May 12, 2007

Back to the drawing board on defining "class"

Readers have reacted with a well thought-out lack of enthusiasm for my attempt to define "class" as "a group of potential in-laws, people who might turn out to be ancestors of mutual descendents."

While there's a clever insight in focusing on the marriage market as central to issues of class, self-congratulation got the best of me. There appear to be at least two problems.

First, it extends the purview of class beyond any previous definition. Most notably, religion has traditionally had much to do with who-marries-whom, but to redefine religions as classes reeks of Humpty Dumptyism:

'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone,' it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.'

'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master - that's all.'

Similarly, region plays a banally obvious role in who marries whom (people from South Carolina are more likely to marry other people from South Carolina than people from Oregon). It doesn't help much to define, say, a South Carolina factory worker family as a different class from an Oregon factory worker family just because, say, the odds of their intermarrying is lower than the odds of the South Carolina farm family intermarrying with a South Carolina factory-owner family.

(Of course, region can overlap with class. Midwesterners are notorious for po-mouthing their origins -- I'm just a boy from a town in the Midwest so small you probably have never heard of it, Kenilworth, Illinois ... For example, the rich characters in The Great Gatsby feel slightly oppressed knowing they are from the Midwest. Texans, in contrast, seldom publicly admit feelings of class inferiority due to being from Texas.)

Second, "class" as typically used implies levels of hierarchy about which there exists something of a consensus within a society about which classes are lower and which are higher (and thus which are preferable to marry into). Traditionally, these judgments are based on a complicated combination of wealth, bloodline, moral merit, job, education and so forth, so there is much room for disagreement, but much interest in ranking people on this dimension (see Jane Austen's novels).

Still, it makes sense to visualize a particular class as spreading horizontally across the social map, while other factors that affect who marries whom like region and religion are more vertical, and thus intersect class. Thus, say, an wealthy ultra-Orthodox Jewish family and a wealthy Parsi family might belong to the same class, but aren't likely to have common descendents within the next few generations because they both insist upon endogamy.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Definitions: Race, Ethnicity, and now Class

One of my long term projects is to provide robust, useful definitions of common terms. Thus, I've argued in the past that:

- A racial group is a partly inbred extended biological family.

- An ethnic groups is defined by shared traits that are often passed down within biological families -- e.g., language, surname, religion, cuisine, accent, self-identification, historical or mythological heroes, musical styles, etc. -- but that don't have to be. (Thus, you can be adopted into an ethnic group, but not into a racial group.)

Now, I'd like to toss out a half-finished definition of class intended to complement the first two definitions:

- A class is a group of potential in-laws, people who might turn out to be ancestors of mutual descendents. Contra Marx, one's class is less a function of one's segment in the economic market than of the marriage market.

In other words, from a genealogical perspective, a class is the mirror image of a race, looking forward into the future of your family tree rather than backward into the past.

Clearly, we don't know what the future will bring, all we can do is make informed guesses about probabilities, so class is rather hazy under this definition, but few would argue that it's all that crisply delineated real life.

This marriage market definition of class is clearly displayed in Jane Austen's novels, whose young heroines' romantic lives are full of interest because they are precariously perched somewhere in the middle and could thus marry up or down (or not at all), with dramatic consequences for themselves and their descendents.

My race and ethnicity definitions are designed to make sense of how the U.S. Census Bureau uses the two terms. the government specifically insists that Hispanic is an ethnicity, not a race, since Hispanics can be of any race. The Census Bureau doesn't ask people their class, so there is no official standard to match.

My definition doesn't match the classic Marxist usage of the term well, but I see that as a feature, not a bug. Marx thought of class in terms of control over the means of production. Marx's perspective implied that classes were transnational, while my definition suggests that classes are primarily limited to the nation or to a group of nations all speaking the same language, with only the very highest class, royalty, being traditionally transnational. Our conflicting definitions of class were put to the test in August 1914, when, to the surprise of Marxist theorists, all the Socialist parties of all the European legislatures voted to go to war shoulder to shoulder with their nations' bourgeoisies and aristocracies.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

May 11, 2007

It's been a troubled week in Japan

A friend who lives in Japan writes:

Yesterday, all the major national news networks carried a major story concerning this "social problem". A train arrived at a station in Hokkaido where about 60 people were waiting to get on. A group of high school students got on, but even after being asked a couple times to moves deeper into the interior of the car, they did not. The driver closed the doors and drove off, leaving 26 people on the platform. He informed the railroad of what he had done and the railroad arranged for six or seven taxis to take the stranded passengers to their destination.

This story was carried along with actual video of the station, interviews with local people, and elaborate animated illustrations of the train car showing where the students were standing in the car and where the stranded passengers were standing.

As if this were not enough, this morning's "wide" shows (news & entertainment), repeated the story in even more excruciating detail.

This story illustrates:

1. how orderly Japan is
2. how sensitive Japanese are to even the slightest social disorder
3. how enormous social pressure is brought upon offenders
4. Japanese attention to detail.

This story nearly wiped out the previous big story which was a fatal accident on a roller coaster. The story was presented night-after-night with elaborate engineering models of the wheel and axle structures, illustrating exactly where the axle had broken, along with interviews with various professors of engineering explaining in detail what metal fatigue was and how it can be detected. That was followed by actual visits to testing labs so we could see sonographs and other equipment in action on real bars of metal, with and without faults. That was followed by a review of the safety rules for roller coasters and the actual documents needed to complete the safety checks. That was followed by visits to *every* amusement park in Japan to determine when and how they overhaul the wheel and axle assemblies.

This of course was followed by scenes of the owner of the amusement park visiting the family and apologizing for the trouble he had caused, while they wailed "give us back our daughter." Interviews with the victim's friends revealed that she was a very cheerful girl who everyone liked, and who was always willing to help her mother in any possible way.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Ethnic Nepotism

Free Content: The Washington Post publishes economist Paul H. Rubin's op-ed "Evolution, Immigration, and Trade" explaining why all us patriotic Neanderthals aren't as intellectually evolved as him and his fellow transnationalist economists:

Our primitive ancestors lived in a world that was essentially static; there was little societal or technological change from one generation to the next. This meant that our ancestors lived in a world that was zero sum -- if a particular gain happened to one group of humans, it came at the expense of another.

This is the world our minds evolved to understand. To this day, we often see the gain of some people and assume it has come at the expense of others ...

[O]ur evolutionary intuition is that, because foreign workers gain from trade and immigrant workers gain from joining the U.S. economy, native-born workers must lose. This zero-sum thinking leads us to see trade and immigration as conflict ("trade wars," "immigrant invaders") when trade and immigration actually produce cooperation and mutual benefit, the exact opposite of conflict.

In the Comments on EconLog, Mark Seecof unloads:

Mark Seecof writes: Rubin shows how desperately some economists wish to reinforce their ideological position by borrowing ideas from other disciplines. Sadly, Rubin shows that stealing a few buzzwords from another discipline isn't the same as drawing real understanding from it.

Rubin wants to hitch his no-borders wagon to evolutionary psychology, but hasn't read much of it--or he would have learnt that humans are capable (have evolved to be capable) of a variety of more or less selfish or cooperative behaviours. He would also have learnt that groups of humans scattered around the world are very different in capabilities, attitudes, and behaviours and that many of those differences are genetically mediated (that is, they cannot be altered much by economic education).

Rubin's supposition that a world with little sociological or technical change must be one of zero-sum economics is false. All of recorded history abounds with examples to the contrary and anthropologists will testify to the eagerness with which many peoples have traded with outsiders--even in eras of "little change."

Equally false is Rubin's supposition that everyone is really the same, so people viewing others as members of (in- or out-groups) is arbitrary. Evolution depends on differences--it cannot act without them--so any economist who wishes to draw on evolutionary theory must acknowledge and account for real differences among people.

At the same time, evolutionary pressures (almost certainly) cause people to vary their amount of cooperation with their degree of kinship. Cooperative phenotypes act on socially-mediated pseudo-kinship as well as actual genetic kinship. It's not hard to get people to cooperate, if you persuade them to treat each other as kin. In fact, that's the point of the Golden Rule.

Look, Rubin's own discipline can explain why many people want to restrict trade. Those who wish to restrict trade are those who expect, personally, to gain by such restrictions! Economists often call them "rent seekers" and they include producers and merchants more often than "common folk." Does the term "Corn Laws" mean anything to you? Rubin's op-ed falsely suggests that the prejudices of ordinary voters result in trade restrictions, but anyone who looks into the matter will discover that industrial interests drive lawmaking in this area. Virtually every restriction on trade in the USA is a triumph by rent-seeking incumbents in some industry.

We can theorize both "classical economic" and "evo-psych" reasons why people would like to restrict immigration.

For the first, people who will personally suffer from immigration (that is, to a first approximation, workers rather than employers) would like to restrict it. This is not irrational, because (Rubin's purely ideological assertion to the contrary notwithstanding), economic gains from immigration are not evenly distributed. (Note that demands by particular industries to import cheap labor, regardless of externalities, may properly be regarded as a form of rent-seeking.)

As for the second, evo-psych predicts people would be wary of immigration, because most immigrants are not kin (note that this theory perfectly explains the special case of people favoring immigration from their own ancestral regions). Evo-psych predicts, on a very strong basis, that people would rather preserve the economic bounty where they are for their own kin.

Even an economist must agree that (a) immigrants themselves only move because they expect to be better off in their new homes than their old, and (b) once they arrive they will compete with natives for existing economic resources. To genes competing in evolution's rat-race, there is no reason to help immigrants better themselves, and every reason to discourage local competition from immigrants.

It's true that immigrants may help expand economic resources--in a society where greater availability of labor fuels economic expansion. However, the notion, oft-repeated by economists, that labor availability necessarily fuels industrial expansion is obviously false (if it were true, Bangladesh would be rich).

History shows that industrial economic growth depends on high-IQ labor, and is retarded where chiefly low-IQ labor is available no matter how cheaply. Since IQ is at least 60% heritable, only an ideologically-blinded economist would suppose that unlimited immigration by low-IQ people would certainly fuel economic expansion. In fact, there are strong economic reasons to think otherwise, because in the presence of many low-IQ people, society diverts the labor of many high-IQ people from industry to simply managing (or exploiting) the low-IQ crowds.

An economist who really wants to reconcile his discipline with evolutionary psychology should ask "why should people follow abstract theories rather than behave in the ways that promoted the survival of countless generations of their ancestors?" He should then return to Rubin's notion of education, but educate people to discern rent-seeking proposals and oppose them.

As for immigration, once the economist clears his mind of the notion that all immigration is an unalloyed blessing, he can promote a rational policy of encouraging immigration only by people who would promote the industrial economy. Those people could/would be accepted as "kin" and so engage our evolved capacity for cooperation.

The one area of economics which has been pretty-much zero-sum from ancient times right up through today is competition for land.

Even if you slept through everything else I wrote you should agree that to the extent immigrants compete for land, they really are zero-sum competitors and a rational economic actor would seek to exclude them, the more vigorously as he cared more about land. In former times when many people depended directly on their own land for their own and their family's subsistence, both "economic" and "evo-psych" reasons would teach them to oppose immigration.

Only those parts of our modern industrialized economy for which land is not a major factor of production can look upon immigration with complacency. You shouldn't expect (reasonable, as opposed, say, to Marxist) "economic education" to persuade other people to irrationally favor immigrants entering a zero-sum competition for land. This is probably why people readily see non-kin immigrants as "invaders." For all time, a bunch of non-kin moving into the area meant greater (zero-sum) competition for food, because food was directly proportional to land. So immigrants are invaders.

Today a bunch of immigrants means zero-sum competition for pleasant suburban homes. This is why rich people who want low-wage immigrants to serve them favor immigration and everyone else in America rationally opposes it.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

May 10, 2007

This Czar thing really isn't working out

Ever since the appointment of William Simon as Energy Czar back in the 1970s, a common Washington reaction to any (likely insoluble) problem is to appoint a "Czar." For example, the Bush Administration has been trying to find somebody to be "War Czar" with little success.

Obviously, the Secretary of Defense can't run the war because, well, his job is just too girlie-sounding. I mean, I'm surprised the Secretary hasn't demanded to be promoted to Administrative Assistant of Defense. It would be a step up. But is "Czar" really the best title this great country of ours can come up with?

In the grand tradition of the Bush Administration's philosophy of "marketing major postmodernism," allow me to suggest that, after a third of a century of failure, the difficulty is with the language and framing (not with the concept, of course). I mean, how did this Czar thing work out in Russia? Granted, I'm not a detail person myself when it comes to history and books and stuff like that, but it's my strong impression that there aren't any more Czars over there, and that, in fact, something bad happened to the last one. That leaves a negative connotation.

So, what we need is a more imposing title. Instead of appointing new "Czars," here are some other possible titles the Administration could use:

Shogun, Generalissimo, Pharaoh, Duce, Shahinshah, Mikado, Grand Vizier, Master and Commander, Nabob, War Lord, Fuhrer, Khan, Big Brother, Doge, Galactic Overlord, Potentate, Übermensch, Grand Turk, Humongous, Rajah, Paterfamilias, Kaiser, Kahuna, Kommandant, Big Man, Ayatollah of Rockandrollah, Cacique, Imperator, Poobah, El Supremo, Commissar, Patroon, Big Enchilada, or Capo di Tutti Capi.

Or, we could try being realistic: Fall Guy-in-Chief, Paramount Stooge, Flak Catcher of All the Flak Catchers, Abuse Magnet, Sacrificial Victim, Scapegoat Supreme ...

A reader writes:

I think you might be on to something. As we all know, the Humongous rules the Wasteland. And, what could be better described as the "Wasteland" than Iraq? It's a perfect match: endless desert, the area's only discernable resource is oil, lawless highways, and warlordism is the regime du jour. If the administration had any wits about them, they'd get to finding an Ayatollah of rock'n'rollah, outfit him with creepy bondage gear, and crown him Lord Humongous. He would then, by definition, rule Iraq. It can't work any worse than dyeing fingers purple, at any rate.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

One way to tell you probably aren't dying:

You likely saw the news story:

The 62-year-old said he was told by doctors at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Treliske that he only had a short time left to live.

So he quit his job and stopped paying his mortgage, instead splashing out on a lavish lifestyle of hotels, restaurants and holidays.

Then the hospital told him that he was actually suffering from non-fatal pancreatitis.

Mr Brandrick said that in the year he thought he was dying he spent everything and now he faces losing his house.

One fairly reliable way to tell whether or not you are on death's door is that if on the way home from the doctor you develop, for the first time in your life, an overwhelming urge to, say, go helicopter skiing in Chile or hunt Great White Sharks in Australia, you probably are in pretty good shape. It's not like in the movies, where Queen Latifah looks fabulous all through her last days.

It's nice to imagine that doctors have Dr. McCoy-level Star Trek scanners that can discover the most incipient maladies in you, but mostly they don't. Generally, they don't find anything until you tell them you feel like hell.

The most famous example of someone being incorrectly told they had one year to live was Anthony Burgess, who was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in 1960. To provide his wife with an inheritance, he sat down and wrote five novels in one year. Not surprisingly, somebody who could write five novels in one year lived for another third of a century and wrote dozens more books.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

May 9, 2007

Affordable Family Formation in action

Informative Michale Barone article in the WSJ:

The Realignment of America
The native-born are leaving "hip" cities for the heartland.
BY MICHAEL BARONE Tuesday, May 8, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

In 1950, when I was in kindergarten in Detroit, the city had a population of (rounded off) 1,850,000. Today the latest census estimate for Detroit is 886,000, less than half as many. In 1950, the population of the U.S. was 150 million. Today the latest census estimate for the nation is 301 million, more than twice as many. People in America move around. But not just randomly.

It has become a commonplace to say that population has been flowing from the Snow Belt to the Sun Belt, from an industrially ailing East and Midwest to an economically vibrant West and South. But the actual picture of recent growth, as measured by the 2000 Census and the census estimates for 2006, is more complicated. Recently I looked at the census estimates for 50 metropolitan areas with more than one million people in 2006, where 54% of Americans live. (I cheated a bit on definitions, adding Durham to Raleigh and combining San Francisco and San Jose.) What I found is that you can separate them into four different categories, with different degrees and different sources of population growth or decline. And I found some interesting surprises.

Start with the Coastal Megalopolises: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago (on the coast of Lake Michigan), Miami, Washington and Boston. Here is a pattern you don't find in other big cities: Americans moving out and immigrants moving in, in very large numbers, with low overall population growth. Los Angeles, defined by the Census Bureau as Los Angeles and Orange Counties, had a domestic outflow of 6% of 2000 population in six years--balanced by an immigrant inflow of 6%. The numbers are the same for these eight metro areas as a whole. [More]

To understand the reasons behind these shifts in population and the voting behavior associated with them, see my 2005 article on "Affordable Family Formation."

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer


The port city at the north end of the Aegean Sea, spelled Thessaloniki since Greece seized it from the Ottoman Empire before WWI, would be a fine setting for an Umberto Eco novel or a Dan Brown knock-off of an Eco novel.

had an appropriately Byzantine social history a century ago. It was the home of both Mustafa Kemal, founder of modern Turkey, and of the Donme, the crypto-Jewish followers of the 17th Century false messiah Sabbetai Zevi, who comprise much of the secular elite of Istanbul today. (In Turkey today, "Salonikan" is a synonym for Sabbatean.) Also, Masonic Lodges in Salonika played a role in the emergence of both the Young Turks who deposed the Sultan and, more indirectly, of the modern yogurt industry. I haven't found any links between Salonika and the Knights Templar yet, but I'm sure I just haven't burrowed deep enough into the fever swamps.

Salonika is back in the news as the birthplace of new French president Nicolas Sarkozy's beloved maternal grandfather Benedict Mallah, who was the scion of a wealthy Sephardic Jewish family in that remarkable city. Salonika was about half Jewish early in the 20th Century, before the great fire of 1917 scattered much of the Jewish community, and then the rest were murdered by the Nazis. (The Donme, as nominal Muslims, were shipped to Turkey in the population exchanges of 1923 that, at great cost, brought peace between Turkey and Greece, so they escaped the fate of the Salonikan Jews.)

Sarkozy's father, an anti-Communist Hungarian refugee of castle-owning minor aristocratic stock, abandoned his family, so little Sarkozy grew up in the small mansion of his maternal grandfather, who had converted to Catholicism upon marrying a French war widow in 1917 and then became a respected Parisian clap doctor.

"To this day many Mallahs are still active Zionists around the world," says the Australian Jewish News:

Sarkozy’s grandfather, Aron Mallah, nicknamed Beniko, was born in 1890.

Beniko’s uncle Moshe was a well-known Rabbi and a devoted Zionist who, in 1898 published and edited “El Avenir”, the leading paper of the Zionist national movement in Greece at the time.

His cousin, Asher, was a Senator in the Greek Senate and in 1912 he helped guarantee the establishment of the Technion – the elite technological university in Haifa, Israel.

In 1919 he was elected as the first President of the Zionist Federation of Greece and he headed the Zionist Council for several years. In the 1930’s he helped Jews flee to Israel, to which he himself immigrated in 1934.

Another of Beniko’s cousins, Peppo Mallah, was a philanthropist for Jewish causes who served in the Greek Parliament, and in 1920 he was offered, but declined, the position of Greece’s Minister of Finance. After the establishment of the State of Israel he became the country’s first diplomatic envoy to Greece.

During the Holocaust, 57 members of the Mallah family were murdered by the Nazis. Sarkozy's grandfather, who had changed his name to Benedict upon his conversion, had to lie low during WWII to keep from being caught by the Nazis in France.

Nicolas was especially close to Benedict, who was like a father to him. In his biography Sarkozy tells he admired his grandfather, and through hours spent of listening to his stories of the Nazi occupation, the “Maquis” (French resistance), De Gaulle and the D-day, Benedict bequeathed to Nicolas his political convictions.

During a visit to Greece in 2006, a visibly moved Sarkozy received a family tree album from a delegation of Thessalonikian Jews, saying "My roots are here."

By the way, each time I've tried to post something about Salonika, my computer acts up and tries to swallow my entry. I blame albino monks.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

May 8, 2007

The Establishment candidates all want a bigger military

McCain, Obama, Clinton, and Giuliani have all called for more soldiers for them to play with when they come President.

Why? We spend 48-49% of the world's military budget. We have near absolute air supremacy and, in the unlikely event that an enemy tank army ever takes the field to challenge our tanks again, the outcome is likely to be the same as in 1991 in Desert Storm.

Okay, we don't have enough Boots on the Ground to permanently occupy a deeply hostile country. For example, we can't occupy Iraq and Iran simultaneously, but maybe, just maybe, that's a good thing. Especially considering that some of the top Presidential candidates are not what you'd call the most emotionally stable people in the world ...

So, where could they get more cannon fodder? The most obvious source are low IQ recruits. From 1992-2004, only about 1% of new recruits were let in with IQs below the 30th percentile (92) on the military's AFQT entrance test. The Army recently boosted that to 4%, and the Army Reserve appears to be even laxer. But does the modern military want cannon fodder or do they want effective warriors? The problem is that -- as the military has exhaustively documented over the decades -- the lower the recruit's IQ, the less danger he poses to the enemy and the more danger he poses to himself and his comrades.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

May 7, 2007

White people on Obama

1. The Washington Post runs an unintentionally hilarious article interviewing white Obama supporters that calls to mind Thomas Sowell's book The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation As a Basis for Social Policy. One thing that's clear is how little white Obama supporters know about their candidate.

2. Mickey Kaus blogs on "Obama's Pastor Disaster:"

Old CW: Not Black Enough; New CW: What's All This Black Business? Tom Maguire wonders why Jodi Kantor's front-page NYT piece on Barack Obama's pastor, Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright, hasn't generated more controversy. Having now read it, I tend to agree. I'd certainly be more comfortable with a presidential nominee whose main spiritual man 1) hadn't visited Col. Qaddafi (even back in '84); 2) talked less about "oppression" and "this racist United States of America;" 3) when discussing the solution to poverty, talked more about individual achievement and less about the role of "community"--including maybe even celebrating "middleclassness" instead of using it as shorthand for selfishness; 4) in general wasn't so obsessed with race--as evidenced most negatively in talk of "white arrogance" and derogatory reference to the "Great White West." ... I suspect Rev. Wright is going to be a bigger problem for Obama's campaign than has been conventionally perceived. When Obama declared "we worship an awesome God in the blue states," were voters expecting this?...

That the Rev. Wright has been Obama's "spiritual advisor" for the last 20 years is the equivalent of a white candidate having, say, the Rev. Bob Jones III, who got in so much trouble for banning interracial dating on his campus, as his spiritual advisor. "Wait a minute," you say, "The difference is that white people have power and black people don't, so racialism is bad when whites do it but fine when blacks do it!" Well, sure ... except that Obama wants to be the President of the United States and that's as powerful as you can get.

This paradox that Mickey identifies -- that Obama isn't very black by upbringing but is very black by avocation -- isn't terribly hard to explain. It's precisely because he's a preppie from paradise, and thus his black street cred is always in question, that he's searched out black racialist organizations like the Rev. Wright's church. If he was as culturally black as, say, James Brown, Don King, Charles Barkley, etc., he'd be more "comfortable in his own skin" and feel less of a need for a racialist community to validate his authenticity as a black man.

3. By the way, why has it become such a commonplace that Obama is "comfortable in his own skin" that there are 1,690 references to this cliché on Google, when the man himself wrote 442 pages about precisely the opposite? Wouldn't a more plausible explanation for the gap between his autobiography and his current media image be that Obama is a talented actor? Cary Grant, for example, sure seemed comfortable in his own skin, but he wasn't, at least not until the last eight years of his tremendous career, after psychoanalysis (using LSD, which was perfectly legal in 1958) helped him come to grips with his rampant insecurities.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Presidential candidates with cancer

We have so many candidates for President, declared and undeclared, that they follow fairly conventional distributions on many traits. For example, how many have had cancer? Sen. John McCain was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in 2000 (Celtic ancestry and Arizona sunshine can be a bad combination).

Actor and undeclared candidate Fred Thompson has a (currently) incurable form of slow-acting (or "indolent") lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system), in contrast to the more aggressive lymphomas which offer more of a high stakes gamble -- they can kill you quick or be cured. (I was treated for intermediate grade lymphoma in 1997.)

When a tumor showed up under his jaw in 2004, Thompson had it treated first with radiation, which often doesn't work as well with lymphoma as with other cancers because lymphoma tends to be diffused rather than just in one place where you can zap it.

Then he was treated with Rituxan, a monoclonal antibody that inspires the body's own immune system to target the cancer cells. It's often compared to smart bombs, while standard chemotherapy is compared to Dresden-style carpet bombing in which you try to kill everything that's growing in you in the hope that you can kill the cancer before you kill yourself.

(In 1997, I was, I believe, the first person in the world with intermediate-grade [moderately fast growing] lymphoma to be treated with Rituxan. I'm still here and Rituxan had sales of $1.6 billion in 2004 in the U.S. alone. The standard treatment for aggressive lymphoma is today CHOP chemotherapy and Rituxan, which I was fortunate enough to get a decade ago. I'm now almost ten years out, so the odds of avoiding a relapse look good for me, knock on wood.)

Thompson is currently in remission. Many people his age, 64, will die of old age before his slow-acting kind of lymphoma kills them. He is fairly likely to relapse, however, if he otherwise stays in good health. He claims that another round of treatment, if it became necessary, wouldn't be "debilitating."

Oncologists are fairly open-minded about how to treat relapsed indolent lymphoma, with options ranging from (not a comprehensive list):

- doing nothing until the pain gets bad (watch-and-wait)

- to radiation therapy

- to more Rituxan, which doesn't have many side effects

- to the two second-generation monoclonal antibodies for lymphoma, Zevalin and Bexxar, that come loaded with radioactive substances to deliver radiation right to the cancer cells. These have more side effects, but still aren't as bad as chemotherapy.

- to traditional chemotherapy (which many people, including me, find debilitating -- I didn't suffer much nausea, but slept 12 hours per day during my 18 weeks of treatment and suffered anemia for about a year afterwards)

- to intensive chemotherapy, which is usually called a stem-cell transplant or bone marrow transplant. It's no fun.

It would be useful if an oncologist would calculate the odds for us that Thompson could get through both one and two four-year terms as President without having to resort to debilitating treatments for relapses. I would guess that he'd probably get through a single term okay, but I wouldn't begin to guess about two terms. And don't listen to me, anyway.

In general, the U.S. has been lucky with the health of its Presidents, even though the press wasn't very responsible about reporting the facts to voters. FDR managed to survive long enough until Harry Truman had replaced Stalin-fan Henry Wallace as Vice-President, and Reagan's old-age deterioration didn't come with major costs. Oddly, the most nearly disastrous health problems were those of the youngest elected President, JFK, who was in a lot of pain much of his life. He was so pilled-up and unimpressive when he first met Khrushchev in Vienna in 1961 that the Soviet supremo thought he could push the playboy around over missiles in Cuba.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer