January 20, 2007

Ethnic Nepotism

Here's an email of mine from 1999 on an important topic, perhaps the most overlooked fundamental for understaniding how the world works:

I've noticed that a lot of smart people like Richard Dawkins and Gregory Cochran assume that while Pierre L. van den Berghe's theory of ethnic nepotism --which extends W.D. Hamilton's kin selection theory to the more distant kin of one's ethnic group (see "The Ethnic Phenomenon," 1981) -- may work as a mathematical theory, it can't possibly work in reality. For example, Dawkins wrote, "kin selection theory in no way provides a basis for understanding ethnocentrism" … although under Frank X. Miele's questioning he backed down somewhat from such a dogmatic assertion:

Miele in Skeptic: How do you evaluate the work of Irenaeus Eibl-Eibesfeldt, J.P. Rushton, and Pierre van den Berghe, all of whom have argued that kin selection theory does help explain nationalism and patriotism?

Dawkins: One could invoke a kind "misfiring" of kin selection if you wanted to in such cases. Misfirings are common enough in evolution. For example, when a cuckoo host feeds a baby cuckoo, that is a misfiring of behavior which is naturally selected to be towards the host's own young…

Skeptic: Could there be selection for a mechanism that would operate like this--"those who look like me, talk like me, act like me, are probably genetically close to me. Therefore, be nice, good, and altruistic to them. If not avoid them?" And could that mechanism later be programmed to say "be good to someone who wears the same baseball cap, the same Rugby colors, or whatever?" That is, could evolution have a produced a hardware mechanism that is software programmable?

Dawkins: I think that's possible.

Hamilton demonstrated in 1964 that people are nepotistic because their kin share some of their selfish genes. E.g., from your genes' perspective, your life is worth two of your brothers' or eight of your cousins'. It's widely assumed that kin selection applies only to close kin, but of course it also applies to 32 second cousins or 128 3rd cousins, etc. These are increasingly tenuous relationships, but don't forget that you have a lot more 3rd cousins than first cousins.

In fact, if your relations have more kids than the replacement rate, you'll have, in aggregate, more of your polymorphic selfish genes in your second cousins than in your first cousins, and more in your third cousins than your second cousins, etc

Skeptics, however, question whether in reality (1) individuals actually behave nepotistically toward distantly related individuals; and (2) how individuals could actually help large numbers of distant kin.

(1) Altruism toward distantly related individuals. The evolutionary biology community tends to forget how important wide-spread extended families still are to most people in the world today because we're so strikingly Anglo-American. For example, many of the historically-important scientists in contemporary evolutionary biology have the kind of anonymous-sounding WASP names you might pick for your alias if you were on the run from the law: Bill Hamilton, Ed Wilson, Dick Dawkins, George Williams, John Smith.

Darwinism is the child of the British empirical tradition (both Bacons, Hume, Smith, Malthus, etc.), and neo-Darwinism remains highly Anglo-American. Individuals living in the Common Law countries have long enjoyed the rare luxury of not having to keep up with their distant relations because in a tight spot they could count on some form of equal justice under law, and thus not have to rely on, say, their tong or mafia family to protect them.

Nonetheless, altruism toward distant relations still happens.

A reader writes: "... if a long lost sibling appeared at your door, you would probably open your house to him. A 2nd cousin ... maybe a meal ... Anything beyond .. probably tell him "it's a bad time to call." ...

Let's take this example. When I lived in LA, not infrequently 3rd and even 4th cousins that I had never seen before in my life, and who didn't even speak English, would show up at my family's door. We'd immediately invite them in, feed them, give them the spare bedroom for a few days, and take them to Disneyland the next day.

Why were we altruistic to them? Did I have a mysterious capability of recognizing the 1/128th of my polymorphic genes that were floating around in 3rd Cousin Dieter from Zurich?

Of course not. What happened was that Dieter had mentioned to his first cousin Claude in Geneva (my second cousin) that he wanted to go to Disneyland some day (this was before EuroDisney). Claude called his first cousin Bruce in Seattle (who is my first cousin), and my first cousin Bruce called me to tell me that his cousin Claude's cousin Dieter was coming to American and could I take him to Disneyland?

So, I helped Dieter to be nice to my first cousin Bruce, who had called me to be nice to his to his first cousin Claude, who had called Bruce to be nice to his first cousin Dieter.

Ethnic nepotism frequently is operationalized by these chains of close relatives interacting altruistically.

Visiting Disneyland is a trivial example but these kin of kin of kin of kin chains were exactly how many immigrants got their first foothold in America: they showed up on the doorsteps in Chicago or wherever of fairly distant kin clutching letters of introduction from intermediate kin. These distant relations helped the immigrants find a place to live nearby and a job. That's a big reason why immigrant groups in America have been so geographically clustered. This physical concentration of members of one ethnic group in turn generates more ethnic nepotism. With a critical mass of population in one neighborhood, they can have their own church, sports teams, political representatives, and the like. This ethnic social structure in turn encourages inmarriage within the ethnic group.

Gregory Cochran asks: "Historically, how have single individuals been able to affect the fate of whole ethnic groups? Or, more generally, of a large number of people many of whom are distant relatives?"

The short answer is through politics -- through banding with other members of one's ethnic group to achieve ends that will help the ethnic group as a whole.

In some situations ethnic nepotism is a more rational response to a problem than close-kin nepotism. For example, say you are a well-to-do Ruritanian-American (you can insert the names of whatever real ethnic groups you like here). At Thanksgiving dinner your aunt tells you that -- back in the Old Country -- her great-niece's cousin Yuli has been unjustly thrown in jail by the police, who are dominated by the Old Country's other ethnic group, the Lower Slobbovians.

Another relative of yours jumps in to say that he heard from his uncle in the Old Country that his wife's neice's son has been beat up by the Lower Slobbovian police for merely demonstrating for Ruritanian autonomy.

Somebody else says that he heard that a pretty young girl in his distant family was subject to unwanted attentions by the Slobbovian police -- "You know, Slobbovians have . . . strong urges, and can't control themselves around our beautiful Ruritanian maidens."

You are disturbed by these reports, and the next day you talk to some old friends, whom you first met way back at a summer camp run by the Ruritanian Orthodox Church or at the Ruritanian language lessons you took after school. They heard similar stories around their Thanksgiving tables of Ruritanians being abused by Slobbovian security forces. "What can we do?" you ask.

Good question. Engaging in altruism just toward your close kin might help (e.g., trying to get one of your great-nieces out of Ruritania to America), but that's a drop in the bucket. Anyway, should Ruritanians flee their homeland? If you start a trend, it might give the Slobbovians the idea that they can drive all Ruritanians, including the rest of your relatively close kin, out of the Old Country. Far more of your close kin than just your great-niece is in danger, and your close kin are in danger not because they are close relations of you, but because they are members of your ethnic group.

No, your close kin need the same solution as all your distant kin in the Ruritanian ethnic group: a political settlement that will protect Ruritanian civil rights.

The only way to get that is for all Ruritanians, both in the Old Country and in America to set aside petty squabbles between Ruritanian families, and work together for Ruritanian rights. Thus, Ruritanian-Americans must for action committees, petition their Congressmen, raise big bucks for the Ruritanian-American PAC to give to candidates, persuade Christine Amanpour to tell the world about the sufferings of the Ruritanian peoples, raise funds for the Ruritanian Liberation Army, persuade Clinton and Blair to do some humanitarian bombing, who knows? The sky's the limit, as long as us Ruritanians stick together.

In summary, it's hard to read two pages of a newspaper without coming across ethnic nepotism in action. You may find it morally admirable or offensive, but you can't do anything about it without first understanding its pervasiveness.

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

January 19, 2007

Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude

Why is Respectable Opinon so sure that there isn't the slightest kernel of truth in Afrocentrist rantings about African Sun People and European Ice People? I'm not saying that Dr. Lionel Jeffries knows anything about biochemistry, but I am saying that there seems to be some sort of correlation between gloomy, cold weather and gloomy, cold personalities, just like there is between sunny, warm weather and sunny, warm personalities. And that if the chemical at work is not melanin, it's worth finding out what it is.

Personally, I don't know whether being tanned keeps me happy (as "melanin science" would suggest), but getting tanned sure lifts my mood for at least a few hours. What is the biochemical mechanism behind this?

Further, there seems to be a very rough but real relationship between latitude and attitude, with hotter climes correlating with hotter moods. This is a consistent theme through most literature at least since Shakespeare, with his hot-blooded Italians and melancholy Danes.

I read an article about how Tromso, Norway, the farthest Northern small city in the world, has no higher rates of seasonal depression than elsewhere. But, it appears from reading the article that Tromsonites have evolved a culture of self-therapy emphasizing near-mandatory conviviality during winter and bright artificial lights.

Further, self-selection is no doubt going on with people who can't stand the winters getting out of Tromso and others who don't mind them migrating in. If there is a genetic component to Seasonal Affective Disorder, this self-selection of darkness-likers will accumulate over the generations.

There's no doubt a big cultural component in this latitude-attitude correlation. For example, a culture is more likely to develop the charming tradition of shooting guns off in the air to celebrate (e.g., more Baghdadites were killed by falling bullets during peace celebrations at the end of the Iran-Iraq war than were killed by Iranian missile attacks during the eight year war) if it's not 20 below outside. In places where it's too cold to go outside, a culture will emphasize developing the kind of self-restraint that keeps you from blasting holes in the ceiling. There is probably also a biological component, but it's not clear if it's hereditary or environmental. In other words, when Jimmy Buffett sings that changes in latitude mean changes in attitude, is he correct for within an individual, or just across ethnic groups?

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

The Welfare State for Those Who Don't Need the Welfare State

A phenomenon strikingly evident in the Chicagoland area: rich suburbs that offer The Welfare State for Those Who Don't Need The Welfare State.

For example, Wilmette is a North Shore suburb (just north of Evanston, which is just north of Chicago) that competes to attract homebuyers with children by offering extraordinary public services in return for extraordinary taxes. For example, Wilmette's high school, New Trier, is one of the most famous in the U.S. It even has its own FM radio station.

Similarly, Wilmette's Parks and Recreations department offers lavish facilities and programs. The new Park District fieldhouse in Wilmette looks like a Palm Springs health spa. In contrast, Chicago Park District fieldhouses offer whitewashed walls for easy graffiti removal and wall to wall linoleum for quick disinfecting when somebody pees on the floor. It just doesn't pay to spend at a Wilmette-level on Chicago public facilities, because us Chicagoans will ruin them through our selfish, short-sighted, non-altruistic behavior.

Thus, in Wilmette the Welfare State works because the residents are too self-disciplined to actually need it, while in Chicago the Welfare State doesn't work because it almost instantaneously corrodes the personal character of the citizenry.

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

The Old Switcheroo

If you read feminist tracts closely, you'll notice the old switcheroo going on. Men are always attacked qua "men" whenever possible. E.g., "Men think of women as sex objects". But when women are the cause of the problem, then the culprit is "society." E.g., "Society encourages women to ignore sports and think excessively about wedding dresses."

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

January 18, 2007

Why ethnic humor is funny

Here's a little piece I wrote back in 1999 (so the examples are pretty dated):

The subject of humor is a notorious black hole for serious theorizing. Nonetheless, I'd like to plow ahead and discuss ethnic humor, even though I am almost incapable of remembering specific jokes except the most embarrassingly awful stinkers.

Clearly, there are a lot of different kinds of humor -- Steve Pinker of this list does a fine job of discussing in "How The Mind Works" the kind of humor (often pun-based) that changes the frame of reference: e.g., "Q. To raise money, why don't girl scouts sell brownies?" "A. Because as much as girl scouts might want to, the 13th amendment prevents them from selling their little sisters." [For non-Americans, "Brownies" are junior Girl Scouts.] (Note, Steve's chapter includes much better examples of that kind of joke, but I can't recall any of his.)

Most ethnic humor, however, is a subset of the "observational" humor that is currently dominant in the entertainment marketplace among Americans with 3 digit IQ's: e.g., the kind of Harvard Lampoon-derived gag-writing behind The Simpsons, Letterman's Top 10 lists and many sit-coms like Seinfeld.

I would suggest a very simple evolutionary model for accounting for the appeal of this kind of pattern recognition humor. Noticing similarities and differences is one of the fundamental methods of gaining knowledge about the world. As the motto of the college in Animal House puts it, "Knowledge Is Good," or to be less moralistic, knowledge is useful because it allows us to make more accurate predictions about reality, which allows us to make better decisions. Down through prehistory, people who made better decisions propagated their genes more than people who made lousier decisions.

For observations to be funny, however, they can't just be true, they need to be more vivid and memorable than plain truth. Thus, as a mnemonic device joketellers exaggerate truth to the point of logical absurdity. Laughter, then, would be a form of brain candy that natural selection has devised for us to make us enjoy learning patterns.

Ethnic humor falls into two classes: "Polish jokes" and "stereotype" humor. The former is the (now thankfully fading) American version of a nearly universal phenomenon of telling jokes about stupid people (another universal phenomenon) and giving the role of the idiot to a member of another ethnic group: "Q. How many Poles does it take to screw in a lightbulb?" "A. Three, one to hold the bulb and two to turn the ladder." The latter ("stereotype humor") is of a more closely observed sort that actually has some bearing in reality to traits that correlate with the group: "Q. How many lesbians does it take to screw in a lightbulb?" "A. That's not funny!"

Polish jokes: There is an obvious evolutionary benefit to having humans reflect upon and laugh at stupid ways to do things. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly (due to kin selection), we often try to claim that idiotic acts are an attribute of some other ethnic group than our own whom we dislike. (I always wondered why, of all the ethnic groups in America, there were all these nasty jokes about one of the most inoffensive of all immigrant groups?)

Stereotype jokes -- "Observational humor" also dominates stand-up comedy today, which is now largely concerned with pointing out the differences between the sexes and ethnic groups. We've entered the new golden age of ethnic humor, with members of each group pointing out its own foibles: e.g., Chris Rock (black), Margaret Cho (Asian), Jeff Foxworthy (redneck), screenwriter Paul Rudnick (gay male), and of course a million Jewish comedians. The new unwritten rule that only members of a particular group are allowed to make fun of it works relatively well, except for a few notably prickly and politicized groups like lesbians. This lack of honest, self- observant stand-up comedy among lesbians contributes to the bizarre assumption found constantly in the mainstream media that lesbians and gay men are very much alike, when in truth they are among the least similar groups imaginable. (See my article "Why Lesbians Aren't Gay" for a table of several dozen differences). Thus, you can learn more about race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. today from watching late-night HBO comedy series like Chris Rock, Tracey [Ullman] Takes On, and Arliss than from reading New York Times editorials.

"Serious" journalists tend to believe that "funny" and "serious" are by definition mutually exclusive, when an evolutionary perspective would suggest that much of what is funny to us is funny because it's serious.

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

January 17, 2007

An illuminating map

Econobrowser posts a map created by Jeffrey Sachs and two other economists of world gross domestic product density (GDP per capita times population density). In the U.S., this is quite proportional to population density, with the largest swath of maximum GDP density found the mid-Atlantic megaloplex from Boston to D.C., and the lowest in Alaska and the Great Basin.

Elsewhere, the map is more interesting, with Java and the Nile Delta surprisingly standing out for high GDP density, due to extremely intensive farming. India looks to be about the same average color as the U.S., if you include Alaska, which indicates about the same median (although not mean) GDP density per square mile. (Of course, Manhattan alone probably has the same total GDP as a sizable Indian state, but that won't show up well on the map.)

Still, what jumps out at you is that there really are still just two parts of the world where there are huge swaths of high GDP density: Northeast Asia (Japan, South Korea, and the lower Yellow River basin of China) and Central Western Europe (from Italy running northwestward through England, centering around the Rhine).

This really hasn't changed in a long time -- back in the late 1940s, an early Cold War strategist (George Kennan, I believe) argued that these were the two areas in the world that really mattered (along with Persian Gulf oil). The Central Western European axis of accomplishment also shows up in Charles Murray's "Human Accomplishment," where a tremendous fraction of the eminent artists and scientists in history lived fairly close to a line running from Naples to Edinburgh.

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

The Individualist:

I just discovered an enormous scholarly website, The Individualist, dedicated to the human sciences, including many of the more controversial issues.

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

Thank God an NFL player is not a famous role model like a college lacrosse player

Last April, I asked in VDARE.com why the New York Times was running endless stories about the Duke lacrosse team when A.) The rape charges were pretty obviously all a hoax; and B.) Lacrosse is tiny sport, while America's biggest sport, football, sees well-known players arrested for violence all the time. As I pointed out, just that week the quarterback at Utah St. and the backup quarter at glamorous USC had been charged with rape, while star Chicago Bears cornerback Ricky Manning had attacked some poor nerd working on his laptop at Denny's at 3am. Could it possibly have to do with the Duke lacrosse team being 98% white, while the three football players were minorities?

Now that Manning will be in the NFC championship game this weekend, the NYT today gets all warm and fuzzy over him:

After Wrong Turn, Bears’ Manning Retools His Life
by Karen Crouse

That reversal of fortune mirrored what has happened in Manning’s life over the past 10 months. Last April, within days of receiving a contract offer from the Bears, Manning was arrested and charged with assault after an incident at a Denny’s restaurant in Los Angeles. Manning has acknowledged getting into an argument with a customer and pushing him in the head before leaving. After the news of his latest arrest became public, the Carolina Panthers declined to match the Bears’ five-year, $21 million offer for Manning, who was a restricted free agent.

The 25-year-old Manning already was on probation from a previous assault in Los Angeles, and if his case had gone to trial he faced the possibility of a prison sentence. “I wasn’t willing to take that risk,” he said. Intent on putting his past behind him, Manning pleaded no contest to a felony assault in the fall and was sentenced to three years probation, one year of anger-management counseling and 100 hours of community service. He was suspended for one game by the N.F.L. for violation of its code of personal conduct, causing him to miss the Bears’ 17-13 loss at New England on Nov. 26. ...

What happened at the Denny’s in Los Angeles, not far from the U.C.L.A. campus where Manning attended college, was avoidable. He can see that clearly now.

For starters, he did not need to be out with a friend at 3 a.m. “Me being out at 3 o’clock at night and partying and being around people that can take advantage of me is just not a good situation,” he said. “Initially I reacted to getting disrespected when I thought I shouldn’t have been,” he added. “O.K., I shouldn’t have done that. But I thought I had done the right thing by walking away, by leaving.”

But he was arrested nonetheless and his public image took a brutal hit. “It was tough, knowing that what happened gives people a misconception of me,” Manning said. He added, “It took for that to happen for me to learn.”

Since April, Manning has joined the Bears’ family and created a family of his own. He keeps his relatives closer, having come to the conclusion that they are the best company because they will not lead him astray. He flew in some cousins for the game Sunday, some of whom had never traveled by airplane before. Roughly 90 minutes after the game, Manning headed toward the exit, following the wedge created by his wife, Tosha, and his cousins. In his arms, he was cradling his sleeping son.

Awwwwww, isn't that sweet? Funny, how the NYT left out NBC's report:

Early on a Sunday morning last April, at a Denny's in Westwood, near the UCLA campus, a Swedish citizen of Persian descent named Soroush Sabzi was minding his own business when, according to court documents, he found himself the target of insults. Sabzi, a student with an avid interest in computers, now 26, was called a "faggot," according to a Los Angeles County probation department report unsealed Tuesday. He was also called either a "f------ Jew" or an "ugly f------ Jew," according to the report. He was told, "You look gay," and called "geeky," the report says.

Sabzi tried to signal for help. Instead, he was slapped. A few moments later, he was on the ground and, the probation report says, citing a Los Angeles police department account, he was hit some more and fell into a bathroom at the restaurant.

Ricky Manning Jr., a Chicago Bears cornerback who played college football at UCLA, pleaded no contest Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court to a single count of felony assault in connection with his role in the incident. ...

Moreover, the probation report suggests that Manning has "reportedly aligned himself with gang values and gang ties" and has been "implicated as the shooter of a rival gang member." Those allegations are unsubstantiated; the report contains no further details or explanation. The deputy probation officer who wrote the report did not return a call seeking comment.

Manning claims he only hit the victim in the head and didn't call him anything: "My agent is Jewish, my ex-fiancee is half-Jewish and black, my two lawyers are Jewish, and so it was kind of not funny to me," Manning said. "But it was hurtful for him to say that, to make me seem like I would say some things like that which definitely wouldn't happen."

Phil Mushnick wrote in the NY Post on Oct. 1, 2006:

But imagine - and by now most of us can - the fallout if Manning and his pals, African-Americans, had been white, and their victim had been black. And imagine if the victim's claim in the police report read that, instead of being cursed as a Jew and a homosexual, he'd been called a "f - - - ing n - - - - r."

Then take it from there - the no contest felony plea, followed by a specious insistence of innocence, followed by the Bears' "disappointment with Ricky," followed by the NFL's position that "it's under review."

Imagine the outrage from the news media, the sports media, politicians and, yes, Chicago's own Rev. Jesse ("Hymietown") Jackson.

Just imagine.

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

January 16, 2007

Men with deep voices and gold chains

I've been writing a lot this month about how the big immigration trend in Los Angeles these days is whites from the ex-Soviet Union and Middle East. The LA Times today has a story on the quintuple kidnapping-murder trial of two Russian immigrant "businessmen" (whom the Times incorrectly headlines "emigres," presumably to avoid offending immigrants) that sounds like a scenario the Coen Bros. and Quentin Tarantino would come up with while on a bender:

Emigres' murder case goes to jury
Organized crime and money laundering are linked to a kidnapping scheme that left five dead, prosecutors say.
By Jill Leovy,

He was a glasnost entrepreneur trying to forge a new future out of the ruins of post-Soviet Russia. Now, the Russian immigrant to the San Fernando Valley is trying to convince a federal jury that his resourceful style of communist-busting capitalism did not turn into a kidnap-for-ransom murder scheme that ended with five bodies in a Sierra lake.

The jury is expected to begin deliberating today whether Iouri Mikhel and co-defendant Jurijus Kadamovas were responsible for the deaths of the five victims, who were strangled with flexible ties or smothered with plastic bags, their heads bound with duct tape, their bodies tossed into a remote Northern California reservoir in the dead of night. Mikhel, 42, and Kadamovas, 40, face possible death sentences for their alleged roles in what prosecutors say was a grisly conspiracy carried out partly in a posh Tudor home in a hillside neighborhood of Encino.

The alleged plot links international money launderers and local muscle-for-hire, Russian organized crime and Valley real estate barons, a phony front man named "Raul" and a temptress dubbed "Natalya from Moscow." For ill-gotten gains that included mink coats, a Mercedes-Benz and a pair of purebred Dobermans, prosecutors say, Mikhel and Kadamovas planned an elaborate set of crimes carried out against members of the Valley's close-knit Russian emigre community. After they were arrested, they allegedly hatched an equally elaborate plot to escape from the federal jail in downtown Los Angeles, going so far as to pull a hydraulic pump up to their cells on a string.

Unfortunately, the article doesn't explain how, precisely, these enterprising gents were going to use the hydraulic pump to escape from jail. It does make their first kidnapping sound like the botched crime in the Coen's "Blood Simple:"

Their first victim was Meyer Muscatel, a Valley real estate developer whom the pair targeted because of his financial success.

"Meyer Muscatel?" C'mon ... The Coens wouldn't even use that.

Using cellphones obtained under false names, they lured Muscatel to Mikhel's hillside Encino home by suggesting that they wanted to talk to him about a real estate deal. Then they stopped at Home Depot and bought what prosecutors called a "kidnapping kit": red duct tape, two kinds of gloves, plastic ties and gauzy boot covers, purchased with Mikhel's credit card.

When Muscatel walked in the front door, the kidnappers jumped on him. They kept him in a room and tried to take money out of his bank accounts. But the plan was foiled when the bank demanded an in-person visit. So they tackled Muscatel on the floor of the garage, wrapping duct tape around his head and sitting on him. Then, according to the testimony of Altmanis, Mikhel twisted a bag around his head until he suffocated.

Afterward, the plotters gathered in the kitchen to scrutinize a map of the state. They spotted a remote Northern California reservoir, the New Melones Reservoir near Sonora, north of Yosemite. A long drive, which prosecutors chronicled by means of traced cellphone calls, took them to a high narrow bridge across the remote reservoir. The body of Muscatel, whose blood was found on the bridge, was thrown in and later floated to the surface, to be discovered by a local boater.

Since that went so well, they decided to try it again:

Similar strategies were used with their next four victims: a financial consultant named Rita Pekler, whom they hoped to use to lure a wealthy client into their clutches. But it didn't work. So they killed her, prosecutors said, and made another trip to the reservoir. [More]

Finland has a 1340 mile-long border with Russia, but I bet it doesn't have to put up with these kind of folks. Why not? Because the government of Finland won't let them in.

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

X are from Email, Y are from Blog

The New York Times lists of most emailed and most blogged articles of the day always offer an amusing contrast. Today is unusual in that the same article is on the top of both lists, but otherwise the blog-email dichotomy is amusingly stark.

Emailers are forwarding articles about marriage, real estate, shopping, fitness, global warming, and pets.

51% of Women Are Now Living Without Spouse
Buyers Scarce, Many Condos Are for Rent
The Warming of Greenland
Findings: The Voices in My Head Say ‘Buy It!’ Why Argue?
Modern Love: What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage
Ink: Labradors Still No. 1, but Yorkies, Dahling, Move Into Second Place
Questions Couples Should Ask (Or Wish They Had) Before Marrying
Netflix to Deliver Movies to the PC
Blazing a Paper Trail in China
Fitness: When It’s O.K. to Run Hurt

Meanwhile, bloggers are linking to articles about hangings (two different news stories, guns, talk radio, blogging, war, politics, and business:

51% of Women Are Now Living Without Spouse
A Rifle in Every Pot
U.S. and Iraqis Are Wrangling Over War Plans
Bloggers Take on Talk Radio Hosts In This Turn at the Top,
Democrats Seek the Middle on Social Issues
Two Hussein Allies Are Hanged, Iraqi Official Says
Anywhere the Eye Can See, It's Now Likely to See an Ad
24-Hour Newspaper People
Cheney Defends Efforts to Obtain Financial Records
Second Hanging Also Went Awry, Iraq Tape Shows

So, have you guessed the underlying reason why these are so different?

To generalize, men like to broadcast their thoughts to the world, for which a blog is useful, while women like to narrowcast to individuals, for which email is a blessing.

Articles typically fall off these charts in one or two days (it is a newspaper, after all), yet the venerable #5 most emailed article, Modern Love: What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage, about how to get your husband to obey using techniques for training killer whales at Sea World (reward him with sardines when he puts the toilet seat down?), was published last June 25th and is back on the charts again.

Looking at the lists, it strikes me that women are just a lot more practical minded than men. What do hangings in Iraq have to do with the typical male blogger's real life? Not much.

Still, there is a sense in which the female-oriented media cater to the self-destructive tendency among the typical woman who would rather, if she doesn't practice self-discipline, talk about her life than have a life. but the #7 emailed article, Questions Couples Should Ask (Or Wish They Had) Before Marrying, is an oldie-but-goodie from December 17th. I suspect that any couple who sits down with this list and attempts to methodically work through it (e.g., #12. "What does my family do that annoys you?") is unlikely to ever reach the altar. But, the would-have-been bride will be left with lots and lots of material to discuss with her fellow spinster girlfriends, which seems to be the point of many articles aimed at women.

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

Charles Murray on the Lake Wobegon Fallacy

From the WSJ: First in a three part series:

Half of all children are below average in intelligence, and teachers can do only so much for them.

... Some say that the public schools are so awful that there is huge room for improvement in academic performance just by improving education. There are two problems with that position. The first is that the numbers used to indict the public schools are missing a crucial component. For example, in the 2005 round of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 36% of all fourth-graders were below the NAEP's "basic achievement" score in reading. It sounds like a terrible record. But we know from the mathematics of the normal distribution that 36% of fourth-graders also have IQs lower than 95.

What IQ is necessary to give a child a reasonable chance to meet the NAEP's basic achievement score? Remarkably, it appears that no one has tried to answer that question. We only know for sure that if the bar for basic achievement is meaningfully defined, some substantial proportion of students will be unable to meet it no matter how well they are taught. As it happens, the NAEP's definition of basic achievement is said to be on the tough side. That substantial proportion of fourth-graders who cannot reasonably be expected to meet it could well be close to 36%.

The second problem with the argument that education can be vastly improved is the false assumption that educators already know how to educate everyone and that they just need to try harder--the assumption that prompted No Child Left Behind. We have never known how to educate everyone. The widely held image of a golden age of American education when teachers brooked no nonsense and all the children learned their three Rs is a myth. If we confine the discussion to children in the lower half of the intelligence distribution (education of the gifted is another story), the overall trend of the 20th century was one of slow, hard-won improvement.

We can do a better job of schooling, but not until we start talking honestly about differences in intelligence. Our schools and legislatures are constantly coming up with policies that are based on the Lake Wobegon Assumption, and the left half of the bell curve pays the price.

For example, in California, the state wants all students to have a shot at qualifying to attend the prestigious University of California campuses. So, public high schools are compensated based on how many students they have enrolled in rigorous UC-qualifying college preparatory courses (the "A-G" courses). So, it's common for 9th graders to be dumped into Algebra I even though they are still struggling with fractions, because the high schools get more money the more students they have in college prep courses, even though they are complete waste of time. Thus, in some schools, students can't start taking the remedial math courses they desperately need until tenth grade.

It should be mandatory for all principals, school district officials, and legislators to read The Bell Curve. Of course, the opposite is closer to the truth -- it's a career-damager to read it and talk about it.

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

January 15, 2007

Idiocracy now out on DVD

I've seen it three times now and my wife has watched it four times. If Fox had promoted "Idiocracy" the way they promoted "Borat," courting controversy, they would have had a "Borat"-sized hit.

Unfortunately, when watching it at home on DVD, you miss experiencing the horrifying Charlton-Heston-and-the-Statue-of-Liberty moment when "Idiocracy" is over and you emerge from the theatre into the mall full of shiny logos and sniggering pedestrians and you realize that reality today looks just like 2505 does in the movie. (Unless your home looks like Frito's apartment, which, now that I think about it, mine kind of does.)

From the Washington Times:

Puzzling fate of a film satire
By Kelly Jane Torrance

... Steve Sailer, a film critic for the American Conservative magazine, points out that Fox didn't tell Moviefone the film's name, so it was called simply "Untitled Mike Judge Comedy" on the listings site.

"Idiocracy" finally gets a nationwide release this week with its appearance on DVD, but Fox is still making little effort to promote the film.

Fox didn't respond to a request for comment, and Mr. Judge isn't talking, either. So we may never know exactly why the film was spiked, although there are plenty of theories. ...

Of course, one target of the film's satire is a division of the studio's parent company. In Mr. Judge's vision of the future, Fox News Channel anchors are bodybuilders and strippers, although barely more sensationalistic than they are today. Perhaps News Corp. head Rupert Murdoch doesn't have a sense of humor -- or maybe his executives fear he doesn't.

Mr. Sailer is one who thinks it's more about content than conflict. " 'Idiocracy's' extraordinary political incorrectness seems the most likely explanation," he says.

"Judge's obsessions have been consistent throughout 'B & B,' 'King of the Hill,' 'Office Space' and 'Idiocracy': IQ, class, masculinity and their complex interplay in America," says Mr. Sailer, who often writes about such issues. "Judge's admirable Hank Hill shows that you don't have to have a high IQ to be a good man and valuable citizen, as Luke Wilson's slack-off, 100-IQ Pvt. Joe Bauers learns by the end of 'Idiocracy.' But you need some traditional values, which Beavis and Butt-Head, whose single mothers let them be raised by MTV, never absorbed."

Such deep themes may make "Idiocracy" a tougher sell than the white-collar workplace satire "Office Space," whose subject was so much more universal. "This is more of a 'Sleeper'-esque Woody Allen smart-dumb comedy," Mr. Knowles [of Ain't It Cool News] says.

He believes that Mr. Judge's "edgy" creativity needs a "patron." "When Kevin Smith had crazy studio trouble with 'Mallrats,' he ended up taking up a shingle with [then-Miramax chief Harvey] Weinstein and has been happily making movies ever since," he says.

"He's one of the funniest men alive. He definitely understands how to make an audience laugh," Mr. Knowles says. "I'm not really worried about Mike Judge."

Mr. Sailer calls the director "one of the more interesting, insightful, and misunderstood figures in all of American popular culture."

But as Esquire's Brian Raftery asked, before Fox even spiked the film, "If the guy who made 'Office Space' has to kowtow to his ... boss, what hope is there for the rest of us?" [More]

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

Joseph Wambaugh's "Hollywood Station"

My new VDARE.com column:

Wambaugh’s Sharp Eye For PC, Immigration Trends
By Steve Sailer

One of the richest veins of American popular culture has been the Los Angeles crime novel. Perhaps its leading exponent since Raymond Chandler is a former Los Angeles Police Department detective sergeant named Joseph Wambaugh. In the early 1970s, Wambaugh began writing bestselling cop novels such as The New Centurions and The Choirboys and true crime tales such as The Onion Field. The 2Blowhards blog explains Wambaugh's cultural importance as:

"In writing-history terms, he took the Ed McBain-style police procedural and filled it to bursting with irreverence, heart and despair." ...

Accordingly, it's a noteworthy event when—at the suggestion of James Ellroy (LA Confidential), one of the many novelists influenced by him—Wambaugh returns to his classic LAPD stomping grounds for the first time in 23 years. In Hollywood Station, the old master has collected a new trove of war stories from 54 cops, making this 340-page novel about the mid-watch shift at the Hollywood police station in June 2006 a terrific read.

LA is the world's most absurd large city, and Hollywood is its funniest neighborhood. After each shift, the cops swap stories to determine who was called out on the evening's most memorable BHI (Bizarre Hollywood Incident). Example: being summoned to the famous courtyard of Grauman's Chinese Theatre, where street people garbed in movie legend costumes pose for tourists' cameras, by an ersatz Marilyn Monroe (6'-3" and with a five-o'clock shadow), who witnessed, in a dispute over tourist-hustling turf, Batman cold-cocking Spiderman. While they're at it, the cops also haul in on cocaine charges Tickle Me Elmo.

Wambaugh's cop-heroes aren't saints. When bored one night, two aging surfer dude officers drive down to an apartment building full of Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang members to play "pit bull polo." The Salvadoran gang-bangers let their vicious dogs run wild, terrorizing all the children in the neighborhood. So the partners cruise slowly around the building a few times until the beasts are in a frenzy. Then they play a few chukkers of pit bull polo, leaning out the police car windows and swinging their batons like mallets.

Hollywood Station is mellower, less despairing than Wambaugh’s early masterpieces. As he reflects: "Doing good police work is the most fun these cops will ever have in their entire lives." And he's finally learned to appreciate the female half of the human race.

Still, Hollywood Station has a serious, even angry side. [More]

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

January 14, 2007

Reflections on MLK Day

From my VDARE article a couple of years ago:

Martin Luther King Day is the least popular federal holiday—only 29 percent of employers give their workers the day off. Not many non-blacks care.

This upsets many African-Americans. Black comedian Chris Rock says, "You gotta be pretty racist to not want a day off from work."

The dead of winter, however, after Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year, is the stupidest possible time to offer another holiday. To fix this, we should move Martin Luther King Day to the Friday before Labor Day to commemorate his "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963 … and, to give Americans a summer-ending four-day weekend. (It's not as if a lot of business gets done on that day anyway.)

Then even the Grand Kleagle would be demanding Martin Luther King Day off from his foreman down at the hog-rendering plant.

And who was the genius who chose February for Black History Month? First you have the MLK Day frenzy in mid-January, and then two weeks later, boom, it starts all over again. I bet that, by February 2nd, even Al Sharpton is sick of Black History Month.

I can picture the Rev. Al easing into his Barcalounger and flipping on his plasma screen:

"Let's see if there's anything good on television … Oh boy, another Harriet Tubman documentary [CLICK] … Uh oh, a panel discussion on W.E.B. Dubois [CLICK] … Hey, it's that groundhog, Pungobungy Pete, or whatever they call him … and he can see his shadow! Now, that's great TV!"

The raw cultural muscle of liberalism is awesome to behold. Getting rid of Jim Crow was about the last good thing liberals accomplished … and they will never ever let us forget it, no matter how badly they must bore us with their smug reminiscences.

Despite the ho-hum attitude of most American grown-ups toward Martin Luther King Day, children are furiously indoctrinated into the cult in the schools. MLK Day is a bigger deal than [furtive look, whisper] "Christmas." For example, my son was just ordered to write a letter to Martin Luther King. This elementary schooler had to describe to the late Rev. two things he [the kid] had done that he was especially proud of. Merging Martin Luther King worship with self-esteem boosting—a classic California-style educational timewaster.

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

Nicholas Stix's definitive account of the Duke Rape Hoax

Over on VDARE.com, Stix has a 10,500 word article on who real crime victims are in this imploding frame-up.

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