June 24, 2005

Jonah Goldberg on the Cochran-Harpending theory

In his new syndicated column, Jonah gets the proposed mechanism wrong:

One paper by a respected independent researcher suggests that Jews from Northern Europe (a.k.a. Ashkenazi Jews) are more likely to get certain diseases, such as Tay Sachs, in part because Jews have been selectively breeding for intelligence for centuries.

No, the Cochran-Hardy-Harpending theory is that natural selection, not selective breeding, was at work -- smart medieval Jews tended to be richer and richer Jews tended to have more surviving grandchildren. It's fascinating how so many neocons prefer the alternative theory championed by Kevin MacDonald that medieval Jews consciously arranged and subsidized marriages for the brightest young rabbinical students. Perhaps the American Enterprise Institute will give MacDonald a chair to develop his apparently more appealing theory in greater detail.

But what's striking about Jonah's June 24th column is how similar it is to Richard Cohen's June 16th column "Aptitude Adjustment" in the Washington Post on the same topic. Cohen wrote:

I cannot be certain that Lawrence Summers, the president of Harvard, has read the article [by Cochran et al]. But if he did, I bet he wondered why it is possible to suggest that certain Jews are smarter than other people but not remotely possible to suggest that women might not be as brilliant in science and engineering as men. When Summers did precisely that back in January -- when he wondered out loud about such matters as "intrinsic aptitude" -- he got his head handed to him. He was not, mind you, stating this as a fact -- just throwing it out along with other factors that might account for why men outnumber women on the science, engineering and math faculties of first-rate universities. What he did not do -- and this was his mistake -- was limit the possibilities to the only politically correct one: sexual discrimination of one sort or another.

But if Jews could adapt to their environment in a certain way, why couldn't women or men? After all, to the eye, there is no distinction between a Jew of European origin and a non-Jew of European origin -- or even a Jew of non-European origin. Yet to that same eye, there is plenty to distinguish a man from a woman. They have bodies designed for different things. If, as the Utah scientists propose, Jews adapted to their environment to produce better businessmen (and not better farmers or soldiers), then why couldn't men or women have adapted to their particular environments in a similar way? Maybe -- just maybe -- there's a link between not being able to express your feelings and solving Fermat's Last Theorem?

Eight days later, Jonah writes:

Here are some recent headlines from the world of science: "Researchers Say Intelligence and Diseases May Be Linked in Ashkenazic [Jewish] Genes" — New York Times

"Some Politics May Be Etched in the Genes" — New York Times

"Feminists Feed on Lawrence Summers's Flesh, Vital Organs; Pancreas Swallowed Whole, 'like a Cocktail Peanut.' " — New York Times...

O.K., I made the last one up. Feminists didn't actually feed on the president of Harvard University, but it's certainly been all-you-can-eat-at-Sizzler night, metaphorically speaking. In January, you might recall, Larry Summers raised the possibility — nay, the hypothesis! — that as a statistical matter biological differences may partially account for the disproportionately low number of women at the top ranks of science. In response, an activist feminist professor from MIT contracted a case of the vapors, and when she arose from her fainting couch she was on the Today Show complaining to a supportive Katie Couric about what a bigot Summers is...

Which brings us back to the mortification of Larry Summers. Is it so unreasonable to assume there are greater genetic cognitive and behavioral differences between men and women than between, say, Jews and gentiles — never mind conservatives and liberals? If genes make us more open to some group mores, why can't they make one gender more open to one field of study? The animal kingdom is replete with enormous male-female disparities. Even among the branch of humans we call feminists, it's a widely held view that men and women think and behave differently.

To answer Cohen and Goldberg's question: maybe, maybe not -- it all depends. For some traits, the male-female difference is greater than differences between racial groups, for other traits, such as skin color or average IQ, male-female differences are small (or non-existent) compared to racial differences.

Racial differences can emerge for lots of different reasons, such as founder's effect, drift, and selection for various reasons. Sex differences within a racial group, however, are less likely to emerge due to random flukes, and they are less likely to be driven by environmental factors such as latitude, since boys and girls from the same latitudes grow up to marry each other. You need some particular reason for sex differences. Since fetuses start out as basically female and have to be masculinized in utero, which is a risky process that apparently leads to a lot of miscarriages, gratuitous sex differences are costly.

Thus, you find a lot of similarities between males and females, such as in average IQ. This doesn't mean Summers was wrong -- his subtle argument was about sex differences in IQ's variance rather than its average. But, it's just not a slam dunk to say that if a racial difference in IQ exists, then there must be a sex difference in IQ.

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

The cure or the disease?

We constantly hear that for Europe to survive it' low birthrates, it must take in even more immigrants. But, isn't it possible that high immigration depresses native birthrates? A reader writes:

The July Scientific American, p 25, (not yet on line, it seems) has an article by Rodger Doyle (rdoyle@adelphia.net) citing economist Richard A. Easterlin of USC. He says that the baby boom resulted from the:

"unprecedented concurrence of three developments; an expansion of the economy, restricted immigration since the mid-1920s, and a relatively small cohort of new job seekers because of low fertility in the late 1920s and 1930s. This combination created unusually good job prospects for young people after World War II, and so feeling more prosperous than their parents, they married earlier and had more children."

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

Stanford bioethicist prefers that blacks die of cardiac arrest rather than undermine his Race-Does-Not-Exist dogma by surviving

The Associated Press reports:

Now that the FDA has for the first time approved a drug specifically for blacks, medical experts are sure to debate the implications, with some questioning the validity of medical research that focuses on race.

"There are many, many who claim these use of (racial) categories may not have any biological meaning, only social meaning, and basing medical decisions on them may be problematic," said David Magnus, director of the Stanford Medical Center for Biomedical Ethics.

For example, Magnus said, researchers could also look at whether a particular drug worked more effectively on Catholics than Protestants. The more categories explored, the more likely one can find data showing that one category of people is helped more than the others when it comes to a particular medicine, he said.

"But the more we know genetically, the more we know these social categories don't correspond to genetic groups," Magnus said...

Data clearly showed that BiDil had a positive effect on a population disproportionately burdened by cardiovascular disease, said Dr. Anne Taylor of the University of Minnesota Medical School and a lead investigator in the research of BiDil.

"African-Americans between the ages of 45 and 64 are 2.5 times more likely to die prematurely from heart failure than their non-black counterparts," she said. "FDA approval of BiDil represents an important leap forward in addressing this health disparity."

FDA officials say that in the case of BiDil researchers did not start out looking for a drug that worked better for a particular racial group. Two earlier trials of the drug on the general population of heart failure patients found no benefit, the FDA said, but they did suggest that BiDil helped the few blacks participating.

Based on those results, NitroMed Inc. of Lexington, Mass., launched a study of 1,050 blacks with severe heart failure. Half of them got standard heart failure drugs and a placebo; the other half got standard drugs plus BiDil. The study showed a 43 percent reduction in deaths and a 39 percent decrease in hospitalizations compared with a placebo, and the study was stopped ahead of schedule last year when doctors saw BiDil clearly was better.

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

Australian columnist makes explicit the anti-black eugenic basis of Levitt's theory

Michael Duffy writes an important column in the Sydney Morning Herald on the Freakonomics' theory that abortion cut crime. Although he doesn't realize that crime first went up among the groups most affected by abortion, he lays Levitt's eugenic cards on the table:

For example, in the US black youths commit nine times more murders, relative to their population, than white youths. As, after 1973, the black fertility rate fell 12 per cent (it was 4 per cent for whites), this might be expected to reduce the homicide rate.

This is what most people have in the back of their minds when they accept Levitt's theory on faith: the old Howard Stern joke about "What do you call an abortion clinic in Harlem? Crimestoppers!"

Yet, not all blacks are created equally likely to grow up to be murderers, and it appears that legalized abortion cut the birthrate of the more law-abiding blacks faster than the birthrate of underclass blacks. The subsequent shortage of middle class and working class black kids appears to have tipped (as Levitt's buddy Malcolm Gladwell might say) black youth culture toward the underclass gangsta norms that came to predominate in the late 1980s and culturally fueled the catastrophic youth crack wars of 1990-1994.

As Levitt himself documents in Freakonomics, becoming a crack dealer was an incredibly stupid career move -- the pay was no better than McDonald's, and the fringe benefits (going to prison and being murdered) were a lot worse. You needed a lot of cultural indoctrination to do something that dumb, and that's what black youth culture was providing at the time.

In Freakonomics, Levitt claims that Australia saw the same pattern of legalizing abortion lowering crime. Yet, Duffy writes:

I asked Don Weatherburn, director of the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, about Levitt's hypothesis. He says it's plausible, but there are other plausible hypotheses too. (Some can be found in the book The Crime Drop in America, edited by Alfred Blumstein and Joel Wallman.)

So what about Australia, which Levitt suggests has had a similar experience to America? Abortion was legalised here at about the same time as in the US, but Weatherburn says that most crime increased in Australia during the 1990s. He wonders if Australia's more generous welfare provisions meant that legalised abortion had a different impact here. Whatever the reason, our criminal class has remained free of the (unintended) eugenics Levitt says occurred in the US.

I've never offered an opinion on the impact of abortion on crime in other countries because I don't know much about their social structures. Levitt's logic might well be true elsewhere. But I'm coming to learn that anything Levitt says about abortion needs to be checked.

I tracked down an article summarizing one of the two papers Levitt cites in his footnotes as supporting his claim that abortion cut crime in Australia. You can read it here and see for yourself what it says. I read it as being inconclusive, but, hey, I'm not a bestselling glamour boy, so who are you going to believe: Steven Levitt or your lying eyes?

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

The Babe Theory of Democracy: Babes or Babies?

The Babe Theory of Democracy: Babes or Babies? Will Franklin is getting a lot of publicity for a long blog entry expounding the popular idea that pro-American democracy must triumph in Lebanon because all the hot babes go to the anti-Syrian demonstrations. Babes attract TV cameras and television rules the world, right?

The problem with the Babe Theory in Lebanon is that those hot babes aren't having enough babies. For generations, the stylish Christian women have been losing the Battle of the Cradle to the Shiite women, who are too covered up to have to worry about losing their babealicious figures from having babies. Thus, the Christians haven't allowed a new census in Lebanon since 1932 in order to cling to their gerrymandered half of the seats in the legislature. If there was real, one-person one-vote democracy in Lebanon instead of the "confessional gerrymander" there is now, the hot babes would be doomed.

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

June 23, 2005

Thank God for George W. Bush!

Alan Elsner reports in the Washington Post:

Richard Stana, director of homeland security and justice at the Government Accountability Office, told a House of Representatives subcommittee this week the number of notices of intent to fine employers for knowingly hiring unauthorized workers fell from 417 in 1999 to three last year.

Can you imagine how much worse the enforcement of the law of the land would have gotten if a raving liberal like John Kerry or Al Gore had beaten Bush? The number of employers fined for knowingly hiring illegal aliens might have been two ... or even one!

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

Flynn Effect, We Hardly Knew Ye...

After decades of rising raw scores on IQ tests given to military conscripts in Denmark and Norway, the scores stopped rising about a decade ago. This raised the question of whether the Flynn Effect had played out, or whether the increasing number of lower IQ immigrant youths was the cause. The original papers did not distinguish between the two groups, so that remained uncertain.

Modern Tribalist cited the Copenhagen Post:

Draftees with immigrant background stand a worse chance of passing the required intelligence test then ethnic Danes, the Danish Defence Academy said in a report on Monday.
The report, which based its conclusions on 22,646 reviews of conscripts tested between September 2003 and June 2004, found that 28 percent of draftees with an immigrant background failed the military's intelligence tests, compared with only seven percent of ethnic Danes, national television news channel DR reported.

A quick use of the Normdist function in Excel suggests the passing score would be around an IQ of 78 (by law, the U.S. military can't induct anyone who scores under 80), and if ethnic Danes average 100, then youths of immigrant ancestry would average around 87, which sounds about in line with other reports on immigrants in Europe.

However, one of the authors of the first study on the end of the Flynn Effect in Denmark says that their next paper will break out ethnic Danes. They've seen falling raw scores among ethnic Danes in recent years.

So, it looks like the Flynn Effect might be coming to an end. Yet, we still don't understand its causes.

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

The New Hillary Book

Everybody has decided to trash Edward Klein's new book about Hillary Clinton, but the summary of the salacious bits in Slate makes it sound fairly realistic, based on everything we know about the former First Couple from other sources:

- Bill cheated on her a lot.

- Hillary's interest in lesbianism in the 1970s was more theoretical, based on her feminist politics and insecurity about her attractiveness, than physical.

- The "rape" in which Chelsea was conceived sounds less like a felony and more like the romantic and erotic highlight of Bill and Hill's tepid marriage, like the staircase scene in "Gone with the Wind."

- Hillary was sweet on handsome Vince Foster, who eventually killed himself, but whether the relationship was ever consummated is unknown.

- In her twenties, Hillary used to think she was ugly, and dressed dowdily to avoid attention, but now she takes care of herself and gets lots of Botox injections.

In other words, Hillary sounds about as bad, but not much worse, than most other recent Presidential nominees.

But can't this great country of 300,000,000 come up with better candidates?

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

Occam's Butterknife on Finland

The Washington Post has been running a long series on what a delightfully unusual place Finland is. Of course, in today's update on Finland's lack of immigrants, the unquestioned assumption is that Finland must become "diverse" so that it won't be unique anymore.

In a classic example of using Occam's Butterknife, the WP writes:

"Finland is Europe's most homogenous society ... Finland is the only major European country that has generated no far-right, anti-immigrant political party. Some Finns suggest that may be because their egalitarian Lutheran values simply won't tolerate an open appeal to racist sentiments, though they admit that such feelings exist. Yet Finnish laws and regulations discourage immigration -- as do the difficulties of the Finnish language and the long, dark winters here."

Uh, wouldn't Occam's Razor suggest that the simplest explanation for the unique lack of a far-right anti-immigrant political party in Finland is because Finland's mainstream parties and its laws are more anti-immigration than in the rest of Western Europe?


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

"Yes" by Sally Potter, with Joan Allen

"Yes" - The new film with Joan Allen and Sam Neill opens in LA and NYC on Friday. From my review in The American Conservative, which will be available to electronic subscribers this weekend.

Molière's Bourgeois Gentleman was famously delighted to learn he had been speaking prose all his life. Yet, as historian Jacques Barzun noted in From Dawn to Decadence, "His surprise is well-founded … What he spoke all his life was not prose, but speech. Prose is the written form of deliberate expression… It is as artificial as verse."

Nor should a modern gentleman assume he is speaking "dialogue," because what screenwriters are paid large sums to contrive is barely more authentic than quatrains would be. I recall a 1994 radio interview with Steve Barancik, the painfully shy writer of the snazzy film noir "The Last Seduction," which starred Linda Fiorentino as the ultimate femme fatale. The perky interviewer asked him if he comes up with all those killer replies in real life. "Well, sure," the author stammered, "In my car … on the … way home."

Cinema's visuals are constantly evolving, but its dialogue is deteriorating. Why write eloquent English when it's just going to wind up translated into Turkish and Tagalog to serve as wadding between detonations?

It's time for something different, and Sally Potter's film "Yes" is a gloriously reactionary step backwards.

Shortly after 9/11, Potter, who is best known for her 1992 adaptation of Virginia Woolf's Orlando, began composing a scene illustrating the clash of civilizations between an Arab immigrant and a wealthy Western woman. She recalled, "The argument between the two lovers came out onto the page, for the most part, in iambic pentameter (ten syllables per line)… Perhaps it was an instinctive attempt to let the characters speak to each other on screen about things which are hard to express in normal conversation."

The screenplay ended up as rhyme of the most conspicuous kind: couplets.

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

June 22, 2005

Yeesh: Starlets going blonde

As Kevin Michael Grace has pointed out, the definition of female beauty in our culture appears to be getting narrower, asymptotically approaching that of Hugh Hefner's seven identical blonde girlfriends. For example, on the left is the old Jessica Alba. On the right, the New and Improved Jessica Alba

Well, that's a huge improvement!

And here are the old and new Lindsay Lohans, in her quest to look twice her age:

Watch out, Goldie Hawn! Lindsay will be stealing your roles.

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

June 21, 2005

The genetics of political attitudes

The NYT reports:

As found in previous studies, attitudes about issues like school prayer, property taxes and the draft were among the most influenced by inheritance, the researchers found. Others like modern art and divorce were less so. And in the twins' overall score, derived from 28 questions, genes accounted for 53 percent of the differences.

This is a general rule of thumb: inheritance accounts for about 50% of personality and cognitive traits. I call it the Half-Full Glass (or the Half-Empty Glass, depending upon what I'm trying to emphasize).

But after correcting for the tendency of politically like-minded men and women to marry each other, the researchers also found that the twins' self-identification as Republican or Democrat was far more dependent on environmental factors like upbringing and life experience than was their social orientation, which the researchers call ideology. Inheritance accounted for 14 percent of the difference in party, the researchers found.

"We are measuring two separate things here, ideology and party affiliation," Dr. Hibbing, the senior author, said. He added that his research team found the large difference in heritability between the two "very hard to believe," but that it held up.

The implications of this difference may be far-reaching, the authors argue. For years, political scientists tried in vain to learn how family dynamics like closeness between parents and children or the importance of politics in a household influenced political ideology. But the study suggests that an inherited social orientation may overwhelm the more subtle effects of family dynamics.

A mismatch between an inherited social orientation and a given party may also explain why some people defect from a party. Many people who are genetically conservative may be brought up as Democrats, and some who are genetically more progressive may be raised as Republicans, the researchers say.

In tracking attitudes over the years, geneticists have found that social attitudes tend to stabilize in the late teens and early 20's, when young people begin to fend for themselves.

Some "mismatched" people remain loyal to their family's political party. But circumstances can override inherited bent. The draft may look like a good idea until your number is up. The death penalty may seem barbaric until a loved one is murdered.

Family formation is a big influence. The researchers need to look at the big regional differences in voting, between Bush getting only 40% of the white vote in Massachusetts and 85% of the white vote in Mississippi. That's not just genetics.

Has anyone done longitudinal studies to see how voting changes as people move?

The researchers are not optimistic about the future of bipartisan cooperation or national unity. Because men and women tend to seek mates with a similar ideology, they say, the two gene pools are becoming, if anything, more concentrated, not less.

Razib has more at www.GNXP.com .

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

Lambasting Levitt

Who the heck could Heckman be talking about? Nobel Laureate economist James Heckman of the U. of Chicago says:

“In economics there's a trend now to come up with cute papers in an effort to be cited as many times as possible. All the incentives point that way, especially for young professors who seem risk-averse rather than risk-taking after they get tenure. In some quarters of our profession, the level of discussion has sunk to the level of a New Yorker article: coffee-table articles about “cute” topics, papers using “clever” instruments. The authors of these papers are usually unclear about the economic questions they address, the data used to support their conclusions and the econometrics used to justify their estimates. This is a sad development that I hope is a passing fad. Most of this work is without substance, but it makes a short-lived splash and it's easy to do. Many young economists are going for the cute and the clever at the expense of working on hard and important foundational problems.”

Personally, I have no problem with "cute" and "clever." I just object to "not true."

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

Blond Men

A reader writes:

Your columns on blondes in Hollywood were spot-on, in my opinion, and I was heartened to see such observations in print. As a fair-haired, blue-eyed American male, I've found such prejudices in many places, including acting school, where I was told by a casting director I could play, among other roles, "the preppy loser who loses the girl to the dark and handsome stud" and the "German soldier." I was deemed "not sexy," but as I got older, I could become "wiser." LOL

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

WSJ steals from "Baby Gap"

The WSJ rips off my "Affordable Family Formation" series. In "Cheer Up, Conservatives! You're still winning," John Micklethwait and Adrian Woolridge write:

Last November, American conservatives were full of grand visions of a permanent revolution, with spending brought back under control, Social Security privatized, conservatives filling the federal bench, and a great depression visited on the lawsuit industry. Six months later, listening to conservatives is as uplifting as reading William Styron's "Darkness Visible." Larry Kudlow bemoans "the dreariest political spring." John Derbyshire worries about the "twilight of conservatism" as the Republicans go the way of Britain's Tories. For Pat Buchanan "the conservative movement has passed into history"--much as, some would say, Mr. Buchanan himself has done...

The biggest advantage of all for conservatives is that they have a lock on the American dream. America is famously an idea more than a geographical expression, and that idea seems to be the province of the right...

If the American dream means anything, it means finding a plot of land where you can shape your destiny and raise your children. Those pragmatic dreamers look ever more Republican. Mr. Bush walloped Mr. Kerry among people who were married with children. He also carried 25 of the top 26 cities in terms of white fertility. Mr. Kerry carried the bottom 16. San Francisco, the citadel of liberalism, has the lowest proportion of people under 18 in the country (14.5%).

So cheer up conservatives. You have the country's most powerful political party on your side. You have control of the market for political ideas. You have the American dream. And, despite your bout of triste post coitum, you are still outbreeding your rivals.

They don't mention, of course, of where they got this idea or data. It might raise a few red flags about the health of conservatism if they admitted that the mainstream Republican establishment's drink-the-KoolAidism means that all the interesting intellectual work on the right is being done by a demonized fringe.

They also don't mention that higher fertility among whites doesn't automatically ensure a growing slice of the electorate for the GOP: nonwhites, who on average favor the Democrats have higher fertility than whites. Plus immigration is boosting the Democratic-leaning groups. I'm not sure who is going to win this struggle, but I don't think it's healthy for the country.

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

New Crime-Fighting Superhero:

Inspired by Freakonomics, a reader proposes a new comic book hero:

"I can see it now: The Aborter ©. By day, he's a mild mannered abortion clinic doctor by day, helping rid the world of unwanted babies... By night, he's on par with The Punisher, [ridding the world of unwanted people whose mothers were too selfish or religion-warped to have them aborted as fetuses]... He also has sonar vision (don't ask how that happened, you don't want to know!) that can also detect "bad seeds", while they're in the womb!"

He could punch holes in the top of unwanted people's skulls and vacuum out their brains.

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

June 20, 2005

Blond Bad Guys

"Hollywood's Other Obsession: Blond Bad Guys:" My new VDARE.com column is up:

Exactly why Hollywood hates blond men almost as much as it loves blond women is not clear... This prejudice against blond men would seem to be on a collision course with the tendency of movie moguls, such as Steven Spielberg, to marry blonde women, such as Kate Capshaw. This means the industry's hereditary elite will tend to become blonder over the generations. No doubt it will cause no end of father-son conflicts, keeping Beverly Hills psychiatrists prosperous for the rest of the century. [More]

A reader reminds me that "Die Hard" had not one but two blond terrorists: English aristocrat Alan Rickman and German baddie Alexander Godunov. (Or something like that -- perhaps Rickman was a German who had gone to Eton). And in "Die Hard 3," Jeremy Irons played Rickman's brother.

And who can forget "Lethal Weapon II" where the bad guys were Afrikaaner drug smugglers in the South African embassy? Fortunately, Mel Gibson seduced the beautiful blonde Boer babe away from dark side.

My all-time favorite blond bad guy is Gary Busey's Mr. Joshua in the original "Lethal Weapon." Busey has had a two-role career: Buddy Holly and Mr. Joshua, which shows a fair amount of range, but he hasn't made much of a mark in anything else. Of course, falling off a motorcycle onto his head hasn't helped.

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

The War Nerd Defends Putin's African Cannibalism "Gaffe"

In "Putin's Congo Roast," Gary Brecher explains the theory and practice of cannibalism as a military strategy during the current war in the Congo. Not appropriate reading if you have a queasy stomach.

Vladimir Putin has jumped into the middle of the Dark Continent's darkest secrets. It happened at a photo op in Moscow, after Blair and the Russians had hammered out a deal to forgive more African debt...

Putin found a way to wipe the grin off Blair's face. He was getting noise about Russia's "human rights record" in the Q&A photo op, and he's not the kind of guy to put up with too much hassle from the press. That's not the kind of thing they teach you in the KGB. He popped up with what the Brits are calling "an astonishing outburst": "We all know that African countries used to have a tradition of eating their own adversaries. We don't have such a tradition or process or culture and I believe the comparison between Africa and Russia is not quite just."

Whoo-hoo! You Russians have guts! Nobody west of the Volga would ever say anything like that. Not in public, anyway. I wish I could see the footage of the seconds after the "outburst," just to watch Blair's face. There he is, Mister Smile, Mister Cool Britannia, now trying to be Mister Bob Geldof Bleeding Heart, standing next to this crazy Russian who just called Africans cannibals. Blair must've been tempted to do the old pulled-over-with-open-container routine: "Hey, officer, I'm just hitching! I don't even KNOW this Russian dude!"

The press invoked all the usual PC lies for their responses. It was interesting, because nobody actually said Putin was wrong. Just "insensitive." Somebody named Trevor-I mean, "Trevor"!-had a hissy fit and lisped, "What a preposterous thing to say. Putin is at best insensitive and at worst a downright racist."

Well, here's a news flash: Putin told the truth. Cannibalism is very common in African war zones. Trevor should read the news from places like Congo more carefully, like this story carried in the Economist a few weeks ago:

I'm going to skip over what happened to this poor Congolese woman who was grabbed by an opposing militia and get to Brecher's explanation of why cannibalism works as a tactic:

Cannibalism always increases in wartime. And though hardly anybody knows it, Congo is the site of the biggest war since 1945. Last time I reported on it the official death toll was 2.5 million. Since then another half million Congoans have died.

And a few of those have been eaten. The Congo war is pure primitive warfare: no battles, next to no combat, just massacres. Primitive warfare is one long civilian hunt. Most people try to deal with that by vanishing into the jungle. That's where they die-of malaria, or starvation, or an infected scratch, snakebite-anything but combat. The current estimate is that less than 2% of the deaths in this huge war have been from combat.

In wartime cannibalism is a weapon in itself, one of the most powerful of all. Because primitive war is about terrorizing people. How do you drive those enemy-tribe civvies into the jungle to die? You scare'em. So, what's the scariest thing you could think of? Killing people? Nah. Most Central Africans live hard, short lives. They're not scared of death, at least not as terrified as first-worlders.

What they fear more than anything is being eaten. Being eaten is the biggest, oldest fear in the world. Goes back to the days when it was us vs. the hyenas, and the hyenas usually won. Why do you think Jaws made so much money? You're in a million times more danger driving to Safeway than swimming in the ocean, but you're not scared driving, and you are scared swimming. It's not because Spielberg's such a genius, it's because that fear of being eaten is in our chimp brains. [More]

Spielberg came back and made even more money with "Jurassic Park," which isn't about much of anything besides getting eaten.

For the same reason, Matt Drudge gives enormous play to headlines about animals munching on people.

Putin's gaffe reminds of how back in the 1970s, Conrad's book Heart of Darkness was a huge collegiate fad, culminating in the fearlessly sophomoric "Apocalypse Now," but academics couldn't bring themselves to explain what Kurtz was doing that was so horrifying.

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