March 23, 2002

Life or Something Like It

Life or Something like it - Angelina Jolie's attempt at a chick flick. What's with her Australian Aborigine look in this movie? Here's my review.

Anti-Teutonism is the anti-Semitism of the elite

Anti-Teutonism is the anti-Semitism of the elite:
Check out this hilariously biased NYT article slurring a German-speaking Swiss patriot who works tirelessly to preserve Switzerland's unique (and remarkably successful) national character. The nearly-hysterical reporter's assumption is that Switzerland must take in a few million immigrants so it will become "diverse," and thus no longer so irritatingly diverse from the rest of Europe. (Sounds like the media's opinion of Utah!) In reality, Switzerland, with its four national languages, is one of humanity's rare triumphs of language diversity co-existing in a republic with liberty and peace. Here's my article on how Switzerland accomplishes this remarkable feat.

Anita Hill and the Year of Women

"Since Anita Hill, the chief weapon of the Washington right has been character assassination," says the NY Times' op-ed columnist Frank Rich, who seems to be impervious to embarrassment over anything he writes. Funny, I seem to recall it was Clarence Thomas who was the first victim of character assassination. Thanks, Frank, for setting us straight.

In reality, of course, Anita Hill's absurd campaign against Thomas did make Bill Clinton's impeachment almost inevitable. Clinton rode to the Presidency in 1992, "The Year of Women in Politics," in large part on the back of the Anita Hill brouhaha. But it was obvious to anybody, like myself, who had spent time in Arkansas that Gov. Clinton had been hitting widely on state employees. Under the silly standards that the Anita Hill foo-fraw drummed up, Clinton was surely much guiltier of sexual harassment than Thomas. What proof do I have of this chain of logic? I predicted it all in December, 1992 in my article "A Specter Is Haunting the Clinton Presidency."

School testing and value-added

School Testing: Here's a long WaPo story attacking the trend toward using standardized testing to rank elementary schools. It makes some good points, but, like most thinking on the subject, it misses the essential problem with the kind of testing Bush promotes: Schools should be evaluated on how much value they add to their students.

Today, though, schools are mostly ranked on the IQs that their students bring to schools, which in modern America are probably 50% or more genetically determined, and much of the rest of the variance in IQ appears related to random infections and the like, not schooling. It's unfair to the principle of, say, Malcolm X H.S. to downgrade him compared to the principle of Beverly Hills H.S., just because his kids do worse on tests. He could do be doing a great job relative to the raw materials he has to work with.

To make school comparison testing useful, every 6 year old in the U.S. should be given an IQ test - and by an independent tester, not the school. From then on, schools should be evaluated by their students' performance on achievement tests relative to their aptitude at age 6.

One reason we seldom hear this logically obvious idea of testing for value added is because colleges' reputations rest 90% on the high school SAT scores of their students. But that topic is largely off limits, because the media is run by people with fancy resumes who don't want the reputations of their colleges' besmirched by objective research into whether the college is actually any good at educating.

"IQ and the Wealth of Nations" reviewed by Rushton

Fascinating review by J.P. Rushton of Richard Lynn's IQ and the Wealth of Nations in VDARE. Lynn's book lists average IQs for scores of nations, from Equatorial Guinea on the bottom to Hong Kong on the top.

I take a somewhat more optimistic view of the data than Rushton. The correlation Lynn found between IQ and per capita income is extraordinary, around 0.75 - maybe the highest correlation ever seen in the social sciences for a world-historic issue like this. As a former marketing researcher, I have some doubts about how demographically representative the samples from each country were (I haven't seen the book yet), because t's extremely expensive to get a perfectly nationally representative sample. But keep this crucial point in mind: better data would almost certainly raise Lynn's correlation!

But which way does the arrow of causation run? It probably runs both ways. Higher IQs lead to higher average incomes (for obvious reasons), but higher incomes probably also lead to higher IQs. If the latter wasn't true, it would be very hard to understand why African-Americans outscore Africans by 15 points (an entire standard deviation).

The good news is that it should be possible to set off a virtuous cycle of higher IQs leading to a wealthier, more civilized society that in turn leads to even higher IQs, and so forth. In fact, this has probably been happening in a lot of the world. But how could we fully ignite this process in the low IQ portions of the 3rd World? There's probably no way short of 22nd Century genetic engineering to make Equatorial Guinea into Hong Kong, but it ought to be possible to do something to raise the next generations' IQs.

But we don't really know yet. Education probably helps. But there may be other, cheaper ways that focus on alleviating biological problems that prevent people from reaching their genetic potential in intelligence. Perhaps some IQ-cognizant philanthropic computer zillionaire should fund intense research into how to raise IQ's in 3rd World countries. (Hey, Larry Ellison - this is how you could trump Bill Gates at saving the world!) A rise of just a few points could mean a big improvement in the workings of these countries. Lynn and the New Zealand scholar James Flynn, working separately, have shown that raw IQs scores have been rising in many countries - the Lynn-Flynn effect - but we know very little about what causes this or how significant it is. Lynn himself has demonstrated that malnutrition hurts IQ, but we need to know more the precise mechanisms. Perhaps getting enough of certain nutrients early in life can make a modest but significant difference. Arthur Jensen thinks that is likely.

Further, I strongly suspect, based on twins raised apart data, that infections sap IQ. Tropical countries are more germ-ridden than temperate countries. Unfortunately, we really don't know much about which germs knock a few points off IQ. This is something that ought to be studied in depth. But practically nobody is doing it because IQ researchers are considered the devil's spawn these days.

"We Were Soldiers"

Here's my review of Mel Gibson's Vietnam movie We Were Soldiers. How does Randall "Braveheart" Wallace's new war movie compare to Black Hawk Down and Apocalypse Now? Find out.

Why are South Indians so smart?

One of the least predicted phenomena of recent decades was the emergence of a huge number of people with brilliant technical skills in South India. As far as I know, nobody saw it coming. It doesn't fit either standard cultural theories (e.g., the "center" flourishes at the expense of the "periphery" - until recently, you couldn't get much more peripheral than Bangalore) or evolutionary theories (e.g., cold winters may select for high IQ, but South India is awfully warm).

A young Bangladeshi-American population geneticist named Razib Khan has done one of the few studies in this area, confirming via survey that professors of mathematics in India are disproportionately Southerners. Razib wrote to me:

"South Indians (from my experience) seem to have somewhat of an inferiority complex visa vis the north, especially the Hindi cow-belt. This is partly because of the north's cultural domination. But it's also because southerners are small and darker. If fact, I would hazard to guess that many northern fathers would object to their daughters marrying a southerner purely on racial grounds-backed up of course by traditional caste prejudices.

"This being said-pretty much everyone also agrees the southerners are damn smart. Smarter than the average northerner. Doesn't seem to matter though-the northerners are still higher on the pecking order anyhow. Kind of like High School. Jocks, not nerds, rule.

"By the way, I happen to think there probably isn't much evolutionary advantage in the ability to figure out higher level topology in mathematics. I have to think genetic drift is important in this sort of thing."

Genetic drift (i.e., randomness) might well be the answer, but it's kind of the Theory of Last Resort for when we can't come up with anything else. Of course, I sure haven't come up with anything else other than "maybe it has something to do with caste," which isn't exactly a theory. Does anybody have any other suggestions? What role does caste play in this? (My impression is that caste is essentially Jim Crow-style segregation taken to surrealistic extremes. Does that make sense?) 3/03/02

Why are there so many extremely smart people from the South of India? I mean, there's certainly nothing lacking about the big, fairer-skinned folks from the North of India, but the small, dark-skinned Dravidian-speakers from the South are something.

Catholic Church scandal and celibacy

As the Catholic priesthood's boy-fondling scandal runs its course, I suspect that calls to end the Church's 1,000 year old policy of priestly celibacy will mount. It's hard to tell from news coverage whether the victims are mostly pre-pubescent or post-pubescent boys, but even in the gay-intimidated current journalistic environment, it's clear we are talking about boys, not girls.

Clearly, the Catholic Church can no longer recruit many young heterosexual men to a life of celibacy the way it did in the glory days of the Irish-American Church in the first half of the last century. This strikes me as reflecting one of the big overlooked changes of the 20th Century - the spread of the idea that everyone would, should, and deserves to get married. I don't know the statistics, but I gather that throughout much of Western European history, a sizable minority of the population didn't marry. Even in Victorian England, there were lots of professions in which marriage was difficult - domestic servants, sailors, army officers, Oxford dons, and so forth.

Anthropologist Peter Frost has talked about how one of the distinguishing features of Western Europe, going back into barbarian times was late and non-universal marriage.

The 1950's, which seem to us like the bedrock era of unchanging stability, may have been the first time when the universality of marriage became economically feasible in the U.S.

All in all, this seems like a happy change. As I've argued before, monogamy (one man-one wife) may be at the heart of Western individualism and freedom. This trend spread that notion of sexual democracy even farther.

However, the spread of the notion that everyone should have an active sex life has obviously caused big problems for the Catholic priesthood. The Church doesn't like to move fast - it has seen lots of fads come and go. But this one seems permanent.

Ending celibacy would also set the stage for dealing with the issue of female ordination a few decades in the future. The Church can't afford female ordination now because it would turn the priesthood into an overwhelmingly gay male and lesbian-dominated institution, further alienating the straight male laity. But a few decades of building back up the proportion of straight men in the priesthood would put the Church in position to open the doors to women as priests.

True Homophobia

Shouldn't the term "homophobic" - literally, "fear of homosexuals" - apply to institutions like the New York Times and Newsweek? They are obviously intimidated about reporting facts about which the homosexuals in their newsrooms would ask, "Is it bad for the gays?" Star reporter Rick Berke of the NYT told a gay journalist group, "There are times when you look at the front-page meeting” of the Times and “literally three-quarters of the people deciding what’s on the front page are not-so-closeted homosexuals.”

Catholic Church scandal and the Boy Scouts

Perhaps the Catholic Church's boy-groping scandal will cause the New York Times to publicly reassess its condemnation of the Boy Scouts for discriminating against adult homosexuals who want to lead boys into the woods. I doubt it, though.

How to prevent anti-Semitic paranoia

How to prevent anti-Semitic paranoia: So, it turns out that Carl Cameron's five-part series that was briefly posted on in December before being spiked was on to something when it reported Israelis were spying in the U.S.. At least, that's what The Forward, the fine Jewish newspaper of New York, reported in an article entitled, "Spy Rumors Fly on Gusts of Truth." Apparently, at least a few of the many Israelis arrested after 9/11 were Mossad agents keeping an eye on Muslim extremists in the U.S. (Too bad our spooks weren't.) The Forward denies that they had any inkling that 9/11 was going to happen.

It's confusing though, because the same reporter in the same issue of The Forward published another article called, "FBI Probe Defuses Israeli Spying Rumors." The argument in this one is that the scores of Israeli "art students" detained since 9/11 for spying on government agencies weren't Mossad agents, but were Israeli mobsters scoping out the DEA probably to help themselves deal more Ecstasy. (An earlier Forward article reported that Israeli organized criminals have cornered 75% of the American market for ravers' favorite drug.) These two stories are not necessarily fundamentally contradictory. There could have been two separate intelligence gathering operations going on - one run by Mossad, the other run by gangsters. Or, they could have been in some way linked, as the CIA and the Chicago Outfit were in the Castro assassination attempts. Just as I like to point out that the line between freedom fighter, terrorist, and gangster can be awfully thin, so can the line between gangster and intelligence agent, as so many KGB agents have shown over the last decade.

Obviously, I don't know what was going on. One thing I am certain about, though, is this: The mainstream press only encourages anti-Semitic paranoia when it shies away from publishing true stories about the activities of Israeli spies and gangsters. In particular, they are throwing red meat to the paranoid set when they post articles, then try to delete them. Don't they know that nothing disappears on the Web?

debate between Jonah Goldberg and myself?

Will there be a debate between Jonah Goldberg and myself on the scientific meaningfulness of race? To me, it sounds like a lot of fun. Jonah knows a lot about dog breeding - a field that features both close similarities and major differences with race in humans - so that could be a good starting point. Polite encouragement can be emailed to

The Time Machine

My review of The Time Machine.


My review
of Robert De Niro and Eddie Murphy in Showtime.

Overlooked for 2002 Oscars

Who should be up for an Oscar but isn't?

Ward Connerly and Ron Unz: some unsolicited advice for Bill Simon

I solicited from California initiative heroes Ward Connerly and Ron Unz some unsolicited advice for Bill Simon about issues to campaign on against Democratic California Gov. Gray Davis: find out what they have to say.
Twin Questions - One fascinating finding is that identical twins, who are virtually 100% genetically the same, still tend to differ somewhat on IQ and personality measures. One particularly intriguing finding is that they seldom fall in love with the same person. Also, twins raised together aren't a whole lot more similar than twins raised apart. How come? I've got a few ideas, which I'll mention soon, but I'd like to hear yours.

Neo-centrist Mickey Kaus and

Neo-centrist Mickey Kaus has an excellent attack on amnesty for illegal immigrants on his site. I certainly don't mind quietly persuading influential people like Mickey, but it would be nice if they'd come out of the closet and publicly admit to reading VDARE.

Al Gore shaves off his beard

Al Gore shaves off his beard - The main purpose behind having a beard is to make your jaw look larger and thus more manly. (A beard can also serve to cover up jowls and a spotty complexion.) I have a weak jawline, so I look better with a beard. (At least, that's how I feel when I look at myself in the mirror.) The problem with this is that the whole world has figured out - on a subliminal level - that guys with mediocre testosterone levels grow beards to make themselves look studlier. So, everybody assumes that a man with a beard is just a professorial-type trying to cover up his wimpy chin. That's why when I was a corporate executive, I always shaved off my beard when I needed to look for a job. Granted, this let everyone see how unformidable my jaw was, but that was less damaging than covering it up with a beard and thus encouraging them to assume it was even less dominant-looking than it actually is.

(Allen Mazur did a great little study where he showed people pictures from the 1950 West Point Yearbook and asked them to guess which cadets rose to the rank of general. Having no other information, people tended to pick the young officers with the strongest jaws and other masculinely handsome features - and they turned out to be correct more often than not.)

This popular (and fairly accurate) prejudice against men with beards caused Gore no end of trouble over the last year, and needlessly, because he has an impressive jaw. (Of course, it didn't help that Al refused to engage in basic beard-care. Gore had the classic "Go to hell, World" scruffy beard, which, while understandable after all he went through, wasn't helping him look like 2004 Presidential timber.)

What Gore really needs to work on is his lisp. No, he doesn't have a lithp, he has a lisssssssp. As Harry Shearer of The Simpsons told me, Gore tends to make super-sibilant "s" sounds. Darryl Hammond on Saturday Night Live had Gore's lissssssp impediment down perfectly. This tends to be a gay male trait, although our lack of accurate terminology causes confusion over this: Very few gays lithp, but quite a few lissssssp. Lissssping plagues gay choirs. This speech impediment damaged Gore's image with the public, making him sound more prissy and less manly than Bush, despite all the objective evidence that Gore is highly masculine. If Gore didn't lissssp, he'd be President today.

Why demanding celibacy and chastity of priests no longer appears practical

I want to come back to this fascinating question of why demanding celibacy and chastity of priests no longer appears practical. Or, in other words, why until not that long ago did European Christian societies assume that lots of people were never going to marry? My guess is that until fairly recently, lots of people tended to be too hungry, tired, cold, and ill to feel particularly strong sexual urges. Sure, the healthiest always tended to be plenty lusty, but perhaps a sizable fraction didn't.

Andrew Sullivan's latest venting on the Catholic Church's youth-molesting scandal

Can anybody make sense out of Andrew Sullivan's latest venting on the Catholic Church's youth-molesting scandal? As usual, Andrew seems to have decided that it has something to do with the Church discriminating against gays, although by any reasonable standard it would appear the Church was too forgiving of priests who acted out on their gay impulses. Anyway, that's why Andrew is a superstar of personal web journalism - even when he's denouncing identity politics, everything ends up being about his own complex identity. And, basically, that's what people are interested in - personalities, not logic. Those of us who strive for objectivity and logical consistency in our observations about the world just aren't as humanly interesting as a walking mass of contradictions and sensitivities like Andrew.

New, Improved Oscars

New, Improved Oscars - Here's my article suggesting awards to reflect what modern Hollywood is really about: Best Carcinogenic Product Placement, Best Career-Enhancing Divorce, Least Unexpected Change of Sexual Orientation, etc.

Is the new version of E.T. worth going to a theatre to see?

Here is my review.

Minorities Get Inferior Medical Care, Even with Same Insurance plans, Study Finds

Minorities Get Inferior Medical Care, Even with same Insurance plans, Study Finds - NYT - Let me explain what's really going on, because the article of course fails to. It's too satisfied with abstract explanations like "racism." If you want good medical care, you can't leave it up to your doctor. You have to get on the Web and research what's wrong with you and what the possible treatments are. Then you have to stand up to your doctor and make him do what it takes to cure you. White people are a lot pushier with their doctors than black people, so they get better medical care.

For example, I had a horrible, convulsive cough for six weeks. I went to my doctor and he prescribed some stuff, but none of it worked. Then the coughing became debilitating - I'd suddenly start coughing, then gasping for air, then gagging, then vomiting. That kind of cuts down on your social life (although I was losing weight nicely on the Blow Chow Diet). So, I got on the Internet and figured out I had Whooping Cough (pertussis). My doctor didn't believe me - whooping cough is rare these days - but I had a stack of printouts showing that my symptoms were precisely those of whooping cough in adults. So, I eventually badgered him into giving me Erythromycin, the antibiotic for pertussis. Within two days, the coughing was under control (although it comes back when I overwork).

So, to improve health care for blacks, encourage them to probingly question their doctors and to do research on the web.

This illustrates something I try to do - relate big political, social, and racial issues to daily life. Too many journalists just use a prefabricated set of abstract concepts for thinking about race, and never examine how it actually plays out in the real world.

Hollywood's love affair with R-rated movies hurts the industry financially

For years, Michael Medved has insisted that Hollywood's love affair with R-rated movies hurts the industry financially. Following angry Congressional hearings in 2000 about how Hollywood marketed R-rated films to children, the industry finally started to de-emphasize them. Did this political meddling hurt the bottom line? Or was Medved vindicated? Here's my analysis of the box office data.

"Globalization Proves Disappointing" - IQ and the Wealth of Nations

"Globalization Proves Disappointing" reports the NYT. "Globalization, or the fast-paced growth of trade and cross-border investment, has done far less to raise the incomes of the world's poorest people than the leaders had hoped, many officials here say. The vast majority of people living in Africa, Latin America, Central Asia and the Middle East are no better off today than they were in 1989..." On the other hand, hundreds of billions in private investment have poured into China.

So, what's the story behind the story? Capital flows to where wages are low but IQ's are high - pre-eminently China, where the average IQ is two points higher than the U.S. already, according to Richard Lynn's IQ and the Wealth of Nations. China's IQ advantage is likely to grow greater in the future as the Chinese get better fed and educated. In contrast, these other regions (with the exception of the self-destructive Argentineans) average IQ's of 90 or less, sometimes considerably less.

This is not to disparage free markets - there's really no alternative. The point is simply that, at any point in time, humans will differ greatly in productive capacity, so not everyone benefits from economic competition to the same extent.

The Oscars & diversity

The Oscars & diversity: Halle Berry's acceptance speech - Why are actresses like that? Raymond Chandler explains. Plus, Denzel Washington & Ben Stein's Law. Here's my article.

Human Biodiversity Watch: Jennifer Connelly's diet

Human Biodiversity Watch: Jennifer Connelly's diet: Sure, she's got an Oscar now that she's starved herself down to the official shape for a prestige actress, but can she be healthier and happier looking like this today (above left) than when she looked like that (above right)? Perhaps the emotional instability of so many top actresses stems from their being famished all the time? Hunger doesn't make you a happy person.

National Geographic's green-eyed Afghan Pashtun refugee girl found

Image: Sharbat GulaThe new issue of National Geographic reveals that after 17 years, the magazine has found the subject of its most popular photo ever: that green-eyed Afghan Pashtun refugee girl. It's remarkable how much power that rare eye-color mutations hold over the human imagination.

Jennifer Connelly pictures: voluptuous and anorexic

Career Opportunities

The dress designers for bony actresses Jennifer Connelly and Gwyneth Paltrow continue to take abuse for how awful their clients looked at the Oscars.Jennifer Connelly at 2002 Oscars Yet, the real crime is what these women have done to their own bodies. One of America's wisest coeds wrote to me, "Carving a naturally fleshy body type like Jennifer Connelly's [left] down to the mannequin she is today [right] also plays hell with a woman's hormonal system. When a C-cup like Connelly loses so much weight that she barely has any breasts to speak of, her hormones are thrown perilously out of whack. This can cause mood swings, menstrual irregularities and it can even compromise the immune system. I suspect that this is why actresses like Calista Flockhart and Angelina Jolie adopt instead of tackily giving birth themselves. A woman who maintains a body fat percentage far below her genetically determined minimum fights a daily war with nature. Of course, bearing children is the most archetypal surrender to body fat. Get thee to an adoption agency. Could fat phobia be at least partially responsible for dropping birth rates?"

One of America's wisest socialists asked this question in response: "What is the relation between a woman's size and her reproduction rate? For most of human history it was probably pretty close to straight-line positive [i.e., the less malnourished she was, the more children she had]; but now in advanced nations I would guess that it is some sort of Bell Curve-like figure, with very fat and fashionably thin women having far fewer children than the averagely "overweight" women in between. (The mere fact that average women can be described as overweight is in itself interesting.)" Anybody know of any studies?

My dumb question: SDI and nuclear-tipped interceptors

My dumb question: It's exciting that the Pentagon's missile defense system prototype has three times in a row physically struck a dummy ICBM in tests over the Pacific. But why are we even trying to "hit a bullet with a bullet?" When you try to shoot down a flying object, you don't use a rifle, you use a shotgun or an anti-aircraft gun. So wouldn't it make more sense just to load anti-missile missiles with low fallout nukes and vaporize any incoming ICBMs that are in their general vicinity? Help me out here, folks.

Priests and celibacy - Reply

A reader replies: "The development of birth control has probably made priestly celibacy a less attractive option. If marriage no longer means having a large and demanding family, fewer men will want to become priests. I forget where I read this (Fukuyama? Tiger ? iSteve?), but if families are smaller, fewer parents will direct a child to become the priest or nun in the family. They'd rather have grandchildren. Of course another factor is that economic growth and the decline in discrimination against Catholics in mixed, or formerly occupied Catholic countries like Ireland and Poland means that there are more jobs available for educated Catholics."

My review of Robin Williams in Death to Smoochy.

My review of robin Williams in Death to Smoochy.