August 23, 2008

As Chris Rock might say ...

I don't see why Americans don't give the women-only sport of rhythmic gymnastics any respect. It looks like an excellent way to keep your daughter off the pole, a classy way for show-offy pretty girls to dance for the admiration of the crowd.

Wilt Chamberlain suggested a couple of decades ago that rather than try to match men in men's sports, women would be better served by inventing their own sports that highlight their physical advantages, such as flexibility.

By the way, returning to the topic of the unimaginative obsession with gender equality in the Olympics -- Men do the triple jump? Well, then women must hop, skip, and jump, too! -- one reason that women's (girls') gymnastics is so hugely popular at each Olympics is that the feminine events are adapted to feminine strengths. The men do six apparatuses, the girls four. The girls don't do the upper body strength events, the rings, the pommel horse, and the parallel bars, and they do two events men don't do (the balance beam and the uneven bars). Even the two similar events are adapted -- the horse was turned 90 degrees for girls in the vault, and they use music in the floor exercise.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

August 22, 2008

Obama's brother by another mother found living in a hut

The Daily Telegraph reports:

The Italian edition of Vanity Fair said that it had found George Hussein Onyango Obama living in a hut in a ramshackle town of Huruma on the outskirts of Nairobi.

Mr Obama, 26, the youngest of the presidential candidate's half-brothers, spoke for the first time about his life, which could not be more different than that of the Democratic contender.

"No-one knows who I am," he told the magazine, before claiming: "I live here on less than a dollar a month."

According to Italy's Vanity Fair his two metre by three metre shack is decorated with football posters of the Italian football giants AC Milan and Inter, as well as a calendar showing exotic beaches of the world.

Vanity Fair also noted that he had a front page newspaper picture of his famous brother - born of the same father as him, Barack Hussein Obama, but to a different mother, named only as Jael.

From an anthropological point of view, this is a good example how polygamy gets in the way of the development of a class system in African cultures. The museums of Europe and Asia are full of beautiful artifacts, most of them originally commissioned by the upper classes to demonstrate their upper classness, but Africa, with some exceptions (e.g., the medieval Benin bronzes), doesn't produce much in the way of a more refined higher culture.

In a monogamous society, an ambitious young man often aims to marry a woman raised in a higher class, who can in turn raise their children to behave in an upper class manner. For example, immigrant muscleman Arnold Schwarzenegger has four children by Maria Shriver, the daughter of the 1972 Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate and niece of President Kennedy. In a polygamous society, however, men tend to compete for quantity rather than quality of wives, so there is strong reversion to the overall cultural mean in the upbringing of rich men's children. A Kenyan Schwarzenegger might have had dozens of wives, but most of them would be local farm girls who would have raised his children in the traditions in which they were raised.

The grandfather of both Barack and his impoverished half-brother George was, by Kenyan standards, a wealthy self-made man, and their father had been a rising governmental star until his alcoholism and general knuckleheadedness led to disaster. But, even if Barack Sr. had been more prudent on the job, the grandfather's and father's typically Kenyan polygamousness (three wives for the grandfather and women by four children for Barack Sr.) would have depleted the resources available to the third generation by spreading them thinly among the many descendants.

Obama Jr. was, of course,very lucky to also belong to a small white family, with its contrasting Eurasian emphasis on quality over quantity of wives and children. So, his upper-middle class grandmother, "a typical white person" as Obama memorably phrased it, a hardworking bank executive from a good family back in Kansas, could afford, despite her only daughter's imprudent decision making, to raise her grandson in a Honolulu highrise with a spectacular view and send him to the state's dominant prep school, then off to fancy colleges.

By the way, The Onion had a piece a couple of weeks ago on a different brother by another mother, Cooter Obama.

And, here's a cartoon by Rex May.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

August 21, 2008

NYT catches up, 11 years later

Gina Kolata writes in the NYT:

Men, Women and Speed. 2 Words: Got Testosterone

BEIJING — No matter what happens in the men’s marathon here Sunday, one thing is all but certain. The winner will run the 26.2-mile course faster than the winner of the women’s marathon last Sunday.

The woman who won, Constantina Tomescu of Romania, was fast, of course, finishing the race in 2 hours 26 minutes 44 seconds — more than a minute ahead of the second-place finisher. But for a variety of intrinsic biological reasons, the best women can never run as fast as the best men, exercise researchers say.

Women are slower than men in running, in swimming, in cycling. Whether it is a 100-meter race on the track or a marathon, a 200-meter butterfly swim or a 10-kilometer marathon swim, the pattern holds.

And even though some scientists once predicted that women would eventually close the gender gap in elite performances — it was proposed that all they needed was more experience, better training and stronger coaching — that idea is now largely discredited, at least for Olympic events. Researchers say there is no one physiological reason for the gap, although there is a common biological thread.

“To a large extent, it’s a matter of testosterone,” said Dr. Benjamin Levine, director of the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine at Presbyterian Hospital and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. “That’s why systematic doping of women is even more effective than systematic doping of men. That’s why the East German women were so much more successful than the East German men.”

This line of analysis was put forward by sports physiologist Stephen Seiler and myself in the 12/31/97 issue of National Review in our article Track & Battlefield:

Everybody knows that the "gender gap" in physical performance between male and female athletes is rapidly narrowing. Moreover, in an opinion poll just before the 1996 Olympics, 66% claimed "the day is coming when top female athletes will beat top males at the highest competitive levels." The most publicized scientific study supporting this belief appeared in Nature in 1992: "Will Women Soon Outrun Men?" Physiologists Susan Ward and Brian Whipp pointed out that since the Twenties women's world records in running had been falling faster than men's. Assuming these trends continued, men's and women's marathon records would equalize by 1998, and during the early 21st Century for the shorter races.

This is not sports trivia. Whether the gender gap in athletic performance stems from biological differences between men and women, or is simply a social construct imposed by the Male Power Structure, is highly relevant both to fundamental debates about the malleability of human nature, as well as to current political controversies such as the role of women in the military.

... Despite all the hype about 1996 being the "Women's Olympics," in the Atlanta Games' central events -- the footraces -- female medalists performed worse relative to male medalists than in any Olympics since 1972. In the 1988 Games the gender gap for medalists was 10.9%, but it grew to 12.2% in 1996. Even stranger is the trend in absolute times. Track fans expect slow but steady progress; thus, nobody is surprised that male medalists became 0.5% faster from the 1988 to the 1996 Olympics. Remarkably, though, women medalists became 0.6% slower over the same period. ...

From 1970-1989, white women from communist countries accounted for 71 of the 84 records set at 100m-1500m. In contrast, white men from communist countries accounted for exactly zero of the 23 male records. Those memorable East German frauleins alone set records 49 times in just the sprints and relays (100m-400m). This was especially bizarre because men of West African descent have utterly dominated white men in sprinting. Another oddity of that era is that communist women set only seven (and East Germans none) of the 48 female records in the 5k, 10k, and the marathon.

The crash of women's running was brought about by two seemingly irrelevant events in the late Eighties: Ben Johnson got caught, and the Berlin Wall fell. ...

The communists were almost completely stumped at producing male champions because the benefits of a given amount of steroids are much greater for women than men. Since men average 10 times more natural testosterone than women, they need dangerously large, Ben Johnson-sized doses to make huge improvements, while women can bulk-up significantly on smaller, less-easily detected amounts.

The primitive testing at the 1988 Olympics did succeed in catching Benoid; yet the female star of those Games, America's Florence Griffith-Joyner, passed every urinalysis she ever faced. The naturally lissome Flo-Jo may have been the world's fastest clean 200 meter woman from 1984-1987, but she kept finishing second in big races to suspiciously brawny women. She then asked Ben Johnson for training advice, and emerged from a winter in the weight room looking like a Saturday morning cartoon superheroine. She made a magnificent joke out of women's track in 1988, setting records in the 100m and 200m that few had expected to see before the middle of the 21st Century. Then, she retired before random drug testing began in 1989, having passed every drug test she ever took.

Kolata has to remind NY Times readers that there is this thing called an "average" and you can't disprove that averages differ by citing exceptions:
"It is not that every man is inherently better than every woman"

Do you think we'll ever reach the level of intellectual sophistication where New York Times' subscribers understand words like "average" and "tendency" without being reminded?

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

The Postmodern Pentathlon

The International Olympic Committee today announced that the Modern Pentathlon -- an Olympic event that tests five skills a young officer would have needed to succeed as a courier during the Napoleonic Wars: fencing, shooting, swimming, horseback riding, and running -- will be replaced at the 2012 London Summer Games by the Postmodern Pentathlon, which will test the skills crucial to delivering a message in the 21st Century:

- Spinning

- Cellphoning while riding in an elevator

- Staying on message

- Being ubiquitous in the media

- Taking offense

Medal favorites include Mischa Saakashvili, Morris Dees, Karl Rove, and David Brock.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Gender equality uber alles

One contributor to the unwieldy giganticism of the Olympics is the perceived need to hold a women's event for every men's event, no matter how unpopular the sport is with women, or, in many cases, with both sexes. For example, modern pentathalon (in which you pretend to be a courier during the Napoleonic Wars and swim, horseback ride, run, shoot, and fence your way to delivering your secret message -- okay, in theory, it sounds pretty cool, but in practice, nobody cares) hasn't been all that big since George S. Patton finished fifth in it back in 1912, but, nonetheless, the Olympics added women's modern pentathalon in 2000.

Likewise, walking is the all-time dorkiest-looking sport, but sure enough, we've had a women's walking race in all the Olympics of this decade.

Weightlifting is a fun sport to attend, with a professional wrestling vibe as the big galoots try to psyche each other out, but it's hopelessly snarled up by steroids. Nonetheless, the Olympics added women's weightlifting in 2000. Women's wrestling was introduced in 2004.

Of course, gender equality in sports almost always means "separate but equal."

Shooting at the Olympics became sexually integrated in 1968. Women won a number of medals over the next few decades, although men won the great majority. By 1996 it had split into segregated men's and women's events.

The only Olympic sports where men and women compete against each other is in equestrian (where the horse is doing most of the work) and some of the sailing events.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

August 20, 2008

Now we know

For years, I've been idly wondering what happened to all the tall white Americans, the kind who used to play basketball. There are lots of tall white Europeans doing well in the NBA these days, such as Dirk Nowitzki and Pau Gasol, but few white Americans at the All Star Game level. Granted, there are more white Europeans than white Americans, but still ...

Watching the Olympics, however, it's clear that other sports are absorbing tall, athletic white guys: the two kinds of volleyball, swimming, water polo, soccer goalies, baseball pitchers, and so forth.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

How many combat casualties were there in the Russian-Georgian war?

I wasn't paying close attention to the recent fighting, but I'm wondering how many soldiers actually died in battle (as opposed to dying in, say, a car crash while fleeing the frontlines). Anybody know? These are two armies equipped with extremely lethal modern weapons, but my impression is that this wasn't exactly a 21st Century Battle of Stalingrad.

Some cynics have been asking, "Would you want your son to die for Georgia?" but it appears not too many Georgians are willing to die for South Ossetia.

"What if they threw a war and nobody showed up?"

That seems to be a general pattern these days, at least in in the parts of the world with lots of TV channels. For example, in the Balkan wars in the 1990s, the politicians had a hard time getting their armies to deploy (draft evasion was rampant), so they often let gangs out of prison and recruited soccer hooligan clubs to do the fighting. Of course, the fighting tended to be more like the St. Valentine's Day Massacre than the Battle of Gettysburg. Bullies aren't very brave.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Japanese pressure

From 1960-1984, Japan was a solid medal producer at the Olympics, but from 1988-2000 its athletes tended to crumble under the incredible pressure exerted by the Japanese media to win one for the nation. A friend who lives in Japan wrote before the 2004 Olympics:

"When Japanese athletes compete in the Olympics they feel they are representing, not only their country, but also their race and all its members. When a Japanese is leading in a race the announcer's voice becomes flushed with emotion. When interviewed after competition, swimmers and judo-ists say they can't remember what happened, so great was their emotion. In fact in the moments leading up to a competition, Japanese seem almost paralyzed by nervousness. They are not competing for themselves, but for their coach, their team, their family, and everyone. If they win, it was not because of their own effort, but because of everyone's support. Their greatest emotion then is relief from the relentless pressure. If they lose, they have let everyone down. They cannot be good sportsmen and congratulate their opponents with a smile because their minds are elsewhere thinking about how they will apologize to their supporters."

In 2004, Japan bounced back, increasing its total medal haul from 18 to 37, moving from 14th position in 2000 to 6th position. Currently, they are in 8th place in 2008.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

August 19, 2008

100 meters: Why so Anglophone?

Over the last seven Olympics, from 1984 through 2008, the 56 men's 100m finalists have all been of West African descent. The 56 have consisted of 17 African-Americans, 17 black West Indians, 8 West Africans (all from former British colonies, including one Nigerian running for Portugal), 7 black Britons, 6 black Canadians (1 a Haitian from Quebec), and 1 black Brazilian.

One unanswered question is: why the dominance by Anglophones? I count only 2 of the 56 coming from somewhere where English would not be a national or provincial language.

One theory is that there must be a lot of technical information about how to sprint fast that is passed down in English. Yet, the 100m dash is universally considered less technical than the 110m high hurdles, where 18 of the last 56 finalists have been non-English speakers.

So, here's a theory I concocted in 2004:

While cultural continuity is no doubt important, I've got a new complementary explanation for why Anglophone New World blacks are so dominant in the 100m over Spanish and Portuguese speaking blacks: the Iberian acceptance of mestizaje vs. the more racist English disapproval of miscegenation.

The 100m is a one dimensional sport where one skill is rewarded. For Darwinian reasons that we don't fully understand, this skill evolved to its global peak in West Africa.

Thus, top 100m men tend to be not just kind-of sort-of black in a Barack Obama sort of way, but really African-looking. While there are a number of sports, like the decathlon, where being of mixed race heritage may be of help (e.g., 1980 and 1984 gold medalist Daley Thompson and 1996 gold medalist Dan O'Brien have black fathers and white mothers), the 100m is not one of them. The 100 meter greats, like Carl Lewis, tend to be very black-looking. Frankie Fredericks of Namibia was perhaps the only top 100m man of recent years to look noticeably part-white. (He looks rather like Sir Alec Guinness.)

The slave trade spread West Africans to the New World. But population genetics studies show a sizable difference in what happened next. In the Spanish and Portuguese colonies, black and white genes tended to spread out across the population, but in the English-speaking world they tended to bunch up toward one pole or the other. Sure, there was lots of inter-breeding, but the one-drop rule in the Anglophone world, combined with restrictions on interracial marriage, had a little-understood impact: by defining a half white-half black person as socially black, it drove them toward marrying another black person rather than a white person. Thus, socially defined black people tended to not be more than half-white.

Thus, the first genetic study I've seen to address this suggests that only 10% of self-identified African-Americans are more than 50% white. In contrast, blacks in Mexico were almost completely absorbed into the general population.

Thus, in the English-speaking countries, black genes tend to be more concentrated in particular individuals.

One other population genetic aspect that could be important is that North American blacks tended to come almost solely from West Africa, while South American blacks were drawn from a wider sphere of Africa, going all the way around to East Africa. Lots of Brazilians slaves came from Portugal's East African colony of Mozambique. The weakness of Brazilians as sprinters may have to do with A] The really fast runners go into soccer. and B] Even the blackest Brazilians aren't as West African as Anglophone blacks -- they may have more South African or East African ancestors. (East Africans tend to be best at longer distances from 400m through the marathon, depending on their tribe, but none have ever been world class world-class at 100m or even 200m.) That may help explain the fact that a dark-skinned Brazilian man set the marathon record back in the 1990s.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

The Stick vs. the Bunny Hop

I posted this in August 2004:

My wife and I are watching the contest to crown the world's top pixies (a.k.a., Olympic women's gymnastics, just as the Winter Olympics' figure skating crowns the Princess of the World), and the announcers start braying that some girl with one of those wonderful Romanian names like Oana Ban didn't "stick" her landing. My wife says, "But the bunnyhop landing looks much more graceful than those awkward, painful, arm-waving sticks." I point out to her that we've had this exact discussion about the superiority of the bunny hop precisely six times, once every four years when we watch gymnastics. We first held this conversation in 1984 when Mary Lou Retton needed a perfect 10.00 on her final vault to beat Ecaterina Szabo's Romanian team for the team gold medal. Mary Lou clearly bunny hopped the landing but they gave her the 10 anyway. "And well they should," said my wife, and she will say it again in 2008.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

August 18, 2008

Why Americans don't swoon for the former Soviet Republic of Georgia

From Slate:

Big Love

Why Americans swoon for the former Soviet Republic of Georgia.

By Ilan Greenberg

American Georgia boosters may not boast the same numbers and history as, say, lovers of Paris. But what they lack in size and tradition they more than compensate for with depth of feeling. In fact, it is hard to overstate the level of passion felt by Americans in thrall with Georgia. Love for Georgia is uncompromising and consuming. ...

Scenes of sullen Slavs hammering vodka shots give way in Georgia to boisterous celebrations of copious wine, joke-telling as bloodsport, and supreme hospitality. ...,

As Mitchell said to me, "There's no other post-Soviet government with a president everyone calls by first name who can argue about where to find the best Indian food in New York."

I got to know Georgia—and Saakashvili—when I profiled him for the New York Times Magazine. For almost two months I shadowed Misha. In Slovakia for a regional summit, walking next to Saakashvili along Bratislava's cordoned streets, the Georgian head of state hooked his arm on my elbow and offered to trade gossip about his senior staff. In Tbilisi, Saakashvili gave me carte blanche access, not once ordering me out of his office. In a region where governments routinely conflate tribe with nation, Saakashvili pointedly switched languages to inclusively address ethnic minorities. One evening I answered my cell phone to hear the cackling voice of the then 37-year-old president, who called to tease that his evening was more interesting than mine. I had been crank-called by the president. Stockholm Syndrome was inevitable.

Georgia's charm doesn't end with Saakashvili. Few sights are as beguiling as barrel-chested Georgian men greeting each other on the street with the traditional cheek kisses. ...

Of course, at the government level, assiduous courting of Americans is all part of the plan. Saakashvili has been reaching out to American politicians, especially Republican ones, since he took office. When I spent time with the president, he was obsessive about influencing American opinion-makers in the press, and his chief of staff complained to me he was spending more time dictating responses to articles in American newspapers than governing Georgia.

For Westerners, Georgian cultural idiosyncrasies can be intoxicating. But for Russians, Georgia is also innerving. The two peoples are badly handcuffed. Russian women falling for Georgian men is a stereotype in both countries, and ethnic Georgians populate the upper reaches of Russian pop culture as celebrated singers and actors.

Actually, Americans don't love Georgia. (A lot of Americans aren't even that crazy about the Georgia that Ray Charles sang about.) What percentage of adult Americans do you think could find Georgia on a globe within 15 seconds? 10%?

Here's the double-sided irony, though: We here in the land of the free and the home of the brave aren't supposed to even notice the links among various interests in Israel, the ex-Soviet Union, and the NYC-DC axis, causing Americans to underestimate their power. And that leads to nasty surprises for Americans, like when one of our client states suddenly invades a Great Power's protectorate. A week and a half later, 90% of the press is still baffled by why Georgia thought it could get away with it. (And another 9% is still pretending Russia struck first -- see today's Washington Post where their Editorial Page Editor asks "Who Made Russia Attack?").

On the other hand, the rest of the world tends to overestimate the power of these Jewish-centric networks, which brag constantly about their power, except when somebody mentions their power. Foreigners shake their heads and ask: If they weren't so powerful, then more people in America would be allowed to talk about them, right?

The truth, not surprisingly, turns out to be in-between, but since we're not supposed to talk about it, nobody knows what they are talking about.

In particular, there are large parts of the world where "conspiracy theory" isn't a pejorative -- the way you prove you're the smartest guy in the room is to come up with the most complicated conspiracy theory. A lot of these conspiracy theorists are anti-Semites, but some of the conspiracy theorists, such as the government of Georgia, are pro-Semites.

And while that global impression of Jewish network omnipotence helps various American and Israeli individuals make a nice living for themselves as pretend powerbrokers, it also leads to tragic/farcical events like Georgia's recent attack.

For example, Saakashvili, a former New York lawyer, apparently figured that if:

- he appointed ex-Israelis to his two crucial cabinet positions ("Both war and peace are in the hands of Israeli Jews," he recently joked);

- bought enough Israeli and American weapons;

- sent 2000 troops to fight in the neocons' war in Iraq;

- hosted an oil pipeline;

- and if he relentlessly massaged the egos and cultural biases of Jewish writers from Jewish-owned American media outlets, portraying Georgians as lovable surrogate Italian-Americans in natural alliance with Jews, with himself as their Rudy Giuliani;

Then America would have to help him out in his little invasion of Russian-defended turf. After all, evidently reasoned this ex-New Yorker, The Jews run America, right? Or maybe the world? So America would have to come to his aid in his war against the New Czar and his Armored Cossacks.


Once he started the war, all that Saakashvili got for his years of schmoozing were a lot of credulous articles in the American press forgetting to mention who invaded whom first, and a little rhetorical sabre-rattling from American pundits and Presidential candidates, one of whom, John McCain, has a chief foreign policy adviser who was on the Republic of Georgia's payroll until May 15.

So, Saakashvili's got that going for him, which is nice.

But when it came to actual tank warfare with Russia, well, the idea that these motley networks of hustlers and blowhards whom Saakashvili had cultivated in Israel and America could and would force their countries to ride to his rescue turned out to be just a fantasy in his head.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry has been trying to cut Georgia loose ever since they got wind of the fine mess various ex-Israeli military men had gotten Israel into.

And there was never any way in hell that U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates (who, by the way, is not 29-years-old) was going to send American troops to fight the Russian Army 600 miles south of Stalingrad. The American public wouldn't put up with it. Americans don't know much about history, but we have heard of Hitler and Napoleon, and we more or less know that fighting a ground war with Russia is what brought them down.

By the way, if the Georgian government had any sense, they would haven't turned to American and Israeli advisers for military consulting against Russia, since those two countries' experience and expertise is in tank vs. tank warfare when they have the upper hand. To learn how a little country can hunker down and outlast a big country, Georgia could have hired Swiss experts, or Albanians, or Hezbollah for advice on how a little country can dig in and resist attack from superior armor and air power.

But, the Georgians weren't interested in defense.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

New Census Bureau Population Projections


Now They Tell Us!

By Steve Sailer

Typically, the two most important factors influencing the long-term success of an organization are the quantity and quality of people involved.

This is particularly true for a country. Yet there has been barely any discussion in the U.S. prestige press on the implications of the demographic change imposed by immigration. We're constantly lectured by the New York Times on the long-run impact of carbon emissions and by the Wall Street Journal on the difficulties posed for Social Security by the changing ratio of workers to retirees over the next several decades. But the basic factor driving these issues is almost off-limits.

That's why there is a

In forecasting the U.S. population, the wild card is always the Hispanic component.

For example, on January 13, 2000, the U.S. Census Bureau released population projections stating that the number of Hispanics resident in the country would grow massively, from 32 million in 2000 to 98 million in 2050.

When the Bureau conducted the decennial census on April 1, 2000, however, it found out that there were already over 35 million Hispanics within the borders—ten percent more than the government had previously imagined.

So in late 2001, the Census Bureau released "interim" projections incorporating the 2000 Census findings and projected that the number of Hispanics would hit 103 million in 2050.

Now, the Bureau has released its first full-blown set of projections in 8.5 years,. And they're a doozy. The key figure: 133 million Hispanics by 2050, an increase of almost 100 million in half a century.

Is adding 100 million Latinos to the U.S. population a good idea? Will it "form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity"?

We the people are supposed to have a say in such things. But how can we have a say when we're not supposed to talk about it?

The well-worn responses of Establishment figures to public unease about adding 100 million Hispanics usually start with the words "All we have to do is …"

- All we have to do is fix education. Once we just figure out how to get Hispanics and blacks to stay in school and learn as much as whites, we're all set!

- All we have to do is create more good jobs.

- All we have to do is solve the illegitimacy crisis and get the Hispanic out-of-wedlock birthrate back down below 50 percent.

- All we have to do is solve the housing / health care finance / carbon emission, energy / infrastructure / and crime crises!

In reality, we don't know how to solve any of these problems. And we are unlikely to discover and implement workable solutions any time soon. I've been following social science and public policy for 36 years now. I’ve learned that fixes for social problems are rare.

In recent decades, we did finally make some progress against crime. But we did it through the brute force method of throwing a couple of million people in prison.

And there has been little change in the racial disparities in crime rates. Racial and ethnic differences of all kinds have been strikingly stable since the 1970s. In particular, the word that best sums up Latino America is inertia. Things just sort of keep on keeping on in the general direction that they were already moving.

What we do know is that all of these troubles are exacerbated by the mass immigration of people with low human capital.

Village Voice endorses my reading of the mortgage meltdown

For a year now, I've been pointing out that the mortgage meltdown is partly related to the Establishment's long campaign to loosen traditional standards of creditworthiness for lower income and minority households. This national priority gave the get-rich quick artists in the business world the perfect excuse for doing what they'd always wanted to do: take the money and run and let the taxpayers and savers pay for the clean-up.

Now, others are starting to pick up on that insight, including the Village Voice. Via Arnold Kling, Edward Barrett writes in a hit piece on the New York attorney general, "Andrew Cuomo and Fannie and Freddie:"

Perhaps the only domestic issue George Bush and Bill Clinton were in complete agreement about was maximizing home ownership, each trying to lay claim to a record percentage of homeowners, and both describing their efforts as a boon to blacks and Hispanics. HUD, Fannie, and Freddie were their instruments, and, as is now apparent, the more unsavory the means, the greater the growth. But, as Paul Krugman noted in the Times recently, "homeownership isn't for everyone," adding that as many as 10 million of the new buyers are stuck now with negative home equity—meaning that with falling house prices, their mortgages exceed the value of their homes. So many others have gone through foreclosure that there's been a net loss in home ownership since 1998.

It is also worth remembering that the motive for this bipartisan ownership expansion probably had more to do with the legion of lobbyists working for lenders, brokers, and Wall Street than an effort to walk in MLK's footsteps. Each mortgage was a commodity that could be sold again and again—from the brokers to the bankers to the securities market. If, at the bottom of this pyramid, the borrower collapsed under the weight of his mortgage's impossible terms, the home could be repackaged a second or a third time and either refinanced or dumped on a new victim.

Those are the interests that surrounded [Clinton HUD secretary Andrew] Cuomo, who did more to set these forces of unregulated expansion in motion than any other secretary and then boasted about it, presenting his initiatives as crusades for racial and social justice. ...

In 2000, Cuomo required a quantum leap in the number of affordable, low-to-moderate-income loans that the two mortgage banks—known collectively as Government Sponsored Enterprises—would have to buy. The GSEs don't actually sell mortgages to borrowers. They buy them from banks and mortgage companies, allowing lenders to replenish their capital and make more loans. They also purchase mortgage-backed securities, which are pools of mortgages regularly acquired by the GSEs from investment firms. The government chartered these banks to pump money into the mortgage market and, while they did it, to make a strong enough profit to attract shareholders. That created a tug-of-war between their efforts to maximize shareholder value, which drove them toward high-end mortgages, and their congressionally mandated obligation to finance loans for those who needed help. The 1992 law required HUD's secretary to make sure housing goals were being met and, every four years, set new goals for Fannie and Freddie.

Cuomo's predecessor, Henry Cisneros, did that for the first time in December 1995, taking a cautious approach and moving the GSEs toward a requirement that 42 percent of their mortgages serve low- and moderate-income families. Cuomo raised that number to 50 percent and dramatically hiked GSE mandates to buy mortgages in underserved neighborhoods and for the "very-low-income." Part of the pitch was racial, with Cuomo contending that Fannie and Freddie weren't granting mortgages to minorities at the same rate as the private market. William Apgar, Cuomo's top aide, told The Washington Post: "We believe that there are a lot of loans to black Americans that could be safely purchased by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac if these companies were more flexible." ... Cuomo wasn't shy about embracing subprime mortgages as a possible consequence of his goals. "GSE presence in the subprime market could be of significant benefit to lower-income families, minorities, and families living in underserved areas," his report on the new goals noted.

The politics of it all was amusingly complex:

While fashioning these final rules, Cuomo wrestled with the octopus-like reach of Fannie and Freddie, which spend tens of millions each year on lobbying firms. The GSEs hired 88 lobbying firms over six years, three of which were friendly enough with Cuomo to give to his campaign committee later. ...

But Cuomo was closer to the GSEs' most formidable opponents—namely, the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), regarded as the most influential private real-estate finance lobby in Washington, and the upstart FM Watch, a new coalition of heavyweights from Chase to AIG. Both of these groups wanted Cuomo to put as much affordable-housing pressure on the GSEs as he could, and they said so in their releases and newsletters. They opposed what they called Fannie and Freddie's profit-driven "mission creep," which they saw as a publicly subsidized invasion of their high-end mortgage market. Their goal was the same as Cuomo's: to push Fannie and Freddie deeper into low-end mortgages, consistent with the mission statement in their charters.

The background is that Fannie and Freddie can borrow at lower interest rates than other for-profit businesses because of the "implicit" government guarantee of their debt, so they have licenses to print money. Thus, there is a tug of war in Washington over which direction Fannie and Freddie's firehose of money would be pointed. The big guys in private lending wanted them to stay away from million dollar mortgages to anesthesiologists and instead back $200,000 mortgages for dry-wallers, a self-interested argument that the private bankers were happy to justify in terms of political correctness.

These groups clearly had Cuomo's ear, but he was also being pushed to commit the GSEs to more affordable and, in some cases, riskier loans by consumer organizations—groups like ACORN, which has considerable clout in New York elections.

ACORN has been closely linked to Barack Obama since he ran its 1992 black voter registration effort that got Carol Mosely Braun elected U.S. Senator.

You can single out individuals for blame, but the bottom line is that many of America's powerful interests were in on it. And they were able to use political correctness as a weapon for their own purposes. A few unpopular folks like me were pointing out that immigration policy is lowering the creditworthiness and productive capacity of the population, but such heretical thoughts were "the soft bigotry of low expectations."

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

"Brideshead Revisited"

An excerpt from my review in the print edition of The American Conservative (subscribe here).

No American did more to resuscitate Evelyn Waugh's reputation than the late William F. Buckley. By Waugh's death in Mod 1966, the reactionary Catholic novelist's standing had fallen almost as low as Jay McInerney's is today, yet Buckley's devotion introduced Waugh to a new generation. In Waugh's 1982 apotheosis, the monumental 13-episode Brideshead Revisited miniseries, Buckley was rightly hired to host the show on PBS.

Hence, the news that the new movie adaptation of Brideshead, Waugh's magenta-hued 1945 saga about a decadent Catholic noble family, would star the English actor Matthew Goode was intriguing. Goode (who played an amusing aristocrat in Woody Allen's "Match Point") resembles a young Buckley, especially in his express elevator eyebrows. His patrician magnetism made him a natural to play Sebastian Flyte, the charming toff who beguiles Charles Ryder, an ambitious bourgeois aesthete, when they meet at Oxford in 1923. ...

Unfortunately, the new "Brideshead Revisited" film casts Goode as Charles, the reticent interloper dazed by the refinement of the Flyte family and their stately home Brideshead (played once again by the stupendous Castle Howard in North Yorkshire), leaving Goode few occasions to deploy his Buckleyesque facial gymnastics.

Despite that missed opportunity, the new "Brideshead Revisited" is a perfectly competent film for grown-ups, superior to last year's similar exercise in English upper crust period porn, the Best Picture nominee "Atonement."

"Atonement" invited us to indulge in the modern metasnobbery, to publicly tut-tut about the horrors of the English class system while privately wallowing in the visual splendor it created. In contrast, Waugh was an old-fashioned snob, whose only objection to class was that he wasn't born into the very highest one.

While the 2008 "Brideshead Revisited" is certainly tasteful and efficient, those are just about the last words you'd associate with Waugh's grand but sprawling bestseller, half-masterpiece, half-embarrassment.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Pipeline politics

The neocons traditionally pooh-poohed the idea that the American forward policy in the Caucasus had anything to do with the new 1100 mile BTC (Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan) pipeline for getting oil out of the Caspian Sea that runs from Azerbaijan north to Georgia then south to a Turkish port in the Levant. Instead, it was all about democracy! But for the last two weeks, we've been hearing from them about the pipeline as justification.

One question I've had is why wasn't the pipeline built on the most direct route, bypassing Georgia and running through Armenia instead? (Here's a map.) After all, Armenia has a ferocious lobby in America, making it unlikely the Russians would mess with Armenia. Wikipedia explains:

"The choice of a Turkish route meant oil export from Azerbaijan via either Georgia or Armenia. For several reasons a route through Armenia was politically inconvenient, due to regional tensions over Turkey's refusal to recognize the Armenian Genocide[6] [7], as well as the unresolved military conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.[8] This left the circuitous Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey route as politically most expedient for the major parties, although it was longer and more expensive to build than the other options."

Ah, the intricate joys of Caucusus politics! Apparently, Armenia sides with far-off Russia because it hates its neighbors so much and vice-versa.

Anyway, the whole BTC pipeline cost $3.9 billion to build, which is really not that much these days, so the cost of building a bypass through Armenia would be affordable, if there was some necessity.

Multiple routes would encourage better behavior on the part of all concerned.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

August 17, 2008

Best line of the Olympics

Simon Barnes of the London Times on men's synchronized pairs diving:

It all looks like a wonderfully elegant gay suicide pact.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer