January 12, 2005

Is Social Security Paying for the War on Terror?


A reader writes:

In the past, in order to make an essentially pay-as-you-go transfer system look a little more like what it claims to be, an actuarially sound insurance system, Congress has had to 'reform' Social Security about every 15 to 20 years. The aim is always to keep tax revenues and payout in balance about 20 to 30 years in the future. But 20 to 30 years in the future is always worse, in terms of the retiree-to-worker ratio. So any tax-and-benefit scheme that balances this long-term future is going to generate a substantial surplus in the short and medium term, essentially subsidizing the chronic deficits on regular Federal expenditures and taxes.

So, the practical effect of our eternally unreformed, but constantly reformed, Social Security system has been to help 1) pay to win World War II, 2) pay down the World War II debt, while 3) fighting the Cold War, and now 4) fight the War on Terror.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Steve Sailer's homepage and blog is iSteve.com

Social Security Reform and Congress


A reader writes:

Unlike Iraq, Congress is not simply going to vote to let Bush have at the Social Security system. The reform bills are going to be debated over a longer period of time and written in committees with chairmen used to exercising meaningful decision-making authority, not simply rubberstamping Bush policies. If a bill passes at all it will probably take at least 1-2 years, if not longer. By the time it reaches implementation phase, the Bush administration will be nearing its end.

The reform debate is going to have a larger effect on the members of Congress than it will Bush. Dubya will never have to face the voters again; any accomplishment on this front will only go into the legacy scrapbook at his presidential library. Social Security is one of those rare issues that get incumbent congressmen kicked out of office. Proposed benefit cuts cost the Republicans a number of House seats in 1982 and their Senate majority in 1986. Efforts to rein in Medicare spending doomed a lot of Republican congressmen in 1996 and helped turn that year’s presidential race into an easy Clinton romp when many had initially thought the GOP would be competitive even with a candidate like Bob Dole.

This is also the kind of legislation that tends to pass only with bipartisan support (think welfare reform) and can otherwise tank spectacularly even if the president’s party controls both houses of Congress (think Hillary’s health care plan). Republicans are going to want cover from their Democratic colleagues to mitigate the usefulness of the issue to their general-election challengers. The House is going to want cover from the Senate before going along with anything that could be construed as a benefit cut. Senate Republicans are going to need to pull in at least five Democrats and hold onto all their moderates to be able to beat a filibuster. If anything, Congress is likely to err on the side of being too cautious.

Which doesn’t necessarily mean the end result will be good. The Medicare prescription-drug bill and NCLB are fine examples. Both were deeply flawed proposals from the beginning, but at least contained some reforms for which a case can be made. In Congress, most of the free-market reforms suggested by the White House were stripped out and the bills were loaded up with new government spending. They both passed with bipartisan support and Bush, rather than objecting, declared victory, held signing ceremonies and went home.

So, we could end up with the worst of both the Democrats and the Republicans in the bill. Or, we might get lucky and both parties in Congress and the President work together for the common good like in the (unfortunately, short-lived) tax simplification reforms of 1986.

Steve Sailer's homepage and blog is iSteve.com

Four famous grandparents?

Request: I'm looking for a third generation celebrity to use in an example.

or a number of years, I've been arguing for a new (but also very old) perspective on what a racial group is: I find lacking both the "A race for everybody and everybody in his race" thinking derived from Linnaeus and the post-modern "Race does not exist" cant. Instead, I find that the most useful way to conceiving of racial groups is as a partly inbred extended family.

Somebody was recently trying to debunk this by asking, "How may racial groups are there in the world: three, six, one hundred?" My answer is: "Whatever is useful and defensible in answering the specific question you need to deal with at the moment. You should no more expect everyone to belong to a single racial groups as you would expect them to belong to a single extended family."

What I'd like to do is find a famous person, or the child of two famous people, who has four well-known grandparent, in order to make the point that everybody belongs to their mother's and father's extended families, but also their four grandparents' extended families, and so on up the family tree. For example, Arnold Schwarzenegger's kids are not only Schwarzeneggers, but also, Shrivers and Kennedys through their mother. While not bad, this is still a clunky example of how people belong to multiple extended families because nobody is familiar with the maiden name of the fourth grandparent, Arnold's mother.

So, I'm looking for a better example where all four grandparents' names are familiar. Maybe a movie star, royalty, an heiress, an athlete, or whatever. The actual third generation person might just be an obscure child of famous parents and grandparents. So, what I need two famous married people, each of whom are the children of famous people. Or spring from four famous families like, say, the Vanderbilts, Du Ponts, Tudors, or whatever, even if the individuals aren't all famous in their own right.

Steve Sailer's homepage and blog is iSteve.com

Columnist Maureen Dowd and actor Michael Douglas


Reflecting on NYT op-edster/spinster Maureen Dowd's never-ending series on how men are rotten stinkers, as proven by the fact that none of her boyfriends, such as vastly wealthy actor-producer-double Oscar-winner Michael Douglas (son of Kirk Douglas), have ever married her. A reader wrote:

"There are probably no more than a handful of men in the whole world who are qualified (in Maureen's eyes) to become Mr. Maureen Dowd. And, son of a gun, those ultra-high achievers always seem to have better things to do than listen to feminist harangues. Life is so unfair."

I replied:

Maybe I should write a series of columns about why I hate women because Catherine Zeta-Jones (now Mrs. Michael Douglas) didn't marry me.

To which he responded:

Excellent idea. If life was fair, we would all be able to marry women who look like Miss Zeta-Jones. The only possible explanation for why we can't is that our legitimate male aspirations have been deliberately thwarted by the Evil Matriarchy, acting out of sheer spite.

This is a major social problem, and someone needs to DO SOMETHING about it. (But not us, we're the victims.)

Steve Sailer's homepage and blog is iSteve.com



"The Decline of the Metrosexual" -- I finally put online my October 20, 2003 cover story from The American Conservative about why, despite vast media coverage, "metrosexuals" are seldom seen anywhere besides Manhattan. An excerpt:

The Tony Awards ceremony increasingly looks like an indoor gay pride parade. One of the big winners this year was "Take Me Out," about a gay baseball player which included three locker room shower scenes.

Obviously, there is a lot of gay talent on Broadway, but there isn't enough to compensate for the huge decline in straight participation. That's a big reason why the quantity and quality of Broadway plays has declined so dramatically, or even theatrically.

Somewhere out there are straight youths with the gifts to become the next Richard Rodgers, Bob Fosse, and Gene Kelly, but they aren't going to go into musical theater now that all their buddies know the score about Broadway. Instead, they'll show off their straightness by dressing like slobs and listening to gangsta rap. When they grow up, they'll go to Hollywood instead and help make movies about blowing stuff up. They'll take their huge paychecks and buy yellow Hummers.

The aristocratic and religious arts that make up the high culture of Western Civilization were part of a thousand year project to restrain and redefine the unbridled masculinity of all those Conan the Barbarians who poured into the old Roman Empire at the beginning of the Dark Ages. The aptly named Vandals and their cohorts were slowly converted into knights, who were supposed to know not only how to fight, but also how to appreciate the finer forms of music, painting, sculpture, theater, dance, conversation, and dress.

Inevitably, the arts attracted a higher proportion of male homosexuals than did fighting, hunting, or plowing. But nobody particularly noticed because all attention was focused on matters of class. If you wanted your family to move up in society, you (or your children) needed to learn something about the arts.

We Americans claim to be a classless society, so the social pressures to study the traditional aristocratic arts were always less in America, and are declining even more. Ballet schools, for example, need male dancers to partner all the little girls who want to be ballerinas, but they've given up on finding enough American boys. Instead, they try to recruit lads from immigrant families from more class-ridden lands that are attracted to the old snob appeal of ballet.

With the decline of overt interest in class, sexual orientation has become a driving force in the arts.

If James Bond were introduced today, the New York Times would describe him as a metrosexual rather than as a gentleman. I fear, though, that if you called him a metrosexual, he would make a witty quip, flick some invisible dust from his perfectly tailored lapels with his manicured hands, and shoot you.

Straight flight raises a seldom-asked question about the push for gay marriages, or, more precisely, gay weddings. The average young groom finds preparing for his wedding to be a grueling, months-long odyssey through an alien and threatening feminine landscape. At least though, being a groom is a guy thing, not a gay thing. But if gay men become some of the most flamboyant participants in weddings, will more of the vast majority of straight men who aren't metrosexuals just decide to skip the whole punishing process and stay single? If this drives up the illegitimacy rate, society as a whole will suffer. [More...]

Steve Sailer's homepage and blog is iSteve.com

House of Flying Daggers


The latest martial arts flick directed by Zhang Yimou, the creator of the great Hero (here's my review), goes into wide release on Friday. Zhang Ziyi is a cutie as the blind kung-fuette, but I don't much like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon-style movies much, and this one seemed fairly ho-hum, being far less visually inventive than Hero. I got bored about halfway through and went and watched A Very Long Engagement for awhile, which looked good, but the plot -- a complicated detective story in which the adorable Audrey "Amelie" Tatou searches for her fiancé after WWI -- was incomprehensible if you sneak in during the middle like I did. So, back to Flying Daggers, but I had missed the climactic set-piece fight and the ending wasn't any better than the beginning. Oh, well ...

Steve Sailer's homepage and blog is iSteve.com

"The Aviator"


The Aviator, in contrast, is a blast. Having been embarrassed a couple of years ago when his leaden Leonardo DiCaprio drama Gangs of New York got deservedly blown away at the box-office by Steven Spielberg's simultaneously-released Leonardo DiCaprio soufflé Catch Me If You Can, Martin Scorsese is back with a fun biopic about Howard Hughes' golden years before his madness won out over his energy. DiCaprio is too young-looking to play Hughes, but he's a wonderful light leading man. And there's an admirable pro-free enterprise moral to the final story about Hughes' fight after WWII, as owner of the upstart airline TWA, to keep Congress from granting a monopoly on overseas flights to the established Pan-Am. Through sheer will he fights off his growing insanity long enough to rouse the public to prevent the special interests from nationalizing trans-Atlantic routes.

The Aviator features excellent casting of liberal icons Alan Alda and Alec Baldwin as the sleaze dog villains they were born to play. And the luncheon party scene where Kate Hepburn (Cate Blanchett) takes her boyfriend Howard home to the Hepburn's mansion on Long Island Sound to meet her insufferable family of snobbish socialists is a comic delight.

If Scorsese had ended the movie with the triumphant scene where Howard gets his colossal Spruce Goose white elephant seaplane airborne (albeit briefly) in 1947, The Aviator would be packing them in at the box-office, but he tacks on a five-minute downer of a coda reminding us of Howard's enclosing madness.

Steve Sailer's homepage and blog is iSteve.com

In defense of Social Security Privatization


A reader writes in response to another reader's questions below:

  • Why not have the government invest directly? No particular reason. That's what Calpers does. That's what Clinton proposed, kind of half-heartedly midway through his second term. Conservatives like to argue that if the government invested in stocks then the Feds would start "meddling" in the stock market. That's true, but the opposite is true as well: if the solvency of Social Security depended on the stock market, then the Feds would care a lot more about stock market returns than they do even now.

  • Why have the government choose the investments we can make? This is an easy one: because most people are not financial professionals. Look, in my 401k I've got a very limited selection of investment choices. That's partly a matter of what our firm can get us in terms of a deal from fund companies, but it's also a matter of protecting us future retirees. Threre is a lot of room between "you must put your money in an annuity run by the government" and "you can invest your retirement savings in anything you like - pork bellies, wildcatting for oil, a perpetual-motion-machine startup, trips to Vegas." That middle ground is: you can invest your money at your preferred level of risk tolerance, but you can only invest in broadly diversified, market-like funds with low expenses. What is so terrible about that? You of all people, concerned about the left hand of the bell curve, should appreciate that the less-sophisticated consumer deserves protection not only from con artists and scammers but from his own poor instincts.

  • Why not raise the retirement age a bit or slowly reduce benefits at the high end? Because these solutions are not popular. But rest assured: some kind of benefit cut will be a part of Bush's Social Security reform, assuming any such reform passes (which is highly questionable). This is the dirty little secret about Social Security reform: 80% of the reason for switching to personal accounts is marketing designed to mask a necessary reduction in benefits; the other 20% is conservative ideology (which I happen to buy) that ownership - whether of an annuity or of a block of assets (and, contrary to your suggestion, there is no reason you couldn't in principle purchase an annuity with your Social Security personal account funds, and thereby hedge getting old; every major insurance company provides such products) - builds character while entitlements encourage dependency, sloth and irresponsibility. All serious versions of Social Security reform involve giving people personal accounts *in exchange* for having them sign off on a lower benefit package from the government. Bush is hoping nobody notices the trade-off.

Well said. But you can see the underlying assumption here:

Sure, Bush will sell this concept to the moron voters as a get-rich-quick something-for-nothing scheme where all Americans will get big rewards investing their retirement nest eggs in high risk stocks (even though you and I know that reward correlates with risk), but the actual implementation of the details of the law by Bush will be sober, realistic, honest, and competent.

How I'd like to believe that's true! But how much evidence is there that Bush's actions generally turn out more responsible than his rhetoric? Iraq? Immigration? Medicare drug benefits? Tax cuts during war time? No Child Left Behind?

How about Karl Rove? Do you trust him? Tom DeLay? Bush's latest crop of economic "advisors"?

I trust Arnold Schwarzenegger about as far as I can throw him, but I have to admit that I'd trust a Social Security reform scheme from President Schwarzenegger far more than I'd trust one from President Bush, given their comparative track records.

Maybe Bush will finally surprise us this time by for once putting in the work to make his actual proposal better than it sounds. But that won't happen unless there is a lot of Show-Me-the-Details skepticism on the Right.

Steve Sailer's homepage and blog is iSteve.com

Social Security and IQ


More on Social Security: A reader writes:

I'm surprised you haven't mentioned IQ and privatization yet. How many people really understand portfolio diversification? I have a degree in Finance, and I've got my Financial Math book here with a huge equation outlining how the correlation coefficient between asset A and asset B affect the total risk of the portfolio, etc, etc...but I've gone through grad school and I don't completely understand the math behind this.

How does Bush, Inc. expect the average American to understand portfolio theory? Most stockbrokers don't fully understand it! Only a handful of mathematicians and economists do. Good lord! No wonder Wall St. is licking their chops at this proposal. Talk about a greater fool theory!

Have the Republicans completely lost their minds? The Wall Street Journal reads like a talking points memo from the head of the RNC these days.

Other readers have pointed out that individuals can purchase annuities to insure themselves against the horrible risks of living too long. But, Social Security privatization isn't being sold on the basis of the returns you could get from low risk / low reward annuities but on the potential high rewards you could get from high risk stocks.

Another reader says, "Follow The Money and you'll see why this issue is being pushed now."

Steve Sailer's homepage and blog is iSteve.com

Michael Milken and Ron Chernow


Milken: I was a big fan of Michael Milken in the 1980s but I eventually noticed that his many defenders on the Op-Ed page of the WSJ were making two arguments over and over again:

- What he did that was immoral wasn't illegal.

- And what he did that was illegal wasn't immoral.

I eventually just got tired of arguing both sides and gave up.

That said, Milken, unlike so many others, did serve a stiff sentence for his crimes and has done a lot of philanthropy since he got out of the jug. Further, his titanic career in the 1980s was built on far more than just criminality. His problem was not that he was a bad person but that he lacked the noblesse oblige that his talents demanded. "With great power comes great responsibility" were not the words he lived by. When you are that smart and that energetic (my favorite Milken story is that of the ambitious small-timer who after months of pleading finally got an appointment with Milken at 5:30 am Sunday, only to have Milken call back to say that he just realized that was the Sunday you set the clocks back an hour at the end of Daylight Savings Time, so could they reschedule for 4:30 am?), you have to hold yourself to higher ethical standards than those of ordinary Joes.

Milken is one of the major figures of our time and deserves a major biography by a major biographer. Ron Chernow, that means you!

Steve Sailer's homepage and blog is iSteve.com

Milkenizing Social Security?


A reader writes:

It just doesn't make any sense. If the government's planning to borrow a Trillion dollars, so that individuals can get better returns in the stock market, why don't they just invest the money in the stock market themselves and eliminate the middle men? If it's about "choice" how come they're choosing which investments we can make? If it's about "basic arithmetic" like John Snow's speech writers have him saying, why not raise the retirement age a bit, or slowly reduce benefits at the high end while keeping a floor?

It makes about as much sense as Iraq did. And I'm afraid it will be a far worse slow motion train wreck. We can still pull out of Iraq at a cost of mere hundreds of billions. This will be wasted trillions, gone like you said into the pockets of investment bankers and CEOs.

Jeez, I used to think I was a conservative. I still think I'm a conservative. What the hell is going on?

I must confess that I haven't given a lot of deep, intense thought to Social Security reform. But, then, do you really think Bush has either?

I just have a bad feeling about this.

I'm not saying that Social Security couldn't be reformed in an intelligent manner, but I am saying that Bush and the mob of yes-men and spinmeisters around him are the last people you should trust to come up with the plan.

It reminds me of Michael Milken's junk bonds. I talked to Milken once. I think he's really trying these days to be a nice guy and a fine human being, but he still gives the impression of being the leader of the hyper-intelligent reptiles from the planet Zwork. (I wonder if Oliver Stone met Milken before he came up with the name "Gordon Gekko" for Michael Douglas' character in Wall Street. It sure fits.) Now, I've never met George W. Bush, but I did talk to his brother Neil about a half hour before talking to Milken, and "hyper-intelligent" was not the word that came to mind.

Anyway, there were two ideas behind Milken's "high yield" bonds: interest payments are tax deductible and you don't have to jump out the window anymore if you go bankrupt. So, you borrow a gazillion dollars at ridiculously high interest rates and buy a company. If you hang on somehow and keep paying the interest until you can cash out, you become a gazillionaire through the magic of leverage. If you don't, well, it's not like it's 1929 and you have to kill yourself just because you are ruined. The creditors just have to take a haircut. Heck, if you live in Texas, you can keep your mansion. Indeed, you just move on and you'll probably be back in the game soon.

Before Milken, financiers felt that overly exploiting these two openings was Just Not Done. But Milken said, Just Do It.

The problems with Milkenizing Social Security, however, are that:

A. The tax deductibility of interest is irrelevant to federal government borrowing.

B. If they bankrupt the U.S., well, some of us can't just move on. As Patrick Swayze says in Red Dawn: "We live here."

C. And what's the reward for all this risk? If you pull off a junk bond leverage buyout, you become rich beyond the dreams of avarice. But if the Republican succeed with Social Security, what will they get: control of the White House, the Senate, and the House? Oh, wait, they've already got all that.

Steve Sailer's homepage and blog is iSteve.com

Maureen Dowd Approves of IQ Study


Liberal NYT columnist cites IQ study! Menopausal spinster Maureen Dowd's continuing series "I Hate Men (Why Oh Why Didn't A Man Marry Me?)" took a predictable turn Thursday when she approvingly referenced an IQ study:

"A second study, which was by researchers at four British universities and reported last week, suggested that smart men with demanding jobs would rather have old-fashioned wives, like their mums, than equals. The study found that a high I.Q. hampers a woman's chance to get married, while it is a plus for men. The prospect for marriage increased by 35 percent for guys for each 16-point increase in I.Q.; for women, there is a 40 percent drop for each 16-point rise."

This once again confirms Sailer's Law of IQ: "Liberals simultaneously don't believe in IQ and believe their IQs are far superior to the IQs of nonliberals."

Interestingly, while Maureen couldn't figure out how to get her ex-boyfriend Michael Douglas to marry her, Catherine Zeta-Jones didn't have much trouble solving the puzzle. I'm sure Maureen assumes her IQ is far superior to Catherine's, but Catherine seems to have discovered how men work at a much younger age than poor old Maureen.

A reader writes:

Men are often lampooned for for their cluelessness about women, but it goes both ways. The difference is we never see women satirized for it the way men are.

That reminds me that the first article I ever published in a magazine (The American Spectator back in October 1992) was a satire on feminist cluelessness:

Report Cites Bias Against Women in Drug Rackets

"Aspiring Female Traffickers Lack Role Models," Notes Expert

By Steve Sailer

HANOVER, NH -- A new study reveals that while women have made gains in the controlled substances industry, they still comprise only 14.6% of all drug dealers. Even more disturbing, a "glass ceiling" shuts women out of the top rungs of the profession. "You always hear about 'Drug Lords' and 'Cocaine Kingpins,' but where are the 'Drug Ladies,' and 'Cocaine Queenpins?'" demands Clarissa Spode, Professor of Sociology at Dartmouth, and author of the groundbreaking report, "Cracking Through: Diversity, Dignity and Drugs."

Dr. Spode faulted the media for purveying stereotypes that discourage women from entering this fast growing and lucrative occupation. For example, "Miami Vice" depicted in total only 127 female "drug industry workers" compared to 1,711 men. "Even worse, 103 of the women (81.1%) were portrayed as forsaking their careers after sleeping with Sonny and/or Rico."

Other experts concur. "Gangster films in general have always been virulently phallocentric," observes Reed College Film Professor Charles Womyndaughter. His screenplay for a non-sexist mob movie -- "The Godparent" -- was treated with callous disregard by Hollywood. "They said some quite insensitive things about it," he recalls.

Another authority, Dr. Arthur Cruttwell-Clamp, finds that American women are socialized away from traits valuable in this demanding occupation. "Too few women in our society have been taught how to laugh while zapping a deadbeat customer with an electric cattle prod." He calls on toymakers to introduce young females to a wider range of career options. "Instead of 'My Little Pony,' your toddler should be playing with 'My Little Uzi.'" Dr. Cruttwell-Clamp recommends that parents combat traditional gender-typing by having their daughters pull the wings off butterflies and burn ants with magnifying glasses for 30 minutes each day, then advance to tying stray dogs to the bumpers of cars idling at stop lights.

All the experts indignantly dismiss biological conjectures purporting to explain why males seem more violent than females. "Then why are the Nuzwangdees of Guyana -- or is it the Wangduzees of New Guinea? Well, anyway, I heard there's some tribe somewhere where more women than men are into GrecoRoman wrestling, or is it Australian football?" retorts Dr. Womyndaughter.

Media stereotypes victimize men as well. "Tragically, male dealers internalize the media's image of them," muses Dr. Spode. "The one man I talked to while preparing our report was hyper-masculine: aggressive, dominating, reckless, ruthless, muscular ... and, yet, strangely intriguing."

The researchers found chauvinism widespread within the drug industry. "We originally expected gender equality in such a nontraditional, multicultural business," recalls Dr. Spode. "As the evidence of male domination mounted, however, we began searching for the Old Boys Network that locked women out. But with a median life expectancy of 24, we couldn't find many Old Boys. Fortunately, we came up with a crucial conceptual breakthrough: the Young Boys Network." Dr. Spode adds that females are seldom invited along on important male-bonding rites of passage, like drive-by shootings.

Linda M., a spunky New Yorker, recounts how sexual harassment cut short her promising career: "I started out in retail, on a corner in the Lower East Side, but the other vendors were very crude, very 'macho.' Whenever I walked by they made these weird sucking noises. So, I went into wholesale to find a higher class of professional peer, maybe even a mentor who could show me the 'ropes.' But my fellow distributors claimed I was on their 'turf' and kept disrespecting me by dangling me out windows by my ankles. So, I went home to Bensonhurst and opened a 'crack house.' But my family and neighbors were not at all supportive of my 'un-ladylike' ambitions, so they formed a 'vigilante' mob and 'torched' my house. I think they were trying to undermine my self-esteem."

Activists denounce the lack of government programs to meet the special needs of mothers who are also drug dealers. "The very term 'Day Care' reflects institutional insensitivity to those who work mostly between midnight and dawn," points out Dr. Spode. "One mother told me she would never deal drugs because she couldn't bear to think what would happen to her children if she were killed or imprisoned." Dr. Spode blames this inequity on Reagan administration cutbacks. [More...]

Steve Sailer's homepage and blog is iSteve.com

Social Security and euthanasia


Privatizing Social Security would lead to more suicide, euthanasia, and murder:

A feature of the current and much-denounced Social Security system is that no matter how long you live, you still get a monthly check. As has been mentioned before, one of the mysteries of life is that no man knows the length of his days. The current "defined benefit" Social Security system acts as an insurance program against what could otherwise be the disaster of living too long.

The popularity of "defined contribution" retirement plans like 401k's stem in large part from their being supplements to Social Security. Say you retire at 65. You can spend the next 15 years blowing your 401ks on world travel and golf, and feel comfortable that you'll still have your Social Security check to fall back on so you won't have to go live in a refrigerator carton if you happen to live past 80.

Or, if you are less self-centered, from age 65 you can treat your private retirement accounts as you children's patrimony and live frugally just on Social Security.

In either case, the existence of a fairly generous Social Security (and Medicare) system takes away a lot of the anxiety about living too long. Pro-life conservatives should contemplate some of the statistically inevitable consequences of cutting back on that insurance.

A reader writes:

The big unnoticed/ignored (by “conservatives”-who-like-political-revolution & “progressives”-who-like-cultural-reaction alike) income support move is the shift from defined benefit to defined contribution pensions for average workers.

(The move is in the opposite direction for CEO’s).

Previously, under defined benefit plans (Lockheed & Social Security) workers got a guaranteed life-time annuity. The smart money has figured that this is becoming one long free lunch.

Now defined-contribution pensioners will simply get what goes into the pot (income deduction + booming capital gains + hot tips) less what goes out of the pot (asset liquidation + busting capital losses + greater fools & trips to Vegas) Lower income personal account holders will not have sufficient assets to diversification, so will be more susceptible to risk of local stock losses.

They will also be more susceptible to asset liquidation, owing to higher marginal propensity to consume during low-income earning periods.

If the nation’s pension funds are put into play it does not take too much nous to figure out that a few people will own most of the marbles at the end of this game. Privatising pensions is so win-win for the Big End of Town it is embarrassing.

Their existing share portfolios get a big price boost as personal account money floods into equity markets. They get to keep their FICA deductions which will be diversified into value shares (so their lazy money goes into growth shares). They get to manage the accounts which will give them beaucoup fees from churning. They get to clean up when the little fish periodically get panicked into (peaks) and out of (troughs) the market by large financial swells.

No wonder they are getting other agencies to act as spear carriers in this moral obscenity.

Steve Sailer's homepage and blog is iSteve.com

How to get more work out of employees


A reader writes:

The MLK Day proposal just need to be tweaked a little, or rather supplemented. One hurdle to getting private companies to give paid holidays is that there are getting to be so many holidays. Have you ever heard of the Federal government repealing a holiday? No, Washington just keeps adding more. This imposes economic costs.

Fortunately, a solution is now at hand. By coincidence, overwhelming evidence has just been published that Abraham Lincoln was, uh, well, let's just say he played for both Rebs and Yanks. So we simply rename Presidents Day "Gay Leadership Day."

It will still be a Federal holiday, and maybe companies will even continue to allow absence on our new Gay Leadership Day. But I will bet that 98 percent of the guys in the office will show up for work, prompt and eager, that day. In fact, job attendance on Gay Leadership Day may be the highest during the whole year, with a surprising lack of flu cases or other strange illnesses. Over the years, guys may even find that it is the most fun day of the whole year to go to work, to get more done and to enjoy their coworkers.

There we are: more holidays, recognition of an important bit of Americana, and increased GDP. It's the perfect hat trick, courtesy of Abe.

Steve Sailer's homepage and blog is iSteve.com

How to make the MLK Holiday popular

It's been 19 years since the Rev. Martin Luther King's birthday became a federal holiday, and six years since New Hampshire became the 50th state to make it a holiday for state workers. Yet, in 2004, 29 percent of employers give their staffs the day off with pay, according to a survey of 339 Human Resources executives by publisher BNA Inc.

Surprisingly, few non-black workers seem to mind. Not surprisingly, some blacks feel that this apathy toward King's birthday is a sign of disrespect. Black comedian Chris Rock said, "You gotta be pretty racist to not want a day off from work."

Fortunately, one simple change in the holiday could end this racial divisiveness and unite workers of all colors in demanding a paid holiday honoring King. [Continued here...]

Steve Sailer's homepage and blog is iSteve.com

Was Lincoln Gay? Photographic Evidence!


Reviewing the Was Lincoln Gay?" controversy, Across Difficult Country writes:

Should his portrait instead be on the three dollar bill?

Was Abraham Lincoln a homosexualist? According to a new book by written by C.A. Tripp, he was. Tripp is himself a homosexualist (a coincidence) and at one time was a researcher for the ‘sex scientist’ Alfred Kinsey... For the sake of history, let’s examine the facts on both sides:

Evidence he was: Lincoln shared his bed with the captain of his bodyguards, David Derickson. Lincoln was often seen frequenting a popular public restroom in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington DC. Lincoln loved the theater. Young Lincoln was often referred to as ‘the rail-splitter’ (I don’t know what that means exactly, but it sure sounds kind of queer).

Evidence he wasn’t: What sort of homosexualist would appear in public looking like this?

Good question. (The uncropped photo is even funnier.)

More seriously, it's hard to take these allegations as evidence of much of anything since the proponents of the theory have yet to bring forward any contemporary evidence that a single one of Lincoln's millions of passionate political enemies had ever accused him of homosexuality. In contrast, for example, it was widely rumored at the time that Sally Hemmings' children were fathered by President Jefferson.

Without TV back then, people spent a lot of time recounting personal gossip, so rumors would have spread.

A reader comments:

I haven't read the book , but after reading some comments about it on the blogosphere, it seems to me some of the arguments the book presents are very silly. Regarding the issue of sharing a bed with someone (a not uncommon practice at the time), let's remember that before the emergence of the gay rights movement, heterosexuals were far less reluctant to engage in non-sexual physical contact with other men than they would in today's time, when such behaviour would appear to look gay. That's certainly true in some institutions like the armed forces, where (not accidentally) gays were explicitly banned until just a few years ago. Liking the theater was also not exclusively a gay thing at the time (I think you have written about straight flight in your columns before). Writing bawdy poems about men marrying men hardly counts as gay behavior (how many heterosexuals make gay jokes today?). So what is left? an unhappy marriage?

Steve Sailer's homepage and blog is iSteve.com

Jodie Foster's Eugenics Obsession


What's truly interesting about Jodie Foster is not whether or not she's a lesbian, but the feminist movie star's obvious obsession with eugenics. As I wrote in "Feminist Celebrity Eugenics" in 2000:

Feminist heroine / single mother / glamour queen Jodie Foster apparently undertook a more methodical search for the perfect sperm donor. According to numerous reports in the British press in 1998, she had proudly announced that after a long hunt, she had had herself impregnated with the gametes of a tall, dark, handsome scientist with an IQ of 160.

While Miss Foster will neither confirm nor deny these articles, this does not at all seem out of character. In her movies and personal life, Miss Foster has often appeared to be loyally trying to reproduce her unusual upbringing. According to her ne'er-do-well brother Buddy's tell-all book Foster Child, Alicia Foster's nickname of "Jodie" is a tribute to "Aunt" Jo, who was their mother's pistol-packing live-in lesbian lover [Josephine Dominguez, or "Jo D"].

Jodie was a child prodigy who thrived in this environment, reading at 18 months, becoming the Coppertone Kid at three, and later on graduating summa cum laude from Yale. Thus, her first directorial effort was "Little Man Tate," in which she played a single mother raising a seven-year-old genius. Similarly, her production company received multiple Emmy nominations for "Baby Dance," a Showtime cable movie with Stockard Channing playing a wealthy, high-powered woman who wants a baby but can't get pregnant in the traditional manner. Not surprisingly, Jodie named her firm Egg Pictures.

And Jodie is widely celebrated for her leftist activism. The last story she would want circulating is one that makes her sound like Nazi film directrix Leni Riefenstahl brainstorming with Himmler and Goebbels over the specs for the Master Race's next generation. Especially because Jodie actually is going to produce and star in an upcoming bio-pic currently called "The Leni Riefenstahl Project."

Whoever the father of Jodie Foster's baby really is, the general truth is that, despite the strident egalitarianism of so many feminists, the process of getting artificially inseminated inevitably turns women who can't bear to be impregnated by a man into practicing eugenicists. They have to ask themselves which sperm donor is genetically superior. Leafing through fertility clinics' catalogs, they are forced to agonize over such politically incorrect questions as, "Does Donor #543's curly blonde hair and 6'-3" height mean he gives better seed than Donor #361, who is only 5'-7" but has an SAT score of 1450?" ...

Now, eugenics has a terrible reputation. Much of its notoriety is well deserved, since its most visible manifestations in the 20th Century were governments murdering or sterilizing people they didn't like. Voluntary eugenics, however, is too universal and too fundamental to human life for us to continue to observe the taboo against discussing it in print...

One benefit of thinking frankly about eugenics is that we can grasp its practical limitations. Consider the alleged 160 IQ of little Charles Foster's daddy. That's an extraordinary number: Only 1 out of about 30,000 Americans scores so high. Does this guarantee that, if the rumor is true, the Foster family will be blessed with another prodigy? Definitely not. According to psychologist Chris Brand ... the expected boost in the kid's IQ from using a sperm donor with an IQ of 160 instead of a one with the average IQ of 100 is only 12 points. And your mileage may vary … and almost certainly will vary dramatically. (Another book showing how to do these calculations is Daniel Seligman's delightful introduction to the science of IQ, A Question of Intelligence.)

Now, twelve IQ points (80% of a standard deviation) is nothing to sneer at. It's the difference between the 50th percentile and the 79th percentile on the Bell Curve. Still, I fear Jodie would find herself a tad disappointed.

Why is the expected payoff of even such painstaking eugenic efforts as this so small and so uncertain? Regression toward the Mean. We each carry two sets of genes. You might have gotten lucky and gotten dominant genes that granted you a huge amount of some desirable trait. But your recessive genes are also a random selection from the average of your ancestors' genes, weighted by their closeness to you on the family tree. At the moment of your child's conception, you and your mates' four sets of genes are completely reshuffled. Thus, the children of the highly intelligent tend to have kids who aren't as bright as they are. That's why royal dynasties are founded by usurpers with exceptional talents, but quickly recede to nothing-specialness. In merciful contrast, the exceptionally dim tend to have children who are a little smarter than they are.

So, who will little Charles Foster take after the most? His Nietzschean Superwoman mom? His handpicked dad? Or, just maybe, his Uncle Buddy?

Steve Sailer's homepage and blog is iSteve.com

Orthodontists' cartel


Why isn't this a political issue? Orthodontists are incredibly overpaid for an easy job (no late night phone calls). A reader explains:

Regarding your post entitled "What's the deal with orthodontists?"-- my understanding of the situation is that Orthodontistry schools keep a stranglehold on high prices by only admitting the top 1 (or some such number) % of Dentistry school graduates, thus ensuring that the number of orthodontists available is less than the market's demand for their services. That's what the studious dental student husband of a friend of mine told me, at least.

Apparently, only 280 orthodontists are allowed to graduate every year, or less than one per million Americans (I don't know how many retire each year, but the net increase in orthodontists must be much lower). Further, the cartel may persecute inventors who devise new labor-saving (and thus income-reducing) braces, as was argued in the case of Viazis v. American Association of Orthodontists.

The cost of the orthodontists' cartel per American family is huge: Let's guesstimate that half of American kids get braces at an average cost of $3,000 each, of which 50% is a premium extorted by the cartel. So, the typical American family with two kids is being ripped off to the tune of $1,500 each. (Even if your insurance pays for it, you are still paying in reduced wages.)

Yet, nobody cares. Why not?

Steve Sailer's homepage and blog is iSteve.com

Is Jodie Foster a lesbian?

What the public really wants to know: I've become addicted to looking up which Google searches bring people to iSteve.com, and it's helped me learn more about what the public really wants to know. It's not a pretty sight.

For example, I've written several times about how fortifying staple foods in 3rd World countries with micronutrients such as iodine and iron would a cheap way to raise national IQs and thus help alleviate the crushing burden of 3rd World poverty. Yet, I've never seen evidence that anyone has ever used Google to search out information on that important topic. In contrast, hundreds of people have come to iSteve.com following their Google search on the words "Jodie Foster lesbian."

Steve Sailer's homepage and blog is iSteve.com

Is humor subversive?


I remarked below on how small-c conservative New Yorker cartoons are. (A reader recalled his favorite: A diner say to his waitperson, "Chris, do you mind if I call you 'Waiter?'") On the other hand, several readers pointed out how movie comedies, from the Marx Brothers on, tend to be devoted to tearing down formality. The only problem is that they've succeeded so well that there is very little formality left in modern life, which is why so many contemporary comedies include weddings, which is one of the few truly formal occasions left in anybody's life anymore.

Steve Sailer's homepage and blog is iSteve.com

Alberto Gonzales and the race card

My New VDARE column on Alberto Gonzales is up. An excerpt:

The likelihood of Alberto Gonzales being confirmed as Attorney General stems in part from the Bush administration's readiness to play the Johnnie Cochran-style race card. Republicans have increasingly taken to slandering as racist anybody who criticizes a minority Republican. And, of course, Gonzales would indeed be "the first Hispanic" etc. etc.

Yet, what we haven't heard is much evidence that Hispanics particularly want to be symbolized by a national embarrassment like Gonzales.

Would you?

The best you can say for Gonzales is that he's a tool. He's a classic minion whose career over the last decade has consisted of concocting legal rationalizations for whatever George W. Bush wants to do.

What Bush wants to do is why VDARE.COM has its own questions for Gonzales—which the Senate appears unlikely to ask. Gonzales has been an enforcer in Bush’s campaign to flood the country with immigrants, legal and illegal, and re-engineer it with racial quotas.

Gonzales is so pro-illegal immigration that in his Senate testimony last week he used what I've called the "ultimate euphemism"—that illegal aliens are "lawful citizens."

That's not a slip of the tongue. Gonzales has a relentless prejudice in favor of authoritarian lawlessness, which is why the President wants to make him the nation's chief law enforcement officer...

And don’t believe the NRO crowd that only anti-American liberal wimps worry about little things like torture and tearing up the Geneva conventions. FBI G-men and military officers are also aghast at what Gonzales has done. Twelve high-ranking retired admirals and generals, including former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili, have criticized Gonzales in an almost-unprecedented open letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

After World War I, Winston Churchill forlornly reflected:

"When all was over, torture and cannibalism were the only two expedients that the civilized, scientific, Christian States had been able to deny themselves: and these were of doubtful utility."

I never thought I'd be nostalgic for the First World War. But the rapidity with which the Bush Administration, egged on by Gonzales, turned during their dramatically less desperate wars to torturing Afghan and Iraqi prisoners (70-90 percent of whom were arrested by mistake) makes the Great War look like a moral Golden Age. [More...]

More revealing Gonzales facts: The Washington Post reports:

Gonzales paints himself as a largely apolitical lawyer, who began leaning toward the GOP only after joining the prestigious Houston firm of Vinson & Elkins. He says he votes for the person, not the party, adding that he would have supported George W. Bush even if he had been a Democrat.

Steve Sailer's homepage and blog is iSteve.com

Some of my recent film reviews:

The Motorcycle Diaries - Che Guevara biopic

Silver City & Bush's Brain - Chris Cooper as GWB

Hero - Zhang Yimou, Jet Li

Bright Young Things - Evelyn Waugh's Vile Body

She Hate Me - Spike Lee

The Terminal - Steven Spielberg & Tom Hanks

Napoleon Dynamite & Maria Full of Grace

More of my film reviews here.

Steve Sailer's homepage and blog is iSteve.com

Yuri Slezkine's The Jewish Century


is finally getting the serious reviews it deserves. Although this landmark book by UC Berkeley history professor Slezkine was published by Princeton U. Press back in August, it had gone almost unmentioned, except by me, until now.

Now there's an appreciative review by David N. Myers, professor of Jewish history and director of the Center for Jewish Studies at UCLA, in the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. And the Jan. 31st issue of The American Conservative has a positive review by Albert S. Lindemann, history prof at UCSB (it's available to electronic subscribers -- become one here!).

And here's a new interview with Slezkine at Nextbook.

Steve Sailer's homepage and blog is iSteve.com

Clint Eastwood's lady boxer movie Million Dollar Baby


From my American Conservative review, now available to electronic subscribers:

In reality, women's boxing is a pseudo-feminist trashsport that briefly flourished in the 1990s when impresario Don King noticed that Mike Tyson fans got some kind of weird kick out of preliminary catfights between battling babes.

Traditionally, society objected to women brawling because (to paraphrase the answer the shady doctor in "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" gives to the question of whether his memory erasure technique can cause brain damage), "Technically speaking, boxing is brain damage."

If a man gets his head caved in during some pointless scrap, well, some other man will just have to step in and do double duty carrying on the species. But, women are the limiting scarce resource in making babies, so each woman lost lowers the overall reproductive capacity.

That kind of proto-sociobiological reasoning is unthinkable today, yet that hasn't brought about a feminist utopia. Instead, men employ gender equality slogans to badger women into doing things guys enjoy.

Still, female fisticuffs have faded recently due to the supply side problem of finding enough low-cost opponents for the handful of women stars. While the number of male palookas who will fight for next to nothing in the hope of becoming Rocky Balboa is ample, managers needing fresh meat for their female champs to bash frequently have to hire hookers and strippers to take dives -- and working girls don't work for free.

"Million Dollar Baby" simply ignores all this and asks you to believe that women's boxing today is a thriving duplicate of the men's fight game of a half century ago, which allows Eastwood to make a 1955-style boxing movie.

This offers some almost-forgotten payoffs, but Eastwood doesn't have the courage to make a genuinely out-of-fashion film.

The rest of my review will be on newsstands in a week or so.

Steve Sailer's homepage and blog is iSteve.com

Schwarzenegger and Gerrymandering


Three Cheers for Ah-Nold -- Last November, 153 Congressional and legislative seats in California were being contested in the election. Not a single one changed from one party to the other due to the extreme gerrymandering in place to protect incumbents. Gov. Schwarzenegger has announced that he's sick of this and wants an independent panel of retired judges to draw district boundaries in the future.

Ah-Nold is on the side of Truth, Justice, and the American Way because gerrymandering has gotten increasingly accurate due to advances in computer technology allows incumbents to protect themselves from fluctuations in the will of the people.

Here's an interview I conducted with the man who is perhaps the leading academic expert on gerrymandering, Dan Polsby of George Mason U.

Steve Sailer's homepage and blog is iSteve.com

Deafness and male homosexuality


A clue to a cause of male homosexuality? A reader writes:

I've been reading your articles on homosexuality with interest as of late. I'm 25 years old, gay, and have been out of the closet and therefore in the gay community to some degree since the age of 16. One thing that I have noticed that I have always thought people ought to do a study on is the shockingly high number of people in the gay community who were born deaf. I'm not the only gay person to make note of this; at least three of my friends have had the same independent realization. One would never imagine that, in a relatively small city such as Baltimore, a social club for "gay deaf bears" could fill up a moderately-sized bar with its monthly outings, but I saw this myself regularly when I worked as a barback. Perhaps deafness and homosexuality are two possible long-term consequences of an infection by the same "gay germ".

On the other hand, one could argue that deafness, like effeminacy, might lead to early alienation from same-sex peers among boys, which develops into homosexual attraction during the hormonal onrush of puberty.

I had never heard of this before, but an article in The Advocate says:

Many deaf gay people actually find it easier than hearing people to recognize and accept their sexuality, a fact that may explain the impression that a disproportionate number of deaf people are gay. Everybody has a theory on this one: Gallaudet French and Spanish instructor Buck Rogers believes deaf gay children are sheltered from much of the mainstream culture's verbal homophobia by not hearing it. Others say homoerotic feelings are more easily manifested and acted on because many deaf children are educated in group homes and seek comfort because they feel abandoned by their parents. Still others suspect the process of coping with being deaf makes acceptance of yet another difference more natural.

Gregory Cochran replies:

If this higher incidence of homosexuality among the deaf is real, and we can pin it on the approximately half of deaf people who used to have rubella-caused deafness, game over. The vaccine was licensed in 1969: I would guess that rubella deafness was rare after 1975. So this connection should, if it exists at all, exist in gay men 35 and over. (By the way, kids with rubella infections who got them in utero are ~50 times more likely to have type-I diabetes.)

So, that would raise the question of the average age of deaf gays -- is it higher than average among gays? Is there a sharp fall off under 35 or so? Gay deaf organizations could be contacted.

Generally speaking, I don't see much evidence for a higher than normal number of medical syndromes among male homosexuals, so I was surprised to hear about this possible connection to deafness. The only thing instantly noticeable in a sizable fraction of gay men is the famous "lissssp" (it's not a "lithp," or a Daffy Duck-style "lishp," but a sibilant "lissssp"), which bedevils gay men's choruses across America, but a lisp is hardly a major problem like deafness is.

Steve Sailer's homepage and blog is iSteve.com

Gay Gene Theory Could Lead to Eugenic Abortion


The same reader asks:

Incidentally, what do you think the odds are that, once a germ or a gene for homosexuality is found, heterosexuals will abort us out of existence?

It's hard to say what the effects of discovering a gay germ would be, but it's certainly less likely to lead to large-scale eugenic abortions than would the discovery of a gay gene. A gay gene would probably elicit responses similar to the modern responses to the chromosomal abnormality that causes Down Syndrome -- and you'll notice that there are a lot fewer Down Syndrome people around than a few decades ago, due to pregnant women having eugenic abortions.

In the prestige press, everybody talks about eugenics as something that existed only in the bad old days, but it's going on right now all around us.

None dare call it eugenics, but private eugenics is highly popular with liberals. Dave Shiflett wrote on NRO:

Jocelyn Elders, just prior to being named Bill Clinton's surgeon general, famously proclaimed that abortion "has had an important and positive public-health effect" because it reduced "the number of children afflicted with severe defects." She pointed out that "the number of Down Syndrome infants in Washington state in 1976 was 64 percent lower than it would have been without legal abortion."

I'm sure lots of fashionable people would say that they would never abort a fetus with a gay gene, but then you don't hear a lot of people boasting that they would abort a Downs syndrome fetus either, but it sure happens a lot these days. In both cases, parents would have to decide whether they want to go through all the hard work of raising a child without much chance of getting grandchildren in return. This calculus would especially be likely to be true among blue state liberals who are only planning to have one or two children, and therefore don't feel they can afford to invest in kids who won't pay off fully ... and grandchildren are about the biggest payoff you can get out of childrearing.

A seldom-discussed paradox is that if male homosexuality is proven to originate in a particular "gay gene," then it's likely that the continued existence of gay men in future generations in America will primarily be due to Christians who oppose abortion on religious grounds. Kind of ironic, no? Gays might want to think about that before denouncing Christians.

On the other hand, if the gay germ theory is proven true, then this would likely only lead to numerous eugenic abortions if both the infection was ascertainable during the first few months of pregnancy and if it wasn't readily preventable or curable. At this point we have no clue when the infection (if there is such a thing) might occur: the likely timespan would be about the first 30 months or so after conception, with only the first 20% being in the window when a first or second trimester abortion would be feasible.

It's a fascinating example of the raw stupidity of the politically correct, such as Garance Franke-Ruta, that they generally consider the gay gene theory progressive and pro-gay and the gay germ theory absolutely beyond the pale, when the discovery of a gay gene would probably lead to far more eugenic abortions of gay fetuses than would the finding of a gay germ.

On the other hand, the discovery of a gay germ would probably lead to searches for vaccines or antibiotic/antiviral agents, which eventually might lead to fewer male homosexuals, but that hardly compares on the morality scale to the tide of eugenic abortions that the identification of a gay gene would set off.

If a clear path of transmission was discovered, such as being sneezed on by a gay man while pregnant, that might cause some change in behavior during the susceptible periods, such as pregnant women or women with babies staying away temporarily from gay friends or gay service workers like hairdressers. (One of my readers recently checked, at my suggestion, for seasonality in the births of gay males, which could be the sign of transmission via cold/flu mechanisms, but found no seasonality, lowering the possibility of sneeze route). I'm sure many people would consider that a horrific possibility, but it strikes me as one that people could adjust to.

In the long run, a decline in the number of male homosexuals, from whatever cause, would have various consequences. For example, a decrease in the number of young gays would mean that more old homosexuals would have to be satisfied with each other for company. Certain professions, especially in the arts, might be set back, but I suspect society would compensate, just as it has adjusted to the far more horrible impact of the AIDS epidemic that gays inflicted upon themselves through massive promiscuity. For example, a large number of Broadway choreographers were killed by AIDS in the 1980s.

If the number of gay men coming of age each year dropped significantly, I suspect that more women would step up to fill the gap in professions like choreographer where gay men currently tend to have an advantage in professional competition over women due to their greater male aggressiveness. Straight men might even return to the profession, as in the days of Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Bob Fosse, and Gower Champion, before the "straight flight" that has rendered Broadway so much less popular than in the past.

Steve Sailer's homepage and blog is iSteve.com