May 12, 2012

The Urge to Purge: IQ and the Wealth of Nations

The Urge to Purge appears to be superseding the Urge to Ignore.

From Foreign Policy:
Dumb and Dumber 
Are development experts becoming racists? 
Columnist John Derbyshire's recent effluvia on the subject of things your white kid should know about black people was met with suitable disdain and a rapid expulsion from the web pages of the National Review. Genetic determinism with regard to racial intelligence -- alongside the very idea that intelligence can be meaningfully ranked on a single linear scale of intrinsic worth -- has been firmly debunked by Stephen Jay Gould, among others.

Off to a good start there! Invoking the supreme authority of the late Stephen Jay Gould is a surefire way to persuade anybody familiar with the field of psychometrics that you know what you are talking about.
Sadly, Derbyshire-like prattishness on the intellectual inferiority of dark-skinned races and its impact on social and economic outcomes in the United States has a historied international equivalent. In fact, if anything, the academic consensus on why some countries are rich and others are poor is tacking closer to the shoals of genetic determinism than it has been since the days of high empire. Derbyshire's deserved disgrace is a needed reminder to throw brickbats at his partners in malodor who work in global development. 
... Development economists over the past 50 years have eschewed genetic explanations for the wealth and poverty of nations, favoring factors from lack of investment to lack of health care and education to wrong policies to poor government institutions. But the mainstream is moving back in the direction of "deep causes" of development. These involve determinants such as the relative technological advance of regions some centuries (even millennia) ago or levels of ethnic diversity that have long historical roots. And Enrico Spolaore and Romain Wacziarg have gone even further back, arguing that "genetic distance" -- or the time since populations shared a common ancestor -- has a considerable role to play in the inequality of incomes worldwide. They estimate that variation in genetic distance may account for about 20 percent of the variation in income across countries. 
Spolaore and Wacziarg take pains to avoid suggesting that one line of genetic inheritance is superior to another, preferring instead an interpretation that argues genetic distance is related to cultural differences -- and thus a more complex diffusion of ideas: "the results are consistent with the view that the diffusion of technology, institutions and norms of behavior conducive to higher incomes, is affected by differences in vertically transmitted characteristics associated with genealogical relatedness.… these differences may stem in substantial part from cultural (rather than purely genetic) transmission of characteristics across generations," they write. 
But where Spolaore and Wacziarg are careful enough to step away from interpretations based on the superiority of certain allele types, more foolhardy scholars have been happy to jump in. Take the book by Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen titled IQ and the Wealth of Nations. It suggests that the average IQ in Africa is around 70 points, compared with much higher averages in East Asia and the West. Based on their data, the authors suggest that higher average IQ scores are the cause of progress in measures of development, including income, literacy, life expectancy, and democratization. Lynn and Vanhanen even argue that IQ was correlated with incomes as far back as 1820 -- a neat trick given that the IQ test wasn't invented until a century later. 
As that surprising finding might suggest, most of Lynn and Vanhanen's data is, in fact, made up. Of the 185 countries in their study, actual IQ estimates are available for only 81. The rest are "estimated" from neighboring countries.

Lynn and Vanhanen can do their analyses based either on "only" 81 countries or using estimates of neighboring countries. In either case, they get virtually identical correlation coefficients, suggesting the robustness of their approach.
But even where there is data, it would be a stretch to call it high quality. A test of only 50 children ages 13 to 16 in Colombia and another of only 48 children ages 10 to 14 in Equatorial Guinea, for example, make it into their "nationally representative" dataset.

The correlations look slightly stronger if you throw out Equatorial Guinea. Anyway, all this data has been updated by Rindermann.
Psychologist Jelte Wicherts at the University of Amsterdam and colleagues trawled through Lynn and Vanhanen's data on Africa. They found once again that few of the recorded tests even attempted to be nationally representative (looking at "Zulus in primary schools near Durban" for example), that the data set excluded a number of studies that pointed to higher average IQs, and that some studies included dated as far back as 1948 and involved as few as 17 people. 
Wicherts and his colleagues also point out that there is considerable evidence the tests Lynn and Vanhanen use to make their case "lack validity in test-takers without formal schooling." It is, surely, hard to take a multiple-choice test when you don't know how to read. Not surprisingly, IQ test results in Africa are weakly aligned to other measures of intelligence that don't require written test-taking.

Right. As I pointed out in my review in 2002, Lynn and Vanhanen's finding of an average IQ of 70 in black Africa is strong evidence in favor of the nurture position that a better environment can raise IQs, because African Americans, who appear to be about 4/5th black, score 15 points higher. (Lynn subsequently adopted the logic of my critique.) So, Wicherts' finding that if you only count the IQ tests that he likes, on which black Africans average around 80 or a little higher, then that strengthens the hereditarian view. (This is much too subtle for Kenny to grasp, of course.)

On the other hand, there are reasons of predictive validity for including test scores where black Africans simply failed to grasp the point of using abstract logic to solve puzzles (typically, culture-free nonverbal ones, not "regatta" questions as Kenny implies). Long ago, Thomas Sowell recounted an anecdote where two 17-year-old African youths were asked a standard IQ test question. They wittily ridiculed the impracticality and absurdity of this highly abstract question, displaying quickness of mind in social cognition. On the other hand, as Sowell noted, if by the age of 17, your culture hasn't introduced you to abstract thought yet, you probably aren't going to pick it up very well as an adult, and you are probably not going to be highly productive in economic roles that demand that kind of nerdier thinking. Thus, the high correlation between low IQ scores in Africa and low per capita GDPs in Africa, even if some of low scores are due to lack of acculturation in modern thinking.

My guess is that the spread of cheap smartphones in Africa will stimulate the kind of black box logical thinking that IQ tests measure and which the modern economy rewards. As I pointed out in my review of James Flynn's 2007 book, the fascinating question is why IQ tests still possess so much predictive power more than a century after being invented.

Moreover, there are still some low-hanging fruits where 3rd World countries would benefit from public health programs that succeeded in the U.S. in the first half of the 20th Century in boosting IQ directly or or in boosting mental energy. Fortifying salt with iodine eliminated the medical syndrome cretinism. while fortifying wheat with iron also eliminated an IQ-sapping medical condition. The Rockefeller Foundation's war on hookwarm greatly benefited the physical and economic energy of Southerners by ridding them of a parasite.

Kiwanis International is the leading charity in salt iodization in poor countries. As you can see, these are not fashionable causes, but Bjorn Lomborg has long identified them as high bang for the buck development projects, as I pointed out in a 2004 essay.

I've been writing about the need for more micronutrient fortification to boost Third World IQ scores for over eight years, but practically nobody else will touch the subject because the topic of low average IQ scores in much of the Third World is off-limits.
Wicherts also points out international evidence that average IQs can rise dramatically over time -- by as much as 20 points in the Netherlands between 1952 and 1982, for example. In fact, Africa's current estimated "average IQ" is about the same as Britain's in 1948. The phenomenon of rising average IQ scores over time is known as the "Flynn effect," named after political scientist Jim Flynn, who popularized the result. It suggests that factors such as improved nutrition, health care, and schooling may all improve IQ test performance. Of course, Africa is currently behind richer regions on such factors, though it is rapidly catching up. Indeed, the Flynn effect may have added as much as 26 points to estimates of Kenyan IQ over a recent 14-year period. That's more than the gap between reported IQs in Africa and the United States estimated by Wicherts and colleagues based on samples from 1948 to 2006. In short, all of the evidence suggests lower levels of development cause lower test scores -- not the other way around.

But lower test scores also lead to lower development. For example, Singapore and Lagos are at the same latitude and altitude, but the high-IQ Chinese of Singapore have rid themselves of many IQ and energy sapping tropical maladies through well-conceived and well-executed public health programs. No doubt, the people of Lagos would benefit cognitively from better health, too, but it's hard to get the cycle started.

From Heiner Rindermann's new paper on whether IQ causes wealth or vice-versa:
Rindermann, H. (2012). 
Intellectual classes, technological progress and economic development: The rise of cognitive capitalism. 
Personality and Individual Differences, 53(2), 108-113. 
Cognitive ability theory claims that peoples’ competences are decisive for economic wealth. For a large number of countries Lynn and Vanhanen (2002) have published data on mean intelligence levels and compared them to wealth and productivity indicators. The correlation between intelligence and wealth was supported by studies done by different authors using different countries and controls. Based on their pioneering research two research questions were developed: Does intelligence lead to wealth or does wealth lead to intelligence or are other determinants involved? If a nation’s intelligence increases wealth, how does intelligence achieve this? To answer them we need longitudinal studies and theoretical attempts, investigating cognitive ability effects at the levels of individuals, institutions and societies and examining factors which lie between intelligence and growth. Two studies, using a cross-lagged panel design or latent variables and measuring economic liberty, shares of intellectual classes and indicators of scientific-technological accomplishment, show that cognitive ability leads to higher wealth and that for this process the achievement of high ability groups is important, stimulating growth through scientific-technological progress and by influencing the quality of economic institutions. In modernity, wealth depends on cognitive resources enabling the evolution of cognitive capitalism.

Yes, it seems logical, as Kenny argues, that countries with high average IQs would suffer more from diminishing marginal returns. Yet, despite all the handwaving about the Flynn Effect, nobody has yet come up with much large-scale evidence for convergence.

One possibility is that the value of a strong back on the global market is in decline faster than the value of a high IQ.

Convergence is what everybody assumes will happen, but what actually seems to be happening is that East Asians have begun to pull away from the rest of the world. When I plotted Lynn's IQ data for the whole 20th Century in 2004, the main trend visible was rising East Asian scores relative to everybody else. The unreleased 2009 PISA scores from Chinese and Indian regions appear to show even poor, rural Chinese districts scoring in the same ballpark as European countries, while Indian states are scoring very badly, barely above SubSaharan levels. On the American SAT test, Asians (including, this time, South Asians) have been pulling away from everybody else over the last decade.

This is not to say that convergence won't happen at some point, but that there is remarkably little evidence for it so far.
There is a simple explanation for why the IQs of the offspring of colonists appear higher than those of the first descendants of the colonized. It's because the colonizers acted much as Thomas Carlyle's writing suggested they would -- as overlords with little or no interest in providing public services like a decent education or health care to a native population viewed with disdain. This left local populations malnourished, in poor health, and ill-educated -- if they were lucky enough to be in school at all. 
The good news is that decolonization began a process of leveling the playing field, with rapidly climbing and converging indicators of health and education worldwide. Thanks to the Flynn effect, IQs are doubtless on a path of convergence as well, and the poisonous idiocy of genetic explanations for wealth and poverty will soon lose what little empirical support they might appear to have today.

So that's why such longtime running dog lackeys of imperialism as Hong Kong, Singapore, and Shanghai have always had such abysmal test scores relative to uncolonized places such as Addis Ababa, Afghanistan, and the New Guinea highlands, where local intellects have been free to let their genius shine forth. The boot of colonialism lay heavily across the cognitive windpipe of urban East Asia!

As a closing thought, I just wanted to point out the air of thuggishness that is growing among mainstream pundits (highly noticeable in Kenny's choice of language), as they move from feeling they can safely ignore inconvenient facts to their growing fear and rage at the bearers of unwanted truths.

Not about Jamie Moyer

Here's the opening of a minor sports page article in the L.A. Times about the Dodgers facing 49-year-old Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Jamie Moyer:
To prepare to face Jamie Moyer on Friday night, Dodgers outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. could watch videos of his past at-bats against the Colorado Rockies left-hander. 
Or he could talk to his father, Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn Sr., who also faced him.
Rookie Scott Van Slyke could also solicit advice from his father, former All-Star Andy Van Slyke. 
Shortstop Dee Gordon's father, former pitcher Tom Gordon, was Moyer's teammate. ...
"I think Jamie pitched against my grandfather," joked Jerry Hairston Jr., a third-generation major leaguer.

So, four of the 25 Dodgers are the sons of former major leaguers. And these aren't minor major leaguers, either. All four dads spent at least 13 years in The Show.

When I was a kid, it was quite rare for big leaguers to be the sons of big leaguers. It seemed more common for baseball players to be brothers than father-son combos. I first noticed a sizable number of scions in baseball about 20 years ago. Adam Bellow wrote a book early in the last decade, In Praise of Nepotism, that toted up the statistics showing growing dynasticism in many fields, but I haven't looked at the numbers much since. Is this trend still growing in the baseball?

May 10, 2012

"Obama campaign office staff lacks racial diversity, may violate civil rights law"

In the Daily Caller, Neil Munro talks to disparate impact discrimination law experts about that photo of Obama's Chicago campaign headquarters, which, in terms of diversity, looks like a cross between the Bill James and Tilda Swinton Fan Clubs. Here are some interesting facts:
The office currently employs roughly 140 people, according to an online count by the independent group Democracy in Action. The April photo appears to show the section of the office used by many of the roughly 80 staff who work on technology-related tasks, such as video production, software development and data analysis. 
No employer could argue that there’s a lack of qualified African-American office staff in Chicago, said Sharon Jones, a diversity consultant in Chicago. 
“We’re in a situation where we have huge unemployment … [and] for racial and ethnic minorities, unemployment rates are double” that of whites, said Jones. “There are a lot of minorities who could fill jobs … [and] there are people who could move [so] I don’t think there is a lack of human capital.” 
Also, employers with an earnest desire to hire minorities turn to professional groups, such as Black Data Processing Associates, whose 8,605 members include software writers, graphic designers and video producers. “We get calls all the time from major corporations looking for black designers. … I could send them a list of 25 or 30 people right away,” said a manager in the association. 
The campaign’s staff does include several African-Americans, and some Hispanics. For example, the campaign’s website features Loren Reedy, a receptionist, and Sheena Patton, the human resources director.

No stereotyping at Obama HQ!

"The Avengers" as 1970s NY Yankees soap opera

One Post-Sixties cultural change was the erosion of the Organization Man code that workplace bickering and bad behavior should stay behind closed doors. In baseball, for instance, this custom was first cracked by washed-up pitcher Jim Bouton's 1970 book Ball Four. By the late 1970s the New York Yankees were a nonstop kvetchathon in the New York tabloids featuring owner George Steinbrenner, manager Billy Martin, and slugger Reggie Jackson. 

In contrast, the Los Angeles Dodgers followed the post-WW2 code that employees maintain a bland and positive face to the outside world. This didn't mean there weren't tensions in the Dodger locker room, just that you barely heard about them until they reached a crisis point. For example, in August 1978, future Hall of Famer Don Sutton made disparaging comments to the Washington Post about slugger Steve Garvey. Garvey confronted Sutton about breaking the code. Sutton responded that Garvey's wife was being seen in the company of songwriter Marvin Hamlisch. A brawl ensued. But, unlike the Yankees, where this would have built up over weeks beforehand in the newspapers, this came out of the blue to Dodger fans.

When the Yankees won the World Series in 1977-78, this was widely seen as endorsement of their more open policy of fighting in public. Certainly, it made more and better newspaper copy than the old-fashioned Dodger way.

It might have been a cultural watershed. For instance, when I moved to Chicago in 1982, the top comic disk jockey was Steve Dahl, a major precursor of Howard Stern. A huge fraction of Dahl's shtick was complaining about management and his contract. It was hugely funny, but at the time, it was surprising. It was the kind of thing that just wasn't done. 

Pretty soon, though, it was widely done. Today, behind the scenes bickering is the meat and potatoes of reality TV (American Idol being a notable exception). 

But reality TV is for proles. On the other hand, at the elite level, we're heading back toward the old Dodger way, just in a cooler, more nod-and-a-wink po-mo fashion, with the press reveling more in their role as insiders and gatekeepers. Kevin Costner explained to Tim Robbins in Bull Durham in 1988:
Crash Davis: It's time to work on your interviews.
Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: My interviews? What do I gotta do?
Crash Davis: You're gonna have to learn your clichés. You're gonna have to study them, you're gonna have to know them. They're your friends. Write this down: "We gotta play it one day at a time."
Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: Got to play... it's pretty boring.
Crash Davis: 'Course it's boring, that's the point. Write it down. 

The rise of access journalism into an expert art form has elicited little protest except from journalists who can't get access, those losers. The careers of, say, Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan suggest that modern journalists respect, above all else, a well-tuned marketing campaign.

I was reminded of all this while watching Joss Whedon's movie The Avengers, in which the superheroes bicker endlessly, with Robert Downey Jr. in the Reggie Jackson role as the straw that stirs the drink, before finally putting aside petty grievances and winning the big one. I don't know if Whedon was a Yankees fan, but he was a 13-year-old in New York City while all this was going on.

In fact, Whedon appears to be one of the few top-hole folks who hasn't gotten the memo that we've moved beyond all that Airing of Grievances and back to an age where celebrities have PR people to mold their public statements. 

When something doesn't go right for Whedon, he loves throwing colleagues under the bus:
[on the infamous line spoken by the character Storm in "X-Men" (2000) (video)] That's the interesting thing. Everybody remembers that as the worst line ever written, but the thing about that is, it was supposed to be delivered as completely offhand. [Adopts casual, bored tone.] "You know what happens when a toad gets hit by lightning?" Then, after he gets electrocuted, "Ahhh, pretty much the same thing that happens to anything else." But Halle Berry said it like she was Desdemona. [Strident, ringing voice.] "The same thing that happens to everything eeelse!" That's the thing that makes you go crazy. ...  
The worst thing about these things is that, when the actors say it wrong, it makes the writer look stupid. People assume that the line... I listened to half the dialogue in Alien 4, and I'm like, "That's idiotic," because of the way it was said. And nobody knows that. Nobody ever gets that. They say, "That was a stupid script," which is the worst pain in the world. I have a great long boring story about that, but I can tell you the very short version. In Alien 4, the director changed something so that it didn't make any sense. He wanted someone to go and get a gun and get killed by the alien, so I wrote that in and tried to make it work, but he directed it in a way that it made no sense whatsoever. And I was sitting there in the editing room, trying to come up with looplines to explain what's going on, to make the scene make sense, and I asked the director, "Can you just explain to me why he's doing this? Why is he going for this gun?" And the editor, who was French, turned to me and said, with a little leer on his face, [adopts gravelly, smarmy, French-accented voice] "Because eet's een the screept." And I actually went and dented the bathroom stall with my puddly little fist. I have never been angrier. But it's the classic, "When something goes wrong, you assume the writer's a dork." And that's painful....
[about why he was unhappy with Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)] The thing is, people always make fun of Rutger Hauer. Even though he was big and silly and looked sort of goofy in the movie, I have to give him credit, because he was there. He was into it. Whereas Donald [Sutherland] was just... He would rewrite all his dialogue, and the director would let him. He can't write - he's not a writer - so the dialogue would not make sense. And he had a very bad attitude. He was incredibly rude to the director, he was rude to everyone around him, he was just a real pain. And to see him destroying my stuff... Some people didn't notice. Some people liked him in the movie. Because he's Donald Sutherland. He's a great actor. He can read the phone book, and I'm interested. But the thing is, he acts well enough that you didn't notice, with his little rewrites, and his little ideas about what his character should do, that he was actually destroying the movie more than Rutger was. So I got out of there. I had to run away. (The Onion A.V. Club Interview with Joss Whedon, 2001)

Good stuff! 

But not the kind of thing you hear much of anymore. In fact, this might explain why Whedon, with all the commercial talent in the world, was mostly puttering on the fringes of the big time up until age 47, when he finally got to grab for the brass ring. 

Romney's whiteness crisis re: Tito Puente

Michael Tomasky, the Daily Beast's Left correspondent, schools Mitt Romney in the importance of the surging Mexican-American youth vote  by scorning Romney's presumed lack of familiarity with New York-born Puerto Rican jazz musician Tito Puente (1923-2000), who -- as Bill Murray predicted in Stripes -- is dead. 
It seems clear that the main issue Mitt Romney is going to use to try to reestablish himself as a moderate is immigration. He told a private audience on April 15 that "we have to get Hispanic voters to vote for our party" and warned that current polling "spells doom for us." Then, on Monday, he made himself available to the media for the first time in a month—while standing beside Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a leading veepstakes name. … 
And finally—art. Art is so underestimated in politics. Romney is just sooooo white. Even whiter than the Osmonds. Bush wasn’t that white. He came from a state where these days you can’t help but know some Latinos, and he spoke him a little esspanyole, even. But Romney? He fired some guys working on his lawn because he couldn’t afford the political liability of employing them, as he openly admitted at one of those GOP debates. Aside from that—well, I admit I’m no more up on the latest salsa artists than Mitt is, but do you think that guy has ever listened to one Tito Puente record in his life?
Do you ever get the impression that most national pundits don't know anything about Mexican-Americans, other than there are a lot of them?

Granted, nobody in NYC-DC knows from Puerto Ricans, but don't you think Tomasky (who is younger than I am) could at least have come up with a Latino musician younger than Tito Puente? How about Ritchie Valens of La Bamba fame? Sure, he's been dead for 53 years -- as long as Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper -- but he was still born 18 years after Tito Puente.

White men do run everything!

Including Essence magazine.

Or at least did, until the Great 2012 Social Media Purge caught up with the Republican white guy who was the managing editor of the best known black women's magazine. Here's the funny story from a few weeks ago from the outraged diversicrats at the Maynard Institute:
Essence magazine and its white male managing editor — whom the leading magazine for black women has emphasized had a production, not an editorial role — are parting ways, a spokeswoman told Journal-isms Friday, after right-wing material on his Facebook page was brought to the editors' attention. 
The hiring of Michael Bullerdick last July created an uproar, partly because the title of "managing editor" implied to many a major role for a white man in the editorial process of a magazine for black women. 
In his LinkedIn profile, Bullerdick lists "Edit stories for tone and style" among his duties, even though editor-in-chief Constance C.R. White insisted when he was hired, "Michael is responsible for production and operational workflow. He has no involvement in editorial content."

The announcement of Bullerdick's departure for the book division of Time Warner, the conglomerate that owns Essence, came after Journal-isms shared screen shots of Bullerdick's Facebook page taken by a reader. 
"Essence readers would be shocked to find that Bullerdick, who under the prodding of Time Inc became the first white male editor at the magazine last year, openly espouses extremist Right-wing views that run counter to what Essence has historically stood for," the Journal-isms reader wrote in an email. 
In one screen shot, an April 10 posting is headlined, "No Voter Fraud, Mr. Attorney General?" touting a video by James O'Keefe, the conservative activist who worked with right-wing trickster Andrew Breitbart. The same day, Bullerdick shared a photo illustration of Al Sharpton headlined, "MSNBC Race Pimp." Bullerdick also recommends material from the conservative magazine Human Events and the right-wing website, from which Bullerdick posted "the Frequent Bomber Program," an article about 1960s radical Bill Ayers. Bullerdick wrote, "Obama's mentor and friend."

May 9, 2012

John Travolta on Nurture v. Nature

Back in January, I wrote in Taki's Magazine in Goodbye, Mr. Chimps:
Although future behavioral taboos are notoriously hard to predict, it’s clear that within this decade America will end the use of chimpanzees in entertainment. I’ll go much further out on a limb and also predict that within a generation, and for much the same reasons, we will seriously consider banning child stars. ... 
... [Because] having men play monkeys is better for all concerned, a similar question will suggest itself: Is it humane to use human children as professional entertainers? 
The digital technology enabling adults to portray kid characters is rapidly arriving. ... 
One obvious problem is sexual exploitation of ambitious minors. A January 8, 2012 Los Angeles Times story by Dawn C. Chmielewski reports, “At least a dozen child-molestation and child-pornography prosecutions since 2000 have involved actors, managers, production assistants and others in the entertainment industry.” That’s not a huge number—one known case per year—but who can begin to guesstimate the number of unknown cases?  

The Daily Beast reports this excerpt from a new sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a male masseuse against movie star John Travolta. That Travolta would get sued by a man isn't exactly big news to anybody paying attention. Heck, his 1978 romance movie Moment by Moment with a Lily Tomlin who looks just like him had people wondering back then what the subtext was. But Travolta's explanation for his life's course, as alleged by the plaintiff, is interesting:
8. "Defendant [John Travolta] began screaming at Plaintiff, telling Plaintiff how selfish he was; that Defendant got to where he is now due to sexual favors he had performed when he was in his Welcome Back, Kotter days; and that Hollywood is controlled by homosexual Jewish men who expect [to dole out?] favors in return for sexual activity. Defendant then went on to say how he had done things in his past that would make most people throw up." 
9. "Defendant explained when he started that he wasn't even gay ... Defendant also said that he was smart enough to learn to enjoy it, and when he began to make millions of dollars, that it all became well worth it."

In Taki's Magazine last summer, I thought through various theories on what percentage of famous male entertainment celebrities are gay: Part 1 and Part 2. I'd say my thinking looks pretty good as of today. As for the demographics, well, on The Larry Sanders Show, producer Artie explained them to writer Phil here.

By the way, today President Obama endorsed gay marriage, which will, obviously, solve these problems. The only reason powerful gay men sexually exploit handsome youths is because society discriminates against gays by not letting them marry.

Localist (and potentially anti-globalist) sentiment among hipsters

It's worth keeping an eye out for what the cultural trends are among the more privileged of younger people because they can signal the beginning of sea changes. In retrospect, how Wordsworth and Coleridge felt in 1798, for instance, said a lot about how many literate Europeans would feel about various things over the next century. 

The word "locavore" was invented in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2005 to describe people who make an effort (a fetish?) to eat only food grown locally. In Brooklyn, where the climate is less propitious and land is either built-upon or toxic, this urge has mutated into people trying to eat what is manufactured locally. From Benjamin Wallace's article The Twee Party:
By Brooklyn is a small shop that opened last April on Smith Street in Carroll Gardens with the mission of selling only products made in Kings County. Among the store’s inventory, made by some 120 different vendors, are $29 “reclaimed slate” cheese boards from the Red Hook–based Brooklyn Slate Company and wee $58 terrariums from a Dumbo company called Undiscovered Worlds. 
The store itself is a kind of walk-through diorama, a snow-globe fantasy of New Brooklyn in miniature—the boroughwide artisan arms race stuffed into a storefront. There’s packaging featuring vaguely Victorian typefaces, and scents and flavors that seem simultaneously retro and contemporary: P&H Soda Co.’s lovage soda syrup, Liddabit Sweets’ beer-and-pretzel caramels, Salty Road’s bergamot saltwater taffy. There is Clinton Hill–based Early Bird granola (“gathered in Brooklyn”); Park Slope–based Brooklyn Hard Candy (“handcrafted in Brooklyn”); Gowanus-based Brooklyn Brine Co. pickles (“proudly hand-packed in Brooklyn”); and Greenpoint-based Anarchy in a Jar jam (“made with love in Brooklyn”). As much as these are variations on a theme, they’re also a theater of marketing one-upmanship. “Small-batch” Jam Stand jam from Red Hook is displayed near “very small batch” Bittermens bitters from Dumbo and that Early Bird granola, which is baked in “tiny batches.” Clearly, small is the new big. This is packaging that, as much as telling you what you’re buying, is telling you who you are—a Brooklynite of a sort scarcely imaginable ten years ago. A Breuckelenite, let’s say. 
This is not the Brooklyn on your map but a notional place consisting mainly of the western “creative crescent” that arcs from Greenpoint south to Gowanus and runs on freelance design work and single-origin, crop-to-cup pour-over coffee. It’s the Brooklyn where bodegas stock Fentimans “botanically brewed” Dandelion & Burdock soda and where the Dumbo headquarters of crafting juggernaut Etsy has air ducts literally, no joke, swaddled in crocheted cozies. It’s not the Brooklyn of Brownsville, East Flatbush, Ocean Park, Canarsie. By Brooklyn owner Gaia DiLoreto, a 37-year-old former IT worker, is black and wants to be “a role model to young black women,” she tells me. She had one intern from East New York who “knew nothing about artisanal food. An $8 candy bar was insane to her.” 
Fortunately for DiLoreto, there’s a robust audience for whom that candy bar is the very apex of civilization. Area code 718 romantics love to see their hometown’s name every time they pull something out of the fridge, to pretend a borough of 2.5 million people is a small English village, to partake of a Shop Class As Soulcraft authenticity that’s missing in their Twitter-addled, ­cubicle-drone lives, and to reassure themselves that Brooklyn is more “real” than Manhattan and not just an annex with shorter buildings. Sightseers from 212 are equally avid buyers: salving their one percent class angst, signaling their membership in the elite tribe of ethical aesthetes, shoring up their idea of Brooklyn as that exotic but taxi-accessible place where all the kooky artists and kids live and create stuff for the adults in Manhattan who actually make the world go around. And then there are the tourists who compose half of DiLoreto’s business. “Everyone loves Brooklyn,” she says. “That’s the place everyone wants to be, to have a part of, to be a part of. I want to do everything I can to leverage that.” 

The economics of all this are wildly implausible, of course. But, still ... We're talking about a change of heart, one that has been going on for some time.

The main engine is, of course, a new wrinkle in status-seeking. That localism emerged first in the San Francisco Bay Area has much to do with the fact the Bay Area is, as ex-sailor Richard Henry Dana explained to Americans in his 1840 bestseller Two Years before the Mast, just about the most favored locale for human habitation on Earth. It's not surprising that Northern Californians are building barricades of local solidarity against the rest of the world. 

Similarly, the popular buzzphrase "sustainable" is deployed today to justify various silly undertakings, but it, in essence, reflects a deeply conservative impulse.

But how does this change of heart play out in the world? Anne Applebaum complains in Slate about recent European election results:
But as I look across Europe I don't know what to call the wave of discontent, as most of the parties on the outlying right or left have more in common with one another right now than they do with anyone in the center. Generally speaking they are anti-European, anti-globalization, and anti-immigration. Their leaders, in the words of a French friend, want to "withdraw from the world." They don't like their multiethnic capital cities or their open borders, and they don't care for multinational companies or multilateral institutions.

Perhaps the future won't be contested between Left and Right but between globalist dynamists and localist sustainablists: The Economist v. Tolkien.

Brooklyn hipster demographics

The recent New York article by Benjamin Wallace on the boom in artisanal food products made in Brooklyn, The Twee Party, came with a sidebar of photos of 38 Brooklyn entrepreneurs holding their packaged food goods: Brewers, Bakers, and Beef-Jerky Makers.

As I mentioned before, I can't afford these luxury goods (this scene is made possible by all the money in the world pouring into next-door Manhattan), and I don't have a sophisticated enough palate to care all that much, but I wish these small businesspeople well. Eventually, some of their innovations will filter down to the mass market and help the kind of food I eat continue to get better in quality, as mass market food has gotten better over my entire lifetime. (In a couple of decades, a few of the people who in were on the Brooklyn artisanal food scene in, say, 2007, will be billionaires, and will, no doubt, by greatly resented as sell outs by all the people who were there with them and didn't make it big. But, such is the way of the world.)

By looking at the portraits of the 38 hipster foodies, we can crudely estimate the demographics of the Brooklyn scene. Overall, the borough of Brooklyn is 36% white, 32% black, 10% Asian, and 20% Latin. 

But the artisanal scene is different. I come up with 84% white, 1% black, 11% Asian, and 4% Latino. 

Keep in mind that there's a lot of guessing in this: For example, I'm assuming that the light-skinned lady who looks vaguely mulatto is half-black because her name is Evers, which is one of those names like Washington that seems to be blacker than other WASP names. I'm not counting as black the man named Stout who wears a bandanna, sunglasses, and beard, and could be English or Australian Aborigine for all I can tell. I'm of course counting as Latino the one guy who looks like George Zimmerman, but I may not have fully counted the various white people with potentially Spanish-surnames. 

I suspect these numbers are relevant to thinking objectively about the recent Girls Whiteness Crisis, but what's the fun in thinking objectively?

May 8, 2012

"The Avengers"

From my movie review in Taki's Magazine:
It was a bad weekend for Nicolas “The American in Paris” Sarkozy but a great weekend at the global box office for what the French sniffily call American hyperpuissance
Marvel’s The Avengers, a comic-book movie featuring a half-dozen old-fashioned superheroes such as Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), start out sparring before joining forces. It obliterated the opening weekend box office record and has earned even more overseas. 
The Marvel Studios movies, going back to Downey’s triumphant performance in 2008’s Iron Man, have illuminated how America’s dominance of international pop culture is intertwined with its military might.

Read the whole thing there.

The 2012 Whiteness Crisis and the race-riot card

Why the sudden flurry of attacks on whites for purported racism since about the time Mitt Romney wrapped up the Republican nomination? Several media figures have been fired: Naomi Schaefer Riley, John Derbyshire, Robert Weissberg, and others widely defamed (Lena Dunham, Lesley Arfin, and even Zooey Deschanel). What's behind this spring's hysteria among the chattering class?

Clearly, some whites are being punished to encourage the others. But ... to encourage the others to do what, precisely?

To not even think about not re-electing the black President. Don't go there. The message that's being sent is: bad stuff happens to people who don't like blacks, which, for practical purposes in 2012 can be defined as people whom blacks don't like, or whom blacks might not like if they ever noticed them. 

The ultimate message is one that can't be sent publicly, at least not before a lot more ground is prepared via Two Minute Hates or Two Month Hates in the case of George Zimmerman:

Nice little gentrified downtown you've got there. It would be a shame if anything were to happen to it Election Night because some vibrant youths were displeased that their side lost.

Kevin Drum: "Perils of Criticizing Black Studies"

Kevin Drum blogs at Mother Jones:
The Perils of Criticizing Black Studies 
—By Kevin Drum| Tue May. 8, 2012 3:07 PM PDT 
A week ago at the Chronicle of Higher Education's Brainstom blog, Naomi Schaefer Riley wrote a post titled "The Most Persuasive Case for Eliminating Black Studies? Just Read the Dissertations." As it happens, though, Riley didn't read any of the dissertations she mocked. She just read the titles and unilaterally declared them useless. "What a collection of left-wing victimization claptrap," she grumbled, "The best that can be said of these topics is that they’re so irrelevant no one will ever look at them." 
A firestorm ensued, and yesterday the Chronicle fired Riley.

It was a snarky blog post. Presumably, Naomi Schaefer Riley figured that being married to a black guy, Jason Riley of the WSJ op-ed page, was protection against the R-word. Think again ...

Kevin could have more economically phrased his title: "The Perils of Criticizing Blacks."

Foote: 12 reasons why the Mortgage Meltdown wasn't an Inside Job

Economist Christopher Foote of the Boston Fed, who debunked the Freakonomics abortion-cut-crime theory in late 2005 by pointing out that Steven D. Levitt's results stemmed from a couple of dumb mistakes in his programming, and two colleagues have a paper arguing against the mortgage meltdown being, in the words of the Oscar-winning documentary, an Inside Job (or, at least, of misaligned incentives):
Why Did So Many People Make So Many Ex Post Bad Decisions? The Causes of the Foreclosure Crisis 
Christopher L. Foote, Kristopher S. Gerardi, and Paul S. Willen 
This paper presents 12 facts about the mortgage market. The authors argue that the facts refute the popular story that the crisis resulted from financial industry insiders deceiving uninformed mortgage borrowers and investors. Instead, they argue that borrowers and investors made decisions that were rational and logical given their ex post overly optimistic beliefs about house prices. The authors then show that neither institutional features of the mortgage market nor financial innovations are any more likely to explain those  distorted  beliefs than they are to explain the Dutch tulip bubble 400 years ago. Economists should acknowledge the limits of our understanding of asset price bubbles and design policies accordingly.

Foote et al presents 12 "myths" about the mortgage meltdown that they say don't hold up to scrutiny. While I find this to be an excellent framework for thinking about causes of the mortgage disaster, personally, I find some of the myths seems pretty reasonable even after reviewing Foote's graphs. 
For a concrete example, consider the size of required downpayments. Morgenson and Rosner (2011) write that because of the Clinton Administration’s emphasis on homeownership:
[I]n just a few short years, all of the venerable rules governing the relationship between borrower and lender went out the window, starting with the elimination of the requirements that a borrower put down a substantial amount of cash in a property (Morgenson and Rosner 2011, p. 3).
It is true that large downpayments were once required to purchase homes in the United States. It is also true that the federal government was instrumental in reducing required downpayments in an effort to expand homeownership. The problem for the bad government theory is that the timing of government involvement is almost exactly 50 years off. The key event was the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, better known as the GI Bill, in which the federal government promised to take a first-loss position equal to 50 percent of the mortgage balance, up to $2,000, on mortgages originated to returning veterans. The limits on the Veteran’s Administration (VA) loans were subsequently and repeatedly raised, while similar guarantees were later added to loans originated through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). 

Okay, but here's the graph they use to document this assertion, showing Loan to Value percentages in Massachusetts over the years. Notice anything?
Yes, the aqua LTV 100 (i.e., zero down or even cash back) spiked from about 8 percent in 2002 to 24 percent in 2006 at the peak of the bubble.  

Here's a graph from USA Today that I found at Dr. Housing Bubble, showing California's similar spike in zero down home-buying:
The First-Time Buyers (41% in 2006) are especially important because that's mostly where new demand comes from, and incremental demand is much of what drives up prices.

In general, Foote et al frequently argue that because various policies or conditions existed well before the crisis, such as less than 20% downpayments, then loosening downpayments didn't contribute much to the bubble and bust. But, that's overlooking the famous Boiling Frog problem: turning up the heat gradually might not cause a noticeable problem for the frogs in the pot for awhile, but eventually it does. 

Moreover, in the case of lower and lower downpayments, there appears to have been a phase shift when requirements hit zero down. A 3.5% downpayment required for a VA or FHA loan might not sound like much, but cash on the barrel-head scares off the total riff-raff and conmen, plus the government regulations lessened fraud in appraisals and the like. The zero down loans that George W. Bush greenlighted to federal regulators in his October 15, 2002 speech at the White House Conference on Increasing Minority Homeownership were a not insignificant cause of the Bubble.

Still, I would agree with Foote that Tulip Mania-style overoptimism is a big part of the explanation. But where did this over-optimism come from? 

I woud argue that a host of evidence, such as the biggest appreciation and biggest losses happening in the four Sand States of California, Nevada, Arizona, and Florida, that "diversity" played a huge role, especially in the ban on critical thinking about diversity that has been inculcated in the U.S. An immigration bubble preceded and then egged on a housing bubble, and nobody was supposed to say anything bad about it, especially not in internal company documents that could get your firm in trouble for a discrimination lawsuit.

It's really asking a lot of people to tell them over and over that only evil ignorant racist losers notice patterns and then expect them to notice the patterns and respond intelligently.

NYT: Castro's homophobia saved Cuban homosexuals' lives

At least, that's what "A Regime's Tight Grip on AIDS" seems to boil down to.

May 7, 2012

More French exit poll results

Since there doesn't seem to be much in the English language press yet on French exit polls, and because France is, whether Jonah Goldberg likes it or not, a big deal, here are some polling results. A commenter writes:
I'm not French and I don't follow French politics, but I can read the language.
Some of the data at those links: 
Sarkozy won 58% among craftsmen, businessmen and CEOs. Compared to the last election 5 years ago he held his ground (46% vs. 46%) among "workers" (I'm guessing these are actually blue-collar workers), but lost 9% (52% to 43%) among top-level employees and people in "liberal professions" (who are those? college professors? teachers?) Sarkozy got 49% of the voters who work in the private sector, 37% of those who work in the public sector. He won 47% of permanent employees, 43% of the people employed through time-limited work contracts (temps, I guess) and 36% of the unemployed. So far nothing seems surprising to me. He WAS running against a Socialist. Sarkozy won 52% of the people who own their own homes, 40% among private-sector renters and 36% among the people living in public housing. I just learned something - French public housing must be far whiter than the US version. 36% for a "candidate of the right" - wow.  
The important stuff: Sarkozy got 59% of the Catholics and Hollande got 93% of the Muslims. The article literally said that Muslims "supported the left by 93%". It's pretty funny when you think about it. What can be more right-wing than Islam?  
Sarkozy got 41% of those who make less than 1,000 Euros per month, 45% of those who make between 1,000 and 2,000, more among those who make above 2,000. He got slightly more votes among those who've had 2 or more years of college than among those who've had less education than that. I'm curious about who people with post-graduate educations voted for, but that info isn't in the article.  
The biggest issues for Sarko voters were debt and deficits (65%) and immigration (53%). Those who voted for Hollande were more concerned with social inequality, the level of employment and with purchasing power.  
The article says that Sarkozy did well in the deindustrialized portion of France (their rust belt), which seems to be in the north-east. The article suggests that this is also the portion where the National Front usually does best.

Another interesting question would be what was the effect of Marine Le Pen's announcement that she would cast a blank ballot? Would Sarko have won if Le Pen had endorsed him? Any data on that?

Another theory of corporate lust for immigration

Jack Strocchi offers another theory of why corporate elites favor immigration besides keeping labor costs down and labor unions weak:
There is no doubt something to the theory that the New Right wanted to Open Borders to crush wages. On the flip ideological side It's clear that the New Left supported Open Borders to "elect a new people" and pad welfare rolls.  
But the most pressing reason to Open Borders is to boost retail turnover, particularly in household formation goods (including houses), particularly in the era of declining birth rates. The easiest way to turn a profit and amortize the cost of capital is to increase turnover, extra sales go right onto the bottom line.

Say you are the head of the American division of a big, fairly capital intensive toilet paper company with major operations in the U.S. You want sales to grow so you can run your already-built factories closer to full capacity. But demand per capita for toilet paper is flat. So, your best hope for growth is to add some capitas in the U.S. to buy more of your product: e.g., via immigration.

Now, the downside of immigration from your perspective would be if some of the immigrants started their own big toilet paper companies to increase competition against you. But, there are a lot of industries where this isn't that big of a threat. 

Moreover, there are a lot of sources of immigrants where this isn't that big of a threat. For example, importing into America the fraction of ambitious Swedes who are fed up with Sweden's restrictions on their entrepreneurial energies could be a problem for established American corporate interests in the long run. On the other hand, importing unambitious Mexicans is not likely to produce much additional competition for the Fortune 500.

So, what's not to like about immigration from the point of view of the Toilet Paper Barons?

French election demographics

A French reader writes:
Hello Steve, 
I m one of your long time French readers and I really appreciate the work you are doing. 
I m give you some interresting numbers about the french elections : 
- the difference in term of voters was 1,130 Millions between Sarkozy and Hollande.
Source : 
- Muslims voters ( church goers - about 2 millions )  are massively leftist. They vote at 93% for Hollande. 
Source : 
- Jewish from Israel are massively pro Sarkozy ( 92 % of Israel French Jews voted for Sarkozy). 
Source : 
- Dom Tom ( about 2 millions): black tropical Islands [like Martinique in the West Indies] are aslo massively pro Hollande : about 65 % for Hollande. But not as much black Americans. 
Source : 
So as Obama, Hollande was not the winners of the white vote. Actually Sarkozy was the large winner of the White. Most of rightist political commenters recommands the Sailer strategy to the right, go righter and whiter. 
Hope to hear your thoughs about it even if you are not a big french politics followers.

Thanks. I can't read French, so, if you do, check these links out for yourself. There doesn't seem to be much demographic analysis of the French election available in English.

Immigration and 1970s inflation

A commenter writes:
Jeff W. said... 
I have finally figured out why The Powers That Be hate immigration restriction so much. I'm sure there are a number of reasons. But one big reason is this: 
Western governments for years have been trying to maximize the resources they obtain from money printing. All Western governments have been continually running deficits and financing them with newly-created fiat. 
One thing that derails money printing is a wage-price spiral. That's what got going in the 1970's. Around 1979-80, Paul Volcker had to jack up interest rates very high to get inflation back under control. 
In the 1980's, The Powers That Be decided that they would continue money printing, but they would also take action to head off a wage-price spiral. So... 
- Continuing pressure to add women to the workforce
- Open door import policy to force down U.S. wages
- Open borders. 
They succeeded. You never hear about a wage-price spiral anymore.  
A protectionist trade policy and immigration restriction would get wages rising, which would make conditions difficult for the money printers. They would have to slow down or even halt their operation. That would be bad for big banks, the military-industrial complex, Social Security, and Medicare.  
All of the biggest and most powerful interest groups in America support continued money printing, and that necessitates open borders to keep wages low.

You can see this in all the newspaper articles where reporters (not just pundits) say things like "low wages are good for the economy." Nobody ever talks about this, but it's stuck in people's heads. It's sort of 1970s Folk Wisdom for subscribers to The Economist.

One interesting question is whether wage-price spirals and/or cost-push inflation actually happened in the 1970s. It was endlessly debated during the 1970s whether unions were causing inflation. Interestingly, the ideological lines in the debate were often reversed in the U.S., with Milton Friedman's monetarist school absolving the AFL-CIO (because inflation had to be the fault of the Fed), while neoliberals tended to blame the unions.

Was this controversy ever resolved? 

Back in the 1970s, I spent a huge amount of time thinking about macroeconomics, but I don't believe I got much return on my investment. So, I don't have much opinion on macroeconomic controversies anymore. 

Perhaps America and Britain had different experiences, with Britain having stronger union power. The Labour Party was founded as a third party explicitly for the good of the trade unions. A half century later, it became the ruling party and nationalized the commanding heights of industry. This caused a subsequent conflict of interest in wage negotiations in nationalized industries: Labour as both the instrument of the unions and Her Majesty's Government, was sitting on both sides of the table, not just in effect but by definition. This led to a lot of people in Britain feeling jobbed by the Labour Party. Eventually, that led to Labour's spell in the wilderness and its reformulation as New Labour, a broad-based party.

May 6, 2012

Pym Fortuyn, RIP

This is the tenth anniversary of the assassination of Dutch immigration restrictionist politician Pym Fortuyn on Monday, May 6, 2002. The instantaneous response of European opinion was that he had it coming

The Narrative remains that Fortuyn was assassinated by some wacko animal rights activist, but that's a lot like saying Poland was invaded in 1939 by an animal rights activist. The assassin was a well-educated white leftist who was found sane by exhaustive inquiries. The only thing crazy about the killer was that he took seriously what the media was saying about the Fortuyn Menace. From Wikipedia:
In court at his trial, van der Graaf said he murdered Fortuyn to stop him from exploiting Muslims as "scapegoats" and targeting "the weak members of society" in seeking political power.

You'll notice that today is the day of the French presidential election, which happens every five years. In 2002, Fortuyn was murdered the day after the French election. That year, the elder Le Pen had eked into the final round against Chirac two weeks before, which unleashed a Continent-wide Two Weeks Hate against immigration restrictionists carried out by all respectable elements of European opinion. Whether this uproar helped provoke the Dutch assassin remains speculative, but of course nobody speculates about it.

The Soap Operaization of Politics

Here's something I didn't know about the Socialist Party candidate in Sunday's French election, who is favored now that Marine Le Pen has refused to endorse Sarkozy:
After ceding the nomination in 2007 to Ségolène Royal, his partner at the time, who lost badly to Mr. Sarkozy, Mr. [François] Hollande prepared to run against Mr. Strauss-Kahn, once considered a shoo-in, and then against Mr. Sarkozy. Mr. Hollande split with Ms. Royal, the mother of their four children, and says he has found happiness with a journalist, Valérie Trierweiler, now 47, a mother of three, who divorced her husband, an editor, after an affair that Mr. Hollande’s biographer, Serge Raffy, said began in 2005.

Does it seem like national leadership around the world is becoming even more of an inner circle game played by a tiny number of spouses and heirs? One thing you've got to say for Obama is that he wasn't married to Bill Clinton or the son of George H.W. Bush.

In particular, I suspect that opening up democratic politics to women has re-enforced the tendency toward brand names that characterized ancien regimes, in which women played a larger role than in the subsequent careers-open-to-talent era, in which military leadership and bellowing oratory loomed large, giving men more dominance of politics than in the monarchical centuries. This was view of Marie Antoinette's portrait painter, the lovely Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun (1755-1842), who went everywhere and knew everybody: the French Revolution made Europe more male-dominated, both in politics and in culture.

Perhaps it's just the natural human condition for politics to tend toward soap opera.