John Brown and #BlackLivesMatter

September 3rd, 2015

John Brown was a terrorist, Henry Dampier notes, who hoped to incite broader slave rebellions within the Southern states:

One of the reasons why his acts were politically significant was because his actions were condoned and supported by abolitionist newspapers and public opinion at the time. He had broad cultural and financial support throughout the North, even when he committed mass murders against civilians.

Almost instinctively, Americans return to old methods which worked in the past in order to grasp for more power over their fellow citizens. This is one of the problems that democracy often runs into: it’s more cost-effective just to kill and terrorize the other side than it is to perpetually electioneer against them. To paraphrase Stalin, “no man, no votes.” And if you can’t achieve your political ends through the conventional legal process, as in the Civil War, it’s sometimes just more direct to go to war with the people who are obstructing your political program until you’ve cracked the resistance.

[...]

By inflaming this cycle of attack, reprisal, and counter-reprisal, the press behaves how it usually behaves, which is to recklessly provoke a war which might otherwise be avoided. Popular government means government by passion over reason — whatever evokes great, popular outpourings of emotion is what turns into policy. Violent acts are exciting and pleasurable to participate in vicariously, which is why action movies, video games, and comic books are so popular. Media activists can have all the joy of participating in violence without any of the personal risk. This is destabilizing (which is why incitement is a crime), but the particular form of the crime makes it difficult for the state to muster enough cohesion within itself to halt the process.

Mormon Marriage Markets and the Shidduch Crisis

September 3rd, 2015

Theories on declining marriage rates or the rise of the hookup culture often come down to values, but the real issue is demographics Jon Birger (Date-onomics) suggests — and two religions shed some light on the larger situation:

Multiple studies show that college-educated Americans are increasingly reluctant to marry those lacking a college degree. This bias is having a devastating impact on the dating market for college-educated women. Why? According to 2012 population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, there are 5.5 million college-educated women in the U.S. between the ages of 22 and 29 versus 4.1 million such men. That’s four women for every three men. Among college grads age 30 to 39, there are 7.4 million women versus 6.0 million men — five women for every four men.

It’s not that He’s Just Not That Into You — it’s that There Just Aren’t Enough of Him.

Lopsided gender ratios don’t just make it statistically harder for college-educated women to find a match. They change behavior too. According to sociologists, economists and psychologists who have studied sex ratios throughout history, the culture is less likely to emphasize courtship and monogamy when women are in oversupply. Heterosexual men are more likely to play the field, and heterosexual women must compete for men’s attention.

[...]

One of my web searches turned up a study from Trinity College’s American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) on the demographics of Mormons. According to the ARIS study, there are now 150 Mormon women for every 100 Mormon men in the state of Utah — a 50 percent oversupply of women.

[...]

One fact that becomes apparent when studying the demographics of religion is that it is almost always the women who are more devout. Across all faiths, women are less likely than men to leave organized religion. According to the Pew Research Center, 67 percent of self-described atheists are men. Statistically speaking, an atheist meeting may be one of the best places for single women to meet available men.

Due to men’s generally higher rates of apostasy, it makes sense that the modern LDS church, like most religions, would have slightly more women than men. The Utah LDS church was in fact 52 percent female as recently as 1990. Since 1990, however, the Mormon gender gap in Utah has widened dramatically — from a gender ratio of 52:48 female to male in 1990 to 60:40 female to male in 2008, according to a study coauthored by ARIS researchers Rick Phillips, Ryan Cragun, and Barry Kosmin. In other words, the LDS church in Utah now has three women for every two men.

The sex ratio is especially lopsided among Mormon singles. Many individual LDS churches — known as “wards” — are organized by marital status, with families attending different Sunday services from single people. Parley’s Seventh, one of Salt Lake City’s singles wards, had 429 women on its rolls in 2013 versus only 264 men, according to an article in the Salt Lake Tribune newspaper.

[...]

So why are there so many more Mormon women than Mormon men? The simple answer is that over the past twenty-five years, Utah men have been quitting the LDS church in unusually large numbers. ARIS’s Cragun, a sociology professor at the University of Tampa who is ex-LDS himself, said the growing exodus of men from the LDS church is an unexpected by-product of the growing importance of the mission in Mormon life. Serving a mission used to be elective; now it’s a prerequisite for leadership.

Contrary to popular belief, the majority of Mormon men do not go on missions, which typically entail a mix of community service and proselytizing. Mormon men are being asked to serve missions at precisely the time in their lives — late teens and early twenties — when sociologists say men are most susceptible to dropping out of organized religion. Cragun believed the dropout problem among men is the real reason why, in 2012, the LDS church lowered the age at which Mormon men can start serving missions from 19 to 18: “I think they were losing too many men who would go off to college or get a job before they turned nineteen and then realize they didn’t want to stop and serve a mission.”

[...]

The statistical explanation for why Orthodox men are in short supply is different from the one for the shortage of Mormon men. Orthodox men are not abandoning their faith in large numbers and leaving Orthodox women behind. According to a recent Pew Research study, only 2 percent of Orthodox Jews are married to non-Jews, and the attrition rate from the Orthodox movement to the more mainstream Reform or Conservative branches of Judaism has actually been declining.

The imbalance in the Orthodox marriage market boils down to a demographic quirk: The Orthodox community has an extremely high birth rate, and a high birth rate means there will be more 18-year-olds than 19-year-olds, more 19-year-olds than 20-year-olds, and so on and so on. Couple the increasing number of children born every year with the traditional age gap at marriage — the typical marriage age for Orthodox Jews is 19 for women and 22 for men, according to Michael Salamon, a psychologist who works with the Orthodox community and wrote a book on the Shidduch Crisis — and you wind up with a marriage market with more 19-year-old women than 22-year-old men.

There is no U.S. Census data on religion. But Joshua Comenetz, chief of the Census Bureau’s Geographic Studies Branch, studied the demographics of Orthodox Jews back in his college professor days at University of Florida. Based on his academic research, Comenetz contended that each one-year age cohort in the Orthodox community has 4 percent more members than the one preceding it. What this means is that for every 100 22-year-old men in the Orthodox dating pool, there are 112 19-year-old women — 12 percent more women than men.

The bottom line: According to a 2013 article in the Jewish weekly Ami Magazine, there are now 3,000 unmarried Orthodox women between the ages of 25 and 40 in the New York City metro area and another 500 over 40. That’s a huge number when you consider that New York’s Yeshivish Orthodox — the segment of the Orthodox community most affected by the Shidduch Crisis — has a total population of 97,000, according to the Jewish Community Study of New York published by the UJA-Federation of New York in 2012.

[...]

In the Orthodox Jewish community, however, there is a natural control group — one that does make it possible to settle the culture-versus-demographics debate with near certainty. That control group is a sect of Orthodox Judaism known as Hasidic Jews.

The core beliefs of Hasidic Jews differ from those of other Orthodox Jews in nuanced but spiritually significant ways. Hasidic Jews believe each daily act of religious observance creates a personal, perhaps mystical, connection with God. In contrast, their counterparts in the Yeshivish branch of Orthodox Judaism emphasize the study of Torah and Talmud as the primary means of growing closer to God.

While their religious practices may differ, the two groups are still quite similar culturally. Both Yeshivish and Hasidic Jews are extremely pious and socially conservative. They live in tight-knit communities. They are known for having large families. And both groups use matchmakers to pair their young people for marriage.

There is, however, one major cultural difference between the two groups: Hasidic men marry women their own age, whereas Yeshivish men typically marry women a three or four years their junior.

“In the Hasidic world, it would be very weird for a man to marry a woman two years younger than him,” said Alexander Rapaport, a Hasidic father of six and the executive director of Masbia, a kosher soup kitchen in Brooklyn. Both Rapaport and his wife were 36 when I interviewed him.

When I asked Rapaport about the Shidduch Crisis, he seemed perplexed. “I’ve heard of it,” he said, “but I’m not sure I understand what it’s all about.”

Training a Bureaucratic Population

September 2nd, 2015

Our educational system is all about training a bureaucratic population, Henry Dampier argues:

What’s important about developing a bureaucrat is creating the correct emotional temperament. It doesn’t have much to do with cultivating excellence, because the presence of excellence tends to be disruptive to any bureaucratic setting, as excellence tends to be unpredictable and challenging to account for. Adult bureaucrats tend to complain a lot about ‘stress,’ in part because they have been trained from an early age to respond to distress resulting from verbal disapproval by authorities and peers. This takes a lot of repetitive operant conditioning, which is one of the top reasons why school curricula tend to be so repetitive and pointless on the surface. The purpose isn’t to create good calculators or a labor force aware of trigonometry, but to create a mass of people who are docile, predictable, and easily frightened into compliance.

The long term consequence of this has been an overproduction in clerk-like personalities. Because the state mandates that everyone go through clerk training, you wind up with a homogenous population marked by the character traits that have been historically associated with clerks — bad physical health, obedience to authority, intense respect for arbitrary rules, a weak aesthetic sensibility, an obsession with official approval, and androgyny.

More than half of immigrants on welfare

September 2nd, 2015

More than half of immigrant-led households receive welfare of some kind:

About 51% of immigrant-led households receive at least one kind of welfare benefit, including Medicaid, food stamps, school lunches and housing assistance, compared to 30% for native-led households, according to the report from the Center for Immigration Studies, a group that advocates for lower levels of immigration.

Those numbers increase for households with children, with 76% of immigrant-led households receiving welfare, compared to 52% for the native-born.

The numbers for the native-born are disturbingly high, too.

A Tale of Two Suburbs

September 2nd, 2015

Steve Sailer tells A Tale of Two Suburbs, the Beach Boys’ Hawthorne and NWA’s Torrance:

Straight Outta Compton is much celebrated by white critics for showing our heroes being hassled by suspicious police. (Ferguson is often cited by enthusiastic reviewers.) But, even sanitized as the film is — Dr. Dre’s penchant for beating women was left out, and I can’t recall a single scene of anybody smoking crack — Straight Outta Compton is still full of so much puerile mayhem that it’s hard to conclude that the cops weren’t sensible in trying to run these jokers out of town.

For example, when the Torrance police see our heroes hanging around outside the recording studio in gang gear, they force them down on the ground to send the message that Torrance isn’t gang ground. Their manager, middle-aged macher Jerry Heller (played by Giamatti) excoriates the cops: These aren’t criminals, they’re artists.

And indeed they weren’t affiliated with either the Crips or the Bloods. Just as drummer Dennis Wilson was the only surfer in the Beach Boys, N.W.A’s not-very-skilled frontman Eazy-E was the band’s only career criminal, and he was in the weed-dealing business (a less murderous line of work than cocaine). The more talented members were boys from respectable families who’d avoided serious trouble to focus on their entertainment ambitions. (Dr. Dre appears to have prudently restricted his violence to hitting girls.) But they couldn’t tell the cops that they were just pretending to be vicious thugs to sell records because that would have undermined their lucrative vicious-thug image.

I was particularly struck by their encounter with the Torrance police because I had looked into buying a house in that suburb in 1991. Like much of Southern California near the ocean, Torrance’s housing stock was of poor quality. (Before antibiotics, rich people had built inland in places like Pasadena out of fear that ocean fog causes tuberculosis.) And Torrance’s enormous oil refinery tends to periodically belch noxious fallout over homeowners.

But the schools were good because it’s a low-crime community. Today, while the Beach Boys’ Hawthorne, three miles north of Torrance, is over 80 percent Latino or black and Compton is 99 percent non-Asian minority, Torrance is still 42 percent white, 35 percent Asian, 16 percent Hispanic, 6 percent mixed, and only 3 percent black.

Torrance’s homicide rate in this century has been about one-fifth of Hawthorne’s and one-twentieth of Compton’s. How did Torrance dodge this (literal) bullet?

After watching Straight Outta Compton, I would guess: by the Torrance Police Department profiling black youths dressed as killers. Why did Torrance have the courage to save itself? I don’t know. Perhaps because Torrance’s large, politically powerful Asian presence (Torrance was the American headquarters of Toyota from 1982 to 2014) was immune to white guilt?

How Serena Williams Produced Her Second Act

September 1st, 2015

There’s no better word to sum up Serena Williams in 2015, Tom Perrotta suggests than — wait for it — wisdom:

At age 33, Williams has improbably peaked when injuries and indifference usually spell the end for a tennis champion. She remains an otherworldly athlete, blessed with speed, flexibility and strength that equals or surpasses her competitors. It’s not a trivial advantage.

But Williams’s speed and power have long obscured other, quieter attributes. She is a tennis player’s tennis player, and these days she relies more than ever on her mind, her determination, her tactics, her anticipation and a serve that is a study in perfect mechanics.

“I’m a really amazing thinker on the court,” Williams said.

To illustrate her wisdom, the Wall Street Journal chose this image:

Serena Williams Serving at 124 MPH

Megaroc

September 1st, 2015

The Americans and the Soviets famously scooped up Nazi rocket scientists at the end of the war, but so did the French and the British:

Known as Operation Backfire, the British program involved firing V2 rockets from the Netherlands to the edge of space before they splashed down in the North Sea. The experiment proved successful, with the missiles reportedly descending within three miles of their targets – more accurately than the Germans managed during the war.

Engineers overseeing the tests realized that von Braun had solved fundamental problems in rocketry: he had designed a sizeable engine, an advanced pump to get fuel in fast enough and a sophisticated guidance system.

“The rocket was out of this world, literally,” says Becklake who later helped restore a V2 for museum display. “It was packed full of high technology.”

Engineers at the British Interplanetary Society in London decided this technology could help them realise their dream of building a spaceship, a dream that had been considered fanciful only five years earlier. In 1946, society member, designer and artist Ralph Smith put forward a detailed proposal to adapt the V2 missile into a “man-carrying rocket.”

Smith’s Megaroc design involved enlarging and strengthening the V2’s hull, increasing the amount of fuel and replacing the one-tonne warhead with a man-carrying capsule. The rocket would not have been powerful enough to carry a person into orbit. Instead, the spaceman (and only a man was considered) would have been launched on a parabolic trajectory some 300,000 metres above the Earth.

Launched at an angle of two degrees, once in space the rocket would drop away and the segmented nose-cone would peel back to expose the capsule. Smith provided two windows in his design and suggested the space pioneer, kitted out in a high-altitude flying suit, might use his few minutes in space to carry out observations of the Earth, atmosphere and Sun. With the West squaring up to the Soviet Union, Megaroc would also have been ideal for spying on enemy territory.

After five minutes or so of weightlessness the capsule would fall back to Earth, its heatshield protecting the spaceman from harm. Parachutes would be deployed and it would float slowly to the ground. There was even a separate parachute for the rocket, intended to make the whole spacecraft reusable.

Smith worked out everything – from the exact dimensions of the rocket to the thrust of the engines and g-forces the astronaut would experience.

“The design was totally practical,” says space historian and editor of Spaceflight magazine David Baker, who has studied the Megaroc designs. “All the technology existed and it could have been achieved within three to five years.”

Baker, who was trained on V2 technology in the States and has spent most of his career as a Nasa engineer working on the Space Shuttle programme, says Megaroc was 10 years ahead of its time. “By 1951 Britain could have been routinely putting people into space on a ballistic trajectory,” he says.

The Brits were in no position to follow up on this early work though.

(Hat tip to Nyrath.)

Another Cold War Soviet Agent

August 31st, 2015

For decades, stalwarts of the Left depicted those accused of disloyalty in the McCarthyite era as victims of an American witch-hunt:

One such individual, who until his death made a good living portraying himself in this fashion, was Cedric Belfrage, a British expatriate who lived in the U.S. from the ’40s until 1955.

Belfrage was the founder and editor-in-chief of what was the major fellow-traveling American weekly newspaper, The National Guardian, which was created in 1948 as an adjunct of the presidential campaign of Henry A. Wallace on the Progressive Party ticket. The British subject Belfrage was hauled before both Senator McCarthy’s Senate subcommittee and by HUAC in the 1950s, where he invoked the Fifth Amendment. Eventually, he was arrested and deported back to Britain in 1955.

Belfrage then wrote a few books. Among them was one published by a major American publisher in 1973, The American Inquisition: 1945-1950, in which the author claimed that he too was a victim of vicious false accusations that he was a Soviet agent.

We have known for some years, from both the Venona files and the Vassiliev KGB Notebooks, that in fact Belfrage was working for the KGB.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s Tough Lessons for Liberals

August 31st, 2015

Daniel Patrick Moynihan provided some tough lessons for liberals:

Today, however, Moynihan towers before us a vanished, much-missed type, the reform-minded traditionalist, “the American Burke,” as Greg Weiner’s new book about him maintains, whose complex ideas weighed “possibility” against “limitation,” and “private pluralism” against “common purpose.” The Washington Post columnist EJ Dionne recently recalled the memory of the “unpolarising Moynihan,” at home in Democratic and Republican administrations alike. But he was not a placatory figure. On the contrary, he lived to polarise and provoke, needed to feel surrounded by critics and carpers, enemies hiding in ambush. His strength was for seeking out the hidden sources of discontent. His weakness was in imagining they lay in wait principally for him.

OBIT MOYNIHAN

Unlike so many Kennedy favourites, he wasn’t really a Harvard man — teaching there, later, didn’t count and he didn’t yet have the easy polish and style that Kennedy liked. It was under the next President, Lyndon Johnson, that Moynihan achieved fame, though not in the way he wanted, when he was unmasked as the author of a penetrating, vivid report entitled “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action,” composed in 1965. An “eyes only” memo, written to stir policymakers into action, it became the basis for much of Johnson’s “Great Society” programme to eliminate poverty.

But there was a backlash. Once the report was leaked, the story ceased to be the rescue programmes, but Moynihan’s account of life in the inner-city blighted by the unbreakable rhythms of poverty: unemployment, little or no schooling, low wages (if any at all), children raised in “matriarchal” (fatherless) households and generations trapped in hopelessness, unable to lift themselves up or out. You could read it either as compassion for the wretched of the earth or as a kind of horrified anthropology. Moynihan was accused of blaming the victim. In reply, he reminded critics that the report explicitly pointed to the legacy of slavery. He was right. Those words were there, but they were drowned in the sensational data and the vivid prose. He didn’t coin the phrase “tangle of pathology.” But through Moynihan it entered the language, and in the tense climate of the 1960s seemed less diagnostic than judgemental. Wading so confidently into these question, treating black Americans as if their habits differed from those of whites, Moynihan failed to see, as the sociologist Herbert J Gans observed at the time, that apparently disabling features of inner-city life might actually be “positive adaptations” to exceedingly difficult conditions, ingenious and sophisticated methods of coping. Either way, Moynihan the political visionary was engulfed in an emerging culture war. The Democratic Party was splitting apart, as disagreements that had begun in policy-writing cubicles and the pages of small-circulation journals spilled onto the nation’s campuses and into the streets of its great cities.

Under assault by civil rights activists he thought had been on his side, and by campus activists, Moynihan was thrust into the role of unwitting pioneer, the first of the discredited “white guys,” the lecture-hall moraliser, the tone-deaf “expert” who actually didn’t know what he was talking about, because the truth of American life was known only to those victimised daily by it, in ways no intellectual tourist could ever grasp. Moynihan intemperately fought back, lashing out not only at individual critics but at the legions of “the liberal left” and their indifference to hard facts except “to the extent that they serve as an indictment of American society.”

Conservatives were as bad, he pointed out. They respected data, but self-servingly, “to indict the poor; after that, they lose interest.” But his anger was aimed at those who had stung him, who questioned his good faith and mocked his principles. A lifelong liberal Democrat, he declared war on the “adversary culture” (a phrase borrowed from Lionel Trilling), the complacent inhabitants of “eliteland,” the cultural relativists and nostalgists de la boue he saw all around him: the professors in league with their privileged students, the anti-Vietnam war protestors and community activists, journalists at the Nation — “the new class,” as Moynihan’s friend Irving Kristol, godfather of the neoconservatives, later called it.

Kristol and others fled that world or scorned it. But Moynihan remained in it. He was an old-fashioned liberal, a product of the New Deal who had become a Great Society Democrat This was supposed to be the future and the path to deliverance, and still could be, except no one seemed to believe it any more, including other nations for whom America had once been a beacon. Named Ambassador to the United Nations in 1975, Moynihan became a hero on the right, defending Israel and denouncing Third World monsters like Idi Amin, but he was also labelled a neoconservative jingoist, infected with “paranoia about communism” and “cultural chauvinism.”

The Evolution of Magazine Covers

August 30th, 2015

Karen X. Cheng explores the evolution of magazine covers:

Together, these magazine covers reveal a peek into our history. Sure, we’ve gotten more sexualized. More superficial. We read less. We have shorter attention spans.

But we’ve also gotten more open-minded. At each step along the way, society has pushed the limits of what’s considered acceptable.

Cosmo Covers 1937 vs. 2015

We’ve come a long way in 100 years.

In the right direction though?

Whitewashing the Black Panthers

August 30th, 2015

A new PBS documentary, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, whitewashes the Black Panther Party and ignores their violent past. It also sidesteps their hardline Communism, Michael Moynihan points out:

It was in the newspaper where “everything came together,” says Ericka Huggins in Vanguard of the Revolution. “It explained who we were, what we were about, what our goals were.” She’s right. If you want to get a sense of the party, one need only thumb through a few back issues of The Black Panther newspaper, scanning editorials signed by “we black revolutionaries who are fighting this racist imperialist faggot honkey,” gasping at the countless images of North Korean dictator Kim Il-Sung and Chinese genocidaire Mao Tse-Tung, or scratching your head at the paeans to demented Albanian Stalinist Enver Hoxha.

So I shouldn’t have been surprised to find that The Black Panther was actually full of glowing references to Josef Stalin. Eldridge Cleaver (“And I’d also like to quote Stalin…”), Panther “chief of staff” David Hilliard (“We think that Stalin was very clear in this concept…”), and Bobby Seale (“Joseph Stalin said one time that our best weapon…”) were all fond of citing him. And Seale was complimenting his comrades when he observed that “our party can see Lenin and Stalin when we want to understand Huey and Eldridge.” Hilliard kept a photo of Stalin on display in his office, believing that tales of Stalinist mass murder were bourgeois propaganda. “The reason that they fear Joseph Stalin is because of the distorted facts that they have gained through the Western press,” he told an interviewer. Chairman Elaine Brown clarified that the Black Panther Party was “not opposed to Stalin.”

Again, none of this mentioned by Nelson. Nor is the group’s frightening obsession with North Korea’s uniquely demented brand of Stalinism (“The Korean people and their great leader Comrade Kim II Sung” are “a nation of Newtons, tough brothers, off the block who once built a mountainous barbecue which imperialism called Heartbreak Ridge!”). Interviewee Kathleen Cleaver isn’t asked by Nelson about her pilgrimages to Pyongyang, or why she chose to give birth to her daughter Joju Younghi — a name chosen for her by Kim Il-Sung’s wife — in North Korea. Nor is she asked about credible accusations that when Eldridge Cleaver returned from his first trip to North Korea he shot and killed a Panther he believed to be Kathleen’s lover (When asked, Eldridge wouldn’t deny killing his romantic rival; and in 2001 former Panther fugitive and Cleaver confidante Byron Vaughn Booth confessed to having witnessed the murder.)

Crash Course in Manhood

August 29th, 2015

Point and Shoot tells the odd story of an odd young man — timid, obsessive-compulsive, 26-year-old Matt VanDyke — who left his Baltimore home in 2006 for a crash course in manhood:

Space Conquerors

August 29th, 2015

Henry Kujawa first encountered Al Stenzel’s Space Conquerors comic strip in Boys’ Life in 1968, soon after he’d joined the cub scouts, but the series had started back in 1952:

SC 1952 09 1

SC 1952 09 2

SC 1952 10 1

SC 1952 10 2

SC 1952 11 1

SC 1952 11 2

SC 1952 12 1

SC 1952 12 2

It was a simpler time. By 1954 the stories became a bit harder, scientifically speaking.

SC 1954 02 1

SC 1954 02 2

SC 1954 03

SC 1954 04 1

SC 1954 04 2

SC 1954 05 1

Nothing like us ever happened before

August 28th, 2015

What’s worth saving about “the West,” Adam Gopnik claims, is the moral achievements that have flowed from it:

The emancipation of women and their integration on equal terms in education, the granting of civil rights to homosexuals, the removal, at least formally, of racial discrimination — these are not a common feature of prosperous or declining empires but unique moral achievements of this one. There’s no pattern in history to compare us to, because nothing like us ever happened before.

Really? That passage immediately called to mind Sir John Glubb’s description of the Arab decline:

The works of the contemporary historians of Baghdad in the early tenth century are still available. They deeply deplored the degeneracy of the times in which they lived, emphasising particularly the indifference to religion, the increasing materialism and the laxity of sexual morals. They lamented also the corruption of the officials of the government and the fact that politicians always seemed to amass large fortunes while they were in office.

The historians commented bitterly on the extraordinary influence acquired by popular singers over young people, resulting in a decline in sexual morality. The ‘pop’ singers of Baghdad accompanied their erotic songs on the lute, an instrument resembling the modern guitar. In the second half of the tenth century, as a result, much obscene sexual language came increasingly into use, such as would not have been tolerated in an earlier age. Several khalifs issued orders banning ‘pop’ singers from the capital, but within a few years they always returned.

An increase in the influence of women in public life has often been associated with national decline. The later Romans complained that, although Rome ruled the world, women ruled Rome. In the tenth century, a similar tendency was observable in the Arab Empire, the women demanding admission to the professions hitherto monopolised by men. ‘What,’ wrote the contemporary historian, Ibn Bessam, ‘have the professions of clerk, tax-collector or preacher to do with women? These occupations have always been limited to men alone.’ Many women practised law, while others obtained posts as university professors. There was an agitation for the appointment of female judges, which, however, does not appear to have succeeded.

Soon after this period, government and public order collapsed, and foreign invaders overran the country. The resulting increase in confusion and violence made it unsafe for women to move unescorted in the streets, with the result that this feminist movement collapsed.

New Amsterdam Reload

August 28th, 2015

Pirates really were bristling with weapons, as the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum explains:

To survive battles in close quarters, pirates had to be walking arsenals. Pistols took time to reload, so most pirates carried more than one. Blackbeard carried six in addition to a cutlass and a dagger.

Jim Cirillo would approve of the New Amsterdam Reload.