April 28, 2005


Korean director Kim Ki-Duk, who directed last year's Buddhist monk import "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter ... Spring" (here's my review), is back with another near-silent parable.

"3-Iron" appears to be inspired by the Rita Rudner joke about how the criminally insane aren't the people who break into your house and rape and kill you, they should be the ones who break into your house and do your laundry. A young man breaks into empty homes in Seoul, does the laundry, fixes any appliances on the blink, then leaves. In one he finds an abused wife. When her nasty husband comes home and tries to rough her up some more, the hero batters him with golf balls struck by the hubby's own Callaway Steelhead 3-iron.

I have no idea what it all means, but it's clever and cute.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

"Eros" - Antonioni, Soderbergh, Wong

"Eros" -- This is a three part / three director art house trilogy movie is intended as a tribute to 92-year old legend Michaelangelo Antonioni.

The three segments can be seen as epitomizing contemporary Chinese, American, and European approaches to sex in cinema. The first segment, directed by Kar Wai Wong ("In the Mood for Love") about a Hong Kong courtesan with consumption, illustrates the current Chinese obsession with glamour. The basic concept is lifted from Greta Garbo's "Camille" (which uses the same Dumas fils source novel as Pucinni's "La Traviata") and the treatment is similar.

The second, directed by the estimable Steven Soderbergh (Ocean's 11 & 12) illustrates how uninterested current American moviemakers are in the erotic. It's a brilliant slice of comedy starring Robert Downey Jr. as NY ad man in 1955 and 70-year-old Alan Arkin as his bored psychiatrist. Together, they invent the snooze button on alarm clocks. Downey, despite all his troubles, remains the American actor I'd pay to hear read the phone book.

Antonioni's own segment conclusively proves that older is not better when it comes to directing naked lady movies. We do see once again how Europeans find pseudo-philosophical dialogue sexy, for reasons that aren't clear to me. In France, to get a college degree, you have to write off the top of your head in a few hours a glib essay on some philosophical topic, so the ability to generate metaphysical cafe chit-chat is a useful signal of one's academic credentials, but why do Italians fall for it too?

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Chalabi Becomes Interim Oil Minister of Iraq:

Much less surprising news than the rediscovery of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, but also less joyous, is word that Ahmed-the-Thief has weaseled his way into control of Iraq's oil industry. (Here's a great photo showing how Chalabi feels about undertaking the burden of his new responsibilities.)

Last July, I wrote in The American Conservative:

What does Chalabi really want? The simplest guess is that he wants what too many ambitious Iraqis want these days: to be a trillionaire. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, "Iraq is estimated to hold 115 billion barrels of proven oil reserves." At $40 per barrel, Iraq's oil is worth $4.6 trillion. Sure, Iraq's last trillionaire, Saddam Hussein, ended up in a hole in the ground, but he had one helluva ride along the way.

In The New Yorker, Jane Mayer quoted Scott Ritter, the much-reviled but apparently truth-telling weapons inspector, as saying, "[Chalabi] told me [in 1998] that, if I played ball, when he became President he'd control all of the oil concessions, and he'd make sure I was well taken care of."

More generally, Chalabi successfully yanked the neocon chain because they refused to admit to themselves that the age of ideology, in which they usefully argued against communism, ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Thus, to provide ideological justification for their Iraq Attaq, the neocons resorted to neologisms like "Islamofacism," a purported dogma alleged to motivate even Muslims as mutually hostile as Saddam and Osama.

In reality, the end of ideology was not the "end of history," as Francis Fukuyama famously claimed. Instead, after two centuries of occasionally battling over what is the ideal form of government, the human race has reverted to its traditional pastime of brawling over who gets to run the government. In understanding affairs of state in the non-Western world today, neither Mein Kampf nor Das Kapital nor the Gettysburg Address is as insightful a guide as The Godfather.

We're actually better off in our new world where we need to worry more about organized crime clans than about great powers animated by radical ideologies. The Mafia, for all its sins, never targeted a thousand nuclear missiles upon America.

The Chalabi dynasty is old, rich, and unpopular. Nonetheless, Chalabi persuaded the Interim Governing Council to appoint him to the lucrative post of Finance Minister. He then used his influence to fill many of the other top positions with allies. Further, as William Beeman, director of Middle East Studies at Brown University noted, "Chalabi has created extra insurance by installing his relatives everywhere in the post-June 30th governmental structure, in true Middle Eastern fashion. They are the most loyal employees of all, and his potential successors. First and foremost among them are his nephews. The term "nepotism" comes from the Italian nepote -- 'nephew.' Mr. Chalabi has nephews galore." Nor is Chalabi overlooking the private sector. As Newsweek reported, "Today his extensive network of cousins and nephews runs almost every major bank." [More]

So, as you are filling up your gas tank in the future, you can pass the time by trying to estimate how many pennies for each gallon you are buying will wind up in the Chalabi Clan coffers.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Ivory-Billed Woodpecker sighted:

Ivory-Billed Woodpecker sighted: Thought to be extinct since the 1940s, this Holy Grail of American birdwatchers, a spectacular black and white beast with a 30" wingspan, has been sighted in a swampy forest preserve in Arkansas. (Here's James J. Audubon's painting.)

As a conservative, this triumph of conservation makes me deeply happy.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

NFL Draft Correlations:

Correlations for 253 pro football draftees are up over at Mahalanobis' blog, and we find that smartness (as measured by the mandatory 12-minute Wonderlic IQ test) correlates with strength (benchpress), slowness (40 yard dash time), and lack of leaping ability (vertical leap in inches).

I guess wearing lead boots makes you smarter...

Smartest players by position are Tight Ends, Offensive Linemen, and Quarterbacks. Least smart are Defensive Linemen, Running Backs, Wide Receivers, and Cornerbacks.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Levitt on the waste caused by legalizing abortion:

The impact of legalizing abortion on the crime rate appears beyond the ability of contemporary social science reliably to tease out from the maelstrom of currents roiling American social life over the last 40 years. If you had started looking at the question in 1996, using crime statistics through 1994, the most likely conclusion would have been that legalizing abortion increased crime. Starting in 1999, using statistics from 1997 compared to 1985 (but ignoring the intervening years), Levitt was able to make the case for the opposite conclusion. Judging from data through 2002, however, Levitt's case is once again eroding as the murder rate for 25-34 year olds goes up as the post-legalization cohort enters that group.

My best guess is that legalization worsened crime, but that this effect faded after a number of years as society adjusted. But, that's just a guess.

Instead, the key fact, the under-appreciated take home lesson from this controversy, the observation that Levitt and I agree upon, is that legalizing abortion greatly increased the number of unwanted pregnancies.

Tim Harford writes in The Financial Times of London:

In fact, [Steven D.] Levitt now says that the research made him more pro-life. “I grew up in Minnesota. Very liberal,” he says. “I was just from birth taught to be pro-choice.” But when he discovered while writing the paper that after Roe v Wade the number of abortions rose to nearly 1.5 million a year, and that while the number of births fell, the number of conceptions rose, he thought again. “One in four of the pregnancies which took place were just because people were lazy,” he says. “That’s a lot. That’s a lot of abortions.”

Of course, that fact undermines the persuasiveness of Levitt's assumption that abortion cut crime by reducing the number of unwanted births. Because legalizing abortion caused tens of millions of conceptions that wouldn't have happened otherwise, the overall impact on who actually got born becomes extremely hard to model. Levitt's simplistic assumption that legalization improved the quality of parents and children, which is the key to the popularity of his argument, thus drops in plausibility from a sure-thing to a nobody-knows.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Thomas Sowell on "Black Rednecks and White Liberals"

Black Rednecks and White Liberals is the new book by Thomas Sowell. He provides a taste of it in the Wall Street Journal:

For most of the history of this country, differences between the black and the white population--whether in income, IQ, crime rates, or whatever--have been attributed to either race or racism. For much of the first half of the 20th century, these differences were attributed to race--that is, to an assumption that blacks just did not have it in their genes to do as well as white people. The tide began to turn in the second half of the 20th century, when the assumption developed that black-white differences were due to racism on the part of whites.

Three decades of my own research lead me to believe that neither of those explanations will stand up under scrutiny of the facts. As one small example, a study published last year indicated that most of the black alumni of Harvard were from either the West Indies or Africa, or were the children of West Indian or African immigrants. These people are the same race as American blacks, who greatly outnumber either or both.

If this disparity is not due to race, it is equally hard to explain by racism. To a racist, one black is pretty much the same as another. But, even if a racist somehow let his racism stop at the water's edge, how could he tell which student was the son or daughter of someone born in the West Indies or in Africa, especially since their American-born offspring probably do not even have a foreign accent?

What then could explain such large disparities in demographic "representation" among these three groups of blacks? Perhaps they have different patterns of behavior and different cultures and values behind their behavior...

While a third of the white population of the U.S. lived within the redneck culture, more than 90% of the black population did. Although that culture eroded away over the generations, it did so at different rates in different places and among different people. It eroded away much faster in Britain than in the U.S. and somewhat faster among Southern whites than among Southern blacks, who had fewer opportunities for education or for the rewards that came with escape from that counterproductive culture.

Nevertheless the process took a long time. As late as the First World War, white soldiers from Georgia, Arkansas, Kentucky and Mississippi scored lower on mental tests than black soldiers from Ohio, Illinois, New York and Pennsylvania. Again, neither race nor racism can explain that--and neither can slavery.

The redneck culture proved to be a major handicap for both whites and blacks who absorbed it. Today, the last remnants of that culture can still be found in the worst of the black ghettos, whether in the North or the South, for the ghettos of the North were settled by blacks from the South. The counterproductive and self-destructive culture of black rednecks in today's ghettos is regarded by many as the only "authentic" black culture--and, for that reason, something not to be tampered with. Their talk, their attitudes, and their behavior are regarded as sacrosanct.

The people who take this view may think of themselves as friends of blacks. But they are the kinds of friends who can do more harm than enemies.

Perhaps. Yet, when we talk of "redneck culture" today, such as country music and Nashville, we are largely talking of Scotch-Irish culture. And the Scotch-Irish generally stayed away from the blacks. They went to the Appalachian and Ozark highlands where disease was less of a problem for Europeans than in the lowland South. Moreover, the Scotch-Irish disliked having to compete with slave labor and tobacco and cotton slave plantations were uneconomical in the highlands. Today, the state with the least educated whites is the prototypical hillbilly state of West Virginia, which had so few slaveowners that it seceded from Virginia and joined the Union during the Civil War. Other Scotch-Irish redneck states like Tennessee and Oklahoma have limited black populations, too.

In reality, slaves tended to be owned mostly by big slaveowners in the Southern lowlands, who frequently had aristocratic pretensions. Lowland Southerners tended to be descended from Southern England's landowning and servant classes, not from the Scotch-Irish (who actually originated on both sides of the border between Scotland and England). I think it would make more sense for Sowell to point to blacks inheriting lowland Southern quasi-aristocratic prejudices, such as for grandiloquent multi-syllabic words (e.g., Jesse Jackson's style of speaking) and against manufacturing and shop keeping, as for them inheriting Scotch-Irish redneck populism, with which they had limited contact.

For example, free slaves who were sent to Liberia reproduced the Southern lowland social structure, just with themselves as the slaveowning aristocrats and the native blacks as the slaves.

Somewhat similarly, as a boy Sowell absorbed second-hand much from the upper class of New York City. I recently read Sowell's autobiography, and he makes the point that as a boy growing up in Harlem around 1940, he benefited from having two female relations who were maids on Park Avenue who brought home strong opinions about how high-quality folks behaved. (Sowell, by the way, was born in the South but raised in Fiorello La Guardia's NYC when its public schools and other government institutions were at their high point of morale and effectiveness. He disliked visiting the South during Jim Crow times. As an adult, he found himself happiest in California, where he lives now.)

If you look at imprisonment statistics, blacks tend to be better behaved in the South than elsewhere. Oddly enough, the most crime-prone blacks are in Iowa, of all places, where whites have traditionally been well-behaved. (Even though Iowa is very rural, it is so un-redneck in tastes that it voted for Al Gore in 2000.) Wisconsin and even Minnesota are similar. I don't think there has much black migration into these states for quite a few decades, but the local white culture is not rubbing off on the current black generations. My guess is that in those Old Northwest states, blacks get little competition from other groups for filling niches in the criminal economy, so more go into crime. In contrast, in states with more hell-raising whites, fewer blacks go into crime. But, that's just a first guess at this rather odd pattern.

Of course, the least-discussed cultural influence on African-Americans is also the most obvious: Africa. I call this tendency to ignore the African in African-American, to assume that they brought no culture with them from Africa, the Black Slate Theory. For example, when very young, Sowell's parents gave him to his great-aunt to raise (he didn't know he had several siblings until he was about 18). This kind of fostering out of the young is much more common among African-Americans than among whites. It's also much more common in Africa than in Europe, according to James Q. Wilson's book The Marriage Problem.

Perhaps the biggest social problem of African-Americans, as reflected in the very high illegitimacy rate, is that the culture they brought with them from Africa is one of low paternal investment. America's dominant culture had largely succeeded in inculcating monogamy and bring-home-the-bacon norms in blacks by about 1960, when it suddenly lost its self-confidence and began funding, via AFDC, the traditional African tendency toward mothers supporting their children without much support from their fathers.

One interesting sociological question that has been almost completely ignored in the U.S., with Zora Neale Hurston being the only exception I can think of, is the varying influence of different tribes in Africa. Hurston studied this in the West Indies, where tribes maintained more of a separate identity than in the U.S.

The most striking example is Barbados, whose citizens are renown for being the best educated and most civil of all the West Indians. Barbados was the richest and most easterly of the West Indies. According to the PBS series The Story of English, as the first stop for the slave ships coming from Africa, the wealthy slaveowners of Barbados had their pick, and they preferred to buy slaves from tribes they had found to be the most cooperative. Then they'd send the leftovers from the Bad Dude tribes on to be sold in Jamaica and the U.S. To this day, Barbados remains a more cooperative place than most other black communities in the Western Hemisphere.

Obviously, when Sowell points out that African and West Indian blacks outnumber African-Americans at Harvard, he's not mentioning the selection effect. Still, there are so few English-speaking West Indians in the world (maybe about five to seven million? -- there are only 2.7 million in Jamaica, compared to about 35 million African-Americans), their abundance at Harvard is of interest. I'd be particularly interested in seeing how the small number of Barbadians stacks up against African-Americans.

I suspect that the white colonial elite in Barbados and Trinidad did a better job of assimilating blacks into the white culture, without a generating a huge oppositional backlash, than did whites in the U.S. All this deserves closer study that I've ever seen it getting.

Every winter I volunteer to fly off to Barbados to investigate this crucial subject, but nobody has offered to fund my research project yet.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

How many GOP gunslingers aren't gay?

Following the recent news that famed Republican attack dog political consultant Arthur Finkelstein "married" some guy in Massachusetts comes a long NY Times piece about a less famous gay Republican operative named R. Gregory Stevens who recently dropped dead from drugs in the bed he was platonically sharing with Carrie "Princess Leia" Fisher.

Of course, there are plenty of similar rumors about important White House political functionaries, which were reactivated by the bizarre story of the issuing of a White House security pass and press credential to male whore James Guckert / Jeff Gannon.


At least one. Congratulations to Grover Norquist. Earlier this month, the ultra-energetic 48-year-old activist got married to Samah Alrayyes. Norquist had been saying for a long time that he was going to slow down and start a family, but a lot of people thought he was too hard-charging. Good for him.

The Washington Post reported:

A friend of the bride and groom, Rabbi Daniel Lapin, presided and the reception featured a belly dancer. The always-quotable groom told us Friday: "This is fun! I'm wearing a ring and everything."

I presume the ceremony was nondenominational.


Love is in the air: The WaPo reports:

Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham, 40, is getting hitched to Washington businessman James V. Reyes, 42. They got engaged April 2 and plan a Catholic wedding in late May or early June. We hear the happy couple was introduced last year by their mutual friend Dave Pollin, nephew of developer Abe Pollin.

Laura was previously an item with Harvard President Larry Summers, which drove the liberal faculty crazy.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

The iron fist in the velvet glove of "diversity:"

Many people assume that affirmative action only exists in college admissions, but that aspect of racial quotas is dwarfed by corporations imposing quotas upon themselves to prevent lawsuits like the Sodexho case. The Washington Post reports:

Sodexho Inc., the Gaithersburg-based food and facilities-management company, agreed Wednesday to pay $80 million to settle a lawsuit that claimed it systematically denied promotions to 3,400 black mid-level managers.

The company also agreed to widespread training and a more structured hiring process for its 106,000 employees throughout the country, in an effort to promote more minorities into higher corporate jobs. A panel appointed by the plaintiffs and the company will monitor Sodexho's compliance.

Sodexho officials said they have already implemented many of the remedies included in the settlement, such as tying bonuses for top executives to the company's progress toward workforce diversity goals...

In the years since the Sodexho lawsuit was filed, the proportion of blacks in management positions at the company has remained around 12 percent, Aun said. Currently, 1,921 of Sodexho's 15,532 managers are black.

In contrast, the plaintiffs maintained, only 2 percent of the company's upper management is black. About one-fourth of the company's total workforce is black.

The take home message to corporate executives is that it makes more sense to impose quotas on yourself now, than pay out 80 million and be forced to impose them later anyway. Most sizable companies long ago got the message and quietly put together these kind of programs to racially discriminate against their white employees.

The U.S. initiated racial quotas three dozen years ago when there were about seven whites for every black. The U.S. is a rich country and that ratio of payees to payers under affirmative action has proven affordable as the white to black ratio has been fairly stable over the decades.

But, in 1973, with almost no forethought, the federal bureaucracy added most immigrants to the ranks of quota beneficiaries, and the ratio of whites, who are expected to give up opportunities, to immigrants, who are aided by quotas, has been worsening ever since. As with the Social Security system, the affirmative action system's decline in the "racial ratio" of payer to payee foretells long term trouble, as I detailed here.

A reader writes:

Well, I think I know of the next company lead attorney [and white man] Kerry Alan Scanlon can target: his own law firm, Kaye Scholer, whose numbers are similar to Sodexho's! I just clicked on all their attorneys, about half of whom had pictures on their law fim web pages and half of whom did not. Of the 102 Kaye Scholer attorneys who have photos, guess how many are black? Answer: same as the number of 188 top jobs held at Sodexho, whom Kaye Scholer just successfully sued for their lack of African-Americans in top jobs. Zero.

Same numbers, yet one company is able to extract $80 million from the other. Hmmm.

I suppose the black plaintiffs hardly wanted to risk losing their big payouts by hiring minority attorneys who might only have their jobs due to affirmative action. With that much money at stake, who can afford diversity?

Maybe the Rev. Jesse Jackson could go shake down Kaye Scholer next?

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer