October 27, 2006

An important literary-historiographical event: the first publication in English of parts of Solzhenitsyn's "Two Hundred Years Together"

The Intercollegiate Studies Institute just sent me a copy of their handsome new book, The Solzhenitsyn Reader: New and Essential Writings, 1947-2005, which was edited by Edward E. Ericson Jr. and Daniel J. Mahoney, with the active cooperation of Solzhenitsyn and his family.

It's a greatest hits collection, but the big news is that over a quarter of its 635 pages is never-before-translated writings, most notably the 20-page excerpt from Two Hundred Years Together, 1795-1995, Solzhenitsyn's two-volume history of the world-changing interactions of Russians and Jews. The first volume, released in Russia in 2001, was published in a French translation in France in February 2002, and the second volume a year later. Yet these two books by the world's most famous living author just can't seem to get published in an English translation here in the land of the free and the home of the brave. I wonder why? And why has almost nobody publicly discussed why these books haven't been published in English?

Here are some brief excerpts from the excerpts of Two Hundred Years Together:

Through a half-century of work on the history of the Russian Revolution, I repeatedly came face to face with the question of Russian-Jewish interrelations. Time and again it would enter as a sharp wedge into events, into people's psychology, and arouse blistering passions.

I never lost hope that there would come, before me, a writer who might illumine for us all this searing wedge, generously and equitably.

I wonder if Solzhenitsyn has since read UC Berkeley historian Yuri Slezkine's subsequent 2004 book The Jewish Century? (Does Solzhenitsyn speak English? He gave his famous Harvard address of 1978 in Russian.)

More often, alas, we meet one-sided rebukes, either pertaining to Russians' culpability toward Jews, and even the primordial depravity of of the Russian people (there is quite a profusion of such views) -- or, from those Russians who did write about this mutual dilemma, mostly agitated tendentious accounts that refuse to see any merit on the other side...

I would be glad not to test my strength in such a thorny thicket, but I believe that this history, and attempts to study it, must not remain "forbidden." ...

Yet what leads me through this narrative of the two-hundred-year-long cohabitation of the Russian and Jewish peoples is the quest for all points of common understanding and all possible paths into the future, cleansed from the acrimony of the past.

The Jewish people -- like all other people and like all persons -- is both an active subject of history and its anguished object. Furthermore, Jews often carried out, perhaps unconsciously, major tasks allotted them by History.

There cannot be a question upon earth that is unsuited for contemplative discourse among people. To converse broadly and openly is more honest -- and in our case it is also indispensable. Alas, mutual grievances have accumulated in both our people's memories, but if we repress the past, how can we heal them? Until the collective psyche of a people finds its clear outlet in the written word, it can rumble indistinctly or, worse, menacingly...

For many years I postponed this work and would still now be pleased to avert the burden of writing it. But my years are nearing their end, and I feel I must take up this task.

I have never conceded to anyone the right to conceal that which was. Equally, I cannot call for an understanding based on an unjust portrayal of the past. Instead, I call both sides -- the Russian and the Jewish -- to patient mutual comprehension, to the avowal of their own share of the blame...

I conceived of my ultimate aim as discerning, to the best of my ability, mutually agreeable and fruitful pathways for the future development of Russian-Jewish relations.

-- 1995


Despite the growing significance of the Jewish presence in the US, at the beginning of the twentieth century Jews in Russia constituted roughly one half of the world's Jewish population -- a crucial circumstance for subsequent Jewish history...

This spiritual awakening among Russian Jews [in the late 1800s] gave rise to very divergent tendencies that had little in common with one another. Some of them would later play a role in determining the fate of the entire world in the twentieth century.

The Russian Jews of the period envisioned at least six different kinds of futures, many of which were mutually exclusive:

-- retaining their religious identity by self-isolation, as had been the case for centuries (but this option was rapidly losing appeal);

-- assimilation;

-- struggling for cultural and national autonomy of the Jews in Russia, with the goal of an active but separate existence in the country;

-- emigration;

-- enlisting in the Zionist movement;

-- joining the revolutionary cause. ...


The topic is only too familiar: Jews amid the Bolsheviks. It has been written about innumerable times. Those who wish to prove that the Revolution was un-Russian and "of alien stock" point to Jewish names and pseudonyms in an effort to clear Russians of blame for the revolution of 1917. Jewish authors, on the other hand, ... are unanimously of the opinion that these were not Jews in spirit. They were renegades...

Yes, these people were renegades. But neither were the leading Russian Bolsheviks Russian in spirit. ...

Let us pose the question differently: How many random renegades does it take to create a tendency that is no longer accidental? What proportion of one's people needs to be involved? About Russian renegades we know that there was a depressingly, unforgivably large number among the Bolsheviks. But what about Jews? How actively did Jewish renegades take part in setting up the Bolshevik regime? ...

And so, can nations disavow their renegades? Would such a disavowal have meaning? Should a people remember its renegades or not; should it preserve a memory of the fiends and demons that it engendered? The answer to that last question should surely not be in doubt: We must remember. Every people must remember them as its own; there is simply no other way.

There is probably no more striking example of a renegade than Lenin, but it is impossible not to acknowledge him as Russian. ... But it was we Russians who brought into being the social environment in which Lenin grew and filled with hate. ...

And what about Jewish renegades? As we have seen, there was no specifically Jewish gravitation toward the Bolsheviks over the course of 1917. But energetic Jewish activism did manifest itself in the revolutionary maneuvers of the period. ... And at the April conference in 1917 (where Lenin's explosive "April Theses" were announced), among the nine members of the newly chosen central committee we see Grigori Zinoviev, Lev Kamenev, and Yakov Sverdlov. At the summer VI Congress of the newly named Russian Communist Party of Bolsheviks, eleven members were elected to the central committee, including Zinoviev, Sverdlov, Sokolnikov, Trotsky, and Uritsky. Next came the so-called "historic meeting" of October 10, 1917, on Karpovka Street, in Himmer and Flakserman's flat, where the decision to undertake the coup was taken. Among the twelve participants were Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Sverdlov, Uritsky, and Sokolnikov. At the same occasion the first "Politburo" (an appellation with a brilliant future) was organized, and of the seven members we see the same Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Sokolnikov. ...

Of course all this relates to the upper echelons of Bolshevism and is in no sense indicative of any mass Jewish movement. Moreover, the Jews in the Politburo did not act in any coordinated manner.

... Lenin did not anticipate the degree to which educated and semi-educated Jews (who were scattered throughout Russia because of the war [as migrants away from the fighting with Germany and Austria in the Pale of Settlement]) would come to the rescue of his government in critical months and years, beginning with the episode when they replaced the Russian civil servants who were on a mass strike against the Bolsheviks. ...

Try putting yourself in the shoes of the small body of Bolsheviks who had seized power and were barely holding on to it. Whom could they trust? To whom should they turn for help? Semyon (Shimon) Dimanshtein, a Bolshevik from way back, and since January 1918 head of the Jewish Commissariat ..., gives this account of the remarks Lenin had made to him:

"Of great benefit to the revolution was the fact that due to the war, a significant portion of the Jewish middle intelligentsia happened to be in Russian cities. They foiled the widespread sabotage which we encountered immediately after the October Revolution and which was extremely dangerous for us. Jews, though far from all of them, sabotaged this sabotage, thereby rescuing the Revolution in a difficult moment."

... As we see, the Bolsheviks invited Jews starting with the very first days after assuming power, offering both leadership positions and administrative work with Soviet governmental structures. The result? Many, very many, responded positively, doing so without delay. What the Bolshevik regime needed above all were functionaries who would be absolutely loyal, and it found many such individuals among young secularized Jews along with their Slavic and international confreres. These people were not at all necessarily "renegades," since some were not members of the party, had no particular revolutionary sympathies, and seemed apolitical prior to this point. ... The fact remains, though, that it was a mass phenomenon.

"Thousands of Jews thronged to the bolsheviks, seeing in them the most determined champions of the revolution, and the most reliable internationalists ... Jews abounded at the lower levels of the party machinery. A Jew, as an individual who was clearly not a member of the nobility, of the clergy, or of the old civil service, automatically became part of a promising subset in the new clan." [M. Kheifets, Tel Aviv, 1980]

... Latvians, Hungarians, and Chinese were utilized in similar ways -- no sentimental hang-ups could be expected from them.

The attitude of the Jewish population at large toward the Bolsheviks was guarded, if not hostile. But having finally attained full freedom thanks to the revolution, and together with it, as we have seen, a true flowering of Jewish activity in the social, political, and cultural realms, all superbly organized, Jews did not stand in the way of the rapid advancement of other Jews who were Bolsheviks and who then exercised their newly acquired power to cruel excess.

Starting with the late 1940s, when the Communist regime had a serious falling out with the world's Jews, the vigorous Jewish participation in the Communist revolution began to be soft-pedaled or entirely concealed by Communists and Jews alike. It was an annoying and troubling reminder, and attempts to recall this phenomenon or to refer to it were classified as egregious anti-Semitism by the Jewish side...

Indeed, there are many explanations as to why Jews joined the Bolsheviks (and the Civil War produced yet more weighty reasons [e.g., the mass pogroms detailed in Volume II, Chapter 16]. Nevertheless, if Russian Jews' memory of this period continues seeking primarily to justify this involvement, then the level of Jewish self-awareness will be lowered, even lost.

Using this line of reasoning, Germans could just as easily find excuses for the Hitler period: "Those were not real Germans, but scum"; "they never asked us." Yet every people must answer morally for all of its past -- including that past which is shameful. Answer by what means? By attempting to comprehend: How could such a thing have been allowed? Where in all this is our error? And could it happen again?

It is in that spirit, specifically, that it would behoove the Jewish people to answer, both for the revolutionary cutthroats and the ranks willing to serve them. Not to answer before other peoples, but to oneself, to one's consciousness, and before God. Just as we Russians must answer -- for the pogroms, for those merciless arsonist peasants, for those crazed revolutionary soldiers, for those savage sailors. ...

To answer, just as we would answer for members of our family.

For if we release ourselves from any responsibility for the actions of our national kin, the very concept of a people loses any real meaning.

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

So, who is the ex-LaRouchie foreign policy pundit?

I won't explain the persuasive evidence for his long-ago Lyndon LaRouche connection, since that would necessitate revealing his real name, which might hurt him in his day job. But I'm 95% persuaded of a reader's suggestion that many years ago the individual who is now the extremely self-confident columnist "Spengler" of the Asia Times was a close colleague of the crackpot perennial Presidential candidate.

That reminds me that adventuring in the Middle East seems to appeal most to two sets of people:

- The not very bright sorts who get Iraq and Iran and Saddam and Osama confused.

- And the extremely bright but not quite stable sorts who can convince themselves of anything.

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

Status competition

Libertarians David Friedman and Will Wilkinson are explaining that it doesn't matter how much objective inequality there is, because we can all be high status at something. Friedman writes:

Status is not, in fact, a zero sum game. This point was originally made clear to me when I was an undergraduate at Harvard and realized that Harvard had, in at least one interesting way, the perfect social system: Everyone at the top of his own ladder. The small minority of students passionately interested in drama knew perfectly well that they were the most important people at the university; everyone else was there to provide them with an audience. The small minority passionately interested in politics knew that they were the most important ones...

Okay, but this might be more persuasive if Friedman didn't seem compelled to mention "Harvard" twice in one sentence. He could just as well have written "when I was an undergraduate and realized that my college had ..." But, no, he wrote "when I was an undergraduate at Harvard and realized that Harvard had ..."

The academics at Crooked Timber are trying to explain what's wrong with this theory:

Wilkinson’s claim implies, unless I misunderstand him badly, that it doesn’t matter very much to me if I’m a despised cubicle rat who can’t afford a nice car and gets sneered at by pretty girls, because when I go home and turn on my PC, I suddenly become a level 75 Night Elf Rogue who Kicks Serious Ass!

But they don't get very far in their criticism because reductionism is a dirty word to them.

So, while this theory's glass is half full, it's half empty, too, and here's my reductionist explanation why:

Men can invent all the status hierarchies they want, like World of Warcraft (as noted by Half Sigma), but women don't have to be impressed by them. Ultimately, some status hierarchies (e.g., the Forbes 400) are higher status than others (e.g., nerd competitions like World of Warcraft) because the highest status male hierarchies in America are whichever ones attractive women are most impressed by.

The problem from an economics policy point of view is that there isn't all that much that can be done about the pain that accompanies competing for women. In Ayn Rand's utopia or in Pol Pot's, there will still be winners and losers. (From a social point of view, a society can help by resisting both formal polygamy and the serial polygamy of accumulating trophy wives. America used to do a fairly good job of the latter -- e.g., Nelson Rockefeller lost the decisive 1964 GOP primary in California because he'd just traded in his old wife for a new one -- but that has broken down since then.)

Similarly, the reason it stinks to be poor in America in 2006 is not because you don't own enough stuff, but because you have to hang around with other poor people, with their socially dysfunctional tendencies.

Once again, economic policy is not terribly useful, although it would be helpful if the supply of unskilled labor was kept tight enough to keep the wages for honest work high enough to attract more of the underclass into the disciplining bonds of paying work. A rational immigration policy would have another benefit by only letting in people with enough human capital so that they, their children, and their grandchildren are unlikely to sink to the underclass.

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

October 25, 2006

Ira Hayes, Indians, and Alcohol

One of the three major characters in Clint Eastwood's "Flags of Our Fathers" about the Iwo Jim flag raisers is Ira Hayes (played by Adam Beach, an Ojibwa from Manitoba), the Pima Indian whose sad postwar life has often been told before, with Tony Curtis playing him in "The Outsider" and Johnny Cash writing "The Ballad of Ira Hayes:"

Call him drunken Ira Hayes
He won't answer anymore
Not the whiskey drinkin' Indian
Nor the Marine that went to war

Yeah, call him drunken Ira Hayes
But his land is just as dry
And his ghost is lyin' thirsty
In the ditch where Ira died

Some reviewers have fretted that retelling his tale will just revive the "stereotype" of the alcoholic Indian. Of course, like most stereotypes, it is more or less true: alcoholism is a severe problem for American Indians. A better approach than denouncing anyone who mentions this problem is trying to figure out a solution for it. To do that, though, we'd first have to find its cause. I've poked around a lot on the Internet looking for research on the subject, but there is frustratingly little.

I tend to favor the evolutionary explanation -- the more your ancestors have had time to remove themselves from the gene pool by succumbing to alcoholism, the safer you are from it -- because it explains a lot of evidence, such as why Jews and Italians, whose ancestors drank wine for many thousands of years, have so little trouble with alcoholism; why normally level-headed Scandinavians are prone to binge-drinking disasters; and why indigenous peoples all over the world are hit hard by alcoholism. On the other hand, for once, I don't think the cultural explanation -- that aboriginal alcoholism stems from the psychic dislocation and male economic obsolescence caused by their collision with modernity -- can be dismissed out of hand.

On the Blue Corn Comics website, two American Indians readers offer casual but insightful versions of the two sides of the debate:

Gee, now they are going to study what we have known for sometime. I'm going to interject some of what I got told (by Yale and Harvard researchers, our own folks, etc.) and have passed on to my kids?see if it fits with what you all have known, been told, read, learned???

And, my comments are OVER-simplified, short, for the sake of time (mine and yours) and space (ditto).

We didn't use alcohol in any form for 40 thousand years, consequently had no enzyme to break it down. Once in the mouth (for some, even on the skin -- like in shaving smell goods?) it passes thru the soft tissue immediately, and, as it progresses thru the digestive tract/system, it passes, undiluted, into, thru every organ/part in the body.

If, in the crossing of the gene pool, racial crossover relationships, you don't GET that enzyme -- then bingo -- you are an alcoholic at conception, so all labels need to be read and heeded. So, yes, it's passed on -- as is diabetes. You get a pancreas that can produce enough insulin, you don't get diabetes; you get an Indian system, diabetes looms on the horizon.

The red flush is well known in the native population. I can walk into any bar/restaurant late, and point with fair certainty to those who, when asked, you have Indian ancestors? ("Yes.") They are beet red, admit to feeling warm all over when they drink -- like a hot flash. I was told, "Why do you think they called it 'fire water'?" Made sense to me.

Because with many of us this is an allergy, and we may not have the proper breakdown system, it's also why (I was told) Indians are often binge drinkers -- none for a few weeks, months, then, one is too many, 300 is not enough. And often why 12-step programs, etc., don't work -- there's nothing wrong with our morals, ethics, or backbones.

Considering how stressed our communities are, our families, and if this is true, that [alcohol] triggers a rise in the already faulty system we are born with, no wonder the alcoholism and suicide rate is so high. Anyway, too bad all these scientists just don't come around and chat with us, hear our stories, could get a lot of info for a McDonald's lunch, probably!! I'd talk their ears off for some substantial carry-out Chinese. ~{}:-)


Hi Rob,

Two things I wanted to bring up: One of the links in that article is about alcoholism among Natives. It brings up the claim among some scientists that we are alleged to be genetically predisposed to alcoholism.

I'm always pretty uncomfortable with these types of claims that biology=destiny. First of all, it's not true that we were never exposed to alcohol before Columbus. My own people, the Apache, have long brewed alcohol from corn. It's called tiswin. Not being able to brew it was one of the reasons Goyathlay (Geronimo) left confinement on the rez and went to war. Some still drink it today, and I've never heard of anyone abusing it.

The Aztecs and many other Indians in Mesoamerica also drank alcohol made from cactus called pulque. Not only that, drinking was done ritually in Nahua and other Mexican Indian villages, and still is to this day. A good source for reading about the change in drinking that Europeans brought in Wm Taylor's Drinking, Homicide and Rebellion in Colonial Mexico.

There's another book called Lies, Misconceptions, and Cherished Myths in American History that also talked about this subject for part of a chapter. The first Europeans to come here often wrote in their journals about how Natives drank in *moderation* while they (the Europeans) drank until they passed out.

So I don't think we can give much credence to these images of "give an Injun a bottle and he's helpless."

Plus some Native groups have long had used other mind altering substances like peyote, jimsonweed, and ayahuasca. There were and are strict standards for when and how they could be used, and they weren't for recrational use. They just stuck to using them in a ritual fashion though, or in certain proscribed social outlets, like the village wide drinking bouts allowed a few times a year in Mexican Indian villages.

I really think the difference in Native drinking habits from the general population is based on *how much we are allowed to make our own choices* in lifestyle, religion, and so on. So many times when I hear about how bad drinking is on a rez, it seems to me to be related to that. A friend of mine and colleague here at ASU, Patty Harms, grew up on a reserve in Manitoba. She tells me she never saw drinking there growing up. It was a fairly self sufficient community, still living mostly by hunting and harvesting wild rice. Now that commercial enterprises have made it impossible for that to continue, they have to live on government aid and have just an incredibly bad epidemic of alcoholism.

Put *any* people, Native, white, black, in that same situation and you'll have similar results, no matter what the geneticists uncover.

Just my thoughts, and hope you'll think about working this in somewhere on your site.

Al Carroll

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

October 24, 2006

John Tierney on the real problem in Iraq

Before becoming a NYT op-ed columnist and disappearing behind the Subscription Curtain, John Tierney spent some time in Occupied Baghdad. He particularly liked my article on the prevalence of cousin marriage, and quoted it in a 2003 NYT article.

Here's an excerpt from his latest op-ed:

Rampant individualism is not the problem in Iraq.

The problem is that they have so many social obligations more important to them than national unity. Iraqis bravely went to the polls and waved their purple fingers, but they voted along sectarian lines. Appeals to their religion trumped appeals to the national interest. And as the beleaguered police in Amara saw last week, religion gets trumped by the most important obligation of all: the clan.

The deadly battle in Amara wasn’t between Sunnis and Shiites, but between two Shiite clans that have feuded for generations. After one clan’s militia destroyed police stations and took over half the city, the Iraqi Army did not ride to the rescue. Authorities regained control only after the clan leaders negotiated a truce.

When the U.S. invaded Iraq, American optimists invoked Germany and Japan as models for their democratization project, but Iraq didn’t have the cultural cohesion or national identity of those countries. The shrewdest forecasts I heard came not from foreign policy experts but from anthropologists and sociologists who noted a crucial statistic: nearly half of Iraqis were married to their first or second cousins.

Unlike General Thurman and other Westerners, members of these tightly knit Iraqi clans don’t look on society as a collection of individuals working for the common good of the nation. “In a modern state a citizen’s allegiance is to the state, but theirs is to their clan and their tribe,” Ihsan M. al-Hassan, a sociologist at the University of Baghdad, warned three years ago. “If one person in your clan does something wrong, you favor him anyway, and you expect others to treat their relatives the same way.”

These allegiances explain why Iraqis don’t want to give up their local militias. They know it’s unrealistic to expect protection from a national force of soldiers or police officers from other clans, other regions, other religions. When the Iraqi Army ordered reinforcements to go help Americans keep peace in Baghdad, several Iraqi battalions deserted rather than risk their lives defending strangers.

Instead of trying to transform Iraqis into patriots and build up national security forces, the U.S. should be urging decentralization. The national government should concentrate on defending the borders and equitably distributing oil revenue, ideally by distributing shares of the oil wealth directly to citizens.

Has anybody put forward a practical plan on how to distribute oil profits equally to individual Iraqis?

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

"The Bow Begat the Bushmen"

Greg Cochran explains how cultural change speeds up genetic change in the comments section of GNXP.

There are 47 ways in which culture accelerates rather than retards evolution. I keep thinking that this is all obvious, but clearly the word 'obvious' has no meaning.

More exactly, the capacity for innovation in behaviorally modern humans materially speeded up evolution, because it led to frequent innovation, and every significant innovation created a mismatch with the environment and, therefore, new selective pressures. Look at the Bushmen: they're 4' 8" and hunt big game. They couldn't do it without poisoned arrows and, back before missile weapons, no one did: early humans were bigger and built like linebackers. The bow begat the Bushmen.

Take agriculture: the switch to reliance upon cereals cut protein intake almost threefold while reducing protein quality and greatly increasing the percentage of high-glycemic carbohydrates in the diet (along with other changes) That put huge areas of metabolism under selective pressure - towards more robust glucose regulation, towards changes that conserve protein, especially essential/scarce amino acids. Check out the distribution of diabetes - it's not 'thrifty genes', it's pre- and post agricultural adaptations. Agriculture allowed closer spacing of births and so selection increased the frequency of (probably ancient) r-strategy alleles of LH and FSH (along with new variants, natch). Female-farming systems [found mostly in the tropics] would seem likely to select for reduced paternal investment and increased inter-male competition and display: the selected myostatin mutations, along with the regional differences in the androgen receptor may fit into this picture.

Sedentism, changes in workloads, and reduced dietary calcium apparently selected for more gracile skeletons (intensifying an ongoing trend originated by the development of missile weapons). A more complex and hierarchical society (with far greater reproductive skew) must have selected for different cognitive and personality profiles - not just among the Ashkenazi or the Chinese, but in all civilized populations. Look, all those personality and cognitive traits have substantial heritability, so selection happened, probably more in the direction of pointy-haired bosses [a la Dilbert] than big heads and six fingers. For that matter, different kinds of hunter-gatherer ecology selected for different traits; Eskimos are not Bushmen are not Negritos.

The increased disease load associated the high-density agricultural societies (and the domestication of animals) put selection into high gear: without modern medical care, Amerindian and other long-isolated peoples are incredibly vulnerable to Old World infectious diseases, enormously more so than Eurasians and Africans. The domestication of cows turned Northern Europeans into mampires that live off the milk of another species. Sewing, the atlatl [a spear-throwing enhancer], pottery, writing - all changed peoples.

Change has been so rapid, some 300 times the supposed Haldane limit, that it has far outpaced gene flow. The recent adaptations to agriculture are of course not even found in hunter-gatherers, but agriculturalists in different parts of the world have mostly experienced different genetic changes even when phenotypic changes are convergent. For example, the genetic basis of skeletal gracilization in Europe/Middle East appears to be fundamentally different than that in China, lactose tolerance in the Masai is caused by a different allele than in Europe, while the genetic basis of light skin color is entirely different in China and Europe. Which implies that the causal mechanism, the nuts and bolts of >100 IQ, likely a consequence of post-agricultural adaptation, probably differ significantly between East and West, just as the details of skin color do. The psychometric substructure sure looks different.

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

The Nice North Central's Not So Nice Black Communities

One of the regional oddities is that Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota, three states with a deserved reputation for civic cooperativeness, good government, and general niceness, have some of the most dysfunctional black communities in the country. As I wrote in VDARE.com in "Mapping the Unmentionable," the state with the highest ratio of black to white imprisonment rates in 1997 was Minnesota, at 31 to 1, compared to about 9 to 1 nationally (The national ratio has since dropped into the 7.2 to 1 range). Iowa and Wisconsin were way up there too. And black crime there looks bad not just relative to the low crime rates among the white locals: Iowa had the worst black imprisonment rate in the country in absolute terms. Wisconsin has the highest black illegitimacy rate in the U.S. at 81.9% vs. 69.3% nationally in 2004.

These three states are more liberal than most in the heartland. They've gone Democratic five out of six times in the last two Presidential elections.

A reader offers his take on this question:

As a Milwaukee native originally, I knew the city like the back of my hand in the sixties, when I used to drive cabs for Yellow during my summer breaks from the U. of Mich. I was even caught in Milwaukee's smaller version of Detroit's race riot and narrowly escaped with my car getting stoned pretty badly. They missed me.

Milwaukee used to have one of the best public school systems in Wisconsin, which has good public schools. But back in the sixties, the advent of welfare and Milwaukee's old German Social Democratic mindset combined to make Milwaukee and Wisconsin's welfare the most generous in the Middle West. This obviously drew the most enterprising grifters among the black population in the Mississippi Valley, which traditionally was a bit less clever than the East Coast blacks, who worked tobacco rather than cotton and were less humiliated and downtrodden. Or so I was told by sociologists when I worked at St. Louis U. among the black population of Pruitt-Igoe, before they dynamited that vertical plantation...

With better than average public schools and blacks eager to get the Midwest's most generous welfare subventions, I just don't understand why Milwaukee blacks would be lower. But my family and friends back there tell me that catering to blacks with the sort of compassionate condescension that Wisconsinites have toward the less fortunate has not improved the attitude of the black community. Au contraire.

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

October 23, 2006

What chemists think of economists

Stephen Colbert interviews 2003 Nobel Laureate in chemistry Peter Agre:

Colbert: "You said 'anyone who grew up on a farm knows that evolution exists'. Ok, are you saying a monkey can milk a cow?"

Agre: "Well, if I can milk a cow I suspect a monkey as smart as I am can milk a cow."

Colbert: "Are there monkeys as smart as you?"

Agre: "I'm sure there are quite a few, quite a few.

Colbert: "Oh really? mmhum. Do they give a Nobel prize for thowing your own faeces?"

Agre: "........That's the Economics prize, I think."

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

"Flags of Our Fathers"

From my upcoming review of Clint Eastwood's new WWII movie in The American Conservative:

With planning underway for aerial attacks on Iran's dug-in nuclear facilities, it's worth recalling Iwo Jima, which "underwent the most prolonged and also the most disappointing air bombing and naval bombardment of any Pacific Island," according to Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison. The Japanese commander hollowed out the soft lava of that volcanic island, allowing his 22,000 troops to survive seven months of almost daily American air raids. Hoping to show Washington that an invasion of Japan would be too bloody, they killed nearly 7,000 American attackers and wounded 21,000 more in a five week-long battle in which all but 216 defenders died.

American commanders in the Pacific normally expended their men's lives economically, preferring to use instead our advantage in maneuver and materiel. When out-thought at Iwo Jima by General Kuribayashi, however, they were rescued by the extraordinary morale of their Marines.

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

More on Music:

Was John Stuart Mill right that we would run out of melodies someday? A reader writes:

You forgot the quote from Diderot regarding mathematicians. "I almost dare to assert," he stated in 1754, "that in less than a century we shall not have three great geometers left in Europe. This science will very soon come to a great standstill where Bernoullis, Eulers, Maupertuis, Clairauts, Fontaines, d'Alemberts, and La Granges will have left it. They will have erected the columns of Hercules. We shall not go beyond that point."

Well, as my high school geometry teacher made clear to me at report card time, I sure didn't go beyond that point.

Regarding your article "Where Did All the Catchy Tunes Go?" I'm not buying your reason for why the # of catchy tunes have declined. You state, "No, I suspect contemporary songwriters have simply run into diminishing returns. Their predecessors have just used up most of the melodies that are easy to find." "Instead, they were like the first miners to get to California gold fields in 1849. They just got there first"

This would imply that current songwriters are aware of all the great melodies that have been written in the past. This is certainly not true. If a songwriter born in 1980 was not aware of any music composed before he was born(no Bach, Stephen Foster, Beatles) and he grew up on a steady diet of Rap and Heavy Metal do you think this songwriter would be better at writing melodies than one who was aware of all the great melodies in the past? Would he re-compose Jesu, Beautiful Dreamer or Yesterday? No way.

You write, "If each note of a melody can be selected from, say, eight notes on average, there are 64 pairs of notes, 512 motifs of three notes, 4,096 phrases of four notes, and so on, multiplying out to trillions and trillions of musical pieces."

This greatly underestimates the # of combinations. First, each note can have a separate time value, a whole-note, a half-note, a quarter-note, an eighth-note etc. Also music can be played legato, staccato, swing rhythm, slow,fast etc. As well, the chords being played under the melody greatly change how the music sounds. If you add all this up you certainly have many more musical combinations than combinations involving letters, in which there are only 26 to choose from. Are we running out of poems? Today's poets certainly aren't comparable to Wordsworth, Shelley, or Keats. Is this due to lack of combinations involving letters, or the fact the poets no longer care about structure, metre, and rhyme? I would say the latter. So why are songs not as catchy as they used to be? I'm not quite sure. It might be Bob Dylan's influence. Serious writers are suppose emphasize lyrics rather than melody. Only teeny bopper girls care about melody. However, Max Martin is laughing all the way to the bank.

p.s. I have found from composing music myself that almost any combination of notes can be made to sound "catchy", you just have to find the right tempo, time value for each note, and chord structure.

Another writes:

I'll just say this: there are still many intriguing melodies to be written. Trouble is when people use the description "pleasing" (like one of your readers did), what they have in mind is more or less a small (middle-of-the-road) subset of the possibilities. And unfortunately people are very, very conservative regarding their tastes on what a good melody is.

Popular musical styles generally play with instrumentation, recording techniques, dress code, singing/playing mannerisms etc. to create the impression of originality, although most of these are, strictly speaking, "external" to music. Strip them away, there's barely any genuine musical difference between an Irish tune of the 18th century and an Irish popular song of the 20th century.

To give you an idea what possibilities are left unexplored, let me give an example from 20th century classical (serious? art?) music: please listen to the first 2 movements of Bela Bartok's "Concerto for Orchestra." (Yes, that's the name, no typos there.) You'll hear a music both pretty modern and eerie, and yet surprisingly melodic which doesn't fit your usual, run-o-the-mill patterns.

That's because Bartok managed to extract unthought-of musical materials from the folk musics of the Balkans and some Slavic countries. Most Western music is based on the folk stuff of Germanic or Celtic groups, with the French and Spanish providing "exoticism." And that's where the trouble is. Again, to get a flavor of the "human musico-diversity," listen to Bartok's "Dance Suite."

You'll get an audio glimpse of some of the sources untapped.

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

Not too surprising

From the AP:

Immigrants flocking to GOP districts

Republican congressional districts are becoming magnets for immigrants — legal and illegal — but GOP lawmakers are not exactly embracing their new constituents.

Of the 50 House districts nationwide with the fastest-growing immigrant communities, 45 are represented by Republicans. All but three of those lawmakers voted for a bill that would make illegal immigrants felons.

Overall, GOP districts added about 3 million immigrants from 2000 to 2005, nearly twice the number that settled in districts represented by Democrats, according to an Associated Press analysis of census data.

The numbers help explain why illegal immigration is such a big issue in rural Georgia, eastern Pennsylvania and in suburbs throughout the United States...

For generations, most immigrants settled in big cities, attracted by fellow countrymen and by social service networks that catered to them. But immigrants increasingly are chasing jobs to fast-growing suburban and rural communities in Middle America — areas that have elected a lot of Republicans to Congress.

It's one of those natural processes, like the locust. Illegal immigrants go to prosperous places, raise the cost of living, lower wages, drive out the Republicans, increase the number of government jobs needed to take care of their social traumas, and then, when the place is Democratic voting, crowded, unattractive, and electing lots of corrupt anti-business Democrats so jobs are scares, they move on to new Republican districts. Rinse and repeat.

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