July 15, 2005

City Journal on Freakonomics

A lie can go halfway 'round the world before truth gets its boots on.

Steven Malanga writes in "Where Freakonomics Errs:"

But in economics, new theories based on innovative research are almost immediately tested to see if they can be replicated, and in Levitt’s case what quickly emerged were counterstudies that questioned his methods and conclusions. Professor Ted Joyce of City University of New York found that incidents of homicide by perpetrators in age groups too old to have been affected by legalized abortion declined faster than murders by younger perps. John Lott of the American Enterprise Institute and John Whitley of Adelaide University in Australia noted that research on the legalization of abortion suggested that it actually increased illegitimate births and single-parent families. They concluded that rather than decrease crime, legalized abortion probably contributed slightly to its increase.

Levitt has addressed some of these criticisms in academic journals, though not convincingly, to my mind. But in Freakonomics, he completely ignores this counterevidence and presents his own work as if it’s Scripture. Only a few reviewers, most notably the eminent sociologist James Q. Wilson in Commentary, have noted the way the book merely disregards the work of others.

But the flaws in Levitt’s notion of what caused crime to fall go beyond his theory of abortion. In Freakonomics he also dismisses the idea that innovative policing methods of the type that New York instituted during the Giuliani years had any effect on crime. This idea has been particularly attractive to reviewers of the book, prompting Lowenstein in the Times to crow that “[w]hile all the world was congratulating Rudolph W. Giuliani for reducing violent crime . . . the authors demonstrate that Hizzoner probably had little to do with it.”

Levitt bases this conclusion not only on his work on abortion but on another study he’s done, which attempts to correlate declines in crime with the expansion of a city’s police force. Looking at data from 1970 through 1992, Levitt concludes that adding to the size of your police force probably accounted for about 10 percent of the 1990s drop in crime. With that in mind, he rejects the idea that New York’s policing methods helped rein in crime because, once one adjusts for the growth in Gotham’s force, which Levitt says increased by 45 percent, the city’s reduction in crime is no greater than that of Los Angeles, a city that never incorporated the “broken windows” policing that Giuliani championed.

But there are serious questions about Levitt’s work here. For one thing, once you adjust the growth in New York’s police force for the expansion of its population during the 1990s and then compare it with per capita police rates in other cities (as even Levitt does in his other work), the numbers tell a different story. New York’s police force grew by 18 percent per capita during the 1990s, according to an FBI study, “Police in Large Cities.” This put the city behind police force increases in Newark, and in line with or slightly ahead of gains in cities like Baltimore, where the size of the force relative to the population rose by 20 percent, in Philadelphia by 13 percent, St. Louis by 10 percent, and Chicago by 9 percent.

What’s startling about this list is how little these increases in staffing paid off for most of these cities during the 1990s. While New York’s violent crime rate declined by 65 percent in the 1990s, most of these other cities saw only small decreases in crime, and in a few cases violent crime actually rose. Chicago, for one, ultimately passed New York as the place with the highest total of murders per year, even though Chicago’s population is only 38 percent of New York’s. [more}

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

My Prediction Coming True

Last September, I wrote:

"... a second term for the Bush Administration is likely to resemble the second term of the Nixon Administration, with the scandals of the first four years finally bubbling to the surface."

I won't venture a guess at how at fault Rove is in Plamegate -- it would be a waste of time at this point to try to build a model of what actually happened, since there will be more revelations -- but the general point is that a lot of bad stuff was done to lie the country into this war, and scandals stemming from the this will slowly erode the Administration over the rest of its lifespan. If the old Special Prosecutor law hadn't been allowed to die toward the end of Clinton Administration, nothing would be happening in Washington right now except scandals.

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

July 14, 2005

"RNC Chief to Say It Was 'Wrong' to Exploit Racial Conflict for Votes"

"RNC Chief to Say It Was 'Wrong' to Exploit Racial Conflict for Votes" From the Washington Post:

By Mike Allen
Thursday, July 14, 2005; Page A04

It was called "the southern strategy," started under Richard M. Nixon in 1968, and described Republican efforts to use race as a wedge issue -- on matters such as desegregation and busing -- to appeal to white southern voters.

Ken Mehlman, the Republican National Committee chairman, this morning will tell the NAACP national convention in Milwaukee that it was "wrong."

"By the '70s and into the '80s and '90s, the Democratic Party solidified its gains in the African American community, and we Republicans did not effectively reach out," Mehlman says in his prepared text. "Some Republicans gave up on winning the African American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization. I am here today as the Republican chairman to tell you we were wrong."

Mehlman, a Baltimore native who managed President Bush's reelection campaign, goes on to discuss current overtures to minorities, calling it "not healthy for the country for our political parties to be so racially polarized."

Mehlman went on to add that, as a direct logical consequence of this realization that the hugely successful Southern Strategy was wrong, all white Southern GOP members of both Houses of Congress would resign tomorrow, along with the President, but not before passing a constitutional amendment disenfranchising white Southerners. Mehlman concluded his speech by saying:

"And I, for one, welcome our new Democratic overlords. I'd like to remind them as a trusted Republican personality, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground sugar caves."

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

July 13, 2005

"Is this the future we really want? Different drugs for different races"

"Is this the future we really want? Different drugs for different races" is the headline on a Kenan Malik essay in the Times of London. Personally, as somebody whose life may well have been saved by a new medical breakthrough in 1997 (the Rituxan monoclonal antibody for lymphatic cancer), I think the first priority for patients is seeing that they simply have a future, and if different drugs for different races is a way to achieve that, so be it.

Presumably, though, Malik didn't write the headline. What he does try to do is pretend to be the lone moderate between fulminating extremists:

All this suggests that the question of whether medicine should be colourblind depends on the particular problem we want to address. It is a pragmatic issue, not one rooted in scientific or political principle. Race, however, is such a contentious issue that pragmatism rarely enters the debate. On one side, so-called race realists think that population differences are so important that all medicine should be colour-coded. On the other, many antiracists want to ban race-based research entirely for fear of its social consequences. Both are wrong. It is time everyone calmed down and took a grown-up view of the issue.

Okay, but who, exactly, are these " so-called race realists [who] think that population differences are so important that all medicine should be colour-coded?" The only one he mentions by name is Dr. Sally Satel, author of "I Am a Racial Profiling Doctor" in the NYT Magazine, who certainly has never said that. Nor can I recall that ever being said on www.GNXP.com , www.FuturePundit.com, or my own site.

(I'm sure we are all in favor of "colour-coded" medical research, in the sense that we believe the ancestry of the various patients in a trial should be recorded so that any differences in results by ancestry would be measurable -- if they exist. But that has been standard procedure for decades.)

The reality is that the race realists are the true moderates. What we object to is the absolutist position that "race does not exist biologically," especially among those intellectuals who would prefer that patients die rather than have their dogma undermined.

If I write about race more than I write about, say, the Federal Reserve Board's management of the money supply, it's not because I believe that race is all-important. No, it's just that I've noticed that in the commentary marketplace today, the ratio of intelligent, sensible analysis about race relative to the importance of the topic is much lower than the ratio for the Fed. Back in the inflationary 1970s, I thought about the Fed a lot more than I do now, but, these days, I have a lot more to contribute to human understanding of race than of M3 (or whatever Fed-watchers worry about now). (Of course, from a profit-maximizing point-of-view, the more salient fact is not how little supply there is of sensible analysis of race, but how extraordinarily little demand there is for it, relative to demand for flapdoodle ...)

So, just about everything reasonable that Malik says has long been advocated by race realists. Unfortunately, in his attempts to sound moderate, he ends up pulling a couple of boners. He writes:

One of the dangers of marketing BiDiL as a black drug is that it may be given to African-Americans who don’t respond to it, but denied to non-blacks who could.

Sure, but the only legal alternative is not marketing BiDil to anybody, because it twice failed tests on general populations so badly that the FDA would not have approved it for sale at all. But among black patients within those samples, it proved highly effective. So, a third test on a sufficient sample size of black patients was undertaken, and it reduced the death rate among black heart attack victims by 43 percent, which is such a huge number that the test was stopped early for humanitarian reasons to rush it into the market.

Malik also trots out the tired old sickle-cell-is-not-a-black-disease chestnut:

We all think we know that sickle-cell anaemia is a black disease. Except that it is not. Sickle cell is a disease of populations originating from areas with a high incidence of malaria. Some of these populations are black, some are not. The sickle-cell gene is found in equatorial Africa, parts of southern Europe, southern Turkey, parts of the Middle East and much of central India. Most people, however, only know that African-Americans suffer disproportionately from the trait. And, given popular ideas about race, they automatically assume that what applies to black Americans also applies to all blacks and only to blacks. It is the social imagination, not the biological reality, of race that turns sickle cell into a black disease.

What he leaves out is the huge difference between having the sickle cell gene and having the sickle cell disease. You need two copies of the gene to have the disease, so the chance of getting the disease falls off by the square as the gene becomes less common.

If, to make up some round numbers to illustrate the math, the chance of having one sickle cell gene is an order of magnitude more common in West Africa than in Sicily, the chance of being born in West Africa with two sickle cell genes and thus the sickle cell disease is two orders of magnitude greater.

Sure, it would make a a good episode of House, M.D. for an Italian-American couple to have a child who turns out to be suffering from sickle cell disease, but from the "pragmatic" standpoint that Malik endorses (at least he's in favor of pragmatism in theory), it's not unreasonable for Americans who aren't doctors to think of sickle-cell disease as a black disease.

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

Keeping Israel Jewish

Israel's Ha'aretz newspaper reports on some sensible-sounding immigration reforms being considered by the Israeli government:

Interior Minister Ophir Pines-Paz yesterday appointed an advisory committee to examine Israel's immigration laws.

The advisory committee is expected to recommend legal methods by which Israel can tighten its immigration laws, since three members of the advisory committee - including Eiland and Rubinstein - already served on a National Security Council (NSC) panel that suggested principles under which immigration restrictions could be made more strict. The panel, which presented its findings to the government about two months ago, sought to maintain a distinct Jewish majority to preserve Israel's status as a Jewish and democratic state.

The NSC committee suggested limiting the ability of illegal residents to become legal residents by requiring a certain level of financial standing and connection with Israel, as well as legislating an age limit.

Eiland - who presided over the panel and presented its conclusions - also suggested the state prevent Bedouin men in the Negev from marrying more than one Palestinian woman in a bid to get them citizenship, and said Israel should reassess its policy of granting Israeli citizenship to children who have only one Israeli parent.

Several weeks after Eiland presented his group's findings, the government approved a law submitted by Pines-Paz that bans the interior minister from granting permanent residency permits to illegal residents. According to the law, illegal aliens who want to live in Israel legally must first leave the country and stay away for an extensive "cooling-off" period. In addition, foreign spouses of Israelis can no longer become permanent residents as a result of their marriage.

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

A Pod story

A reader writes to say:

The account of John Podhoretz's firing of Hilton Kramer from the NY Post editorial pages isn't quite as Hanna Rosin presented it in that magazine piece you linked to. As Hilton tells it, back in '82, when he and Lipman were starting up The New Criterion, Pod Jr. got wind of it. He was just graduating (or recently graduated -- not sure of time line here) from Chicago. He jumped on a plane, flew to New York, arrived at Hilton's door, and asked for a job as senior editor of the new magazine. Kramer gently explained that he needed someone with actual editing experience, and turned him down. So when Pod took over the NY Post editorial page, first thing he did was fire Hilton.

Anybody else have any Pod stories? I hear there are a lot of them...

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

"Please keep attacking me"

emails John Podhoretz:

"It's how I know I'm not a bigoted, racist scum."

Such wit, such eloquence, such insight, such diction!

Over the years, I've received many emails calling me "scum," but never before one calling me "a ... scum." To achieve that exquisite command of the English language, you have to be a distinguished a man of letters, a John Updike or a John Podhoretz.

Hanna Rosin wrote in 1998 that Mr. Podhoretz's colleagues would spontaneously assemble to mutually admire the latest examples of his superb prose style and penetrating brilliance:

... around the Washington Times offices, the [Podhoretz] column was often read out loud in Podhoretz’s absence, for comic value, in a ritual famously called Podenfreude ....

UPDATE: Mr. Podhoretz has graciously supplied me, free of charge, with another sample of his genius:

"If you think I lack them [wit, eloquence, etc.], I imagine you think I have too much melanin in my skin."

Amazing as it may seem, the rumors that Mr. Podhoretz maintains a staff of Nobel Laureates and Oscar-winning screenwriters to craft his devastating comebacks for him are not true. The reality is that, somehow, he makes them up himself!

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

Why you don't want to be a pizza delivery guy at the U. of Utah

Newsweek quoted Lisa Diamond, Associate Professor of Psychology and Gender Studies at the U. of Utah, as questioning J. Michael Bailey's recent study showing a very low incidence for male bisexuality by pointing out:

"You may be mostly interested in women, but hey, they guy who delivers the pizza is really hot, and what are you going to do?"

Here is a picture of Dr. Diamond.


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

Enoch Powell vindicated

The Washington Post reports today:

Four young British citizens of Pakistani origin appear to have carried out last week's bombings of the London transit system, blowing themselves up along with their victims in what would be the first suicide attacks in Western Europe, British police said Tuesday.

In 1968, the British Tory MP Enoch Powell made a prescient speech about the dangers of mass immigration to Britain that has been infinitely denounced ever since, although never disproved. Here are excerpts:

The supreme function of statesmanship is to provide against preventable evils.

In seeking to do so, it encounters obstacles which are deeply rooted in human nature... Above all, people are disposed to mistake predicting troubles for causing troubles and even for desiring troubles: “if only”, they love to think, “if only people wouldn't talk about it, it probably wouldn't happen”. Perhaps this habit goes back to the primitive belief that the word and the thing, the name and the object, are identical.

At all events, the discussion of future grave but, with effort now, avoidable evils is the most unpopular and at the same time the most necessary occupation for the politician. Those who knowingly shirk it, deserve, and not infrequently receive, the curses of those who come after.

In fifteen or twenty years, on present trends, there will be in this country 3 1/2 million Commonwealth immigrants and their descendants. That is not my figure. That is the official figure given to Parliament by the spokesman of the Registrar General's office. There is no comparable official figure for the year 2000, but it must be in the region of 5-7 million, approximately one-tenth of the whole population, and approaching that of Greater London.

As time goes on, the proportion of this total who are immigrant descendants, those born in England, who arrived here by exactly the same route as the rest of us, will rapidly increase. Already by 1985 the native-born would constitute the majority. It is this fact above all which creates the extreme urgency of action now, of just that kind of action which is hardest for politicians to take, action where the difficulties lie in the present but the evils to be prevented or minimized lie several parliaments ahead....

The natural and rational first question with a nation confronted by such a prospect is to ask: “How can its dimensions be reduced?” Granted it be not wholly preventable, can it be limited, bearing in mind that numbers are of the essence: the significance and consequences of an alien element introduced into a country or population are profoundly different according to whether that element is 1 per cent or 10 per cent.

The answers to the simple and rational question are equally simple and rational: by stopping or virtually stopping, further inflow, and by promoting the maximum outflow...

For these dangerous and divisive elements the legislation proposed in the Race Relations Bill is the very pabulum they need to flourish. Here is the means of showing that the immigrant communities can organize to consolidate their members, to agitate and campaign against their fellow citizens, and to overawe and dominate the rest with the legal weapons which the ignorant and the ill-informed have provided.

As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding. Like the Roman [Vergil], I seem to see “the River Tiber foaming with much blood”.

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

July 12, 2005

Conservatives on Evolution:

Ben Adler's article in The New Republic "Evolutionary War" has been getting a lot of publicity for asking various conservative pundits questions like, "Do you believe in evolution?"

Somebody should ask liberal pundits if they believe in the preservation of favored races in the struggle for life.

I bet not many would agree. Of course, in reality, that's the subtitle to Darwin's Origin of Species.

Way back in 1999, I wrote two long essays for Toronto's National Post analyzing both sides in this debate, which I think still sum it up well:

Ironically, while the religious right engages in futile attacks on Darwin's theory of what animals evolved from, the left and center clamp down upon Darwin's theory of what humans evolved to.

A Miracle Happens Here: Darwin's Enemies on the Right

Equality v. Truth: Darwin's Enemies on the Left

Of course, I haven't noticed that my essays had any impact on the debate whatsoever, so I guess I'll have to write another article. Not that anyone will pay attention to my good sense, but at least I might get a needed paycheck for it.

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

The Bush Economy in Action

From the New York Times:

FREDERICK, Md. - Danilo Molina has never flipped a house to make a quick profit from rising real estate values. He has not refinanced a mortgage. He does not even own a home. Nonetheless, the decade-long housing boom has been very good to Mr. Molina, a slight 21-year-old with a shy smile. He has been working on construction crews since he arrived in this country from El Salvador six years ago, and today he supplies workers, including himself, to build new houses in this fast-growing county roughly 50 miles northwest of Washington.

"I saw my friends - they make money," he said on a sun-baked recent afternoon in front of a half-finished house, describing his career choice. "Now I've got a small company."

Mr. Molina is one small part of what might be called the real estate industrial complex, the economic engine that has become one of the few reliable sources of growth in recent years. Encompassing everything from land surveyors to general contractors to loan officers, the sprawling sector has added 700,000 jobs to the nation's payrolls over the last four years, according to an analysis by Economy.com, a research firm.

Combined, the rest of the economy has lost nearly 400,000 jobs over the same span, which stretches back to the start of the most recent recession, in 2001.

Well, isn't that special? The population goes up by about 10 million, but the economy only adds 300,000 jobs, and a huge fraction of those go to illegal immigrant construction workers.

And this huge investment in Great Rooms and Master Bedroom Suites is sure preparing us to compete better with the Chinese...

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

Quality Control on the Fritz at the WaPo

In an op-ed in the Washington Post defending the Mexican cartoon of the black ape-boy Memin Pinguin, Mexican historian Enrique Krause writes:

Other famous leaders in Mexico's history were African American in their origins: Jose Maria Morelos, for instance, who became the second commander of the Mexican rebels in their War for Independence (1810-1821), and his immediate subordinate, Gen. Vicente Guerrero, who became president eight years after Mexico won its independence from Spain. In the 20th century, only two presidents were of pure-blooded Spanish descent (Jose Lopez Portillo and Vicente Fox). All the rest were mestizos, of mixed ancestry.

First, it would be remarkable indeed if two Presidents of Mexico were African Americans. In reality, Morelos and Guerrero were of part African descent, not African American. Second, Vicente Fox is not of pure-blooded Spanish descent, as his surname shows. His paternal grandfather was an Irish-American who was born in Cincinnati.

Overall, Krause is largely blowing smoke about Mexican attitudes toward race. They are quite different from American attitudes, and they are of increasing importance, but you won't find out much about what they are from the American press. My articles about Mexico are here.

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

Legal Immigration Trends

A reader summarizes the government's legal immigration statistics:

Being a statistics nut (like yourself), I have collected all sorts of immigration statistics, including the 2004 figures which just came out (yeah, I look forward to the annual USCIS figures like a kid might Christmas. Okay, maybe not Christmas... Halloween, perhaps.)

However, I must point out one thing... you said that one-quarter of Puerto Ricans have moved to the United States... I think it's more like one-half. Census 2000 found 3.4 million 'Ricans living stateside, with 3.6 million back on the island.

Mexico is of course number one, and in fact appears to have a "special relationship" in that it's not limited to 7% of the family visas every year like every other country is. Legal immigration from Mexico has been at about 200,000; slightly above in 2001 and 2002 but has fallen since; it was about 175,000 in 2004.

Because one is far more likely to move to the U.S. if one is 1) near the U.S., and 2) English-speaking, we have tended to receive a disproportionate number of migrants from nearby anglophone countries. Even Canada sends nearly one-tenth as many LEGAL immigrants to the U.S. every year as Mexico. However, as the birth rates of the anglophone black Caribbean fell from 6 to 2 children per woman, the outflow to the U.S. has definitely slowed. That from Jamaica, the largest, has sunk steadily from 24,000 around 1990 to 14,000 today. I imagine that the anglophone black Caribbean, with its lower birth rates, can no longer sustain a hemorrhage of its earlier magnitude without depleting its population which, in fact, is now threatening many of those countries. (This has also affected Puerto Rico, which like Cuba now has a fertility rate lower than that of non-Hispanic white Americans.)

Surprisingly, immigration from Haiti, which briefly jumped over 20,000 a few years ago, has fallen back to just over 10,000. Because of its soaring population, I expect this short-term drop to reverse eventually, as it has for the Dominican Republic, which after a prior drop in the late 1990's, is now back up to over 30,000.

I have noticed a jump in immigration from South America. Brazil soared over the 10,000 mark for the first time in history last year (in the early 1990's it was in the 4,000 range), and Argentina, Venezuela, and Uruguay showed similar increases. Strangely enough, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru stayed relatively stable... my guess is that much of their outflow was diverted to Spain.

LEGAL immigration from Central American countries (excluding the NACARA amnesty) is actually not all that substantial and has actually been dropping. Perhaps this is because those who would otherwise send for their relatives are being serviced by NACARA, or because Central Americans are no longer even bothering to enter legally, or for whatever reason, the region is not a particularly large source of immigrants anymore. But unlike for other regions, the drop does not mean that immigration from Central America is actually decreasing, except for perhaps Panama and Belize (especially since ILLEGAL migration from the area has been going up). El Salvador currently provides the largest number, but Guatemala will likely catch up and pass it.

I have noted that immigration from Africa has increased steadily since 1986, from less than 20,000, to about 45,000 after the Diversity visa first came out in 1995, to over 60,000 today. I don't know if it's related to the rapid population growth there, or to the DV, or a combination, but the trend in many formerly very slight sources all over the continent (like Uganda, Zambia, and Mali) is a rapid increase. The DV certainly contributed, but it's escalating even when one discounts its effects. (Nigeria, surprisingly, has been about stable, after accounting for the fact that in several years, a lot of Nigeria's immigrants were mistakenly credited to Niger.)

In Asia, the correlation between birth rates and rates of emigration to the U.S. appears to be even stronger. Immigration from the Philippines is rising again, as is that from Cambodia; that from India, Korea and Vietnam seems to be about stable; and that from China, Taiwan, Japan, and Hong Kong is sinking. Perhaps, the dense population notwithstanding, the fact that most people in their twenties most likely to emigrate now have a much larger share of their parents' property than earlier helps check the need to look elsewhere. Bangladesh is currently increasing, but is still below 10,000; Pakistan is just above that mark after a recent drop. Indonesia, surprisingly enough, is at only 2,400 -- amazing for a country of over 200 million people.

In the Middle East, the trend is for a slight drop in Arab countries but a jump in immigration from Israel to over 4,000 in 2004.

That from Europe is low and relatively stable, and has taken a sharp drop in the last couple of years with the finishing up of the admission of thousands of refugees from Bosnia and the former Soviet Union (who in fact actually moved to the U.S. in the mid and late 1990's). Britain and Poland provide the largest number of immigrants otherwise. The Diversity Visa program, meanwhile, has effects in some Eastern European countries; its most extreme example is the fact that since 1995 it has given about 1 percent of Albania's population legal admission to the U.S.

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

Making Jonah Goldberg seem like Lord Kenneth Clark

Many have wondered why the bumptious bully John Podhoretz was invited into NRO's The Corner. Perhaps it was to make Jonah Goldberg seem as cultivated by comparison as the late art critic who hosted the great Civilisation documentary in the 1970s.

From a 1998 article by Hanna Rosin:

Norman Podhoretz’s gift -- or curse, depending on how you look at it -- is to see himself at the center of history. As a writer, he’s a narcissist. Critical occasions for America, for the world, grew out of his personal experience. Both his books, Breaking Ranks and Making It, are memoirs, tracing his own life as the paragon of an age. His disgust with Stalinism is the universal disgust; his drive for success is a reminder of an abandoned American ideal.

John Podhoretz has inherited his father’s literary narcissism, but without the ideological vigor. Instead, he decided early on his model would be Robert Warshow, a movie reviewer for Commentary in the fifties. “The rest of us were interested in boring topics, like foreign policy,” says his friend Daniel Cass. “John only wanted to talk about movies and television.”

So his parents spent their life at war with Communism; the younger Podhoretz has spent much of his life at war with sitcoms.

For five years on and off, Podhoretz wrote a column for the conservative Moonie-owned newspaper the Washington Times, in which he lived out the banal life of a twentysomething on the page -- one of America’s first bathetic, solipsistic Gen-Xers (around the Washington Times offices, the column was often read out loud in Podhoretz’s absence, for comic value, in a ritual famously called Podenfreude).

No subject was too trivial to share with readers. Topics included his trip to an amusement park; his hatred of household pets; his love of Jell-O; conversations with his imaginary friend. He recounted events in mind-numbing detail: “I missed the 2:30 shuttle, so I had to wait for the 3:30 shuttle . . . I arrived in Washington at 5:15.” He’d also do things like type “SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX sex sex sex sex sex,” apropos of nothing (“I can see your eyes drifting”). One column ended with “Podhoretz . . . this is without question the dumbest column you’ve ever written. Stop it now!”

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

July 11, 2005

"The Beautiful Country" and "Broken Flowers"

My reviews from the latest issue of The American Conservative (now available to electronic subscribers). Excerpts:

In this age of family break-up, the theme of separated fathers and sons underlies the summer's sci-fi popcorn movies, such as "War of the Worlds," "Batman Begins," and "Revenge of the Sith." It also drives two of the season's quieter releases for grown-ups, "Broken Flowers" with Bill Murray and "The Beautiful Country" with Nick Nolte.

Opening July 8th, "The Beautiful Country" is, indeed, a beautifully-filmed story about the Vietnamese son of an American GI. Because he's Amerasian, everyone in Vietnam mistreats him because they think he's ugly. You'll have to take that on faith, however, because the director (who is, oddly enough, Norwegian) couldn't find a Eurasian actor. The pure Vietnamese fellow he hired, Damien Nguyen, looks like all the other Vietnamese who are scorning him for his mixed features. "Colorblind casting" might work in theatre, but in film you have to get race right, especially when your movie is about heredity...

In "Broken Flowers," which opens August 5th, veteran minimalist auteur Jim Jarmusch has his most commercially promising film.

With 1984's "Stranger than Paradise," Jarmusch began making glacially-paced exercises in sensory deprivation that bored you into the giggles. The highlight of "Stranger" was watching two dullards on a midwinter visit to Cleveland try, and fail, to figure out something to do. Go look at the frozen Lake Erie? Their lapses into hopeless silence lowered your resistance enough that when Eddie eventually dredged up the suggestion that maybe they could take in a Cavalier's NBA game, and Willie scornfully replied "The Cavs? They're like one and fifty!" well, just by contrast this dialogue seemed almost as brilliant as Captain Renault's "Round up the usual suspects" at the climax of "Casablanca."

"Broken Flowers," though, has a more elaborate and conventional plot. Murray plays an aging and depressive Don Juan named Don Johnston, whose latest girlfriend leaves him because he's uninterested in marriage and children, and, frankly, a bit of a blank. But then Murray receives an anonymous letter on pink stationery from an old flame revealing that after they broke up in the 1980s, she bore his son, and the young man has now gone on the road in search of his father.

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

Pod the Lesser, Birthright Pundit:

Pod the Lesser, Birthright Pundit: When John Derbyshire raised objections to the current but dubious interpretation of the 14th Amendment that guarantees American citizenship to the children of illegal aliens born in the U.S., John Podhoretz replied on NRO's Corner in his inimitable manner, "Sorry, pal. If you're born a Podhoretz, you get to make a living offering your opinions, no matter how big of a jerk and fool you are. Period. That's how it works, and thank God for it, otherwise a great deal of the money made in the 21st century by Podhoretz relatives would not have come to pass."

Wait a minute, sorry, what Pod Person 2.0 actually said was:

Sorry, pal. You're born here, you're a citizen here. Period. That's how it works, and thank God for it, otherwise a great deal of the advances made in the 20th century by immigrant children to the United States would not have come to pass...

Boy, some people just can't stand the idea that some other people might become citizens in this country, eh? If the problem of birthright citizenship is not the citizenship itself, as Derb's e-mailer suggests, but the fact that the citizen can petition to get his family members made into citizens, then there's a simple expedient to fix that: You can change the law. Or you can try remembering that without immigration, there would be about 75 million people in the United States, a nation that now comfortably houses 300 million and could easily accommodate many more. Oh, and if any e-mailer e-mails me angrily AND USES CAPITAL LETTERS TO MAKE HIS POINT, that e-mail goes in the garbage can. As will slurs -- both open and subtle -- against Spanish-speakers, claims that "this wasn't the country my father fought for in WWII/Korea/Dominican Republic/Grenada," and the always popular "why should my tax dollars go and pay for." There's plenty of things my tax dollars go and pay for that I don't like. Welcome to democracy. You don't like it? Try to change it. Period."...

[John Podhoretz]
This effort to deny citizenship to those born in the United States because of their parentage is a mark of a passionate movement that is playing footsie with unreason. No "sensible" restrictive immigration policy that I'm aware of calls for the denial of birthright citizenship. That is lunacy. Mind the gap.

Of course, Pod Minor is completely confused about the issue, which is illegal immigrants' children, not the offspring of his ancestors, who were legal immigrants, but his making this error just shows how much of neocon thinking about immigration, if you can call it "thinking," is based on ethnic nostalgia and resentment of old slights toward ancestors, feelings that just seems to grow, perversely, in strength with the passing of the decades. (See my "Remythologizing the Melting Pot" review of Tamar Jacoby's book on immigration for details.)

I'm what you could call an Old Neoconservative, in the tradition of social scientists like Moynihan, Glazer, J.Q. Wilson, Sowell, and Murray, and the intellectual decline of the neocons over the years is painful to me. Norman Podhoretz has mutated into, essentially, an ethnic activist in the mode of Jesse Jackson. Little Big Pod is the equivalent of Al Sharpton, although not as witty.

Exactly why a no-talent ethnic bully like John Podhoretz thinks he can define what is and isn't conservative is a mystery, but the bigger conundrum is why he isn't laughed out of a career ... except, of course, for the obvious fact that he's, as they say in Little Italy, connected.


Charlotte Allen even coined the term "podenfreude" to describe the enjoyable sensation one experiences while reading terrible writing.

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

The London Bombings

James Fulford points out on the VDARE.com blog:

Mao spoke of Communist guerillas being a fish in a sea of peasants. Islamic terrorists need a sea of Muslims to swim in. That’s what they now have in the West.

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

Michelle Wie misses men's PGA tournament cut by only two strokes.

This is the second time in three tries the 15-year-old girl has nearly qualified to play the last two rounds in a men's PGA tournament. She shot one under par and matched or outscored 62 of the 150 men entered over the first two rounds. Granted, the John Deere is a second string tournament (a lot of the top golfers skipped it to get over to St. Andrews early to get read for this week's British Open), but, still ... LPGA supremo Annika Sorenstam was much praised for coming within four strokes of making the cut a couple of years ago, but now Michelle has bettered that twice.

Indeed, she's ahead of where Tiger Woods was on making the cut for a PGA tournament at the same age, and he was the most famous golf prodigy since Bobby Jones. Wie almost became the youngest player of either sex to make the cut in a men's tourney in decades. The youngest male to make the cut at any PGA tournament since 1957 was 16-year-old Ty Tyron in 2001. Golf is a hard game emotionally because the ball isn't moving, so it's easier to get overcome by nerves than in a sport where you react. So, male players typically peak later in golf than in just about any other sport -- for example, Vijay Singh peaked last year at age 40 -- which is another reason why Wie is so remarkable.

I really don't know how to explain how good she is. My theory is that she's the first top golfer to grow up playing 21st Century clubs and balls, and that her game is better molded to the new technology than anybody else's. But I just made that up.

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

"Guns, Germs and Steel" on PBS

Jared Diamond's enormously celebrated book is now a documentary on PBS. Here's part of my review "The Clash of Continents" of Diamond's book from National Review in 1997:

Diamond's geohistorical approach certainly clarifies continental-scale history. Most of world history, however, is Eurasian history, and he's only sketchy on why the West Eurasians eventually overcame the East and South Eurasians.

Diamond is not content, however, to merely write the history of the last 13,000 years. He also claims that his evidence is of great political momentuousness because it shows that no ethnic group is inferior to any other: each exploited its local food resources as fully as possible. For example, after the Australian Outback explorers Burke and Wills exhausted their Eurasian-derived supplies, three times they had to throw themselves on the mercy and expertise of the local Stone Age hunter-gatherers. These Aborigines, the least technically advanced of all peoples, may not have domesticated a single Australian plant in 40,000 years, but in 200 years down under scientific whites have domesticated merely the macadamia nut. Farming only pays in Australia when using imported crops and livestock.

But, are indigenous peoples merely not inferior? In truth, on their own turf many ethnic groups appear to be somewhat genetically superior to outsiders. Diamond makes environmental differences seem so compelling that it's hard to believe that humans would not become somewhat adapted to their homelands through natural selection. And in fact, Diamond himself briefly cites several examples of genetic differences impacting history. Despite military superiority, Europeans repeatedly failed to settle equatorial West Africa, in part because they lacked the malaria resistance conferred on many natives by the sickle cell gene. Similarly, biological disadvantages stopped whites from overrunning the [high altitude] Andes. Does this make Diamond a loathsome racist? No, but it does imply that a scientific-minded observer like Diamond should not dogmatically denounce genetic explanations, since he is liable to get tarred with his own brush.

The undeniability of human biodiversity does not prove that we also differ somewhat mentally, but it's hard to imagine why the brain would differ radically from the rest of the body. Consider the fable of the grasshopper and the ant. The ant's personality traits -- foresight and caution -- fitted him to survive his region's predictably harsh winters. Yet, the grasshopper's strengths -- improvisation and spontaneity -- might furnish Darwinian superiority in a tropical land where the dangers are unpredictable.

Like many, Diamond appears to confuse the concepts of genetic superiorities (plural) and genetic supremacy (singular). The former are circumstance-specific. For example, a slim, heat-shedding Somalian-style body is inferior to a typically stocky, heat-conserving Eskimo physique in Nome, but it's superior in Mogadishu (and in Manhattan, too, if, you want to become a fashion model and marry David Bowie, like Somalian supermodel Iman). In contrast, genetic supremacy is the dangerous fantasy that one group is best at everything. Before the European explosion began in the 15th Century, it seemed apparent that no race could be supreme. Even the arrogant Chinese were periodically overrun by less-cultured barbarians. The recent European supremacy in both the arts of war and of peace was partly an optical illusion masking the usual tradeoffs in talents within Europe (e.g., Italian admirals were as inept as English cooks). Still, the rise and reign of Europe remains the biggest event in world history. Yet, the era when Europeans could plausibly claim supremacy over all other races has been dead for at least the 60 years since Hitler, of all people, allied with Japan.

The historian who trumpets the political relevance of his work must consider both the past and the future, which Diamond fails to do. Surprisingly, ethnic biodiversity is becoming more important in numerous ways. Until recently, one's location and social position at birth closely constrained one's fate. But, as equality of opportunity grows, the globalized marketplace increasingly exploits all advantages in talent, including those with genetic roots. Pro sports offer a foretaste of the future: many are resegregating themselves as ethnic groups increasingly specialize in those games they're naturally best at. In summary, Diamond may prove a better guide to the last 13,000 years than the to next 13. [More]

Diamond's first book, The Third Chimpanzee, is a much more exciting read, even though a lot of it is outdated by now. But he was a lot freer-thinking back then before he turned himself into a global monument to racial political correctness. His bank account, however, wasn't as well-padded before Guns, Germs, and Steel, though.

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