January 3, 2009

College Football Playoff?

I've never been hugely enthusiastic about the popular idea of instituting a playoff system for the college football season in the manner of the NCAA playoffs in basketball (as recently endorsed by Barack Obama).

Part of the problem is that football is a dangerous and destructive game, so adding intense, hard-hitting playoff games against the best opponents to the best players' college seasons will just cause that much more wear and tear on players who aren't getting paid (at least not paid above the table).

If the average NFL running back has maybe four good pro seasons in him, adding playoffs to the college season could end up reducing a running back at a top college's NFL career by a year, which is a lot. If you have an 8 team playoff instead of bowl games, a USC or Oklahoma running back might wind up playing six or seven more games in his college career, which is pretty close to the equivalent of a full season against mediocre opponents in which stars sit out the fourth quarter of blowout wins. If you have a 16 team playoff, that's more like ten or eleven hard games across four years.

Also, I'm not crazy about how college football has added two or even three games to the season during my lifetime. It's not like the college athletic directors sat down with the College Football Players Guild representatives and negotiated a bigger paycheck for the players in return for more work.

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

Failing Upward via Public School Reform

With the Democratic governor of Illinois' pick for the U.S. Senate getting much publicity, the Democratic governor of Colorado has made sure to appoint the most exquisitely genteel individual imaginable to the U.S. Senate: Denver school chief Michael Bennet, age 44, the former editor of the Yale Law Review. His brother Jim is the editor of the Atlantic Monthly and his father was head of National Public Radio and president of Wesleyan U.

After Michael Bennet got rich, he then decided, in the mode of the time (e.g., Bill Gates), to fix the public schools. After all, how hard could it be?

A couple of years ago, in an article Across Difficult Country summarizes here, The New Yorker profiled Bennet's travails in trying to close a gang-infested Denver high school with terrible test scores, Manual. It turned out that the all-Mexican student body and their families kind of liked their terrible school, didn't appreciate poor Bennet's meddling, and, not being indoctrinated in the theology of the overclass, didn't expect to do much better at a different school just because it had enjoyed higher test scores before they arrived.

Yet, much in the manner of Barack Obama's unsuccessful chairmanship of the lavishly-funded Annenberg Chicago Challenge, Bennet has managed to fail upward.

Evidently, the point of being a public school reformer these days is to become known as a public school reformer, not to actually reform the public school. What matters is that you publicly proclaim that you believe the public schools can be fixed. Nobody actually expects you to be able to do anything with public school students, at least not enough to hold it against you when you fail, as the skyrocketing careers of Obama and Bennet demonstrate.

Connoisseurs of overclass social markers will enjoy his New York Times' 1997 wedding announcement:

Susan Diane Daggett, a daughter of Patricia B. Palmer of Little Rock, Ark., and Jesse B. Daggett of Marianna, Ark., was married yesterday to Michael Farrand Bennet, a son of Douglas J. Bennet Jr. of Middletown, Conn., and Susanne K. Bennet of Washington. The Rev. Arnold W. Hearn, an Episcopal priest, performed the ceremony at Crystal Lake in Marianna.

The bride, 33, a lawyer, is to join the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, formerly the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, in Denver next month. Ms. Daggett, who is keeping her name, graduated magna cum laude from Mount Holyoke College, and she and the bridegroom received law degrees from Yale University.

Her mother is a painter and an instructor at the Arkansas Art Center's Museum School in Little Rock. Her father is a partner in Daggett, VanDover, Donovan & Perry, a Little Rock law firm.

Mr. Bennet, 32, was until recently a counsel to the Deputy Attorney General of the United States. He graduated with honors from Wesleyan University.

His father is the president of Wesleyan; he was the Assistant Secretary of State for international organizations in 1993 and 1994 and the president of National Public Radio from 1983 until 1992. The bridegroom's mother is an art historian specializing in Roman antiquities.

This is exactly the kind of background that lets you understand the minds of Manual High School students.

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

January 1, 2009

Credit Default Swaps and Moral Hazard

In the insurance business, "moral hazard" is famously a problem. Evelyn Waugh describes in Scoop how in his fictionalized version of 1930s Addis Ababa, a taxi ride revealed "numerous gutted sites, relics of an epidemic of arson some years ago back when an Insurance Company had imprudently set up shop in the city."

Help me out here if I'm wrong, but don't credit default swaps, a financial instrument invented in the 1990s, suffer from the usual insurance contract problem of "moral hazard?" If you can make a deal so that you get compensated if your mortgage-backed security defaults, aren't you more likely to bring about a default?

If you are, say, Goldman Sachs and AIG offers to, in effect, insure for a modest price a no-doubt-fraudulent pile of mortgages you are thinking about buying from some dubious firm, why not go for it? AIG is rock solid! And if, perchance, AIG turns out not to be so solid, well, Goldman has friends in high places.

Credit default swaps have a second interesting moral hazard aspect. You don't have to be the owner of the security to get paid if it goes bust. This is kind of like being able to take out a life insurance policy on a complete stranger or your own worst enemy. The murderous marital moral hazard implicit in life insurance is a common theme in crime stories (e.g., Double Indemnity). That's an inevitable problem, but insurance companies have tightened up over the centuries on who can take out a life insurance policy on whom. Still, there was an Arsenic and Old Lace case in LA recently of two elderly women, who had murdered homeless men after taking out multiple life insurance policies on them. (They bribed the men into signing up for one, then forged their signatures on other policies).

It would certainly be interesting to learn more about the impact of both types of moral hazard.

I could see how the second kind (where third parties make bets against the financial health of firms in the securitized mortgage business) could be either bad or good for the economy, in that it could send signals that financial instruments are dubious.

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

December 31, 2008

Last day for tax deductible contributions to VDARE.com

Steve Sailer Says: Help VDARE.COM (and Me) Celebrate the New Year!

By Steve Sailer

We at VDARE.COM will have one reason to celebrate come January 20, 2009. George W. Bush will be gone, and we’ll still be here.

And with your help, we’ll be around when the new President is history. But only with your help …

As you’ll recall, George W. Bush was supposed to introduce a new, compassionate conservatism, taking Ronald Reagan’s American optimism to a new global level. While Reagan’s optimistic outlook focused on tapping his fellow Americans’ capacities, Bush’s greatest enthusiasm has been reserved for foreigners. His grand strategy of what we at VDARE.COM have called Invite the World - Invade the World - In Hock to the World placed his trust in Mexican illegal immigrants, Iraqi voters, and Chinese factory workers and bankers.

The Bush Bubble was phony, of course. It proved to be a variant of an earlier version of “compassionate” governance seen in Latin American countries like Argentina in the post-War world.

It’s important to understand that Latin American inflationary economics, like Bushian compassionate conservatism, wasn’t intended to wreak devastation -- it just evolved as an attempt to keep everybody happy.

From the days of Juan Peron onward, the workers of Buenos Aires would complain to the government that they weren’t being paid enough, so El Presidente would order their bosses to pay them more. Then the factory owners would complain to the government that they were going bankrupt, so the government would order the commercial banks to lend the factories more money. Then the banks would complain that they were about to go broke, so the government would tell the Central Bank to lend the commercial banks more money. When the Central Bank complained that they were running out of reserves, they would be told to print more some more money, lots and lots more money.

America’s leaders, Republican and Democrat, looked at the Latin American defaults of the 1980s and took from them this lesson:

Never let workers get paid more.

That way, you can’t start down the Latin American path to ruin. All the experts, such as Alan Greenspan and Robert Rubin, were agreed that the essential ingredient of economic success was keeping the average American from earning more money. Keep the supply of labor up -- and the price of labor down -- by not enforcing the laws against illegal immigration.

In other words, the key to avoiding the Hispanicization of the economy was to Hispanicize the population! (Of course, nobody ever quite put it in those words …)

Yet, Bush was not a cruel man, nor even a tough man. Like a lot of seemingly formidable Latin American generalissimos, he just wanted everybody to be happy.

In George W. Bush’s America, flat wages didn’t mean workers couldn’t have bigger houses, bigger TVs, and bigger rims on their rides. They could have it all … just by taking out bigger debts.

What could possibly go wrong?

Indeed, to Bush, one of the biggest problems facing the country was that the financial system was holding minorities back from their fair share of the American Dream by not lending them enough money. Bush egged the Bush Bubble on, denouncing traditional down payments on mortgages as the chief barrier to his goal of greatly increasing the number of minority homeowners. Mortgage dollars for home purchases leant to Hispanics soared a staggering 691 percent from 1999 to 2006.

Unlike the Bush family’s amigos in the old Mexican ruling party, however, George W. Bush wasn’t even competent enough to delay the economic collapse until after the election.

The Bush years ended in economic and political ruin, with the financial system more or less nationalized, and an incoming liberal Democratic President given almost carte blanche to hand out to his supporters however many hundreds of billions or even trillions he chooses.

While I wouldn’t be surprised if some of Obama’s “stimulus spending” goes to prop up big newspapers (after all, they gave him such lax scrutiny during the endless election), we can be sure that VDARE.COM won’t be getting any Obama Dollars.

To continue to provide you with the analyses and reporting that you literally cannot read anywhere else, we need your support.

When you realize how bad a job the MainStream Media did of exposing George W. Bush’s fundamental mistakes, just imagine what pushovers they will be for Barack Obama!

We certainly understand that it’s harder to give this year than last.

But if we are going to continue to expose how the world really works, your financial help is needed now more than ever.

Many thanks.

Steve Sailer

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

Who has turned out to be right in the Limbaugh-Black QB Controversy?

Back in 2003, Rush Limbaugh got himself in all sorts of trouble for saying during his (brief) tenure as a pregame show analyst for ESPN that Philadelphia Eagles QB Donovan McNabb wasn't as good as the media claimed:

"I don't think he's been that good from the get-go. I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL. I think the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. They're interested in black coaches and black quarterbacks doing well. I think there's a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he really didn't deserve. The defense carried this team."

Five and a half seasons later, McNabb is still a pretty good quarterback, with his team in the playoffs again.

But, it's worth taking a statistical look at black quarterbacks' performance in the NFL.

The source for my data is ESPN.com. It lists for the seven years 2002-2008 all the quarterbacks who have thrown at least 224 passes in a season (14 per game) -- in other words, the busiest 32 to 34 quarterbacks per year -- the "regulars."

One thing that jumps out of the data is that 2003, the year of the Limbaugh brouhaha, was the peak year in recent times for black quarterbacks. Among the top 32 quarterbacks that year, blacks accounted for over one quarter of all yards throw. In 2008, however, blacks only accounted for 14.7% of all yards passing among the top quarterbacks, a typical percentage for the last four seasons:

2002 21.6%
2003 25.7%
2004 17.7%
2005 15.7%
2006 13.0%
2007 15.8%
2008 14.7%

Other ways of measuring quarterbacks show similar stories. For example, the NFL's Passer Rating statistic (which aggregates percent completed, yards per attempt, touchdown percentage, and interception percentage) shows that the highest rated black passer in 2008 was Seattle's Seneca Wallace at 13th, followed by McNabb at 15th, Jason Campbell of Washington at 19th, David Garrard of Jacksonville at 20th, and JaMarcus Russell of Oakland at 26th.

Black quarterbacks tend to run better on average, but with Michael Vick in prison, none of the black regulars did much rushing in 2008.

So, it looks like Limbaugh's general assertion that black quarterbacks tended to be overhyped by the press has been borne out by the following half decade of statistics.

December 30, 2008

Shocking news: College football and basketball players not as smart as their classmates

A new report:

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Football and men’s basketball players on the nation’s big-time college teams averaged hundreds of points lower on their SATs than their classmates, and some of the gaps are so large they call into question the lengths to which schools will go to win.

The biggest gap between football players and students as a whole occurred at the University of Florida, where players scored 346 points lower than the school’s overall student body [out of 1600 points, or about 1.5 standard deviations]. That’s larger than the difference in scores between typical students at the University of Georgia and Harvard University.

Hmmhmm, isn't Florida playing in the national championship game next month? Could there be a connection?

Seriously, one aspect of this that gets overlooked is that the average SAT scores at many state flagship schools have risen significantly over the last generation. For example, football players at Florida average 890, but U. of Florida students average 1236 which is pretty good. (Old timers who took the SAT before the fall of 1995 should subtract 110 points from these glitzy new scores to adjust them down to the harder scoring standards prevailing in their days.)

An 890 really isn't that bad. That's probably about the national average, if you included all the students who don't bother to take the SAT or ACT. (Am I right about that?). I suspect, however, that a lot of prize recruits took the SAT four or five times, and had lots of drilling in it.

Nationwide, football players average 220 points lower on the SAT than their classmates — and men’s basketball players average seven points less than football players.

Those figures come from an Atlanta Journal-Constitution study of 54 public universities, including the members of the six major Bowl Championship Series conferences and other schools whose teams finished the 2007-08 season ranked among the football or men’s basketball top 25.

While it’s commonly known that admission standards are different for athletes, the AJC study quantifies how wide the gap is between athletes and the general student body at major universities.

Georgia Tech’s football players had the nation’s best average SAT score, 1028 of a possible 1600, and best average high school GPA, 3.39 of a possible 4.0 in the core curriculum. But Tech’s football players still scored 315 SAT points lower on average than their classmates.

At the University of Georgia, the average football SAT was 949, which is 239 points behind the average for an undergraduate student at Georgia — and 79 points behind Tech’s football average. The Bulldogs’ average high school GPA was 2.77, or 45th out of 53 teams for which football GPAs were available. Their SAT average ranked them 22nd.

Nationwide, coaches who would never offer a scholarship to a player who was 6 inches shorter or half a second slower than other prospects routinely recruit players whose standardized test scores suggest they’re at a competitive disadvantage in the classroom.

It’s the price of winning.

“If you’re going to mount a competitive program in Division I-A, and our institution is committed to do that, some flexibility in admissions of athletes is going to take place,” said Tom Lifka, chairman of the committee that handles athlete admissions at the University of California, Los Angeles. “Every institution I know in the country operates in the same way. It may or may not be a good thing, but that’s the way it is.”

UCLA, which has won more NCAA championships in all sports than any other school, had the biggest gap between the average SAT scores of athletes in all sports and its overall student body, at 247 points. ...


School, Average
Georgia Tech, 1028
Oregon State, 997
Michigan, 997
Virginia, 993
Purdue, 974
Indiana, 973
Hawaii, 968
California, 967
Colorado, 966
Iowa, 964

School, Average
Oklahoma State, 878
Louisville, 878
Memphis, 890
Florida, 890
Texas Tech, 901
Arkansas, 910
Texas A&M, 911
Mississippi State, 911
Washington State, 916
Michigan State, 917

Black athletes’ average SAT score was 102 points lower than the average for black students overall. White athletes’ average SAT score was 88 points lower than the average for white students overall. One expert says those numbers suggest schools are motivated by money, not affirmative action. If universities were motivated by affirmative action, they would enroll black students whose qualifications give them a better chance to succeed in class, rather than athletes whose skills help the school sell football and basketball tickets, said Allen Sack, director of the University of New Haven’s Institute for Sport Management and a former University of Notre Dame football player.

“The black athletes are far more represented in football and basketball, the two sports that produce the most revenue,” Sack said. “Is there exploitation going on? I would suggest there is.”

Sack said universities might be exploiting those athletes who enter with inferior academic credentials, even if athletes as a whole graduate at a higher rate than non-athletes. “The athletes should all be graduating at a higher rate than the student body because they have the incredible advantage of having tuition, room and board paid for them,” Sack said.

The most recent Division I data showed black athletes in men’s sports outperforming black men’s graduation rate overall, 48 percent to 38 percent, and black athletes in women’s sports outperforming black women’s graduation rate overall, 66 percent to 50 percent. For white women, the graduation rates were 74 percent for athletes, 67 percent overall. The only large group in which athletes underperformed: White men, with athletes graduating at 61 percent and students as a whole at 62 percent.

Here are the stats for 54 public university football powerhouses.

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

December 29, 2008

More on homicide trends

James Alan Fox of Northeastern University, whose study of homicide trends provided the basis for a somewhat misleading article in the New York Times today, has kindly sent me some more detailed data (derived from the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics website) on recent trends in homicide offending rates.

Here's the NYT's graphs, which show not the expected rate per capita but the absolute number of perpetrators. The reader who doesn't stop to take this into account would assume that the black homicide rate is about twice the "white" rate. But, of course, there are far more white than black teens, so the black rate is actually much higher than just twice as bad.

First, Dr. Fox confirmed for me that what the New York Times referred to as number of homicides perpetrated by "whites" is actually the number for "whites plus most Hispanics." (The federal government is very careful about breaking out Hispanic statistics separately in almost all venues except crime rates. I wonder why?) This is an important point because it's likely that Hispanics now commit the majority of homicides in the younger age groups of the government's "whites plus Hispanics" aggregation.

Second, he sent me the per capita rates, from which I have calculated the ratio of homicide perpetrating rates. The following table lists the ratio of the murder rate for blacks to the murder rate for whites plus Hispanics. For example, in 2007, the black homicide rate among 14-17 year-old-males was 10.0 times the level of homicide rate for the aggregation of whites and Hispanics.

14-17 18-24 25+
2000 8.1 9.1 7.6
2001 7.6 8.3 7.3
2002 7.0 8.3 7.6
2003 7.7 8.6 7.7
2004 7.7 8.2 7.0
2005 8.5 8.7 7.8
2006 9.3 9.3 8.1
2007 10.0 9.4 7.8
From this, it appears fairly safe to say that by 2007, the ratio of black to non-Hispanic white homicide rates was at least an order of magnitude for all age groups.

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

Homicide Rates: Back toward Crack among Blacks

After a huge dropoff with the ending of the crack wars around 1995, the black homicide perpetration rate has turned up again in this decade. For black male 14-17 year olds, according to tables prepared by James Alan Fox of Northeastern U., the number of homicide perpetrators in absolute terms is up 34% from 2000-2001 to 2006-2007, up 12% for black 18-24-year-0lds, and up 17% for blacks men 25+.

In contrast, for "whites" (which appear to include most Hispanics), the number of homicide perpetrators is up 3% for 14-17 year-olds, down -2% for 18-24 year-olds, and up 6% for 25+. The federal government carefully breaks out Hispanic data for almost everything except crime statistics, which makes non-black crime numbers hard to interpret. My guess would be that the homicide rate for whites/Hispanics is falling because the number of whites/Hispanics is growing rapidly due to Hispanic growth. Unfortunately, we can't use federal figures to break down white versus Hispanic crime trends, but I would guess that crime rate trends are pretty quiet among both whites and Hispanics in this decade.

Here in LA, there was a spike in Hispanic gang murders after Villaraigosa was elected mayor in 2005, but the LAPD remains in the capable hands of William Bratton, and that has faded out.

My assumption is that technological trends, especially the spread of cellphones and cellphone cameras, has made crime a riskier business, so crime rates should be dropping all else being equal.

When I debated economist Steven Levitt over crime in Slate in 1999, he asked me what my prediction for future crime trends was: I replied that I figured that black teens are currently benefiting from the example of their many older brothers and cousins whom the crack wars left in jail, wheelchairs, or cemeteries, but that eventually a new cohort of black teens would come along without direct experience of the horrors of crack wars of 1988-1994, and the homicide rate would go back up again.

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

My new VDARE.com column

Now that my argument that an underestimated source of the mortgage meltdown was pro-diversity policies is on the move from from being regarded as scurrilous infamy to being quietly accepted into the conventional wisdom, I lay out n VDARE.com an idea that commenters here and I have been kicking around for some time:

So now let me suggest another even less welcome Big Idea for the rest of the media to get around to in the next several months:

The Crash is telling us that this readjustment can no longer be papered over or postponed.

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

December 28, 2008

Annual Excess Income Relief Effort

For all my readers who are concerned about having to write a big check to the IRS in 3.5 months, I'm at your service to relieve you of some of that burden! You can make a tax-deductible 2008 donation to me here.

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


"Valkyrie," with Tom Cruise as Col. Stauffenberg, who led the July 20, 1944 assassination and coup plot against Hitler, is a fairly decent movie that never quite overcomes the obvious problems with making a thriller where you know ahead of time that the hero fails, and there's only one explosion and a brief shootout. Still, it's a respectable, grown-up film.

The accents, though, don't help matters. Hitler has a German accent and Stauffenberg an American accent, and in between these two moral poles, most of the supporting cast, such as Tom Wilkinson, Kenneth Branagh, and Eddie Izzard, have English accents. Granted, the English actors are quite good, but if you have Tom Cruise signed up as your hero and he can only do an American accent, then, rather than embarrass your star, shouldn't you find American character actors and do the whole thing with American accents? Sure, maybe the English are better character actors on a per capita average basis, but there are more than enough good American character actors to fill out the cast.

And that leads to the question of whether Cruise should have played Count Claus Philipp Maria Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg. Ever since Cruise replaced his publicist with his sister, his public image has been in ruins, but I've never gotten too worked up over that. I've never much liked Cruise as an actor, because he doesn't seem to have much going for him except energy, but he has a track record with remarkably few outright failures on it ("Lions for Lambs" being the only one in this decade). Tom Cruise's name on a film suggests that it's not going to be totally bad. Strange as it may seem, the Cruise brand name implies that the film will be a quality product.

Facially, Cruise is quite plausible as the handsome 37-year-old colonel. Still, much of Stauffenberg's charisma, which was essential in his driving a military plot large enough to have a chance at not just killing Hitler but overthrowing the Nazi Party, stemmed from his epitomizing the best traits of the old German aristocracy. Cruise doesn't do upper class grace. Mostly, Cruise just does intensity. The film would have worked better with a Shakespearean-trained English actor as the Count. Or, if Cruise was essential to the financing, then lose the stage-trained Englishmen in the supporting roles and replace them with Americans.

Director Bryan Singer adds to the style of the film, especially its art direction, a note of gay hysteria that is not all that historically inaccurate in depicting Nazi Germany.

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