December 22, 2006

Why Stephen Hunter is the best film critic working

As his review of Robert De Niro's CIA story "The Good Shepherd" shows, the Pulitzer Prize winner simply knows more than other critics.


Most movie reviewers these days are sensitive English major types, while movies in recent decades have been in a quite masculine phase driven by the economic fact the males pay for most of the tickets. So, a comprehensive education in the poetry of Wordsworth and Browning doesn't actually teach you much you need to know to review adequately the typical contemporary movie.

In contrast, Hunter's hyper-masculine intelligence (he is, for example, a world class gun nut -- here's my review of his book American Gunfight about the shootout in which Puerto Rican nationalist terrorists almost murdered Pres. Truman) is much better attuned to the subject matter of current films.


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

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

A reader writes:


The Washington Post claims:


"Maryland and the District are losing residents to other jurisdictions but making up for the loss by gaining immigrants, according to new census estimates released today. Virginia has followed a similar pattern, attracting vastly more newcomers from overseas than from within the United States and growing only marginally since 2000. The influx of immigrants has saved the three jurisdictions from what might otherwise be a precipitous population decline."


Or the influx of immigrants drove up housing costs and congestion and lowered wages, and drove out the Americans who were living there...?


The American media's philosophy of journalism when it comes to immigration is:


Some things in life are bad
They can really make you mad
Other things just make you swear and curse.
When you're chewing on life's gristle
Don't grumble, give a whistle
And this'll help things turn out for the best...
And...always look on the bright side of life...
Always look on the light side of life...

From The Life of Brian


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

December 21, 2006

Surprise, Surprise! Highly educated white liberals are hypocrites

From the Rice U. Sallyport:

Does Education Help Breed Segregation?

Most of us think that education broadens an individual’s perspective and helps diminish racist attitudes. Prior studies have validated that conventional wisdom, but new research indicates just the opposite may be true. A study, co-authored by Rice sociologist Michael Emerson, shows that increased education of whites, in particular, may not only have little effect on eliminating prejudice, but it also may be one reason behind the rise of racial segregation in U.S. schools. Furthermore, higher-educated whites, regardless of their income, are more likely than less-educated whites to judge a school’s quality and base their school choice on its racial composition.

Black–white racial segregation has been on the rise in primary and secondary schools over the past decade. While whites, especially those who are highly educated, may express an interest in having their children attend integrated schools, in reality, they seek out schools that are racially segregated. In the study, researchers found, on average, that the greater the education of white parents, the more likely they will remove their children from public schools as the percentage of black students increases.

“We believed from prior studies that education has a significantly positive impact on racial attitudes,” says Emerson, the Allyn and Gladys Cline Professor of Sociology. “We found when studying behaviors, however, that acquiring more education is not a means of combating segregation. Education may broaden an individual’s world, but it also leads to greater negative sensitivity toward blacks’ presence in public schools.”

Emerson and research colleague David Sikkink, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Notre Dame, know that income and other factors come into play in terms of school choice, but their study shows that, even after controlling for these variables, education has an unintended effect. Whites with more education place a greater emphasis on race when choosing a school for their children, while higher-educated African Americans do not consider race.

“I do believe that white people are being sincere when they claim that racial inequality is not a good thing and that they’d like to see it eliminated,” says Emerson. “However, they are caught in a social system in which their liberal attitudes about race aren’t reflected in their behavior.”

According to the researchers, part of this behavior is explained by the place and meaning of schooling for children of more-educated white parents. Degrees, for example, become status markers, regardless of income. Parents seek quality education for their children to ensure they are not hindered from achieving the “good life.” As earlier studies indicate, education is a key to social mobility and one of the most important forms of cultural capital.

Emerson and Sikkink cite earlier work on school choice in Philadelphia, where race was found to be a factor in whites’ evaluations of the quality of a school. Unlike blacks, who judged schools on the basis of such outcomes as their graduation rates and students’ test scores, whites initially eliminated any schools with a majority of black students before considering factors such as schools’ graduation rates.

When they analyzed a national data set of whites and non-Hispanic blacks to see if the level of their education would have an impact on their school choice, Emerson and Sikkink found a similar pattern. “Whites with higher levels of education still made school choices based on race,” explains Emerson, “while blacks did not.”

The researchers found that regardless of income, more-educated whites in their data set also lived in “whiter” neighborhoods than less-educated whites...

“Our study arrived at a very sad and profound conclusion,” says Emerson. “More formal education is not the answer to racial segregation in this country. Without a structure of laws requiring desegregation, it appears that segregation will continue to breed segregation.”

Titled “School Choice and Racial Residential Segregation in U.S. Schools: The Role of Parents’ Education,” the study will be published in an upcoming issue of Ethnic and Racial Studies.


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

"Fairy Tale of New York"

Back in 2004, my readers leaned heavily towards the Pogues's "Fairy Tale of New York" as the best Christmas song of the last 25 years. It's highlighted by a duet between Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan and Kirsty MacColl, who was never as big a star in America as she was in Britain. [Via Mickey Kaus.]

Just from this one recording, however, it's clear she was something special. She was killed while scuba diving in Mexico just before Christmas, 2000. She saved her children, but was virtually sliced in half by the propeller of a Mexican billionaire's speedboat illegally racing through a swimming zone. In VDARE.com, Carl F. Horowitz has the story of Kirsty's mother's struggle to obtain justice from the Mexican government in "Mexican Microcosm: The Unsolved Death Of Kirsty MacColl."


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

More of my movie reviews

from The American Conservative:

All the King's Men - Sean Penn as Huey Long
The Science of Sleep - Gael Garcia Bernal in Michel Gondry's comedy
Quincea├▒era - Chicanos vs. gay gentrifiers
Cars - Pixar hit
A Prairie Home Companion - Robert Altman and Garrison Keillor

All of my film reviews back to 2001 are here.


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

December 20, 2006

Udolpho on the Razib Brouhaha

Poor Razib at GNXP made the misogyny-exposing mistake of seeing an attractive woman talk about science fiction and then remarking on it in his weblog. Well, Razib, OR SHOULD I SAY HITLER, your sexist stereotyping has not gone unnoticed among your moral betters:


Why the heck would it be freaky that an attractive woman reads mainstream sci fi? [More]


Personally, I only see attractive women browsing in the Self-Help section. And the only magazines they look at are Beauty & Fashion (if they don't have a wedding ring) and Home Decorating (if they do).


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

December 19, 2006

Things I like about Malcolm Gladwell

A reader writes:


"But considering all Gladwell has to lose, and how easy it would be just to ignore you, perhaps he should be given some credit for how far his honesty and intellect take him. He knows he's giving you free publicity; and though he's conflicted about it, at least he doesn't mind much.

"He sounds like he's almost agonizing. He seems to have just enough of a conscience to realize that you deserve to be heard, as well as just enough intelligence to understand that your arguments are actually substantial.

"As far as I can see, what he's missing are 3 things.

"Courage--He's got too much to lose; he's too afraid of losing it

"Humility--I have a feeling that he would be far more welcoming of you if he didn't think you would consistently outclass him.

"Audacity/Zeal--distinct from courage, I refer to the kick one gets from sticking it to the man, taking down sacred cows, exposing charlatans, etc come hell or high water. Gladwell's a bit timid and deferential."


One thing to Malcolm's credit is that he really does like new ideas. Most journalists have a small stock in trade of novel ideas that they came up with by age 30 or so and just keep using those over and over. Malcolm, in contrast, is constantly out there searching for new ideas. Of course, when you swing for the fences, you are more likely to strike out.

Malcolm's boyishness, lack of cynicism, naivet├ę, cluelessness, whatever you want to call it, is one of his most endearing qualities. It comes out in his "Gee willikers, sir, what a great idea! I would never have thought of that" enthusiasm for every single promoter he endorses in the pages of The New Yorker.

Malcolm reminds me of Asok the Intern on the Dilbert comic strip. When a manager comes to pitch his new idea, the Pointy-Haired Boss introduces the team: "Asok will be full of enthusiasm for your concept because he hasn't yet learned how the world works."

I have no idea how at age 43 Malcolm gets so fired up for each new half-baked idea that comes down the pike. He's like the world's highest IQ Labrador Retriever: "What?!? You want to take me for a walk? What a fantastic idea, Master! How did you ever think of that?"

Malcolm's guilelessness leads him into poor decisions and hence into humiliations, like picking a public fight with me by dishonestly slurring me, and then getting voted down on his own blog 127-44! And then failing to cut his losses and proceeding to slam his head into the wall on his own blog a second time, a third time, and then a fourth time.

It ought to be pretty obvious that I'm just about the last person any famous public intellectual in his right mind would choose to get into a battle of wits with. Do you think, say, Jared Diamond would be so short of cunning as to go out of his way to tangle with me? There would be no upside for him. If he won, big deal, he beat up so guy most of his readers hadn't heard of. And Diamond would also realize that in all likelihood he'd get beat like a drum by me. And who needs that?

Malcolm certainly doesn't. When the world's hottest movie star, Leonardo DiCaprio, is attached to play you (more or less) in the film version of your business advice book, well, arguing with me makes no sense whatsoever from a practical career advancement standpoint.

The especially bizarre thing about Malcolm choosing to go to war with me this month on his own blog over Ian Ayres's study of discrimination by car salesmen is that … we had already fought that battle a long time ago. And I had won. Big time.

Back in 2005 or early 2006, Gladwell had written on his website a highly aggrieved 1,000 word response to the criticisms Judge Richard A. Posner and I had made of his interpretation of Ian Ayres' car dealer study in his bestseller Blink. (This is where he famously sputtered, "Sailer and Poser [sic] have a very low opinion of car salesmen.") When I discovered Gladwell's reply last February, I unloaded on him with both barrels in "Malcolm Gladwell Blinks Again" in VDARE.com.

And yet last week he still decided to fight me on the same grounds again!

When somebody makes as much money as Malcolm does, it's natural to assume that he is a conniver who has consciously plotted his every move to fame and fortune. But the more I deal with Malcolm, the less that seems true of him. He now strikes me as an artless innocent, Forrest Gump with a felicitous prose style.


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

Female Command Presence

A reader writes:

Hi Steve, I was at a dinner the other night and saw a woman about my age, whom I didn't recognize, who seemed to have command presence, or at least something. She was later introduced to me as Susan Eisenhower.

That reminds me of anthropologist Anna Roosevelt, who is always complaining that people want to talk to her about her great-grandfather Teddy, when she's actually an extremely fascinating person who deserves to be the center of attention, the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every wake.


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

December 18, 2006

More data on IQ and fertility

: Darwinian Individualist digs up some data from the long-running General Social Survey, which gives a 10 word vocabulary quiz to each participant. This serves as a crude IQ test. He looked at 21,625 people of all races over the age of 35. The mean and modal score right was 6 words out of 10.

People who got only 1 word right out of 10 averaged 2.99 children, with their first child born when they were 21.24 years old. Brainiacs who got all 10 words right averaged 1.95 children, with their first child born at 26.77.

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

Flynn says Flynn Effect winding down

From the London Times (via GNXP):

We are about as smart as we're going to get, says IQ pioneer
Alexandra Frean, Education Editor

It is a common refrain, repeated in response to every new television reality show and every bumper crop of school exam results: society is dumbing down. Scientists have long argued the opposite, pointing to the now widely accepted “Flynn effect”, which shows that over the past century average IQ scores have improved across the developed world, irrespective of class or creed.

Now the man who first observed this effect, the psychologist James Flynn, has made another observation: intelligence test scores have stopped rising. Far from indicating that now we really are getting dumber, this may suggest that certain of our cognitive functions have reached — or nearly reached — the upper limits of what they will ever achieve, Professor Flynn believes. In other words, we can’t get much better at the mental tasks we are good at, no matter how hard we try. If we are to make any further progress, we will have to start exercising different parts of our brain, particularly the parts controlling language acquisition and empathy, according to Professor Flynn, an emeritus professor at the University of Otago in New Zealand.

In a lecture in Cambridge yesterday, he said that the study of intelligence has for too long been asking the wrong question: “The questions are not ‘Are we getting smarter?’ and ‘Are our children really smarter than we are?’ If the rise in IQ scores meant that we were smarter, that would mean our grandparents were dull and our great grandparents idiots, which is clearly not the case. The question should be, ‘Have certain cognitive skills risen?’ And the answer to that is yes.”

What accounts for our rise in intelligence test scores, Professor Flynn believes, is social and environmental changes that have given us the opportunity to exercise the kinds of skills that IQ tests measure. We increasingly fill leisure time with cognitively demanding pastimes, such as puzzles and computer games.

We have also developed a more scientific way of viewing the world. “In 1900 if you’d asked a child what do a dog and a rabbit have in common, they might have replied with a concrete answer like, ‘Dogs are used to hunt rabbits’. Today a child would be more likely to say, ‘They’re both mammals’. We classify things scientifically.”

Another factor in rising test scores concerned our ability to deal with complex abstract ideas. This is demonstrated in our ability to absorb abstract “shorthands” — for example the term “market” to signify laws of supply and demand.

Professor Flynn believes there is no reason to believe IQ gains will go on for ever. He points out that although gains are still robust in America, they have stopped in Scandinavia.


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

Greg Cochran-John Hawks Clan of the Cave Bear paper out:

Cochran says (on GNXP):

"The major point is that Neanderthals and modern humans were probably interfertile and most likely interbred - and that we would then have picked up most favorable Neanderthal alleles. Which may have something to do with the cultural ' big bang' that happened not long after."

From Paleoanthropology:

Dynamics of Adaptive Introgression from Archaic to Modern Humans

Recent evidence from the genomic variation of living people documents genetic contributions from archaic [e.g., Neanderthal] to later modern humans. This evidence of introgression contrasts with earlier findings from single loci that appeared to exclude archaic human genetic survival. The present evidence indicates that many “archaic” alleles may represent relicts of African archaics, and that some “archaic” variants both inside and outside of Africa have attained relatively high frequencies. Both observations may be surprising under the hypothesis that modern humans originated first in Africa and displaced archaic populations through expansion and drift. Here, we outline how natural selection may have enabled the uptake of introgressive alleles from archaic humans. Even if admixture or gene flow were minimal, the introgression of selected variants would have been highly probable. In contrast to neutral alleles, adaptive alleles may attain high frequencies after minimal genetic introgression. Adaptive introgression can therefore explain why some loci show evidence for some archaic human contribution even as others apparently exclude it. The dynamics of introgression also may explain the distribution of certain deep haplotype branches in Africa. Open questions remain, including the likelihood that archaic alleles retained their adaptive value on the genetic background of modern humans and the scope of functions influenced by adaptive introgression.

John Hawks Department of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin–Madison
Gregory Cochran Department of Anthropology, University of Utah


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

Is America Headed Toward Idiocracy?

My new VDARE.com column:

Is America headed toward Idiocracy?

To sum up, there are three trends that will lower the national average IQ:

1. More black (and possibly Hispanic) children are born to women with IQs below the black mean

2. Faster growth for racial/ethnic groups with lower average IQs

3. Shorter generation times for lower IQ mothers

Over the course of two generations, these three effects combined would drive down IQ by approaching four points. National average IQ would fall from a little under 97 in 2000 to around 93 by the middle of the century.

Bear in mind that this is not a complete forecast, just a model that simplifies some complicated trends. It no doubt leaves out other important changes, such as the potentially countervailing but poorly understood Flynn Effect of rising raw test scores.

A four point decline by the middle of the century is not catastrophic. So we can rest assured that 2055 won't look precisely like 2505 in "Idiocracy."

Yet, a three or four point decline would have broad, noticeable impacts. Call it Idiocracy Lite. As the population gets dumberer, entertainment will become even dopier than it is now. The population is likely to get surlier, less interested in higher culture. And the competence of the workforce will drop.

The irony is that white liberal elitists, who see themselves as better than the rest of America because (A) they loudly proclaim their belief in equality; and (B) they have above average IQs, are particularly likely to find disagreeable the new America that they have helped midwife through their support for open borders.


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

A clue as to why there are so few women CEOs

Here we are, three dozen years into the feminist era, and only 1.6% of chief executive officers of Fortune 500 firms are women. The NYT runs a long article entitled "How Suite It Isn’t: A Dearth of Female Bosses" complaining about that fact. One vignette in it, however, might reveal more than the journalist thinks:


"Carol Bartz, the former chief executive of Autodesk, said that it was not uncommon for men in business meetings to assume that she was an office assistant, not a fellow corporate executive."


Of course, the NYT interprets this as proof of male bigotry. But another interpretation would be that Ms. Bartz, and possibly many another female executive who otherwise has the requisite smarts and work ethic to make it to the top, lacks what the Marines call "command presence."

Some men and a few women have the kind of personal bearing that advertises to others that you are in charge and that they should follow your lead.

This reminds me of when I was applying for a job in 1982 at the new marketing research firm I ended up working at for a decade and a half, on and off. The vice-chairman was a professor of marketing, so the HR department gave me his Marketing Research 301 exam as a job qualification test, which turned out to be quite difficult. While I was struggling over it, a man walked in and said, "Hi, I'm John M." I had never heard the name before and my first reaction was annoyance at his breaking my concentration. But, my second reaction, a tenth of a second later, was that whoever this guy was, judging just from how he said those four words, that he absolutely radiated power and leadership. He is obviously a Big Man. So, I'd better give him all the time he wants. Not surprisingly, he turned out to be the founder and chairman of the board, perhaps the most important figure in the marketing research industry in the 1980s, and my boss for many years.

Now, if Ms. Bartz was the CEO and she had walked in on me, yes, I might have assumed she was from HR and wanted me to fill in some forms, so the whole encounter would have gone differently.

A minority of females do have command presence. Mrs. Thatcher has it in spades. Vanessa Redgrave can turn it on any time she wants (for example, in her fairly minor role in "Howard's End" she completely dominates the screen for the few minutes she's on, quite unbalancing the story). It just another trait that's distributed stochastically, with some demographics groups having more than others. Unfortunately, contemporary intellectuals are completely befuddled by how to think about the omnipresent reality of probability distributions that aren't identical.

A majority of males lack command presence. God knows, I don't have any at all. Indeed, one reason I've become rather reclusive since ending my corporate career in 2000, and now prefer to deal with people in cyberspace rather than in reality is because my real life nice guy personality means I get pushed around by other people more than I prefer. Mental quickness is important for command presence, but I'm not quick in interpersonal situations. I'm more interested in how deep I can push my thinking, which means I'm unimpressive in real time. So, I greatly appreciate the asynchronous nature of cyberspace, since I can take whatever time I require to think through an idea. (Which is why I hate instant messaging.)


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