October 1, 2005

The egregious Garance Franke-Ruta is back

On The American Prospect's blog TAPPED, Garance Franke-Ruta, who denounced me last year for saying "But I believe the truth is better for us than ignorance, lies, or wishful thinking," is now criticizing her fellow liberals Matt Yglesias and Brad DeLong for not distorting Bill Bennett's statement about abortion. Instead, truth be damned, liberals should be practicing racial demagoguery in order to get "southern African Americans" all riled up (because, apparently, southern African Americans aren't into "cleverness)." You really have to read this:

"OUTRAGE VERSUS CLEVERNESS. One of the reasons the left has such a difficult time moving public opinion is that, all too often, it reacts with cleverness to situations where outrage would be a more appropriate response. Bill Bennett yesterday offered left bloggers a golden opportunity to make political hay, and what do we have? The spectacle of them explaining his remarks away in order to prove ... what exactly? That they, too, studied Latin and philosophy?

"Let me break the significance of this down in strict political terms. The last time Democrats gained seats in Congress, in 1998, it was thanks, in part, to unusually heavy voter turnout by southern African Americans....

So Bennett's comment is ... a statement that could scarcely have been better designed to outrage a critical part of the Democratic base.

Brad DeLong
, however, sees this as a great opportunity to defend Bennett for "attempting a reductio ad absurdum argument." I mean, what is the point of this other than to prove his own cleverness? Yglesias similarly takes Bennett's comments as an opportunity to assert that "the empirical claim here is unambiguously true."

Um, really? I rather thought that there was no empirical claim here. Does Yglesias really believe that he knows what a world in which there were no more black children would be like? One could equally well argue, since we are in the realm of science fiction, that such an occurence [sic] would wreak psychological, cultural, and economic devastation on America's cities, with God only knows what impact on crime. Every major city would start to look like Detroit, depopulated and run-down where it had formerly been vibrant.

Ah, my favorite word: "vibrant"! How do you know when a liberal is lying? When she uses "vibrant."

Uh, Garance, are you sure that you really want to use Detroit as your example?

Elementary schools would be the first to close, then high schools, then colleges. Tax bases would be wiped out. Whole swathes of the workforce would disappear, simultaneously depriving people of needed jobs and cities of employees to run necessary services. Who knows what would happen in such an environment -- it is really both unknowable and unthinkable.

Anyone who thinks they know what would happen is making assumptions. Implicit in Bennett's statement is the assumption that African Americans contribute only criminality to America, and that if he could he wave his magic wand and bring African Americans' tenure in this nation to an end, that is all that would disappear. That's what's offensive about his statement.

Garance, I realize you're not into "cleverness," but Bennett was saying that aborting all blacks would be a bad thing and that he was against it Specifically, he said in the same breath that it would be "an impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do." Moreover, he raised the issue precisely to oppose aborting anybody, no matter what legal abortion's side effects might be.

Garance, I know you are against cleverness and I know you are against telling the truth, but did it ever occur to you that you'd be a better professional liar, as you aspire to be, if you tried not to be a complete moron when you lie?

By the way, Garance, you should make sure never to tell the truth yourself, as you did in criticizing "Bowling for Columbine" The American Prospect in which you wrote:

"Nor are Moore's suburban white gun owners, no matter how ridiculous their fears, the reason that black Americans were six times more likely to be murdered than whites in 1999, and seven times more likely to commit homicides."

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

September 30, 2005


In the movie adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize winning play, Gwyneth Paltrow plays the daughter of a brilliant and insane John Nash-like mathematician (Anthony Hopkins) who worries about which of her father's attributes she inherited, while handsome young U. of Chicago math prof Jake Gyllenhaal tries to get her to notice him. From my review in the upcoming American Conservative:

Tom Stoppard's Arcadia, an affectionate romp through the mathematics of chaos theory, and his Hapgood, an inexplicable explication of quantum mechanics, are the masterpiece and failure, respectively, of the theatre's recent interest in scholars. Other examples include Michael Frayn's Copenhagen, Margaret Edson's Wit, and David Auburn's Proof, a drama about mathematicians that ran for 900 performances on Broadway, a street not previously known for its math-friendliness.

Some critics have derided Proof as "middlebrow" for showing few of the formulas that obsess the main characters. In reality, "middlebrow" is a compliment, since it means a script pitched well above the contemporary average. In the admirable middlebrow tradition, Proof displays a healthy respect for mathematicians and an informative interest in those aspects of their careers that we can comprehend, such as their fear of losing their creativity before they hit 30...

The film version of "Proof," fortunately, is largely lacking in the feminist resentment that has been focused on college math departments since last winter's Larry Summers brouhaha (for instance, all 30 full professors at the U. of Chicago are male). As Gyllenhaal's lovelorn character makes clear, there's nothing the men of mathematics would like more than for beautiful young women to share their passion.

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

Levitt, you duplicitous son-of-a-gun

Today, responding to Bill Bennett's controversial citation of his theory that legalizing abortion cut crime, economist Steven D. Levitt, co-author of the bestseller Freakonomics, asserted on his blog that "Race is not an important part of the abortion-crime argument that John Donohue and I have made in academic papers and that Dubner and I discuss in Freakonomics." Indeed, Levitt left out any mention of the much higher abortion and crime rates found among blacks from his best-selling book. However, his 2001 academic paper with John J. Donohue contains this passage:

Fertility declines for black women are three times greater than for whites (12 percent compared to 4 percent). Given that homicide rates of black youths are roughly nine times higher than those of white youths, racial differences in the fertility effects of abortion are likely to translate into greater homicide reductions. Under the assumption that those black and white births eliminated by legalized abortion would have experienced the average criminal propensities of their respective races, then the predicted reduction in homicide is 8.9 percent. In other words, taking into account differential abortion rates by race raises the predicted impact of abortion legalization on homicide from 5.4 percent to 8.9 percent.

[Thanks to James Taranto --SS.]

In other words, race accounts for 39% of the putative Levitt Effect on supposedly reducing homicides. You can judge for yourself whether 39% is "not an important part."

So, in the wake of the crucifixion of Bill Bennett for mentioning one of the major aspects of Levitt's abortion-cut-crime theory, I'd like to ask how come the entire respectable world gave Levitt's Freakonomics book tongue-baths last spring, praising him for his "courage" in pushing his abortion-crime theory. For example, the NYT gave his book two rave book reviews, a rave op-ed column, and they hired him to write a regular "Freakonomics" column for the NYT Magazine!

So, why didn't the Levitt Effect actually happen in the real world? Why didn't this conventional piece of eugenic and/or eucultural reasoning work? First, as I pointed out to Levitt in 1999, the crack wars happened in between the data points he looked at in 1985 and 1997. (Ironically, on the rare occasions when Levitt now deigns to answer his critics, he emphasizes the impact of crack, which he was barely cognizant of until I explained it to him in our Slate debate.) The Levitt Effect, if it even exists, was overwhelmingly swamped by much more powerful forces.

But, it's quite possible that legalizing abortion boosted the black violent crime rate among those youths born after legalization in 1970-1973. To see why that's quite possible, it's important to focus on the realism of that assumption Levitt made in 2001 when he wrote:

Under the assumption that those black and white births eliminated by legalized abortion would have experienced the average criminal propensities of their respective races ...

What if, instead, among blacks, aborted fetuses had instead been more likely to grow up in well-run homes and become solid law-abiding citizens? To a white college professor like Levitt, that seems inconceivable, but it actually is rather plausible. As I told him in 1999:

[Your] logic implies that legalized abortion should reduce illegitimacy. And since illegitimacy is closely linked to crime, therefore abortion must reduce crime. Right? Yet, abortion and illegitimacy both soared during the '70s, and then the youth violent-crime rate also soared when the kids born during that decade hit their teens. How come?

In theory, legal abortion reduces murder by being, in effect, "prenatal capital punishment." But, first, it's not very efficient. Like Herod, we have to eradicate many to get the one we want. While genes and upbringing do affect criminality, there's so much randomness that predicting the destiny of individual fetuses is hard.

Second, what if besides a contraceptive-using bourgeoisie and an abortion-using working class, there also exists an underclass to whom, in the words of Homer Simpson, "Life is just a bunch of things that happen"? What if in the '70s members of the underclass didn't effectively use either contraception or abortion, but, being too destitute or distracted or drunk or drugged, they just tended to let s*** happen all the way to the maternity ward? And what if the legalization of abortion gave them an excuse to be even less careful about avoiding pregnancy? In fact, in your paper you cite evidence that 60 percent to 75 percent of all fetuses aborted in the '70s would never have been conceived without legal abortion. If that's what happened across all classes, the increase in careless pregnancies specifically among the underclass might have been so big that it negated the eugenic or euculturalist effects of abortion.

Thus, legalizing abortion would have thinned the ranks of the respectable black working class but not the black underclass. Its cultural influence would therefore have mounted. Just compare the working-class black music of the '60s (e.g., Motown) with the underclass gangsta rap of the late '80s, which spread the lethal bust-a-cap code of the East Coast and West Coast crack dealers across America.

Third, legalizing abortion finished off the traditional shotgun wedding. Earlier, the pill had shifted responsibility for not getting pregnant to the woman. Then, legal abortion relieved the impregnating boyfriend of the moral duty of making an honest woman out of her. This would drive up the illegitimacy rate.

Finally, even more speculatively, but also more frighteningly, the revolution in social attitudes that excused terminating the unborn may also have helped persuade violent youths that they could be excused for terminating the born.

One of my readers who was an inner city social worker strongly endorses this theory that abortion hollowed out the black middle class. She says that in her experience, the black women who had abortions tended to be the "strivers," while the ones who had children out of wedlock instead were the less intelligent, less organized, and less ambitious

Recently, she pointed out to me that some data reported by Charles Murray in the September 2005 issue of Commentary from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth contradicts Levitt's assumption:

Now I'm soooooo confused! As you point out, Charles Murray in his article "The Inequality Taboo," has "calculated that 60% of the babies born to black women who began participating in the National Longitudinal Study of Youth in 1979 were born to women with IQs below the black female average of 85.7. Only 7% were born to black women with IQs over 100."

But wait, weren't all those [low IQ, lower class] women having abortions? That's what genius economist Steven Levitt says in his super-brilliant book *Freakonomics,* where he tells us that abortion cut crime substantially because it kept hordes of little ghetto marauders from being born. Well, OK, Levitt doesn’t exactly put it that way, but we all know what he means (nudge, nudge, wink, wink).

If we are to believe Murray's figures, then it would seem that the black women who had abortions must actually have been the *brighter* ones -- whose children (had they been born), would statistically have been less likely to commit crimes than those born to lower-IQ women.

Could this mean that Levitt is, ahem, wrong?

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

One more point on the Bennett Freakonomics brouhaha

One of the logical distinctions that needs to be made in thinking about the purely hypothetical effect on crime of a prenatal genocide of an entire ethnic group is:

Are we talking about what would be the impact on the total number of crimes in the country?

Or are we talking about the impact on the national per capita crime rate?

Steven D. Levitt, author of the abortion-cut-crime theory, tries to glide past the nasty racial implications of his theory by claiming on his blog:

... if you prohibit any group from reproducing, then the crime rate will go down)...

But that's not true. If all future Asian-Americans were aborted, the national crime rate, as measured in per capita terms, would go up because the Asian-American crime rate is below the national average. (Asian-Americans in 2001 were incarcerated per capita only 22% as often as whites and only 3% as often per capita as African-Americans.)

For ethnic groups with higher than average crime rates, the opposite would be true.

Now, please don't claim I'm advocating genocide. Indeed, for six years, I've been a voice crying in the wilderness saying that Levitt's theory that abortion-cut-crime turns out not to be true when you look at the actual historical record in any detail, which Levitt failed to do when he concocted it.

For an explanation of one reason, besides the crack wars, why the black violent crime rate shot up among the cohort born after legalization of abortion, see here.

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

Levitt on Bennett

On his Freakonomics blog, economist Steven D. Levitt, the main promoter of the old theory that legalizing abortion cut crime, writes:

2) Race is not an important part of the abortion-crime argument that John Donohue and I have made in academic papers and that Dubner and I discuss in Freakonomics.

C'mon, Steve, try being frank about your abortion-crime theory for once. Your widely circulated draft paper in 1999 argued that one reason abortion should have cut crime is because blacks, per capita, have more abortions and commit more crimes. (See this NYT story from 1999 for the details). You dropped that reference later to stay out of trouble.

It is true that, on average, crime involvement in the U.S. is higher among blacks than whites. Importantly, however, once you control for income, the likelihood of growing up in a female-headed household, having a teenage mother, and how urban the environment is, the importance of race disappears for all crimes except homicide. (The homicide gap is partly explained by crack markets).

Oh, boy ... where to begin?

- "Except homicide"? -- That reminds me of the old joke: "Except for that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?"

- The homicide gap existed long before crack was invented in the 1980s. Back in 1976, the first year of separate black and white data in the Bureau of Justice Statistics website, the black homicide rate per capita was 9.5 times the white rate.

- Further, I'm highly dubious that the racial aspect of homicide is all that different. In the important new report "The Color of Crime, 2005," the incarceration rate is broken out for a variety of crimes by ethnicity. (The authors split out Hispanics from whites, unlike many of the other crime statistics, which makes them more accurate and the black to white ratio even higher because Hispanics are imprisoned, overall, 2.9 times more per capita than non-Hispanic whites.)

Judging from the graph in Fig. 9 of "The Color of Crime, 2005," (I don't have the exact data), the black to non-Hispanic white ratio for incarceration for murder is 8.3 to 1. But for all crimes overall, blacks are imprisoned 7.2 times more often than whites, so the difference isn't that great. And blacks are incarcerated 33 times more than Asian-Americans!

For robbery, the black-white ratio looks like about 14.8 to 1, or nearly 2 to 1 over the homicide rate.

Aggravated assault looks like about 7.3 to 1. Other violent crimes are lower (rape is about 3.0 to 1), but the overall violent crime incarceration ratio is about 7.1 to 1, not too different from the homicide ratio.

Strikingly, the non-violent incarceration ratio is just as bad, also in the 7 to 1 rate. This is driven in part by drug offenses, which are in the 12.5 to 1 area. But, blacks are incarcerated for non-drug property crimes about 5.1 times the white rate.

Blacks even get themselves thrown in jail for white collar crimes disproportionately: 4.0 times more often for fraud, 5.1 times more often for "Bribery / Conflict of Interest," 3.2 times for racketeering, and even 2.9 times more often for embezzlement. I suspect you'd have to go all the way to high end white collar crimes like anti-trust violations and insider trading to find ones where whites have higher per capita rates.

In other words, for most crimes a white person and a black person who grow up next door to each other with similar incomes and the same family structure would be predicted to have the same crime involvement. Empirically, what matters is the fact that abortions are disproportionately used on unwanted pregnancies, and disproportionately by teenage women and single women.

First of all, for the purpose of discussing whether or not the Levitt Effect of abortion driving down the crime rate works in part by aborting more black fetuses per capita than white fetuses, these kinds of attempts at "underlying explanations" are largely irrelevant. (The real objection to the Levitt Effect is that, judging from the historical record, it didn't work at all.)

Second, I find this highly dubious. Levitt doesn't cite any research supporting this. And even if he did, I've found that when I go an read his reports, his track record for veracity in his claims that prior research supports his views is dubious.

Third, this is the kind of thing "explaining away" that gives correlation analysis such a bad odor with the public. As Colby Cosh pointed out, on the "Daily Show," John Stewart rightly grilled Levitt on exactly how you "control for" other variables, and Levitt couldn't come up with a trustworthy answer.

You can make all sorts of things disappear by "controlling" for variables that are closer to symptoms than causes. For instance, you can make the average height gap between the Dutch and the Japanese disappear by "controlling for" inseam length of the pants hanging in their closets.

What Levittt has done is pick three variables that currently correlate closely with being black and used them as a proxy for blackness. This is the opposite of Occam's Razor, which says you ought to be biased in favor of the fewest number of explanatory variables.

Fourth, Levitt's three variables sound extremely dubious historically. Think about that 9.5 to 1 difference in homicide rates between whites and blacks back in 1976. Most of those killers in 1976 were born in the 1940s and 1950s, when over 80% of black children were being born to married women. And during the Baby Boom, lots and lots of white babies were being born to teenage mothers.

Yet, the homicide rate went shooting up in 1965, just when the illegitimacy rate went shooting up too. We didn't have to wait a generation to get the effects of rising illegitimacy on crime, we saw them instantly. That's because a major effect of society deciding to allow sex without marriage is on the young men who now don't need to get a job so they can get married so they can have sex. They can hang around, do a few crimes, and still have a girlfriend.

In summary, Levitt is one slippery operator.

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

The American Scene

Ross Douthat's American Scene blog is an anomaly: It receives few comments, but a high fraction of those are from people you've heard of. For example, here Ross, Matt Yglesias, myself, and a physicist hold a civilized discussion on why cosmologists are less likely to be strident atheists than are evolutionary biologists. (And, no, I don't accuse anybody of lying, which is probably as much of a relief for me these days as it must be for my readers!)

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

William Bennett blasted for citing Steven D. Levitt's Freakonomics theory

Ever since New Orleans, the hysteria among the political and media elite has been building: Who among us bigshots will crack first and allude to the elephant in the living room?

That trumpeting pachyderm that they've all been trying to ignore is the higher crime rate among African-Americans. According to the official Bureau of Justice Statistics, "Blacks were 7 times more likely than whites to commit homicide in 2002," but You Can't Talk About That.

Today, the mounting pressure finally burst over merely an abstract musing on the radio.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi immediately spoke on the floor of the House:

"Mr. Speaker, I rise this evening to express my deep disdain and disgust for comments made yesterday by former Reagan Secretary of Education William Bennett on his radio call-in show. ... These are shameful words. I am appalled to have to say them on the floor of the House of Representatives. Secretary Bennett's comments reflect a narrow-minded spirit that has no place within American discourse."

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean issued the following statement:

"Bill Bennett's hateful, inflammatory remarks regarding African Americans are simply inexcusable. They are particularly unacceptable from a leader in the conservative movement and former Secretary of Education, once charged with the well being of every American school child. He should apologize immediately. This kind of statement is hardly compassionate conservatism; rather, Bennett's comments demonstrate a reprehensible racial insensitivity and ignorance. Are these the values of the Republican Party and its conservative allies? If not, President Bush, Ken Mehlman and the Republican Leadership should denounce them immediately as hateful, divisive and worthy only of scorn.

So, what horror of horrors did Bennett blurt out? The Washington Post reports:

Bennett Under Fire for Remark on Crime and Black Abortions

Democratic lawmakers and civil rights leaders denounced conservative commentator William J. Bennett yesterday for suggesting on his syndicated radio show that aborting black children would reduce the U.S. crime rate.

The former U.S. education secretary-turned-talk show host said Wednesday that "if you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose -- you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down." Bennett quickly added that such an idea would be "an impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do." But, he said, "your crime rate would go down." ...

Bennett's comments came Wednesday, during a discussion on his talk show "Morning in America." A caller had suggested that Social Security would be better funded if abortion had not been legalized in 1973 because the nation would have more workers paying into the system.

Bennett said "maybe," before referring to a book he said argued that the legalization of abortion is one of the reasons the crime rate has declined in recent decades. Bennett said he did not agree with that thesis.

"But I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose -- you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down," Bennett said, according to an audio clip posted on Media Matters for America's Web site. "That would be an impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, you know, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky."

That's it? It's a symptom of the September Sickness that has afflicted our elites all month that the repressed frenzy finally broke over that.

There are two somewhat separate logical issues to which Bennett is referring. The first is the utterly theoretical question of the impact on crime of aborting every black baby (since African-Americans made up 50.8% of homicide offenders in 2002 according to federal statistics, it would obviously be large), while the second is the much-admired Freakonomics theory that legalizing abortion in the 1970s reduced crime in the 1990s. Bennett, obviously, opposes both ideas on moral grounds.

As for the first, democrat Brad DeLong sensibly points out:

His caller said: "Abortion is bad because it has worsened the financing of Social Security." Bennett says: "Stay focused. We're anti-abortion not because we think that abortion is a means that leads to bad ends like a higher Social Security deficit; we're anti-abortion because abortion is bad; make arguments like 'abortion is bad because it increases the Social Security deficit' and other people will make arguments like 'abortion is good because it lowers the crime rate' and we'll lose sight of the main point."

Bennett is attempting a reductio ad absurdum argument.

As for the second, ABC reported:

In an interview with ABC News, Bennett said that anyone who knows him knows he isn't racist. He said he was merely extrapolating from the best-selling book "Freakonomics," which posits the hypothesis that falling crimes rates are related to increased abortion rates decades ago. "It would have worked for, you know, single-parent moms; it would have worked for male babies, black babies," Bennett said.

Bill, Bill, Bill, that's what you get for reading the softball reviews of Freakonomics in the NYT, the WSJ, the WP, and the LAT instead of reading iSteve.com, where you would have learned that economist Steven D. Levitt's ultrapopular but slapdash abortion-cut-crime theory disastrously failed to predict even the past.

Bill, if you'd gone to the source for statistical social analysis instead of all those credulous, innumerate mainstream sources, you would have known that when abortion was legalized over 1970-1973, the homicide rate of 14-17 year old black males, rather than declining, more than quadrupled in the decade from 1983 (when all living 14-17 year olds were born in the last prelegalization years of 1965-1969) to 1993 (when they were born in the high abortion years of 1975-1979, when the nonwhite abortion rate peaked in 1977 -- see page 8 of this report for abortion trends).

You can go look for yourself at the homicide graphs that Levitt was too slipshod in his research methods to look at when he came up with his theory in 1999. Go to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics page here and page down to the second set of four graphs, which show homicide offending rates by age by race by sex.

The main reason Levitt's theory didn't work in reality was because the larger impact of legalizing abortion was to drive up the number of unplanned pregnancies. Levitt himself wrote in Freakonomics that following Roe, “Conceptions rose by nearly 30 percent, but births actually fell by 6 percent …” The most unremarked but remarkable historic fact about legalizing abortion was how pointless it turned out to be: mostly it just caused the very problem -- unwanted pregnancies -- it was purported to cure.

I pointed this out to Levitt in 1999 in our debate in Slate, but he went ahead and left all these inconvenient facts out of Freakonomics six years later. Misleading the public has made him a rich man, but he has to live with his conscience.

I laid all this out in even more monomaniacal detail last Spring, and I apologize to my long-term readers for taking up their time then and now.

One thing I've noticed is that the pro-lifers have shown almost zero interest in the fact that Levitt's theory isn't empirically valid. Strikingly, many of them want it to be true in order to prove the purity of their moral intentions: Even though legal abortion would lessen the chance of me being murdered or mugged, I'm still against abortion on principle.

Well, swell, but that's just moral vanity. Whatever happened to "the truth shall set you free"?

David Brock's Media Matters, which mostly broke the story, claimed:

Bennett's remark was apparently inspired by the claim that legalized abortion has reduced crime rates, which was posited in the book Freakonomics (William Morrow, May 2005) by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. But Levitt and Dubner argued that aborted fetuses would have been more likely to grow up poor and in single-parent or teenage-parent households and therefore more likely to commit crimes; they did not put forth Bennett's race-based argument.

That's disingenuous, almost as disingenuous as Dr. Levitt.

Levitt's original draft paper with John J. Donohue in 1999 specifically referred to the higher rates among blacks of both abortion (which currently is about five times higher than among non-Hispanic whites) and crime (blacks are currently incarcerated at a rate 7.2 times the non-Hispanic white per capita rate) as one of the reasons why legalizing abortion should have cut crime. The New York Times reported in 1999:

"Most of the reduction," Dr. Levitt and Dr. Donohue write, "appears to be attributable to higher rates of abortion by mothers whose children are most likely to be at risk for future crime." Teen-agers, unmarried women and black women, for example, have higher rates of abortion, the researchers note, and children born to mothers in these groups are statistically at higher risk for crime in adulthood.

Levitt took out the reference to the much higher abortion and crime rates of blacks when he published Freakonomics. Instead, it was all supposed to work by getting rid of "unwanted" fetuses, even though he admitted that legalization vastly increased the number of unwanted fetuses.

But let's get real. Last Spring, when Levitt was the toast of American intellectual life, everybody who was proclaiming his wonderfulness knew deep down that his abortion-crime theory was still based in large measure on aborting black fetuses, but nobody would come out and say it.

I was the only one who kept pointing out the new emperor of the bestseller lists had no empirical clothes, but nobody cared, because the unwritten message of Freakonomics -- no black, no crime, as Stalin might have said -- seemed so convincing.

But since you aren't supposed to discuss the higher black crime rate in public, our national immune defenses against bogus ideas couldn't resist Levitt's lie.

Have you noticed lately how, ever since New Orleans, America is knee-deep in lies? See, once you start denouncing people for telling the truth, you just have to lie and lie and lie some more. Every truth leads to more truths, but once you start down the path to lying, every lie means you need to lie again.

God, I am sick of lies.

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

September 29, 2005

The manic-depressive conventional wisdom on New Orleans

I consistently argued at the time that having 100,000 people live through days of anarchy in New Orleans was a national disgrace, and that the breakdown of order caused people to drown and die of exposure due to violence paralyzing rescuers who feared for their own lives, partly due to exaggeration but partly due to reality. I never argued there was a mass slaughter going on. I also suggested that there would be a massive media cover up to convince us to forget what we saw with our lying eyes.

As I blogged way back on Labor Day, September 5th:

But, yes, sniping during rescue operations, as in the 1967 Detroit riot, is a complete calamity since it can send rescuers fleeing. Generally, the amount of actual sniping gets exaggerated while it's happening, but that reflects the terror and revulsion that any sniping at relief workers generates.

Whenever the talking heads on TV and their partners in print notice that they are showing mass evidence of blacks behaving badly, they are inspired into a paroxysm of lying about white racism to prevent the formation of "stereotypes" among viewers inclined to believe their own lying eyes.

Sure enough, in the last 48 hours, we've seen the national media suddenly decide that since New Orleans was not the Rape of Nanking with huge numbers murdered, then, hey, it wasn't so bad. In fact, it was just racist stereotypes that made us believe what we saw! Yeah, that's the ticket...

For example, Jonah Goldberg writes:

Race is obviously part of the equation, too. "If the dome and Convention Center had harbored large numbers of middle-class white people," Times Picayune editor Jim Amoss said, "it would not have been a fertile ground for this kind of rumor mongering." As with the cannibalism canard [which I scoffed at immediately], there seemed to be an eagerness on the part of many — on the Right and Left — to believe the very worst stories possible about poor African Americans.

Oh, come on, Jonah ... you know that that's absolutely the opposite of the truth about which stories the American media like to report, which are ones about whites being mean to blacks. The national press is acutely uncomfortable with reporting on black crime. Note, for instance, that the "Color of Crime" report has now been out for over two weeks, and, according to Google News, it has so far only been mentioned in two publications among the many hundreds covered by Google News: VDARE.com and David Horowitz's FrontPage.

We now know, thanks to valuable post-mortems by the Los Angeles Times and the New Orleans Times-Picayune, that a great deal of the "great reporting" was in fact great rumor mongering. The stories of rape and murder in the Superdome were all unfounded. Six people died in there, tragically. But nobody was murdered.

Whoa, hold your horses, Jonah. When civil control breaks down, so does official record-keeping, and this week's spate of revisionism is based on officials, typically self-interested ones, stating they have no records of bad things happening.. That doesn't mean none of them happened.

What we have been seeing recently is local newspapers across the country and in Britain and Australia publishing accounts of survivors from their regions that are much less politically correct than the national news media's accounts, which have been growing more constrained by their felt need to make all the news fit their pre-existing conceptual slots about white racism, black victimization etc.

For example, the following story about two survivors from the Boston area appeared today not in the Boston Globe but in the second-rank Boston Herald reported today:

Local witnesses haunted by murder at Superdome
By Theresa Freeman/ MetroWest Daily News Thursday, September 29, 2005 -
Updated: 03:12 AM EST

A Holliston woman and her Ashland friend are outraged officials are saying reports of atrocities after Hurricane Katrina were exaggerated, claiming they witnessed a deadly fight at the Superdome.

Adrienne Long of Holliston said she was ringside when two men wrangled over the last sip of Jack Daniel's whiskey and one beat and stabbed the other to death. Her friend William ``Teddy'' Nichols of Ashland was nearby and saw the bloody aftermath. Long was angry when she first heard of the exaggeration reports on television Tuesday.

``I was sitting here screaming at the TV. Did I imagine everything I saw?'' said Long. ``I just can't believe people would say this.''

Both say they are reluctant to contact authorities with information. They are both terrified by memories of what they said was a lawless city.

New Orleans Police Lt. Reginald Jacques said yesterday the city's homicide detectives are spread out because police headquarters was destroyed. He added they are not investigating Long's murder report.

Long had traveled to the Big Easy to drop off her son at Tulane University. He made it home safe long before she did.

A reader responds:

The Herald story is a truncated version of a longer report in the MetroWest Daily News, a suburban paper (and corporate cousin of the Boston Herald). I found the original Daily News story online, I read it closely, and I concluded based on the clues provided that this killer, who allegedly took his friend's life in a dispute over a whiskey bottle, is white.

To confirm my supposition, I emailed the reporter, Theresa Freeman, and she wrote me back. “The first draft of my story included that both men involved in the fight were white," she says, "but my editors removed the reference because it was not germane to the story.”

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

Somebody please invent this

What the world needs now is a television set that can only be powered by a home exercise machine. You want to watch some TV, you have to hop on your exercycle or stairclimber or whatever and generate the current yourself.

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

"Capote" and the death penalty

The biopic with the great character actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, the American Alec Guinness, as the fey author of the first modern true crime book, In Cold Blood, opens Friday, Sept. 30 in NYC and LA. Here are some brief excerpts from my review in the October 10th issue of The American Conservative (now on newsstands). The film recounts the visits Capote made to one of the two condemned murderers, Perry Miller, on Death Row:

In a sinister example of life imitating art, Miller was played in the 1967 movie version of "In Cold Blood" by actor Robert Blake, who was recently acquitted in his wife's murder...

"Capote" is rewarding, even though the film's criticism of the author is tendentious...

Capote helped the pair get a good lawyer to craft their first appeal against the death penalty. But after he'd completed most of his manuscript and realized how strong it was, his need for a dramatic ending (such as, say, their hangings) made him increasingly impatient with their endless appeals.

Screenwriter Dan Futterman attacks Capote for being a heartless monster who manipulated poor Miller into telling him his secrets even though Capote eventually hoped for his execution.

In reality, of course, the true monsters were the murderers, who had decided days before their home invasion to shotgun the whole family to eliminate all witnesses. With his conventional liberal bias against capital punishment, Futterman doesn't realize that without the death penalty, repeat offenders, who face long prison terms if convicted of robbery, would more often find it logical to kill their robbery victims to keep their identities secret.

The death penalty is a complicated issue, but a key point that I almost never hear brought up is how, in our era of long prison sentences for non-homicidal offences, having an ultimate punishment serves to deter criminals from killing their victims to eliminate the witnesses.

That's the flip side of the strongest argument against the death penalty: the fairly high proportion of mistaken convictions in homicide cases. The reason DNA evidence is has gotten a bunch of people off death row in recent years is because murder is inherently a tougher crime to acquire foolproof evidence about than, say, robbery, rape, or violent assault, precisely because the best witness -- the victim -- can't testify because he's been murdered.

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

What Hollywood could do for New Orleans

Simple. The great New Orleans comic novel A Confederacy of Dunces has been in Hollywood Development Hell since even before its official publication a quarter of a century ago. No novel since The Maltese Falcon has had more perfect movie dialogue already down on the page, yet the business has repeatedly failed to get its act together and make the damn movie.

In the wake of the flood, the movie industry should resolve that it will bring intense pressure on all the different players who own a piece of the property to get them to resolve their differences and to film the novel on location in New Orleans in 2007. And to film it right, too, with Philip Seymour Hoffman, not Will Ferrell, as Ignatius J. Reilly.

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

Two new articles by Charles Murray

One in Wall Street Journal on Katrina, "The Hallmark of the Underclass," and the other in the technical journal Statistical Science on "How to Accuse the Other Guy of Lying with Statistics" -- just the abstract available for free:

We’ve known how to lie with statistics for 50 years now. What we really need are theory and praxis for accusing someone else of lying with statistics. The author’s experience with the response to The Bell Curve has led him to suspect that such a formulation already exists, probably imparted during a secret initiation for professors in the social sciences. This article represents his best attempt to reconstruct what must be in it.

Here's an excerpt from the WSJ op-ed:

We in the better parts of town haven't had to deal with the underclass for many years, having successfully erected screens that keep them from troubling us. We no longer have to send our children to school with their children. Except in the most progressive cities, the homeless have been taken off the streets. And most importantly, we have dealt with crime. This has led to a curious paradox: falling crime and a growing underclass.

The underclass has been growing. The crime rate has been dropping for 13 years. But the proportion of young men who grow up unsocialized and who, given the opportunity, commit crimes, has not.

A rough operational measure of criminality is the percentage of the population under correctional supervision. This is less sensitive to changes in correctional fashion than imprisonment rates, since people convicted of a crime get some sort of correctional supervision regardless of the political climate. When Ronald Reagan took office, 0.9% of the population was under correctional supervision. That figure has continued to rise. When crime began to fall in 1992, it stood at 1.9%. In 2003 it was 2.4%. Crime has dropped, but criminality has continued to rise.

That's an important statistic I haven't thought about enough. Still, I'd like to delve into it more to see if the proportion of, say, 14-24 year old males under supervision is higher or lower than a decade ago. It's clear that the insane levels of murderousness we saw in 1990-1994 among teenage underclass black youths, with boys killing each other over entry-level crack dealer jobs that didn't pay any better than McDonalds jobs (as Steven Levitt pointed out in Freakonomics), was not carried on by the next cohort of teenage black youths, whose murder rate in 1995-2000 fell by over half. But does that reflect an increased level of black youths getting on the path to solid citizenship, or just a settling down of the gang wars into more stable cartels of criminals?

This doesn't matter to the middle and upper classes, because we figured out how to deal with it. Partly we created enclaves where criminals have a harder time getting at us, and instead must be content with preying on their own neighbors. But mainly we locked 'em up, a radical change from the 1960s and 1970s. Consider this statistic: The ratio of prisoners to crimes that prevailed when Ronald Reagan took office, applied to the number of crimes reported in 2003, corresponds to a prison population of 490,000. The actual prison population in 2003 was 2,086,000, a difference of 1.6 million. If you doubt that criminality has increased, imagine the crime rate tomorrow if today we released 1.6 million people from our jails and prisons.

Criminality is the most extreme manifestation of the unsocialized young male. Another is the proportion of young males who choose not to work. Among black males ages 20-24, for example, the percentage who were not working or looking for work when the first numbers were gathered in 1954 was 9%. That figure grew during the 1960s and 1970s, stabilizing at around 20% during the 1980s. The proportion rose again, reaching 30% in 1999, a year when employers were frantically seeking workers for every level of job. The dropout rate among young white males is lower, but has been increasing faster than among blacks.

Obviously, there's a chicken or egg issue involving the relationship between black fecklessness and illegal immigration. The more illegal immigrants pour in, the fewer people willing to hire poor blacks, so poor blacks don't get the discipline of holding a job, so they get even more feckless and unemployable.

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

Religion and Crime, Cont.:

I get lots of great emails that deserve to be posted, many more than I do post, and as I've pointed out, which one's I do post are a rather a random function of how I feel at the moment I read them. I do have a soft spot, though, for first-person accounts from people in the helping professions about their interactions with the underclass.

I do criminal defense work in ... a number of courtrooms. I should start by noting that one "constant" about the inmate population here and (I'm sure) everywhere else, that cuts across racial and ethnic boundaries, is that all inmates are innocent, and if you don't believe it, just ask them.

Due to a relatively low overall black population in XXX, the black inmate population is relatively low. If the overall black population is 10%, the black inmate population might be 30% or so ...

If the overall Hispanic population is about 30% or so, the Hispanic inmate population is probably about 60%. In the rural areas ... the Hispanic inmate population is probably closer to 90-100%, large numbers of whom require the services of an interpreter and/or are in the country illegally).

As you suggest, this generation of Hispanics - even Hispanic wrongdoers - is relatively passive, especially the illegal aliens, who would have preferred to avoid public exposure altogether.

The black inmates have far more "cheek" - often even more so than Hispanic gang members - and maybe a little more naiveté about consequences of their own anti-social behavior and about the passage of time - though this is certainly not universally the case. But they're more likely to question why the authorities have them in custody in the first place.

Why can't I get out of custody? All I had was a little bit of crack in my knapsack.

Yeah, but you were on felony probation for assault with a deadly weapon and this was a violation of the terms of your probation.

I never touched her and besides that was a YEAR AGO! When does that get off my record anyway?

I've had black inmates with records as long as my right arm ask me to ask the judge for a release on their own recognizance and express amazement and irritation when I tell them that it's never going to happen.

Their families are often enabling factors. No black underclass mother who ever lived is capable of concluding that her son has misbehaved - no matter how much weaponry and narcotics he was caught with, no matter how brutal the offense. And this is also especially the case if her son has brutalized other women. None of those witches are good enough for her baby anyway.

As far as religion goes, I think that it's like any other medicine. Great for what ails you if properly prescribed and taken in the proper doses but potentially harmful otherwise.

There's a punitive aspect to religion and also a merciful aspect to it, and there are clerics who neglect the utility and necessity of one aspect or another. I've seen clerics come in and vouch for the morals and character of a number of thugs. In today's touchy-feely feminized world, it's the merciful aspect of religion that tends to be over-emphasized in public life.

Clerics tend to be over-represented in the anti-death penalty movement, and during the heart of the Cold War, particularly during the Reagan years, when the Russians were playing the role of international thugs, clerics were over-represented in the appeasement/disarmament movement.

Interestingly enough, the anti-war Left doesn't seem to have nearly as many clerics playing a prominent role now that the enemy espouses a competing religion with worldwide popularity, rather than a secular humanist philosophy (i.e. Communism).

I think it's safe to say that many, if not most, people with religious convictions bend religious dogma to suit their own preconceived biases and preferences, instead of the other way around. There's no reason to suppose that criminals behave differently.

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

September 28, 2005

That Religion and Bad Behavior article

That Religion and Bad Behavior article: A reader writes:

I think the meme in this "Societies worse off 'when they have God on their side" article in the London Times that Drudge pushed yesterday - that religion is bad for society - is starting to "tip" which means that a well put together response by you might also have a chance to circulate.

I doubt it! Lies go halfway around the world before the truth gets its boots on.

Newsgator highlighted this as the "top internet story of the day" today, with 127 blog links. I think it is pretty telling of journalistic biases that they would run with an article like this, and not with one about IQ.

The original article, Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies, appeared in the Journal of Religion & Society put out by the Rabbi Myer and Dorothy Kripke Center for the Study of Religion and Society at Creighton University. It's by Gregory S. Paul of Baltimore, MD, who doesn't list any academic qualifications (not that there's anything wrong with that!).

Paul's basic gimmick is an old chestnut, one I've seen dozens of times before: to make America look bad by comparing crime and other statistics for the entire American population, which is 27% black or Hispanic, to Europeans countries that are at least 90% white. That way you can prove that secularism or socialism or soccer or whatever you like about Europe is better for people than whatever you don't like about America.

This sleight of hand can be highly effective in duping readers into making apples to oranges comparisons between the U.S. and European countries. Why. Because we aren't allowed -- in polite society -- to write about how much higher the crime rates, abortion rates, STD rates and the like are for blacks and Hispanics than they are for whites or Asians,

But let's just put that key point about the racial make-up of the populations aside for the moment and look at some recent crime statistics for the overall American population, all races, versus various European populations. And America still comes out looking pretty good. Europe (not just Britain) has been undergoing a moral decline, at least as reflected in crime statistics, whereas the U.S. seems to have been on the moral upswing since a recent low point in the early 1990s.

Another reader scoffs at my initial objection to this article:

So the religious whites of the USA are less criminal
than in Britain. So what, you have one data point.
Whites in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Spain,
Portugal, France, Holland, Italy, Belgium, Finland,
Germany, and Nordic countries are all both less
religious and less violent than US whites...

Your theory fails.

Not so fast. That may (or may not) have once been true, but it's not true these days.

Here is the 2000 International Crime Victimization Survey report of the UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute. Figure 5 shows what % of respondents in 17 advanced countries said they were victims of "selected contact crimes" (robbery, sexual assault, or assault with force) in 1999.

The 17-country average was 2.4%. For the U.S., though only 1.9 % of the overall population had been victimized, putting the U.S. 13th out of 17 affluent countries in violent crime victimization prevalence. The most violent country in 1999 on this measure was Australia, at 4.1%, followed by England & Wales, Canada, Scotland, Poland, Finland, Northern Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, France, Switzerland, Netherlands, and then, finally, the USA (1.9%).

And, for American whites, that violent victimization prevalence figure would be significantly lower, perhaps down around, say, 1.2% -- because whites get victimized a lot less than blacks and Hispanics. (For example, the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics states, "Blacks were 6 times more likely than whites to be murdered in 2002." That's a consequence of the fact, according to BJS, that, "Blacks were 7 times more likely than whites to commit homicide in 2002." For homicide, the white victimization rate, which includes a lot of Hispanics, was 59% of the overall American homicide rate, so, 1.2% looks like a good guess.)

This suggests that for American whites, the chance of being violently victimized in a year would probably be below even Belgium, Catalan Spain, and Portugal. Japan, though, would still be off in its own nonviolent universe at only 0.4%.

Of course, what matters for the question of whether the greater religiousness of American whites makes them behave worse than European whites is not the chance of being violently victimized, but the chance of them violently victimizing someone else. Since a moderate fraction of the victimizations of American whites are committed by nonwhites, further research might show that as of the last few years, Americans might be the least violent whites on Earth.

There are other ways to measure crime rates, and I'd encourage you to look at the other graphs in this chapter of the UN report. The summary graph for prevalence of being a victim of any kind of crime, including property crimes, shows Americans (of all races) coming in only 11th worst out of 17. On the other hand, if you measure total reported incidents of victimizations, Americans come in about fifth or sixth overall, reflecting the high rate of victimizations of minorities (by other minorities, it ought to be needless to say, but it's not).

The brand new version of this UN crime victimization survey will be out shortly. The Times of London had a preview, which showed roughly the same results as in 1999.

Of course, probably the biggest reason for America's low crime rates these days is because we lock up vast numbers of bad guys while the Europeans let them out too quickly. The big crime surge started in America in the 1960s when we cut prison sentences. We finally got tough in the 1980s and a decade later we saw a payoff. The European crime surge started later than the American one, so they are still in the liberal wimp phase of response. (Also, having more guns, our worst criminals kill each other off at rates high enough, especially during the cracks years, to put a dent, I suspect, in the total crime rate.)

As for abortion rates, the pro-choice Alan Guttmacher think tank reports that in America the number of abortions per 1,000 non-Hispanic white women fell from 19 in 1991 to 11 by 1999. The African-American abortion rate was about 54 in 1999 (or close to five times higher) and the Hispanic rate about 30, making the overall national rate almost twice the white rate.

The most recent Alan Guttmacher Institute report says that non-Hispanic whites have only 40.9% of all abortions in the U.S.

The abortion rate in America (all races) is currently 20.9, compared to a global average of about 38 in "developed countries." The white American abortion rate of approximately 11 compares favorably to five of the seven advanced, mostly white countries broken out in the most AGI report: Australia 22.2, Sweden 18.7, Denmark 16.5, Canada 16.4, England & Wales 15.6. The U.S. white abortion rate, however, is worse than in Germany 7.6 and Holland 6.5.

So, the crime and abortion evidence suggests that religion has a good effect on the behavior of America's whites, although probably not as good an effect as long prison terms.

A Scandinavian reader comments:

I grew up in one of those low-crime, low-everything, nice Scandinavian countries. I spent my high-school years in an area with a substantial evangelical population and I can assure you that the evangelicals were quite simply better behaved than us secularists in just about every category imaginable. Was it their faith that guided them to less anti-social behavior?


In summary, the popularity of this article is just another example of how the aversion to writing about racial differences in crime rates in America makes us stupider. This disingenuous essay about religion's effect on behavior comes along and lots of supposedly intelligent bloggers fall for it because they are clueless about racial differences in behavior.

And yet ... they aren't clueless at all when it comes to their own safety -- they don't buy a home for their family in a black underclass neighborhood, precisely because they know perfectly well how much more dangerous it is. They've just compartmentalized this knowledge into Facts I Live By and make sure it never contaminates the part of their brains where they fondle the Fantasies I Tell Other People to Live By.

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

Economists' infatuation with immigration

An economist writes:

In my view, economists have to be relatively favorable toward immigration, just as we have to be relatively favorable to free trade in general. It's our job to lean against xenophobia.

Thanks for clearing that up! Silly me, it had always been my impression that the job of economists was to tell the truth to the best of their abilities, but now I know better.

The funny thing is that you would think that economists, who are always extolling self-interest, would have observed the career of George Borjas and taken note that telling the truth about immigration, an underserved economic niche is there ever was one, can pay off big. In 1995, Borjas was hired away from UC San Diego (a nice locale but not the Ivy League) by Harvard precisely because he had made himself the leading expert on the economics of immigration, a subject of obvious national and international importance. Borjas now has an endowed chair at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. Not too shabby, huh?

So, has there been a rush of studies of immigration by economists wanting to follow Borjas's path to the top of their profession? Nope. Economists will barely touch the subject, despite its massive centrality, except to issue fatuous obiter dicta about their feelings about how immigration just has to be wonderful.

Here's a ripe topic for an economist to study: what's wrong with the economics profession?

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

David Frum in the WSJ

The Frumster reviews The Right War? The Conservative Debate on Iraq. I sent OpinionJournal.com the following letter, but for some reason they didn't post it:

As a regular contributor to The American Conservative magazine, I'd like to point out that I strongly advocated America's war on the Taliban, but was highly skeptical of the ill-considered Iraq adventure that Mr. Frum whooped for so ferociously.

In contrast, Mr. Frum, during his brief tenure as a Presidential speechwriter, was responsible for concocting 2/3rds of the phrase "Axis of Evil" (Frum came up with "Axis of Hate"), a verbal invention so self-evidently stupid in its insincerity (claiming that long-term enemies Iraq and Iran and distant North Korea were allied!) that it proved the most globally alienating single phrase in American diplomatic history. At the beginning of 2002, after the conquest of the Taliban, America's prestige was never higher on the world stage, but Frum's idiotic phrase in the 2002 State of the Union address set off the long decline in America's position of leadership.

After doing as much damage to America as any speechwriter in decades, Frum still had the gall in the spring of 2003 to attack us conservatives who had displayed the traditional Burkean conservative virtue of prudence about his Iraq invasion as "unpatriotic."

Why does anyone still pay David Frum money for his opinions? How much harm can one man do to America, to the Republican Party, and to the conservative movement and still have people listen to him?

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

The latest installment in American journalism's longest running "Dog Bites Man" series

It seems like about once or twice a year throughout this decade, the New York Times runs an article on fashionable high schools in wealthy, liberal neighborhoods where the only problem is that the black (and/or Hispanic) students are not -- prepare to die of astonishment -- doing as well as the white (and/or Asian) students! The latest installment in "Occam's Butterknife" is today's "The Achievement Gap in Elite Schools" by Samuel G. Freedman:

AN uneasy amalgam of pride and discontent, Caroline Mitchell sat amid the balloons and beach chairs on the front lawn of Princeton High School, watching the Class of 2004 graduate. Her pride was for the seniors' average SAT score of 1237, third-highest in the state, and their admission to elite universities like Harvard, Yale and Duke. As president of the high school alumni association and community liaison for the school district, Ms. Mitchell deserved to bask in the tradition of public-education excellence.

Discontent, though, was what she felt about Blake, her own son. He was receiving his diploma on this June afternoon only after years of struggle - the failed English class in ninth grade, the science teacher who said he was capable only of C's, the assignment to a remedial "basic skills" class. Even at that, Ms. Mitchell realized, Blake had fared better than several friends who were nowhere to be seen in the procession of gowns and mortarboards. They were headed instead for summer school.

"I said to myself: 'Oh, no. Please, no,' " Ms. Mitchell recalled. "I was so hurt. These were bright kids. This shouldn't have been happening."

It did not escape Ms. Mitchell's perception that her son and most of those faltering classmates were black. They were the evidence of a prosperous, accomplished school district's dirty little secret, a racial achievement gap that has been observed, acknowledged and left uncorrected for decades. Now that pattern just may have to change under the pressure of the federal No Child Left Behind law.

Several months after Blake graduated, Princeton High School (and thus the district as a whole) ran afoul of the statute for the first time, based on the lagging scores of African-American students on a standardized English test given to 11th graders. Last month, the school was cited for the second year in a row, this time because 37 percent of black students failed to meet standards in English, and 55 percent of blacks and 40 percent of Hispanics failed in math.

One of the standard complaints about No Child Left Behind by its critics in public education is that it punishes urban schools that are chronically underfinanced and already contending with a concentration of poor, nonwhite, bilingual and special-education pupils. Princeton could hardly be more different. It is an Ivy League town with a minority population of slightly more than 10 percent and per-student spending well above the state average. The high school sends 94 percent of its graduates to four-year colleges and offers 29 different Advanced Placement courses. Over all, 98 percent of Princeton High School students exceed the math and English standards required by No Child Left Behind.

So is the problem with the district, or is the problem with the law?

Or just maybe the problem is with the black students?

TO be fair to Princeton, it is hardly the only community to include both a large number of superachieving students and a smaller but persistent number of low-income, nonwhite stragglers. Princeton, in fact, belongs to an organization of 25 similar school districts, the Minority Student Achievement Network, which includes Evanston, Ill.; Shaker Heights, Ohio; and Eugene, Ore., among others, that are working to find techniques to address the issue.

Princeton's superintendent, Judith Wilson, has accepted the challenge of reducing the achievement gap. As a newcomer to the district - she arrived last February from the working-class, half-minority district in Woodbury, N.J., near Camden - she sounds less beholden than some of her colleagues to Princeton's exalted sense of itself.

"If the gap can't be narrowed in Princeton," she said in an interview in her office last week, "then where can it be narrowed? There can't be a question here of resources, or of community support, or of quality of staff. So if we can't impact the students who are not born into privilege, then where can it happen?"

Good question.

One possibility I've kicked around is that this series of articles is planted by some IQ-realist mole within the New York Times.

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

NOLA '05 & Detroit '67

A reader writes:

Your notes about the emerging MSM "exaggerated reports" meme re: the Convention Center/Superdome anarchy yesterday, and then the quote from your 9/6 piece that “it's a key point borne out in many riots (such as Detroit in 1967), that violence, especially any level of sniping, has a paralyzing effect on rescue workers,” made me think a great deal about the respective blankets thrown over both cities’ breakdowns of authority.

My father was at the center of it all in Detroit in 1967—a surgical resident in the ER of an ‘inner-city’ hospital (and yes, he was shot at by a sniper when he went to the hospital roof during a break to get a view of the chaos)--and besides the many harrowing stories of those five days he told me, he imparted one lesson that has relevance beyond just that event, namely:

After-the-fact official reports of death and mayhem resulting from civil unrest always greatly understate the true toll.

To this day, the official death toll of the Detroit Riot of 1967 is 43 persons. My father stopped counting when he reached eighty bodies—and that was in just one of the temporary emergency morgues set up in Detroit during that crisis! There were at least two other morgues receiving the dead.

Now, the rationale behind post facto minimizations of death tolls is surely predictable and expected: city fathers want to sweep the true extent of the tragedy under the rug and declare the metropolis as back open for business, self-appointed leaders of the minority communities involved want to downplay the fact that their constituents largely victimized their own, etc. What is more interesting is the methodology by which the true numbers were obscured—in Detroit in 1967 my father found that this was being done by counting only people killed outright by gunshot as official riot deaths. If someone “fell” out of a 10th-story window in the riot zone—that was ruled an “accidental” death and not counted in the riot tally. Likewise, if someone was run over by a car—and said car then backed up over the person again and then forward over once more—well, that was to be counted as an “automobile accident”, and again, not part of the riot toll. Even gunshot victims were not counted if they died from complications after a decent interval had passed after the riot was declared to be officially “over”...

I strongly suspect that we will see the same dynamic at work in New Orleans in the coming weeks. The media will probably buy into the charade and amplify the conventional wisdom that, no, things in the Convention Center and Superdome really weren’t that bad, and hardly anyone was killed/raped/maimed in the violence. The authorities even have a ready-made excuse for explaining deaths that are uncovered—the storm itself! Sure, there’s evidence of blunt-force trauma all over this cadaver—but how do we know it wasn’t from a collapsing beam rather than a wielded tire iron? The question is whether the confluence of the blogosphere and available public data on the Internet can allow individuals with good analytical skills to let the truth out this time.

A reader sent me this article from a Nebraska newspaper:

Mortician surprised by New Orleans dead
Mark Roper spent two weeks in St. Gabriel, La., this month, moving the bodies of Hurricane Katrina’s New Orleans victims into refrigerated trailers.

After watching the steady stream of corpses, Roper’s biggest surprise about the dead: almost all were elderly or homeless...

He was surprised by the number of homicides — people with gunshot wounds to their heads and backs.

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

September 27, 2005

More bad analysis

Drudge links to a Time of London article that claims:

Societies worse off 'when they have God on their side' By Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent

RELIGIOUS belief can cause damage to a society, contributing towards high murder rates, abortion, sexual promiscuity and suicide, according to research published today...

The study counters the view of believers that religion is necessary to provide the moral and ethical foundations of a healthy society.

It compares the social peformance of relatively secular countries, such as Britain, with the US, where the majority believes in a creator rather than the theory of evolution. Many conservative evangelicals in the US consider Darwinism to be a social evil, believing that it inspires ..

The paper, published in the Journal of Religion and Society, a US academic journal, reports... “In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion in the prosperous democracies.

“The United States is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developing democracies, sometimes spectacularly so.”

Let's play Spot the Fallacies!

First, the Times should try reading the Times, which ran in its Sept. 18th edition an article entitled "Scotland tops world league for violent crime;"

According to the UN study, 3% of Scots had been victims of assault. The second highest figure was recorded in England and Wales at 2.8%, compared with 2% in America and 0.1% in Japan.

Second, American statistics look pretty good if you take out the 27% of the population that is black or Hispanic to make it more racially comparable to Britain's population. Blacks are incarcerated for violent crimes at 7.1 times the non-Hispanic white rate and Hispanics at 3.4 times the white rate. Similarly, blacks have about four times as many abortions and Hispanics about twice as many. All these other measures the article cites are worse among blacks and Hispanics as well.

When you do a direct apples to apples comparison of the white working classes in Britain and America, the Brits appear to be falling apart morally (e.g, drunkeness, assault, and burglary), while the Americans are holding their own. The single most plausible explanation, as I pointed out in VDARE.com earlier this year, is the stronger Christianity of the Americans.

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