April 26, 2008

Indian Racism

The Washington Post runs a cheerful, upbeat article on the pervasive discrimination in the huge Indian film industry:

Bollywood No Longer A Dream Too Far for India's Lower Castes

Today, a trickle of actors, dancers and screenwriters from India's lower and middle castes are trying to break into a formerly impenetrable star system, full of actors from Bollywood royalty and other insiders hailing from high-caste families. New drama schools are training Indians from all castes. And Bollywood is starting to tackle more serious plots that could potentially star low-caste actors.

"Will you get more attention if you have the right surname and are part of an entrenched star family? Of course," said Anupama Chopra, a film critic and author of several best-selling books on Bollywood. "But there is increasing space now for a booming Bollywood film industry, and there's a feeling that if you are talented enough, well, maybe you will get noticed, no matter what your family ties are."

Across India, Dalits [a.k.a., Untouchables] and members of other low castes [actually, Dalits don't even have a caste -- being low caste would be a massive promotion for them] are struggling to gain access to quality education and better-paying jobs. The economy is booming, and Indians of low caste -- often identifiable by their surnames, birthplaces or parents' status -- want to share in the wealth, or at least the opportunity.

Some aspiring actors from low castes say their confidence is growing. There is more social mobility than ever before, they say, and Bollywood is experiencing its share of change.

"It's something new in the air for young people in some parts of India," said Trisha Karmakar, 24, a member of a lower caste who moved to Mumbai from the poor, densely populated state of Uttar Pradesh. "It's a feeling that at least there's a small chance for lower castes and not just for the star kids who have their godfathers and always get the callbacks."

Karmakar, speaking one recent day in a neighborhood of acting and dance schools, beauty parlors and pawnshops, said she has yet to land a role. But she said she is close to breaking into TV soap operas.

Well, don't call us, we'll call you.

As far as I can tell from reading the article, The Washington Post couldn't actually find an Untouchable, of whom there are 160 million in India, who has acted in a Bollywood movie. The closest they could come was the following:

"One of Bollywood's most beloved stars, Shahrukh Khan, is a middle-class Muslim with no film industry connections. He is often cited as an example of how charisma and sex appeal can trump connections and religious background in a country where Muslims are a minority."

Which doesn't seem very close at all.

But the fact that 160 million Untouchables are virtually shut out of India's most famous export industry is not the point, according to the Post. We shouldn't be thinking that the Bollywood tolerance glass is half empty (or, to be picky, 99.9% empty). The point is that the glass is full ... of Hope. And Change. Change and Hope!

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

April 25, 2008

McCain as Paris Hilton, Obama as Daniel Day-Lewis

John McCain spent the week campaigning in poor black neighborhoods. Is this part of some complex master Rovian plan to switch the demographic balance of the election? Nah. Or is it part of a cynical "Message: I Care" ploy? Nah, too. Or does McCain really care about poor blacks? Nah, three.

McCain's pretty much broke, so he's running a Reality TV-style campaign where instead of paying for expensive speechwriters and TV ads, he just figures out some wacky situation that will attract more cameras than normal and he just wings it in from there. This week's McCain campaign jaunt was like that Paris Hilton reality show "The Simple Life" where she and Nicole Richie milked cows.

McCain's been winging it his whole life. That's what he's best at. He may lose a wing now and then, but he's still here.

In contrast, Obama's preferred mode of campaigning is the way Daniel Day-Lewis makes movies: as infrequently and monumentally as possible. Obama's 5000 word speech on Rev. Wright was the political equivalent of Daniel Day-Lewis's performance in "There Will Be Blood."

In fact, what a lot of people said to each other right after Obama's Rev. Wright speech was awfully similar to what they said as they were walking up the theater aisle from "There Will Be Blood," with Brahms' Violin Concerto blasting away behind them:


"He makes a shiver run down my leg!"

"Like Orson Welles' 'Citizen Kane!' / Lincoln's 'Gettysburg Address!'"

"He's so much better than all other actors / politicians!"

"By the way" [in a small voice, looking around to make sure nobody else in the crowd is paying attention], what the hell was that about?"

"Uh ... I dunno."

"You don't know either?

"Well, it was about this minister."

"But what about the minister?"

"Yeah, well, Day-Lewis / Obama hates / loves the minister. And he gets rid of / doesn't get rid of the minister."

"How come?"

"I ... don't know. It had something to do with religion. But, it didn't seem to come up much in the movie / speech."

"So, why are we raving about it?"

"Look, making sense isn't really the point, now is it? The point is that Daniel Day-Lewis / Barack Obama is the most amazing person in the whole world."

"Right, sorry, my mistake, never mind."

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

Happy National DNA Day!

Today, April 25th, is the federal government's official annual "National DNA Day" to commemorate the 55th anniversary of the publication in Nature of the key article on the structure of DNA by Francis Crick and, uh, some other dude.

In fact, recent research revealed that Francis Crick crimethunk, too. So, perhaps it's not surprising that neither scientist's name appears on the government's "National DNA Day" homepage.

Don't you think it's about time the government moved National DNA Day to some date more appropriate, like, say, Rosa Parks's birthday? I mean, she had DNA, too, didn't she?

And she suffered. That's what we want these days -- heroes of suffering. (Just ask John McCain!) These two science dudes, they merely accomplished something. And who needs that? Heroes of accomplishment just make people who don't accomplish things feel bad.

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

Mormon Evolution

If the polygamist Fundamentalist Church of the Latter Day Saints is more or a less a pyramid scam, in which the guys at the top hog the wives, how did the mainstream Church of the Latter Days Saints evolve into something quite different? I don't know anything about Mormon history, so please help me out here.

The mainstream Mormon organization in Utah today seem more like a mutual self-help society, sort of a private enterprise Sweden. If you agree to play by their rules, follow their cultural norms, and pay a lot of taxes, excuse me, donations, they'll round down some of the sharp, competitive corners of modern life for you. The intense and expensive efforts modern Americans make to "insulate, insulate, insulate" their families (as Sherman McCoy's best friend tells him people who want to raise children in Manhattan must do) are sort of taken care of for you by the Mormon church.

Of course, that's why Mormons are so Republican -- they've built themselves a private welfare state, without most of the moral hazard that goes with government welfare states.

For example, consider the admissions process to college, which is pretty maniacal for a lot of families these days.

Yet, the statistics on Brigham Young University don't look much at all like other universities. These days, colleges are extremely stratified by SAT score, but BYU isn't like that. The last time I checked (about five years ago), it's 25th and 75th percentiles of SAT scores were farther apart than just about any other prominent college in the country, meaning that a wide range of kids go there: both the smart Mormon kids and the average Mormon kids. The students at BYU just don't really care all that much about going to the school with the highest USNWR ranking.

Nowadays, most kids across the country apply to a lot of colleges and so acceptance rates are very low compared to just a decade ago, but then most colleges' "yields" (i.e., their admitted applicants' acceptance of them) have become pretty low, too. In other words, on April 1st the typical brand name college sends out, say, 5,000 acceptances and 20,000 rejection letters, and on May 1 it gets back 2000 acceptances of acceptances and 3000 rejections of acceptances. It's nerve wracking for all concerned.

But at BYU, it's pretty easy to get in. Non-Mormons don't want to go there, so it's not that competitive. And yet it's not a "safety school" -- most of the kids who get accepted choose to go there. It's yield is up there with Annapolis and Columbia and the like.

And the tuition is cheap. There's no real magic -- they have big class sizes. They just don't see the need to compete in the USNWR rankings by having smaller classes.

What BYU sounds like is the old State U. in 1950s Heinlein juvenile novels, where the hero (who is a math genius but nobody has noticed) has just graduated from high school and is working at the malt shop, and when customers ask him what his plans are, he says he really hasn't made any so he figures he'll just go to old State U. in September. Pretty low key ...

That's what UCLA was like when Heinlein went there for a few weeks.

Of course, nowadays, there are people in Seoul who have been grooming their prodigy child for acceptance at old State U. since birth, so old State U. isn't at all like old State U. anymore. In 2008, UCLA got 55,000 applications for the freshman class, the most of any college in America, with 45% coming from students with a 4.0 or higher GPA.

But BYU apparently still is kind of like Heinlein-era UCLA.

Anyway, my question is: how did the mainstream Mormons get from being kind of a pyramid scheme back in the polygamous 19th Century to the set-up they have today where life is more egalitarian than in the rest of America?

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

April 24, 2008

Cezanne vs. Picasso vs. Gladwell

I was going to comment on a recent lecture New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell gave to a conference of math teachers on how some students are like Picasso and everything comes quickly to them, while others are like Cezanne, where it takes them a long time before they become geniuses.

I came up with a theory about why he chose those particular analogies for math students, but then Google showed that in reality he's been wedging Picasso v. Cezanne into just about any of his recent speeches, no matter what the subject: oldies Classic Rock (see, the Eagles were like Picasso, while Fleetwood Mac was like Cezanne); American health care policy ("Gladwell: Health-care system needs Cezanne, not Picasso or Michael Moore"); and how to run your corporate R&D department ("Is Your Company a Cezanne or a Picasso?")

Nice work if you can get it!

The back story is that Malcolm developed his latest crush on a professor, U. of Chicago economist David W. Galenson, and wrote an article about Galenson's theory that there are two types of artists: quick-blooming conceptualists and slow-blooming experimentalists. Gladwell's article was evidently so silly that, despite Gladwell's huge popularity, the New Yorker rejected it, so Gladwell has been recycling it in speeches.

Enough about Gladwell. Let's take a look at Galenson's website:
"When in their lives do great artists produce their greatest art? Do they strive for creative perfection throughout decades of painstaking and frustrating experimentation, or do they achieve it confidently and decisively, through meticulous planning that yields masterpieces early in their lives?

By examining the careers not only of great painters but also of important sculptors, poets, novelists, and movie directors, Old Masters and Young Geniuses offers a profound new understanding of artistic creativity. Using a wide range of evidence, David Galenson demonstrates that there are two fundamentally different approaches to innovation, and that each is associated with a distinct pattern of discovery over a lifetime.

Experimental innovators work by trial and error, and arrive at their major contributions gradually, late in life. In contrast, conceptual innovators make sudden breakthroughs by formulating new ideas, usually at an early age. Galenson shows why such artists as Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Cézanne, Jackson Pollock, Virginia Woolf, Robert Frost, and Alfred Hitchcock were experimental old masters, and why Vermeer, van Gogh, Picasso, Herman Melville, James Joyce, Sylvia Plath, and Orson Welles were conceptual young geniuses. He also explains how this changes our understanding of art and its past.

Experimental innovators seek, and conceptual innovators find."

Galenson has supposedly collected a lot of quantitative information on sales prices and the like to determine when various artists peaked That kind of thing is always fun. (Although, I haven't actually seen his data. Commenters pointed me toward graph guru Edward Tufte's site -- he has read Galenson's book but didn't see any sales price data in it. Auction price data sounds like the kind of thing you'd have to massage a lot to make usable, adjusting for size of paintings and market levels, which means you could also massage it into giving the results you wanted if you weren't careful with yourself.).

That's not a bad little dichotomy, but it's more useful in comparing disciplines -- theoretical physicists tend to be young when they make their breakthroughs and historians tend to be old when they write their big books summing it all up, such as Jacques Barzun's From Dawn to Decadence, published when he was 94.

In other professions, it's mostly cost that drives peak ages: architects tend to be old when their most famous buildings are built because buildings are too expensive to be entrusted to whippersnappers. In contrast, great three chord rock songs are written by young men because it barely costs anything besides time, when they have all the time in the world.

But back to Galenson's central interest: art. There are of course, obvious limitations on his quantitative approach: there's not exactly an active market in Michelangelo's masterpieces. ("Sheldon Adelson bought the Sistine Chapel today for $18.1 billion from Larry Ellison, who paid only $15.3 billion for it in 2006. Adelson says the Sistine Chapel will serve as the lobby of his new Vatican Vegas Hotel & Casino, which he's opening on the Strip in 2010.")

I haven't read Galenson's book, but his own blurb for it isn't confidence-inducing. Why is Michelangelo an "old master" rather than a young innovator? He carved his Pieta before he was 25 and his David, the most famous sculpture of all time, the most stunning single objet d'art I've ever seen, before he was 30. On the other hand, he painted the Last Judgment in the Sistine chapel when in his sixties and redid the architecture of St. Peter's when in his seventies.

How can we account for this incredibly long and productive career?

Because he was Michelangelo.

This is a little like asking how Ted Williams could hit .388 with power and walks when he was 38 years old. It's because he could hit .406 with power and walks when he was 22. And vice-versa. He was Ted Williams, the greatest hitter of his generation.

Bill James had a nice little graph about the basic reason why some baseball players had long careers and others had short careers. Here's my version of it:

The horizontal axis is age, the vertical axis is a made-up measure of player value to a major league team. The purple line at value 10 is how good you have to be to be a starter in the big leagues.

So, Lance Long, the red line, is such a hot-shot prospect that he gets a few major league at-bats in September when's 18. He cracks the starting lineup at 21. He peaks at 27 like the average ballplayer, and he stays a starter through 39. He spends 40 as pinch-hitter and tries one more season at 41, but retires in May.

The career of Sid Short, the green line, follows almost exactly the same arc but most of it is spent in the minors or on the bench simply because he's not as good as Lance Long. He has a nice big league career, starting in the majors from 24 through 31, but as his body deteriorates, he's on the bench, then back to Triple A, then maybe bouncing around a Mexican league before he faces the inevitable and calls it quits.

Now, there are other factors that affect a player's career arc. For example, all else being equal, a smart player like Pedro Martinez is more likely to outlast a dumb player like Pedro Guerrero. A fast player at age 20 is more likely to find some place in the lineup at age 35 than a moderate-speed player who may be too slow by 35 for the big leagues. With alcoholics, not surprisingly, the second half of the career tends to be disappointing compared to the first half (e.g., Eddie Matthews, Mickey Mantle, Jimmie Foxx)

Injuries obviously play a role, but once again they interact with talent. If you are Ernie Banks, two-time MVP power-hitting shortstop, and you permanently hobble yourself mid-career, they switch you to first base. If you are a journeyman with the same injury, though, they might find you an assistant coach job in the minor leagues if they're feeling benevolent.

With artists, the single biggest variable is age of death. For example, two of Galenson's young bucks are Vermeer, who died at 43, and and Van Gogh, who died at 37.

In one of his papers, he writes:

"There have been two very different life cycles for great artists: some have made their greatest contributions very early in their careers, whereas others have produced their best work late in their lives. These two patterns have been associated with different working methods, as art's young geniuses have worked deductively to make conceptual innovations, while its old masters have worked inductively, to innovate experimentally. We demonstrate the value of this typology by considering the careers of four great conceptual innovators - Masaccio, Raphael, Picasso, and Johns - and five great experimental innovators - Michelangelo, Titian, Rembrandt, Cezanne, and Pollock."

Okay, but Masaccio, who introduced perspective to painting in Florence in 1425 died at 27 and Raphael died at 37. Maybe Masaccio just was in the right place at the right time, although people who know far more about art than I do assume he would have had a long, tremendous career if he'd lived. If Masaccio had lived, a decade or two later, he might have been the first great Italian to use oil paint, and then he'd be so famous today as the most revolutionary painter of all time that he'd be one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

And there's nothing in Raphael's character that suggests he was a one-trick pony. If he'd lived a long time, he'd probably have had a career like Titian's, only even better.

Finally, there's the historic shift at the beginning of the 20th Century from fine art to what Paul Johnson calls "fashion art." Raphael was the epitome of the fine artist, whose skills were objectively superior. Jasper Johns is the epitome of the fashion artist who figures out the next wave of fashion and cashes in big time.

Johns had the first show of Pop Art in 1958. See, he'd figured out that collectors were bored with Abstract Expressionist paintings. They wanted to buy paintings that were, at least, pictures of something. But the reigning dogma of the 20th Century was that paintings that used perspective, that created an illusion of 3-d space, a window into a made-up universe, were a fraud. A painting was just a flat surface with paint on it. You shouldn't make up a little story about what was happening in it: "Maybe Mona Lisa looks both happy and sad because ..." No! It's just a flat thing with paint on it.

But, still, pure abstraction was kind of boring ...

In The Painted Word, Tom Wolfe summarizes critic Leo Steinberg's epochal explication of what Johns had "accomplished."

"The new theory went as follows. Johns had chosen real subjects such as flags and numbers and letters and targets that were flat by their very nature. They were born to be flat, you might say. Thereby Johns was achieving an amazing thing. He was bringing real subjects into Modern painting but in a way that neither violated the law of Flatness nor introduced "literary" content."

Trust me, if Raphael had felt like painting a flag, it would be a better flag painting than any by Jasper Johns.

Finally, back to Picasso and Cezanne. How is it that Cezanne's paintings from the last decade of his career are his most expensive today, and Picasso's paintings from the first decade of his career are the most expensive? Well, it was basically the same decade -- the first of the 20th Century. That's when the Big Switch happened, so the most historically important paintings from both Cezanne and Picasso come from almost the same time.

What happened in the first decade of the 20th Century was that after 475 years, people were getting bored with perspective; and painters were increasingly worried about photography. Pretty soon, those bastards would have color film and then you could take pictures that looked like what Jan van Eyck was doing in the 1430s in the Low Countries when he got perspective from Italy and oil paint from Norway. And then who is going to hire a painter?

This led to the happy ending of Cezanne's life. Cezanne could never quite get the hang of perspective, which had been the basic barrier to entry for professional painters since the 15th Century. All of his pictures just kind of looked "off." Normally, people who tried their hand at painting but couldn't master perspective gave up and did something else with their lives. It's like a professional baseball player who can't hit a 90 mph fastball or a singer who can't stay on key -- they're best advised to go get a real job and most of them eventually do.

But Cezanne was a dogged sort, who really loved painting, even if he wasn't very good at it. So, he kept at it and at it, and he actually got better at the other stuff, like color.

Eventually, though, people in the art business, like young Picasso, decided "Who cares about perspective anymore? It's been done." And they looked around for a role model to give some credence, some sense of historical development to this new fashion, and, there was poor old Cezanne, still hard at it. And, you know, if you kind of squinted and ignored the fact that his paintings looked out-of-kilter, they were pretty good! And, in fact, since paintings had been in-kilter since Masaccio, but now the damn photographers were just pressing a button and making in-kilter pictures, you could argue that Cezanne's out-of-kilterness made his poor old paintings not just good, but great! (That was the point, of course -- the art world wanted paintings that you wouldn't get unless you'd heard the theory already. Everything else could be left to photography.)

So, what does Cezanne have to do with math students? Maybe if some kid just doesn't have the knack for the Quadratic Formula, he should just keep plugging away until the Quadratic Formula goes out of fashion!

P.S. -- This issue of measuring quality by sales price, box office revenue, or other volume per unit has some subtle problems, even beyond the issue of crassness.

Just assume for the moment that money really does equal artistry. The problem is that artists frequently change the scale of the unit they work on and their rate of production over their careers.

For example, movie director David Lean's career very neatly segments into two periods. He made 11 films between 1942 and 1955, most of them modestly scaled, such as Brief Encounter. He then switched to directing ambitious epics filmed on location: Bridge Over the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia, Dr. Zhivago, Ryan's Daughter, and A Passage to India. Thus, he completed only five more films over the next 30 years.

You can see the methodological problem in determining what was the peak period of his career, right? On any per unit measure these latter films average higher, whether box office or Academy Award nominations or critics' Top 10 lists. But they only came out once per six years, while the earlier films came out five times as often. Waiting five years for Lawrence of Arabia was probably worth it, but how about waiting 14 years for Passage to India?

So, a better solution than Galenson's attempt to measure prices or box office per individual painting or film is to aggregate over a period of time, such as per year.

Another issue is how high or low do you set the bar. For example, with Lean, if the measure is set very lofty, such as asking 100 leading film experts to name the Single Greatest Film Ever, then he'd probably only get votes for Lawrence. If you set the bar pretty low, such as, "Was it worth releasing the film in the theatres?" then his per year productivity was higher in the first part of his career. So, some mixture of measures would be best.

By the way, there are a few kinds of artists whose unit of scale doesn't change over time, such as Norman Rockwell, who painted 321 Saturday Evening Post covers over 47 years. But, I suspect that even Rockwell's rate of output change over the years.

Syndicated cartoonists are among the few artists whose scale and rate stay constant. For example, around 1972, I read all the annual Charles Schulz' Peanuts collections in order. By my juvenile judgment, he consistently improved up through 1968, his peak, but fell off in the three following years. I don't know if other people would agree with my impressions, but the point is that you could run a fair experiment.

Syndicated daily cartooning is a tough job. Thus, you see odd careers arcs like Bill Watterson of Calvin & Hobbes, who was probably the best cartoonist in America from 1985-1995, but virtually disappeared into retirement a dozen years ago at 37 rather than try to maintain his sterling quality at the same killer pace.

The black hole of American public policy discourse

A friend waxes metaphorical about the state of intellectual life in America:

The metaphor that's always come to my mind is that of living near some sort of singularity, gravitational or otherwise.

Basically, anything that gets too close to the singularity falls inside and disappears. People go around their daily lives, when suddenly someone accidentally gets too close---James Watson?---and Bam! He disappears.

The powerful tidal effects from the invisible singularity warp all sorts of social structures into bizarre shapes and behaviors. Gradually over time, more and more pieces of our world drop inside the singularity and disappear, until eventually the entire society collapses.

Back in the early 1970s, Larry Niven wrote a couple of short stories about the fact that if you just just took a tiny quantum black hole (that was before Hawking's evaporation theory came out) with the mass of a baseball or something and just dropped it into the ground it would fall to the center, swing back and forth through the core, and eventually gobble up the entire planet within a few years or centuries, becoming a somewhat bigger black hole in the process. Tiny black hole plus Earth equals bigger black hole plus no more Earth!

Officially believing in something that just isn't true has much the same impact, eventually gobbling up everything else in your society.

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

The Economics of Eldorado

A couple of weeks ago, following a hoax phone call from (apparently) an Obama delegate in Colorado, the state of Texas seized 437 children from a community recently built outside of Eldorado, TX by the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (which, for some reason, is known as FLDS rather than FCLDS).

I've been trying to understand the economics of Eldorado.

If you ask most guys, they'll tell you that having one wife is expensive. So, how do you have a community based on having a bunch of wives?

In tropical farming communities, the usual solution is to send the wives out to work hoeing the fields. That's how you come across stories now and then of some handsome, prosperous fellow in Kenya with 100 wives -- he owns the land, but the work is being put in, overwhelmingly, by the wives.

The downsides to this tropical model (frequently found in Africa and the New Guinea area) normally include that childcare winds up catch as catch can and the husbands have a hard time keeping their wives in the fields away from local bachelors trying to lure them into the bushes. But then, does the husband care all that much if he winds up with a few cuckoo's eggs? He's not busting his hump for the kids, anyway, so it's not a big deal.

FLDS seems to be midway between the lackadaisical African model of paternal uncertainty and the Middle Eastern Muslim model of paternal paranoia with wives locked up in harems and only allowed out wearing tents. The FLDS women don't seem to be allowed out much to work in the wider world, and have to wear modest clothes at all times, but at least the FLDS doesn't have eunuch harem guards. (But they also throw out scores of young men each year to reduce the bachelors in the bushes threat.)

So, where do they get their money? Models that might be helpful to think about include:

1. Welfare fraud: Since the states don't recognize subsequent marriages, all the wives after the first are legally unwed mothers, eligible for Aid to Families with Dependent Children, food stamps, and so forth. Apparently, it's called "bleeding the beast."

2. Organized crime / politics: The main FLDS community of Colorado City, AZ / Hilldale, UT (it's on the border for purposes of legal confusion) is its own town in two different states, and lots of money comes down from Phoenix, Salt Lake City, and Washington D.C. for things like public schools, the local airport (used primarily by the Prophet), street paving and so forth. Supposedly, the place gets back $8 in state services for every $1 it pays in state taxes. Not surprisingly, the FLDS puts lots of its members on the state-supported payroll and appears to skim off a sizable fraction of the budget for its own purposes. In 2005, the state of Arizona put the local school district into receivership for mismanagement. So, it's kind of a racket.

Of course, the same thing could be said of a lot of municipalities, like, oh, Chicago. On the other hand, the Mayors Daley never quite had government employees as hypnotized into not rolling over for prosecutors as the Prophets Jeffs.

3. Pyramid scheme / slavery -- The male members of the FLDS appear to be, in general, industrious and competent at blue collar trades, especially construction work. But their earnings are "taxed" at very high rates by the handful of leaders at the top of the church. All property is owned by the church.

Why do these hard-working guys put up with it? The Prophet gets to decide who marries whom. If he likes how much money you've brought in, maybe he gives you a wife. If he really likes you, maybe he gives you a second, prettier one. The sky's the limit. But, if the Prophet doesn't like you, no wife for you. In fact, he may expel you from the only community you've ever known. After all, there are about an equal number of boys and girls born to the sect, so a lot of the more unruly and/or less productive males get tossed out.

4. Puppy mill -- Not surprisingly, not that many people want to convert to FLDS, so to keep the supply of young wives for elders as bountiful as possible, they have to grow their own. This leads to inbreeding problems. The Deseret Morning News reported:

Until a few years ago, scientists knew of only 13 cases of Fumarase Deficiency in the entire world. Tarby said he's now aware of 20 more victims, all within a few blocks of each other on the Utah-Arizona border.

The children live in the polygamist community once known as Short Creek that is now incorporated as the twin towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. Tarby believes the recessive gene for Fumarase Deficiency was introduced to the community by one of its early polygamist founders.

According to community historian Ben Bistline, most of the community's 8,000 residents are in two major families descended from a handful of founders who settled there in the 1930s to live a polygamist lifestyle.

"Ninety percent of the community is related to one side or the other," Bistline said.

So, does this mean the state of Texas should have taken 437 children? Arizona tried it 55 years ago and it proved to be a nightmare.

So, I don't know what Texas should do now, but here's the first lesson for other states: Do not let these people infest your state.

When Texas first got wind of the FLDS plan to set up a compound a few years ago, they should have come down on them with a Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO) lawsuit, hostile building inspectors, environmental impact study demands, everything in the ample arsenal of the modern state to get them to go away.

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

April 22, 2008

How Obama can avoid becoming the Democratic Mitt Romney

As you'll recall, last week, in the 21st Democratic candidates' debate, the press finally got around to asking Obama repeatedly about some of the evidence that he is (or, perhaps, was) farther to the left than his expensively honed public image would suggest.

When Obama couldn't come up with reassuring answers, this line of questioning was widely denounced by his supporters. Why is the press wasting time on trivia like who Obama really is, the pundits thundered, when it could be asking important questions, like about the difference in Obama's and Hillary's stance on individual mandates in government health insurance plans?

Personally, I was bored with attempts to discern differences in their platforms, but I thought that was just me. But now Team Obama has pulled out of the planned North Carolina primary debate. This follows Obama's statement that he's bored with debates too. CNN reported:
Sen. Barack Obama suggested Thursday that he doesn't see any point in having another debate with Democratic rival Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Clinton has agreed to a debate next week, but Obama has not accepted the invitation.

At an appearance in Raleigh, North Carolina, Obama said he has a lot of campaigning to do in a limited amount of time.

Obama said he had agreed to an earlier debate, but Clinton declined that one.

"I'll be honest with you, we've now had 21," he said. "It's not as if we don't know how to do these things. I could deliver Sen. Clinton's lines; she could, I'm sure, deliver mine."

Of course, the reason he doesn't want to do a 22nd debate is because in the 21st, he finally got asked tough questions about the central conundrum about Barack Obama: Who is in charge: his head or his heart?

Like me, Obama is essentially a writer, not an extemporaneous speaker. He needs a few drafts to work things out. So, he developed a conversational style where he doesn't try to persuade anybody in unscripted conversation of anything other than that "I have understood you," knowing that most people assume that the only reason anybody disagrees with them is because they are too dumb to understand. Obama watched how fast people got sick of Newt Gingrich. Americans like to imagine their leaders know more than they are saying.

And even though debates are mostly precanned speechmaking, where he can use his writing skills to come up with verbiage ahead of time, they aren't his strength because of the time restrictions on his answers. Obama needs a lot of words to work his special Baroque O'Blarney magic, to lull his readers and listeners into forgetting whatever it was they wanted to know from him and just stand their in awe of his thoughtful nuances.

For example, his March 18th speech on his two-decade long relationship with Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. was instantly proclaimed a masterpiece by the press because it was 5,000 words long.

But, to the surprise of many reporters who watched it, it didn't end the Rev. problem for him, especially not among the kind of Pennsylvania voters who aren't going to read 5,000 words of nuanced thoughtfulness. Obama's problem is that when you try to sum up his March 18th explanation for his 20 years of following Rev. Wright in a few syllables, you just come up with something like: "It's okay because I'm black."

Obama's plan appears to be to try to run out the clock on the Democratic nomination, then hope that the elderly McCain decides to run a gentlemanly campaign that will meet with the approval of his admirers in the press rather than go to the mat with Obama, 1988-style, and actually try to win.

Clearly, Obama is a brilliant politician who has spent a long time thinking about how he would someday be elected President. Still, his bet that his opponents and the press will be too intimidated by his being black to take the gloves off is a risky one.

Leaving aside race, Obama's problem is the same as Mitt Romney's was. We had two pictures of Romney at two different times: the liberal Republican governor of Massachusetts a few years ago and the conservative Republican candidate in 2008. And Romney didn't provide us with any kind of narrative explaining how and why he went from Point A to Point B. Romney was a Heisenbergian electron materializing in different orbits with no way for us to know how he got from one to the other.

So, a lot of people decided that Romney must be a big phony who determined his standards by political expediency. And thus the nomination went to John McCain, who may blow up the world, but at least he'll do it in an authentic, straight-shootin' manner.

Like Romney, Obama, despite being a gifted memoirist, has never provided us with a plausible narrative explaining how he got from Rev. Wright's politics to being the post-partisan conciliator he claims to be now.

Romney, being white, especially being Mormon, which a lot of people associate with Donny Osmond's big-toothed perpetual smile, couldn't get away with that. So far, Obama, being (nominally) black, which Americans associate with authenticity, has gotten away with it.

But, he's losing momentum. He's lost three big state primaries in a row.

Obviously, it's presumptuous of me to offer Obama political advice. The man has thought longer and harder than anybody about the many advantages of being black in America today. He figured out that black Democrats would abandon the Clintons out of pure racial loyalty. And he figured out that white Democrats (and maybe white Republicans too) have been trained to turn their brains off when it comes to anything touching on race. He may very well win the Presidency because his opponents and the media are intimidated by his race.

Still, he's playing defense now. He'll increasingly have to hunker down, away from the trickle of tough questions that has started.

If he wants to go back on offense, though, he should play to his strength. He should give another 5,000 word speech. This one would be on: "I used to be way to the left, but now I'm not, because ..."

Aye, there's the rub: Why?

Therefore, let me suggest one for him:

"I used to be way to the left, but now I'm not, because I had kids."

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

Hillary wins 55-45

Here's the exit poll.

I didn't pay that much attention to the Pennsylvania primary, but judging from the demographics of who voted for whom, it strikes me that they could have held this election six weeks ago and gotten the same results. This election is about identity, not about surface issues.

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

April 21, 2008

Happy Earth Day!

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

Now they tell us!

Over at the VDARE.com blog, I have a new post up about a study of California immigrants' skills, such as they are.

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


From Channel 7 News in Denver;

Parents Fight Over Which Gang Toddler Should Join

Police: Mother A Crip, Father A Westside Baller

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. -- A couple fighting about which gang their 4-year-old toddler should join caused a public disturbance that resulted in the father's arrest, Commerce City police said Thursday.

On Saturday, Joseph Manzanares stormed into the Hollywood Video store where his girlfriend worked, threatened to kill her and knocked over several video displays and even a computer, Commerce City police Sgt. Joe Sandoval said.

After he ran out of the store, police were called and the 19-year-old was arrested at his home.

His girlfriend told police that they had been arguing about the upbringing of their son and which gang he should belong to. The teen mother, who is black, is a member of the Crips. Manzanares is Hispanic and belongs to the Westside Ballers gang, the woman said.

"They have different ideas on how the baby should be raised. Basically, she said they cannot agree on which gang the baby would 'claim,'" Sandoval said.

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

April 20, 2008

Iron Man

About four years ago, when Robert Downey Jr. was uninsurable but trying to clean up his act (for the first time since he was seven), I used to see him all the time at our kids' soccer and baseball games at the park, living life in the slow lane. He long ago cleared out to a higher rent district, but I've been rooting for his comeback that began with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang ever since. Rooting for any celebrity, especially one as privileged and untrustworthy as Downey, is pretty dumb, but I can't help it. It looks like his comeback will culminate on May 2 with his starring role in "Iron Man."

He tells the New York Times:

“I have a really interesting political point of view, and it’s not always something I say too loud at dinner tables here, but you can’t go from a $2,000-a-night suite at La Mirage to a penitentiary and really understand it and come out a liberal. You can’t. I wouldn’t wish that experience on anyone else, but it was very, very, very educational for me and has informed my proclivities and politics every since.”

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

My jury duty war story

In VDARE.com this week, I tell the story of my time on a jury:

All this millennium, I've been banging on in VDARE.com about the links between immigration and crime families. But even I was surprised when I ended up on the jury in a trial that so perfectly exemplified what I've been saying that it sounds like I made it up.

Unlike on Law & Order, real trials are not crackerjack battles of wits. This one plodded on for a couple of weeks, but it did get more amusing when the defense went on the offense.

The defendant was an Iranian immigrant with a shaved head and a goatee. He lived in Orange County's idyllic seaside suburb of San Clemente.

Although this tax fraud trial in downtown Los Angeles was a VDARE.com column come to life, one thing I did learn was that you don't have to be a criminal mastermind to make millions in white-collar crime.

The scam was incredibly simple. Get licensed as a car dealer and buy a used car lot. Sell an old car for, say, $10,000 plus the $825 in sales tax, but send the state of California only $412.50, pocketing the other $412.50.

Repeat until rich.

Brilliant, no?

There was just one little flaw in the accused’s otherwise perfect plan: lots of other people had tried to pull this same fast one since California started collecting sales tax in 1933.

So, maybe it wasn't such a perfect plot, but … Whose scheme was it, anyway?


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