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The Color of Cynicism


Writing in the Dallas Morning News
, Joanna Cattanach says she’s in favor of affirmative action in college
admissions, based on her own experience. She writes that “color in the
classroom makes colleges [sic] a better place. Then she describes herself as
an “albino Mexican” with skin so light that people can’t tell she’s of
Hispanic origin. She says she was adopted by an Anglo couple, which means
she was raised in an Anglo cultural environment, with an Anglo name. She
admits that she became Hispanic for purposes of college admission because
her SAT scores were “less than stellar” — her newfound Latina-ness making
it easier to get into college with those scores. Now that she’s graduated,
she’s “glad I chose not to hide my minority status and claimed it along with
my culture and heritage… .” So I have to ask: in what meaningful sense is
Miss Cattanach Hispanic? She doesn’t look Hispanic, by her own admission, or
have a Hispanic last name, both of which could conceivably have set her up
for discrimination. Furthermore, she grew up in an Anglo home. It sounds to
me like she only became a born-again Hispanic when she saw she could use it
to her advantage. She had all the presumptive privileges of an Anglo
upbringing, but when it came time to get into school, she worked the system
to eke out, potentially, ethnically Anglo kids who may have been more
qualified on merit. Can somebody please explain to me why this is moral, or
something to be proud of?



A reader suggests “autochthon,” but adds despairingly that probably only he,
me, and WFB know what it means.

Remembering an old Jack Vance story, I myself would like to offer “First


Conquest’s Laws


Several readers have asked me for Robert Conquest’s Three Laws of politics.
As best I can remember, they are:

1. Everyone is conservative about what he knows best.

2. Any organization not explicitly and constitutionally right-wing will
sooner or later become left-wing.

3. The behavior of any bureaucratic organization can best be understood by
assuming that it is controlled by a secret cabal of its enemies.

Of the Second Law, Conquest gave the Church of England and Amnesty
International as examples. Of the Third, he noted that a bureaucarcy
sometimes actually IS controlled by a secret cabal of its enemies–e.g.
the postwar British secret service.

Web Briefing: January 27, 2015

More Indians


Since nobody is posting for some bizarre reason (or maybe because NRODT goes to bed every other Wednesday), I thought this email was interesting:

As an archaeologist, I have at least a professional interest in what terms to use.

Native American — journalists love this. One journalist from Pennsylvania even told me that I should use the term “Native American” even if a tribal member specifically asks to be called “American Indian”. Some groups explicitly reject the term Native American; others don’t care.

Under federal regulations, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and other Native Pacific Islanders of the U.S. trust territories are all called “Native Americans.”

Also, I’ve read that “Native American” refers to a social or political group while “American Indian” refers to a biological or racial group. I don’t think that is a rule than anyone normally follows.

In Canada, ther term of choice is First Nations. There are no Native Americans or American Indians north of the border.

At a workshop in Idaho a couple of years ago, the academics preferred the term “First Peoples”. It hasn’t caught on as far as I know.

The best advice I’ve heard — on NPR of all places — is that if you are refering to an individual or to a specific group, then you should always use the tribal name — Western Shoshone, Northern Paiute, Cherokee, Mescalero Apache, Pima, Barbareno Chumash, etc. If you are making a general statement, as in “American Indian treaty rights” or “Native American gaming,” then either Native American or American Indian is okay.

Using the specific tribal name works very well in my case because the tribes differ so much in their traditions, political positions, treaty rights, religious beliefs, etc. that in most cases it simply doesn’t make sense to lump them all under one designation.


Proper Names


Important info from a reader:

I am a Swiss-German-Irish-Norwegian-English-American. Most of us don’t mind being called Swiss-German-Irish-English-Norwegian-Americans, but
“German-Swiss-Irish-English-Norwegian-American” and “Swiss-German-English-Irish-Norwegian-American” are generally considered offensive.

I just thought you’d like to know.

Re: Indians


Jonah: My objection to “Native Americans” is that allocating this
expression to Indians leaves me with no way to say “Americans who were
actually born in the U.S.A.,” as opposed to those Americans like me who
signed up for the project. “Indians” isn’t really very good, though,
either, as you then have to make clear you’re not talking about people from
India. We really have a problem here. “Amerindians” has a clunky,
contrived look about it. “Aborigines” would be fine, except that so many
people would assume you were talking about Australians. Since most
Americans of African ancestry seem not to mind being called “Blacks,” we
could just say “Reds” and “red” (or “Red,” if they prefer)… but then
that’s going to get confusing because people might think we are talking
about communists. We really need someone to invent a word here.



I don’t normally read Maureen Dowd any more. Everything she writes feels forced and old. It’s like she doesn’t realize she was a hot commodity once because back then the zeitgeist rewarded mood and atmospherics and all around trivial thinking and now that the culture has moved on she tries too hard to get a reaction by performing the same old schtick twice as hard (it kind of reminds me of Bill Murray in Groundhog’s Day when he tries to force the spontaneity of the snowball fight the third or fourth time).

Anyway, I had no idea she wrote a column today until Andrew Sullivan linked to it. Sullivan’s rightly appalled. I doubt the Times will ever be able to come to grips with the fact that Dowd’s column gives off the same vibe as watching your parents trying to dance or listening to Al Gore try to speak jive.

More On Indians


From another reader I didn’t know was an Indian:

Some other stuff you may not have run into:

(1) the preferred pronunciation (out here at least) is two syllables: in-din.

(2) “Nation” is preferable to “tribe” — when my Grandfather was born in the Choctaw Nation, “Indian Territory” was known by the residents as “the Nations”.

(3) by a large majority, we *don’t* object to names like “Washington Redskins”. Indians organize a lot of life around “tomtems”, symbolic representations.
For example, I’m a member of Raven Clan. If white people want to make Indians symbolic representations of power and courage and objects of veneration, that’s okay. Sort of a shame it didn’t happen earlier, but hell — make it up to us, visit a casino.


[Name withheld]
(of the Choctaw Nation)

Ah, The Mirth of Bachelorhood


I’m cleaning up my cave and I found this metal sign I used to have hanging in my kitchen when I was a single man. It reads:

Must Be Able To Clean, Cook, Sew, Dig Worms And Clean Fish.

Must Have Boat and Motor.

Please send picture of boat and motor.

Back Into My Cave


Well, it looks like my schemes for getting out of the house to write my book will not pan out for the foreseeable future. So I will be working out of my basement office. Since the baby came I’ve been working above ground with the sun people. But now I must return to the stygian depths. I think I’m going to have to buy a new computer and some vitamin D. This also probably means that I won’t need a 9-5, show-up-at-the-office researcher type. So I’m going to dive into the resumés this week. Also, if anyone has a very strong (and very informed) opinion on what kind of Mac I should get or how I can get Apple to give me a computer for “reviewing purposes” for the next 3 years, I’m all ears. Well, not literally all-ears as that would be pretty dangerous as ears are mostly cartilage and that would cause me to lose my respiratory system. But you get my point.



Monday evening, a friend of mine who has a spacious apartment threw a book
party for Prime Obsession. Over 60 people showed up, including entire
cohorts from NR, The New Criterion, and the New York Sun. I had honestly
not expected such a turnout. In the case of NR colleagues, it involved a
real sacrifice of time, as this was an “editorial Monday,” when it’s all
hands to the oars to get the next issue to press by mid-week. (Colleagues
who had to stay to mind the shop are included in all these remarks without
discrimination.) In the case of practically everybody, it was a selfless
expression of personal support, as my book isn’t even about politics or
current events in any way, but math, to which most writerly types are
ill-disposed. I am stunned and humbled with appreciation and gratitude. I
am expressing this, as best I can, to individual attendees as I meet them,
but a lot of those I don’t see often are readers of The Corner, so I hope
they will take this posting as sufficient until we meet. Let me tell you,
it’s quite something to be in an apartment full of people who have all
showed up because of something you did. The event confirmed what I knew
anyway: that conservatives are simply the best people there are.

Math and Supreme Court


Woops. I fixed the link below. Here it is again.

I Did Not Know That


From a longtime reader who happens to be an American Indian:

Don’t call us Native Americans.

We are American Indians.

Actually the preferred (non-NY Times) way is Tribal Name (Lakota, Ponca, etc), American Indian, Indian.

Even the founding members of American Indian Movement are against the use of
the term Native American.

Helping North Koreans Escape


Sen. Brownback introduces a bill to make seeking refugee status easier.



Since I’m a passionate opponent of all forms of online voting and I think
is little more than what the Brown University student government would look like if it was transformed into a giant digitized hemorhoid, I’m pained by even calling attention to it. But they’re having an online Democratic primary over there. It seems to me that as it is an open primary, everyone should feel free to cast their votes for Carol Mosley Braun, Dennis Kucinich, Al Sharpton or foot fungus — whichever candidate would do the best job of bringing “the issues” front and center.

Kinsley On The Michigan Cases


Michael Kinsley calls it as he sees it:

the court is confused if it thinks that a subjective judgment full of unquantifiable factors is obviously fairer than a straightforward formula. But confusion seems to be a purposeful strategy. The court’s message to universities and other selective, government-financed institutions is: We have fudged this dangerous issue. You should do the same.

Ed Crane & The Neocons


Crane (president of the libertarian Cato Institute) goes after the “neos.”

Syndicated Column


Supreme Court & Math




Lots of readers sending me their favorite Jonah-quotes. Modesty precludes me from posting them here. However, one reader sent me this one from the Derb which I like a great deal:

“Wherever there is a jackboot stomping on a human face there will be a well-heeled Western liberal to explain that the face does, after all, enjoy free health care and 100 percent literacy.”


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