December 26, 2008

The place name that changed, then changed back

Which country is this?

It's almost forgotten now, but, in the manner of Bombay-->Mumbai, in the middle of the 20th Century, one well-known Western European state recurrently tried to persuade Anglophones to call it by a name almost unknown in English. I recall that many maps and globes I saw as a child in the 1960s used this obscure term as the main name for this country, with its famous English name in smaller type in parentheses below.

My cousins were attending school in this country when I visited them in 1965. They complained about having to take classes in the indigenous tongue, saying that English was the language of the future. Whiny snot-nosed teens they may have been, but they were right.

Got it by now?

Emphasizing the local name over the celebrated English name was an anti-English-colonialist gesture, same as changing Bombay to Mumbai (with, same as in India, the added bonus of pleasing some locals and displeasing others). But in this case, it didn't stick because it was too confusing and too inconvenient for foreigners, so the locals have largely given up on the name change, just as they have largely given upon the language. To this day, only this indigenous name appears on postage stamps, but the American media have largely given up using the new name and gone back to the more familiar old name.

Wikipedia gives an example of common-sense prevailing in this country:

From 1938 to 1962 the international plate on Irish cars was marked "EIR", short for Éire.[citation needed] In 1922-1938 it was "SE", and from 1962 "IRL" has been adopted. Irish politician, Bernard Commons TD suggested to the Dáil in 1950 that the government examine "the tourist identification plate bearing the letters EIR" "with a view to the adoption of identification letters more readily associated with this country by foreigners".[4] The amendment was effected under the Road Traffic Act 1961.

So, the lesson appears to be, once again, that non-Europeans get to change what Anglophones in the West call their historic places, but Europeans don't.

By the way, this is a different situation from the country on the opposite side of England insisting upon being called The Netherlands rather than the traditional Holland. Holland refers only to the culturally dominant coastal stretch that contains the big cities, but only 13% of the land area. It's the analog of using England to refer to Great Britain or the United Kingdom. It makes sense to choose a new name when incorporating a larger region or shrinking (e.g., Montenegro).

But, today, the main examples of European countries getting to change their placenames, following the dropping of some dictators' names at the end of the Cold War, is that Ukraine has talked the media into not referring to it as The Ukraine.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer


The three main government-approved credit rating agencies -- Standard & Poor's, Moody's, and Fitch -- notoriously failed in recent years in rating complex structured financial assets.

My vague impression is that the ratings agencies first became corruptible in the 1970s when two things happened:

- They switched their basic business model in the early 1970s from being paid by users of their information (bond-buyers and the like) to being paid by issuers (debtors). That incentive structure created an obvious conflict of interest.

- The government started writing them into legislation around 1975, making them a legally-mandated quasi-cartel.

I spent years in the market research business telling consumer packaged goods manufacturers what their market share was, a business that's fairly comparable in We would have loved to have gotten into the more lucrative financial rating business (the Wall Street mark-up is a lot higher than the Corporate America mark-up), but up at least through a 2006 reform, you couldn't get into that market unless you were already in that market. We didn't have particularly large conflicts of interest in the market research business, since the primary users paid us for the data. Procter & Gamble is more interested in what Crest's market share is than anybody else is, so P&G pays its market research supplier and takes steps to make sure it's getting accurate information.

The surprising thing is that the ratings agencies didn’t get corrupted for several more decades after these 1970s changes. But, that long period of good behavior created an assumption on the part of the markets that just because they hadn’t allowed themselves to be corrupted by their incentive structure so far, they never would.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

How Mrs. Thatcher became Mrs. Thatcher

John O'Sullivan has an interesting column in the Wall Street Journal comparing Sarah Palin to Margaret Thatcher, for whom he worked. He points out that:

Inevitably, Lloyd Bentsen's famous put-down of Dan Quayle in the 1988 vice-presidential debate is resurrected, such as by Paul Waugh (in the London Evening Standard) and Marie Cocco (in the Washington Post): "Newsflash! Governor, You're No Maggie Thatcher," sneered Mr. Waugh. Added Ms. Coco, "now we know Sarah Palin is no Margaret Thatcher -- and no Dan Quayle either!"

Jolly, rib-tickling stuff. But, as it happens, I know Margaret Thatcher. Margaret Thatcher is a friend of mine. And as a matter of fact, Margaret Thatcher and Sarah Palin have a great deal in common. ...

Things like that change your mind about a girl. But they also take time, during which she had to turn her instinctive beliefs into intellectually coherent policies against opposition inside and outside her own party. Like Mrs. Palin this year, Mrs. Thatcher knew there were serious gaps in her knowledge, especially of foreign affairs. She recruited experts who shared her general outlook (such as Robert Conquest and Hugh Thomas) to tutor her on these things. Even so she often seemed very alone in the Tory high command.

As a parliamentary sketch writer for the Daily Telegraph (and a not very repressed suburbanite), I watched Mrs. Thatcher's progress as opposition leader. She had been a good performer in less exalted positions. But initially she faltered. Against the smooth, condescending Prime Minister James Callaghan in particular she had a hard time. In contrast to his chuckling baritone she sounded shrill when she attacked. But she lowered her tone (vocally not morally), took lessons in presentation from (among others) Laurence Olivier, and prepared diligently for every debate and Question Time.

I can still recall her breakthrough performance in a July 1977 debate on the Labour government's collapsing economy. She dominated the House of Commons so wittily that the next day the Daily Mail's acerbic correspondent, Andrew Alexander, began his report: "If Mrs. Thatcher were a racehorse, she would have been tested for drugs yesterday." She was now on the way to becoming the world-historical figure who today is the gold standard of conservative statesmanship.

This explains much of my lack of interest in the ongoing "How smart is Sarah Palin?" brouhaha. She's not a plausible Presidential candidate until she wins re-election in 2010. Then, if Obama is in trouble, she could make a dash for 2012, or focus on 2016, when she'll be 52. If she skips 2012 and a Republican wins two terms, she could run in 2020 when she's 56.

What all this means is that she has the time to put herself through a lengthy educational process similar to the one Mrs. Thatcher undertook. If she succeeds in it, then she's Presidential Timber. If she doesn't, she's not. In either case, I'm not going to spend a lot of time worrying at present about whether she is going to succeed or not. It's Mrs. Palin's career, not mine.

Another similarity between Mrs. Thatcher and Mrs. Palin is that when Miss Roberts, then in her mid-20s, first showed up on the political scene by putting up good shows in losing runs for safe Labour seats in the 1950 and 1951 elections, she was the best looking woman in politics. I've stumbled across recollections by conservative-leaning English gentlemen of a certain age -- Alec Guinness, David Lean, and Kingsley Amis -- of what a crush they had on the future Mrs. Thatcher. The thing to keep in mind about her is that she is extremely English looking, with the kind of looks that are rarely seen in America, so Americans can't see what 1950s English saw in her.

On the other hand, Thatcher had two major career advantages over Palin: a rich husband and fewer children. Mrs. Thatcher told my wife how lucky she was to have had fraternal twins so she could have a boy and a girl all at once and then get back to her career.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

NCAA athletes by ethnicity

I decided to start off after the Christmas break with some data analysis. Here are the NCAA two statistics on Division I college athletes by ethnicity.

Let's take a look at Asian - Pacific Islanders (which, I must say, for the purposes of sports is the silliest aggregation):


Fencing 8.5
Gymnastics 7.0
Squash 6.0
Tennis 5.1
Volleyball 4.2
Swimming/Diving 3.0
Golf 2.9
Rowing 2.6
Water_Polo 2.5
Sailing 2.1
Soccer 2.1
Skiing 2.0
Rifle 1.7
Football 1.6 Samoans
Wrestling 1.6
Track,_Outdoor 1.3
Baseball 1.2
Track,_Indoor 1.2
Cross_Country 1.0
Lacrosse 0.6
Ice_Hockey 0.5
Basketball 0.4
Archery -
Bowling -
All_Sports 1.7

Notes: Fencing is one of those classic I-didn't-know-they-hand-out-scholarships-in-this sports. One of the reasons Asians do so poorly in basketball is because they do pretty well in volleyball, a sport that requires a similar skill set. (Asians and Hispanics tend to have a California-orientation to their sports -- they are a little more likely to play the kind of sports, such as volleyball and water polo, that are big in California and the Olympics). The 1.6% of NCAA Division I football players who are Asian or Pacific Islander are probably mostly Pacific Islanders, such as Samoans, who tend to be huge. Asian women are 2.5 times more represented in college golf than Asian men.

Here are Hispanics:


Soccer 7.3
Tennis 7.2
Cross_Country 6.0
Baseball 5.4
Wrestling 5.4
Fencing 5.2
Volleyball 5.2
Water_Polo 5.0
Track,_Outdoor 4.5
Track,_Indoor 4.4
Swimming/Diving 2.9
Rowing 2.8
Golf 2.6
Gymnastics 2.3
Football 2.2
Basketball 1.8
Lacrosse 1.0
Skiing 1.0
Rifle 0.8
Ice_Hockey 0.7
Squash 0.7
Sailing 0.5
Archery -
Bowling -
All_Sports 3.8

Overall, this is pretty unimpressive, with Hispanics represented at only about one-fifth of their share of the college-age population.

Hispanics are best represented in Division I soccer, but only at a rate of about half of their share of the total population and perhaps 40% of their share of 18-22 year olds. And that's their favorite sport. Baseball at 5.4% is weak too, below the level of blacks (6.0%). With blacks, you are always reading about what a tragedy it is that African-Americans have lost interest in baseball.

Cross country at 6.0% isn't bad -- underrepresented versus their share of the population, sure, but it's not like soccer where they have a tradition of the sport.

The tennis share (7.2%) seems high. I suspect that a lot of the Hispanics playing Division I tennis are rich kids from Latin America (38.4% of all Division I male tennis players are "non-resident aliens").


Basketball 60.4
Football 45.9
Track,_Indoor 27.5
Track,_Outdoor 27.2
Cross_Country 11.1
Soccer 9.3
Baseball 6.0
Wrestling 5.2
Tennis 4.7
Fencing 4.4
Gymnastics 4.4
Volleyball 3.7
Golf 2.7
Lacrosse 1.8
Rifle 1.7
Swimming/Diving 1.7
Water_Polo 1.2
Rowing 0.7
Sailing 0.5
Skiing 0.5
Ice_Hockey 0.4
Archery -
Bowling -
Squash -
All_Sports 24.7

Not too many surprises here: basketball first, then football, then track. The cross country runners are probably almost all East Africans. A remarkable fraction of the star black high school cross country runners are East African immigrants. I wonder what % of the blacks playing golf, lacrosse, water polo and the like have a white parent?


Bowling 100
Rifle 90.8
Lacrosse 90.5
Archery 88.9
Sailing 88.0
Ice_Hockey 85.5
Golf 84.8
Baseball 84.5
Swimming/Diving 83.9
Wrestling 83.1
Rowing 82.7
Gymnastics 80.5
Skiing 79.8
Water_Polo 77.2
Cross_Country 76.5
Volleyball 76.5
Soccer 72.6
Squash 72.0
Fencing 71.0
Tennis 62.1
Track,_Indoor 61.9
Track,_Outdoor 61.9
Football 47.0
Basketball 32.5
All_Sports 64.2
I have no idea why the formatting comes out like this.

The low figure for whites in tennis is due to 21% registering as "Other" which is likely due to 38% being non-resident aliens. The NCAA doesn't appear to be as obsessive about making foreigners check off ethnicity boxes as it is about Americans.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

December 22, 2008

Average verbal IQ scores in Presidential elections since 1976

The long-running General Social Survey includes a 10 word vocabulary test, from which you can roughly estimate IQ over large enough sample sizes. (Of course, it's biased in favor of people who are smarter with words than with numbers or images.) Audacious Epigone looks up the average IQs of white voters for each Presidential candidate 1976-2004.

Presumably, Republican candidates' voters generally average higher IQs overall -- in the exit polls, GOP voters average higher incomes and very similar education levels to Democratic voters -- but all the heat on this issue of who is smartest is generated among white people. When white Democrats go on and on about how Democrats are smarter than Republicans, they aren't thinking about all the blacks who turned out to vote for Obama this year -- e.g., in California, where Obama got 61% of the vote but gay marriage, despite the best efforts of Hollywood, got only 48% -- which Hollywood has ever since been blaming on media domination by the Elders of Mormon). In the 2008 exit poll, there was virtually no difference in years of education claimed among Obama and McCain supporters when aggregated across all races.

No, white Democrats only care about being smarter than white Republicans.

Audacious's analysis found several things of interest. On an IQ scale where the white average is set at 100, all candidates's voters since 1976 have averaged over 100. Dumb people don't vote as much as smart people and undecided swing voters tend to be not very smart either. Thus, the losing candidate in six of the eight elections had a higher IQ set of voters than the winner. In other words, losers tended to wind up with his base of people smart enough to have a fairly consistent ideology, while winners picked up the people who don't think about politics much and motivated the people sympathetic to his party in the left half of the Bell Curve to remember to show up to vote.

It's kind of like Jay Leno vs. David Letterman. Dave pitches his show at viewers with a 105 IQ, while Jay aims his show at 100 (I'm making these numbers up but I wouldn't be surprised if they were pretty accurate). Jay gets bigger ratings.

Third party voters, with the exception of Perot's, tend to have high IQs.

Republican whites tended to have higher IQs than Democrats in the early years, and as late as 1996, Dole enjoyed a 0.6 point edge over Clinton, but by 2004, Kerry had opened up a 3.9 point gap over Bush.

The future of the GOP would therefore appear to depend upon mobilizing large turnouts among whites with two digit IQs, just as the future of the Democrats depends upon mobilizing, as they successfully did in 2008, large numbers of nonwhites with two digit IQs.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

December 21, 2008

Malcolm in a Muddle

Here's my review of Malcolm Gladwell's new bestseller, Outliers: The Story of Success.

Here's an excerpt from my 3700 word review:

Malcolm never misses an opportunity to miss the point. For example, consider the self-evident stupidity of Gladwell’s title, Outliers: The Story of Success. His book attempts to offer a General Theory of Success in America—why, on the whole, Jews and Asians are well educated and well-compensated while blacks and Mexicans aren’t—through anecdotes about a small number of anomalous "outliers."

Gladwell chose the word "outliers" for his title because it sounded scientific. He’s vaguely aware that statistical analysts are much concerned with the outliers in their datasets, so it sounds cool to write a book about why people like Bill Gates and the Beatles are successful and call it Outliers.

Of course, the reason statisticians think about outliers a lot is because, to quote Wikipedia, "Statistics derived from data sets that include outliers may be misleading."

For example, say you are a market researcher doing a random survey of consumers for a mutual fund company to determine the average net worth of Americans by different levels of education. You tote up your results and see that the mean wealth of your 100 college dropouts is $500,050,000.

"That’s weird," you say.

You then look at the individual surveys and see that one respondent claimed to have a fortune of fifty billion dollars.

Is he lying? Is he crazy? Or is he Bill Gates? You don’t know. All you know is that he’s an outlier and therefore you aren’t going to use him in your data set. Otherwise, your innumerate pointy-haired boss in the marketing department (who, by the way, loves Malcolm Gladwell) might take your findings as justifying a huge ad campaign aimed at the evidently vastly wealthy dropout market.

In contrast, Gladwell devotes 18 pages to Gates, without noticing that Gates is a perfect example of the kind of data point that the very concept of "outliers" tells you to be suspicious of.

But notice how Gladwell’s mistakes err in a direction favorable to his bank account. People will pay to read about the richest man in the world in the hopes that they’ll pick up some tips from him. So Gladwell makes up a theory about why Gates is so rich (he got to practice computer programming on an early timesharing terminal at his expensive prep school), just as he devotes eight pages to his theory of why the Beatles were so successful (they played live a lot in Hamburg in 1960-1962).

As usual with Gladwell, he manages to choose examples that undermine his own theory, even when his basic idea is fairly sensible. Yes, as Gladwell stresses, putting in ten thousand hours of practice is helpful at becoming really good at a trade, so it’s helpful to come from a privileged background where you can get in a lot of practice at a young age.

Nevertheless, while the Beatles got lots of practice at playing live in Hamburg, they aren’t the most famous rock group because they were an exceptionally great live band. In fact, they gave up playing live in 1967 and nobody much noticed.

Instead, they were the greatest songwriting and studio band.

Similarly, Bill Gates didn’t become the richest man in America by being a great programmer. In reality, he bought his strategically pivotal Disk Operating System from a Seattle programmer named Tim Paterson and then licensed it to IBM. No, Gates got rich by being a great monopolist—which is a more difficult career to practice far ahead of time.

Gladwell, the unofficial Minister of Propaganda for Multi-Culti Capitalism, seldom says anything negative about capitalists. For example, if you are looking for the deep roots of Gates’s unerring cunning at acquiring a monopoly at such a young age, it’s perhaps interesting that Gates’s father was a defense attorney for firms accused of antitrust violations. Unsurprisingly, Gladwell never notices that.

Indeed, Gladwell’s climactic depiction of the more just society he envisions is quite terrifying. In the grand summation of his book’s argument, he writes:

"We look at the young Bill Gates and marvel that our world allowed that thirteen-year-old to become a fabulously successful entrepreneur. But that’s the wrong lesson. Our world only allowed one thirteen-year-old unlimited access to a time-sharing terminal in 1968. If a million teenagers had been given the same opportunity, how many more Microsofts would we have today?" [p. 268]

Let a million monopolies bloom!

The great thing about Gladwell is that he’s so lacking in critical thinking skills that he just blurts out the underlying assumptions of today’s conventional wisdom, stating its stupidities in their Platonic form. To Gladwell, the long, laborious, and expensive development of the computer isn’t a great accomplishment of Western civilization for which posterity should be grateful. No, it’s a civil rights issue. See, back in 1968, "our world" hadn’t "allowed" enough teenagers—especially not enough black and Mexican ones, to use state-of-the-art time-sharing computers.

Just think—if our world had allowed a million teenagers to be given the same opportunity of unlimited access to a time-sharing terminal in 1868, we could have a billion Microsofts today!

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

"Spent out"???

Once again, a Washington Post reporter asks Team Obama how they are going to keep from wasting the hundreds of billions of "stimulus" dollars by spending it too fast and Team Obama replies that they are going to work hard to not spend it too slow:

Because they are intended to pump cash quickly into the economy, stimulus measures are released from the usual budgetary constraints that require the cost of new programs to be covered by cutting spending elsewhere or by raising taxes -- a one-time pass that could invite lawmakers to load the bill up with favored items.

[Larry] Summers and other Obama advisers said they are keenly aware of the problem and are working to convince lawmakers of the wisdom of limiting the package to projects that would create a large number of jobs quickly or make a down payment on Obama's broader economic goals, such as improving the health-care system or reducing emissions that contribute to global warming.

"While this may be Christmastime, it doesn't mean there's going to be a large number of unrelated ornaments under the Christmas tree," Summers said. "There's a commitment by all of us to discipline and to doing the right things in terms of accountability."

Summers said Obama's budget team is "scrubbing" various proposals for "basic soundness." The team also is developing ideas to make expenditures transparent to the public, perhaps through regular progress reports or even Internet sites where "people could monitor the fraction of each project that had been spent out," he said.

Does the term "spent out" connote to you a deep concern for making sure the taxpayers get their money's worth?

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Where is Bernie's $50 billion?

Where is the $50 billion Bernie Madoff claims to have lost?

Clearly, some of it went to the guys running the feeder funds, like Walter Noel, but that doesn't appear to add up to close to $50 billion.

There are two kinds of Ponzi schemes: the kind where you do some investment that can't pay off in the long run and the kind where you don't do anything at all and just pretend to invest it. Harry Markopolous demonstrated that Madoff couldn't be actively pursuing the "split-strike" option strategy he claimed to be following because not enough of those types of options were traded in the whole world. So, was Madoff doing anything with the money other than paying it out to earlier investors?

Perhaps he recently started making wild bets in the markets to try to get back to even. But where is the documentation for these trades?

Or do he and his loved ones have it socked away somewhere? So far, his houses and yachts that have surfaced sound like those of a man with hundreds of millions -- but not tens of billions -- of dollars.

It's a $50 billion puzzle ...

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

How Obama could save Detroit and why he won't

Has anybody noticed how out of date Obama's automobile industry rhetoric is? He's still talking about cars as if gas was over $4 per gallon and global warming was the imminent threat, rather than global depression. He keeps talking about how Detroit has to stop making big pickup trucks and start making little runabouts. That kind of mindless rhetoric is killing Detroit, which makes profits on big hulks and loses money on go-karts.

If Obama wants the Detroit car companies to actually earn some cash flow and keep workers employed over the next 2-3 years, then the government should take major steps to solve consumers' big worries about buying from the (not-so) Big Three:

1. Figure out a way to guarantee Detroit's seven year warranties so even if they go out of business, new buyers can still get the cars serviced under warranty. They'll be a lot less likely to go out of business if customers don't have to worry about them going out of business.

2. Guarantee that new buyers won't pay gas prices over, say, $2.75 per gallon during the next 2 or 3 years, through a tax rebate or whatever.

3. The President of the United States of America should stop demonizing the most profitable products made by American car companies. Stop pretending that "green" cars are going to rescue Detroit. Admit that all the SWPL green stuff was just a load of campaign hooey that is now "inoperative."

If the government can lift those clouds of uncertainty from would-be customers minds, then Detroit could move a lot of metal.

But, Obama won't becaus:

A. This is all about the class struggle.

B. Obama loves power. Helping American businesses and consumers make mutually satisfactory transactions is not as much fun for him as forcing both of them to make and (not) buy cars that they (and, for that matter, Obama himself, whose last car weighed 4,000 pounds) don't want.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer