February 23, 2008


Normally I wait until movies I've reviewed are out of the theaters before I post my full review of them on-line, but, with the Academy Awards on Sunday night, I figure I'll put up the whole "Juno" review below for anybody interested in the Best Picture race.

And here are my reviews of the other Best Picture nominees:

No Country for Old Men
There Will Be Blood
Michael Clayton

I'm rooting for "No Country," but it's a matter of the glass being 2/3rds full (Javier Bardem's and, especially, Josh Brolin's roles) and 1/3rd empty: Tommy Lee Jones's old sheriff. I sometimes wonder if Jones, a liberal, intentionally sabotaged author Cormac McCarthy's reactionary soliloquies by mumbling them incomprehensibly. Jones's poor performance in "No Country" contrasts sharply with his excellent one in "In the Valley of Elah." But if they took out Jones's mumbling, then it would be an exciting 100 minute long updating of "The Terminator," which was a pop culture landmark, but not the kind of film they give Oscars to.

In contrast to "No Country," I came out of "There Will Be Blood" feeling the glass was half empty.

Others in contention for major awards:

Eastern Promises
- Best Actor
La Vie en Rose - Best Actress
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly- Best Director, etc.
In the Valley of Elah - Best Actor
Gone Baby Gone - Best Supporting Actress
The Assassination of Jesse James -- Best Supporting Actor
Sicko - Best Documentary
Once - Best Song

Here's my "Juno" review from The American Conservative:

Last fall, I received a half-dozen invitations to screenings of a "quirky" comedy about a "whip-smart" pregnant teen hipsterette who plans to give her baby up for adoption by an affluent couple. With my finger planted firmly nowhere near the pulse of popular opinion, I tossed each one out, thinking: "To listen to teens with attitude, for this I need to leave the house?"

So, in the wake of "Juno's" Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Director (Jason Reitman of "Thank You for Smoking"), Actress (petite 20-year-old Ellen Page), and Original Screenwriter ("Diablo Cody," which is the pole name of 29-year-old self-promoter Brook Busey, whose confessional blog became popular when she started working as a stripper), I ended up paying to see it.

Juno, a cute tomboy who dresses in flannel shirts like Nirvana's Kurt Cobain and has a snarky pop culture reference ready for every situation, turned out to be just as insufferable as I had expected. If she's so whip-smart, why'd she get so pregnant after one evening with a bright but baffled cross-country runner (the subversively blond and bland Michael Cera from "Superbad") with whom she says she's just friends?

Fortunately, my wife, who admired "Juno" greatly, patiently explained to me the film's considerable subtleties until even my clueless male brain could begin to grasp them.

First, though, let's dispose of the controversy over the purported politics of "Juno." Is Juno betraying feminism by choosing adoption over abortion? Sure. Yet, there's no mystery why Hollywood heroines (as in the recent "Knocked Up" and "Waitress") almost never have abortions: because babies are adorable and abortions are hideous. Nobody -- including, and perhaps especially, pro-choice ideologues -- wants to think visually about abortion.

What is interesting is how Cody's semi-autobiographical screenplay undermines teen movie status clichés about attractive but moronic jocks and cheerleaders lording it over the brilliant, funny, but socially oppressed rebel outcasts (who presumably get their eventual revenge by moving downtown and writing screenplays about high school).

This conventional dichotomy between the successful versus the cool is embodied in the infertile couple whom Juno finds to adopt her baby. Jennifer Garner (Alias) plays the yuppie wife who maintains a spotless McMansion in a gated community while also working long hours in a corporate career. Jason Bateman (Arrested Development) is her slacker husband, a grunge guitarist turned advertising jingle composer who sees in Juno a kindred spirit with whom he can debate whether the greatest year in rock music history was 1977 (Sex Pistols and Clash) or 1993 (Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville).

Indeed, Juno's personality appears modeled on Phair's complex combination of masculine power-chording indie cred, feminine inner self, and shocking statements calibrated to draw notice. That's only natural because the screenwriter was 16 and living in Chicago's suburbs when Phair's second album "Whip-Smart" came out. Phair was everything Cody must have wanted to be: famous, hip, talented, sexy, and living downtown in Wicker Park, the "Guyville" where all the cool guys in Chicago punk bands hung out.

As Garner's adoptive mother-to-be obsesses over which shade of medium yellow to paint the nursery, her husband starts to feel like an exile in girlville. Talking to a maverick like Juno makes him wonder whether he should move back downtown and get a loft.

Yet, the one thing today's youth hates more than being uncool is parents divorcing. When it comes to raising her baby, Juno realizes, being a soulless corporate drone is a good thing. Kids these days want parents to be boring. The shock helps Juno begin to understand herself better.

As "Juno" reveals, the run-of-the-mill teen nonconformist is, as the screenwriter finally realized about herself in college, "a noisy, dramatic attention whore." Cody is too recognition-starved to stick to the party line about how the alterna-kids are free spirits. Instead, she's made herself a celebrity by spilling the beans about punkette girls like herself and Juno. Why do they tell guys that their three favorite bands are (to quote Juno) "Iggy Pop & the Stooges, Patti Smith, and the Runaways?" Because, to over-generalize, pretending to obsess over old pop culture minutiae makes smart boys notice them and it gives shy boys something to talk about with them.

So, why did Juno get pregnant? The same reason: for attention. At her middle class school, high IQ pregnant girls giving their babies up for adoption are as interesting to the masses as ivory-billed woodpeckers.

Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, sexual content and language.

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

Calvin Ball

Six-year-old Calvin's favorite sport in the great comic strip Calvin and Hobbes is Calvin Ball. It's key feature is that Calvin gets to make up the rules as he goes along to favor whatever he does.

It's fun to play Calvin Ball in politics, too. For example, after the 1968 election, Sen. George McGovern got himself put in charge of changing the rules for how delegates would be selected for the 1972 Democratic convention. He instituted racial and gender quotas, plus more subtle changes, and -- whaddaya know? -- the delegates selected via George Ball rules nominated George McGovern in 1972. Similarly, in 2008 the Republicans played under John Ball rules (the McCain-Feingold campaign finance laws that give the media more power) and -- whaddaya know? -- the winner was the media's favorite candidate, John McCain.

Ann Coulter has the economics of why we can't get Ronald Reagan-type candidates under the current campaign finance laws.

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

February 22, 2008

Michelle Obama's thesis unblocked

UPDATE: For a full discussion of the future First Lady's Princeton thesis, see Chapter 10 ("Mrs. All That") of my new book on Obama. You can, for a limited time, read it online for free here (1.8 meg PDF file).


The Obama camp has now released Michelle Obama's senior thesis at Princeton. So far, I've read the Dedication and the first couple of pages of the Introduction, and that's plenty. You've got to be impressed with how ruthless Senator Obama is -- he'll humiliate his poor wife by releasing her semi-literate college graduation maunderings just so he can say, "Let's move on."


To Mom, Dad, Craig [her brother], and all of my special friends:

Thank-you for loving me and always making me feel good about myself.

And here's part of her creatively punctuated Introduction:

"The purpose of this study is to examine various attitudes of Black Princeton alumni in their present state and as they are perceived by the alumni to have changed over time. ...

"These experiences have made it apparent to me that the path I have chosen to follow by attending Princeton will likely lead to my further integration and/or assimilation into a White cultural and social structure that will only allow me to remain on the periphery of society; never becoming a full participant. This realization has presently, made my goals to actively utilize my resources to benefit the Black community more desirable."

Well, thank-you. You have presently, made my day; never having a better one.

(I originally figured this 1985 thesis was created on a typewriter, which would have made it harder to fix typos, but the columns are justified, so it was done on some sort of word processor. Still, Princeton grads are supposed to know that there is no hyphen in "thank you" ...)

So, it looks like Barack has had his vengeance on Michelle for calling him "stinky" and "snore-y."

Okay, it's schoolgirlish in style, especially compared to her husband's sonorous mature prose, but she was only 21 when she wrote it. The important thing, though, is that the artlessness of her writing allows the meaning to shine through more obviously than in Dreams From My Father -- but it's the same Story of Race and Inheritance.

And she sure has some self-esteem issues, doesn't she? I think that's part of her appeal to the Oprah audience: her inflated but fragile ego. Oprah's fans can identify with Mrs. Obama. People were always telling them that they weren't smart enough either; and, yet, here they are, sitting around watching daytime TV. Who's laughing now?

For some reason, Mrs. Obama's psyche always reminds me of Steve Martin's climactic speech in "Three Amigos:"

"In a way, each of us has an El Guapo to face. For some, shyness might be their El Guapo. For others, a lack of education might be their El Guapo. For us, El Guapo is a big, dangerous man who wants to kill us. But as sure as my name is Lucky Day, the people of Santa Poco can conquer their own personal El Guapo, who also happens to be *the actual* El Guapo!"

Keep in mind that Mrs. Obama not only got into Princeton, but then got into Harvard Law School, graduated, and even passed the Illinois bar exam. So, maybe, prose just isn't her strong suit.

A reader comments:

The Illinois Supreme Court website says Michelle Obama was admitted to the bar on May 12, 1989 and voluntarily went inactive in 1993.

Barak Obama was admitted December 17, 1991 and went inactive this year.

A reader who is an attorney in Illinois explains:

The May admission to the bar is for those who took the Winter (March I think) bar exam. Most take the July bar exam, and I think were admitted in October, so I don't understand Obama's date of admission. Not everyone who graduates in May takes the July exam, but in Mrs. Obama's case she was already at Sidley and Austin, so I'd guess her main job would've been studying for the bar exam. So, the guess would be she didn't pass the July exam and did pass the winter exam, what with over half a year of studying for it. Now, many folks who attend schools like Harvard aren't really taught the things that are on bar exams, if only because many of their profs don't want to teach it (too boring).

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

The Last Yuppie

It's not exactly a coincidence that for the last 15 years, our Presidents were both born in 1946. The previous birth dearth helped Bill Clinton get elected governor at age 32, and let George W. Bush drink away his 20s and 30s without paying a serious (or any) career cost. There just wasn't much competition from the ranks of people one to fifteen years older than them.

In contrast, the late baby boomers of, say, 1955-1964 faced a huge number of early baby boom elders clogging the desirable jobs ahead of them. The later boomers are a huge group, well-nourished, well-educated, with lots of talent. They tended to have a chip on theirs shoulders about the early Baby Boomers, their sense of entitlement and their self-mythologizing. (Thus, for example, punk rock was very much a rebellion of late boomers against the hyperhyped music of the early boomers.) I'm not a big fan of generational analysis, but it's a safe generalization that late boomers tended to feel more constrained, and hence more concerned about their life prospects, than the lucky early boomers.

You seldom hear the quintessential 1980s term "yuppie" anymore, perhaps because the young urban professionals it was first applied to aren't young anymore. But, by Presidential standards, Barack Obama, who was born late in the baby boom in 1961, is still young. And he's definitely urban and professional.

Indeed, he came of age, like so many classic yuppies, in the Reagan years in New York. Like many others at the time, he swore off recreational drugs and excessive drinking, took up jogging, developed some big career ambitions, and seriously set about making them happen. (One exception to the stereotype is that he continued chain-smoking, suggesting perhaps a high-strung personality under the surface that requires some self-medicating via nicotine.)

Now, yuppies accomplished a lot, but they were never exactly well-liked: too calculating, too emotionally cold, too ambitious, and too self-interested are the stereotypes. And that's a problem when your goal has always been to be elected to high office, which is primarily a popularity contest. So, Obama figured out a brilliant way to solve his yuppie problem.

He joined a church in 1988.

He doesn't seem to have any particular religious belief (by his own detailed account, he gets a warm feeling of racial solidarity out of attending church, but it's a stretch to call it a faith), but he was very careful about which church he joined. He picked out the most successful proto-megachurch on the South Side of Chicago, which was led by a superstar sermonizer named Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr..

Now, there are lots of preachers on the South Side, but Wright had two essential qualities:

- Wright's far leftist politics and racial resentment were congenial to Obama;

- Wright was the best, the most successful preacher / organizer around. In the Darwinian dog-eat-dog world of modern Protestantism, Wright is one of the handful of winners who have succeeded in building a megachurch.

So, what was Obama doing in Wright's church all those years?

Studying. The agnostic preppie from Hawaii learned the tricks of the preaching trade from Wright, which allows Obama to drape over his shoulders the vast moral authority our culture has accorded black preachers ever since Martin Luther King, while claiming to merely be promoting technocratic yuppie reforms that won't scare white people.

The English essayist Jonathan Raban writes:

"The title of Obama's book The Audacity of Hope is an explicit salute to a sermon by Wright called "The Audacity to Hope," and his speeches are peppered with Wrightisms, like his repeated claim that "There are more young black men in prison than there are in college," but his debt to the preacher goes much deeper. While Wright works his magic on enormous congregations, with the basic message of liberation theology, that we are everywhere in chains, but assured of deliverance by the living Christ, Obama, when on form, can entrance largely white audiences with the same essential story, told in secular terms and stripped of its references to specifically black experience. When Wright says "white racists," Obama says "corporate lobbyists"; when Wright speaks of blacks, Obama says "hard-working Americans," or "Americans without health care"; when Wright talks in folksy Ebonics, of "hos" and "mojo," Obama talks in refined Ivy League. But the essential design of the piece follows the same pattern as a Wright sermon, in its nicely timed transition from present injustice and oppression to the great joy coming in the morning."

This combination of yuppie smarts and black preacher man eloquence has made Obama the state-of-the-art politician, as impossible to pin down as the shape-shifting liquid metal T-1000 in "Terminator 2."

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

Michelle Obama perpetually sore about her test scores

Benjamin Franklin pointed out that the way to get somebody to like you is to have them do you a favor. If you do them a favor, that just emphasizes your superiority over them, and they resent you for it.

Ben would have been heartily amused by how Michelle Obama will never forgive white America for what she had to suffer: being admitted to Princeton and Harvard despite being not terribly smart.

From NewsBusters last November:

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: "The polls are showing your husband is trailing Hillary by 46% to 37% in the African-American community. What's going on here?"

MICHELLE OBAMA: "First of all, I think that that's not going to hold. I'm completely confident: black America will wake up, and get [it]. But what we're dealing with in the black community is just the natural fear of possibility. You know, when I look at my life, the stuff that we're seeing in these polls has played out my whole life. You know, always been told by somebody that I'm not ready, that I can't do something, my scores weren't high enough."

Of course, the only solution is more affirmative action, which will create more resentful Michelle Obama clones, which is the whole point of the exercise ...

For some reason, Mrs. Obama's "rage of a privileged class" always reminds me of the scene in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, where Hunter S. Thompson explains to his attorney:

"You Samoans are all the same," I told him. "You have no faith in the essential decency of the white man's culture. Jesus, just one hour ago we were sitting over there in that stinking baiginio, stone broke and paralyzed for the weekend, when a call comes through from some total stranger in New York, telling me to go to Las Vegas and expenses be damned -- and then he sends me over to some office in Beverly Hills where another total stranger gives me $300 raw cash for no reason at all ... I tell you, my man, this is the American Dream in action! We'd be fools not to ride this strange torpedo all the way out to the end."

"Indeed," he said. "We must do it."

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

Hispanic Hoaxes?

In the wake of the latest campus racism hoax to be exposed, a reader asks:

"Has there EVER been a documented case of an anti-Latino-racism hoax? As far as I can think, the vast majority of the hoaxes involve blacks, though a considerable fraction involve (lesbian?) feminists, gays in general, or Jews."

In other words, have Hispanics ever been caught faking a racist incident? Good question. Anybody know?

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

February 21, 2008

The secret of political success

The more we find out about Presidential candidates, the more it becomes clear that the secret to the success they've enjoyed so far in their careers is that in elections, somebody always has to win. This isn't like climbing Mt. Everest, where you either do it or you don't. Politics is graded on the curve, and the competition is only other politicians.

For example, for years we've been assured by the press that while Hillary Clinton may not be inspiring, as a manager she is Dwight Eisenhower, Jack Welch, and Stalin rolled into one. And yet, her 2008 campaign has been inept, with it becoming more obvious daily that she didn't have her staff prepare a realistic, detailed plan for what would need to be done in the later primaries if, perchance, she didn't knock out the competition on Super Tuesday, February 5.

Of the 16 years I've known about the existence of Hillary Clinton, I've spent the last 14 trying to ignore her, because she's a boring person. Has anyone ever heard her say anything interesting?

The more you look into her, the more the myth of her brilliance evaporates. For example, where does the famous description of her as "the smartest woman I've ever encountered" come from? Larry Summers? Lee Kuan Yew? Seymour Cray? Nah, it's a quote from Bill Clinton's mom, Virginia.

I'm far behind the curve on this, but I didn't know until now that, after graduating from Yale Law School, she failed the Washington D.C. bar exam. She wrote in her autobiography:
"I had taken both the Arkansas and Washington, D.C., bar exams during the summer, but my heart was pulling me towards Arkansas. When I learned that I had passed in Arkansas but failed in D.C., I thought maybe my test scores were telling me something. I spent a lot of my salary on my telephone bills and was so happy when Bill came to see me over Thanksgiving. We spent our time exploring Boston and talking about our future."

Lots of people fail the bar exam, but Washington D.C.'s isn't particularly hard, at least not compared to California's (which the former dean of the Stanford Law School, Kathleen Sullivan, recently flunked). In July 2007, 75.5% of first time test takers passed the D.C. bar exam. The overall pass rate in her year was apparently 67%, so the pass rate for first-time takers (which is usually higher) was probably about the same. And that would put her in the bottom quarter. (Arkansas' test, which she passed, appears to be pretty easy.)

Failing the bar exam isn't so bad, except that the media has never explained why she should be President other than that she's so smart. But if she's not so smart, then her main claim to being President is the nationally embarrassing one that nobody is supposed to talk about: that she was married to the last President, that she's Imelda Marcos in sensible shoes.

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

Dept. of "Huh?"

While we've been concerned here with trivial matters, like why Princeton U. is blockading access to potential First Lady Michelle Obama's senior thesis until the day after the election, the ace professionals at Slate are on top of the crucial issue of the moment:

My search for the lost Huckabee tapes
Hanna Rosin

In her speculation about what might have been in the seldom-available tapes of sermons Mike Huckabee gave at his Baptist church in the 1980s, she concludes with this reason why he might be covering them up:

4. The Queasy Factor—In the one tape I did manage to get—bought on eBay from an enterprising Arkansan—Huckabee preaches on "The Practice of Patience." What could be more pleasant and innocuous, right? Not exactly. Huckabee is his trademark jovial self. He tells a couple of good stories, one about some urban farmers who mistook a watermelon for a mule egg, another about the time his father gave him his first bike—and it was a girl's bike. But all this is building up to a serious point. "How many times do we find ourselves on the surgery table of the Almighty God, who is trying to work His surgery to make us more like Christ, and we say 'God, let me out of here! Lord, don't touch me!' " he thunders towards the end. "It's not that we can't be Christians. The sad fact is most of us don't want to be enough to try our faith to the point of patience and perseverance."

It's one thing to know a presidential candidate was a pastor; that sounds worthy and leaderlike. But it's quite another to actually hear him work himself up into a lather about committing to Christ and not back it up with a joke.


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

A Darker Shade of Pale

From The Times of London:

Privileged children excel, even at low-performing comprehensives

Nicola Woolcock

Middle-class parents obsessed with getting their children into the best schools may be wasting their time and money, academics say today. They found that children from privileged backgrounds excelled when they were deliberately sent to inner-city comprehensives by parents opposed to private schooling. Most of the children “performed brilliantly” at GCSE and A level and 15 per cent of those who went on to university took places at Oxford or Cambridge.

To give their children “the best start in life”, many parents choose to live in catchment areas of high-performing schools, “find God” to gain their child a place at a faith establishment or make financial sacrifices to pay for their child’s independent schooling.

However, the researchers decided to analyse the progress of the offspring of “those white, urban, middle-class parents who consciously choose for their children to be educated at their local state secondary, whatever the league table positioning”.

This group attended average or poorly performing schools in working-class or racially mixed areas. Here they thrived academically and were often given special attention by teachers keen to improve the school’s results, according to the study by professors in education from the universities of Cambridge, Sunderland and West of England (UWE).

The only failure was in social integration, which had been the very reason most parents sent their child to the school. Most children from middle-class families mixed only with pupils from identical backgrounds. The research found “segregation within schools, with white middle-class children clustered in top sets, with little interaction with children from other backgrounds”.

… The researchers interviewed 124 families from London and two other cities. Eighty-three per cent of the parents had degrees and a quarter were educated to postgraduate level. They included three Labour Party activists and two who worked in a social exclusion research unit. In 70 per cent of families, one or both parents worked in the public sector. Most described themselves as left-wing or liberal.

The report found: “Some parents were motivated by a commitment to state-funded education and egalitarian ideals and many had an active dislike for privileged educational routes on the grounds that they were socially divisive. Many wanted their children to have an educational experience that would prepare them for a globalised, socially diverse world. “These parents positioned themselves in a way we termed ‘a darker shade of pale’, as part of a more culturally tolerant and even anti-racist white middle class. …

“Many parents said they could and would pull out if things did not go well,” the report said.

But even though those sending their children to comprehensives were open and tolerant of other backgrounds, in some cases researchers noted “elitism and a sense of intellectual and social superiority — a sense that would be confirmed by their own child’s relative success”.

I suspect that the study may have a selection bias problem -- that parents who "pull out" because peer pressure was turning their little Alister Graham into Ali G aren't as well represented as those whose stuck it out because their kids were more elitist in terms of whom they considered their peers when it came to peer pressure.

I can't find the report online, but here's a little more from the press release:

“Schools were seen to make special efforts to accommodate the children. Parents are very involved with the schools with many taking active roles on school governing bodies. The children often get special attention as they are nurtured by teachers who are keen to give extra help to improve the school's results.

“Children from these families are very often placed on the Gifted and Talented programmes giving them an advantaged access to resources compared to many children in schools that have better results overall but where there is more competition for the limited places on such schemes.

“Feedback from parents shows that there is a healthy cynicism surrounding league tables. However, our analysis also shows that many of these parents are making a calculated investment which, whilst it feels risky to them, has very high returns because their children tend to be very well supported and to do very well.”

The study also looked at the sorts of advantages that the choice of school seemed to bring. Professor Reay added, “In general we found that parents were keen that their children experienced social diversity though developing friendships with children from a wide spectrum of social and ethnic backgrounds. As one parent put it –“experience of a wide social mix will make my daughter a better doctor”. In this sense the choice of a particular school could be seen to pay dividends in terms of the child's exposure to a wide range of backgrounds, equipping them to be better citizens or professionals in later life. However the study also found that although the children were engaged in a social mix, in general 'social mixing' did not occur and the children mostly formed friendships with the other white middle class children inside and outside their school.

Here's the abstract from an earlier paper by the same team:
"Drawing on data from interviews with 63 London-based families, this article argues that there are difficult and uncomfortable issues around whiteness in multi-ethnic contexts. Even those parents, such as the ones in our sample, who actively choose ethnically diverse comprehensive schools appear to remain trapped in white privilege despite their political and moral sentiments. This is a complicated question of value; of having value, finding value in, getting value from, and adding value. Even those white middle classes committed to multi-ethnic schooling face the perils of middle-class acquisitiveness, extracting value from, as they find value in, their multi-ethnic `other'. In such processes of generating use and exchange value a majority of both the white working classes and the black working classes, those who are perceived not to share white middle-class values, are residualized and positioned as excessive. Symbolically, they come to represent the abject `other' of no value."

And here's my VDARE article on the contortion the "Prius-driving screenwriter" class in Los Angeles goes through to get their kids into public school magnet programs.

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

StuffWhitePeopleLike reaches 2 millions hits

The deadpan satirical website Stuff White People Like is now up to 2 million hits. When I first visited it a week ago, its count meter stood at around 150,000 (as I vaguely recall).

So, that just proves that I liked it first (well, except for the previous 150,000, I suppose), which is the important thing in life. But now I don't like it anymore because it's so mid-February.

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

Noose News

After the Jena Six brouhaha last year, the nation was swept by a frenzy of noose-sightings. Every day, the press brought us the latest noose news to alarm us that The Noose Was Loose in America!

I want to thank the numerous readers who emailed me stories about the most publicized of the many noose incidents, that of Columbia U. Teachers College professor Madonna G. Constantine, a black woman who said she found a noose on her doors. They all said her story smelled like a hoax.

Today, the NYT reports:

A professor at Columbia University’s Teachers College who was propelled into the national spotlight when a noose was found on her office door last fall has been found to have plagiarized the work of a former colleague and two former students, the college has announced.

The college, in statements to the faculty and the news media, said an 18-month investigation into charges against the professor, Madonna G. Constantine, had determined there were “numerous instances in which she used others’ work without attribution in papers she published in academic journals over the past five years.” ...

Dr. Constantine, in an e-mail message to faculty and students on Wednesday, called the investigation “biased and flawed,” and said it was part of a “conspiracy and witch hunt by certain current and former members of the Teachers College community.”

“I am left to wonder whether a white faculty member would have been treated in such a publicly disrespectful and disparaging manner,” she wrote.

She added, “I believe that nothing that has happened to me this year is coincidental, particularly when I reflect upon the hate crime I experienced last semester involving a noose on my office door. As one of only two tenured black women full professors at Teachers College, it pains me to conclude that I have been specifically and systematically targeted.” ...

Dr. Constantine, a professor of psychology and education who specializes in the study of how race and racial prejudice can affect clinical and educational dynamics, came to Teachers College in 1998 as an associate professor and earned tenure in 2001.

In 2006, the chairman of Dr. Constantine’s department, Suniya S. Luthar, passed along to administrators complaints that Dr. Constantine had unfairly used portions of writings by a junior colleague, Christine Yeh, as well as a number of students, Dr. Luthar said in an interview. Teachers College eventually asked Hughes Hubbard & Reed, a law firm, to investigate.

Dr. Yeh, who is now at the University of San Francisco, said in an interview Wednesday that she had left Teachers College in part because of her differences with Dr. Constantine. She called the college’s determination that there had been plagiarism “an important first step.”

“I’m really hopeful other people will come forward now,” she said. “When the initial charges were made, there were many students involved who didn’t feel they could follow up. They were too scared, and they were afraid of retribution.”

Dr. Yeh said that some of her work that had been copied concerned “indigenous healing,” or alternative methods, like acupuncture and Santeria, of dealing with medical and spiritual ailments. She said she has specialized in that subject for years.

Mr. Giacomo [Constantine's lawyer] said that he and his client met with lawyers from Hughes Hubbard in August and that Dr. Constantine was confronted with 36 passages from her work, and similar passages from the work of others, mostly Dr. Yeh’s. He said Dr. Constantine had subsequently submitted documentation showing that the passages were her own “original work,” and “related back to prior works she had done.”

“We thought that was the end of story; we thought there was no way that they could overlook the documentation that we had presented,” he said.

In October, a noose was found on Dr. Constantine’s office door, prompting the police investigation and student protests at Teachers College, which cherishes its image as a bastion of multiculturalism. In January, Mr. Giacomo said, the college’s president and provost told Dr. Constantine that the investigation into her writings had concluded that she had used the works of others without attribution, but that if she agreed to resign, the report would not be publicized.

Mr. Giacomo said that despite objections and further documentation, the college did not change its position. He said he now considered it “not a stretch of the imagination” to suspect the noose was “an additional way of intimidating my client.”

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

February 20, 2008

Golf's long recession

The NYT headlines:

More Americans Are Giving Up Golf

In many parts of the country, high expectations for a golf bonanza paralleling baby boomer retirements led to what is now considered a vast overbuilding of golf courses.

That was a mistake. Golf is not young man's game, but it's a youngish man's game: something like 30 to 50. Back in 2003, I wrote a 4-part series on why golf was in for a long stretch of economic hard times. In "The Golf Industry's Demographic Dead-End," I said:

According to the National Golf Foundation, the great leap forward in the number of players actually occurred between 1985 and 1990, when baby boomers, growing a little too old for contact sports swelled the ranks of golfers by 31 percent. Since 1990, however, the total is up only 14 percent.

The number of people turning 30, an age at which golf starts seeming more sensible than basketball or mountain biking, has been in decline since the mid-1990s. It will turn upward toward the end of the decade, but that growth will be driven heavily by minorities.

The urge to play golf appears related to testosterone levels. When they are at their peak, say age 15-25, you want to hit somebody, so contact sports are most appealing. Later, you want to hit something, so hitting a golf ball sounds good.

The funny thing is that the ability to hit a golf ball a long ways declines quite slowly with age. Typically, what goes first is putting ability.

Here are my four 2003 articles:

1. The Golf Recession

2. Why Golf Has Gotten So Expensive

3. Will Less Expensive Golf Courses Catch On?

4. Golf's Demographic Dead-End

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

Hillary Byssheing

From commenter Bumperstickerist at JustOneMinute:

I met a pollster from an antique land,
Who said--"Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand, one in Texas...., one near Canton,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The electorate that mocked them, and the press that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
'My name is Hillarymandias,
Look on my resume and campaign fundraising, ye fellow Democrats, and despair!'
Nothing else remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

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

Man v. Beast

Harvard's Marc Hauser proposes four ways that human intelligence is qualitatively different from animal intelligence:

These four novel components of human thought are

- the ability to combine and recombine different types of information and knowledge in order to gain new understanding;

- to apply the same "rule" or solution to one problem to a different and new situation;

- to create and easily understand symbolic representations of computation and sensory input;

- and to detach modes of thought from raw sensory and perceptual input.

Sounds like the abilities to abstract and to analogize are the keys.

Earlier scientists viewed the ability to use tools as a unique capacity of humans, but it has since been shown that many animals, such as chimpanzees, also use simple tools. Differences do arise, however, in how humans use tools as compared to other animals. While animal tools have one function, no other animals combine materials to create a tool with multiple functions. In fact, Hauser says, this ability to combine materials and thought processes is one of the key computations that distinguish human thought.

According to Hauser, animals have "laser beam" intelligence, in which a specific solution is used to solve a specific problem. But these solutions cannot be applied to new situations or to solve different kinds of problem. In contrast, humans have "floodlight" cognition, allowing us to use thought processes in new ways and to apply the solution of one problem to another situation. While animals can transfer across systems, this is only done in a limited way.

"For human beings, these key cognitive abilities may have opened up other avenues of evolution that other animals have not exploited, and this evolution of the brain is the foundation upon which cultural evolution has been built," says Hauser.

This reminds of how stupid it was for the SAT to drop the often-criticized analogy questions: "Bicameral is to legislation as hand-crafting is to ..." or whatever.

This reminds of how stupid it was for the SAT to drop its often-criticized analogy questions: "Bicameral is to legislation as handcrafted is to ..." or whatever. Analogies are absolutely central to human intelligence.

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

"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"

From my review in The American Conservative:

Despite deserved Oscar nominations for Best Direction, Adapted Screenplay, Editing, and Cinematography, "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," a sophisticated Triumph of the Human Spirit movie, hasn't yet been able to break out of the art house ghetto. Its ponderous title, which is both too literary and too literal (and mistranslated to boot), can't have helped.

The film is based on a charming memoir written, incredibly, by a man able to move only his left eyelid. Jean-Dominique Bauby, the 43-year-old editor of the fashion magazine Elle, suffered a massive brain stem stroke while test-driving next year's model BMW. When he awoke from his coma, he was informed that he suffered, permanently, from "locked-in syndrome."

The unfortunate title (Le Scaphandre et le Papillon in this subtitled film's original French) comes from Bauby's metaphorical contrast of his body, which felt like it was encased in one of those vintage pressurized diving suits -- not a "diving bell," which is an open-bottomed structure -- with his mind, which could float like a butterfly through his luxurious memories. He could even relish new sights and (being French) smells. Indeed, The Diving Bell is an ode to the French genius for enjoying small pleasures.

"Blink" would have been a simpler, more evocative title because his speech therapist taught him to communicate using his eyelid. She would repeat the alphabet (re-sorted in order of frequency of use in French) until he blinked his one good eye to stop her at the right letter. ...

Bauby composed his text in his head each morning, memorized it, and then dictated it to a secretary for three hours per day for two months. His short book of about 25,000 words was published in 1997 to rapturous reviews two days before his death.

It's a wonderful story, but is it true? Reporter Susannah Herbert has raised doubts in The Times of London, pointing out that Bauby's "secretary," the self-effacing Claude Mendibil, is a professional ghostwriter who refused to show her the original notebooks.

I calculate ...

And here I provide the results of a spreadsheet I built to see if Bauby could have blinked out 25,000 words in the time allotted. (How can you review movies without using Excel?) To find out the answer, you can buy The American Conservative, at a newsstand near you.

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


The stories about how Michelle Obama spent her academic career perpetually peeved remind me of the first piece of journalism I was ever paid for, an op-ed entitled "What Affirmative Action Really Does to Campuses," that was published in the Christian Science Monitor in 1991. Here's an excerpt:

For example, at the University of California at Berkeley, affirmative action has created what one professor there, anthropologist Vincent Sarich, calls "two student bodies," distinguishable by skin color. Only 40% of the freshman openings are awarded to the best-qualified white and Asian students, while most of the rest are reserved for Hispanic and African-American applicants who must merely meet the legal minimums. Since there is only room for the elite of the white and Asian applicants, those selected have qualifications worthy of the Ivy League. While the Hispanic and African- American students typically possess skills more than adequate for most colleges, they are frequently overwhelmed trying to compete with Berkeley's handpicked whites and Asians: the dropout rate of the "protected" minorities is much higher, despite their tending to get shunted into less demanding majors.

Even more serious, possibly, is how affirmative action poisons campus racial attitudes. Because skin color determines who gets in, students can (and do) use skin color, with an unfortunately high degree of accuracy, to estimate how tough a class' grading curve will be. Stories abound of students poking their heads into classes they are considering taking, exclaiming things like, "Too many Chinese," and scurrying off to find a classroom with less competitive demographics.

These are gross stereotypes; sadly, owing to affirmative action, students find them useful. In contrast, color-blind admissions would mean the different ethnic groups would be, on the whole, comparably qualified. Stereotypes would be of less use; students would have to view each other as individuals. (Color-blind admissions does not mean that colleges couldn't recruit minorities more intensely, just that admissions decisions would not take race into account.)

While affirmative action inculcates smugness and condescension among whites and Asians, it instills self-doubt, paranoia, and frustration among its supposed beneficiaries. Sociologist Troy Duster spent a year interviewing Berkeley students to discover the roots of the growing racial hostility on campus. Professor Duster (who is African-American) was recently interviewed in the San Francisco Chronicle:

And the subject of affirmative action admissions "is where all the juices come out," Duster says. Blacks and Latinos generally support affirmative action, but are ambivalent because, "they say, they are characterized as affirmative action admits, no matter what their grade point average is." Duster says these students are convinced that in the minds of whites and Asians "they don't really belong here. Affirmative action becomes a stigma for them." In such a charged atmosphere, says Duster, students of color "feel belittled," and "just about anything can be interpreted as racism." . . . "What I experienced when I talked to these kids is their increasing rage at their own inability to justify the charge of racism."

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

February 19, 2008

Mrs. Obama as an Ivy League schoolgirl

Princeton won't let you read the senior thesis written by Mrs. Michelle Obama, a Sociology major / African American Studies minor, until after we've made her First Lady:

Robinson, Michelle LaVaughn (1985): Princeton Educated Blacks and the Black Community [Restricted until November 5, 2008].

But, a Newhouse News reporter apparently wrote it up last year before the curtain came down [via Allah Pundit at Hot Air]:

In her 1985 Princeton senior thesis, “Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community,” Michelle LaVaughn Robinson lamented that white professors and classmates always saw her as “Black first and a student second.”

She had surveyed alumni to see whether they sacrificed their commitment to other blacks on the altar of success, and foresaw for herself an uneasy future: “further integration and/or assimilation into a White cultural and social structure that will only allow me to remain on the periphery of society; never becoming a full participant.”…

As Michelle Obama wrote in her thesis introduction, “My experiences at Princeton have made me far more aware of my ‘Blackness’ than ever before. I have found that at Princeton no matter how liberal and open-minded some of my White professors and classmates try to be toward me, I sometimes feel like a visitor on campus; as if I really don’t belong.”…

Michelle Obama was guided in her choice of thesis topic by a consuming concern that her success might compromise her black identity. As she wrote in her conclusion:

“I wondered whether or not my education at Princeton would affect my identification with the Black community. I hoped that these findings would help me conclude that despite the high degree of identification with Whites as a result of the educational and occupational path that Black Princeton alumni follow, the alumni would still maintain a certain level of identification with the black community. However, these findings do not support this possibility.”…

Michelle Obama’s fears of losing touch with her roots without ever being embraced into the mainstream led her to promise, in her thesis introduction, “to actively utilize my resources to benefit the Black community.”

Okay, it's schoolgirlish in style, especially compared to her husband's sonorous mature prose, but she was only 21 when she wrote it. The important thing, though, is that the artlessness of her writing allows the meaning to shine through more obviously than in Dreams From My Father -- but it's the same Story of Race and Inheritance.

That doesn't mean Mr. and Mrs. Obama still feel the way about race as they did in 1995, when Sen. Obama wrote his autobiography. Maybe they've changed their minds over the last 13 years? But shouldn't somebody ask them about it? I realize a lot of people think it would be an invasion of their privacy, but they are running for the White House.

Senator and Mrs. Obama, clearly, you both had big racial chips on your shoulders when you were younger. Are you still like that? You changed? When? Why? Would you advise other blacks to stop being so resentful?

When I read Obama's autobiography a year ago and said that Obama is not who you think he is, a lot of people said I was crazy and evil. Well, it's slowly playing out along the lines I sketched out back then.

- By the way, if Barack serves eight years as President, that would give Michelle eight years to parachute into some random state to be Senator so that she could run for President herself in 2024 at the exact same age Hillary is now.

- My wife says that if Obama gets the nomination and McCain picks Secretary of State Rice as his running mate, either Condi or Michelle is going to have to get a new hair-do or it's going to be a very confusing fall for television news shows. My wife feels Michelle has the elegant bone structure to go with the old Diahann Carrol-look of just pulling her hair straight back tight. (I think Lena Horne did the same thing.) That also gets around all the race minefields about why she is relaxing her hair (which I imagine Michelle has thought a lot about.)

- Although Newsweek says Mrs. Obama didn't graduate at the top of her high school class, keep in mind that she did go to Whitney Young, a big public school that only admits students via entrance exam (like Stuyvesant in NYC). On the other hand, if her teachers told her she didn't have the grades and test scores to get into the Princeton, they'd know, because Whitney Young has sent lots of grads to the Ivy League. So, she probably needed the double whammy of both affirmative action and being the legacy sister of her much-liked two-year-older brother Craig Robinson, who was on Princeton's famously scrappy underdog basketball team and is now the head coach at Brown. Michelle always saw him as the smart one in the family, so she was already sensitive about her intelligence before she got to Princeton.

- Toss in the class difference -- Princeton has always been very upper crusty, while she comes from solid but very lower middle class family -- and the usual teenage self-consciousness, and it's hardly surprising that Michelle was perpetually peeved at Princeton. Unfortunately, it sounds like she blamed all her inevitable adolescent angst on whites, a common response aggravated by the side effects of affirmative action, as I pointed out way back in 1991.

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

Psychology for Economists

In the wake of his recent paper on the stagnating high school dropout rate, where the gaps between the races have barely budged since the early 1970s, Nobel Laureate economist and master statistician James Heckman is back with perhaps an even more important study. This one tries to get economists to pay attention to "The Economics and Psychology of Personality Traits" (It's co-written with Borghans, Duckworth, and ter Weel.)

There is ample evidence from economics and psychology that cognitive ability is a powerful predictor of economic and social outcomes. It is intuitively obvious that cognition is essential in processing information, learning, and in decision making. It is also intuitively obvious that other traits besides raw problem-solving ability matter for success in life. ...

The power of traits other than cognitive ability for success in life is vividly demonstrated by the Perry Preschool study. This experimental intervention enriched the early family environments of disadvantaged children with subnormal intelligence quotients (IQs). Both treatments and controls were followed into their 40s. As demonstrated in Figure 1, by age ten, treatment group mean IQs were the same as control group mean IQs. Yet on a variety of measures of socioeconomic achievement, over their life cycles, the treatment group was far more successful than the control group. Something besides IQ was changed by the intervention. Heckman et al. (2007) show that it is the personality and motivation of the participants. This paper examines the relevance of personality to economics and the relevance of economics to personality psychology. ...

Our focus is pragmatic. Personality psychologists have developed measurement systems for personality traits which economists have begun to use. Most prominent is the “Big Five” personality inventory. There is value in understanding this system and related systems before tackling the deeper question of the origins of the traits that are measured by them. The lack of familiarity of economists with these personality measures is one reason for their omission from most economic studies. ...

Most economists are unaware of the evidence that certain personality traits are more malleable than cognitive ability over the life cycle and are more sensitive to investment by parents and to other sources of environmental influences at later ages than are cognitive traits. Social policy designed to remediate deficits in achievement can be effective by operating outside of purely cognitive channels. ...

We summarize evidence that both cognitive ability and personality traits predict important outcomes, including schooling, wages, crime, teenage pregnancy, and longevity. For many outcomes, certain personality traits (that is, traits associated with Big Five Conscientiousness and Emotional Stability) are more predictive than others (that is, traits associated with Agreeableness, Openness to Experience, and Extraversion). Tasks in social and economic life vary in terms of the weight placed on the cognitive and personality traits required to predict outcomes. The relative importance of a trait varies by the task studied. Cognitive traits are predictive of performance in a greater variety of tasks. Personality traits are important in explaining performance in specific tasks, although different personality traits are predictive in different tasks. ... [Via Arnold Kling.]

I suspect some of the evolution of Heckman's line of thinking in this regard goes back to his widely cited angry 1995 review of The Bell Curve in Reason entitled "Cracked Bell." This strikes many people who read it only once as a definitive debunking of Herrnstein and Murray. After all, here is this very, very smart statistician and, while it's hard to figure out exactly what he's so upset with the book about, he's clearly upset.

What people didn't realize -- and I think it's reasonable to bring this up now that the topic is personality -- is that Heckman is almost always upset. That's his personality. In a Medieval Big Four Humours model, he'd be The Man of Choler.

Years ago, I was participating in an email discussion with Heckman, who made all of his contributions to the conversation IN ALL CAPS.

As I recall, I privately emailed him to suggest -- diplomatically, I hoped -- that if he didn't find the shift key convenient, he could just eschew upper case altogether and type using only lower case, like e.e. cummings. You see, I explained, using all caps gives other readers the impression that you are shouting.

"I AM SHOUTING!" he emailed back.

Heckman's distinctive personality is one of the things that helps make him a great scientist. Heckman didn't want to silence Murray, like 99% of the critics of The Bell Curve did; he wanted to PROVE HIM WRONG. And that's how science progresses. (Of course, personality is a very tricky thing -- the other critic of The Bell Curve who has contributed much to our understanding of human nature, James Flynn, is genial and suave.)

Over the years, Heckman has made some progress toward that goal, but perhaps less than he had originally expected he would when he first attacked the book. That The Bell Curve has held up well is why it's so much more taboo now than it was 14 years ago (as the James Watson brouhaha showed).

So, perhaps Heckman has been trying to outflank Murray by admitting that while there isn't all that much the government can do to boost the intelligence of low IQ individuals, we can and should inculcate better character in young people. The funny thing is that the judicious and philosophical Murray would have told Heckman exactly that back in 1995, and probably illustrated it with a quote from Aristotle ... if Heckman had asked him and listened to him.

But what would have been the fun of that? A lot of old things you just have to figure out for yourself -- and in the process you discover a lot of new things as well.

By the way, back in December, I took a casual swipe at the IQ vs. character issue in my IQ FAQ:

Q. Isn't character more important than intelligence?

A. I believe so. Work ethic, honesty, conscientiousness, kindness, together they're more important than intelligence. (Of course, when it comes to making money, less endearing personality traits like aggressiveness also play a big role, but we'll leave that aside for now.)

Can I quantify that? Well, that's where things get tricky…

Q. So why not test for work ethic and the like instead of IQ?

A. We do test for it, in many different ways. Consider the process of applying to college. The two most important elements in the application are high school GPA and the SAT or ACT score. The SAT and ACT are more or less an IQ test, while high school GPA is driven by a combination of IQ and work ethic.

But demonstrating work ethic via GPA is a time-consuming prospect for the applicant … and even for the admissions committee. ...

Q. Couldn't somebody invent paper and pencil tests to measure character?

A. They have. They're pretty accurate … overall.

On the other hand, these tests haven't been all that popular, perhaps because they are liable to occasional catastrophic failures. The danger is that somebody with a high IQ but poor character would use his smarts to figure out what answers on the test would make him sound like the second coming of George Washington. And a high-IQ scoundrel is the last person you want to select.

You could call it the Ahmad Chalabi Problem. The Iraqi convicted embezzler with a Ph.D. in math from the U. of Chicago used his enormous brainpower to figure out how to dupe the neocons into believing that he literally was the George Washington of Iraq, so America should invade his homeland to make him president.

In contrast to character tests, the good news about IQ tests is that they are un-outsmartable. If you can use your brain to figure out what answers the test makers want, well, then you have a high IQ.

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

February 18, 2008

Very Affordable Family Formation in England

In contrast to Saturday's sad Muslim fellow in Egypt who can't afford to start a family, today we take a look at a jolly Muslim chap in England who quit his job teaching math because he gets paid more to sit at home in Manchester with his wife, who is also his first cousin, and their eleven (soon to be twelve) children. He has so many kids that four [correction: five] of them are named Muhammad. It's pure comedy gold.

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

Michelle Obama's chip on her shoulder

Newsweek has a long article on the wonderfulness of Mrs. Obama, but she sounds like she's got a log-sized chip on her shoulder from lucking into Princeton due to affirmative action. For predictable reasons, being admitted into one of the Big Four super colleges and being given lots of financial aid didn't instill in her a feeling of gratitude toward the benevolence of white people. Instead, it just fed her adolescent self-consciousness and racial paranoia. The bad news is that she doesn't seem to have gotten over it yet. (She's 44).

She did well in school (she skipped second grade), but she was not at the top of her class. She didn't get the attention of the school's college counselors, who helped the brightest students find spots at prestigious universities. "Princeton, the Ivy Leagues swoop up kids" like [her brother] Craig, Michelle says. "A black kid from the South Side of Chicago that plays basketball and is smart. He was getting in everywhere. But I knew him, and I knew his study habits, and I was, like, 'I can do that too'." Some of her teachers told her she didn't have the grades or test scores to make it to the Ivies. But she applied to Princeton and was accepted.

Overwhelmingly white and privileged, Princeton was not an easy place for a young black woman from the inner city. There weren't formal racial barriers and black students weren't officially excluded. But many of the white students couldn't hide that they regarded their African- American classmates as affirmative-action recipients who didn't really deserve to be there.

Angela Acree, a close friend who attended Princeton with Michelle, says the university didn't help dispel that idea. Black and Hispanic students were invited to attend special classes a few weeks before the beginning of freshman semester, which the school said were intended to help kids who might need assistance adjusting to Princeton's campus. Acree couldn't see why. She had come from an East Coast prep school; Michelle had earned good grades in Chicago. "We weren't sure whether they thought we needed an extra start or they just said, 'Let's bring all the black kids together'."

Obviously, this program wasn't put together by the Princeton klavern of the Ku Klux Klan, it was planned by the Princeton diversity sensitivity outreach nook. One reason diversicrats want to bring all the black freshmen to campus before everybody else is so they'll bond to each other, not to random whites and Asians during the regular orientation week. During the first few days of a new phase of life, you are very emotionally open to bonding with the other people who are going through the experience with you. So, the diversicrats can build a constituency by holding special pre-orientations for blacks.

Acree, Michelle and another black student, Suzanne Alele, became inseparable companions.

Exactly as planned.
The three of them talked often about the racial divide on campus—especially how white students they knew from class would pass them on the green and pretend not to see them. "It was, like, here comes a black kid," says Acree. The black students tended to hang out together at the Third World Center, a social club on campus, while the white party scene revolved around Princeton's eating clubs.

Michelle felt the tension acutely enough that she made it the subject of her senior sociology thesis, titled "Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community." The paper is now under lock and key, but according to the Chicago Sun-Times, Michelle wrote that Princeton "made me far more aware of my 'blackness' than ever before." She wrote that she felt like a visitor on the supposedly open-minded campus. "Regardless of the circumstances under which I interact with Whites at Princeton," she wrote, "it often seems as if, to them, I will always be Black first and a student second." (Today, Michelle says, not quite convincingly, that she can't remember what was in her thesis.)

If she'd gone to, say, the University of Illinois or wherever she would have gotten in without affirmative action, she wouldn't have spent four years knowing that she was below the student body average in intelligence; she wouldn't have spent four years worrying that everybody else was noticing she wasn't as smart as the average; and she wouldn't have spend four years, plus the next 22, hating them for noticing it.

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

Obamamania and Trudeaumania

Canadian blogger I, Ectomorph delivers one of his patented six-mile long sentences containing an instructive analogy between Obamamania and the rise to power in Canada in 1968 of that quintessential '68er, Liberal Party prime minister Pierre Trudeau (who, it turns out, had the kind of past appropriate for the title of Jonah Goldberg's book):

"If there is anything that can compare to [Obamamania], it would have to be Trudeaumania, which I am not really old enough to remember (I'm now old enough that I look rather fondly on anything I'm not old enough to remember) but which -- as I've later learned -- involved an attractive young politician who by dint of birth bridged the two solitudes of his country but also had a slightly mysterious and more radical past [see below for details] that he seemed willing to shelve away for the sake of winning power -- power that, as he campaigned for office, the candidate somewhat vaguely promised to exercise in a way that would be excitingly different than it had ever been exercised before by the old boring men who had occupied the office since time immemorial, and (in particular) in keeping with the youthful idealism of the upcoming generation. What this meant nobody knew, but it made no difference."

Somewhat like Obama, Trudeau had a Francophone father and an Anglophone mother. He spoke without an accent in either language. Subsequent Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was also bilingual from the nursery, so Canada has been ruled by Prime Ministers brought up in bilingual households for over half of the last four decades, even though only something like 3% of Canadians grow up that way. Not surprisingly, the new bilingual Canadian state that Trudeau established has been very, very good to Canadians who are bilingual.

Also like Obama, for part of his life, Trudeau didn't identify with his mother's people, and in fact was radically opposed to them.

What was Trudeau's buried past? From the Amazon write-up of Young Trudeau: Son of Quebec, Father of Canada, 1919-1944, a biography by Max and Monique Nemni, who were the editors of the political magazine founded by Trudeau.

This book shines a light of devastating clarity on French-Canadian society in the 1930s and 1940s, when young elites were raised to be pro-fascist, and democratic and liberal were terms of criticism. The model leaders to be admired were good Catholic dictators like Mussolini, Salazar in Portugal, Franco in Spain, and especially Pétain, collaborator with the Nazis in Vichy France. There were even demonstrations against Jews who were demonstrating against what the Nazis were doing in Germany.

Trudeau, far from being the rebel that other biographers have claimed, embraced this ideology. At his elite school, Brébeuf, he was a model student, the editor of the school magazine, and admired by the staff and his fellow students. But the fascist ideas and the people he admired – even when the war was going on, as late as 1944 – included extremists so terrible that at the war’s end they were shot. And then there’s his manifesto and his plan to stage a revolution against les Anglais.

This is astonishing material – and it’s all demonstrably true – based on personal papers of Trudeau that the authors were allowed to access after his death.What they have found has astounded and distressed them, but they both agree that the truth must be published.

From the back cover of the book (here's the Wikipedia write-up on it), which was written by admirers of Trudeau, with his cooperation. During WWII, Trudeau felt that:

"democracy was bad and that fascism -- as represented by Mussolini and Pétain -- was good. Thus, even as a young man of twenty-three, Trudeau was ignoring the war in Europe and plotting a revolution to take Quebec out of Canada. The picture that emerges is of a Quebec elite that was raised to be pro-fascist, and where Nazi atrocities were dismissed as English (Canadian) propaganda."

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

Obama, Original Sin, and Redemption

A reader writes:

"Obama appeals to secular whiterpeople with a powerful religious message. The sons and daughters of mainline Protestantism will tell you they no longer believe in original sin, but a redemptive religious worldview doesn't make much sense without it. They have translated it into white man's guilt - for the crimes of colonialism, for the fate of the planet - and they feel it as strongly as their grandparents felt the spur of original sin. Putting it all on the white man is actually a narcissistic diminution of original sin, but try telling that to a whiterperson unschooled in theology. BarryO is selling redemption. We liked it from Jean Calvin and Jonathon Edwards, and we like it from him."

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

February 17, 2008

Extended families and materialism

I recently heard about a young man who majored in philosophy in college complaining about the materialism of the young ladies in his West Asian ethnic group here in Southern California. As I've mentioned before, mercantile minorities from West Asia are becoming ever more numerous in SoCal. They tend to be economically successful but, as the philosophy major suggested, a little boring and depressing in the narrow range in which they strive to show off their success: fancy cars, fancy decor, fancy clothes, fancy jewelry.

In contrast, easy as it is make fun of the tastes of the whiterpeople on StuffWhitePeopleLike.com, whiterpeople really do help push the envelope in their struggle for status. If somebody with more money than sense buys a $10,000 high-performance kayak, well, they are helping fund the progress of kayak technology.

Consider quintessential whiterperson Ed Begley Jr., the actor and solar-power buff whom The Simpsons portrayed driving a nonpolluting car powered solely by his "own sense of self-satisfaction." Yet, as Begley's neighbor Jerry Pournelle pointed out to me once when we were walking past Begley's house, the actor's over-investment in currently economically inefficient solar panels does provide seed capital for companies trying to invent more efficient forms of solar energy.

Anyway, I have a theory about why West Asian materialism runs in such narrow ruts. If you are Ed Begley, you want to impress other people who share your tastes and values, so you socialize primarily with other environmental fanatics who will be impressed that your house is off the power grid. But if you are from a West Asian group, there's much pressure on you to socialize mostly within your extended family and their in-laws and in-laws' in-laws. And because extended families are pretty average on average, specialized interests don't cut much ice. Instead, the common denominators are the surest road to approbation.

You just bought a state-of-the-art kayak? Ho-hum. Sure, your kayak-nut friends will be wowed, but your family? Yawn. In contrast, your cousin Aram just bought the most expensive BMW. Now, that's something that everybody in the family can be floored by!

I haven't thought about it too hard, but I think this might explain something about why nuclear family societies have tended to be more creative and dynamic than extended family societies.

A reader in Turkey comments:

BTW Steve, I think one of your commentors is right on the money when he says that intra-extended-family status fight probably cannot reach the same intensity as the inter-individual status competition in the West because the status positions are more or less fixed within extended families; that extended families follow their investment patterns to compete in status with other extended families. This is very true (from personal experience).

Which kinda takes us back to the first square that for individualistic (whiterpeople, or whiter-than-thou) status fights to emerge, we need a very homogenous, national demography so that extended-family competition subsides or doesn't yield as much status as it does in mixed-ethny environments. (Looking into this "inflection point" may yield something: when does extended-family competition in an ethnically homogenous environment reach the point of diminishing returns?)

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

Can Obama Really Win the White Vote?

On VDARE, I ask Can Obama Really Win the White Vote?

Those of you familiar with my enthusiasm for making predictions might be able to guess what conclusion I came up with.

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

PHitch on Obama

Peter Hitchens goes to Chicago to report on Obama for the Daily Mail: "The Black Kennedy: But does anyone know the real Barack Obama?"

The insider recalled: "I thought he was a very talented young man. He was smart, he was willing, he was principled and he worked hard.

"He went to Springfield [the Illinois state capital] and did not become part of the more tawdry aspects of the culture down there - alcohol and women.

But Obama quickly got another reputation. "He was always in the bathroom for the really tough votes. It was not courageous."

The source explained this simply. Barack Obama knew even then that he could one day live in the White House.

"I think he understood long ago that the future was limitless for him. He made decisions in his very early political life that would enable him to be a candidate who would have very broad appeal."

These not-very-helpful remarks come from a black member of Obama's own party. What about his opponents?

One who remembers him well is Illinois State Senator Bill Brady, a white conservative Republican. The two arrived in Springfield together. In the evenings, they would gather for a friendly card game...

Brady also recalled a tendency to have it both ways and to dodge difficult votes that might hurt him later in life: "I saw great ambition in him, no question. He had an agenda."

As for his voting performance, Brady agreed Obama liked sitting on the fence. He is recalled for taking full advantage of an Illinois rule that lets you vote "present" if you don't want to commit yourself.

Brady recalled: "I learned very quickly that the 'present' vote, where the button you press is very appropriately coloured yellow, is the chicken's way out."

But that did not mean Obama lacked convictions. On the contrary, when it suited him he would vote as far Left as he could. "No one was further Left. He would do things that were unrealistic to prove he was Left.

"He was not far Left for political benefit but because he was a true believer.

"But these would be on broad-brush issues - unlike, say, detailed abortion laws - where it was unlikely to be held against him. I have never heard anyone say so little about detailed policies . . . He has moderated his tones, but I don't think he has moderated his beliefs," said Brady. [More]

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

Cousin Marriage and Corruption

Hibernia Girl graphs the relationship between corruption and rates of "consanguinity."

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