July 21, 2007

Barry Bonds

With the San Francisco Giants slugger now only two homers away from Hank Aaron's career record of 755, much to the embarrassment of Major League Baseball, it's worth reviewing a few points:

- Bonds didn't start baseball's steroid problem. We now know from inside sources that Bonds did not use steroids for his first 13 years in the league, 1986 through 1998.

- Bonds was clearly the greatest player of the 1990s, despite being clean for all but 1999. From 1990 through 1998, he led the National League in park-adjusted OPS+ four times, was second three times, and third twice. That's slightly better than his godfather Willie Mays' best nine year stretch.

- Bonds started taking steroids in 1999 because he was jealous of the credulous admiration paid to Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa for hitting all those homers in 1998. You kept hearing silly stuff like "McGwire and Sosa have returned the innocence to the game!" McGwire was caught with a steroid precursor in his locker in late 1998 and it still didn't instill many doubts. This drove Bonds crazy.

- Once Bonds got good at cheating with drugs in 2001, hitting a record 73 homers in 2001, he put up three seasons better than Babe Ruth's best (as measured by park-adjusted OPS+) at the ridiculously old ages of 36, 37, and 39.

- The reason Bonds was so much better than the other cheaters was because he'd been the best player in the game when he was clean. Bonds' normal talent + steroids = ludicrous ability.

- It was obvious that Bonds was cheating from 2001-2004. Nobody puts up those kinds of numbers at those ages. From 1986-1998, his career followed a normal arc (just at a much higher level than normal), with a peak at 27-28.

- Baseball stat guru Bill James was shamefully quiet during the many years while the steroid scourge distorted individual statistics, and he's not doing his reputation any favors by digging himself a deeper hole by still talking about Bonds' new wonder bat and other rationalizations.

- Bonds' late father Bobby was an extraordinary athlete who put up numbers that deserve Hall of Fame consideration, but teams had a hard time figuring out what to with him. And he smoked and drank heavily, which shortened his career to 15 years. Barry carefully avoided every mistake his father made.

- Barry was a nasty piece of work before he started on steroids, and they didn't improve his disposition.

- One reason steroid users tend to self-righteously deny accusations of steroid use is because they feel justified in their advantages because of all the weightlifting work they did. Steroids help your body recover from weightlifting faster, so users can work out a lot more.

- Steroid use in football appears to go back to the 1960s (quarterback John Hadl says his San Diego Charger teammates were popping steroids in 1966), but we don't have much evidence of it in baseball (a more lackadaisical game) before Jose Canseco arrived in 1986. (Here's my AmCon article on the history of steroids in baseball.)

- President Bush says he signed off on all Texas Rangers trades, which means he approved the 1992 trade that brought from the Oakland As to the Rangers Canseco, who had been accused of steroid use by Tom Boswell in the Washington Post back in 1988. Canseco's major accomplishment as a Ranger was having a fly ball bounce off his increasingly block-like head and over the fence for a homer.

- In general, I believe, California, perhaps because of the local Muscle Beach weightlifting culture, tended to be where steroids first had an impact on the various big-time sports.

- The popular governor of Bonds' state of California is muscle man Arnold Schwarzenegger, who began using steroids in Austria at around age 17 in 1964. I would imagine that Schwarzenegger used muscle-building drugs to get in shape for his comeback role in Terminator 3 in 2003, which helped launch his gubernatorial campaign.

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

July 19, 2007

IQ for economists: After trying hard for half a decade to completely ignore the data set on average national IQs in Lynn & Vanhanen's IQ and the Wealth of Nations, economists are now starting to attack it, albeit with embarrassing results.

For the next generation of economists who might be looking around for something important but vastly underexploited to analyze, let me review a key point. The nature vs. nurture arguments about IQ can be a distraction because they aren't all that relevant for your purposes. What is important for economists is the stability of national and group average IQ scores. If they have zoomed all over the place relative to each other, they don't have much explanatory power about how we've gotten to where we are. And if they are likely to change quickly and unpredictably over the next few years, why bother worrying about them?

For better or worse, however, we can be confident that differences in average group IQ are going to be around for a long time.

The relative gaps among groups have been fairly stable for several generations. East Asians may have picked up a few points on everybody else over the last 40 or 50 years, and Maoris in New Zealand may have done the same (although New Zealanders tell me that may just be mixed race people reclassifying themselves to get affirmative action benefits), but otherwise, remarkable relative stability is the norm.

One of Lynn's recent books, for instance, lists 620 IQ studies of different groups going back, in a few cases, to the first quarter of the 20th Century. I've created a graph showing that there has been no overlap of average scores among Japanese (23 studies in red), Hispanics in America (17 studies in green), and Australian Aborigines (17 studies in blue).

The Japanese have consistently scored somewhere around 105 on a scale where white American are pegged at 100, Hispanics in the U.S. at about 90 (which, by the way, is roughly the world average), and Australian Aborigines at very low levels.

I don't know what causes differences in average IQ, but the evidence is overwhelming that they were stable enough over the 1950-2000 era to be used in studies, and, with almost as much assurance, that they will be stable enough over, say, the 2000-2030 era to be important to study for the future.

If a gap between two groups suddenly disappeared in all the babies being born tomorrow for some magic reason, the gap among the workforce wouldn't begin to shrink until 2025 and wouldn't disappear until 2072.

So, the current realities demand far more study than they've gotten from the economics profession.

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

The New Big Three

When we look back on 2007, what will we get nostalgic over? For what will 2007 go down in the history books?

My bet is that thirty years from now, we'll be telling the young people, "Yeah, you punks think you've got out-of-control attentionaholic moron starlets these days? Well, they're nothing, nothing I tell you, compared to what Lindsey Lohan, Paris Hilton, and Britney Spears were doing back in '07. Those three were like Stalin, Roosevelt, and Churchill at Yalta in 1945: the world conquerors of bimbohood, they were."

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

July 18, 2007

How economists think:

Tyler Cowen blogs:

IQ and the Wealth of Nations

How many more times will someone suggest this book in the comments section of this blog? I like this book and I think it offers a real contribution. Nonetheless I feel no need to suggest it in the comments sections of other peoples' blogs.

I do not treat this book as foundational because of personal experience. I've spent much time in one rural Mexican village, San Agustin Oapan, and spent much time chatting with the people there. They are extremely smart, have an excellent sense of humor, and are never boring. And that's in their second language, Spanish.

I'm also sure they if you gave them an IQ test, they would do miserably. In fact I can't think of any written test -- no matter how simple -- they could pass. They simply don't have experience with that kind of exercise.

When it comes to understanding the properties of different corn varieties, catching fish in the river, mending torn amate paper, sketching a landscape from memory, or gossiping about the neighbors, they are awesome.

Some of us like to think that intelligence is mostly one-dimensional, but at best this is true only within well-defined peer groups of broadly similar people. If you gave Juan Camilo a test on predicting rainfall he would crush me like a bug.

OK, maybe I hang out with a select group within the village. But still, there you have it. Terrible IQ scores (if they could even take the test), real smarts.

So why should I think this book is the key to understanding economic underdevelopment?

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

James Blake

James Blake: Arthur Ashe, who won the U.S. Open tennis tournament in 1968, was a representative figure of the hopeful side of the 1960s: a gentlemanly black who succeeded in a country club sport and engaged in much mild social activism, such as teaming up with a similar symbol of the nicer Sixties, Harry Belafonte, to bring pressure on apartheid South Africa.

It was a decade when black athletes were breaking through in a number of nontraditional sports, with Pete Brown and Charlie Sifford winning PGA golf tournaments and Wendell Scott winning a NASCAR race in 1963.

It was widely assumed at the time by all respectable people that Ashe was a harbinger, that men's tennis would continue to become more integrated, that black men would eventually make up 1/8th (but no more) of all professional tennis champions, but that didn't really happen. MaliVai Washington made it to the Wimbledon final in 1996, but there wasn't much follow-up.

Four decades after Ashe, the top African-American male tennis player is James Blake, who is ranked #9 in the world, and is the second best American after Andy Roddick. Blake dropped out of Harvard to play professionally, had some success, but then broke his neck a few years ago crashing into a net-post. He's made a heartwarming recovery.

As you might guess, Blake's mother is white.

African-American women have done better in tennis, but the pattern with African-American males who, unlike Blake, don't have a non-black parent seems to have become that they will either dominate a sport (basketball and football) or not play it seriously. This would have come as a shock to Civil Rights-era white liberals, but there doesn't seem to be a stable midpoint anymore where African-American men will long accept being a minority in an integrated sport.

This wasn't true in the past. For example, in golf, five different blacks won 23 PGA tournaments from 1964-1986 (an average of one per year, or a little over 2% of all tournaments), and these first couple of generations of black touring pros continued to be a small but solid presence on the Senior (Champions) Tour for years more. Since 1986, though, Tiger Woods is the only African-American to make even a splash on the PGA tour, and he's more a representative of this new mulatto elite that makes up an increasing share of African-American participation in white-dominated fields than of the general African-American community.

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

July 17, 2007

My wife does it again

From the Washington Post:

SunRocket, an Internet phone provider, abruptly ceased operations Monday and is looking to sell its assets, after two rounds of layoffs and the departures of top executives.

My wife is the world's most ruthless phone service shopper. She finds the prices that are so low they're crazy! Nobody could stay in business with these nutty low prices.

And they don't. SunRocket -- $199 per year (no taxes) for unlimited long distance and local calling, free wireless telephones, free voice mail, etc. -- is the third phone provider we've had that has gone under from charging too little.

Any Wall Street shortsellers out there who want to hire my wife to find the next phone company that will go under, just call!

Oh, wait, better send a letter.

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

July 16, 2007

John Edwards' latest brilliant campaign issue: busing!

From Politico:

Sen. John Edwards plans to warn later this week that the nation’s schools have become segregated by race and income, and he will propose measures to diversify both inner-city and middle-class schools. ...

As explained by people who have been consulted about the program, Edwards wants to set aside $100 million to help school districts implement economic integration programs. The money will help finance buses and other resources for schools that enroll additional low-income children.

How clueless do you have to be to try to run for President -- as a purported populist -- as the Busing Candidate?

This isn't just a personal failing of Edwards -- it reflects how out of touch our ruling class has become. It's not merely how rich they are -- the Roosevelts, after all, were extremely rich -- but how political correctness has dumbed them down.

It's widely assumed that political correctness is just polite hypocrisy and that the big shots understand what's really going on even though they aren't allowed to mention it in public -- after all, the Clintons sure didn't send Chelsea to the local public school for 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. -- but that's naive. What happens is that political correctness severs the mental connection between private and public thinking.

Everybody knows that they, personally, don't want a whole bunch of inner city kids bused into their kid's school, but nobody is allowed to articulate publicly the reasons why everybody feels that way. Partly, it's self-discipline -- if a public figure ever happened to candidly mention exactly why he sends his daughter to Sweet Briar Country Day School instead of to Malcolm X. H.S., he's toast. So, it's best if he never mentions it in private, either. It could leak out. In fact, it's even better if he never thinks it inside his own head. He might slip up.

So, concepts that can't be articulated publicly aren't, after awhile, even thought anymore.

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

The NYT promotes a North American Union

My new VDARE.com column is about a little-noticed Fourth of July op-ed in the New York Times arguing that going down the path of integrating America, Canada, and Mexico would be good for America.

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

July 15, 2007

The Virtue of Procrastination

For a couple of months, I'd been guiltily telling myself that I was eventually going to have to look up who Presidential candidate Jim Gilmore was and what party he belonged to. But, today, we learned that he is withdrawing from the race, so I now don't have to.

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

How to score higher on the SAT

A reader writes:

On the SAT (at least when I was coaching it in the late 1980s for The Princeton Review), there were six reading comprehension passages. One of these was the "diversity" passage -- always about a woman or minority. Without even reading the passage itself, a smart person who understood how the test is designed and understood that the answers would never suggest anything derogatory about women/minorities, could get most of the questions correct. I used to amuse my father and older brothers by demonstrating how this worked. The principles I learned at TPR work, more or less, on any standardized college/professional school entrance test.

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

The double standard on the "Is Obama Black Enough" question

A long article in Newsweek enthusiastically explains that Obama has repeatedly been challenged and repeatedly passed with flying colors on the "Is Barack Black Enough?" question. This won't come as a surprise to readers of my "Obama's Identity Crisis," where I pointed out that the predominant theme of his autobiography, Dreams from My Father: A Tale of Race and Inheritance, is his struggle to overcome these doubts and to make himself black enough.

Across the Divide

Cornel West was on fire. Bobbing in his chair, his hands sweeping across the stage, the brilliant and bombastic scholar was lambasting Barack Obama's campaign. Before a black audience, at an event outside Atlanta called the State of the Black Union, West was questioning why Obama was 600 miles away, announcing his bid for the White House in Springfield, Ill. Did he really care about black voters? What did that say about his willingness to stand up for what he believes?

"He's got large numbers of white brothers and sisters who have fears and anxieties and concerns, and he's got to speak to them in such a way that he holds us at arm's length," West said, pushing his hand out for emphasis. "So he's walking this tightrope." West challenged the candidate to answer a stark set of questions: "I want to know how deep is your love for the people, what kind of courage have you manifested in the stances that you have and what are you willing to sacrifice for. That's the fundamental question. I don't care what color you are. You see, you can't take black people for granted just 'cause you're black."

A few days later, West was sitting in his Princeton office after class when the phone rang. It was Barack Obama. "I want to clarify some things," the candidate calmly told the professor of religion and African-American studies. Over the next two hours, Obama explained his Illinois state Senate record on criminal justice and affordable health care. West asked Obama how he understood the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and interrogated him about a single phrase in Obama's 2004 Democratic-convention speech: that America was "a magical place" for his Kenyan father. "That's a Christopher Columbus experience," West said. "It's hard for someone who came out of slavery and Jim Crow to call it a magical place. You have to be true to yourself, but I have to be true to myself as well." A few weeks later, the two men met in a downtown Washington, D.C., hotel to chat about Obama's campaign staff. Just a month after ripping into him onstage, West endorsed Obama and signed up as an unpaid adviser.

Terrific! He's convinced Cornel West that he's black enough. Well, I'm reassured!

West may have come around, but he raised one of the most potent—and controversial—questions facing the candidate: is he black enough? It's one that has long dogged Barack Obama's career, though he says he settled his own struggle with racial identity (as the son of an African father and white, Kansan mother) in his late teens. ...

Obama himself dismisses the idea. At the end of a NEWSWEEK interview in his Senate office, Obama offered an unprompted statement about "post-racial" politics: "That term I reject because it implies that somehow my campaign represents an easy shortcut to racial reconciliation. I just want to be very clear on this so there's no confusion. We're going to have a lot of work to do to overcome the long legacy of Jim Crow and slavery. It can't be purchased on the cheap." Obama was dismayed by the Supreme Court's recent decision against public schools that pursue diversity by taking account of students' race.

The preppie from paradise had to prove to his future wife that he was ideologically black enough to get her to marry him:

When the two first met at the law firm, Michelle was his reluctant mentor for the summer. She remembers rave reports that circulated around the office before she joined him for lunch the first time. "Yeah, he's probably a black guy who can talk straight," she recalls saying to herself. "This is a black guy who's biracial who grew up in Hawaii? He's got to be weird." Afterward, she realized she may have misjudged Obama. But it was only later that summer, when he took her to a church basement on the South Side, that she fell for him. He gave an inspiring speech about "the world as it is, and the world as it should be." Three years later, they married. Michelle had to work through her early misperceptions about him; now, she says, the nation needs to do the same. " ...

A black legislator in Springfield challenged Obama:

"He was questioning Senator Obama's toughness and, frankly, his blackness, as to whether Barack really understood what it was like to be a teenage African-American standing on a street corner in Chicago and being harassed by police officers," recalls Dillard. Obama stood his ground, evoking his childhood in tough neighborhoods of Honolulu ..."

No comment.

"Sometimes, the middle ground doesn't hold between black and white, and Obama's innate sense of caution and compromise can look like weakness. Just before his big announcement outside the old state capitol in Springfield—where Lincoln delivered his "house divided" speech—Obama abruptly changed plans and asked his pastor not to deliver the invocation prayer. The Rev. Jeremiah Wright is the man who gave Obama not just spiritual direction, but also his signature phrase, which became the title of one of his books, "The Audacity of Hope." But in the days before Obama officially launched his campaign, Wright was also caricatured as a "radical" for his Afrocentrism and his focus on black issues—a strange criticism, perhaps, of a preacher on the South Side. (The Reverend Wright is considered mainstream among African-American church leaders; Ebony magazine once named him one of the top 15 black preachers in America.)"

The Rev. Wright may be considered mainstream among African-American church leaders, but he's not mainstream among Americans. As he said recently, "When [Obama's] enemies find out that in 1984 I went to Tripoli [in Libya]" to visit Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, Mr. Wright recalled, "with [Black Muslim leader Louis] Farrakhan, a lot of his Jewish support will dry up quicker than a snowball in hell."

It's a commonplace in history for somebody of a mixed or marginal ethnic background to try to be more ethnocentric than thou, whether out of compensation or genuine enthusiasm: Napoleon, Eamon de Valera, and Stalin (from 1941 onward) are obvious examples. Similarly, Obama wrote a 442 page book about how his not being all that African-American by heredity and upbringing made him self-obsessed with being black.

To the Man from Mars, this article would make sense if Obama was running to succeed Jesse Jackson as the Uncrowned King of Black America. But, last I checked, he's running to be President of the United States. To the average American voter, the news that Obama has relentlessly managed to prove to black activists such as Dr. West, the Rev. Wright, and Mrs. Obama that he's black enough for them via his staunch political commitment to their cause might not be as reassuring as the article assumes.

But you won't see that in Newsweek.

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

Malcolm Gladwell appears to have given up blogging

He hasn't posted anything on his blog since January 4, 2007. (He also hasn't published any articles in The New Yorker since the January 8, 2007 issue. I would guess he's working on his third book.)

Blogging wasn't a good use of his time. Besides the opportunity cost of writing for free, it was too emotionally stressful for him. Gladwell's strong suit is finding obscure but interesting ideas invented by other people and making them comprehensible to the public. One reason that he is so good at this is that he falls in love with these ideas he finds. The downside of his warmly emotional intellect, though, is that he seldom questions the objects of his infatuation. So he gets snookered a lot and thus passes a lot of dumb ideas onto the public. When less credulous folks point out flaws in his heroes' notions, he gets hurt and angry.

So, he was wise to give up blogging.

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