June 23, 2006

The nimrod speaks!

Reuters reports:

President Bush praised Hungary's bloody 1956 uprising against communist rule on Thursday and said the country's eventual success in ousting authoritarian rule was a shining example for Iraq to follow.

Uh, Mr. President, the Hungarians were amateur locals revolting against foreign occupiers in tanks. Is that really the analogy you want to apply to Iraq, with the U.S. as the Soviets?

Tom Fleming says that Michael Gerson's replacement as Bush's speechwriter must be Stephen Colbert.

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

I imagine most readers are heartily sick by now

of my obsession with the Donme, the secretive ethnic group descended from followers of a Jewish false messiah who apparently make up much of the secular elite of Turkey, but it strikes me as reasonably important for Americans to understand more about how Turkey works:

- Although every country in the world, with the possible exception of Mali, has been described as "strategically located," Turkey really is strategically located. And it is a country of about 70 million, with a highly respectable military.

- Turkey has many high-level contacts in Washington, both neocon (e.g., Perle, Feith) and anti-neocon (e.g., Scowcroft)

- The U.S. is pushing for Turkey to be admitted to the European Union, with vast potential consequences for Europe.

- Turkish public opinion is rapidly becoming more anti-American and anti-Israeli.

- We are at war in Iraq, on Turkey's southern border.

- Although we are increasingly involved in that part of the world, we dumb hick naive Americans basically don't have a clue how Byzantine the politics of the old Byzantine Empire remain.

- The Donmeh have become a big issue in Turkey over the last 7 years.

- But practically no mainstream media outlet in America has mentioned this topic at all, presumably for two reasons: First, the ridiculous variety of spellings of the terms donmeh and Sabbatean make Google searches hard, and, second, for the same reason that Solzhenitsyn's last two books haven't been published in America.

Just to prove (perhaps to myself) that I'm not crazy, but that this phenomenon really exists, here is an excerpt from a 2001 paper by Jewish theologian M. Avrum Ehrlich, the Editor-in-Chief of the upcoming Encyclopedia of the Jewish Diaspora:

"Sabbatean Messianism as Proto Secularism"
Published in Turkish-Jewish Encounters, (Haarlem, 2001)
by M. Avrum Ehrlich

Considering its Islamic heritage and the environment of Arab hatred for Israel, it is remarkable that Turkey has fostered such strong ties with Israel and the causes for it may well be traced to the Donme influence.

Donme members today represent the elite of society within Turkey and it is the fear of being discovered that created the intense secrecy around them. Their increased secrecy and influence continues to circularly feed the hatred and suspicion surrounding them.

At present there are some well-known Donme families and other less known families occupying important positions in Modern Turkish life. The current Foreign Minister Mr. Ismail Cem is a Donme though some of his family members have officially come out and declared that although they are of Donme ethnicity they disassociate from the cultural group. These include relatives: Cepil Ipekci, a famous fashion designer in Turkey and Nukhet Izet Ipekci, daughter of the famous journalist Abdi Ipekci, who declared on an Islamic channel that her parents were of Donmeh origins.

Others such as the industrialists; the Dilber and Bezmen families are Donme. Rahsan Ecevit, wife of Prime Minister Bilent Ecevit is a Donme. First ever, female Prime Minister Tansu Ciller is half Donme on her mother’s side. Altan Oymen, past leader of the Republican People’s Party was of Donme descent. Other prominent personalities ranging from well known writers, journalists, film makers, professors, lawyers, judges, bureaucrats (legal and foreign service), bankers, industrialists are of Donme origin.

They can almost be said to be the standard bearers of secularism and modern Turkish nationalism that is based on cultural unity rather than racial characteristics. They are more advanced in this process than secular Turkish Jews and in many ways resemble the prominence and thinking of the European Jewish Enlightenment leading many to suspect that Sabbateanism played a role there too. Donme sympathy towards Jews exists but association is not common because of the fears of being further tainted by Islamic fundamentalism. This fear is becoming increasingly real as the Islamic party grows...

The remnants of the Dönme have few overt messianic signs. Few go any longer to the seashore raising their hands and calling out in Spanish “Sabatey Sabetay we await thee”. They are predominantly secular and liberal and highly assimilated. They are predominantly atheist and at best only culturally Sabbatean. Whether the mystical designs of Sabbatean doctrine intended to form such a community is secondary to the fact that mystical doctrine outside of a protected environment contains highly liberal characteristics. As a group, the Dönme assimilated, leaving only a shadow of their doctrinal selves. Sabbateanism, despite its mystical nature and its roots in sectarianism sowed the seeds of tolerance, assimilation, interpretation, anti-fundamentalism and universalism within Judaism and in wider circles and in so doing was a proto-secular group, instrumental in laying down the ideological infrastructure for other Jewish groups to follow.

It is clear that messianism changes form and has moved from working within religious frameworks to working within highly secular frameworks. With this in mind the messianic tendencies of secular and political groups can be better understood, as can be an appreciation of their ideological architecture.

Largely leftist, the Sabbateans mostly opposed the successful 1980s conservative reformist leadership of Turgut Özal.

The Sabbateans are by no means the only crypto-religion (or crypto-ethnicity today -- many of the Donmeh are now atheists) in that part of the world. The Druze, for example, will tell people that they are Druze, but they won't tell anybody what they believe. And then there are the dissimulating Alevi. Razib wrote on GNXP:

The Alevi, a heterodox Shia sect forms anywhere from 10-30% of Turkey's population, and are known as the "Alawites" in Syria (where they form 10% of the population and dominate the Baath Party and are the affiliation of Assad dynasty). Because the Alevi practice dissimulation and the Turkish authorities, Ottoman & Republican, would rather not acknowledge their existence, it is hard to gauge their numbers, and they are not well known by the outside world. But now you know....

Exactly what the Alevi or Alawites actually believe is not terribly clear. Are they Muslims at all? Mehrdad R. Izady of Harvard controversially argues that they are part of the very ancient Cult of the Angels -- Gabriel, Raphael, Lucifer (who is worshipped by the Yezidis), and so forth. He writes:

Some Dimili Alevis, as well as the Yezidi clans, still maintain the ancient Iranic rite of worshipping the deity represented as a sword stuck into the ground...

Which is pretty cool in a King Arthur sword-in-the-stone way.

Some modern European travellers have reported, as hearsay, that some Qizilbash worship a large (black) dog as the embodiment of the deity (Driver 1921-23). Even though Driver's account is rather derogatory toward the Alevis and to the practice, of which he clearly does not approve, veneration of the dog as a symbol of good (the serpent standing for evil) is a very ancient rite.

Which is not as cool as a sword in the ground, but, you've gotta admit, is pretty cute.

Anyway, the point of this digression into colorful arcana is that we Americans don't have a clue what that part of that world is really like. A lot of powerful forces in American want us to invade Syria and overthrow the Alevi / Alawite regime that oppresses the Sunni Muslim majority. Would that be a good idea? Or would that create a radical Sunni state? Who knows? What would be the repercussions in Turkey, where their co-religionists number somewhere between 7 million and 21 million? Who knows squared?

The British, with their antiquarianism, could keep an empire going for awhile in that part of the world because their own medieval history plus the Greek and Roman history they studied at Eton gave them some preparation for this. But American history is useless for comprehending the Near East. It is nothing like Philadelphia in 1787.

P.S. A reader writes:

I must point out one inconsistency in the Hillel Halkin article on Mustafa Kemal Ataturk claiming to be a Sabbatean that you cite, though. That Turkish officer in the cafe in Jerusalem is described as having "green eyes". All throughout Kinross's book and everywhere else I've read, Ataturk's eyes are described as "blue". They appear to have been as striking as Paul Newman's, because everyone mentions them. Perhaps that's an understandable confusion, but it seems odd. Of course Mustafa is quite a common Arab name and Kemal is a common Turkish one. So there could well have been another officer named Mustafa Kemal in the Turkish Army. And it wouldn't stretch coincidence too far that he might have had green eyes. On the other side of the argument, Ataturk did have an inordinate fondness for "raki", which I guess is the same as the "arrack" cited by Halkin. In fact he apparently died of cirrhosis at the age of 57 - hmm, just my age. Better get my liver checked.

A blue-eyed alcoholic doesn't sound too Jewish too me, although it is possible.

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

A hidden downside to privatization

The Becker-Posner blog is discussing a deal to sell the Indiana Toll Road for $3.8 billion. An overlooked cost to privatization is that privatization saps the quality of government employees if the more ambitious can quit and go into identical jobs in the profit-making sector.

We're paying the price in Iraq where our best $30,000 per year sergeants are quitting the Army and returning to Iraq as $150,000 per year Blackwater mercenaries. The taxpayer is out $120,000 per year, and the Army, which does the real fighting, loses its best men. Not surprisingly, it also undermines morale in the Army. We never did this before, and there was a good reason we didn't: it's nuts.

As more things get privatized, and the differential in pay between government jobs and privatized jobs balloons, then we run ever more into the problem of the clueless (the government overseers) trying to keep an eye on the clever (the privatized operators). The raping of California by Enron and friends after the foolish deregulation of energy in 1996 is a classic example.

If you look at the high quality of government work from, say, the Panama Canal through Apollo 11, compared to the poor effectiveness of government undertakings in recent years, you'll see evidence that privatization is undermining government effectiveness.

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

June 22, 2006

Stoppard's "Rock 'n' Roll" huge hit on London stage

Ben Brantley writes in the NYT about Tom Stoppard's new play blending the Czech Spring of 1968 and Pink Floyd:

"Now what was that old nonsense about Tom Stoppard as all head and no heart? Mr. Stoppard's exciting new play of immutable passions and mutable politics, "Rock 'n' Roll," which opened last week at the Royal Court Theater here and has become the hottest ticket in town, is so flush with feeling that it never seems to stop trembling."

I've long identified with Sir Tom (for example, his list of favorite writers -- Waugh, Nabokov, and Macaulay -- is quite similar to mine), seeing myself as his less intelligent, lazier, and even more emotionally shallow doppelganger. So, I'm happy to see him still on top of his game at age 68. It gives me hope.

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

99% Fact-Free Theorizing

A reader writes:

You have remarked favorably on the quality of commentary over at Marginal Revolution (aside from immigration). Let me modestly disagree. MR is entertaining and Cowen/Tabarrok are smart guys. However, they suffer from the common place flaw of smart people; assuming that intelligence alone, entitles you to discuss topics outside of your areas of real expertise.

Let me offer two examples. MR has coveted the CAPM (Capital Asset Pricing Model) and Insider Trading of late. In both cases their input was weak. I am not an expert on either subject. However, I have seen far more erudite discussions of both topics. They came across as lightweights.

A careful review of many of their posts would probably demonstrate that this is a recurring pattern. If you know a lot about any particular subject, Cowen/Tabarrok don't look impressive. I am not really trying to pick on these two guys. I have followed other blogs with similar flaws. For example, Becker/Posner are very bright guys. However, they frequently write about subjects (energy policy) that they know almost nothing about. Instead they attempt to contrive expertise by extrapolating general principles. This is intellectually dangerous at best.

Okay, but the same criticism applies to me, too. I mean, what do I know about the hidden ethnic structure of the Turkish elite, to focus on my recent obsession?

Like libertarians such as Cowen, Tabarrok, Becker, and Posner, I too extrapolate from general principles, but I focus on a simple insight that is underexploited in today's intellectual marketplace, unlike free market economics, which has plenty of practitioners. My market niche idea is:

Family matters.

Just as economists have gotten lots of valid mileage out of the concept "Incentives matter," perhaps half of what I write is linked to "Family matters." Of course, I define "family" broadly, not just in the sense of nuclear family that Americans think most about, but covering topics ranging from DNA, heredity, acculturation, extended families, nepotism, and up through race and nation. I don't claim to know how family will always matter, just that many topics will turn out to have an overlooked family angle, if I research it diligently enough.

So, maybe that's the difference between me and the economists: they use general principles as shortcuts to opinions, while I us my two-word worldview as a Geiger counter to help me figure out where to dig.

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

Was Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey, crypto-Jewish?

Conspiracy theories were quite prestigious in the 1970s and into the 1980s, but ever since the release of Oliver Stone's 1991 movie "JFK," the elite cultural atmosphere has turned strongly against them.

And yet, there really have been lots of secret societies, cabals, covert activities, and the like down through history. For example, the history of Italy since WWII can't be adequately explained without reference to the Mafia, Operation Gladio "leave-behind" cells, the P2 Masonic Lodge, and secret CIA funding of the anti-Communist parties, not to mention all of the Communist conspiracies on the other side.

It turns out, of course, that most of the secrets are pretty mundane. My late father-in-law, a 32nd degree Mason, liked to say that he couldn't tell any outsiders the secret protocols of the Masons because it might be fatal to them.

"Because if you told them, you'd have to kill them?" I asked.

"No, because if they heard what we really do, they might die laughing."

Secret groups are by no means omnipotent. In fact, they are generally less effective than public groups in most circumstances. Secrecy imposes costs and makes expansion harder.

Nonetheless, there are aspects of the world that do resemble a Jorge Luis Borges story, such as the murky role of crypto-Jewish pseudo-Muslims, the "Donmeh," in modern Turkey. Three and a half centuries after the forced conversion from Judaism to Islam of the false messiah Sabbatai Zevi, his followers and their secular descendents remain, apparently, strongly represented among the anti-Muslim fundamentalist political, business, and cultural elites in Istanbul and Ankara.

But what about the founder of modern Turkey himself, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk? Was he a crypto-Jew?

Hillel Halkin, the respected New York native turned Israeli journalist who is a regular in Commentary and a columnist for the Jerusalem Post and the New York Sun, thinks so. In a January 28, 1994 article in New York's Forward, a Jewish newspaper, entitled "When Kemal Ataturk Recited Shema Yisrael: 'It's My Secret Prayer, Too,' He Confessed," Halkin wrote:

Stories about the Jewishness of Ataturk, whose statue stands in the main square of every town and city in Turkey, already circulated in his lifetime but were denied by him and his family and never taken seriously by biographers. Of six biographies of him that I consulted this week, none even mentions such a speculation. The only scholarly reference to it in print that I could find was in the entry on Ataturk in the Israeli Entsiklopedya ha-Ivrit, which begins: "Mustafa Kemal Ataturk - (1881-1938), Turkish general and statesman and founder of the modern Turkish state. "Mustafa Kemal was born to the family of a minor customs clerk in Salonika and lost his father when he was young. There is no proof of the belief, widespread among both Jews and Muslims in Turkey, that his family came from the Doenme. As a boy he rebelled against his mother's desire to give him a traditional religious education, and at the age of 12 he was sent at his demand to study in a military academy."

The Doenme were an underground sect of Sabbetaians, Turkish Jews who took Muslim names and outwardly behaved like Muslims but secretly believed in Sabbetai Zevi, the 17th-century false messiah, and conducted carefully guarded prayers and rituals in his name.

The encyclopedia's version of Ataturk's education, however, is somewhat at variance with his own. Here is his account of it as quoted by his biographers: "My father was a man of liberal views, rather hostile to religion, and a partisan of Western ideas. He would have preferred to see me go to a * lay school, which did not found its teaching on the Koran but on modern science. "In this battle of consciences, my father managed to gain the victory after a small maneuver; he pretended to give in to my mother's wishes, and arranged that I should enter the [Islamic] school of Fatma Molla Kadin with the traditional ceremony. ... "Six months later, more or less, my father quietly withdrew me from the school and took me to that of old Shemsi Effendi who directed a free preparatory school according to European methods. My mother made no objection, since her desires had been complied with and her conventions respected. It was the ceremony above all which had satisfied her."

Who was Mustafa Kemal's father, who behaved here in typical Doenme fashion, outwardly observing Muslim ceremonies while inwardly scoffing at them? Ataturk's mother Zubeyde came from the mountains west of Salonika, close to the current Albanian frontier; of the origins of his father, Ali Riza, little is known. Different writers have given them as Albanian, Anatolian and Salonikan, and Lord Kinross' compendious 1964 "Ataturk" calls Ali Riza a "shadowy personality" and adds cryptically regarding Ataturk's reluctance to disclose more about his family background: "To the child of so mixed an environment it would seldom occur, wherever his racial loyalties lay, to inquire too exactly into his personal origins beyond that of his parentage."

Did Kinross suspect more than he was admitting? I would never have asked had I not recently come across a remarkable chapter while browsing in the out-of-print Hebrew autobiography of Itamar Ben-Avi, son of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the leading promoter of the revival of spoken Hebrew in late 19th-century Palestine. Ben-Avi, the first child to be raised in Hebrew since ancient times and later a Hebrew journalist and newspaper publisher, writes in this book of walking into the Kamenitz Hotel in Jerusalem one autumn night in 1911 and being asked by its proprietor:

"'Do you see that Turkish officer sitting there in the corner, the one* with the bottle of arrack?' "


"'He's one of the most important officers in the Turkish army.'"

"'What's his name?'"

"'Mustafa Kemal.'"

"'I'd like to meet him,' I said, because the minute I looked at him I was startled by his piercing green eyes."

Ben-Avi describes two meetings with Mustafa Kemal, who had not yet taken the name of Ataturk, 'Father of the Turks.' Both were conducted in French, were largely devoted to Ottoman politics, and were doused with large amounts of arrack. In the first of these, Kemal confided: "I'm a descendant of Sabbetai Zevi - not indeed a Jew any more, but an ardent admirer of this prophet of yours. My opinion is that every Jew in this country would do well to join his camp."

During their second meeting, held 10 days later in the same hotel, Mustafa Kemal said at one point:" 'I have at home a Hebrew Bible printed in Venice. It's rather old, and I remember my father bringing me to a Karaite teacher who taught me to read it. I can still remember a few words of it, such as --' " And Ben-Avi continues: "He paused for a moment, his eyes searching for something in space. Then he recalled: "'Shema Yisra'el, Adonai Elohenu, Adonai Ehad!'

"'That's our most important prayer, Captain.'

"'And my secret prayer too, cher monsieur,' he replied, refilling our glasses."

Although Itamar Ben-Avi could not have known it, Ataturk no doubt meant "secret prayer" quite literally. Among the esoteric prayers of the Doenme, first made known to the scholarly world when a book of them reached the National Library in Jerusalem in 1935, is one containing the confession of faith: "Sabbetai Zevi and none other is the true Messiah. Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one." It was undoubtedly from this credo, rather than from the Bible, that Ataturk remembered the words of the Shema, which to the best of my knowledge he confessed knowing but once in his adult life: to a young Hebrew journalist whom he engaged in two tipsily animated conversations in Jerusalem nearly a decade before he took control of the Turkish army after its disastrous defeat in World War I, beat back the invading Greeks and founded a secular Turkish republic in which Islam was banished - once and for all, so he thought - to the mosques.

Ataturk would have had good reasons for concealing his Doenme origins. Not only were the Doenmes (who married only among themselves and numbered close to 15,000, largely concentrated in Salonika, on the eve of World War I) looked down on as heretics by both Muslims and Jews, they had a reputation for sexual profligacy that could hardly have been flattering to their offspring. [More[

Keep in mind that Halkin loves this kind of tale, as he admits in a column about his meeting with a tipsy gentleman who claims to be the last descendent to the throne of the legendary Khazar Jews:

The fact is that I've always been a sucker for this kind of stuff. Ever since I was a kid growing up in Manhattan, I've lapped it up: stories about the lost tribes, descendants of the Marranos, shadowy Jewish kingdoms in the Middle Ages, Jews turning up in far places — the mountains of Mexico, the jungles of Peru, Kaifeng, the Malabar Coast, Timbuktu . The Jews of Manhattan were boring. Jews spotted by Marco Polo on the China coast or surviving centuries of the Inquisition in the hills of Portugal gave me goose pimples.

Call it the romance of Jewish history. The idea that we were a profoundly more adventurous, infinitely more varied, more far-ranging, more interesting people than the Jews I knew.

Halkin's 2002 book Across the Sabbath River: In Search of a Lost Tribe of Israel makes the case that the obscure Mizo ethnic group on the India-Burma border are really the descendants of Manasseh, one of the Lost Tribes of Israel.

This is just one bit of evidence about Ataturk, and most of the other evidence seems to suggest that Ataturk, although exposed to Donmeh influence, both growing up in Salonika (home of the Donmeh) and later in his career, was not a Sabbatean himself.

To shift gears, all this might help explain a little how the struggle between Turkey and its hostile neighbors, Greece and Armenia, is waged in Washington. The Greeks and the Armenians play an "outside game," based on grassroots hostility toward Turkey among Greek-Americans and Armenian-Americans. For example, the Armenian Caucus in Congress numbered almost 100 a few years ago, even though only one Member of the House was Armenian. In some Congressional districts, such as Pasadena-Glendale in California, promising to stick it to the Turks is a major vote-getter.

In contrast, the Turks play an "inside game" in Washington, relying on high level contacts in the Executive branch. For instance, in 2000, the House was minutes from passing a long awaited resolution blaming the 1915 genocide of Armenians on the Turks, when a phone call from President Clinton to Speaker of the House Hastert, reminding Hastert how important Turkish good will is to the American position in the Middle East, led to the vote being called off.

The Bush Administration has strongly supported Turkey becoming a part of the European Union, despite the evident downsides of opening the borders of Europe to 70 million more Muslims.

A key to Turkey's inside game in Washington, besides American defense contractors, has been the powerful Jewish lobbies in Washington, who support Turkey because, among other reasons, Turkey spends a lot of money on Israeli arms. It's interesting that Richard Perle and Douglas Feith had a lobbying firm in the 1990s, International Advisors Inc., whose main client was the government of Turkey. Morris Amitay of AIPAC was an employee.

I have no idea if this is relevant to the story of crypto-Jewish influence in modern Turkey, but one recurrent pattern is that American neocons, based on their warm ties with the Turkish elites, have repeatedly over-estimated how pro-Israel and pro-American are Turkish voters, most notoriously on the eve of our war to bring "democracy" to Iraq, when Paul Wolfowitz was shocked by the Turkish parliament democratically voting against allowing America to invade Iraq from Turkey despite a huge payoff promised to the Turkish government.

This is not to say that there is a conscious conspiracy between the neocons and the Donmeh, but it may help explain why the neocons have misinterpreted what Turkey is really like. So many of their Turkish contacts have been people with whom they feel culturally comfortable that they can't really fathom what Turkish democracy unfettered by secularist military coups (which is what Turkish accession to the European Union would deliver) will really turn out to be like.

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

The wonderfulness of earplugs

I want to plug earplugs, which have made my life better. I work better and sleep better because of them. They also make airline travel less awful. You can buy a big jar of 100 orange foam ones for about $10, which should last you a year. If you have to work in a cubicle, what are you waiting for?

A reader writes:

Since we're doing plugs (pun intended), these days I find Flents' Quiet Please white foam plugs, which claim only a 29 rating, much better than the orange ones.

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

Derbyshire on Nicholas Wade's Before the Dawn:

For six weeks, my VDARE.com review of Wade's book has been the top hit on Google for "'Nicholas Wade' 'Before the Dawn," but John Derbyshire's review should take over the top spot.

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

Dills & Miron on Levitt's latest defense of his abortion-cut-crime theory

Another nail in the coffin of the Freakonomics theory that abortion cut crime: When I pointed out to Steven D. Levitt in 1999 that not only did crime not drop among the first cohort born after the legalization of abortion, but that the age 14-17 homicide rate hit its historic peak in 1993-94, his defense was, in effect, well, okay, but that's only at the national level. If you had run a massive econometric study at the state level, like I did, you'd see my theory is validated.

Last fall, economists Christopher Foote and Christopher Goetz finally reran Levitt and Donohue's original state-level analysis and found Levitt had made two fatal technical mistakes. When those flubs were corrected, his entire claimed effect disappeared. (Of course, by then, Freakonomics was the publishing sensation of the year and Levitt had signed deals with ABC and the New York Times, so he cried all the way to the bank.)

Levitt & Donohue's response was to present a new data set, which they claimed validated their original theory.

Now, two economists have analyzed their new data and here's the beginning and the end of their brief paper:

A Comment on Donohue and Levitt's (2006) Reply to Foote and Goetz (2005)

Angela K. Dills Department of Economics, Clemson University
Jeffrey A. Miron Visiting Professor of Economics, Harvard University April, 2006

Donohue and Levitt (2001) (DLI) consider the hypothesis that U.S. legalization of abortion in the early 1970s caused much of the decline in crime in the 1990s. Foote and Goetz (2006) (FG) show, however, that one key result in DLI contained a coding error; dummies for state-year interactions were inadvertently omitted from the regressions. FG demonstrate that correcting this error, along with estimating the regressions using arrest rates rather than arrest levels, suggests virtually no effect of legalized abortion on crime.

Donohue and Levitt (2006) (DLII) acknowledge the coding error and agree that correcting the mistake and using arrest rates suggests no effect of legalized abortion on crime. DLII argue, however, that use of an improved abortion measure and an instrumental variable revives or even strengthens their original result...

Our conclusion is that the kind of analysis considered in Table VII of DLII does not suggest a quantitatively important effect of legalized abortion on crime. The best case for such an effect is the IV results in columns (6) and (7); these imply that abortion legalization explain 24-25.9% of the 1991-1998 decline in violent crime and 7.1-8.1% of that in property crime. None of these coefficients is statistically significant at conventional levels, however, and the results in column (8) suggest they rely on an implausible mechanism relating abortion to crime. [Full Length PDF]

Large assertions require large proof, and after seven years, Levitt hasn't come close to meeting the burden of proof.

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

Viva Fidel!

No Speedbumps shows what 47 years of Marxism has done for the evolution of Cuban transportation technology.

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

June 21, 2006

WASP accounting professor not descended from Genghis Khan after all

You probably heard the story of how Bryan Sykes's genealogical DNA testing firm Oxford Associates had declared mild-mannered accounting professor Thomas R. Robinson to be the direct male-line descendent of Genghis Khan. It was pretty amusing because in Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy there was a Mr. Prosser who was "a direct male-line descendant of Genghis Khan, though intervening generations and racial mixing had so juggled his genes that he had no discernible Mongoloid characteristics, and the only vestiges left in Mr. L. Prosser of his mighty ancestry were a pronounced stoutness about the tum and a predilection for little fur hats."

Although I'd beaten Nicholas Wade of the NYT in breaking the original story of Genghis as the World's Greatest Lover back in 2003, I didn't mention it here because it seemed pretty trivial and because Sykes is a showman and self-promoter, as I pointed out in VDARE in my review of his Seven Daughters of Eve. So I wasn't sure I trusted his result.

The story of Dr. Robinson led to a lot of the usual comments about how this shows that anybody could be descended from anybody. Well, it turns out Sykes did shoddy work and Dr. Robinson isn't a direct descendant of the Mighty Manslayer after all. Nicholas Wade has the story.

This story reminds me of a more general misunderstanding. I often see these days the statement that talking about genetics or IQ or even the genetics of IQ is indeed scientific -- but only in relation to individuals. Talking about genetics or IQ or the genetics of IQ is pure pseudoscience in relation to groups.

In reality, the opposite is closer to being true. The margin for error is so large in individuals that it's hard to say much with confidence. In contrast, when groups differ on politically incorrect ways, that will have reasonably predictable consequences.

Consider IQ. An important thing to keep in mind is that when measured at the individual level, the importance of IQ, while worth studying, is limited. Human behavior is hugely complicated, and any one measure can explain only a small part of it. Thus the r-squared correlation between IQ and income is somewhere in the range of 10%. That's actually a pretty large number relative to other measurable factors, but obviously the glass is only 10% full and 90% empty here.

On the other hand, when looking at two groups that differ in average IQ, IQ is hugely important. For example, if you look at the graduates of the 20 highest IQ colleges in the country and compare them to the graduates of the 20 lowest IQ colleges in the country on current income, I would bet that at least 19 of the higher IQ colleges, and probably all 20, came out above the lower IQ colleges in income per graduate.

So, IQ has more to say about the fates of groups than of individuals, which is rather disturbing.

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

It's a Borges Borges Borges Borges World (Sometimes):

I have a taste for tales that sound like bizarre fictions made up by Jorge Luis Borges but are actually true. My favorite is the story of the shocking discovery that economist John Maynard Keynes made when he purchased a trunk full of Isaac Newton's papers.

Another historical character worthy of Borges is the False Messiah, Sabbatai Zevi. One of the major figures in Paul Johnson's A History of the Jews is the 17th Century mystic Sabbatai Zevi, a bipolar ecstatic from Smyrna who, with the help of his brilliant publicity agent Nathan of Gaza, declared himself the redeemer of the Jews. His claims caused wild excitement in Jewish communities throughout the world. But when Sabbatai Zevi (there are alternate spellings such as Shabbetai Zevi and Shabbtai Tzvi) traveled to Constantinople in 1666, the Ottoman Sultan threatened him with death unless he performed a miracle or converted to Islam. He chose the latter.

Now that might have been the end of the cult, but Nathan of Gaza was no ordinary PR flack. Johnson writes (p. 268-272):

Nathan was an outstanding example of a highly imaginative and dangerous Jewish archetype which was to become of world importance when the Jewish intellect became secularized. He could construct a system of explanations and predictions of phenomena which was both highly plausible and at the same time sufficiently imprecise and flexible to accommodate new events when they occurred. And he had the gift of presenting his protean-type theory, with its built-in capacity to absorb phenomena by a process of osmosis, with tremendous conviction and aplomb. Marx and Freud were to exploit a similar capacity...

The apostasy was transformed into a necessary paradox or dialectical contradiction. Far from being a betrayal, it was in fact the beginning of a new mission to release the Lurianic [Kabbala] sparks which were distributed among the gentiles and in particular in Islam... It meant descending into the realm of evil. In appearance [Zevi] he was submitting to it, but in reality he was a Trojan Horse in the enemy's camp. Warming to his task, Nathan pointed out that Zevi had always done strange things. This was merely the strangest -- to embrace the same of apostasy as the final sacrifice before revealing the full glory of the messianic triumph... Nathan quickly provided massive documentation in Biblical, talmudic and kabbalistic texts.

Johnson writes:

As a result, the Shabbatean movement, sometimes openly, sometimes in secret, not only survived the debacle of the apostasy but continued in existence for over a century.

But is there an equally Borgesian sequel to this sequel? Are the Shabbateans, also known as the Donmeh or Dönme, still around today? The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported in 2002:

In search of followers of the false messiah
By Orly Halpern

Aubrey Ross is an unusual man with an unusual pastime. He's looking for Jewish Muslims. In Turkey. With the help of the Internet. And he's convinced he has found some.

In a book entitled "The Messiah of Turkey," due to be published this winter by Frank Cass Publishers in Great Britain, Ross reveals that there are a number of key figures in the present government of Turkey who are Sabbateans - i.e., followers of Shabbtai Tzvi, a Jew who, in the 17th century, claimed he was the messiah, God of Israel, and later converted to Islam.

Ross, an Orthodox Jew from London who has lectured on mysticism at Hebrew University in Jerusalem - but has university degrees in economics and the history of political thought, and is an adviser on pensions at the National Health Service in Great Britain - became intrigued by the subject when he was reading the chapter about false messiahs in Gershom Scholem's "Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism."

"I was fascinated by a short sentence that said `many of them were still around in 1970,'" he says...

After Shabbtai Tzvi's death, he relates, his family and followers moved to Salonika. When Greece took it over in 1924, descendants of that community returned to Turkey...

Ross, who is also warden of Hendon United Synagogue, one of the largest in London, decided four years ago to write a book about his discoveries. He began learning Turkish and traveled twice to Turkey: "I penetrated the Sabbatean structure. I met with the president of the Sabbatean community. They were at the point of showing me one of their secret synagogues, but got scared."...

According to Ross, the secretive Sabbatean community, with an estimated 20,000 members, is known to security forces in Turkey, but not to the general public. Most of them live in Istanbul in large blocks of luxury flats in the Shishli Jewish quarter - unbeknownst to their neighbors.

"It's like a well-known secret. But the Sabbateans don't want to be exposed. I have been asked by four members of the community not to publish my book. They fear reactions from extreme Islamic elements."...

Ross believes that there are a number of secret Sabbateans who hold key positions of influence in the Turkish parliament, legislature and executive branches of government, including the foreign minister himself. This, he observes, may help explain the close relations that exist today between Israel and Turkey.

One of Ross's Turkish contacts, an accountant named Ilgaz Zorlu, has written a book in Turkish entitled, "Yes, I Am a Salonikan," which argues that many of the leading Turkish business and political figures in the secular tradition of Kemal Ataturk are Sabbateans even today.

Is this true? That the Sabbateans were at least somewhat important in the political upheavals at the end of the Ottoman empire appears fairly well established.

The Encyclopedia Britannica writes:

At the turn of the 20th century, the Dönme, well represented in the professional classes, took active part in the Young Turk movement and the revolution of 1908.

And Wikipedia says:

While being accepted by the Muslim society, they only married within their own community which resulted in several recessive genetic traits being typical of Donmeh.

Several Donmeh were among the Young Turks, Turkish intellectuals who tried to reform the Ottoman Empire. At the time of the interchange of Greek and Turkish populations between Turkey and Greece, the Salonika Donmeh tried to be recognized as not Muslims to avoid forced transport to Anatolia. In the Republican era, they strongly supported the pro-Western and laïque reforms of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, an attitude that bolstered the suspicions of Muslims towards them.

At the same time a large number of them did migrate to modern Turkey and helped Kemal Atatürk build the secular, pro-western Turkey of today. In particular, Donmeh were instrumental in establishing trade and industry in the emerging Turkey. In time they become highly influential in the Turkish private sector which, invevitably, lead to highly speculative conspiracy theories.

It should be noted that as of the end of 20th century Donmeh were fully integrated to the secular fabric of Turkish society and the intermarriage tradition had ceased after the 1960s.

Here's an article on their contemporary role in Turkey:

Shabbtai Tzvi Would Be Proud
Moshe Temkin
May 24, 1999
The Jerusalem Report

Until this century, the sect was concentrated in the city of Saloniki; today most Sabbateans live in Istanbul. And everyone in Istanbul, so it seems, knows about the Sabbateans, or, as they are known here, the Doenmeh ("converts" or "apostates" in Turkish; the Sabbateans themselves dislike this title, and seldom use it.) They are perhaps Turkey's best-known secret. No Sabbatean, with the exception of Ilgaz Zorlu himself, will ever publicly admit to being one, and they are rarely talked about...

They're Muslims, as their identity cards attest, but, as Zorlu puts it, "all the Muslims know we're different." Their elders speak Turkish in an accent heavily flavored by Ladino, the Judeo-Spanish of Sephardi Jews. Their beliefs and rituals are largely unknown to outsiders. They rarely go to mosques. They marry mainly among themselves and live in the neighborhoods on the European side - Nisantasi, Sisli and Haskoy - where most of the city's Jews also reside. But they are not Jews either. The Jewish community wants nothing to do with them. "As far as we're concerned," says Rabbi Yitzhak Haleva, deputy chief rabbi of Istanbul, "there are only Jews and Muslims. There's nothing in between."

So who are the Sabbateans? This is what Zorlu set out to explain in his book, "Yes, I Am a Salonikan," which has been through six printings since its publication earlier this year and which has made its author persona non grata in the Sabbatean community. After centuries of secrecy and denial, Zorlu is determined to break the silence, to put the issue on the public agenda, and to prove that the Sabbateans are actually crypto-Jews, that their Muslim appearances are nothing more than a sham.

Sabbatean leaders are convinced that Zorlu's disclosure has put the community in jeopardy, and have washed their hands of him...

Turkish muslim society tolerates Jews as long as they are out in the open and do not attempt to convert Muslims. Hidden Jews, claiming to be Muslims, are something else entirely. This is one of the reasons Zorlu's book caused such a commotion. Fundamentalist Islamic groups question the loyalty of these "secret Jews" to the faith, and Zorlu, who publicly exposed the Sabbatean separateness and stressed that they have an undying connection to Judaism, provided the fundamentalists with ammunition.

Jews and other minorities can advance only so far in Turkish society; because they keep their identity secret, Sabbateans, on the other hand, can and do enjoy high positions in almost every field. The Sabbatean cemetery, which is ostensibly Muslim, offers ample evidence: The tomb of a Supreme Court judge lies next to that of an ex-leader of the Communist party, and near them stand the graves of a general and a famous educator. Zorlu freely adds more big names to the list of prominent Sabbateans, including Foreign Minister Ismail Cem, who, claims Zorlu, used to have a Sabbatean surname (Cem has denied being a Sabbatean). Zorlu also claims that former prime minister Tanso Ciler is a Sabbatean, as is the wife of the current prime minister, Bulent Ecevit.

Many of the Sabbateans tend to be left-wing, academics and journalists - members of the cultural elite. They're also quite affluent. All this puts them at odds with Islamic extremists, traditional opponents of Turkey's democratic political heritage. One of the leaders of the Young Turks, the late 19th-century reform movement, was a Sabbatean, and the fundamentalists also hold that the founder of the republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who had some Saloniki roots, was part-Sabbatean. "My great grandfather," Zorlu says proudly, "was Ataturk's teacher in grade school."

Rifat Bali, a Jewish businessman and writer, who is well acquainted with the Sabbateans, used to be Zorlu's friend and patron. They've since stopped speaking; Bali wrote a scathing review of Zorlu's book in an academic newsletter, accusing him of willingly playing into the hands of the fundamentalists, and Zorlu wrote an equally aggressive reply.

"Ilgaz is like a missionary," says Bali. "If he really wanted to be a Jew, that wouldn't be a problem. He could go to Israel and live as a Jew. But that's not his real purpose. He wants to spread the word of Sabbateanism. He knows that there isn't a solution to the problem, that the Sabbateans will never convert and that the Jews will never accept them as they are.

"Ilgaz knows that the Sabbateans are in a very sensitive position," Bali continues. "They're prominent, they're part of the elite, and that's why the fundamentalists target them. Even the word Doenmeh has very negative connotations. Obviously they don't want the issue of Sabbateanism to be out in the open. So why is Ilgaz doing it? He wants the topic to be in people's consciousness."

So, do followers of Sabbatai Zevi still play an important role in contemporary Turkey, or is this all just Byzantine conspiracy theorizing?

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

June 20, 2006

The snake and the frog

A baby rattlesnake in Illinois slithers up to a bullfrog on the banks of the Mississippi and asks him to carry him across to Iowa.

"No way, you'll bite me and I'll drown," says the frog.

"But why would I do that? Then I'd drown, too," says the snake.

"You'll bite me anyway. I heard all about this."

"No, really, I won't. I very much want to get across and I'll be awfully grateful if you'd carry me."

Eventually, the frog agrees. He swims across with the snake on his back. When they get to Iowa, the snake crawls off and says, "Thank you very much. If there's anything I can ever do for you, please let me know."

Puzzled, the frog says, "I don't get it. I was sure you were going to bite me and we'd both drown. Why didn't you?"

The snake replies, "Because it's the Middle West."

Greg Cochran

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

French Adoption IQ Study

Over on GNXP, Darth Quixote offers a thorough analysis of a small (38 cases) but impressive French study of the impact of adoption on IQ at age 14. Bottom-line looks roughly like:

Nature 60 - Nurture 40

This is a larger role for environment than several American adoption studies have found, but this French effort put a lot of work into getting around the "restriction of range" problem (they seldom let people in the bottom ranks of society adopt children). They found 8 kids who were the biological children of professional class parents but were raised by farmers or laborers.

Heredity seems to have more impact on the most g-loaded parts of IQ.

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


From my upcoming review in The American Conservative:

Although the Pixar animators do everything imaginable to infuse the cars with personalities, automobiles still prove ill-chosen vehicles for two hours of anthropomorphizing. In particular, Luigi and Guido, the Italian-stereotype Fiats working at the Pirelli tire shop, suffer from the autos' lack of hands with which to gesticulate vociferously. A more subtle deficiency of this kids' movie is that there are no kids in the factory-built world of "Cars."

And then there's the fanatically precise scenery. One of Jorge Luis Borges's funnier conceits was the fictional Chinese emperor so adamant about his imperial cartographers' providing more detail that he eventually had them draw a map of China exactly as large as China itself. "Cars" is similarly unclear on the concept of artistic abstraction. Back in 1995's "Toy Story," John Lasseter's computer graphic techniques were charming in their creative simplification and exaggeration of reality. Now, the technology has evolved to where -- through a prodigious expenditure of talent, time, and money -- the CGI desert in "Cars" looks virtually as photorealistically genuine as the actual desert in, say, the modestly budgeted "Road Warrior" -- and, therefore, almost as pointless as the emperor's 1:1 scale map.

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

"One People, One World, One Sport"

My upcoming World Cup article in The American Conservative: An excerpt:

Just as Brazil, soccer's dominant nation, has been the "Country of the Future" for, roughly, ever, the quadrennial arrival of another month-long World Cup reminds us that, for Americans, soccer is the Sport of the Future and it always will be.

Every four years Americans get lectured that the World Cup is the biggest single-sport competition on Earth and that we'll no doubt be hopping on this global bandwagon Real Soon Now...

Lately, though, a soccer-crazed fraction of our postnationalist verbal elite has switched tactics and now imply that Americans will never get excited about soccer as a spectator sport because we just don't deserve "the beautiful game." ...

This World Cup in Germany offers the soccerati the opportunity to flaunt their cosmopolitanism as they elucidate the exhilarating subtleties you likely missed in that Croatia-Japan nil-nil draw because you prefer native pastimes such as baseball, basketball, or, God forbid, NASCAR. The "celebrate diversity" folk want America to become athletically homogenous with the rest of the world. To them, the tepid American response to the World Cup is evidence of our bigotry, our xenophobic failure to get with the global program. As Kevin Michael Grace says, their slogan would be "One people, one world, one sport," if they weren't so freaked out by all the host country fans waving German flags. Ironically, while the World Cup is an occasion for globalist preening in the U.S., in the rest of the world it's a prime locus for jingoism...

Soccer is by no means a bad sport to play. It's fun, good exercise, cheap, and, unlike basketball or football, it doesn't help to be 7-feet tall or 300 pounds. In fact, soccer shares many virtues with hiking, but there are no hiking hooligans and nobody calls you a chauvinistic boor if you don't watch Sweden v. Paraguay on TV in the World Hiking Cup.

Thanks to Kevin Michael Grace for the phrase "One People, One World, One Sport."

And thanks to all readers who wrote into to bring me up to speed on soccer.

Here's soccerati Franklin Foer, editor of the New Republic, on "What kind of governments produce winning soccer teams?"

Here's the New York Observer on why soccer is popular among Foer and friends.

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

June 18, 2006

IQ by State - New Data

As a follow-up to the notorious IQ-by-Blue-State-v.-Red-State hoax that I exposed back in 2004, a reader wrote to me:

I know this is not really scientifically rigorous, but I thought you might find it interesting. And, no, I didn't pay for it! I took the Tickle IQ test for fun and several days later got an email saying I could get further analysis for free if I look at a couple of ads.

These Tickle state rankings (below) look pretty reasonable to me as estimates of the average non-Hispanic white IQ by state (I presume white people are the main market for online IQ tests, although I may be wrong), with scores boosted by about 10 points due to self-selection and/or grade inflation. Please note that states are not ranked within a particular score such as 114. Within each score, they are displayed (for some reason) in reverse alphabetical order.

Average Tickle IQ Scores By State
Over 30 million people have taken Tickle's Classic IQ Test. Here's a look at the average Tickle IQ scores, broken out by state.

District of Columbia 115

Washington 114
Utah 114
Oregon 114
Minnesota 114
Massachusetts 114
Colorado 114

Wisconsin 113
Virginia 113
Vermont 113
Pennsylvania 113
New York 113
New Jersey 113
New Hampshire 113
Nebraska 113
Montana 113
Maryland 113
Kansas 113
Iowa 113
Illinois 113
Idaho 113
Hawaii 113
Delaware 113
Connecticut 113
California 113
Arizona 113
Alaska 113

Wyoming 112
Texas 112
Tennessee 112
South Dakota 112
South Carolina 112
Rhode Island 112
Oklahoma 112
Ohio 112
North Dakota 112
North Carolina 112
New Mexico 112
Nevada 112
Missouri 112
Michigan 112
Maine 112
Indiana 112
Georgia 112
Florida 112

Louisiana 111
Kentucky 111
Arkansas 111
Alabama 111

West Virginia 110
Mississippi 110

You'll note that the range is pretty narrow -- only 5 points separate Washington DC (115) and Mississippi (110). (I would guess that D.C.'s average IQ score is being dragged down a little by the District's large black majority -- it's small white ultra-yuppie population in the Northwest of DC is, I would guess, in a class by itself in average IQ compared to any full state).

In contrast, the IQ hoax data, which The Economist and tens of millions of Internet users fell for (The Economist later published an apology), claimed an absurd 28 point difference between the high and low states and even a 26 point gap between mostly white Connecticut and mostly white Utah.

These results go along pretty well with other data such as NAEP scores, education levels, 1960 Project Talent IQ scores, standard of living, and so forth. Colorado and Virginia have shown themselves over and over to be the pride of the Red States. Utah does a little better here than on other measures.

So, as I've said before, the 2004 blue states do seem to a little better on white IQ than red states, but the difference is not very large.

More direct measures, such as self-reported education levels on exit polls, show the parties being very similar, with Kerry voters having about 6 weeks more schooling than Bush voters in 2004, GOP House voters having more education in 2002, and Bush and Gore voters being virtually tied in 2000.

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