December 31, 2009

Obama's mental health breaks

In The New Republic, Michelle Cottle gets herself worried about the political imagery of the President's golf habit:
Bunker Mentality
Barack Obama's dangerous obsession with golf
During the 2008 race, Obama’s golf outings drew less notice than his battles on the hard court. But, now that he’s firmly ensconced in the Oval Office, the sticks have come out of the closet as Obama constantly looks to squeeze in a few holes ...

But just because other presidents have done it doesn’t mean there aren’t political risks involved. In the popular imagination, golf is the stuff of corporate deal-cutting, congressional junkets, and country club exclusivity. And, unless a president is very careful, a golf habit can easily be spun as evidence of unseemly character traits ranging from laziness to callousness to out-of-touch elitism.

I've mentioned before how most careers in 21st Century America are more or less in marketing, and how journalism is slowly turning into Marketing Criticism.
Various explanations have been floated for Obama’s embrace of golf ...

The most reasonable is mine: that Obama has made it to the top, so now he's doing what men who have made it to the top in the Anglosphere and the Far East frequently do: play a lot of golf. (Why men like to play golf I've explained at length here.)

I would guess that he'll become more addicted to golf as he plays more great golf courses. Right now, his taste in golf courses appears to be rather indiscriminate, happily playing whatever lame layout is at hand. But eventually, like Bill Clinton, he'll learn that some golf courses are better than others, and then the Presidential helicopter will be descending upon Ballybunion (the small town on the west coast of Ireland that is home to Bill Clinton's favorite golf course and the world's first statue of Bill Clinton -- the other Clinton statue is in Kosovo), Sand Hills in remote Mullen, Nebraska, the National and the like.

The more interesting speculation about Obama and golf is that, like George W. Bush, he sure seems to take a lot of mental health breaks, such as when he disappears for a smoke.

Bush is an alcoholic, so that's one explanation for his constant exercising: to stay on the wagon. But what's Obama's reason for his schedule?

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

I guess the recession must be over

On New Year's Eve, the tuxedo rental shop on the corner was so sold out that they had stripped all the mannequins in the windows and rented out the dummies' tuxes.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Positive Thinking

From the New York Times, "Seeking a Cure for Optimism:"

Recently, a number of writers and researchers have questioned the notion that looking on the bright side — often through conscious effort — makes much of a difference. One of the most prominent skeptics is Barbara Ehrenreich, whose best-selling book “Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America,” published in the fall, maintains that thinking positively does little good in the long run, and can, in fact, do harm.

“Happiness is great, joy is great, but positive thinking reduces the spontaneity of human interactions,” Ms. Ehrenreich said. “If everyone has that fixed social smile all the time, how do you know when anyone really likes you?”

There are quite a few distinctions that need to be made regarding the general concept of positive thinking. For example, there's the difference between internal and external cheerfulness, and between private and public optimsim.

Having finally seen the Coen Brothers' A Serious Man last night, which is like a less funny version of Curb Your Enthusiasm in which mild-mannered physics professor Larry Gopnik is relentlessly abused by the spontaneity of human interactions with people like Ms. Ehrenreich, I'd say that a little social smiling isn't such a bad thing.

About a year ago, my younger son's high school hosted a talk by radio rabbi Dennis Prager. He said that young people all want to help humanity, but that the surest, most effective way to help humanity is for you to act less whiny and more cheerful toward the people around you. Every single student at the school thought that was the worst idea ever -- Shouldn't you be authentic and therefore wallow in the horrors of having your oppressive parents ask you to empty the dishwasher? -- except, to my astonishment, my kid, who thought that Prager had a great idea. And he has been easier to live with ever since (and easier than I was to live with at that age).

So, thank you, Dennis Prager.

A study published in the November-December issue of Australasian Science found that people in a negative mood are more critical of, and pay more attention to, their surroundings than happier people, who are more likely to believe anything they are told.

“Whereas positive mood seems to promote creativity, flexibility, cooperation and reliance on mental shortcuts, negative moods trigger more attentive, careful thinking, paying greater attention to the external world,” Joseph P. Forgas, a professor of social psychology at the University of New South Wales in Australia, wrote in the study.

In other words, don't marry a stand-up comedian.

Psychologists and others who try to study happiness scientifially often focus on the connection between positive thinking and better health. In the September 2007 issue of the journal Cancer, Dr. David Spiegel at Stanford University School of Medicine reported his efforts to replicate the findings of a 1989 study in which he had found that women with metastatic breast cancer who were assigned to a support group lived an average 18 months longer than those who did not get such support. But in his updated research, Dr. Spiegel found that although group therapy may help women cope with their illness better, positive thinking did not significantly prolong their lives.

I have no idea if the Placebo Effect is real or not. But I do know that when I had cancer in 1997 and was, not surprisingly, pretty much paralyzed by depression, a half-dozen hypnotism sessions helped me get my mood up enough to research the alternative treatments and choose, correctly, among the three on offer. The point of hypnotism is to lull you into a relaxed state where your skepticism is low enough that you'll believe a pep talk. (I crafted a personalized pep talk for my hypnotist to give me when I was under.) It worked for me, in the sense that it helped me get back to the point where I could make important decisions, such going with the clinical trial in which I became the first person in the world with my specific form of cancer to be treated with what's now the world's most lucrative cancer drug, Rituxan.

Ms. Ehrenreich, who was urged to think positively after receiving a diagnosis of breast cancer several years ago, was surprised by how many readers shared her visceral resistance to that mantra. She created a forum on her Web site for people to vent about positive thinking, and many have. “I get so many people saying ‘thank you,’ people who go back to work after their mother has died and are told, ‘What’s the matter?’ “ she said. Likewise, there are “corporate victims who have been critics or driven out of jobs for being 'too negative.'"

The far, far bigger issue is the mandatory Happy Talk among the intellectual elite. You might think that people at the level of James D. Watson and Larry Summers might be allowed a Happy Talk-free zone about social issues so that the ruling elites could stay informed, but the opposite is true.

So, we wind up with disasters like the Sand State Mortgage Meltdown.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Tiger Woods and Kobe Bryant

Sponsors are dropping Tiger Woods as an endorser, which suggests to me that some brave marketer could make out like a bandit in the long run by signing Woods cheaply right now to a ten year deal.

After all, look at Kobe Bryant, who is now #10 on the 2009 Forbes Celebrity 100, between #9 Brad Pitt and #11 Will Smith. Bryant currently makes $24 million per year in endorsements, even though he spent 2004 on trial for rape (he got off because the woman, who reached a secret civil suit settlement with him, ultimately wouldn't take the stand against him in the criminal trial). Even though the rape trial, which he would attend during the day in Colorado, then jet to Laker games in the evening, was a huge publicity brouhaha less than six years ago, it has effectively vanished down the media hole. In LA, the only thing bad you ever read about Kobe these days is that he used to squabble with Shaq. There are countless articles about "how Kobe has matured" but they are all about him not being so much of a ball hog anymore. The whole being tried for rape thing has vanished. Winning an NBA title in 2009 changes the past in ways the Ministry of Truth never dreamed of.

Bryant and Woods have fairly similar personalities: intensely competitive, smart about their sports, foolish about marriage, etc. (Bryant married young without a prenup -- his agent didn't attend his wedding). At some point, Woods is going to realize that he's no good at "working on his marriage" and all those other distractions, but he is good at hitting golf balls. So, he's going to go hit a whole bunch of golf balls. Then he's going to go out and win a whole bunch of tournaments. And then, once again, he's going to get paid a whole bunch of money by marketers because, in the big picture, there really isn't much difference between sports fans and the kind of women Tiger likes.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Did you have too much taxable income in 2009?

Probably not.

But, in case you did, I just wanted t0 mention that I didn't.

Today, New Year's Eve, you can make tax deductible credit card contributions to me here (then, under "Steve Sailer Project Option" click on the "Make a Donation" button); or fax credit card details here (please put "Steve Sailer Project" on the fax); or you can snail mail checks made out to "VDARE Foundation" and marked on the memo line (lower left corner) “Steve Sailer” to:

VDARE Foundation
P.O. Box 211
Litchfield, CT 06759

Second: any old time of the year, you can send me an email and I'll send you my P.O. Box address.

Third: You can use Paypal to send me money directly, either by just using any credit card or if you have a specific Paypal account.

If you want to use your credit card, click "Continue" on the lower center-left to fill in your credit card info. If you have a Paypal account fill in your Paypal ID and password on the lower right of the screen.

I'll try to get the Amazon donation link working in a day or two, but, in the past, Amazon has been limited to $50 (hint, hint) and tends to stop working as soon as I've collected more than a pittance.

Thanks. I appreciate it, deeply.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

December 29, 2009

Ancestry question being eliminated from Census

From the Detroit Free Press:
Ethnic groups say 'white' isn't enough on the 2010 census

Arab Americans, others fear loss of benefits if ancestry not accounted for

By Niraj Warikoo

... But the 2010 census form -- in a departure from 2000 and previous decades -- will not contain a question asking people about their ancestry, prompting concern among metro Detroit's diverse ethnic communities. Many in the sizable Arab-American population in metro Detroit -- who have faced a host of challenges during the past 10 years -- are particularly concerned.

... With her light-brown skin and Islamic headscarf, Khadigah Alasry of Dearborn said she doesn't see herself as white.

But the Arab American is officially classified as such by the U.S. government, which says that anyone with roots in the Middle East -- including north Africa -- is white.

"That's just weird to me," said Alasry, 23, born to immigrants from Yemen.

It's also weird for thousands of other Americans who say they don't fit into traditional categories of race in the United States. As the 2010 U.S. census prepares to tabulate millions of Americans, the issue of racial and ethnic identity is being debated as groups push to get their voices heard.

The census is conducted to get accurate population statistics that are used to determine the number of congressional seats and amount of government funding, and to ensure that minorities are not discriminated against.

The concern is acutely felt in metro Detroit, home to the highest concentration of Arab Americans and Chaldeans -- Iraqi Christians -- in the United States, according to 2000 census figures.

Having the ancestry question is important because terms like "white" and "black" are vague and don't offer much detail, said ethnic advocates. ...

Since the 2000 census and 9/11, many Arab Americans say they have experienced bias. On the other hand, they also are being recruited for federal jobs and invited to participate in conversations with top U.S. leaders as the government finds itself involved in conflicts across the Middle East and the Muslim world.

But Arab Americans -- who make up about 1.5% of Michigan's population, based on the 2000 census -- won't be counted as such in 2010. Census officials say part of the reason was to streamline and shorten the form so that more people fill it out.

Two of the 10 questions will ask about a person's race -- white, black or Asian -- and whether the respondent is Hispanic. Arabs are considered white.

"It's unfair because we are not treated as white in society and by the government, but we also don't qualify as minorities to get the benefits of some programs" such as minority contracts, said Imad Hamad, regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. ...

Whites and blacks are not given the choice to further specify what their backgrounds might be. In the past, one out of six households would receive a long form with 53 questions, one of them asking about ethnic origin.

"We're aware of the problems with the census," Gary Locke, secretary of the Commerce Department, which oversees the Census Bureau, told a crowd of Arab Americans in Dearborn. "But we still need you to participate."

Locke and census officials said the ancestry question will be retained under the American Community Survey, which is done every month. But that survey reaches a much smaller percentage of the population than the full census.

Arab Americans and Chaldeans have varying views on the issue of race, said Andrew Shryock, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. His research showed that religion can affect racial identity, with Arab-American Christians much more likely to see themselves as white than Arab-American Muslims.

Arab Americans and Chaldeans are 10 times more likely to identify their race as "other" as compared with the general population, according to the Detroit Arab American Study, a survey in 2003 of 1,000 Arabs and Chaldeans in metro Detroit.

"I'm often told by Arab Americans that they check 'white' on official forms but do not feel that they are 'white white,' " Shryock said.

In 1997, Mostafa Hefny, an Egyptian-American Detroiter, filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Office of Management and Budget -- which classified Arabs as white in 1977 -- in order to be classified as black. In the lawsuit, Hefny said, because of his dark skin and kinky hair, he was more African than blacks such as former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer. The case was dismissed in 1998.

Race, ethnicity and the census

Race: On the 2010 form, question No. 9 asks a person to indicate his or her race. Choices are "White," "Black, African-Am, or Negro," "American Indian or Alaskan Native," and several Asian categories such as "Vietnamese," "Asian Indian," and "Chinese."

Hispanic: "Hispanic" is not considered a race, according to the U.S. census. On the 2010 form, question No. 8 asks if the person is "of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin" followed by several boxes to check. Some of the choices include "Yes, Mexican, Mexican Am, Chicano," "Yes, Puerto Rican," and "Yes, Cuban."

Ancestry: On the long form in 2000, given to one of every six people, respondents were asked to list up to two ancestries, such as Irish, Polish, Lebanese, etc. But the census tabulated only those ancestries from Europe and the Middle East. Ancestries from other regions of the world -- such as Asia and Africa -- were classified as races.

This question was eliminated for the 2010 census.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

The Crypto-Counter-Steveosphere

In recent years, David Brooks of the NYT has taken up Malcolm Gladwell's rhetorical straw man device of writing as if the conventional wisdom in 21st Century American media circles consists of a cartoonish caricature of my ideas. Gladwell and Brooks then go on to refute Sailerism to vast applause.

Not surprisingly, Brooks writes in the NYT:
It’s become fashionable to bash Malcolm Gladwell for being too interesting and not theoretical enough. This is absurd. Gladwell’s pieces in The New Yorker are always worth reading, so I’ll just pick out one, “Offensive Play,” on the lingering effects of football violence, for a Sidney award — in part to celebrate his work and in part as protest against the envious herd.

Gladwell's problem isn't that he's "not theoretical enough." Gladwell is relentlessly theoretical. For example, he entitled one chapter in his bestseller Outliers "The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes." Gladwell's problem is that most of his countless theories are so wrong that a few minutes of reflection can debunk them.

Note that the one Gladwell article Brooks specifically endorses is one that I endorsed in a post entitled "David Brooks' lonely struggle against the Sailerite conventional wisdom." Unlike Gladwell, Brooks is smart enough and sly enough to know he doesn't want to get in a headlong battle over simple matters of fact, so he chose to endorse a Gladwell article pre-approved by me.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Media a lagging indicator

From the New York Times:
For First Time, Minority Vote Was a Majority

Much of the focus on the results of last month’s New York City elections was on Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s small victory margin, despite the more than $102 million he spent to secure a third term. But the elections also produced a seismic political shift that so far has gone largely unnoticed: Black, Hispanic and Asian residents made up a majority of voters in a citywide race for the first time.

But, surely, that demographics are changing faster among voters than among journalists helps explain why the news media was so shocked that their beloved billionaire-mayor, the eighth richest man in America, barely squeezed through to a third term. Everybody they knew adored Bloomberg (who might be the only man in America hiring journalists). Bloomberg is their kind of guy.

But the new majority of voters didn't find him their kind of guy.

China likes blondes

China correspondent Keith B. Richburg of the Washington Post comes up with a tough reporting assignment for himself: the influx of blonde fashion models into China:
China's Next Top Model may well be a blue-eyed Canadian blonde named Nicole.

Nicole Vos, 19, has been modeling in Canada for four years and was doing runway shows for Toronto Fashion Week when "my agency one day just told me that I'm going to China." Now just halfway through her three-month contract in Beijing, Vos has been photographed for catalogues, magazines and commercials.

"I love it here!" Vos gushed, shouting over the blaring house music at Touch, a club at the Westin Beijing Chaoyang hotel, the models' watering hole. "I definitely want to come back!"

Vos isn't alone. Western models, it seems, are everywhere these days in the People's Republic of China: on department store display ads, in catalogues for clothing brands, on billboards, in commercials and on the runways at fashion shows. They are blue-eyed American and Canadian blondes like Vos, sultry Eastern European brunettes and hunky male bodybuilders with Los Angeles tans and six-pack abs selling products from jeans to underwear.

A walk through the Guiyou department store in central Beijing is instructive. On the third and fourth floors, where designer brands from Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou are showcased, there's a display of a blonde modeling over-the-knee boots and red-and-black pumps for Hongke shoes. A pouty brunette advertises Baykal, a local brand of wool products. Even the mannequins have Western features.

It may seem incongruous that a country of 1.3 billion people -- roughly half of them female -- would have to import models. Or that designers and clothing brands would want to use blondes and redheads to market to a nation of black-haired consumers.

But the use of foreign models has been growing in China's fashion industry, as brands jostle to be known as "yangqi," or trendy -- literally "foreign-style" in Mandarin Chinese. The alternative, using only Chinese models, is interpreted as making the brand come off as "tuqi," or countrified. ...

Then there is the matter of the Chinese sense of what constitutes beauty in a globalized world. "The foreign models' faces are much more three-dimensional," Ou said. "They look nicer in pictures."

He added that he never hires black models. "Our clients don't ask for black models," he said. "It's an issue of Chinese people's aesthetic view."

Almost all of these kind of articles are written by women journalists, so they inevitably end with a ringing demand for social values to be revolutionized in order that, come the revolution, the reporterette will be considered hotter looking. In contrast, Richburg, a black guy, is objective and bemused by it all.

December 28, 2009

Why not just hit the white kids on the head with a ballpeen hammer?

From the East Bay Express, the latest news from the national drive to eliminate racial gaps in test scores;
Berkeley High May Cut Out Science Labs
The proposal would trade labs seen as benefiting white students for resources to help struggling students.
By Eric Klein

Berkeley High School is considering a controversial proposal to eliminate science labs and the five science teachers who teach them to free up more resources to help struggling students.

The proposal to put the science-lab cuts on the table was approved recently by Berkeley High's School Governance Council, a body of teachers, parents, and students who oversee a plan to change the structure of the high school to address Berkeley's dismal racial achievement gap, where white students are doing far better than the state average while black and Latino students are doing worse. [No Asians in Berkeley? Answer: BHS is 8% Asian. This wouldn't be happening if there were more Asians at BHS. Nobody pushes around determined Asian parents. Perhaps Asians already avoid Berkeley High School because of the power of multiculti ideology there.]

Paul Gibson, an alternate parent representative on the School Governance Council, said that information presented at council meetings suggests that the science labs were largely classes for white students. He said the decision to consider cutting the labs in order to redirect resources to underperforming students was virtually unanimous.

Science teachers were understandably horrified by the proposal. "The majority of the science department believes that this major policy decision affecting the entire student body, the faculty, and the community has been made without any notification, without a hearing," said Mardi Sicular-Mertens, the senior member of Berkeley High School's science department, at last week's school board meeting.

Sincular-Mertens, who has taught science at BHS for 24 years, said the possible cuts will impact her black students as well. She says there are twelve African-American males in her AP classes and that her four environmental science classes are 17.5 percent African American and 13.9 percent Latino. [By the way, I've heard that Environmental Science is the easiest science AP test to pass.] "As teachers, we are greatly saddened at the thought of losing the opportunity to help all of our students master the skills they need to find satisfaction and success in their education," she told the board.

The full plan to close the racial achievement gap by altering the structure of the high school is known as the High School Redesign. It will come before the Berkeley School Board as an information item at its January 13 meeting. Generally, such agenda items are passed without debate, but if the school board chooses to play a more direct role in the High School Redesign, it could bring the item back as an action item at a future meeting.

School district spokesman Mark Coplan directed inquiries about the redesign to Richard Ng, the principal's assistant at Berkeley High and member of the School Governance Council. Ng did not return repeated calls for comment.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

What % of 7-footers play basketball?

Tyler Cowen asks a question of a type that I've often wondered about:

What are the odds that the best chess player in the world has never played chess?

... The more general issues are how well the modern world allocates talent and how much exposure you need to something you eventually will be very good at.

My view is that people who are born into a reasonably good educational infrastructure get exposed repeatedly -- albeit briefly -- to lots of the activities which might intrigue them. If the activity is going to click with them, it has the chance. To borrow the initial example, most high schools and junior high schools have chess clubs and not just in the wealthiest countries. Virtually everyone is put in touch with math, music, kite-flying, poetry, and so on at relatively young ages.

The idea of taking an economics class in college, or picking up some economics literature, strikes most educated people at some point, even if they squash the notion like a bug. If there is some other Paul Samuelson-quality-would-have-been who didn't become an economist, perhaps he preferred some other avocation even more.

Billions of people are not exposed to quality economics, math, music, etc., but those people also don't have the nutrition, the education, the infrastructure, or whatever, to excel at world class levels. ...

[Chess player] Magnus Carlsen's father suggested that if he hadn't had an older sister, he might not have taken up the game at all. Magnus was uninterested at ages four and five, but grew intrigued at age eight when he watched his father play chess with his older sister. I read this anecdote as suggesting he would have been exposed again to the game, one way or another, probably in school. ...

In sum, I believe that the odds that "the best (modal) chess player in the world" has never played chess is well under fifty percent but probably above ten percent.

Presumably, by "best chess player" in the world, Cowen means the most naturally talented. That raises the question of whether "overwhelming passion for the game" should be considered a talent or not. If somebody has the natural ability to be the best but lacks the urge to practice, they won't be a top chess player.

Generally speaking, the people who claw their way to the top of something are fanatics about it. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were crazy about swinging golf clubs before their second birthdays.

In contrast, Wilt Chamberlain was never terribly enthusiastic about basketball: he always said he would have preferred to be an Olympic decathlete, and he retired from the NBA while still in his prime and played professional volleyball for several years instead. Despite boring easily, Wilt was, however, the best basketball player in the world at some point or points in his career (certainly in 1966-67). This shows how important genetics is to basketball. When Wilt entered the league, he was one of only three 7-footers, and vastly stronger and more athletic than anybody near him in height.

In contrast, it's hard to imagine somebody who isn't passionate about golf being the best golfer in the world -- genetics aren't as important relative to dedication as in basketball.

Also, the more obvious your genetic advantage at a particular sport, the more likely you will be steered toward it. Nobody can tell just by looking at somebody if he'll have a talent for golf, so there are no doubt people with tremendous golf potential walking around who never seriously tried golf (two of the more successful golfers of the 1980s, Calvin Peete and Larry Nelson, never tried golf until they were in their 20s). But every 7 footer gets prodded about basketball.

Then there's the question of whether being a screw-up in most of the rest of your life might be considered a talent. Would Bobby Fischer have been Bobby Fischer if he was good at other things? As an exercise, consider Vladimir Nabokov, who for a number of years was crazy about chess (or at least chess problems). Nabokov had the energy, determination, intelligence, ability to hold many things in his head at once (think of the architecture of Pale Fire), competitive streak, and so forth to be a top chess player. But he had other things to do with his life, such as entomological research and writing great novels. Fischer didn't.

Similarly, Michael Crichton was big enough (6'9", which would have been listed as 6'11") to ride the bench in the NBA in the 1960s, but he had other things to do with his life, such as graduate from Harvard Medical School, write bestselling novels in his spare time, and become a movie director.

One way to think about this issue is to compare different fields of endeavor. For example, what are the odds that the current best polo player in the world has the most natural talent for playing polo of anybody in the world? Low, right? I can't recall anyone ever telling me in conversation that they had even tried polo.

In contrast, what are the odds that Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt has the most natural talent for the 100 meter dash of anyone in the world? I don't know what they are, but they are definitely higher than for polo.

Let's think about sprinting.

Sprinting may have the highest exposure rate of any sport in the world. Just about everybody kid in the world gets roped into a running race at some point early in life. (Is that universal? The place I'd be least surprised to hear it isn't is India.)

On the other hand, sprinting has a high loss rate because it's less interesting and less lucrative than some sports with which it directly competes for talent. So, it loses a lot of athletes to other sports. For example, Bob Hayes dominated the 1964 Olympics, then became an NFL wide receiver. Johnny Lam Jones finished 6th in the 1976 Olympic 100m dash finals at age 18, then became an NFL player. Herschel Walker held a sprinting world record for 10 minutes once, until Carl Lewis broke it in the next heat. It's not surprising that the dominant sprinter of our age, Lewis, wasn't very masculine and didn't like football, getting hit, team sports, or machismo.

It's not particularly surprising that the Jamaica has the top sprinters right now: track plays a larger role there than in other countries. Jamaicans love cricket, but they don't play American football, they don't play basketball, and they aren't quite as crazy about soccer as most other countries. So the loss rate of sprinters to competing activities is low.

Then there's nurture: sprinting isn't hugely complicated, but it requires coaching, along with decent quality tracks so sprinters don't get hurt. Jamaican athletes, who speak English, tend to get track scholarships to American universities, where they enjoy good training facilities. And finally, there's drugs: Jamaica doesn't test its own athletes the way Americans and Germans finally do, so it has a big advantage there.

All in all, I'd still probably say Usain Bolt is more likely to have more natural ability than anybody who is #1 in any other sports.

Another way to look at this general problem is to look at men who are close to 7 feet tall: how many of them never play basketball?

There is a lot of effort put into finding very tall men all over the world. In 2007, John Amaechi became the first retired team sport athlete in the U.S. to voluntarily come out of the closet. Amaechi is a good example of how basketball relentlessly trawls for guys with the right body for the game. He grew up in England, a country where basketball is a very minor sport. He was gay and his interests were artistic rather than sports-oriented. But he was 6'10" and 270 pounds, so when he was 17 somebody recruited him into trying basketball, and he wound up getting paid $9.5 million dollars for a truly awful career in which he repeatedly demonstrated his contempt for basketball.

There are very, very few of them. When I was at Rice, there were two 6'11" students, the starting and backup center. (The basketball coaches were perpetually sore at the backup center because he was always sneaking off to the library or engineering lab. They had the nagging suspicion that he was just exploiting his height to get a Rice engineering education.) When I was at UCLA with 35,000 students, there were two seven footers on campus: the starting center (Stuart Gray) and the backup (Mark Eaton).

To a high degree, the best in the world emerges out of a community that's close to the best community for that kind of competitor in the world. If Michelangelo is the greatest artist of all time, for example, then 15th Century Florence was an unsurprising time and place for the best to emerge from.

Consider Michael Jordan emerging out of basketball crazy North Carolina v. Hakeem Olajuwon emerging out of soccer crazy Nigeria. Exchange them at birth and my guess is that Olajuwon, who was a half foot taller than Jordan, would be, by far, the greatest basketball player in history. In our world, Olajuwon peaked in his thirties instead of his expected mid-twenties because that's how long it took him to fully learn the game that he didn't start playing until his late teenage years.

Another interesting phenomenon is the the first person to make a splash from somewhere is often better than anybody else to come from there in his wake for quite some time.

I first heard of Olajuwon in the fall of 1981. I imagine that there had been African college basketball players, but he was certainly the first that I, or most people, ever heard of. So far, he's never been surpassed. The NBA keeps trying to find the next Olajuwon:

By the N.B.A.’s count, 23 Africans have played in the league, including six last season. Three more were drafted in June, including the Tanzanian center Hasheem Thabeet, taken second in the first round out of Connecticut by Memphis.

... and they've come up with some fine players such as Dikembe Mutumbo, but the first remains the best.

That's not uncommon. If there are barriers to entry, such as getting from a continent that doesn't play basketball into big time American basketball, then the guy who breaks through those barriers first is likely to be something special.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

December 27, 2009

Am I going deaf?

Or was much of Robert Downey's English-accented dialogue in Sherlock Holmes close to inaudible?

I started to understand more of what the star was saying after about an hour. I think I could follow the diction of Jude Law's Dr. Watson a little better. In contrast, when I was 13 and first saw Laurence Olivier's Richard III on TV, it took me about five minutes to get the hang of the accent, the blank verse, and Shakespeare's 16th Century vocabulary.

Am I deafer now, or was there something wrong with the sound system in the theatre, or is Sherlock Holmes not worth watching until it comes out with on subtitles? (Of course, that raises the issue of whether it's worth watching on DVD.)

In contrast, Englishman Hugh Laurie has been doing Holmes with an American accent to perfection on House on TV for most of the decade. (In general, I don't mind the movie turning Sherlock Holmes into bare knuckle brawler -- Laurie has been doing a brilliant riff on Sherlock Holmes as a purely cerebral force 22 times a year.)

Part of the problem is no doubt using overlapping dialogue like in a 1930s screwball comedy. But audiences could follow His Girl Friday or Bringing Up Baby because Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn didn't actually step on each other's lines. Instead, they generally started each line with an unnecessary syllable like "Ohhhhhhh" while the other finished.

Visually, Guy Ritchie did a bunch of useful hand-holding exercises to keep the audience from losing the thread of the plot, which was much appreciated. But it's frustrating when dialogue is inaudible. Later in the movie I could understand better, but then the witticisms didn't seem very funny. That I will never understand -- why spend years and 9 figures mounting a movie and then not spend a few weeks and six figures for a script doctoring to make sure there are enough jokes? Downey is really funny, so why not give him some jokes?

Also, is it really a good idea to make Robert Downey Jr. an action star? Despite what they tell you in the making-of documentaries, the insurance companies that provide the business-interruption insurance for film productions won't let expensive stars do their own stunts. What action stars are supposed to do is fake the hard landing after the stunt man flies through the air.

The worst job I've ever seen a leading man do in regard was Matthew Perry (Chandler Bing on Friends) in a 2002 turkey called Serving Sara. In the middle of production, he'd disappeared into rehab for a vicodin painkiller addiction. So, when he got back, the crew treated him like he was as fragile as Christmas tree bulb. They couldn't let him get hurt because he was on the wagon for painkillers, and if he slipped off the film would never have gotten finished (which wouldn't necessarily have been a bad thing for the history of cinema). So, the stuntman would fly through the air and then the director would cut to Chandler lying inertly on the ground.

Now, which major current 44-year-old star would you guess would be most vulnerable to a Vicodin addiction if he, say, dislocated his shoulder taking a tumble and then gallantly soldiered on to keep the production on track?


Sherlock Holmes wasn't nearly as bad as Serving Sara, but the interplay between the star and his stunt double was a lot less seamless than is the norm these days. Guy Ritchie's Vegematic editing distracts from this problem, but it's still there.

And is it really the best use of Downey's verbal skills to have him sitting around endlessly on giant productions waiting for the crew to get ready for his next shot?

And maybe Downey got all ripped for his shirtless boxing scene purely through natural weightlifting, but, don't forget, Downey's director was married for years to Madonna, a notorious performance enhancing drug abuser. So, if the middle-aged Downey's workout regimen wasn't producing the results Ritchie had in mind, how much pressure would he put on Downey to try some chemical shortcuts? But is Downey the right guy to be putting weird chemicals in his body?

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

December 23, 2009

Top Movies of the Year/Decade

I don't like to make up such lists because there are so many movies I haven't seen, so if I exclude your favorite, am I insulting your taste or just admitting my own ignorance? (Mostly the latter, no doubt.)

But, feel free to post your own suggestions in the Comments. Explanations for why they are good are helpful.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

December 22, 2009

Updated: Immigrant crime

Jason Richwine of the American Enterprise Institute had a post up recently with the above awkwardly large graph, the key of which can be seen by doubleclicking on the graph. The white bar is American-born whites, the green bar Hispanic immigrants, and the orange bar American-born Hispanics.

Richwine was responding to a Center for Immigration Studies report arguing that Census reports showing much lower crime rates for immigrant Hispanics than American-born Hispanics are misleading. The graph above shows 2000 Census data, with % of young men institutionalized (largely, imprisoned) being very low for Hispanic immigrants, below the American-born white average, and considerably higher for American-born Hispanics.

Steve Camarota and Jessica Vaughan of CIS point out dubious aspects of the data -- e.g., illegal immigrants have an incentive to lie in order to avoid deportation.

Richwine counters: " ... increased crime in the second generation is consistent with an increase in several other underclass behaviors. As the chart above indicates, labor force dropout, illegitimacy, and welfare usage are all much higher among Hispanic natives than among Hispanic immigrants. (Those data come from reliable interviews of normal people outside of prison.) It makes sense that crime would increase if all of those other underclass problems are increasing as well."

I suspect that the 1996 legislation to restrict immigrants from getting welfare has had a good effect, in contrast to immigrants to Europe. Also, the horrific rise in gang crime in Mexico has provided a more exciting alternative for criminally inclined Mexicans than immigrating to the U.S. Why go through all the hassle of going to the U.S. and becoming a roofer when you can be a Big Man with a Gun for a salary on the Mexican side of the border. So, we may have been getting in recent years the better sort of poor young Mexican.

I would also point to the macro evidence that first generation immigrants have low crime rates. If you look at murder and nonnegligent manslaughter rates by sizable cities, the rankings are dominated by cities with large black populations: New Orleans, St. Louis, Baltimore, Detroit, Washington, Oakland, Kansas City and so forth.

The bottom of the FBI's list of cities is Lincoln, Nebraska, which is something like 88% white. Then comes Honolulu. Then come some highly white, slightly Hispanic Southwestern exurbs like Henderson, NV, Chandler, AZ, and Plano, TX.

Then comes El Paso, which is now 80% Hispanic. El Paso has been famous for its pacific citizens for several decades. Even an all Hispanic entrepot destination like Santa Ana, CA has a murder rate of 8.8, less than twice Portland, Oregon's.

On the other hand, within a heavily Hispanic area, the great majority of murders involve Hispanics. For example, here is the LA Times' Homicide Report. By this point in LA's social evolution, Philip Marlowe would have nothing to do. The white criminal element has largely been priced out of the Los Angeles area.

For example, there is a single legendary Los Angeles Unified School District public middle school in the extreme northeastern corner of the San Fernando Valley, up against the edge of the mountains, that is notorious for having white underclass students from biker / addict backgrounds: parents show up drunk for teacher-parent conferences and try to punch out teachers, fathers have Aryan Nation prison gang tattoos, moms' teeth are falling out from crystal meth.

But that school is a notorious exception to the rule that white people in the LA are law-abiding. Moreover, even that school is only 1/3rd white.

Similarly, the LA cop novelist Joseph Wambaugh has just finished up his Hollywood Station trilogy (Hollywood Moon is another good read). He likes to have a white criminal or two in each one, but realistic ones. He puts in a lot of effort to explain how they can afford to live in Hollywood (e.g., meth head inherited his house in Hollywood from his mom) and what kind of crimes they specialize in typically, identity theft, burglary, or dressing up in superhero costumes and harassing tourists on Hollywood Blvd. for tips. Few of Wambaugh's contemporary white criminals have anything in the way of a gang for support. They're just isolated nasty lumpenproles left over.

The LAPD's colorful Most Wanted website tends to be dominated by immigrants, but a large reason for that is that wanted immigrants are more likely to skedaddle back home where the LAPD can't get them, in contrast to the homeboys who have nowhere to go. So, over time, the Most Wanted list fills up with Mexicans, Russians, Armenians, Salvadorans, and the like, who are overseas, but still on the LAPD's books.

So, the overall crime rate in LA is fairly low right now -- the 2007 homicide rate was the lowest in four decades -- but the white crime rate (outside of various Middle Eastern and ex-Soviet gangsters, and, lately, a few subprime-related incidents, which are colorful but not common) is incredibly low.

Ironically, if the city was still mostly white, the crime rate would be lower, but the white crime rate would be higher because it would be less expensive to live there.

That of course raises questions about the sons of the immigrants. Will they continue the historic pattern of higher crime rates than their fathers?

P.S. A reader points to this June 10, 2006 article in the LA Times breaking out homicide rates by race/ethnicity:
The numbers reveal a wide racial divide regarding violent crime.

Blacks make up about 11% of the city's population but account for 38% of all homicide victims and 29% of suspects, according to the statistics. By contrast, whites make up 30% of the population but account for just 6% of homicide victims and 2% of suspects. Latinos make up 47% of the population and constitute 50% of homicide victims and 66% of suspects.

My reader writes:
The black murder rate is about 40 times the white rate, and the Hispanic rate is 21x the white rate. The 'other' rate is almost 4x the white rate.

My methodology: (race crime rate %/race population %)/(white crime rate %/white population %). E.g., for blacks (29%/11%)/(2%/30%)= 39.5

It's also interesting that you can calculate the Who's Winning ratio by dividing suspects by victims. Hispanics make up 50% of the victims but 66% of the suspects, so they are giving better than they get. Blacks, in contrast, make up 29% of the suspects and 38% of the victims, so that suggests that more Hispanics are killing blacks than vice-versa. There have been a few highly publicized incidents that would suggest this, but I've never seen any figures before.

That Who's Winning ratio is rather unexpected since the Hispanic homicide rate is nationally less than half the black rate, and in LA is half the black rate. But it does jibe with reports that Hispanic gangs in the Southland have gained the upper hand over the notorious black gangs (e.g., the Bloods and the Crips) that became so celebrated during the gangsta rap days.

The white murder rate is so low that domestic homicides among LA whites must now be rare. My guess is, based on anecdotal evidence, that the higher homicide rates among LA's Others (who are primarily Asian) than among whites stems in part from more domestic homicides.

Of course, we are dealing with small sample sizes here.

Anyway, all this helps explain some of the paradoxes involved with crime rates right now. White homicide rates in big cities, it appears, have now dropped to extraordinarily low levels.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

African-American admixture

Over the weekend, I started thinking about a 2002 article I wrote called "How White Are Blacks? How Black Are Whites?" about Penn State geneticist Mark D. Shriver's research that came up with an estimate of self-identified African Americans having 17% to 18% European admixture. I wondered: What's the latest on that number? The technology has certainly improved over the years.

Last May 22, Sarah A. Tishkoff of Penn published a paper in Science called "The Genetic Structure and History of Africans and African Americans." It featured a huge number of samples from within Africa, and a small number of African-Americans.

Anthro blogger Dienekes said:
The importance of this new paper from the Tishkoff Lab cannot be emphasized enough. It is probably the most comprehensive study of African genetic variation to date. The supplementary material (pdf) is itself 102 pages long and should keep you busy reading for a while (free for non-subscribers [the Science paper is not free, however]).

What this study has found in a nutshell is that "black" Africans belong to 14 distinct clusters. Black Americans belong overwhelmingly to the Niger-Kordofanian cluster [beginning mostly in Cameroon and Nigeria, and spreading broadly from their], consistent with their origin largely from Western Africa. ...

As I have stated many times before, Bantu speakers have recently expanded from their cradle and contributed genetically to almost all other Africans, while remaining relatively pure in their own homeland. [See p. 12 of Tishkoff's supplementary material.]

You hear a lot of stuff about how "Africans are the most genetically diverse population on earth, therefore, they have the most geniuses, etc." Malcolm Gladwell was trumpeting that argument way back in 1997 with his New Yorker article about "Why blacks are like boys and whites are like girls."

Unfortunately, this whole line of thought is based on a misunderstanding of what kind of genetic diversity population geneticists are interested in. You, me, and Malcolm Gladwell are interested in genes that affect IQ, sprinting skills, and the like. But population geneticists don't like to look at genes that do important things because those get altered over time by selection precisely because they are important. They like to look at genes that don't do much of anything, because they only change by random mutation, so they are the most useful for genealogical purposes.

The press release for Tishkoff's paper says:
A median proportion of European ancestry in African-Americans of 18.5 percent, with large variation among individuals.

Which is very similar to Shriver's work. Shriver had more crude technology but a larger sample of African-Americans from a couple of dozen areas, while Tishkoff has 365 drawn from Chicago, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and North Carolina.

Yet, here's Tishkoff's abstract, which says Europeans make up about 13% of African-American genetic ancestry.
Africa is the source of all modern humans, but characterization of genetic variation and of relationships among populations across the continent has been enigmatic. We studied 121 African populations, four African American populations, and 60 non-African populations for patterns of variation at 1327 nuclear microsatellite and insertion/deletion markers. We identified 14 ancestral population clusters in Africa that correlate with self-described ethnicity and shared cultural and/or linguistic properties. We observed high levels of mixed ancestry in most populations, reflecting historical migration events across the continent. Our data also provide evidence for shared ancestry among geographically diverse hunter-gatherer populations (Khoesan speakers and Pygmies). The ancestry of African Americans is predominantly from Niger-Kordofanian (~71%), European (~13%), and other African (~8%) populations, although admixture levels varied considerably among individuals. This study helps tease apart the complex evolutionary history of Africans and African Americans, aiding both anthropological and genetic epidemiologic studies.

If you look at Table S6 on page 89 of 102 in her supplementary materials, you can see that her 13% figure apparently comes from a subsample of 98 African-Americans in four locations.

Interestingly, they come up with less than 1% of the genetic ancestry of African-Americans are American Indians but 5% are Asian Indian! Dienekes suggests that may be related to backflow from Out of Africa populations that went back In to Africa. Tishkoff says they are probably getting Asian Indians and Europeans confused in their analyses (they're basically all Caucasians), so the actual European admixture figure is likely higher and the actual Asian Indian figure lower:
Low levels of ancestry from several additional populations were also detected (Table S6): Fulani (means 0.0 - 0.03, individual range 0.00-0.14), Cushitic East African (means 0.02, individual range 0.05 - 0.10), Sandawe East African (means 0.01- 0.03, individual range 0.00 - 0.12), East Asian (means 0.01 – 0.02, individual range 0.0 - 0.08), and Indian (means 0.04 – 0.06, individual range 0.01 -0.17). The Fulani are present across West Africa and, therefore, would be expected to have contributed to the slave trade, and the Cushitic and Sandawe ancestry could represent slave trade originating from the east coast of Africa (S126). It should be noted that the levels of Indian ancestry in African Americans may be slightly overestimated, and the levels of European ancestry slightly underestimated, due to moderate levels of the Indian AAC in European/Middle Eastern individuals (Figs. 3 and 4). We did not observe significant levels of Native American ancestry. However, other regions of the US, may reveal Native American Ancestry, as previously reported (S125). Finally, European and African ancestry levels varied
considerably among individuals (Fig. 6).

Also, her Other African origins include some Saharan and Ethiopian groups that are somewhat Caucasian.

So, the 18.5% figure in the press release jibes fairly well with the supplementary materials if you add in the Asian Indians and some of the Northern Africans.

So, seven years later, Shriver's work is reasonably well confirmed.

By the way, Figure S28 shows Tishkoff's best guess for the origin of modern humans (the Atlantic coast of Namibia) and the Out of Africa exit point (half way up the Red Sea -- that may just be because there were two exit points, one at the Sinai and the other at Djibouti-Yemen, and their statistics are just splitting the difference).

Lots of interesting stuff in Tishkoff's paper on Pygmies, Bushmen, and others within Africa, but the African-American stuff is basically what I've been telling you all decade.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

"From Poverty to Progress"

Arnold Kling and Nick Schulz have a new book, From Poverty to Prosperity, which David Brooks writes about in his NYT column:

The success of an economy depends on its ability to invent and embrace new protocols. Kling and Schulz use North’s phrase “adaptive efficiency,” but they are really talking about how quickly a society can be infected by new ideas. ...

There's a distinction between how fast a society can adopt new ideas and how fast it can invent new ideas. For example, Mexico's standard of living has improved in recent years because there are now 109,000 people in Mexico working for Wal-Mart. But, how many Wal-Mart-scale ideas have spread from Mexico to the U.S. in recent years? Outside of cuisine, I can think of "human directionals" (those poor bastards standing on the side of the road obnoxiously wiggling big arrows) but that's about it.

Brooks goes on in a Gladwellian vein:
But they are still economists, with worldviews that are still excessively individualistic and rationalistic. Kling and Schulz do not do a good job of explaining how innovation emerges. They list some banal character traits — charisma, passion — that entrepreneurs supposedly possess. To get a complete view of where the debate is headed, I’d read “From Poverty to Prosperity,” and then I’d read Richard Ogle’s 2007 book, “Smart World,” one of the most underappreciated books of the decade. Ogle applies the theory of networks and the philosophy of the extended mind (you have to read it) to show how real world innovation emerges from social clusters.

"Banal character traits" -- has Brooks ever worked in an entrepreneurial company? In 1981, Apple employee Bud Tribble coined the term Reality Distortion Field to describe the impact of Steve Jobs on the people around him, getting them to accomplish the implausible. It's now 28 years later, and we can see the repeated impact of Jobs' charisma, passion, and bluster. Charismatic Reality Distortion is real.

On the other hand, taboos are a huge drag on innovation. It's like heliocentrism in post-Galileo Italian science -- if you aren't supposed to mention that the Earth goes around the sun, well, it's pretty hard to get anything else right..
Economic change is fomenting intellectual change. When the economy was about stuff, economics resembled physics. When it’s about ideas, economics comes to resemble psychology.

That of course leads to the question whether the best quantified idea in psychology, IQ, will ever become admissible in economics.

If I had a magic wish that would radically improve the quality of public policy discourse in the U.S., it would be that African-Americans, Jews, and white gentiles all had average IQs of 100. It wouldn't matter for the popularity of good social science if the Asians were a little above average and the Hispanics a little below average. If Jews and blacks were, on average, average, then David Brooks would be applying insights from IQ research in his columns every couple of weeks.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer


The NYT has a fairly skeptical article, "Taking Mental Snapshots to Plumb Our Inner Selves" (which is sorely lacking in credulity-inducing color brain scan images.) It's about UNLV psychologist, Russell T. Hurlburt, who studies how people's minds work by having them wear a buzzer that goes off randomly at which point they record whatever they were thinking about at that moment.

After hundreds of introspective interviews, Dr. Hurlburt still hesitates to generalize from his findings. But he has observed that the basic makeup of inner life varies substantially from person to person.

“My research says that there are a lot of people who don’t ever naturally form images, and then there are other people who form very florid, high-fidelity, Technicolor, moving images,” he said. Some people have inner lives dominated by speech, body sensations or emotions, he said, and yet others by “unsymbolized thinking” that can take the form of wordless questions like, “Should I have the ham sandwich or the roast beef?”

In a 2006 book, “Exploring Inner Experience,” Dr. Hurlburt suggests that these differences may be linked to personality and behavior. Inner speakers tend to be more confident, for example, and those who think in pictures tend to have trouble empathizing with others.

It's interesting that we evolved to be so different mentally. Obviously, we're better off with a variety of thinking types, so we can get more mileage out of each one's overall brainpower through division of labor. Yet, I've been repeatedly assured that natural selection can't create a mechanism to diversify our portfolio of descendants, the way a mutual fund manager diversifies his portfolio of stocks to reduce risk. Most of the non-group selectionist theories for this diversity, however, don't really grab me, so I don't know what to think.

If had one word to describe how I think, it would be "prosaically." I'm primarily one of Hurlbert's inner speakers, with a single-threaded monologue. (No multi-tasking above the rudimentary. For example, although I can drive a car and carry on a conversation, I can't simultaneously drive, navigate to a new destination, and talk about anything other than navigating.) It's not a particularly articulate monologue, so writing requires a lot of rewriting for me, which the computer word processor, which I started using in 1981, made much more efficient for me. (I didn't have access to a word processor in 1983, so I did much less writing that year.)

Differences in thinking style may also help explain some aspects of mental illness. In studies conducted with Sharon Jones-Forrester and Stephanie Doucette, Dr. Hurlburt found that bulimic women experienced a clutter of simultaneous thoughts that could often be cleared by purging.

“Why is that? I have no idea,” Dr. Hurlburt said. “But I haven’t found anything about it in the bulimia literature.”

That's weird, but it could prove helpful to someone.

It might be helpful to categorize writers. At the highest level of giftedness, the Nabokovs and Updikes have extraordinary multi-sensory receptiveness (input) to go along with their tremendous skill at expressing themselves (output). Waugh, despite all his aesthetic sensitivity, strikes me as more gifted on the output than the input side.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

December 21, 2009

Advanced Placement Tests

The New York Times holds a discussion on whether too many Advanced Placement courses and/or tests are being offered to high school students.

Leaving aside for the moment the more subtle issues (some of which are explored surprisingly well in the discussion), I noticed in the NYT's comments a "B.P." who makes one helluva case for the basic existence of Advanced Placement testing:
I was the first person in my extended family (35 siblings and first cousins in this generation) to graduate from a 4 year university. My parents both left high school at age 16. My father finished high school by correspondence, my mother has her GED. I was raised in a religious minority with lower U.S. college attendance rates than the Native American population (per Pew research). As late as my last semester of high school, I doubted whether I would be able to attend college upon high school graduation.

I was also the (male) AP State Scholar from AZ for 1994. I qualified for free AP exams based on family income level, and I took all offered AP courses consistent with my schedule as well as taking exams in several other areas where AP courses were not offered. The 63 credits I earned in this fashion allowed me to complete a BS in Electrical Engineering in 3.5 years, while taking a light enough (12-15 semester hour) course load that I could schedule all of my classes for two or three day schedules, allowing me to work 3-4 days per week, while continuing to spend roughly 20 hours per week in religious activities. While supplemented by an AZ tuition waiver (class rank based) to attend a state school, a National Merit Scholarship, and proximity to campus (4 miles from ASU), this course credit was the key factor which allowed me to make the case to my father that I would be able to continue to work in the family business while attending college for an unextended period, and it wouldn't cost him a dime, nor would we incur debt.

Had my high school (with its roughly 50% dropout rate) not had an extensive AP program, I have no doubt that I would not have gone to college. I would currently be a sub-par unemployed electrician, instead of a registered professional engineer for the past 9 years. I would be looking for a job rather than having been employed in 5 progressively more responsible engineering positions at the same utility over the past 11 years. At least three family members would currently not own the houses they are living in, my youngest sister wouldn't have graduated from ASU, and I would currently be worring about how to support my parents in retirement.

... Denying students opportunity is no service to students or society.

Sounds like the hero of a Heinlein juvenile novel from 1958.

I wonder which "religious minority" is this fellow from? Polygamous Mormon? Jehovah's Witnesses? Syrian Jewish? Shi'ite? Mennonite? There are a lot of clues in his comment (which can be read in full here), but I haven't been able to come up with a good guess.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Matthew Yglesias' Top 10 Blue-Eyed Utopias of the Decade

1. Sweden
2. Denmark
3. Norway
4. Finland
5. Netherlands
6. Germany
7. The northern part of Belgium
8. Spitzbergen
9. Santa's Workshop
10 (Tied). Canada
10 (Tied). Portland, OR
10 (Tied). Portland, ME
10 (Tied). Manhattan south of 96th St.

Iceland is no longer eligible. In fact, Iceland may never have existed. The archives are unclear.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

James Cameron

If James Cameron had been born in Canada in 1854 instead of in Canada in 1954, but with the same huge combination of ambition, technical skills, vision, and persuasiveness, he probably would have migrated to London, the reigning power center. There he would no doubt have forged an equally spectacular career, and become a leading figure in the British Empire at its Edwardian apogee: perhaps he would have been a jingoistic Fleet Street newspaper baron like his fellow Canadian Lord Beaverbrook, or (considering his obsession with mighty machines) an admiral in the Royal Navy (Lord Cameron of Jutland?), or an imperialist in the Cecil Rhodes mode.

Born in 1954, he instead migrates to the new power center Hollywood and, outwardly, conforms to the reigning minoritarian conventional wisdom : e.g., WASPS are evil (as in Titanic -- "Hey, I'm not one of those awful Angl0-Saxons! I'm a poor oppressed Celt. See Mel Gibson's movies for the historical background"), technology is evil, corporations are evil, money is evil, majorities are evil, etcetera etcetera ... All the while pushing the boundaries of technology, movie production spending, marketing, and majority appeal to spread Anglospheric cultural dominance of the world.

So, underneath it all, he's the same guy he would have been if he was born in 1854, just a tad more disingenuous.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

December 20, 2009

15,000,000 or 150,000,000: What's an extra zero when it comes to carbon emissions?

My new column is up:
With President Obama barely back from the climate change conference in Copenhagen, his anti-global warming accord is evidently already working its wonders, unleashing a blizzard to blanket the East Coast with snow.

With climate in the news, it’s a good time to review the Census Bureau study of the factor that will have the single greatest impact on U.S. carbon emissions over the next 40 years: immigration.

With a couple of weeks left in the decade, the Census Bureau has finally gotten around to releasing What If? projections showing the impact of various immigration policies on America’s population (which is today 308 million):
“… a greater number of migrants arriving in the United States will correspond to a larger increase in the size of the total population. Under the assumption of a high level of net international migration, the population is expected to grow to 458 million by 2050. … “
[United States Population Projections: 2000 to 2050 by Jennifer M. Ortman and Christine E. Guarneri of the Census Bureau]

That’s an increase of 150 million carbon-belching residents of America.
“In contrast, for the Zero Net International Migration series the population will increase slightly by 2050 to 323 million. “

That’s an increase of only 15 million.

In other words, immigration policy will determine whether the population grows over the next four decades by 150 million or by 15 million—an order of magnitude difference!

Although the new Census Bureau projections were released last week at the peak of the media frenzy over Copenhagen, not a single one of the 387 articles tabulated by Google News mentioned “carbon,” “climate,” or “warming.”

Americans are just not supposed to think about the link between immigration, population, and carbon emissions. Ignorance is Strength!

Mark Twain famously said: “Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it.” Yet the conventional wisdom in this decade has been that we should be passionately doing something—anything—about the weather, but not even talking about the population.

Read the whole thing there and comment upon it below.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

The Name Game

Hugo Chavez has caught Western academia's renaming bug, turning his ire upon the world's most fortuitously perfect geographic name:
President Hugo Chavez said Sunday that the world's tallest waterfall has been called Angel Falls too long and should revert to its original indigenous name instead of commemorating the U.S. pilot who spotted it in 1933.

He called for renaming the Venezuelan falls Kerepakupai-Meru, saying during his weekly television program that Indians had a name for the majestic waterfall long before adventurer Jimmie Angel flew over it.

How can Venezuelans could accept the idea that "the highest waterfall in the world was discovered by a man who came from the United States in a plane?" Chavez asked. "We should change that name, right? With all respect to that man who came, who saw it."

Of course, most indigenous names are hard to spell and hard to remember:

He initially said the name should be Churun-Meru, but then corrected himself after receiving a note from his daughter Maria pointing out that the Pemon Indian name of the waterfall is Kerepakupai-Meru.

But, that's the point, isn't it? Being hard to remember means more chances to look down your noses at commoners who can't remember Kerepakupai-Meru.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

December 19, 2009

The Harvard-Goldman Filter of Recursive Credentialism

Arnold Kling writes:

My position on breaking up banks generates questions from two groups. Libertarians ask, how can I justify breaking up private sector institutions? Naive liberals ask, why is this policy not embraced by our political leaders?

My answer to both relates to what I call the Harvard-Goldman filter.

The Harvard-Goldman filter works like this.

1. To get into a position of power, you have to pass through a filter. The easiest way to show that you can pass through the filter is to go to Harvard and then work for Goldman.

2. If you do not go to Harvard and work for Goldman, then you have to show that you can get along with people who did.

3. The best way to show that you can get along with people who pass the Harvard-Goldman filter is to show that you believe in applying the Harvard-Goldman filter.

Why was Tim Geithner regarded as such an obvious, in fact necessary, choice to be Treasury Secretary? Because he satisfies the Harvard-Goldman filter, particularly point (3). He is not going to bring people from the wrong social caste into the policymaking arena.

Kling says later:

A point that I keep making about higher education is that it is, like the Harvard-Goldman filter, a form of recursive credentialism. To get certain jobs, you need certain credentials. And the most important credential of all is that you must signal your support for credentialism.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

The Year in Ideas 2009

The New York Times Magazine's December perennial, "The Year in Ideas," had a bit of an off year in 2009. For example:
Black Quarterbacks Are Underpaid

When Rush Limbaugh tried and failed to join the clubby ranks of National Football League owners this year, his past comments came back to haunt him, none more so than his assessment of the Philadelphia Eagles star Donovan McNabb — namely that the news media overrated McNabb because he is black and that he was simply not "that good of a quarterback." But according to the economists David J. Berri and Rob Simmons, Limbaugh might have been giving public voice to what the owners who spurned him think privately.

In an article for the February issue of Journal of Sports Economics, Berri and Simmons found that black quarterbacks tend to be paid less than their white counterparts and that the pay disparity is especially pronounced for top-flight black quarterbacks, who don't make as much money as the best white quarterbacks.

Given the N.F.L.'s sorry history when it comes to black quarterbacks — it wasn't until the mid-1990s that many black athletes even began playing the position — it's possible that the pay disparity is attributable to simple racism. But Berri and Simmons offer a more subtle explanation: statistical bias.

White quarterbacks earned more on average, but black quarterbacks outperformed them in a key category over a similar period.

The key is that owners do not fairly compensate quarterbacks who are good at running the ball in addition to throwing it. Using 35 years of data, Berri and Simmons found that while white quarterbacks, on average, run with the ball on only 6.7 percent of their plays, gaining a measly 7.3 yards per game, black quarterbacks run, on average, 11.3 percent of the time and gain 19.4 rushing yards per contest. In other words, many black quarterbacks tend to be good runners as well as good passers. And quarterbacks are not paid for the rushing yards they produce.

Perhaps that's because the quarterback rating — the N.F.L.'s gold standard for evaluating quarterbacks statistically — does not include rushing yards as one of its four components. The formula considers only completions, passing yards, touchdowns and interceptions. Thus "a key offering" of many black quarterbacks, write Berri and Simmons, "is ignored."


Another brilliant insight on the part of Berri and Simmons. The notion that "a key offering" of many black quarterbacks (rushing for an extra 12 yards per game) "is ignored" ranks right up there with their assertion that there's no correlation between draft rank and NFL performance!

How indubitably right they are.

The public's obsession with the Passer Rating "gold standard" explains why the running skills of black quarterbacks have been shockingly ignored in this decade. Look at how many Super Bowls black running quarterbacks have won in this decade (eight? twelve?) versus how few black quarterbacks have made the cover of the annual Madden NFL video game as the most fashionable player in the NFL: merely Daunte Culpepper, Michael Vick, Donovan McNabb, and Vince Young.

Where's Akili Smith?

(In contrast, no white quarterback made the cover until Brett Favre on Madden 2009. No covers for Brady, Manning, Warner, or Roethlisberger. After all, what have they ever done?)

What casual fan doesn't know how to calculate the NFL's passer rating formula in his head? For you foreigners out there unfamiliar with this treasured bit of Americana known to every American schoolboy, the passer rating formula is simply:

Step 1: Start with completion percentage. Subtract 30 and

divide by 20.

Step 2: Yards per attempt. Subtract 3 and divide by 4.

Step 3: Touchdown passes divided by pass attempts and multiply by 20.

Alternatively, divide the touchdown percentage by 5.

Step 4: Start with 2.375. Subtract from that the interception percentage

(interceptions divided by pass attempts) divided by 4.

(Note: Sum of each step cannot be greater than 2.375 or less than 0.)

Add the sum of 1-4, multiply by 100 and divide by 6.

The rating formula simplifies to:

[25 + 10 * (Completion Percentage) + 40 * (Touchdown Percentage)

- 50 * (Interception Percentage) + 50 * (Yards/Attempt)] /12

I think it's the seductive simplicity of the passer rating that caused ESPN's SportsCenter to stop showing highlight plays on Sunday nights in 2001 and instead merely televise the sportscasters punching in this formula on their calculators and getting into arguments over who got the number right. You can't argue with the Nielsen Ratings!

Meanwhile, Malcolm Gladwell tells Bill Simmons on
What we're talking about is what are called capitalization rates, which refers to how efficiently any group makes use of its talent. So, for example, sub-Saharan Africa is radically undercapitalized when it comes to, say, physics: There are a large number of people who live there who have the ability to be physicists but never get the chance to develop that talent. ...

That's obvious from the huge number of African physicists outside of Africa.
One of my favorite psychologists, James Flynn, has looked at capitalization rates in the U.S. for various occupations: For example, what percentage of American men who are intellectually capable of holding the top tier of managerial/professional jobs actually end up getting a job like that. The number is surprisingly low, like 60 percent or so. That suggests we have a lot of room for improvement. ...

Perhaps a more relevant figure would be the percentage of people who hold top tier jobs for which they are intellectually incapable.

Case in point: Everyone always says what an incredible advantage it has been for Peyton Manning to have had the same offensive coordinator and the same offensive system his entire career. Football offenses are so complex now that they take years to master properly, and having one system in place from the beginning has allowed Manning to capitalize on every inch of his talent. On the other hand, someone like Jason Campbell has had a different offensive coordinator in virtually every season of his pro and college career (and I'm guessing he'll get another this offseason). I'm not convinced that it's possible to say, with certainty, that Campbell has less ability than Manning. I'm only sure we can say that Campbell has not been in a situation that has allowed him to exploit his talent the way Manning has. We just don't know how good he is capable of being -- and we may never know.

Then again, perhaps Peyton Manning's offensive coordinator's career stability has benefited from having Peyton Manning around to execute his great ideas. At the 14-0 level of success, a lot of different people each deserve a lot of credit. But, then again, if we just packed up Cal Tech and moved it to Lagos, we'd suddenly have a lot more physicists, so what do I know?

By the way, Gladwell goes on to say:

To me, Olympic swimmer Dara Torres is far and away the greatest athlete of our generation.

Dude, Dara Torres made her big Olympic comeback at age 41 (three silver medals) when she was dating her endocrinologist, David Hoffman. Why is that more impressive than what Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens were doing at similar ages?

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

December 18, 2009

Could Tiger have had his accuser arrested?

You'll recall that a few months ago, a man dropped into David Letterman's car a pitch for a movie for Letterman's Worldwide Pants production company to make about a talk show host who sleeps with his female staff. Letterman had the man arrested for blackmail, just as Bill Cosby had had his alleged daughter sent to prison for blackmail.

In 2007, in contrast, Tiger Woods consented to surprisingly revealing interviews with himself and his personal trainer in Men's Fitness, violating his exclusivity agreement with Golf Digest. In return, according to the Wall Street Journal, the National Enquirer, a periodical owned by the same company as Men's Fitness, American Media, agreed to squelch a story set to run in National Enquirer with pictures of the golfer and a waitress in a car in a parking lot.

That Men's Fitness article, featuring Tiger's trainer's out-of-control boasting about how much weight Tiger lifts, might prove more harmful in the long run than the two years of silence it bought was worth to Mr. Woods, now that his Canadian doctor's employee has admitted to acting as a Human Growth Hormone mule.

Tiger's subsequent troubles began on Thanksgiving Day 2009 with another National Enquirer story about Tiger and some other broad. That calls to mind Kipling's poem:

It is always a temptation to a rich and lazy nation,
To puff and look important and to say:
"Though we know we should defeat you, we have not the time to meet you.
We will therefore pay you cash to go away."

And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
But we've proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
You never get rid of the Dane.

Rather than pay the National Enquirer's Dane-geld, wouldn't it have been simpler, all in all, to have the editor of the National Enquirer arrested? (That's assuming that giving up his cheatin' ways was never on the table.) After all, the government seems to be in the business of arresting people who make life unpleasant for celebrities like Letterman and Cosby.

Or does the law against blackmail only apply to people who neglect to lawyer-up, like Bill Cosby's purported kid? Laws are written by lawyers, so they tend to be harsh on people who fail to purchase legal counsel.

By the way, have you noticed that Tiger's big mistake was getting sentimental about his some of his skanks and whores, leaving lots of sappy text messages for them to go to the press with? I imagine that his mentor Michael Jordan must be shaking his head in dismay. How could all his lessons have been so misunderstood?

Charles Barkley, though, is here to say what's on his mind. From the NY Post:
"Elin took his cellphone away [after the fight], so he had to call [me] from his land line at home," the woman said. "He hasn't called in at least a week, though."

Woods' pal, former NBA star Charles Barkley, said, "I've been trying to reach him and can't get him. It's very frustrating." He said he just wants to tell Woods, "Hey, man, We love you," and, "You should reach out to your celebrity friends when things go bad. They're the only people who understand."

Director Spike Lee said on Barkley's upcoming, taped show "With All Due Respect" that he's worried about Woods, too. "He's insulated. If Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan can't get to him, and those are his boys, then people are making bad moves," Lee said.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer