July 12, 2008

$140 Oil -- Cui Bono?

How much of the current $140 per barrel price of oil is due to Iranian vs. USA / Israel tensions, the fear that the Persian Gulf will get blown up?

Let's just say, for the sake of ease of calculation, that the price of oil would be $100 per barrel in a stress-free environment. So, under that assumption, Iran, which exports 2.5 million barrels per day, makes $100 million dollars per day off squabbling with the U.S. and Israel.

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

July 11, 2008

Fool me once ...

One theory for why states and cities are raising their high school graduation requirements (Los Angeles now requires passing Algebra II to graduate) is that they are hoping to persuade their dumber students to move somewhere less demanding, and keep people with dumb kids from moving to the state in the first place. For example, Arizona now has much easier high school graduation requirements than California, so it would be smart for families with not so bright kids to relocate, and it would be smart for Mexicans planning to sneak into America to choose Arizona, where their kids are more likely to become high school graduates, than California.

The theory isn't very plausible, however, because there's little evidence that California's politicians and educators are smart enough to understand it.

You might, however, someday see politicians in, say, New Hampshire devising ways to get illegal immigrants to live in Maine, Vermont, and Massachusetts even while working in NH.

That reminds me that I wouldn't be surprised to see the following happen:

Imagine you were a fairly young man relatively high up in the rather geriatric Cuban Communist dictatorship. You are content to bide your time until Fidel and Raul are gone, but you intend to then emerge as the Deng of a prosperous post-Communist Cuba. And you intend to enjoy that role for a long time.

As you survey post-Communist transitions, you note the sad case of East Germany, where Communism badly dented the formerly famous Protestant work ethic, leaving economic malaise even two decades later.

Cuba is in even worse shape culturally and morally: huge subsidies and tiny wages mean that Cuba is now full of welfare bums and hustlers who won't take jobs.

Think of how much easier everything would be for you as El Presidente of capitalist Cuba if you could just get rid of the bottom quarter of your population.

You aren't a cruel man. You don't wish the Cuban parasite class ill. You just want them to go be parasites on somebody else, somebody who is big, rich, and only 90 miles away.

Fidel made many mistakes, but he was a clever man, never more so than in 1980, when some political dissidents took refuge in a foreign embassy, hoping for asylum in America. Fidel made lemonade out of lemons by not only letting the political prisoners go, but by emptying his prisons of all the real criminals too, dumping them on Uncle Sam in the Mariel boatlift.

Could you pull off something like that anew? Could America be fooled twice?

Say you started rounding up all the welfare mothers and pimps as "anti-Communist wreckers." The Cubans in Miami would soon be up in arms (it would help to schedule this right before a Presidential election). Finally, you could relent and let a million bums sail for America in a Dunkirk like exodus, where they would be granted asylum as soon as they landed. The Wall Street Journal would write rapturous editorials about it.

You really think Americans are smart enough not to fall for this trick twice?

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

Obama doesn't speak a foreign language

After telling Americans earlier this week to have their children learn Spanish, Sen. Barack Obama admitted yesterday, "I don't speak a foreign language."

Upon learning this news, New York Times op-edster Roger Cohen, who has written dozens of columns about how Barack Obama is the perfect postnational cosmopolite Citizen of the World, committed suicide in despair, his hopes and fantasies shattered. (Just kidding, I fear.)

Obama lacks a second language despite living for four years at an impressionable age in a foreign country, and then spending eight years at a lavish prep school that currently offers five different languages and makes studying at least one of them mandatory in 7th grade. Sen. Obama also has an undergraduate degree from Columbia University, which has a foreign language requirement and offers 37 different foreign languages, including some that don't exist anymore, such as Akkadian. He later spent three years at Harvard, which offers instruction in more languages than I'm willing to count. I did make it through Harvard's "African Languages" list and counted 20 separate ones offered at Harvard.

So, Obama has had more opportunity to learn a foreign language than 95% of all native-born Americans, but he hasn't.

And, yet, despite speaking just English, Obama seems to have done pretty well for himself. After all, he is the frontrunner for President. I guess the lesson is that he'd be the frontrunner for Galactic Overlord if only he'd learned to speak Bahasa Indonesian, Spanish, and Klingon.

Obama should go to a black church in Compton and tell the congregation to teach their children Spanish. I bet that would go over well.

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

Speaking of age ...

Bruce Charlton writes:

Provoked by your red-shirting comments [see below]...

I am re-reading Ian Deary's marvellous, concentrated little book Intelligence: a very short introduction; and from Chapter 2 on ageing (summarizing work by Salthouse) it is very clear that g begins to decline pretty early on average - in the 30s.

At the same time the average educational experience of professionals is now becoming so lengthened that plenty of people are mot starting their real jobs until g is already declining. I

For instance, scientists are now not finishing their post-doctoral training (often 5-6 years) until their mid-thirties - when they become eligible to apply for assistant professorships and (at last) begin their independnt researchers - just as g has started to decline. (and it shows...)

This is insane. We must stop lengthening, and start shortening, the duration of front-end formal education.

Contrast - in the great era of Cambrdige University in the early 20th century, the students would go to college at 19 for three years, and if they graduated with a first might get a college fellowship or equivalent within a year or two - to begin their independent researches in their mid-twenties.

Newton's epochal 18 months came at age 22-23.

James D. Watson retired from scientific research at age 39 and went into research management for the second half of his life.

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

California requires Algebra I for all 8th graders

I took Algebra I in 9th grade, when I was 13. I presume I could have done fine in it in 8th grade, but I was a lot more logical in 9th grade than in 8th grade, due to puberty. But nowadays, every 8th grader in California's public schools has to take Algebra I.

Why? Because nobody cares about federalism anymore: it's part of the No Child Left Behind act. The Department of Education has finally noticed that states were making their mandatory tests easy, so they are cracking down by requiring Algebra I questions in the 8th grade state test.

And because George "soft bigotry of low expectations" Bush is a liberal creationist.

Nanette Asimov (yes, she's Isaac Asimov's niece) writes in the San Francisco Chronicle:

All California eighth-graders in public school will have to take Algebra 1 beginning in 2011 under a policy approved Wednesday by the state Board of Education in an 8-1 vote.

The board decided to make algebra testing mandatory in the eighth grade over the strong objections of Jack O'Connell, the state's elected schools chief….

O'Connell is a complete nimrod, but even he knows that lots of kids aren't bright enough at age 12-13 to get much out of Algebra I.

But board President Ted Mitchell said the move shows there is "unequivocally one set of standards for all kids, no matter their ZIP code, race or income level."

Ordered by the federal government to bring California's eighth-grade math testing into compliance with No Child Left Behind, the board endorsed the mandatory Algebra 1 testing over a more moderate approach urged by O'Connell, math instructors from around the state and the California School Boards Association.

But the board members sided with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who appointed them, and in a rare move overruled the strong recommendations of the state superintendent. The governor had asked the board to make algebra mandatory and he expressed satisfaction with the result.

"California's children have already proven that when we set the bar high, they can do anything," Schwarzenegger said.

Sure. They're not mathematical girly men. All they need are some Brain 'Roids.

To be fair to the Governator, I suspect he's one of the few politicians who has used much algebra since getting out of school -- he was a successful building contractor in his spare time, starting off as a bricklayer.

The decision was also supported by business groups and the chancellor of the community college system, Diane Woodruff.

Algebra 1 has been a high-school graduation requirement in California since 2004. Students are encouraged to take it in eighth grade, but can take it any time before graduating.

There are nearly 500,000 eighth-graders in public schools. Currently, 52 percent take Algebra 1. Each spring, they take the California Standards Test for Algebra 1.

Eighth-graders who aren't enrolled in Algebra 1 take a different exam: the California Standards Test for general math.

This year the U.S. Department of Education found that the general math test was out of compliance with the No Child Left Behind Act because it measured only sixth- and seventh-grade material.

So California was given a choice: Pump up the general math test to include Algebra 1 items, or require everyone to take the Algebra 1 test - which in effect requires all eighth-graders to take Algebra 1.

Failure to comply - that is, if the board had done nothing by the end of this month - would have disqualified California from several federal programs and placed most middle schools on a list of failing campuses that could ultimately be restructured from the bottom up.

"I have strong reservations about requiring all eighth-grade students to take Algebra 1 within three years without also offering any additional changes, support or resources for our public school system," O'Connell told the state's school superintendents in a two-page letter Tuesday.

He said that most eighth-graders who take general math already struggle with the material and that requiring them to take an even tougher course without extra help - tutoring, for example - is "highly irresponsible."

Among the eighth-graders in general math, he said, 86 percent of black students and 84 percent of Latinos score below proficient on the state test.

What could be better for all concerned that to shove the bottom half in with the top half in 8th grade Algebra I classes? I'm sure the 8th graders who should be in Algebra I will learn even better with classrooms full of kids who shouldn't be in it.

One thing a state can do in response to this kind of federal meddling is to raise the minimum age for kindergarten. (I wrote about the spreading practice of "redshirting" little boys by having them spend two years in kindergarten back in 2002.)

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

July 10, 2008

What's the word for this?

One of my long-term interests is human interest in the unpredictable. I've argued that much about human behavior is reasonably predictable (e.g., Beverly Hills schools will have higher test scores than Compton schools for a long time to come), but that we are more interested in the unpredictable.

For example, sports conferences are typically artificially structured to make future champions unpredictable in the medium term. The pro team that does worst this year typically gets the first draft pick of amateurs next year. In the NFL, the schedule is gerrymandered to give this year's worst teams the easiest row to hoe next season. This helps make the NFL more interesting.

The longest article in my 1971 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica appears to be the enormous entry on "World Wars" (lumping WWI and WWII together as two acts of one sad story). So, you could plausibly argue that the World Wars were (at least in the judgment of the editors of the E.B. in 1971) to be the most interesting thing in the entire universe.

It starts with a long description of the breakup of Bismarck's system of alliances that he forged in the 1870s when Germany tried to be allied with or at least neutral with every Great Power except the irreconcilable French. So, a major war was pointless because everybody was reasonably content with their lot on the European continent, except France, which wanted Alsace and Lorraine back. But France wasn't strong enough to take on Germany alone, and nobody else had much incentive to help France out. So, Great Power conflicts were rather dull in the 1871-1890 period.

As Germany became more globally ambitious in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century, however, this lopsided system broke down. The new Kaiser's bumptiousness, for instance, drove the Russian autocracy into an unnatural alliance with the French Republic.

Europe evolved toward a balance of power in which the two alliances were perfectly balanced. One mechanism driving this tendency toward equality of power (and thus unpredictability of the results of a war) was that the weaker side, at any point in time, had more incentive to bid more for a currently neutral power's allegiance than the stronger side.

The outcome was that the two alliances were so balanced that WWI went on, to the surprise of the participants, for a catastrophic 4.3 years.

Is there a term for this tendency toward competitive balance and thus unpredictability of outcome?

It doesn't exist in every situation. For example, there isn't an endless article in the Cncyclopedia on the wars between the U.S. and Canada. The balance of power between the two countries is so out of balance that there's no point to conflict, so the history is famously boring.

But the kind of things that interest people most, such as Republicans vs. Democrats, are the ones where a balance has evolved that makes uncertain who will win.

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

July 9, 2008


David Friedman writes:

"Imagine buying cars the way we buy governments. Ten thousand people would get together and agree to vote, each for the car he preferred. Whichever car won, each of the ten thousand would have to buy it. It would not pay any of us to make any serious effort to find out which car is best; whatever I decide, my car is being picked for me by the other members of the group. Under such institutions, the quality of cars would quickly decline."

I respond:
"Imagine fighting wars the way we buy cars. Ten thousand people would disperse and do whatever each preferred. Whichever way he felt best, each of the ten thousand would go. It would not pay any of us to make any serious effort to find out which direction was best; whatever I decide, my army is sure to be destroyed by the centrally-commanded enemy army. Under such institutions, the government would lose wars until it ceased to exist."

Government is fundamentally about violence.

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

"The Pattern Recognition Theory of Humor"

Kate Melville writes:

A new book, The Pattern Recognition Theory of Humor, examines the mechanism and function of humor, identifying the reason humor is common to all human societies, its fundamental role in the evolution of homo sapiens and its continuing importance in the cognitive development of children.

"The theory is an evolutionary and cognitive explanation of how and why any individual finds anything funny. Effectively it explains that humor occurs when the brain recognizes a pattern that surprises it, and that recognition of this sort is rewarded with the experience of the humorous response, an element of which is broadcast as laughter," explained author Alastair Clarke, a British science writer.

Clarke's investigation focuses on the basics of the humorous response, in contrast to previous theories that only ever applied to a small proportion of all instances of humor, many of them stipulating necessary content or social conditions either in the humor itself or around the individual experiencing it.

Clarke argues that it is not the content of the stimulus that makes us laugh, but the patterns underlying it that provide the potential for sources of humor. He identifies the importance of pattern recognition in human evolution and places humor squarely in that context. "An ability to recognize patterns instantly and unconsciously has proved a fundamental weapon in the cognitive arsenal of human beings.

It's funny, but speaking of pattern recognition, that reminded me that I wrote back in 1999:
The subject of humor is a notorious black hole for serious theorizing. Nonetheless, I'd like to plow ahead and discuss ethnic humor, even though I am almost incapable of remembering specific jokes except the most embarrassingly awful stinkers.

Clearly, there are a lot of different kinds of humor -- Steve Pinker does a fine job of discussing in "How The Mind Works" the kind of humor (often pun-based) that changes the frame of reference...

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

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

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

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

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

Stereotype jokes -- "Observational humor" also dominates stand-up comedy today, which is now largely concerned with pointing out the differences between the sexes and ethnic groups. ... Thus, you can learn more about race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. today from watching late-night HBO comedy series like Chris Rock, Tracey [Ullman] Takes On, and Arliss than from reading New York Times editorials.

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

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

July 8, 2008

Sounding black

Steven Levitt's Freakonomics column points to a working paper, Speech Patterns and Racial Wage Inequality, by a U. of Chicago researcher who collected audio samples recorded recently of 402 participants in the 1997 National Longitudinal Study of Youth cohort (The Bell Curve was based on the earlier 1979 NLSY cohort). Jeffrey Grogger had five grad students guess whether each interviewee was white or black.

Among whites, 82% were said to be white by at least four of the five listeners. Grogger calls these the "distinctly white" group. The other 18% were grouped as "indistinctly white." ("Indistinctly White" reminds me of Onion Opinion essayist Amber Richardson, author of "Why Somebody Always Around Everytime I Drop my Baby?")

Among blacks, 67% were "distinctly black." Grogger has the U.S. Military's ASVAB scores for all NLSY participants (although of the 10 ASVAB subtests, the most interesting are the four that make up the very IQ-like AFQT, but he doesn't report those). Converted by me to a conventional IQ scale with the national average at 100 and a standard deviation of 15, here are the ASVAB scores:

Race Accent ASVAB Sample
White Distinctly White 105 227
White Indistinctly White 103 51
Black Indistinctly Black 99 41
Black Distinctly Black 89 83

Grogger writes:

The final column indicates that the mean ASVAB score for blacks is 0.85 standard deviations lower than the mean for whites. This is similar to the racial differences that appear in many standardized tests (Jencks and Phillips, 1998).

Indistinctly identified whites score 0.16 standard deviations lower on the ASVAB than distinctly identified whites. The difference is greater for blacks. Distinctly identified blacks score .66 standard deviations lower than indistinctly identified blacks. It should come as little surprise that test scores differ between distinctly and indistinctly identified blacks, since test scores factored into the definition of the two groups.

What is surprising is the magnitude of the difference. To put it in perspective, the gap between distinctly and indistinctly identified blacks amounts to three quarters of the gap that exists between blacks and whites.

Similarly large differences appear in years of schooling. Mean highest grade completed among indistinctly identified whites is 12.49 years, compared to 13.22 years among distinctly identified whites. Again, the gap is larger for blacks. The difference in mean highest grade completed between distinctly and indistinctly identified blacks is 0.9 years. This is larger than the gap of 0.83 years between blacks and whites overall.

Keep in mind that the respondents are in their early to mid-20s, so many haven't finished schooling.

Table 7 presents the relationship between speech patterns and ASVAB scores somewhat differently. For each quartile of the ASVAB distribution (within the speech sample), it presents by race the share of speakers whose race was distinctly identified by listeners. The first column shows that the link between speech patterns and ASVAB scores is quite weak for whites. With the exception of the lowest ASVAB quartile, 81 to 84 percent of whites were distinctly identified as white. In contrast, the link between speech patterns and ASVAB scores is quite strong among blacks. In the lowest quartile, 82 percent of black speakers were distinctly identified. That share declines monotonically by quartile to a low of 25 percent among those at the top.

There are only 8 blacks in the top quartile of ASVAB scorers, but 6 of them didn't sound distinctly black. In contrast, of the 45 blacks in the bottom quartile of test scores, only 8 of them didn't sound distinctly black.

Together, Tables 6 and 7 show that skill and speech patterns are highly correlated among black speakers. At the same time, the correlations among white speakers are much weaker.

Levitt writes:

His main finding: blacks who “sound black” earn salaries that are 10 percent lower than blacks who do not “sound black,” even after controlling for measures of intelligence, experience in the work force, and other factors that influence how much people earn. (For what it is worth, whites who “sound black” earn 6 percent lower than other whites.) ...

In other words, Grogger has already adjusted for the big IQ gap between distinctly black and indistinctly black panelists, and there's still a wage gap.

(It turns out you don’t want to sound southern, either. Although pretty imprecisely estimated, it is almost as bad for your wages to sound southern as it is to sound black, even controlling for whether you live in the south.)

Unfortunately, Grogger appears to be lumping white and black Southerners together, which isn't that helpful.

And no, he doesn't tell us what the average IQ of whites who sound Southern is. I noticed when I was at Rice U. in Houston that a couple of my classmates had siblings attending local colleges who sounded much more Texan than they did.

Whether black or Southern, it's part of the homeboy phenomenon. Using a neutral national accent suggests you are willing to do what it takes to get ahead in this country, while using a subgroup accent suggests you are loyal to the values of your neighborhood and aren't as willing to make sacrifices.

How to win at games of chance

Time Magazine has an article on how John McCain, no surprise, loves to roll the dice in casinos, while Barack Obama played poker every Wednesday night in Springfield with other legislators and lobbyists. Most nights Obama won.

In fact, that would have to be just about my number one tip on how to win at gambling: Be a state legislator and play poker against lobbyists.

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

Chicken or Egg?

A baroque-era harpsichord piece was playing on the car radio tonight, and I got to thinking how nicely the harpsichord, with its calm clockwork-like sound (due to its inability to change volume), symbolizes the spirit of the age of reason, so reminiscent of Newton's clockwork universe, which was such a popular image in the 18th Century. Similarly, the piano (originally, pianoforte or "soft-loud") represents the emotional sturm und drang spirit of the subsequent romantic era, and the electric guitar epitomizes the new thinking of the 1960s.

Isn't it striking how somebody happened to invent the right instrument at the right time?

Yet ... could it be that causation here runs partly backward? That the spirit of the age didn't just call forth particular musical instruments but that the musical instruments also called forth the spirit of the age? That people between the ages of, say, 12-30 imprinted on particular musical instruments, and the musical styles made possible by those instruments, and that this affected the whole flavor of their thinking? If so, the roots of the 1960s would lie more in the workshops of Adolph Rickenbacher, Les Paul, and Leo Fender than in the sources more usually identified.

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

July 7, 2008

Israeli PM: Jews threatened by Russian tolerance

From the Israeli newspaper Haaretz:

Jewish community in former USSR under threat of assimilation
Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz Correspondent

The Jewish community in the former Soviet Union could disappear in a generation unless assimilation is curbed there, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday.

The government decided to set up a special body to increase immigration from those countries and strengthen Jewish identity there.

In the special cabinet discussion, a representative from Nativ - a once-covert agency founded in the Prime Minister's Office in the 1950s to bring Jews to Israel, and to serve as a liaison for Jewish dissidents in the Soviet Union - told the ministers that there are some 880,000 people in its former territories who are eligible to immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return. More than half, the representative added, are not Jewish according to religious law. …

The briefing on the state of the Jews in the former Soviet Union revealed that only 10 percent of this population are involved in Jewish activity, with assimilation reaching 80 percent in some communities.

Nativ's director, Naomi Ben Ami, told Haaretz that, in light of these figures, "the Jewish Diaspora is going to lose this region's Jewry in one generation." …

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

July 6, 2008

Obama: Failure is always a resume-enhancing option

The NYT runs a long article by Serge Kovaleski on Obama's storied three years as a "community organizer" in Chicago, which sure did more for Obama than it did for the community. The NYT summarizes its article:

"Barack Obama’s time as an organizer in Chicago has figured prominently in his life story, though it is clear that the benefit of those years to Mr. Obama dwarfs what he accomplished."

There's nothing in it too new to iSteve readers (e.g., it was an Alinskyite organization, although the NYT avoids using Saul Alinsky's favorite word, "radical"; this is where Obama finally felt black enough; and he mined the people he met for literary ore, turning them into characters in unpublished short stories he carefully crafted).

But it does reinforce the little-understood point that Obama's career largely consists of failing upwards. At various points in his life, he undertakes to help the black race, fails to accomplish much of anything significant in that overwhelming undertaking, but is rewarded by white people with a promotion anyway.

The article concludes by recounting the biggest meeting he organized, involving the issue of asbestos removal (a comically low priority problem in the ghetto):

Meanwhile, the residents’ meeting with the housing authority’s executive director was a debacle, an illustration of the setbacks faced by Mr. Obama and other organizers.

The crowd of about 700 residents grew irritable in the stifling heat and booed the director when he arrived an hour and 15 minutes late, according to people who were there, as well as newspaper accounts.

The meeting became even more raucous after the director indicated that the agency still did not have a plan to remove the asbestos. The director abruptly left 15 minutes into the meeting after a resident wrestled with him for the microphone. Angry tenants followed him out the door, chanting, “No more rent!”

Later that night, Mr. Obama called Johnnie Owens, whom he would hire as a community organizer. Never had Mr. Obama sounded so downcast or frustrated, Mr. Owens said.

“Barack basically talked about how tough it was to generate real results through organizing and that it was embarrassing to him to have the residents out of control,” he recounted.

“He wondered if he had done a good enough job preparing them for the meeting,” Mr. Owens said. “He sounded angry at himself. He was questioning the whole methodology.”

Mr. Obama had risen to executive director of the Developing Communities group, but the demanding hours, small victories and low pay took a toll on him, and he decided to leave.

He left for Harvard Law School, of course. Quitters always prosper in the one-man Obamaverse.

Some of the interesting questions somebody might get around to asking Obama someday include whether he blames himself for his recurrent failures to do much that's meaningful to help the black community? Or did he just lack sufficient power in all the earlier jobs he's sprinted through on his way to supreme power? Or is what ails the black community beyond the help of any political leader, so his failures at that impossible job shouldn't reflect badly on him?

I suspect that this last might be how Obama now really feels. It's not an unreasonable position. (Interestingly, Obama's aide Valerie Jarret's great-uncle Vernon Jordan, the Washington fixer to whom Bill Clinton delegated the task of finding Monica Lewinsky a job, sometimes seems to come close to expressing that position, in that he publicly states that he's not a civil rights leader anymore, he's now a Clark Clifford-style Washington insider.)

But does Obama really feel that way -- has he just given up on blacks as unworthy of his efforts? -- or does he have Unresolved Issues. His protracted waltz with Trinity United Church of Christ suggests he has U.I. But who knows?

I can't imagine anybody will ask the candidate such impertinent questions before the election (that kind of thing is just not done in modern America -- Presidential candidates are much too fine and noble to be subjected to such indignities by commoners), but some historian might want to ask him those questions when he is an ex-President.

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

The Cuban Compromise

From my new VDARE.com column:

The Cuban Compromise—A Sustainable Model for The Jewish Lobby

By Steve Sailer

Two quotable quotes:

"The fact that a great many Jewish neoconservatives—people like Joe Lieberman and the crowd over at Commentary—plumped for this war, and now for an even more foolish assault on Iran, raised the question of divided loyalties: using U.S. military power, U.S. lives and money, to make the world safe for Israel."

Joe Klein, Time, June 24, 2008

"Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. … Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite [foreign nation] are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests."

—George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796

(Links helpfully added by VDARE.COM).

As survivors of one of the great historical crimes of the mid-20th Century, this American ethnic group has gained a veto power over American foreign policy toward their historical homeland—with seriously detrimental impact on America's reputation in that important part of the world.

Moreover, out of concern for their co-ethnics abroad, they have obtained strong influence over America's immigration and refugee policy.

I'm talking, of course, about … Cuban-Americans!

Who'd you think I was talking about?

The best thing about Cuban political power in America is that you're free to talk about it. (Well, at least outside of Miami.) Heck, Cubans want you to talk about how much clout they have. It makes them seem stronger than they may actually be.

Moreover, they are upfront about their motivations. If you say, "You want to extend the trade embargo on Cuba because Fidel stole your grandfather's sugar plantation," they'll reply, "Well, duh."

Do Cuban-Americans display "dual loyalty?"

Well, first, let's toss in all the caveats about the diversity within any ethnic group.

That said, the answer is, more or less: Sure.

(Cuban-Americans are seldom loyal to the present government of Cuba, of course. Instead, they tend to be loyal to their vision of the future government of Cuba.)

Is this pattern of Cubans promoting Cuban ethnic interests through our political system good for America as a whole? Probably not. But it has been so narrowly focused that it hasn't been a disaster for the country.

American policy toward Cuba has been knuckleheaded, but less so than Castro's policy toward Cuba. Only this year, for example, Fidel's brother Raul finally allowed microwave ovens to be sold in Cuba—three decades after they went on sale in the free world!

The relevant point: any single foreign country, even one as nearby as Cuba, isn't all that important to America's national interest.

What is important is that our political and intellectual life not be sapped by a single ethnic group's determination to promote its interests at any cost. The Cuban-Americans have played by the rules, at least on the national stage (as opposed to in Miami, where they've intimidated local critics). They've won on the trade embargo through reasonably open and transparent activism because they just care more about it than anybody else does.

Most importantly, Cubans don't inflict on the national debate their intellectual paranoia about slippery slopes. Lenin said: "He who says A, must say B." By this logic, nobody can be allowed to say A. Fortunately, Cubans aren't obsessive or powerful enough to impose this kind of reasoning on the rest of the country.

For example, you can write "The subprime mortgage meltdown shows the need for more government regulation of the financial industry," without fear of being shouted out of the Main Stream Media by all the Cubans in important positions in the business who worry that if anybody is allowed to say that in public, it will inevitably lead to the government expropriating the sugar plantations and banning the sale of microwave ovens.

Perhaps some anti-Castro Cubans would like to ban all criticism, no matter how tangential. But they don't have the mojo to impose their taboos on the rest of American society.

Similarly, on immigration, Cuban-American political muscle has mostly been exerted to get special treatment for Cubans, rather than to open our borders in general.


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

My review of Richard Florida's "Who's Your City?"

Here's the opening of my American Conservative book review of the self help book from the popular social scientist:

Who's Your City?: How the Creative Economy Is Making Where to Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life, Richard Florida, Basic Books, 384 pages]

If you are a nonfiction writer whose name isn't Barack Obama, you probably aren’t going to get rich off serious books. Instead, the two likeliest ways to cash in are by speaking at corporate and government gatherings or by penning a self-help book.

Dr. Richard Florida, a professor of something called "Business and Creativity" at the University of Toronto, has already made a pile on the lecture circuit flogging to death his one big idea—cities and companies must put "creative" people first—as embodied in his books The Rise of the Creative Class, Cities and the Creative Class, and The Flight of the Creative Class. Notice a pattern here?

As a self-promoter, it doesn’t hurt that Florida is a handsome, strapping fellow who looks like Hollywood leading man Aaron Eckhart, the smarmy tobacco lobbyist in "Thank You for Smoking." He is said to command a $35,000 fee per appearance.

He is now leveraging his brand by expanding into the self-help genre with Who's Your City? How the Creative Economy Is Making Where to Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life. If you can't decide whether to move to Portland or Austin, Florida has the book for you. (As you've no doubt noticed by now, it's hard to write lucidly about Florida's theories about location because he shares his last name with an important location, which snarls everything up. I will henceforth call him Dr. Vibrant, in honor of one of his favorite words.)

... Where you live can have a huge influence on your career. You can't, say, write sitcoms unless you live in Los Angeles. They just won't hire you. And while you can write opinion journalism without living in New York or Washington, you'd be ill advised to try.

Instead, Dr. Vibrant emphasizes how a critical mass of creative talents sparks itself to new heights. Although that is sometimes true—it can also just result in groupthink—a more cynical explanation for the economic advantage of living near your customers is that human beings tend to be nicer to people they meet frequently.

Dr Vibrant is less willing to explore the main reason that real estate is so seldom brought up in American public discourse: intellectuals fear that if they mention in public what everybody is concerned about in private when looking for a place to live—the relationship between demographics, crime, and school quality—they'll wind up out of a job, like legendary biologist James Watson. ... As a result, his book is infected with professionally cautious "advice" like this: "The quality and range of schools is certainly critical for parents of school-age children … You'll need to dig this information out yourself."

Well, that was $26.95 well spent.

When he's not intentionally unhelpful, he's obtuse. For example, in Who's Your City, he reprints a popular map of America he put up on his blog in 2007 showing that the largest surpluses of extra single men are in Southwestern cities, near the Mexican border. Having had a year to think it over, Dr Vibrant asserts, "The best ratio for heterosexual women was in greater Los Angeles, where single men outnumber single women by 40,000."

So if a bachelorette doesn't quite have the looks to land a husband in, say, Cincinnati, she should hightail it to L.A., where there's much less competition from attractive women. Yeah, right …

The obvious reason there are so many more single men than single women in the Southwest is that there are so many illegal alien males there. The kind of single women who buy hardcover advice books probably aren't that interested in a Mixtec-speaking drywaller, but Dr. Vibrant ignores such potentially controversial topics.

He has, after all, built his success on telling business and civic leaders that if they want their dreary little burgh to become the next Silicon Valley, they'll need a lot of homosexuals, like in San Francisco. He says, "Gays predict not only the concentration of high-tech industry, but also its growth …"

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