staid, conservative Baptists get married. And in the West, that means generally, Assortive Mating.

Assortive Mating is the West's secret weapon. It depends on open female choice, a relatively flat playing field for men, and some social constraints on both sexes choices. Assortive mating, reduced to it's simple form, means like marries like, based on romantic love, not family and tribal profit. Since each partner chooses freely. Assortive mating also allows for considerable female freedom, something that has characterized the West versus Islam, for example, from the beginning. Bernard Lewis, in "The Muslim Discovery of Europe," recounts how the Sultan's ambassadors to the Court of Vienna, were horrified at the Emperor himself stopping the street to allow ladies to pass, even doffing his hat in courtesy.

But just as important, Assortive Mating, based on mostly free and open choice, allows men, nearly all men, to form families based on love, and thus become heavily invested in them. It accounts for the relative advantage of the West over Islam, starting around 1000 AD, in mobilizing resources (even over a smaller population). The yeoman will fight harder, longer, to defend his family from a threat than his Muslim counterpart, lacking one in a polygamous society. The extraordinary flowering of technological advance, most of it done by ordinary, obscure men like Johannes Gutenberg, in post 1300 Europe, cannot be understood without including the extension of family formation in a monogamous, Assortive Mating society.

Westerners mate under a few, but critical rules. Yes, there is sex involved. Even or especially, a man like Qutb knew that from the start. Sexual attraction is the start, but not the finish, of Western Romance. But note the environment that Qutb criticizes: Church dances. Under the Western System, men and women are mostly free to choose their own partners. But institutions, such as local Church, or benevolent society, or group/block civic organization dances, fairs, exist to mediate that choice. Guide the choices, control them, and ensure optimal outcomes. Men cannot flit from woman to woman, because they will rapidly get a bad reputation, and face social censure and rejection by women themselves. Women cannot choose, and then choose again, either, because they also face social censure, in an open environment where the choice is made.

Critically, the mediating institutions allow "test drives" without sexual commitment. One can dance with many partners, committing nothing, and assessing each one's relative sexual desirability, sociability, charisma, personality, and more, without risk or censure. Everything occurs out in the open.

These are the simple rules: Mediating institutions for "safe" exploration of potential partners without risk or commitment, free choice by both parties, no promiscuity without social censure, and open choice seen by everyone. These rules form the bedrock of Western romance. They serve to form life-long partnerships based on love, and for the most part have worked for about a thousand years.

Yes there can be alcohol involved, to overcome social inhibitions, shyness, and particularly, fear of rejection by the pursuing men. There is almost always dancing and music, to allow the sexes to mingle, harmlessly, while still expressing sexual interest out in the open. Even or especially in temperance-driven Greeley, this was a big part of socializing. No wonder Qutb was horrified — a more direct threat to his tribal way of life could not be imagined! If everyone was free to choose, the whole thing would fall apart, including or especially his beloved Islam.

Notice the key requirement for the choice to be out in the open, seen by everyone, and the penalties for promiscuous behavior by both sexes. Both require a fairly stable, intimate group setting where anonymous behavior is difficult. Yes, it is possible for a few very discreet individuals to carry on affairs and promiscuous behaviors, and the penalties fall heavier on women than on men (an unfairness decried by feminists). However, for the most part this system has not only served the West well, but formed the foundation of the nuclear family by insuring free and fair choices for the most part for men and women alike. Without a few men dominating the mating opportunities.

Now, we see things very different. Today's society is filled with books, television shows (VH1's "The Pick Up Artist") and seminars (costing thousands of dollars) designed to teach men how to compete with those naturally gifted at picking up women and develop "game." Romance has turned into big business, according to the Washington Post. A "wingman" to help men practice "pick up lines" on strangers can cost $50 an hour, and more than 120,000 marriages a year come from online dating matches. The article cites frayed social ties and increased isolation, matched by hyper-connectivity on the Internet.

Whereas before, men and women performed their mating assessments in full view of family, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances, each happy to add to information about the other's intended choice and suitability (or lack of) regarding that choice, today's romantic life is radically different.

The Pill was widely available to married women in 1965, in "Griswold v. Connecticut" (which accounts for the strange demographic drop in fertility seen in my post Why Is It Always 1968 Part 1), and later all women in in 1972 in "Eisenstadt v. Baird." The Pill plus the condom, providing cheap, effective, and reliable contraception, helped radically alter how men and women engaged in romance.

Along with greatly enhanced personal mobility, with young men and women flocking to urban centers, that offer highly anonymous, consequence free, sexual entanglements, the nature of choice changed radically. No longer were constraints of what one's neighbors, friends, parents, fellow church goers, younger siblings, and the like would think of behavior and choices relevant. Instead, there was an endless consumerist choice available, and always something better along the horizon. If a relationship did not work out, there was always another one waiting to come along.

Indeed, increasing numbers of women are now moving to a point where marriage is no longer a goal. The Guardian reports that growing numbers of financially independent young women prefer single motherhood. "I Wanted a Child more than a Man." Indeed, in the Telegraph UK story, half of women surveyed would consider having a baby with a friend if they did not find a partner at a certain age.

As Roissy has pointed out, urban living, with the anonymous curtain over choices and behavior, is bad for long-term relationships. It tips the balance among both men and women for short term selection, based on raw sexual appeal, and this balance is unhealthy.

Reading Roissy and other blogs, young men who do not have the height, physique, social dominance, power and status, to win in the bar scene mostly end up alone. Substituting with pornography and video games. Socially isolated and removed from women. When, in their mid thirties or so, women age out of the "Alpha Male" selection at bars and other pickup places, their experiences with these men are not happy. The men lack social skills desired, along with status, prestige, and power that the earlier partners of the women in question possessed. Moreover, each date knows that they are not exactly each other's first choice but more like last choice. With angry isolation on the one hand and quite likely, a large number of partners on the other hand. Many of the men exhibit "angry" behaviors, and this is borne out on comments in various forums where young men complain that they followed society's "rules" akin to that of Greeley, in 1949, and achieved nothing.

This is why there is no happily ever after in Hollywood's romance movies, and even television shows such as "Gilmore Girls" have downbeat endings where 40 something women always choose the ever-present bad-boy over the small-town good guy. In the present bar-driven, urban hook-up culture, there is no happy ending for most people. It's why no one believes in Happy Ever After, and why the few movies that do present such an ending tend to be ... directed at men. Such as "Knocked Up" or "Wedding Crashers."

The cultural and social implications of this shift in romance is profound. A few, naturally gifted young men will dominate the urban bar hook-up scene. Relationships are short-lived and disposable. More and more women will choose single motherhood (the latest US Census report had 41% of births in 2006 to single mothers). Young men will grow up without fathers, and fall into either "nice guy" behaviors that prevent them from having any relationships, or more likely, become as bad-boy as they can to compete for women in the urban, anonymous choice driven market. Young women without fathers will compete even more fiercely for the few "desirable" men who exhibit the baddest of bad boy behaviors. And very rapidly, the middle class behaviors we take for granted will become extinct.

In 1965, it was possible to listen to Black radio, and hear earnest, heartfelt songs of romantic yearning and love, by young Black men, about young Black women. Artists such as Marvin Gaye expressed sentiments that any Medieval troubador singing about his beloved, or the most romantic of Tin Pan Alley songwriters, would have recognized immediately. Today, Rap music compares young Black women to pieces of meat. In the 1950's, writer Theodore Dalrymple noted that it was common for even the poorest places in London to leave their doors unlocked. Now, the descendants of those people, mostly White, exhibit the most thug-like behavior, imprisoning the older inhabitants in their own homes. All this in a space of about forty years.

Middle class behavior is dependent on socializing the next generations into middle class norms. It does not just "happen" by magic, or become a blooming flower amongst urban centers. If that were the case Lagos, Nigeria, or Mexico City would be awash with middle class masses. Most important among the factors that create new generations of middle class people is the nature of romantic choice. A society of mostly single, unattached, men playing video games or viewing porn, while a few "game" many women into bed, and mostly single mothers, will not create a middle class society. Never in history has such a group done so, on the contrary it creates a brutal, all-against-all society familiar to any who have visited England's Council Estates or Chicago's Cabrini-Green housing projects.

Many commentators have blamed the ongoing Western social collapse on various factors. Socialism, the Welfare state, media degeneracy, feminism, the "Long March" of Gramscian followers through various institutions. Far more likely, is the radical shift in romantic choices, brought about by the Pill, the Condom, rising female wealth, and urban anonymity.

Which is why Modern Romance ... is dead.
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Monday, September 22, 2008

Why the Culture War Has Re-ignited

The selection of Sarah Palin as McCain's VP choice has re-ignited the Culture Wars. During the Emmy awards, Tina Fey opined she wanted Sarah Palin to be removed from public life. Laura Linney, Howie Mandel, Jeremy Piven, Stephen Colbert, and John Stewart all expressed their negative views of Sarah Palin. John McCain? He wasn't even mentioned. Even Saturday Night Live got into the act, with a skit suggesting that Todd Palin was molesting his daughters.

The Culture Wars, last seen in the 1992 election, are back. Sarah Palin is at the center. Instead of Murphy Brown. This time, of course, for her decision to have five children, with a blue collar, supportive man. But what drives the reason the Culture Wars are being fought? After all, much of this abuse directed at Palin is spontaneous, coming from people such as Sandra Bernhard. Who, to the acclaim of the Washington Post, declared that Sarah Palin would be "gang raped" by "some of Sandra's big, Black brothers" should Palin dare to venture into Manhattan.

What is driving this abuse? It's fear of demographics, and the need to control culture to make up for the demographic collapse of White Liberalism.

Simply put, White Liberals are not having many children. Philip Longman, in his "Return of the Patriarchy," notes that "Red" states that voted for George W. Bush in 2004, had a 12% fertility advantage over "Blue" states that voted for John Kerry. Liberals do know this, and it accounts for the fury over which they wage the Culture Wars, and also their support for illegal and legal immigration.

The story of Forty-Three year old Alexis Stewart, daughter of Martha Stewart, is fairly instructive. The forces of both urban anonymity, and Liberal Culture, encourage educated, urban, high income women to delay childbirth until radical (and risky, for both mother and child) means of fertility, which in the case of Stewart cost $28,000 a month, are required. Meanwhile, as Longman notes, Mormon and Evangelical Christians have many children.Mitt Romney has for example, five sons. Liberals know well that they will simply be outnumbered and shoved aside from power by sheer fertility (and their own lack of it) unless something is done.

Hence, the Culture Wars. Culture is the Liberal "Secret Weapon" for controlling political, social, and yes demographic power. Liberals bank on the power of Culture to transform, young men and women, from socially conservative, Evangelical, Mormon, and other "patriarchal" groups into well, Liberals. To a certain extent they have been successful. Young women in particular flock to urban centers, as Strange Maps points out. While commenters on Strange Maps have pointed out some possible errors in the map's assumptions, the main point that young women and men flock to urban areas is not disputed. As "Pick Up Artist" and blogger Roissy has noted, urban living imposes it's own dynamics. Including anonymity, endless choice, and a consumerist approach to relationships. The dynamic has not escaped the notice of Liberals, who bet on the dynamic and the omnipresent Media Culture to create their own Janissary Corps.

The Turkish Sultans, engaged first in the conquest of Anatolia, which at the time was overwhelmingly Christian, had a problem. A problem made worse by the final conquest of Byzantium in 1453, and the conquest of Christian nations in the Balkans, Southern Russia, and Southern Poland. Namely, revolt by Christians who outnumbered the Muslims, at least locally. The solution to this problem was the formation of the Janissary Corps, by the Sultan Murad I, around 1365. Local Christian youths were conscripted, forcibly converted as Muslims, and trained as elite soldiers who formed the Sultan's own personal army, as opposed to the tribal levies who were loyal to their own tribal leaders. The Janissaries were paid, regularly, as soldiers, and wore distinctive uniforms. Their loyalty was to the Sultan, not other leaders or groups. Their military prowess, and the ability of the Sultans to use them as an ever-expanding personal army, accounted for much of the Ottoman success, even as late as 1683 and the Second Siege of Vienna. Eventually, of course, the Janissaries became a rather debased Praetorian Guard, controlling the Sultans rather than acting as agents of his will. But for the better part of five hundred years the institution was successful.

Now, Liberals do not intend to impress and forcibly convert socially conservative young people. Rather, they believe that the Media Culture, and the signaling of what is fashionable and trendy, will work the same way in the anonymous, consumerist, status-driven urban culture that young men and women largely inhabit today. After all, they reason, the young men and women who leave small towns and suburbs, enter into large urban areas that are beyond daily contact with their parents, former friends, and social networks. Making these young men and women extremely malleable for new social norms, based on approval of taste-makers and fashions that determine relationship success, in a place where anonymity and endless choice abounds. Having the "correct" opinions are vital for relationship success. Reinforced of course by the Media and Culture which tells young people what attitudes are attributes of those successful in relationships and status and power in the urban mosh pit, and what attitudes are the mark of failures.

This is why the Culture Wars were fought in the first place, starting in the mid to late 1980's when the Baby Boomer generation early cohorts first reached their late thirties and early forties, and positions of cultural power. It's why Murphy Brown had a child on her own, with a father irrelevant. It's why nearly every television show, movie, and pop music artist all push the same social conventions of social liberalism. It is the weapon against fertility — the ability to "capture" young social conservative men and women and "convert" them to social Liberalism, when they move to large Urban Areas, outside the reach of their childhood churches, parents, and friends, and the social networks that shaped their views.

Sarah Palin, of course, just by example, threatens that ability to push a social consensus. Just by existing as an example of a woman who did not move to a large urban area, and pursue the kind of life that say, Alexis Stewart did, she is a threat, from outside Culture. Outside movies, television, and popular music, what Liberals see as the great social shapers of attitudes in the modern world. No less than George Clooney, after all, claimed it was Hollywood that helped end racism and sexism, through it's movies. If Sarah Palin has a successful political career, particularly if she assumes the Presidency at some point (a future viewed as pure horror by Margaret Cho and Tina Fey), she represents an "end run" around the Liberal Culture. A threat to the ability of Liberals to use Culture as a Janissary Corps to indoctrinate young men and women into their own worldview.

This threat is seen most clearly by those who use their Cultural monopoly, in movies, television, and popular music to enforce cultural mores. Hence the spontaneous and rage-filled venom spewed by movie, television, and pop music celebrities. Including Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and now, San Francisco Chronicle columnist Mark Morford who dubbed Barack Obama "a Lightworker", presumably after watching one too many episodes of "Charmed" which also featured "White Lighters" with magical powers.

Even the Media people like Morford absorb without question the culture produced by television:

Many spiritually advanced people I know (not coweringly religious, mind you, but deeply spiritual) identify Obama as a Lightworker, that rare kind of attuned being who has the ability to lead us not merely to new foreign policies or health care plans or whatnot, but who can actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet, of relating and connecting and engaging with this bizarre earthly experiment. These kinds of people actually help us evolve. They are philosophers and peacemakers of a very high order, and they speak not just to reason or emotion, but to the soul.

It is also why people like Morford hate that Palin could threaten this cultural monopoly by her success:

Every white woman I know is positively horrified.

Wait, that's not exactly true. It's more accurate to say that every thoughtful or liberal or intuitive or open-minded white woman I know worth her vagina monologue and her self-determination and two centuries of nonstop striving for equal rights and sexual freedom and exhaustive patriarchal unshackling is right now openly horrified, appalled at what the addition of shrill PTA hockey-mom Sarah Palin seems to have done for the soggy, comatose McCain campaign -- that is, make it not merely remotely interesting and melodramatic, but aggressively hostile to, well, to all intelligent women everywhere.

Truly, among women in the know and especially among those who fought so hard to bring Hillary Clinton to the brink of history, nausea and a general recoiling appear to be the universal reactions to Palin's sudden presence on the national stage, stemming straight from the idea that there's even a slight chance in hell such an antagonistic, anti-female politico could be within a 72-year-old heartbeat of becoming the most powerful and iconic woman of all time.

They say: You've got to be kidding me. They say: This is what we get? This could be our historic role model? Two hundred years (OK, more like 2000) of struggle, only to have this nasty caricature of femininity try to hijack and mock and undermine it all?

It cannot be true, they say. The universe must be joking, would not dare dump such a homophobic, Creationist evangelical nutball on us, this anti-choice, God-pandering woman who's the inverse of Hillary, this woman of deep inexperience who abhors birth control and supports abstinence education and shoots exhausted wolves from helicopters and hates polar bears and actually stands for everything progressive women have resented since the first pope Swift-Boated Eve.

This cultural monopoly in the English speaking media, is also why Liberals support illegal immigration, and increased legal immigration as well. They assume that the mostly Mexican immigrants, legal or not, will be absorbed into the cultural assumptions of the Urban professional class: PETA, Greenpeace, "Lightworkers" and other New Age nonsense, and of course Global Warming and the Gaia religion. Along with the endless pursuit of status and consumerist relationships. Mostly, the White young men and women who make the journey from the hinterland into the Big Cities have been absorbed into that Cultural monopoly.

What the Liberal Elite don't understand, of course, is that particularly for Mexican Immigrants, legal or not, this absorption simply does not take place. Like Sarah Palin, they stand aside. Not by living in small-town Alaska, but by living outside the English speaking Media. Just in the last few years, Nielsen has listed Univision, in addition to ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, and the CW, in broadcast networks. As can be readily discovered by the casual observer, Nielsen shows that Hispanics don't watch the same things Whites or Blacks do. During the Summer Olympics, both Whites and Blacks mostly watched the Olympics on NBC. For Hispanics, it was shows like "Sabado Gigante." The Olympics did not make the top ten for that demographic.

Hispanics in the US (and we are largely speaking of Mexican Immigrants, legal or illegal, and their children) have not one but two broadcast television networks offering Spanish-language content, Univision and Telemundo. Anyone watching their shows, will find radically different ideas about the place and role of women in society, treatment of animals, romance and relationships, concerns about the environment, and much else. Though Hispanics vote reliably Democratic, they hold vastly different attitudes towards, say gays and gay marriage, than the Liberal Culture of the English speaking elite. They remain, decades after large scale immigration into the US, legal or otherwise, largely distinct and separate culturally from their English speaking contemporaries. This is true even of English speaking children of Mexican immigrants. Who remain loyal to Spanish language media, culture, and mores. Even if they are outside daily contact with their parents, churches,and social network. The vast ocean of English speaking Liberal Culture holds little attraction to them, and they remain immune to it's function of absorbing and acculturating newcomers to the large urban centers of America.

Large Urban centers such as New York or Los Angeles can have two separate, distinct, and largely exclusive populations, the White Yuppie professional class, and the largely Hispanic working class, that rarely if ever interact. While the effect of Liberal Culture in English language outlets is powerful, it has no effect whatsoever on those who live side by side with it, but separate to it. This outcome of course, is something that Liberals cannot see, just as fish in the middle of the ocean cannot fathom where the shore begins and the sea ends.

This blindness, and the battle for supremacy over the fertility of socially conservative Whites through the "Janissary Effect" of Liberal Culture is what drives the fury over Palin by those who drive that culture. They see their power slipping away from them, by the existence of an alternate model. Ironically, they fail to see (as do European elites who vastly overestimate the power of assimilation by culture with their own, separate Muslim population) that the real threat comes not by the example of Palin but the numerical supremacy of the Immigrant population they have welcomed as allies against more fertile and conservative Whites.

A Mexican origin majority voter State (California is majority Mexican, but not in registered voters who are still overwhelmingly White), would outlaw gay marriage, and likely benefits for "registered partners." Since gay rights and gays remain deeply unpopular among Mexican nationals and those of Mexican origin. Dog fighting and cock fighting would be legal, since those are popular past-times for Mexican nationals and Mexican origin citizens. As the effect of English-language Culture in remaking socially conservative White men and women in large urban centers into largely child-less yuppies becomes stronger, ironically the more fertile Mexican origin citizens will wield far greater voting power, and remake society to their liking.

Largely undoing many of the key aspects of the White Liberal Society.

No one said that the Cultural gate keepers of English language media were smart. Merely powerful.
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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Television's Sci-Fi Conspiracy That Never Was

Watching Fox's new Sci-Fi series, "Fringe," by Writer/Producer JJ Abrams, I was struck by the "Conspiracy That Never Was," and the total inability of current TV, as well as Comic Book writers and producers, to make decent Science Fiction. Science Fiction that addresses the central facts of our time. It's as if certain things never existed, at all. Almost every comic book, science fiction television program, and science fiction movies have the same problem. Pushing ideas that are not true, villains and heroes that have no basis in reality, and ignoring very real trends that threaten the West.

The dominant facts of our Post Cold-War era are decentralization, globalization, and the ability of even poor nations, even loosely organized groups, to kill masses of wealthy Westerners in their own countries through the spread of technology. Assault rifles such as the AK-47 are widely manufactured, in some places in Africa they can be purchased for around $100. Nuclear weapons are not (yet) such a commodity, but failed nations like North Korea, where citizens often starve and eat grass, have produced their own. Along with ICBMs capable of reaching Alaska and Hawaii. Neither the nukes nor the ICBMs may be of good quality, but even a badly made spear can kill. Even more troubling, the squabbling tribes with a flag known as Pakistan have more than 100 nuclear weapons, under questionable control and security.

Yet science fiction television show after show, comic book after comic book, presents the same tired old themes that have no resemblance to actual reality: massive, super-organized American government conspiracies, evil plots by gigantic American corporations, massive and secret scientific efforts, often for bad ends, by centralized powers (either the US government or Corporations or both). With brave, "rebel" type misfits who seek to expose the "lies" and so bring about a new order of truth and justice. In other words, recycled Watergate plots mixed with X-Files conspiracy mongering. Missing: any mention of the words "Islam," "Jihad," or "Muslims." It's always evil White men (and sometimes women) behind the plot, and the corporate evil-doers are always American, never say, Chinese or Russian or Middle Eastern corporations. It's as if Chinese companies never sold poisoned baby food or pet food. As if Russia were not the major arms supplier to dangerous rogue regimes. As if oil-fueled Princes and Sultans, often dissolute, Jihadist, and polygamous tyrants, were not buying up many US firms and properties, including say, the media.

As Comic book writer Frank Miller says, characters like Superman and Batman are supposed to be used to punch out men like Osama bin Laden, but even Miller, with the success of "300" and "Sin City," cannot get his Batman vs. Osama comic book published. Partly out of fear, of Muslims killing writers, artists, publishers, and anyone else associated with the project (as happened with Salman Rushdie's Italian translator and publisher, and Dutch Film Maker Theo Van Gogh, descendant of Vincent Van Gogh). But mostly out of Political Correctness.

Orwell was mostly right, in his novel "1984." The only thing he got wrong, was that the Ministry of Truth was not a centralized, Stalinist organization, but rather the noxious, decentralized thought control of the wealthy Baby Boomers who took over America's cultural institutions in the late 1980's. This is why current comic books, television, and movies are so bad with respect to Science Fiction. Political Correctness (and Multiculturalism and "Diversity") require writers to ignore what they see with their own eyes and toe the party line. Or face career ruin.

"Fringe," the new Science Fiction series from "Lost," creator JJ Abrams, is a good example of this requirement to deny the obvious. Just as the Roman Catholic Church required Galileo to deny that the Earth revolves around the Sun (instead of the other way around), so too does Political Correctness require Abrams to deny the obvious. Deny that governments and corporations, are filled with careerist, take-no-risks bureaucrats, who fear PC-driven lawsuits more than say, a terrorist attack. After all, no one lost their job or had their career impacted by doing nothing to prevent 9/11. Deny that science and technology advances contribute to decentralized threats, instead of massive conspiracies by governments and corporations. Deny that cheap encryption, public data networks, globalization, and the large scale movements of people and goods provides even loosely organized and poorly funded organizations such as Al Qaeda the proven ability to kill mass numbers of Americans and Westerners in their own countries. Deny that Islam, Jihad, and Muslims are at the heart of the real, decentralized, and ongoing threats to Americans.

Just as in the "X-Files," or "Lost," or "Serenity," or "Nowhere Man," or "Battlestar Galactica," or nearly any Science Fiction television show of note, "Fringe" posits all the threats emanating from the "evil" US Government and corporate nexus. In the most recent episode, research by the evil US Government during the Vietnam War to create a group of "supersoldiers" in just a few weeks, through accelerated growth and aging created a ruthless serial killer. Along with that theme (science is inherently evil, and controlled by "big" organizations, namely the US government and Corporations), was the fascinating sub-theme of pregnancy being a lethal threat to attractive women (that literally kills them). A more telling window, into the consumerist consumption of sex, and anti-natalism, could not be imagined. That science and technology is presented as "creepy" and threatening, ultimately evil, is also quite illustrative. Themes that the "X-Files," presented constantly, but also present in "Lost," and "Nowhere Man," and "Serenity," and Battlestar Galactica," the remake (by Ron Moore).

The world view of course is that women should remain single, attractive, and never "ruin" themselves with pregnancy. That science and technology is "evil" because it furthers centralized control of the massive Government-Corporate conspiracies, and that Western society's greatest threat comes from the evil insiders (White males and females). "Fringe," tellingly, has the noble US Government head played by ... a Black man. So that everyone knows he is the good guy, and the Hillary Clinton resembling older White female Corporate head, the obvious villain. All kin to the central Corporate conspiracy of "Lost," or the Government conspiracy of "Serenity" (the "terrorist" Reavers are "created" by the Government's thought control "signals" of peace and cooperation). Even the remake of "Battlestar Galactica," has the Cylons as being "created" by humans as slaves, and suggests that humanity has it coming to be wiped out by "better," and more perfect creations. That are immortal, never age, and don't get pregnant, much less form families.

How did America's creative community get to such a state? What are the reasons for this iron-clad PC inquisition, that prevents writers from writing about what they see before their eyes and reciting the dull, aging dogma of 1968? Why must they deny that it moves?

It is important, to look back, and see what came before. Before "the X Files," or "La Femme Nikita" (the Canadian co-production starring Peta Wilson), before "Serenity," the remake of "Battlestar Galactica," or "Lost," or "Cloverfield," or any of those types of PC-bound shadows of Science Fiction. Back to the 1970's, and 1980's.

Back when shows like "Buck Rodgers in the 25th Century," or "Six Million Dollar Man," or "Greatest American Hero," or even "the Flash," defined Science Fiction on American Television.

What these shows had in common were: humor, a sense of people working together, not to uncover massive and all-consuming Government/Corporate conspiracies, but to achieve worthwhile goals, a sense that society could be saved from threats, big or small, and optimism about the future. A future broadly defined as well, "American," in the classic sense. Science and technology were not "evil" and threatening to the status quo, but a critical tool that enabled the good guys to beat the bad guys. Even in such films as 1991's "the Rocketeer," (written by Danny Bilson), which came relatively late in the 1980's cycle, a more optimistic view of America, government, patriotism, corporations, technology, and who and what the villains were contrasts starkly with "the X Files" which came only two years later, in 1993.

The table below shows what huge changes took place, demographically. The old guard, who came of age no later than the early 1970's, and mostly in the late 1950's, still believed in the promise of America, and the American Dream. Their version of Science Fiction had their friends, neighbors, and people they knew as heroes enabled by technology — and cooperation among themselves, though with often humorous bickering that merely served to emphasize how different people could come together to save the day, as long as they shared the same fundamental values.

By contrast, the later generation came of age in ground zero of Political Correctness, in the 1980's. The 1980's were the era when the wealthy, connected cohort who had been immersed in the 1960's protest culture came to power. Naturally, the tools they used for power were quite different from the older cohort they displaced. Instead of cooperation, seeking "deviancy" from the accepted dogma of Political Correctness was the tool for advancement. A way to use an updated version of the Inquisition to inquire after thought crime, and remove rivals who might pose threats to one's career, or those who one could replace or supplant.

1990's to 2000's Writer/Producers
PersonAgeYear at Age 20
JJ Abrams421986
Joss Whedon441984
Josh Scwartz321996
Ron Moore441984
Chris Carter*411976
Joel Surnow*411976
1970's to 1980's Writer/Producers
PersonAgeYear at Age 20
Stephen J. Cannell401961
Harve Bennett471950
Glen A Larson441957
Danny Bilson371976

Thus the conspiracy themes of evil US Government and Corporate powers, merely echoes the only PC-laden denunciations of those insufficiently enlightened. As does the theme of "exposure," where writers and producers "expose" their peers who not Politically Correct enough, and so "destroy" anyone who might offer a "threat" to return to the old certainties of cooperation, optimism, and the American Dream (laced with can-do technology).

Note that in the case of Chris Carter and Joel Surnow, I used the year their signature series debuted, and then added three more years to make them an influential producer rather than merely a first year success. So for Carter, I used his age at 1993 plus three years, or 1996. For Surnow, it was 1997 (La Femme Nikita, not 24's debut) and then added three years to get his age at 2000. For the older producers from the 1970's and 1980's, I used the same methodology. One might quibble with one or two producers and the year selected, but the overall result I think is sound. Looking at producers who make well known or influential Science Fiction television series, at the three year mark. [All data taken from] It's men in their thirties and forties who write and produce most of the influential Science Fiction television. Men with enough youth to work the punishing hours, and still maintain creative control or influence, and enough maturity to avoid pitfalls in production, writing, staffing, and creative directions. Yes, it is a very male field. Women, for what ever reason, do not seem attracted to writing and producing Science Fiction.

Regardless, if you compare the attitudes towards technology, cooperation, patriotism, America, and the threats, from a show like "Greatest American Hero" versus, say, "Fringe," the change is striking. What stands out is faith and fear. The older generation had faith in the essential goodness of the American Hero, enabled by technology. Ralph Hinckley is a High School teacher, who is presented as much of a hero for believing he can make a difference in the lives of his at-risk students as he is with the super-suit given to him by Aliens. His comic foil and partner, Bill Maxwell, might be the comic relief as the Reagan-loving FBI agent, but his beliefs are often proved correct and his toughness and patriotism are celebrated. This is largely because the man who wrote their lines, Stephen J. Cannell, came of age when people still believed those things. Whereas JJ Abrams, writer of "Lost," came of age in 1986, when PC started to assert it's iron rule upon our culture.

The other thing notable from it's complete absence on screen, is of course Jihad. By the late 1970's, Islamic Terrorism was inescapable. Our diplomats and Embassy personnel had been held hostage and tortured for more than a year in Tehran, by the Ayatollah. Throughout the 1980's, Islamic Terrorism grew, with airliners bombed out of the sky (Lockerbie/Pan Am 103) or the Marine Barracks in Beirut and our embassy there, or hostage taking, too numerous to recount. The 1990's were even worse, with terrorist attacks on our Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania killing hundreds, the first World Trade Center plot that killed six and hoped to kill 50,000 (by toppling one tower onto another). And yet, there was nothing resembling Jihad ever depicted on "La Femme Nikita" (where the terrorists were all ex-Marxist Europeans or Serbians) or "the X Files," or "Nowhere Man," or "Lost," or even "Battlestar Galactica," where the "terrorists" were all played by sexy, lithe starlets who bore no resemblance, physically, emotionally, or culturally to Mohamed Atta or Osama bin Laden.

As "Wretchard" of the Belmont Club points out, the main issue is fear that PC is breaking down along with Multiculturalism and Diversity, as a means for social control and advancement, with the threat of terrorism, abetted by nuclear proliferation, global trade and the movement of people, and the equal distribution of technology. Even Al Qaeda has websites:

In the years leading up to the Civil War there was the theory among those who advocated compromise that slavery would gradually fade away and that a direct confrontation was ultimately unnecessary. In a kind of inversion the Left has probably hoped since the 1960s that people would be ‘enlightened’ into voluntarily accepting their intellectual chains.

But the Culture Wars and especially the Rise of Islam have shaken that belief to the core. The Culture Wars meant the program wasn’t working. People were pushing back. And with the decline of the MSM and the growing obsolescence of the traditional university it became less obvious that a certain world view could ‘inevitably’ be imposed by cultural indoctrination alone. But I think the advent of radical Islam really told them the clock ticking. If they couldn’t make their vision happen soon, it wouldn’t happen at all. September 11 had the effect of energizing conservatism and usurping the Left self-appointed revolutionary role. The Left was caught between two fires: the conservative hold-outs and the more militant Muslims. But there was a third, largely unrecognized factor which weakened the Left. Globalization. Globalization has made not just Islam but a whole host of non-Marxist authoritarianisms competitive with their monopoly. The Confucian Chinese and the Russian crime-syndicate types of authoritarianism mean their dream of a multilateral EU-style world is far from inevitable. In fact, it means their politically correct world is unlikely to survive in the fact of such brutal competitors. Not only are the demographics and trends are against them, their silly little Fabianism simply won’t work against thugs. You can’t argue “reproductive rights” with radical Islam who will simply decapitate the staff of their abortion clinics. Nor can you blater on about human rights in Moscow, where a bullet in the head answers all arguments. About the only thing the Left is confident of beating is the relatively civilized, Bible-clinging, law-abiding soccer mom. So that’s who they’re going to beat up on. Not any Shi’ite militias or Janjaweeds. None of those. What they’ll take on is Sarah Palin or an old geezer who can’t comb his hair.

Our culture has been stuck in 1968 for a long time. Key creative people, in Television, in Movies, in Publishing, even in Comic Books have accepted Political Correctness, as the sort of Inquisition, because it worked. Wretchard is correct, already the ability of the Inquisition to ruin careers and end discussion are ending. NBC's "Chuck," written and created by Josh Schwartz, has run episodes with Jihadi gangsters as the obvious villains. Even if the main villain seems to be a faction in the CIA, the "good guys" are still a beautiful CIA agent and grumpy, "Bill Maxwell" like NSA agent (brilliantly played by Adam Baldwin). Schwartz, of course, is only 32, and came of age in 1996.

Our Science Fiction in Television, in movies, even in Comic Books ignores Jihad, Muslim threats, Islam (alien and threatening in it's certainty and especially it's polygamy), the decentralized nature of life, and the spread of technology to even dirt poor people, countries, and places. Because to do so would be to acknowledge the bankruptcy of Political Correctness when faced by determined thugs. Who are both more numerous and more brutally determined. Laughable "conspiracies" abound in fantasy governments because that's how PC operates -- by "exposing" thought crimes.

All this can hold on for only so long. It's likely to die when really tough times come, not just in the nuclear blast of an American city dying by nuclear technology now available to any determined bidder, but the long ugly aftermath requiring discarding of the wealth and peace-driven Political Correctness, for pure survival.

In that regard, shows like "Battlestar Galactica," where people fight to "save" Political Correctness rather than do anything to survive, deserve to be called what they are: fantasy. Not Science Fiction.

Let's hope newer writers and publishers revive Science Fiction out of it's current, PC-fantasy doldrums.
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Monday, September 15, 2008

Sarah Palin vs. Buffy: Why They Hate Her Part 2

In my post Sarah Palin: Why They Hate Her Part 1, I discussed how the political hatred of Palin's positions stems from the age-old conflict between the Eastern elites, who favor expensive land and cheap labor, and the Western populists, who favor expensive labor and cheap land. But there is something new, and personal, in the hatred of Palin, that is not political at all. It's related to her personal life.

There's been a lot of straight out hatred, directed at Sarah Palin, often from people who have not felt the need to unburden themselves of any particular issue relating to the Presidential election before her selection as McCain's running mate. Singer Pink says Sarah Palin hates women and is not a feminist. Faded actress and sex tape entrepreneur Pamela Anderson says she can't stand Palin and tells her to "suck it." Forgotten movie critic Roger Ebert weighed in on Palin's glasses, dress, and general appearance (he's since taken it off his website). Forgotten cheesecake 1970's actress Lynda Carter confesses her hatred and fear of Palin. "North Country" screenwriter Michael Seitzman lets us know how much he he also hates Palin for being ordinary and "stupid."

Added to this are constant smears, insinuations, and lurid tales, about Palin's pregnancy, her daughters, sons, husband, and marriage, from the most "enlightened" side of the aisle, the Left. Which is instructive. It is not just, or even mostly, her politics that some "liberated" women and men feel threatening. Rather it is her life itself that is the most threatening, and creates the most bile since that vitriol directed at first, Andrew Jackson, in 1824, and again in 1828, and Abraham Lincoln in 1860. Sarah Palin is a direct and pressing threat to the current model of female empowerment, probably best symbolized culturally by television's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

Worse, Palin could actually slay Buffy's model of female empowerment, just by example. Hence the venom.

Like Andrew Jackson, orphaned at 14, and from a poor family, and Abraham Lincoln, another poor and up from his bootstraps politician, Palin comes from a modest background (though not quite as poor as either Jackson or Lincoln). Her parents, like most "middle class" Alaskans, hunted regularly to supplement their food budget. While good money can be made in Alaska, high transport costs make it more like the Tennessee in the 1780's or Illinois frontier of the early 1800's. Hunting is not a mark of wealth and leisure, but a matter of economic necessity in a place where a jar of Skippy Peanut Butter can cost $12. Both Sarah Palin's parents were school teachers who coached track on the side, but lacked money and connections for expensive schools like, for example, Occidental College, and then Columbia (where Barack Obama attended as an underclassmen and transfer, respectively). Like both Jackson and Lincoln, Palin steadily climbed the socio-economic ladder, working a variety of jobs, but that does not account for the rage directed at her. Americans are familiar with all sorts of politicians from modest backgrounds. Neither ex-Wrestler Jesse Ventura (of Minnesota) or celebrity-actor-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger generated this level of bile. Despite being larger than life, outlandish characters from modest backgrounds. Initially, most found them entertaining. No, it is not Sarah Palin's modest beginnings and rise up the social and economic and political ladder that enrages her mostly non-political critics.

Rather, it is her choice of husband, and her decision to have five children, starting at an early age, that really enrages her critics. Who find that a dagger aimed right at the heart of the traditional view of female empowerment. Simply because people can see her advantages in her choices, and might seek to copy her path.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-California, has five children. However, not only was she born to wealth and power (her father, Thomas D'Alesandro, Jr), was a Maryland Congressman and Mayor of Baltimore, but significantly, she married into wealth and power. Her husband Paul Pelosi is a wealthy businessman. Significantly, Todd Palin is not a wealthy businessman. Though a champion snowmachine racer, he remains blue collar in appearance and status, as a seasonal oil field worker and commercial fisherman. He even retains his United Steelworkers union card.

Unlike TV's Buffy, Sarah Palin married her High School sweetheart. And not to a man resembling hunky TV-vampire "Angel" either, source of much misery mixed with romance and passion. Nope. Sarah Palin married "Xander." Todd Palin's Wikipedia entry may be found here and the actor Nicholas Brendon's (Xander on Buffy) entry may be found here.

Whether it's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," or "Sex and the City," or pretty much any female oriented television show, the model for female empowerment is pretty much the same. Have a boyfriend, but for heaven's sake don't get married young (Palin married at age 24). Make sure the boyfriend is powerful, or wealthy, or both. Don't have children, particularly when you're young (Palin's first child was born at age 25). Since youth is best spent "exploring" in eternal adolescence. Above all, avoid supportive, steady men in favor of volatile, but high in status and power alternatives. Make sure your parents and family are kept at a distance, since they only limit your endless romantic life and professional growth. These are the rule of female empowerment, adopted by cultural consensus over the years.

Palin violates all those rules. Unlike TV's Buffy (and also Sex and the City's Carrie), she chose a supportive, steady man whose character and good points, flaws, and idiosyncrasies were well known to her. Rather than sacrifice career for family, she chose family first over career. Buffy, like most of TV's empowered heroines (Xena, Veronica Mars, Carrie on Sex and the City), is often alone, between vampires boyfriends, and has no prospect of a family of her own. Even worse, the advantages Palin had over Buffy were obvious. Her husband was steady and supportive, not competitive with her own efforts. Though their family still had to hunt, as most Alaskans do, to supplement their food budget, Todd Palin's financial and emotional support was critical to Sarah Palin's advancement (much as Rachel Jackson's emotional support was critical to Andrew Jackson's political rise in the chaotic politics of Tennessee). Politics, particularly in the rough and tumble small town Alaskan variety, is not easy. Those most successful in it, usually need a supportive partner. The parallels with other career paths for women are obvious, and threatening.

Thus Palin committed three great "sins" against the conventional wisdom of female empowerment. She first chose to marry, not a powerful, "impressive" short-term romance that brings constant heartache. Buffy is often noting that love for her equals physical passion mixed with pain and misery, and reliably chooses men who will give her the heartache she craves. Sarah Palin compounds this by putting family first, starting hers early, when it's much easier to conceive, and also care for, children. But even worse, she becomes a full adult, early in her life. Instead of age 35, or later. Trading testosterone and power for comfort, stability, and support; choosing family over career; and becoming adult early. These are her sins.

They are considerable, given the threat her existence poses to the Buffy model.

Just taking her decision to have children early, which is a massive challenge to the status quo. By having her children at a relatively young age, her parents are still young enough to help out with child care, and they do by all accounts, along with Palin's sisters and brother, who are all close by. The value of the extended nuclear family, as contrasted to the chaotic, divorce-driven single, lonely family of Buffy (or TV's Veronica Mars) is striking. Palin could afford as many children as Nancy Pelosi (five), with a tiny fraction of her wealth. Rather than the prison that feminism and in particular, Buffy the Vampire Slayer depicted, the nuclear family enabled Palin to have her children first, and later her career. "Having it all," is indeed possible, but only if your parents stay together, you have a sibling or two, and you have children at a relatively young age with everyone in the same geographic area, willing to help out as part of a close-knit family.

Then, there is Todd Palin. Sarah Palin's husband. A blue collar man who earned enough working the oil fields and fishing boats, to support a family early. A man who quit his job of 17 years in the oil fields to both avoid conflict of interest (when Palin was elected Governor) and help care for the children while Palin focused on her transition to Governor. Todd Palin later took considerable time off (without pay) to help care for the family when Trig (Palin's Down Syndrome child, her youngest) was born. Todd Palin no less than Sarah Palin is a threat to the model of female empowerment, which panders to the idea that there are no trade-offs in pursuing the high-status, high-powered, high-testosterone men, or no advantages to be found in choosing comfort, stability, and character instead by women considering marriage.

Can one imagine Bill Clinton, John Edwards, or San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome acting in any similar manner? Much less any of Buffy's high-powered but unreliable boyfriends? Hollywood no less than politics has a stake in this election and the prominence of the Palin family. It's why so many made so many negative, personal, and mean spirited comments. They felt profoundly threatened by Palin's examples, and their own choices seemed shallow and shabby.

Pamela Anderson's disastrous personal life, rivals fictional Buffy's for depressing chaotic sadness and bad choices. Lynda Carter married Washington DC attorney and fixer Robert Altman, who was tried and acquitted by Jury in connection with the BCCI securities fraud scandal. Carter has admitted she has undergone treatment for alcoholism. Pink is divorced from Motocross racer Carey Hart, and rumored to be involved in Scientology. Both Roger Ebert and Michael Seitzman work in an industry that is built on pushing positive images of the choices of women like Anderson, Carter, and Pink, and negative ones of the nuclear family choice that Palin made.

Sarah Palin and her family, by demonstrating without a doubt that the nuclear family, and the stability and comfort it brings, can allow ambitious women to achieve great things instead of preventing it, is a massive threat to the conventional idea of female empowerment. She just might slay Buffy's standard in that regard. No wonder Hollywood reacted so badly. People might have to start working for a living, instead of vomiting out the old, stale ideology of 1968. We can't have that!
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Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Real Meaning of 9/11: Our Science Fiction World

What are the real lessons of 9/11? The same, sadly, as the lessons of Feb 26. Remember that date? How about the full date of February 26, 1993? The FIRST World Trade Center attack? The one that killed six people? Sound family? The lesson of 9/11 is the same as the lesson of 2/26.

We live in a Science Fiction World.

We live in Science Fiction World, because we don't live in the certainties of the Cold War anymore. No stable duopoly, no "leash" on the proxy forces of each superpower, to prevent nuclear Armageddon. In itself, a good thing. But the forces of globalization, trade, economic growth, and the availability of technology coupled with "just enough" but not "enough" cultural change in failing, tribal societies guarantees major Western (and other) cities will be destroyed by nuclear devices. A truly, Science Fiction world.

First, let's examine the motives of the 1993 WTC bombers. They marked a sea-change in what was attempted, in terms of casualties and operations, and what was desired. The 1983 Beirut Barracks bombings, and other terrorist actions against the US in the 1970s and 1980's, including the Tehran Hostage Crisis, were all designed to get the US to simply LEAVE certain regions. Which, largely, the US did, in areas it had no compelling interest to stay. Such as Lebanon. The US itself was off-limits, for fear of provoking a response too unhealthy for the terrorists, who were in turn sponsored and trained, and largely controlled by various states. Hezbollah controlled by Iran and Syria, was the culprit responsible for the Beirut Barracks bombings which killed 241 US servicemen. Terrorists wanted something. They picked targets outside the US, designed to create public pressure to withdraw US forces domestically, with either hostage taking, or attacks on US forces, or bombings of jetliners (Lockerbie Scotland, Pan Am Flight 103). An ugly business, of brutal men killing Americans to use US domestic politics to achieve specific ends. But ultimately, one that did not threaten intrinsic US interests.

The 1993 WTC bombers, by contrast, planned to topple one tower onto another, and kill 50,000 people. Think about that. The plan intended to kill 50,000 Americans, in a few minutes, on US soil. What was the motive?

The motive was simple, and it was not intended to seriously influence US public opinion on any particularly issue. "Do this or more attacks." Rather, the motive was to kill as many Americans as possible. So that the plotters would have fame, fortune, and many jihadis flocking to their organization, and receive much money also. Likely masterminded by the "Blind Sheik" Omar Abdel-Rahman, though he was never charged, his "Islamic Group" sought to be the Number One Jihadi organization, over Hezbollah, Hamas, Al Qaeda, and Islamic Jihad (it's main Egyptian competitor, headed by Abdel-Rahman's main rival, Dr. Ayman Al-Zawahari).

Conservatives say, jihadis hate us for our freedom. Very true, but then Jihadis hate the Chinese, the Thais, the Russians, and each other's rival and splintered groups. It was widely suspected among Jihad groups in Pakistan that Ayman Al-Zawahari was the man responsible for assassinating one of the original leaders of Jihad in Pakistan-Afghanistan against the Soviets, Abdullah Azzam, along with his sons. Liberals ask, "why do they hate us?" and call for dialog and "understanding" in the desperate attempt to make some "deal" to stop further attacks.

Neither is helpful. Each jihadi, and each Jihadi organization, is in competition with others. For men, for money, for power. All of which flow to men and leaders and organizations capable of killing lots of Americans. And which wither away when such men and organizations prove themselves incapable of providing ever increasing body counts of dead Americans and spectacular scenes of destruction.

This accounts for what otherwise makes no sense: Al Qaeda's increasing attacks on the US, with no attempt to manipulate US domestic opinion to achieve concrete but limited goals. There were no hostage taking, with demands for money and concessions that an administration, eager to put the episode behind it, would concede. No actions aimed at simply pushing the US out of areas it never really cared about in the first place. That was not the goal. Instead, the goal was simple: kill lots of Americans, and gain money and men and power. Given enough of that, a man such as bin Laden might even overthrow the House of Saud. Or Zawahari the Mubarak regime. Or perhaps the Islamic Group, still led by the Blind Sheik, would do it first.

The reason this creates a Science Fiction World, is that we have a modern equivalent of the Vikings, raiders who cannot be bought off, for whom there is no "deal" to be made, and who will keep attacking, out of their own internal dynamics and with no real center of command. To whom does the Blind Sheik answer to? What about Ayman Al-Zawahari? Or Osama bin Laden? Or the leaders of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat? Or any number of obscure, Jihadist organizations and leaders.

The second part of this Science Fiction world is nuclear proliferation. Currently, the nations of Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea have nuclear weapons. Short of invasion and extensive bombings, Iran will join them very soon. It is very unlikely that Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, or Israel will give or sell nuclear weapons to Jihadists. The Ukraine and South Africa voluntarily gave up their nuclear weapons, the Ukraine to the Russians, and the South Africans after the fall of Apartheid, dismantled (they claim at least) their own nuclear weapons (which were of the simple, "gun-type" Uranium variety, which Oppenheimer did not even bother to test, so certain was he in 1945 that the device would work).

But Pakistan, and North Korea remain problems. With Iran another problem on the horizon. North Korea will sell weapons and has, to just about anyone. They live under the Chinese nuclear umbrella, so do not fear US response. Which in any case has amounted to bribes to stop their nuclear program, without any verification. Since North Korea has nothing to sell other than weapons to trade for food, and it's population subsists at starvation level, it's unlikely they've given up all their nuclear weapons. More disturbing is the fact that a nation where many subsist at near or below starvation levels, can construct nuclear devices (and working Ballistic Missiles). Even if they don't always work, that they work at all shows how common, simple, and affordable nuclear weapons (and Ballistic Missiles) have become. From Hitler's crude V-2 rockets, and the Manhattan project, nuclear weapons and ICBMs have made the same transition that modern computers have. Affordable commodities.

Pakistan, of course, is a set of squabbling tribes with a flag. Divided along linguistic, tribal, regional, and factional lines, with Army and Intelligence service deeply divided itself and factionalized into pro-Jihad sentiments, the nation is a mess. Whole regions have been ceded to the Taliban and Jihadist movements, because the divided and ineffective Army cannot maintain control in those regions or defeat the Jihadis. Much of the Army and Intelligence service are in fact, Jihadis, and view them as an essential part of the nation's and Islam's struggle with Hindu India. The new President of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto's widower, has reported mental problems including depression, thoughts of suicide, and voices in his head. At any rate, he is viewed as incredibly corrupt, and detested by the military which does not respect him nor follow his orders. His rival, Nawaz Sharif, is a pro-Jihadist and makes no attempt to hide his sympathies. Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is distributed about the nation, the harder for the Indian forces to destroy in a decapitation attack, but easier for Jihadis to gain access to. Given the primacy of tribal and clan loyalties, in a nation where the rule of law is an interesting theory never actually put into practice, it is questionable how long the Pakistani government can keep Colonels and Majors from handing a few to their cousins or brothers in influential and powerful Jihadi movements.

Iran is nearly as bad, with nearly as much factional struggles, and each eager to provoke a war with the US to discredit and destroy their rivals. The Hostage Crisis 1979-80 was about the Ayatollah Khomeni's desire to destroy any pro-Western forces as it was "anger" about America's sheltering the Shah. At a time when the USSR and it's client Saddam menaced Iran (and about a year AFTER the Hostage taking, Saddam did in fact invade and nearly destroy Khomeni's regime), the Khomeni regime picked a fight with the US to destroy internal opponents.

You can see echoes of this strategem with Pakistani jihadis attacking Chinese engineers on critical infrastructure projects inside Pakistan. China has been Pakistan's ally against India, for about 35 years. That these attacks have continued show the depth of the factionalization inside Pakistan, and their effectiveness.

We live in a Science Fiction World, when the internal dynamics of crude, organized crime gangs with religious aspirations, guarantee they will attempt mass murder attacks on the US. We live in a Science Fiction World when these crude groups can gain access by kin and tribe networks, to nuclear weapons created by states that exist only as polite fictions. We live in a Science Fiction World where the fear is not of world-wide Armageddon, but rather a city dying in an instant. Just so a few thugs can gain more power.

That is the meaning of 2/26, and the true meaning of 9/11.
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Sarah Palin: Why They Hate Her, Part 1

It's surprising, the amount of sheer hate directed at Sarah Palin, Senator John McCain's pick for the VP slot. Hate, over and above that directed at George W. Bush, or John McCain himself. Viewed without context, it's inexplicable, since Palin herself is fairly obscure, and relatively uncontroversial. While Palin certainly has attacked Barack Obama's qualifications for the Presidency, the attacks were certainly expected, and in line with normal partisan appeals in past elections. Nothing Palin has said, for example, would be surprising to anyone who followed Lloyd Bentsen's attacks on George Herbert Walker Bush in 1988, or Al Gore's in 1992. Palin has been absent from the great political battles of the 2000's era. Not an advocate of the Iraq War, nor a participant in any of the debates on the proper bounds for the NSA, Guantanamo Bay, or any other hot-button issue, can account for all sorts of people expressing such a strong dislike of Palin. Nor the spontaneous admiration by many people for her either.

Politics as conventionally understood, don't explain why Palin generates such rage by her political opponents, the Media, and the Cultural Left. There are really two main reasons for such rage (and various personal attacks). This post will focus on one reason, which is the eternal struggle in American politics between East and West.

Europeans and Eastern intellectuals often have a hard time understanding what really drives American politics. What they fail to understand is that the conflict between Easterners and Westerners, broadly understood, has shaped American politics since the adoption of the Constitution in 1788.

Easterners, since the first few settlements in Jamestown and Plymouth Rock, have wanted expensive land, and cheap labor. Expensive land, since they already owned land, a great deal of it, and hoped to use the land to generate even more wealth. By use of cheap labor. Slaves, Indians in forced labor, and indentured servants (such as Benjamin Franklin), could be used in the fields or nascent factories, producing everything from corn, to molasses, to tobacco, to firearms, for export to England and the Continent. Easterners wanted money spent by the government to improve their own lot, including their ports, cities, factories, and subsidies in one form or another for their export-oriented businesses.

Westerners, from the first, rebelling against the men who ran the first colonies, favored cheap land, and expensive labor. Ideally, the land would be "free," and taken from Indians who could not hold it, while their own labors would be expensive. Thus the relatively poor Westerners hoped to raise their own station in life. They favored restrictions on imports of labor, and generally despised taxes and regulations that fell upon them and took money from them to interests in the East. The Shays Rebellion, in President Washington's first term, epitomizes this conflict. Western Pennsylvania farmers wanted no taxes on Whiskey, made from the corn they grew themselves (and far more profitable to ship than the perishable raw corn). Easterners wanted taxes raised, and certainly not on themselves. Thus the conflict.

While other issues such as Slavery, Segregation, and the Cold War have colored the domestic US political struggles, this conflict remains at the heart of what Americans really argue about. Westward expansion, starting before the War of Independence, after the defeat of the French in the French and Indian War, meant a loss of influence and political control for the Eastern elite. Which fought Westward expansion at every turn. Without the threat of French allied Indian tribes posing serious threats to settlers, men and women streamed West to settle new lands and pose competitive threats to the Eastern Plantations and Estates, at least as far as agricultural exports were concerned.

This conflict came to a head, in the election of Andrew Jackson in 1828. Jackson's supporters wanted Westward expansion, which meant spending money on Westward transportation and communication links, and expelling the Cherokee Indians from the Southeast, the current states of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. Easterners wanted to keep the Indians in place, for obvious reasons. Easterners also wanted the strong, centralized Bank of the United States. The Bank of the United States provided expensive credit, to only the most credit worthy. Which was generally, the Eastern elites, who held title to expensive Eastern Seaboard property. Westerners, who lived often a "cash-less" life of barter, wanted inflationary currency (easier to pay off their debts).

Jackson, as the symbol and leader of the Westerners, was subject to personal attacks familiar to any who've followed those on Palin, and fought a number of duels over this matter before assuming the Presidency. Jackson's wife, the state of their marriage, speculation about his adopted children, and other rather base attacks, even by the standards of the 19th Century, portrayed Jackson as an uncouth, unlettered, barbarous, and vile Westerner, unfit for office and lacking the sophistication of such men as John Quincy Adams. Sound familiar?

That is the case today. Palin, like Jackson, is a Westerner. Thus, she is certain to favor policies that Easterners hate. Such as cheap land. This means, in practice, relaxation of federal regulations restricting the use of federal lands, and a general opening of the lands for resource extraction, including fishing, lumber, ranching, and of course oil and gas exploration and drilling. All of which will shift money and power from the East to the West. Diminishing the power of places like New York City and Washington DC, and raising in importance cities such as Boise, Idaho, or Fairbanks, Alaska.

Palin is also likely to oppose immigration amnesty and "reform" that would allow any more immigrants into the US. Her Alaskan power base consists of mostly Blue Collar and lower White Collar workers, who absolutely require expensive labor (meaning, effectively, limiting the supply of workers) to raise their living standard. McCain's "radio silence" on the subject of Immigration, Amnesty, and so on, reflects the reality of his mostly Western base, Obama's promise to enact "Immigration Reform" shows the priorities of his own, Eastern base. Eternally, cheap labor and expensive land.

Palin is also likely to favor greater transportation links to the West, especially Alaska. Anyone who has followed National Geographic Channel's "Tougher in Alaska" with host Geo Beach, knows that living expenses are quite high in Alaska. Remote villages endure sky-high prices, such as jar of Skippy Peanut Butter at $12. Given the extreme Winter cold, much of Alaska's cities cannot have water mains (which would simply freeze) and thus expensive water delivery trucks fill home tanks. Alaska's rail, air, highway, and sea links with the rest of the United States are limited, making exports of their resources more difficult. Just as Lincoln, domestically, was elected in part in 1860 because he favored more railroads to the West, Palin is likely to favor spending more money on transport links to the West and Alaska, instead of Eastern cities. Meaning less money for block grants (aka patronage in Eastern Cities), welfare, etc.

Westerners of course are often characterized as "libertarian" and favoring small government. This is false, Westerners simply want money spent on things they favor, rather than on Eastern cities and the interests of Easterners. This includes regulations. Westerners do not like regulations that hurt their own economic interests, such as forbidding drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. However, they are quite happy to see quotas on imports from foreign agricultural or commodity competitors that lower the prices they can charge and thus reduce their wealth. Westerners almost always favor regulations to make labor expensive (agricultural businesses are the exception here).

[The Pacific Coast states of California, Oregon, and Washington, are odd beasts. Part "Eastern" and part "Western." California's population center, roughly from Santa Barbara south to San Diego, reflects the oddity of the Pacific Coast. Only the coastal zone is desirable, the inland areas are too hot and dry for comfortable and high-density housing, unlike the East Coast. This makes the coastal counties very "Eastern" and like the metro areas of New York City and Washington DC. Meanwhile, the inland areas of California such as Temecula are solidly "Western." Oregon and Washington repeat this pattern — expensive coastal areas of cheap labor, high land costs, and interiors of cheap land. To the extent that the Front Range limits Denver and Boulder and Colorado Springs expansion, this also characterizes Colorado, and explains why it is an exception among it's Mountain West neighbors of Utah, Arizona, and Wyoming. A look at the 2000 and 2004 electoral maps of the Pacific Coast states and say, Utah are instructive. Salt Lake City voted solidly Democratic. As did Los Angeles County, San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland. The difference between Utah's overall vote for Republicans in both elections and that of California, Washington, and Oregon's Democratic votes is that in Utah, the majority of the population lived in smaller cities and suburbs. Thus tipping that state solidly "Western."]

This conflict is as old as the struggle between Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams. The struggle, however, in the long run favors the Westerners. The "center" of American population has been moving ever Westward since 1755. Exceptional Eastern politicians and political coalitions may be able to delay this process, but it is only a delay. The Wikipedia link to the mean center of US population shows how people have moved ever-westward.

Westerners, with cheap land and expensive labor, are able to form LARGER families than Easterners. Steve Sailer's "Affordable Family Formation" formula in action. This forms the other basis for the complete horror that Sarah Palin and her family induces in the Media, Democratic Party, and Cultural Left (but I repeat myself). This will be discussed in greater detail in Part 2.
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