May 19, 2007

Deciding the fate of America in a Red Bull-filled room

I don't normally preview here excerpts from my columns the way I preview my American Conservative movie reviews and articles because the webzine's turnaround time is shorter than the paper magazine's. However, the time pressure on the American public is so extreme that I'm going to preview a fraction of my upcoming column here. Check in at to see the rest of it.

Under the leadership of Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), various Senators and Bush Administration officials pulled an all-nighter on Wednesday. By noon Thursday, the bleary-eyed politicos had concocted an illegal immigrant amnesty (a.k.a., "comprehensive immigration reform") bill behind closed doors.

I presume politicians don't have Smoke-Filled Rooms anymore, so you could call this the Red Bull-Filled Room approach to deciding the fate of America.

No committee hearings are to be held on what may well be the most important legislation of the decade. Senator Chuck Grassley [R-IA] pointed out, "It's disappointing and even ironic how the deal announced today skirts the democratic processes of Congress. It was cut by a group of senators operating outside the committees of jurisdiction and without public hearings on key components."

As of early Saturday morning, May 19, the public has not been shown the text of the bill. The ultimately failed amnesty legislation the Senate passed last year was 118,277 words long, and this may well be more complicated. A photo of the first draft shows it to be almost twice as thick as a Bible.

So, reading the new bill carefully will likely take at least 10 uninterrupted hours (and quite possibly twice that), a span of time that few Senators have readily available. To truly understand how the legislation would work and what its long term implications are would take weeks of questioning and debate.

Nonetheless, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) wants to have the entire bill passed by Memorial Day, a week from now.

Even more appallingly, Reid wants to hold the crucial "cloture" vote to shut off the possibility of a filibuster, the best chance to derail it, on Monday, May 21!

It is utterly impossible for the United States Senate to exercise the due diligence commensurate with the importance of major immigration legislation without extensive hearings.

From a good government standpoint, what we are witnessing is perhaps the most irresponsible and shameless attempt to hustle a pig in a poke past the public in recent memory. Of course, that's the whole point of the exercise -- to not let us simple citizens in on the process of deciding who our fellow citizens will be.

It's only a modest exaggeration to call this an attempted coup against the American people. [More]

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

May 18, 2007

White Americans only 6% of the NBA:

Slate has been running an email dialogue this week about the NBA playoffs between Paul Shirley, a 6'-10" 230 pound white guy who played bits of three seasons in the NBA and is now in the Spanish league, and Neal Pollack, who is, as far as I can tell, a writer who has watched NBA games on television.

Shirley writes:

The only guy [on the San Antonio Spurs] I find remotely interesting is Brent Barry. And while most of my affection for him is derived from his go-to-hell attitude and his unique skill set, I fear that some of it comes from his status as a white American in the NBA.

My previous sentence implied guilt. But should I feel guilty for rooting for a white American in the NBA, just because he's a white American in the NBA? Upon further review, I don't think I should. I think it's natural. A recent study reported that the NBA is 75 percent black and 19 percent foreign. They left out the remaining percentage. Six percent of the NBA is white Americans. We're like endangered gorillas, left to scratch our simple, blocky heads while our jungle is slashed and burned to make room for logging trails. It's hard not to feel sympathy for the gorillas. Especially if you're one of them.

I retract my statement of apprehension. It's okay for me to root for Brent Barry.

In an email entitled "Should We Care About How Many White Players Are in the NBA?", Pollack replies:

But what's with the obsession with white American players in the NBA? I realize that you are one, or have been one, and maybe I'm still hanging on to antiquated early–'90s notions of "cultural diversity," but I have to wonder why it matters. It strikes me that the one thing most NBA players have in common, other than incredible basketball skills, is that they're all rich, or at least relatively rich. I know that some of these guys came from tough backgrounds and that you stepped fully formed out of a Waltons reunion. But it's been my experience in life that class identification trumps racial or ethnic identification. Yes, if there were a 3-point-shooting Jew in the NBA, I'd probably pull for him a little harder. But a regular white guy? There are enough successful white guys in the world. They don't need our help.

Obviously, there are so many unsuccessful Jewish guys in the world that the tiny percentage of successful Jews needs to pull for them so the vast majority of downtrodden Jews stand some slight chance of making it in this world rigged against them. It's only simple moral logic. Anybody who can't follow this reasoning is either an idiot or an anti-Semite. It’s not ethnocentrism, it’s purely objective altruism toward the lower classes. Everybody knows that most Jews are working class folks living in walk-up tenements in the Lower East Side, while the goyim are typically polo playing snobs who dress like the man on the Monopoly box with a top hat and a monocle. Didn't you learn anything from your grandmother?

Unintimidated, Shirley fires back:

I just finished playing basketball for a team in the Spanish first division. Our games were a big deal—the first division in Spain is easily the second-best basketball league in the world. Despite the popularity of my team and of the league, coverage of Spanish-league games was often preceded by the latest news from the Memphis Grizzlies and the Toronto Raptors. The former employs Pau Gasol, while the latter pays both Jorge Garbajosa and Jose Calderon. People in Spain want to know how their countrymen are doing in a faraway land. A normal reaction, I think.

Similarly, when the average white American male tunes into TNT sometime between October and June, he would very much like to see another average white American male on the basketball court. Most of the time, he doesn't. But in the few situations that he does, he is going to root for that player. That's the way it is. We like to see people who look like us succeed.

It would be nice if we could all cop to this phenomenon. Most people won't admit that they do the same because they're afraid they will be vilified for their apparent ignorance. But such a reaction is not necessarily harmful; by cheering for the success of his comrade in pastiness, the viewer is not wishing that black players fail. He is doing the same thing as the Spaniard who cheers for Pau Gasol.

Of course, one rebuttal would be: Come on Paul, we're all American. Are black American culture and white American culture really that different? The answer would be: Yes, they are. And if you think they're not, you haven't been paying attention. Again, the differences are not a bad thing; in fact, they're probably a good thing. And the more we discuss them, the more understanding everyone will have.

As for me … again: 6 percent. My attempt to succeed in the world of basketball could be compared to the efforts of a 1970s-era black man in the world of bond-trading. White people are not supposed to be good at basketball. I've been reminded of that assumption hundreds of times in my career. The attitude most often displayed by black basketball players I've faced was very similar to the one you espoused at the end of your last turn, Neal: Your people have everything else. Just let us have this.

From age 12 on, my one goal was to be a really good basketball player. I didn't care about much else. Of course, I did other things—stupendously hokey things. You're right: It was a Walton-esque existence. I was in 4-H, I was a Boy Scout, I finished fifth in the Kansas State Spelling Bee. I even got a National Merit Scholarship. I'm probably the whitest person with whom you'll ever publicly exchange e-mails.

But none of those activities/pastimes/sexual obstacles ever brought me as much happiness as basketball did. As I got better, I found myself to be a minority on the court more and more often. And as the members of my race were whittled away, I quickly realized that I wasn't particularly welcome. When I was on defense, the other team would give the ball to whomever I was guarding and yell, "Take it to him. He can't guard you." They did that not because I am from a middle-class home, or because I grew up on a quasi-farm, but because I am white.

So, forgive me if I feel that I have a special kinship with the Brent Barrys of the world.

The remarkable decline of white Americans in the NBA is much less discussed/lamented in the media than the decline of black Americans in Major League Baseball (down from a high of 26% in 1974 to 8% today).

Non-American whites are doing better than ever in the NBA, with the last three MVP awards going to white foreigners (Canadian Steve Nash twice, and German Dirk Nowitzki this year). Apparently, whites do better in the NBA when they don't play against blacks growing up.

This decline in white Americans in the NBA is especially strange because it's not clear what else all those extremely tall white guys are doing. I would guess that white American fathers are giving up on basketball with its hip-hop culture and anti-white biases and are grooming their tall, athletic sons instead for:

- Playing quarterback. More than ever before, quarterbacks are the top of the sports heap. Today, "The Man" in American sports is either Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, and only Tiger Woods comes close.

-Baseball pitcher. Pitchers have been getting taller, with 6'-10" future Hall of Farmer Randy Johnson being the classic case of a white guy who would have been funneled into basketball in the 1960s simply due to his size. (There's some evidence that big league teams underrate short pitchers, but that just shows there's a prejudice today in favor of tall galoots.)

- Soccer goalie. Americans do better at goalie in European leagues than at other positions probably because our tall kids get more practice at other sports emphasizing eye-hand coordination than do foreigners who work on their eye-foot coordination in soccer year round.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

In the Senate, the fix is in on immigration

Our permanent ruling class of Democratic and Republican grandees, such as President Bush, Senator Kennedy, and Senator McCain, have worked out a "comprehensive immigration reform" scheme to get the issue off the table long before the next election so the voters won't have to worry their pretty heads about it.

For some reason, I'm reminded by this display of bipartisan solidarity of Guy Crouchback's response to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in the opening pages of Evelyn Waugh's WWII trilogy Sword of Honor:

"But now, splendidly, everything had become clear. The enemy at last was plain in view, huge and hateful, all disguise cast off. It was the Modern Age in arms. Whatever the outcome there was a place for him in that battle."

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Punditry as male "If I ran the world" fantasy

Writing public affairs commentary is rather like running one of those fantasy sports franchises where you "draft" NFL players and then score points versus the other obsessives in your league based on how well your boys do on Sunday, while the women in your life (if any) roll their eyes. In other words, punditry is basically just something that guys do, like pretending they own a football team. It's pretending you run the world.

Granted, this is pretty pathetic. On the other hand, the people who actually do run the world are far less competent at their jobs than the people who run NFL teams, so there is some justification for commentary. On the other other hand, is there any evidence that the people who run the world learn from good commentary?

On the other other other hand, unlike in a fantasy football league, nobody keeps score in punditry to see if you are as smart as you say you are.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Wolfowitz of Arabia

Paul Wolfowitz, one of the architects of the Iraq Attaq, is now reported to be resigning his consolation prize job, with its tax-free salary, as President of the World Bank due to a corruption scandal involving his girlfriend, Shaha Riza.

Something of more historical interest is what influence his Arab liberal girlfriend had on Wolfowitz's misbegotten thinking about the Middle East. Unlike the old #3 man at the Pentagon, Doug Feith, who comes from the Israel Uber Alles school of neoconism, Wolfowitz, the former #2 man, is from the Kumbaya wing of spreading Democracy, Human Rights, and Women's Rights ... by killing people.

Perhaps Wolfie's motivation was, "Personal: I liked a particular Arab, and I thought that freedom for the race would be an acceptable present," as Lawrence of Arabia once explained when asked why he led the Arabs of the desert into Damascus, liberating the race from the Ottoman Empire. Lawrence wrote a prefatory poem to his superb memoir The Seven Pillars of Wisdom:

I loved you, so I drew these tides of men into my hands
and wrote my will across the sky in stars
To earn you Freedom, the seven-pillared worthy house,
that your eyes might be shining for me
When we came...

So, in case you were wondering what this crazy Iraq war was all about, maybe you could say, "It was all for love."

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Department of Redundancy Dept.

A traditional oddity of living in the San Fernando Valley is that while it's almost all part of the city of Los Angeles, one's mailing address does not include the words "Los Angeles." Unlike in Chicago, where every single resident's city address is "Chicago" and the famous neighborhoods like Lincoln Park, Bridgeport, and Uptown are merely unofficial monikers, in the Valley part of LA, your official address includes your local unofficial neighborhood name, such as Sherman Oaks, Encino, or Tarzana (yes, Tarzana is named after Tarzan -- author Edgar Rice Burroughs used to live there).

This gives local homeowners' associations an incentive to split off nominally from the big, heavily Latino and thus unfashionable neighborhoods such as North Hollywood, Van Nuys, and Canoga Park. Home prices go up when the nicer parts break off and give themselves less tacky-sounding vibrant names like Lake Balboa and Valley Village. New names have no official legal significance -- everybody is still under the thumb of the city of Los Angeles -- so real estate interests have a fairly free hand.

Not every new name is felicitously chosen. For example, in the dead flat middle of the 345 dead flat square miles of the San Fernando Valley, near Valley Community College, is the newish "community" of Valley Glen, whose homeowner's associated started calling itself that in 1998. "Glen" is a Scottish word meaning "narrow secluded valley in the mountains" (which Valley Glen definitely is not). In other words, "Valley Glen" means "Valley Valley."

That reminds me of the impassioned speech by Wesley Snipes's wife in Ron Shelton's "White Men Can't Jump," where she begs him to stop wasting his time on the basketball court so they can afford to move out of the Vista View Apartments: "All I care about is getting out of the Vista View apartments, because there ain't no 'vista', there ain't no "view", and there certainly ain't no vista of no view."

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

May 17, 2007

What College Presidents Actually Do

What College Presidents Do: Most modern colleges are such diffuse, multiform institutions that it's very hard for anybody to get an accurate picture of the strengths and weaknesses of any institution overall. The German department could be great while the French department stinks or vice-versa. Heck, two German majors could disagree on the German deparment. So, assessing a college tends to be a four-blind-men-examining-an-elephant situation.

Perhaps the single most important and objective factor in determining the quality of the college is the size of the endowment, since that can pay for fancy professors, buildings, students, and athletes. And, yet, why should somebody donate to a college? It's not a question with a completely (or even partially) obvious answer.

Milton Friedman said universities had three purposes: teaching, research, and monument-building. As far as I can tell, the colleges and snootier high schools of America are currently indulging in an orgy of monument-building, with magnificent new buildings going up everywhere.

Thus, the most important job of a college president can be to act like they are the president of an incredibly wonderful college and that anybody in their right mind would pay for the honor of giving money to the school.

For example, here's one of the more informative articles I've read about the monetary side of running a college, "Academic Entrepreneurship at Dickinson College." Dickinson, in southeast Pennsylvania, was founded in 1783 by Benjamin Rush, the leading doctor and social reformer of the era. It's a good liberal arts college, but the northeast is full of good liberal arts colleges. By the 1990s awareness of its unexceptionalness seemed to be dragging it down. Its finances and applications were lagging.

Then, in 1999 the college appointed alumnus William Durden president, and he immediately set about telling everybody that Dickinson was great, and then asking them for money, which the more genteel previous administrations had been reluctant to do. Guess what? It worked:

Between the 2002 and 2005 fiscal years, donations to the college's endowment soared from $3.8-million to $30.8-million. The increase resulted from focused and aggressive fund raising.

Before 2000 the development office spent little time cultivating potential donors. Mr. Durden, who as an alumnus was never approached for a gift, says that fund raising used to focus disproportionately on graduates living inside the Washington Beltway. "That's not where the money is," he says. "You have to have a presence in New York, Los Angeles, and London." Dickinson has alumni — some of them quite affluent — in all these cities.

"For years we were somehow hesitant to ask for money," Ms. Parker says. In 2000 the development staff visited only about 30 potential donors. Last year that number soared to almost 1,000. The office has since increased staffing from 24 to 37 employees, and its budget has nearly doubled, to $2.4-million. Since 2000 the college has obtained 21 gift commitments of over $1-million. Between 1970 and 2000, it had only six such commitments.

Dickinson has managed to turn itself into a hot college mostly by insisting it is a hot college. And good for them.

This makes you wonder what in the world Harvard thought they were doing in appointing Larry Summers president, whom nobody ever called a super salesman. Maybe they figured that Harvard is so, so rich ($29 billion endowment) that they could pick a president just because he was really smart.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Educational Edifices

By the way, perhaps I'm just being naive, but most of the vast amount of new construction on college and prep school campuses going up these days looks pretty good stylistically to my eyes, in contrast to the 1950-1980 Modernist eyesores nearby.

Awhile ago I visited the Claremont Colleges, which consists of a few lovely Spanish Mission buildings from before the War, when everything went to hell architecturally, a whole bunch of bland-to-bad postwar buildings, and a few extravagant new buildings. There was one incredibly awful building, a brutalist concrete nightmare from the 1970s that looked like they dug up Hitler's Bunker and reassembled it above ground in the San Gabriel Valley. Not surprisingly, it housed the Art Department. If Claremont had an Architecture Department, it would probably be located in something equally calamitous, maybe a building inspired by the basement of the Lubyanka secret police headquarters in Moscow.

Anyway, most of the brand new campus buildings I've seen in the last couple of years look rather impressive, although maybe in 30 years they'll look just as bad as the postwar stuff. But I don't think so, since they are typically designed to fit in stylistically with the pre-Depression buildings on campus. While the postwar buildings were intended to be both a sharp stick in the eye stylistically, and cheap to build, the dominant aesthetic theme of the new edifices appears to be: Just like the old buildings on campus that you love, only much, much more expensive.

Perhaps the evident costliness of the construction makes them even more appealing?

In Tom Wolfe's novel I Am Charlotte Simmons, the old aesthete drops in a bombshell of a paragraph cynically summing up what he's learned from his lifetime's obsessions with architecture and status about why we love beautiful buildings. Poor Adam Gellin, the much put-upon undergrad intellectual, has fled from the gay rights rally he was intimidated into attending into the gothic majesty of the Dupont U. library (Dupont is more or less Duke U., which has perhaps the most extravagant architecture of any American college):

"He stood in the lobby, just stood there, looking up at the ceiling and taking in its wonders one by one, as if he had never laid eyes on them before, the vaulted ceiling, all the ribs, the covert way spotlights, floodlights, and wall washers had been added ... It was so calming ... but why? ... He thought of every possible reason except for the real one, which was that the existence of conspicuous consumption one has rightful access to -- as a student had rightful access to the fabulous Dupont Memorial Library -- creates a sense of well-being."

This might be a little too reductionist even for my taste. First, it seems to take as a given that elegant conspicuous consumption is even more conspicuous than crass conspicuous consumption, but you need a cultivated a sensibility for that to be true. I suspect that It's also hard to say how crucial the "rightful access" clause is since I generally haven't broken and entered into too many architectural landmarks. Switching from architecture to golf architecture, I snuck onto the exquisite 15th hole at Cypress Point, and I recall, 30 years later, feeling pretty good, but I suspect I would have been ecstatic if I'd been there rightfully, playing the course rather than just skulking about, so perhaps Wolfe is onto something in pointing out the multiplicative force of aesthetics combined with status.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

May 16, 2007

College for Everybody, Tools of the Trade for Nobody

Philanthropist Jim Woodhill likes to point out that the taxpayers will subsidize 18 to 22 year olds to the tune of many tens of thousands of dollars to, say, go to Virginia Tech and study how to write poetry under Nikki Giovanni, even though the likelihood that will generate economic growth or even come close to paying back the taxpayers' investment is nil. But, if a young person who doesn't think he's college material needs tools or a pickup truck to pursue a trade, well, lots of luck, kid.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Senate Sell-Out Rolling Down the Tracks:

From the Washington Post:

Latino Groups Play Key Role on Hill
Virtual Veto Power in Immigration Debate

By Krissah Williams and Jonathan Weisman

When Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) declared last week that unnamed "stakeholders" would decide whether Congress overhauls immigration law this year, Latino organizations in Washington understood exactly what he meant.

After laboring in obscurity for decades, groups such as the National Council of La Raza, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the National Immigration Forum are virtually being granted veto power over perhaps the biggest domestic issue coming before Congress this year. Organizations that represent what is now the nation's largest minority group are beginning to achieve power commensurate with their numbers.

And, of course, "The Race" and the rest want to increase the numbers of Latinos inside the borders that they putatively represent, since the vast Census figures for Latinos represent these lobbies main source of power. What's actually in the best interests of current Latino citizens is of far less interest to them since these organizations are less beholden to their supposed constituents than they are to outside organizations like the Ford Foundation. In reality, Latinos are ambivalent about illegal immigration, politically apathetic, and not very organized. But their vast numbers allow their self-appointed leaders to claim to be important.

Because these leaders are treated as important people in Washington in proportion to the number of warm bodies with Spanish surnames found in the U.S., they are always looking to import more. So, the news that The Race et al "are virtually being granted veto power" over the Senate bill strongly implies that the legislation coming out of the Senate will be a fraud, that it will be designed not to enforce the borders but to bring in more future constituents for The Race.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Menachem Begin and Me

Here's a 2006 story from The Guardian that didn't get much play in the American media:

Menachem Begin 'plotted to kill German chancellor'
· Bomb aimed at Adenauer killed disposal expert
· Clash over reparations for Holocaust behind attack

Luke Harding in Berlin, Thursday June 15, 2006, The Guardian

Israel's former prime minister Menachem Begin was involved in a plot to blow up West Germany's first post-war chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, Germany's leading newspaper claimed yesterday.

The respected Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung claimed that the Zionist leader approved and helped organise the assassination attempt using a bomb hidden in an encyclopaedia, even offering to sell his gold watch as the conspirators ran out of money.

The bomb, arranged in March 1952, was detected before it reached Adenauer, but exploded killing a disposal expert and injuring two of his colleagues. French detectives arrested five Israeli people in Paris, all of whom were members of the Zionist group Irgun Tsvai Leumi, which Begin was linked to.

One of the alleged conspirators, Elieser Sudit, now 82, implicated Begin in a memoir written 40 years after the bomb went off. Begin, who was to become Israel's prime minister between 1977 and 1983, was, after the war, incensed by Adenauer's offer to pay Israel compensation for the Holocaust. He clashed bitterly with Israel's Labour leader David Ben-Gurion, rejecting his talks with Germany for compensation for the Nazis' crimes against the Jews. ...

But Mr Sudit told Haaretz this week: "The intent was not to hit Adenauer but to rouse the international media. It was clear to all of us there was no chance the package would reach Adenauer." [More]

Well, I certainly don't know the full story of Menachem Begin and Konrad Adenauer, but this does remind me of the time the police suspected me of intending to blow up Margaret Thatcher with a letter bomb.

In 1999, I was invited to speak at a small conference in Maryland where Mrs. Thatcher was to be the guest of honor. At the last moment, I decided I needed some new business cards to hand out to all the important folks there. There wasn't much time, so I told the printer to FedEx my box of 1000 new business cards directly to the hotel.

The day before I left, I got a phone call from the chief of police in the Maryland town, who told me that a small but suspiciously dense package addressed to me had been delivered to the hotel where Mrs. Thatcher was to arrive the next day. "Before we have the bomb disposal robot throw it in Chesapeake Bay, I figured I'd give you a call and see what you have to say for yourself," he said.

I finally figured out what the chief was talking about, and fulsomely reassured him that I wasn't an IRA terrorist. Eventually, some brave soul opened my package and confirmed that it was indeed full of business cards, so it wasn't dunked in the Bay.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

John Edwards' "College for Everyone" Plan and "Chalk"

The Democratic Presidential candidate wants the taxpayers to shell out for his plan that "would pay for one year of public-college tuition, fees, and books for any student who is willing to work hard and stay out of trouble."

In Los Angeles County, harbinger of America's demographic future, only about 1 student out of 6, public or private, scores at least 1000 on the SAT (500 per test segment), and that's under the easier post-1995 scoring system (1000 now is the equivalent of an old school 890). In the LAUSD, only 1 of 12 scores 1000.

The farther below 1000 you score, the more likely is it that you have something better to do with your life than dither around in college for a few years before giving up. But no politician ever talks about the opportunity cost of subsidizing students who aren't college material to waste their time in colleges.

Meanwhile, the little indie film "Chalk," a sympathetic mockumentary about high school teachers made by two Austin teachers, takes a less messianic view of education. Here are excerpts from my upcoming American Conservative review:

Hollywood screenwriters routinely regale us with uplifting tales, such as last winter's Hilary Swank drama "Freedom Writers," of teachers who rebel against what President Bush denounced as "the soft bigotry of low expectations" and inspire their impoverished students to prodigious accomplishments. In this gentle but unromanticized movie, however, the teachers view the students as similar to the constantly malfunctioning office photocopier: just another frustration of the job...

As good as "Chalk" is,
American public schooling still awaits its own well-deserved Catch-22. Consider the madness of the federal No Child Left Behind act that mandates "that all children should reach a proficient level of academic achievement by 2014," a goal that can be reached only by palpable fraud. In 2002, 67 percent of all students scored below proficiency on the federal government's NAEP exam. After three years of NCLB, the 2005 test found that 69 percent were too low.

Education's overwhelming reality is that, unlike in Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon where all the children are above average, in America half the students are below average in intelligence. Yet, because equality of outcome, not doing the best we can with what we have, is the goal, public education is dominated by fantasy and frenzied faddishness -- This new vogue must be the magic bullet that will turn us into Lake Wobegon H.S.! -- alternating manic-depressively -- Eh, what's the use of even trying? -- with the lassitude of despair.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

May 15, 2007

Obama on Affirmative Action: Don't End It, Don't Mend It, Extend It!

Obama on Affirmative Action: Don't End It, Don't Mend It, Extend It! Mickey Kaus gets all excited over Sen. Barack Obama's Sunday talk show statement that he sort of kind of favors class-based preferences. Mickey writes:

Even Barack Obama, under pressure from George Stephanopoulos, seemed to be abandoning the affirmative action idea and shifting toward embracing a class-based preference system, notes Roger Clegg. ... This is more than a potential 'Sister Souljah moment' for Obama. Obama would not be showing that he can reject the more extreme, wacky positions of his party's component interest groups. He'd be showing he's rejecting what has been a central and widely accepted demand of an interest group with which he is inevitably identified. He's not quite there yet--and maybe he'll have to backtrack after his ABC This Week comments--but he's at least on the verge of giving voters not merely a reason to not oppose him, but a big reason to support him--the prospect that President Obama will end race preferences and the long, divisive debate they generate.

Mickey's enthusiasm is a classic example of Obama's knack for I-Have-Understood-Youisms, where people assume that because Obama seems to understand their views, he must share them. But as the French settlers in Algeria discovered when De Gaulle, shortly after famously telling them "I have understood you," gave their country to their mortal enemies, understanding is not always the same as favoring.

Anyway, the transcript is remarkably lacking in evidence "that President Obama will end race preferences." It just shows a politician slip-sliding around an interviewer. If anything, Obama seems to want to add class-based quotas on top of race-based ones. Hey, Obama didn't go into politics to leave people alone. The more government meddling the merrier!

Stephanopoulos: You've been a strong supporter of affirmative action.

Obama: Yes.

Stephanopoulos: And you're a constitutional law professor so let's go back in the classroom.....I'm your student. I say Professor, you and your wife went to Harvard Law School. Got plenty of money, you're running for president. Why should your daughters when they go to college get affirmative action?

Obama: Well, first of all, I think that my daughters should probably be treated by any admissions officer as folks who are pretty advantaged, and I think that there's nothing wrong with us taking that into account as we consider admissions policies at universities. I think that we should take into account white kids who have been disadvantaged and have grown up in poverty and shown themselves to have what it takes to succeed. So I don't think those concepts are mutually exclusive. I think what we can say is that in our society race and class still intersect, that there are a lot of African American kids who are still struggling, that even those who are in the middle class may be first generation as opposed to fifth or sixth generation college attendees, and that we all have an interest in bringing as many people together to help build this country.

Sandra Day O'Connor wrote that in 25 years affirmative action may no longer be necessary. Is she right?

Obama: I would like to think that if we make good decisions and we invest in early childhood education, improved K through 12, if we have done what needs to be done to ensure that kids who are qualified to go to college can afford it, that affirmative action becomes a diminishing tool for us to achieve racial equality in this society.

I would like to think that too. I don't actually think that, but I would like to think that.

That Obama is making vague noises in favor of class-based affirmative action is hardly new news -- the rhetoric is also in Obama's bestseller The Audacity of Hope.

Nor is the idea of class-based affirmative action new. There was a book about it a dozen years ago that made waves in the centrist wonk world. The idea was tangentially part of Clinton's disingenuous policy of delay and distraction on affirmative action: "Mend It, Don't End It." The reality is that quotas are a very simple policy, a hard to screw up policy that isn't really mendable. It's either a good idea or a bad idea. But the existence of vague alternatives in the air like class-based affirmative action helped Clinton give the impression that everything bad about affirmative action was going to be reformed away Real Soon Now, leaving just the good parts. In reality, almost nothing was done at the federal level (other than Gingrich's Congress abolished tax breaks for television stations bought by minorities), which is exactly what Clinton intended all along.

Nothing ever happens with the idea of class-based affirmative action because it is fatally flawed.

Switching to class-based affirmative action would either:

- Massively redistribute the current number of affirmative action slots from blacks and Hispanics to whites and Asians; or

- Require such huge increases in the extent of preferences (at least a doubling) to avoid hurting blacks and Hispanics that the economy would be badly damaged by the big increase in the number of incompetents getting admitted, hired, and promoted.

The latter would appear to be Obama's theoretical preference, but it's all just a rhetorical game. There is absolutely no chance that the upper half of the white population will give up significant money and power for the benefit of less competent individuals from the lower half of the white population.

Anyway, let me remind everybody that the debate over affirmative action is highly unrealistic because the model everybody has in their heads is university admissions, but that's just a minor element. In the more-important employment sphere, as I wrote in in "The Unmentionable Root of the Quota Problem," the reality is, unfortunately, that racial quotas are the inevitable by-products of our anti-discrimination laws. When Barry Goldwater explained how the 1964 Civil Rights Act would lead to quotas, Hubert Humphrey famously promised to eat a printed copy of the law if it ever happened. But merely a half-decade later, quotas were commonplace.

Quotas are now treated by conservative ideologists as the arch-betrayal of the “colorblind” 1964 Act—forgetting Goldwater's prophetic logic. But the truth is that, regardless of the letter of the law, aggressively-enforced anti-discrimination laws automatically lead to quotas. These laws place the burden of proof on the employer to justify any deviation from equal outcomes in hiring and promotions. Lawsuits can be won. But the cost can be so crushing that most firms will do what it takes to stay out of court. So they use quotas.

As long as there are strong anti-discrimination laws and enforcement agencies that prefer to err on the side of minorities, corporate America will impose quotas on itself.

So, will President Obama attack anti-discrimination laws? Well, here's a clue. When he got out of Harvard Law School at age 30, with hundreds of job offers to choose among, what job did he pick? Right ... anti-discrimination lawyer.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

May 14, 2007

Race vs. Class, One More Time

Without trying to come up with a technical, bulletproof definition of "class," let me rephrase this vague but (I hope) helpful insight by saying that while "race" is about who your ancestors were, "class" is about who your descendents are likely to marry. Does that help?

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

May 13, 2007

The Virtues of Coastal Megalopolises

My new column is up a day early. Here's an excerpt:

Are the Americans who are being driven from the Coastal Megalopolises to the Interior Boomtowns better off because their old cities are filling up with immigrants who outbid them in the housing market—typically, because the foreigners don't mind living with an entire extended family under one roof?

Many conservatives these days have tried to make a virtue out of economic necessity. They insist that, say, cheap Las Vegas with its endless expanses of new suburbs, is a better place to live than, oh, expensive Boston, with its complicated coastline, parks, campuses, and restrictions on development in the name of preserving its ancient small towns.

For some people, no doubt, Sin City is better. But when did it become a betrayal of conservative values to appreciate a city such as Boston, with its nearly four centuries of tradition? Which city would Edmund Burke have preferred?

It's a remarkable achievement of Americans that they are constantly building a civilization from the dirt up out on the exurban frontier as they flee the high cost, bad schools, congestion, and crime of their old homes.

Yet, by necessity, these are thin, poorly rooted civilizations, better endowed with power malls than symphony halls.


My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer