April 11, 2009

Subprime and Illegal Aliens

From Dave Gibson's Norfolk Crime Examiner, an interview with an anonymous informant:

Q) What is your background and who have you worked for?

A) I am in the Mortgage Industry and personally audited thousands of sub prime loans while working as a contractor. The last company I worked for was EMC, previously owned by Bear Stearns so I thought I would share the caveat on these loans.

Q) When my wife and I bought our home, we had to provide a mountain of documentation, including federal tax returns. How have the mortgage lenders allowed illegal aliens to enter into a mortgage loan without the proper documents?

A) The Sub Prime underwriting guidelines had special requirements for, what was called, Foreign Nationals….30% down and full credit package including credit references from their country of origin and a valid Visa. To circumvent this requirement, the applications were marked that the borrower was a US citizen then, regardless if the credit profile did not support such a claim, an underwriter was not allowed to question. This along with use of stolen SS# or use of their American born child’s SS# and lax credit requirements that allowed alternative credit, helped cover the ruse. All required documentation was fraudulent and with the large use of a/k/a’s, information was hard to track.

Q) What did management do when it was discovered that a stolen Social Security number was being used by a borrower?

A) It was not uncommon to find a SS# being used by up to 23 other people or a borrower with 27 a/k/a’s. Management would often clear a loan that you tagged as fraudulent so it wouldn’t be shelved.

Q) What was the worst case you have seen?

A) One borrower stole the SS# of a retiree and took out $3.5 million in loans, turned around and did cash-out refi’s, then fled the country. The retiree was left with ruined credit, $3.5 million in loans and trouble with the IRS. Over 50% of the sub primes were for cash-out refi’s. Regardless of the loan criteria used to pull random samplings for audits, the majority of the last names were Hispanic. The loans I audited were primarily in CA, NV, AZ, FL, CO, compare those to the states with the highest number of foreclosures & illegal aliens.

Gibson goes on:

Of course, we all know that, on October 26, 2001, President Bush signed the USA Patriot Act. However, I would wager to say that almost no one knows that contained in section 326(b) of the USA Patriot Act is a provision that allows US banks to accept Mexican Matricula Consular cards as a valid form of ID for opening bank accounts.

It should be noted that while our President and Congress ordered American banks to recognize these Mexican-issued cards, there is not one Mexican bank which accepts their own government’s Matricula Consular card as a valid form of ID, because the bearer’s identity is basically untraceable.

See hear for the Congressional debate on this when attempts to reform this were defeated in 2004 by a joint effort by financial institutions, immigrants’ rights groups, consumer groups, and many others who worked in coalition to defeat, once again, efforts to limit the acceptance of consular ID cards by banks, credit unions, thrifts, and other financial entities.

The following is a list of U.S. banks (both regional and national) and mortgage insurers which are known to offer home loan programs targeted at illegal aliens:

-Bank of America,
-Deutsche Bank AG
-Fifth Third Bancorp
-Genworth Financial Inc.
-J.P. Morgan Chase
-Liberty Financial
-Mortgage Guarantee Insurance Corp.
-Plaza Bank
-Wachovia-Wells Fargo

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

April 10, 2009

The point of Obama's amnesty push

Why is Obama bringing up amnesty during a ferocious economic downturn?

Mickey Kaus says the Obama Administration's PR surge about amnesty coming before the 2010 elections will attract more illegal aliens hoping to get in before the cutoff date. But, I think his motivation is more to tell illegal aliens already here:
Don't Leave!

Don't go home now just because you are unemployed and it's cheaper to live at home. Stick around so you and your descendants unto the seventh generation can qualify for the upcoming amnesty.

Well, that's my latest theory.

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

April 9, 2009

Classical composers: scholarly vs. popular favorites

At GNXP.com, Agnostic has created a spreadsheet of Western classical composers ranked in two manners:

- Their popularity with the classical music-buying public (as determined by the number of recordings of their music offered for sale by Amazon.com--Mozart leads with 13,540, followed by Bach and Beethoven, and then there's a big leap down to Schubert, Brahms, Verdi, and Tchaikovsky, all with 6000-7000 recordings.)

- Versus their prominence in scholarly histories and encyclopedias of music, as tabulated by Charles Murray in Human Accomplishment (Mozart and Beethoven are tied for most eminent, followed by Bach and Wagner).

Counting the number of recordings on sale at Amazon seems like a reasonable metric of marketplace popularity, although at the Mozart v. Beethoven battle of the titans level, Mozart probably has an advantage because he wrote more music than Beethoven (e.g., 41 symphonies v. 9). If you are an obscure musician, you might try to pick up a few bucks from Mozart completists by recording an obscure Mozart piece. So, number of recordings on sale doesn't necessarily match up to sales. But, it seems likely to be good enough.

As you can see, overall, scholars and classical CD-buyers don't disagree all that much. Still, the scholars value early composers (pre-Vivaldi) more than the public. Vivaldi, Bach, and Handel were standing on the shoulders of giants; it's unfair that the public doesn't enjoy the music of their great predecessors as much, but that's just the way it is.

The other main area of disagreement between Amazon's and Murray's rankings is over 20th Century composers, especially atonal ones such as Schoenberg, Webern and Berg. (If you are not familiar with the music of Arnold, Anton, and Alban, this KTEL-like 1977 infomercial for a greatest hits album entitled "Beloved Hits of Arnie Schoenberg and the Second Viennese School" will get you up to speed. [Okay, this video version is even funnier.]) They were very talented at impressing scholars with the idea that they were the Next Big Thing in the History of Music, but the public has been less impressed. (It turned out that, so far, there really hasn't been a Next Big Thing. Western art music, which has been so productively changing styles for a couple of centuries, more or less ran out of gas in the 20th Century just as the cultural world became obsessed with style-changing as the mark of true greatness.)

The only two major composers from the second quarter of the 20th Century to be more popular with the public than with the scholars are Prokofiev and Shostakovitch, both of whom had to worry that if they let their compositions get too avant-garde, the middle-brow (but highly opinionated) Stalin would have them shot. So, the classical music-buying public evidently owes Stalin a debt of gratitude.

The composers who are most popular with the public relative to their importance to music historians tend to be melodic Romantics from the second half of the 19th Century and early 20th Century. The scholars rate opera composer Giacomo Puccini (Madame Butterfly) only 10% as important as Mozart, but Amazon carries 30% as many Puccini titles as Mozart titles. (Puccini's aria "Nessun Dorma" from Turandot has become a staple of television talent shows in the last few years.) Next in line is Bizet (Carmen), then Tchaikovsky (The Nutcracker), and Dvorak (The New World Symphony).

Then comes the early 18th Century Baroque composer Vivaldi (The Four Seasons). It's possible that the scholars are underrating Vivaldi's importance in music history because most of his compositions were lost from the late 18th Century until the 1920s. However, he was known to J.S. Bach, and had some influence on him.

Others more popular than their degree of scholarly eminence would suggest include Grieg, Verdi, Gounod, Saint-Saens, and Brahms (although, obviously, Verdi and Brahms are giants by any measure).

I wonder if opera fans are more likely to buy multiple versions of an opera than are symphony fans, which might account for opera composers doing well in terms of number of recordings on sale. To my untrained ear, it's easier to be a fan of a particular singer than a particular conductor or orchestras, so there might be more demand for multiple versions of operas. On the other hand, operas are expensive.

At the other end of the scale--composers more written about than played--we find, besides a lot of early composers and the late 12-tone boys, Cherubini. I had never heard of Cherubini, but Beethoven saw him as his greatest contemporary. Other big names on the Important-but-not-Popular list include Stravinsky, Berlioz, Weber, and Wagner.

Murray's methodology might overrate Berlioz's representation in music reference books because one of Murray's techniques is to look at the index and count the number of pages a composer's name appears on. Berlioz was not only a great composer (Symphonie Fantastique), but also a great music journalist. So, he gets quoted a lot about other people, which inflates the number of times his name appears in indexes relative to a composer who let his music do all the talking for him.

Evidently, the craft of composition had reached maturity in the second half of the 19th Century. By then, most of the tools to appeal to the music-literate public had been created. (Most film score music today sounds like late 19th century orchestral music, stylistically.)

After about 1900, however, the enormous richness of the 19th Century repertoire weighed down composers, driving them into experimentation, most of which has not proven enduringly popular with the CD-buying public. Strikingly, the composer universally believed by musicians to be the greatest genius of the second half of the 19th Century, Wagner, is not particularly popular these days compared to the awe with which he was regarded a century ago. Wagner got there first, and was able to create popular interest in his innovations that lasted for a few generations, but without him around to blow his own horn, public appreciation for Wagner seems to be fading relative to his Italian and Viennese rivals.

My impression is that 18th Century orchestral music has been growing in popularity at the expense of 19th Century orchestral music. We're just not profound enough anymore for the Romantics. Most pre-Beethoven stuff tends to sound like the composer introduced it with the words, "And here, your Archdukeness, is a little something to brighten your day," while post-Beethoven 19th Century music tends to sound like the composer is inviting you to "Come with me on journey to plumb the most profound depths of my infinite soul." Yeah, hey, that sounds great, but first I've got to check my, uh, Twitter account, so can I have a raincheck on the soul-plumbing?

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

"Genes, Neuroscience, and Free Will" at AEI

A panel discussion on April 24th, from 10 to 12, at the American Enterprise Institute in DC:
As we learn more and more about the extent to which heredity equips people with personality, attitudes, and convictions, what happens to free will and human agency? Will this new understanding undermine, if not destroy, the possibility of holding people morally and legally accountable? In short, will science defeat free will?

These are the questions that eminent scholar James Q. Wilson is asking today. In 1993, when he published his widely acclaimed book The Moral Sense--in which he argued that an innate moral sense is powerfully shaped by our social relationships and interactions--many of today's insights into the biology of behavior were glimmers on the neuro-technological horizon.

At this event, he will discuss the implication of neuroscience's boldest claim: that it can explain everything about the human condition. Responding will be columnist David Brooks of the New York Times and AEI's Charles Murray and Sally Satel, M.D.

David Brooks, New York Times
Charles Murray, AEI
Sally Satel, M.D., AEI

Christina Hoff Sommers, AEI

Sally Satel's life was saved a few years ago by Virginia Postrel donating her a kidney. Genetic and environmental determinism in action? Or free will?

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

Problem solved!

I totally missed this when it happened in 2006, but I'm happy to report that the pressing national problem of not enough Dominican third basemen playing for the Peoria Chiefs minor league team was totally solved by Congress and President Bush in 2006. There are some jobs Americans just won't do!

Sen. Diane Feinstein proudly announced on 12/11/06:

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today announced that legislation to ease visa restrictions on athletes from other countries participating in minor league sports leagues, competitions, or performances has been approved by Congress and now goes to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

The COMPETE Act passed the Senate on Wednesday, December 7, by unanimous consent. The bill then passed the House of Representatives by voice vote on Friday, December 9, 2006.

"The COMPETE Act allows top-notch athletes from around the world the opportunity to compete and perform in the United States without facing unfair and unnecessary visa restrictions,” Senator Feinstein said. "There’s no reason that minor league athletes should face tougher visa restrictions than their counterparts in the major leagues. Once signed into law, this bill will provide a level playing field for all foreign athletes seeking to compete in the United States.”

Minor league athletes from other countries currently face much stricter visa restrictions than their major league counterparts. Major league athletes are eligible for “P” visas, but minor league athletes currently must enter the country as part of the H-2B seasonal worker visa program.

This has been a problem in recent years because the H2-B cap of 66,000 visas has been met in the first few months of the fiscal year, leaving foreign minor league athletes with little or no opportunity to enter the United States. As a result, minor league baseball, basketball, hockey, and ice skating programs in the United States have been prevented from recruiting hundreds of foreign athletes each year.

The COMPETE Act would reclassify minor league athletes so that they are eligible to enter the country under the “P” visa category. ...

Sports organizations benefiting from the COMPETE Act include:

  • Major League Baseball, which was unable to bring 350 baseball players to the United States in the 2004 and 2005 seasons when the H-2B visa caps were filled before they were able to provide visas for minor league players they wanted to recruit.

Keep in mind that the minor leagues were already about half foreign, so this law just meant that major league teams can bring in more marginal prospects unlikely to make it in the majors, dropouts who usually wind up staying illegally in the U.S. after they get cut. MLB prefers to employ Dominicans as minor league cannon fodder because they don't have to draft them like they have to draft Americans and Puerto Ricans, so they are cheaper.


Here's a press release about an article in the British Journal of Nutrition entitled "BMI Not an An Accurate Obesity Measurement:
“This [Body-Mass Index] scale was created years ago and is based on Caucasian men and women,” says Bray, “It doesn’t take into account differences in body composition between genders, race/ethnicity groups, and across the lifespan.”

In the current study, ... researchers used dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry, which is a low dose x-ray known as DXA, to determine percent fat. DXA can be used to estimate bone density, lean mass and fat mass.

When the two results were compared, researchers found that the DXA estimate of percent fat of African American women was 1.76 percent lower for the same BMI compared to non-Hispanic white women. Since BMI is assumed to represent body fatness, an African American woman would not be considered overweight or obese until she reached a higher number than what is indicated by the current BMI standards. The opposite is the case for Hispanic, Asian and Asian-Indian woman. Their percent fat is higher by 1.65 percent, 2.65 percent and 5.98 percent, respectively. So they would be considered overweight or obese at amounts lower than what the BMI standards indicates. The results for men were similar.

“Right now non-Hispanic white women are not considered obese until they have a BMI of 30 or above. Based on our data in young adults, for Hispanic women the number would be around 28,” says Bray. “For African American women the number to cross is around 32."

Bone mineral content, hydration state, and the density of lean mass found in different ethnic groups are some factors that account for the differences.

I pointed all this out in "Is Love Colorblind" in 1997.

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

April 8, 2009

NYT: "Obama to Push Immigration Bill Despite the Risks"

Obama wants to do this. He knows it's politically stupid, but he doesn't care, he wants amnesty and he wants it soon.

Julia Preston reports in the New York Times:

While acknowledging that the recession makes the political battle more difficult, President Obama plans to begin addressing the country’s immigration system this year, including looking for a path for illegal immigrants to become legal, a senior administration official said on Wednesday.

Mr. Obama will frame the new effort — likely to rouse passions on all sides of the highly divisive issue — as “policy reform that controls immigration and makes it an orderly system,” said the official, Cecilia Muñoz, deputy assistant to the president and director of intergovernmental affairs in the White House.

Mr. Obama plans to speak publicly about the issue in May, administration officials said, and over the summer he will convene working groups, including lawmakers from both parties and a range of immigration groups, to begin discussing possible legislation for as early as this fall.

Some White House officials said that immigration would not take precedence over the health care and energy proposals that Mr. Obama has identified as priorities. But the timetable is consistent with pledges Mr. Obama made to Hispanic groups in last year’s campaign.

He said then that comprehensive immigration legislation, including a plan to make legal status possible for an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants, would be a priority in his first year in office. Latino voters turned out strongly for Mr. Obama in the election.

“He intends to start the debate this year,” Ms. Muñoz said. ...

Debate is still under way among administration officials about the precise timing and strategy. For example, it is unclear who will take up the Obama initiative in Congress....

The White House is calculating that public support for fixing the immigration system, which is widely acknowledged to be broken, will outweigh opposition from voters who argue that immigrants take jobs from Americans.

Best guess: Obama is counting on getting it passed by having his minions use the R word to smear opponents.

Meanwhile, the Boston Globe reports:

Obama's Aunt Gets Reprieve in Asylum Case

A federal immigration judge says President Obama's aunt, who has stayed in the United States illegally for years, will be allowed to remain in the country until at least next year.

Judge Leonard Shapiro said Wednesday he would hear Zeituni Onyango's political asylum case on February 4, 2010.

Onyango, who is the half sister of the president's late father, applied for political asylum in 2002 due to violence in her native Kenya, according to her spokesman, Mike Rogers. Onyango was a legal resident of the United States at the time and had received a Social Security card a year earlier.

Onyango's asylum request was turned down in 2004, and she has been living in the U.S. illegally since then, after twice appealing and twice being ordered to leave.

Wednesday's hearing at the U.S. Immigration Court in Boston was closed to the media at the request of Margaret Wong, Onyango's attorney. Lawyers for the Department of Homeland Security are defending an order to deport Onyango.

I bet these federal employees are going all out to throw out their boss's aunt.

White House spokesman Ben LaBolt says President Obama is staying out of the matter and that "the president believes that the case should run its ordinary course."

I.e., run forever until the aunt dies of old age. Look, it's been five years so far. Why do we need to wait a sixth year for a third hearing on whether the aunt of the most popular man in Kenya needs political asylum from Kenya?

When the initial appearance was over, Onyango, wearing a red wig and dark glasses, was escorted through a side door of the courthouse to avoid news cameras staking out the main entrances.

Onyango lives in public housing in South Boston and volunteers as a health advocate for people in her housing complex. She reportedly attended inauguration events for her nephew in January accompanied by her lawyer.

Definitely, a net tax contributor. No doubt about that.

Stunning news: Obama Administration opposes equal treatment under the law

David G. Savage reports in the LA Times:
Frank Ricci -- a firefighter in New Haven, Conn. -- spent months listening to study tapes as he drove to work and in the evenings, preparing for a promotional test. It was a once-a-decade chance to move up to a command rank in the fire department.

Ricci earned a top score but no promotion.

The city had coded the test takers by race, and of the top 15 scorers, 14 were white and one was Latino. Since there were only 15 vacancies, it looked as though no blacks would be promoted.

After a racially charged debate that stretched over four hearings, the city's civil service board rejected the test scores five years ago and promoted no one.

"To have the city throw it out because you're white or because you're not African American is insulting," Ricci said when he and 19 other firefighters sued the city for racial discrimination.

Something you'll notice over the years is that controversies over the use of quotas in fire department promotions are much more heated than controversies over the quotas that all big city fire departments use in their initial hiring. That's because the applicants/victims of the initial hiring quotas aren't told they are victims, they're just sent a rejection letter. For example, a friend of mine applied to be a Chicago fireman once -- I saw him on the TV news standing in line with hundreds of other guys to take his test. He got rejected, even though he was an Ivy League graduate. I'm not sure that he would have been a great fireman, but it was kind of a joke that he supposedly didn't score over the cutoff.

But what can mere applicants do? Nobody will tell them anything about how they did because they are just random individuals. They're not in the union, they don't know any higher-ups or any clerks, they're nobodies. Whereas firemen who have been waiting for years to be promoted have lots of ways of finding out what their scores were, so they raise a stink.
Their case, scheduled to be argued this month, is the first to come before the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. that broadly raises the issue of race in the workplace. The outcome could reshape hiring and promotion policies for millions of the nation's public employees -- and possibly for private employers as well.

Roberts, leading a five-justice majority, has made clear that he believes it is time to forbid the use of race as a factor in the government's decisions.

The Obama administration, taking its first stand on race and civil rights, sided with the city officials and said they were justified in dropping the test if it had "gross exclusionary effects on minorities."

I'm shocked, shocked to learn that the Obama Administration isn't on the side of equal treatment under the law, but is instead demanding favors for blacks.
While blacks make up about 31% of New Haven's 221 firefighters, 15% are officers -- eight of the department's 42 lieutenants and one of its 18 captains. ...

What a completely remarkable pattern! I'm sure no other organization in America has fewer blacks the higher the cognitive demands of the position.
These cases highlight a conflict in federal civil rights law.

The Constitution and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 say employers may not discriminate against people because of their race. However, employers also have been told they may not use hiring or promotional standards -- including tests -- that have a "disparate impact" on minorities.

The court adopted this rule in a 1971 case. Congress added it to federal law in 1991. The new provision said employers may not use a job standard that has a "disparate impact on the basis of race" unless it is "required by business necessity." For example, it is not certain that the knowledge tested by the firefighter's exam was required to be a lieutenant in the fire department.

In New Haven, the city's lawyers cited this "disparate impact" rule as their reason for scrapping the test scores in 2004. ...

Payton emphasized that New Haven had not rejected the white firefighters because of their race, but rather rejected the use of the written exam as the sole determinant of who would be promoted.

"New Haven ought to be able to go back to the drawing board," he said, to devise a fairer promotion system.

Yeah, because clearly the problem is totally isolated to New Haven. As we all know, in lots of other cities, officials have figured out ways to promote blacks in fire departments at non-disparate rates without raising the chances of citizens dying horrible flaming deaths. Like in ... oh, well, I'm sure I'll think of them real soon now. There's got to be a few places, right? I mean, at least one?

To be serious, there aren't any. But you aren't supposed to notice that. To notice the Fundamental Constant of Sociology gets you Watsoned out of polite society. So, we're supposed to act like it's a complete surprise every time we run into exactly the same situation.
Yale law professor Drew Days, a former chief of the Justice Department's civil rights division, said he was surprised the justices agreed to hear the case of Ricci vs. DeStefano. Now that they have, he added, a ruling for Ricci "could have very far-reaching consequences because it may well apply to all employers."

Wouldn't that be an implausibly constructive response to the economic crash? To say, okay, well, we've had 40 years of affirmative action, but we can't afford it anymore, so it's time to get serious and just promote on merit? The odds of that happening: one zillion to one.

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

"The Great Black Hope" in Claremont Review of Books

Here's a good article by Barry Latzer in The Claremont Review of Books, which draws upon an argument I made back in my 1999 debate in Slate.com with freakonomist Steve Levitt over the falling crime rate in the 1990s: that one explanation for the sharp decline in black juvenile homicide rates beginning in 1995 was the dawning realization among black youths from watching older brothers wind up in prisons, wheelchairs, or cemeteries that getting yourself killed in the Crack Wars was a really stupid idea.

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

We don't need no steeenking Proposition 209

The AP reports on the declining rates of admission to the University of California:

The low admission rate reflects UC regents' decision in January to reduce freshman enrollment by 2,300 students, or 6 percent. Enrollment will be cut at the Davis, Irvine, Riverside, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz campuses; remain the same at Berkeley and UCLA; and grow at Merced.

The number of students applying for undergraduate admission for the fall 2009 term increased by nearly 5 percent to almost 127,000, up from 121,000 applications for fall 2008.

Admission offers to California residents increased 2 percent for African Americans, 4 percent for Latinos and 21 percent for American Indians. Offers remained relatively unchanged for Asian Americans and declined 6 percent for whites.

About 35 percent of admitted California students are Asian American, 33 percent are white, 22 percent are Latino, 4 percent are African American and 0.7 percent are American Indian.

April 7, 2009

Tom Wolfe's lack of Southern White Guilt

David Denby, the lesser of the two New Yorker movie reviewers, has written a short book entitled Snark: It’s Mean, It’s Personal, and It’s Ruining Our Conversation.

The book doesn't sound terribly interesting, but part of Michael C. Moynihan's review in Reason caught my eye:
Denby tags the Fox News screamer Bill O’Reilly as a boorish knuckle-dragger, but his liberal counterpart Keith Olbermann is something else entirely: “One can’t help but noticing...that Olbermann’s tirades are voluminously factual, astoundingly syntactical...and always logically organized.” The leftist writer Gore Vidal is a “master of high snark,” while his conservative counterpart Tom Wolfe is an overrated racist. If you agree with the snark, it probably isn’t snark.

Denby identifies Wolfe’s “Radical Chic” as a progenitor of today’s snarky style, but it fails, he says, because the writer’s teasing of haute-liberal infatuation with the Black Panthers “now seems more fatuous than the assembled partygoers.” How so? Because according to Denby, “In the end, [Wolfe’s trademark] white suit may have been less an ironic joke than the heraldic uniform of a man born in Richmond, Virginia, who entertained fancies of a distinguished Old South in which blacks kept their mouths shut, a conservative who had never accustomed himself to the new money in the Northeast.” While denouncing bloggers for rumor-mongering and for besmirching reputations with nothing but conjecture, Denby nevertheless finds it appropriate to imply that Wolfe’s writing is steeped in white supremacy.

Nonetheless, I think Denby's New York Jewish liberal irritation at Wolfe is not wholly without basis. It's been little mentioned, but one of Wolfe's strengths is his complete lack of Southern White Guilt.

Because Wolfe emerged so dazzlingly in the mid-1960s, it took the literary world a long time to figure out he was not one of them, that his political feelings were self-confidently conservative. After all, they reasoned, how could any artistic innovator be a conservative?

And yet, few societies in human history before 19th Century Europe would be surprised that a leading member of the artistic and intellectual classes would be an unalienated offspring of the gentry.

Thomas Wolfe Jr. was born in the Shenandoah Valley in 1931 (or 1930, sources differ), where his father was a professor of agronomy at Virginia Tech. A few years later, the family moved to Richmond when his father became the editor of The Southern Planter, a how-to journal for the rural squirearchy. The family spent their summers on their two farms. (Seeing Look Homeward, Angel and other novels by North Carolina novelist Thomas Wolfe on his father's bookshelf as a small boy, little Tom naturally assumed his dad had written them.) He attended the traditionalist Washington and Lee College.

What little Wolfe has mentioned of his upbringing has been appreciative and loyal. In 1966, Elaine Dundy of Vogue asked him:
Do you feel that you had an important childhood -- i.e., very disturbed, or unhappy, or ecstatic -- in short, one that your find you keep constantly referring back to in your mind?

I was lucky, I guess, in my family in that they had very firm ideas of roles: Father, Mother, Child. Nothing was ever allowed to bog down into those morass-like personal hangups. And there was no rebellion. ...

The first girl I ever fell in love with came from divorced parents. That was her status symbol to me. I was so envious of her because I thought, what dramatic lives they're all having -- real material to write about.

As the loyal, successful offspring of people of a deserved status in American society, Wolfe, who is hypersensitive to questions of status, upon his arrival in New York City always tended to be alienated from the alienated who dominated artistic and intellectual life. Thus, it's hardly surprising that one of the great themes of Wolfe's satire has been their transparent strategies to "Épater la bourgeoisie."

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

Why the Tech Bubble wasn't as bad for us as the Housing Bubble

Vernon L. Smith, the Chapman U. Nobel Laureate behavioral economist, argues in the Wall Street Journal what I've been saying for awhile: the Dot.Com bubble wasn't as disastrous for us because day traders blowing a wad on Pets.com didn't have as many ramifications as drywallers defaulting on California mortgages:

Earlier, during the downturn in the equities market between December 1999 and September 2002, approximately $10 trillion of equity was erased. But a measure of financial system performance, the Keefe, Bruyette, & Woods BKX index of financial firms, fell less than 6% during that period. In the current downturn, the value of residential real estate has fallen by approximately $3 trillion, but the BKX index has now fallen 75% from its peak of January 2007. The financial sector has been devastated in this crisis, whereas it was almost completely unaffected by the downturn in the equities market early in this decade.

How can one crash that wipes out $10 trillion in assets cause no damage to the financial system and another that causes $3 trillion in losses devastate the financial system?

In the equities-market downturn early in this decade, declining assets were held by institutional and individual investors that either owned the assets outright, or held only a small fraction on margin, so losses were absorbed by their owners. In the current crisis, declining housing assets were often, in effect, purchased between 90% and 100% on margin. In some of the cities hit hardest, borrowers who purchased in the low-price tier at the peak of the bubble have seen their home value decline 50% or more. Over the past 18 months as housing prices have fallen, millions of homes became worth less than the loans on them, huge losses have been transmitted to lending institutions, investment banks, investors in mortgage-backed securities, sellers of credit default swaps, and the insurer of last resort, the U.S. Treasury. ...

Why does one crash cause minimal damage to the financial system, so that the economy can pick itself up quickly, while another crash leaves a devastated financial sector in the wreckage? The hypothesis we propose is that a financial crisis that originates in consumer debt, especially consumer debt concentrated at the low end of the wealth and income distribution, can be transmitted quickly and forcefully into the financial system.

For example, the biggest decline home prices in Los Angeles County is seen in the lowest priced zip code: the fabulous 93591, the Lake Los Angeles part of eastern Palmdale in the high desert. In February, 21 homes sold there. The median price was $55,000, down 78% from February 2008. In contrast, in the worst zip code in Compton in the 'hood, 25 homes sold, with a median price of $140,000, down 52%.

By the way, I drove through both Palmdale and Compton last week, and I have to say ... they look marvelous. Practically every residential street in SoCal looks great in early Spring. (The commercial streets not so much). Slums in SoCal just don't look like slums on The Wire. I wonder if Countrywide and Fannie Mae arranged to take Chinese bankers interested in buying their cruddy mortgage-backed securities and stock through Palmdale and Compton in late March?

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

April 6, 2009

My new VDARE column: Grad School Test Scores on GMAT, GRE, LSAT, MCAT, and DAT

Here's my new VDARE.com column in which I invent a simple, usable format for comparing average scores on five major standardized tests for postgrads.

All across the country, applicants to graduate and professional schools have been receiving fat letters of acceptance or thin letters of rejection.

They have a right to feel nervous. They’ve sweated through college and through rigorous standardized exams, which they hope will open the door to their chosen professions. But the prestigious postgrad programs are ruthless about selecting the best candidates (at least if they are white or Asian). So, applicants obsess over whether their 165 LSATK-12 education or 680 GMAT is good enough to get in.

But, paradoxically, professors at the top schools seldom preach what they practice when it comes to K-12 education or immigration. They are fiercely selectionist about whom they let in to their institutions. Yet they lecture American citizens about how we should be lax about whom we let in to our country.

There is much that can be learned from the study of average test scores from the major postgrad exams. The idiosyncratic scoring systems do make them seem impenetrable to outsiders, but fortunately, they are all graded on the bell curve, so I’ve come up with a handy table that makes them easy to understand.

I’ve accumulated recent data on the average scores by race for five exams: the GRE for grad school, the LSAT for law school, the MCAT for medical school, the GMAT for business school, and the DAT for dental school.

To make all the numbers comprehensible, I’ve converted them to show where the mean for each race would fall in percentile terms relative to the distribution of scores among non-Hispanic white Americans. Most of us have some sense of what the distribution of talent is among whites—political correctness doesn’t demand we avert our eyes when it comes to whites—so I’ll use whites as benchmarks:

Mean Score as Percentile of White Distribution
Test Degree White Black Asian Tot Hisp Mex-Am
GMAT M.B.A. 50% 13% 55% 27% 24%
GRE-Verbal Ph.D./M.A. 50% 18% 47% 29% 28%
50% 14% 66% 29% 28%
LSAT J.D. 50% 12% 47% 19% 29%
MCAT-Verbal M.D. 50% 10% 36% 19% 21%
MCAT-Phys Sci
50% 14% 61% 24% 25%
MCAT-Biol Sci
50% 10% 54% 24% 25%
DAT D.D.S. 50% 16% 60% 27% NA
Thus, for example, on the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), the gatekeeper for the M.B.A. degree, the mean score for whites falls, by definition, at the 50th percentile of the white distribution of scores. The mean score for black test-takers would rank at the 13th percentile among whites. Asians average a little better than the typical white, scoring at the 55th percentile.

Most of these tests break out separate nationalities among Hispanics. Thus, my table has columns both for “Total Hispanics” (27th percentile on the GMAT) and “Mexican-Americans” (24th percentile). In the 2000 Census, Mexicans made up 58 percent of the Total Hispanic population.


As you know, I like social statistics the way Bill James likes baseball statistics.

I noticed that the New York Times ran another long, intelligent article about baseball statistics today. How much brainpower does America devote to solid thinking about baseball statistics compared to social statistics?

For example, here's a featured article in the Washington Post today that would been ripped to shreds for obvious methodological flaws before ever being published in a baseball statistics journal:
Research Links Poor Kids' Stress, Brain Impairment
by Rob Stein

Now, research is providing what could be crucial clues to explain how childhood poverty translates into dimmer chances of success: Chronic stress from growing up poor appears to have a direct impact on the brain, leaving children with impairment in at least one key area -- working memory.

"There's been lots of evidence that low-income families are under tremendous amounts of stress, and we know that stress has many implications," said Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., who led the research. "What this data raises is the possibility that it's also related to cognitive development."

With the economic crisis threatening to plunge more children into poverty, other researchers said the work offers insight into how poverty affects long-term achievement and underscores the potential ramifications of chronic stress early in life.

"This is a significant advance," said Bruce S. McEwen, who heads the laboratory of neuroendocrinology at Rockefeller University in New York. "It's part of a growing pattern of understanding how early life experiences can have an influence on the brain and the body."

Previous research into the possible causes of the achievement gap between poor and well-off children has focused on genetic factors that influence intelligence, on environmental exposure to toxins such as lead, and on the idea that disadvantaged children tend to grow up with less intellectual stimulation.

"People have hypothesized both genetic and environmental factors play a role in why poor children don't do as well in school," said Martha Farah, director of the center for cognitive neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania. "Experiential factors can include things like having fewer trips to museums, having fewer toys, having parents who don't have as much time or energy to engage with them intellectually -- to read to them or talk to them."

But Evans, who has been gathering detailed data about 195 children from households above and below the poverty line for 14 years, decided to examine whether chronic stress might also be playing a role.

"We know low-socioeconomic-status families are under a lot of stress -- all kinds of stress. When you are poor, when it rains it pours. You may have housing problems. You may have more conflict in the family. There's a lot more pressure in paying the bills. You'll probably end up moving more often. There's a lot more demands on low-income families. We know that produces stress in families, including on the children," Evans said.

For the new study, Evans and a colleague rated the level of stress each child experienced using a scale known as "allostatic load." The score was based on the results of tests the children were given when they were ages 9 and 13 to measure their levels of the stress hormones cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine, as well as their blood pressure and body mass index.

"These are all physiological indicators of stress," said Evans, whose findings were published online last week by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "The basic idea is this allows you to look at dysregulation resulting from stress across multiple physiological systems."

The subjects also underwent tests at age 17 to measure their working memory, which is the ability to remember information in the short term. Working memory is crucial for everyday activities as well as for forming long-term memories.

"It's critical for learning," Evans said. "If you don't have good working memory, you can't do things like hold a phone number in your head or develop a vocabulary."

When the researchers analyzed the relationships among how long the children lived in poverty, their allostatic load and their later working memory, they found a clear relationship: The longer they lived in poverty, the higher their allostatic load and the lower they tended to score on working-memory tests. Those who spent their entire childhood in poverty scored about 20 percent lower on working memory than those who were never poor, Evans said.

"The greater proportion of your childhood that your family spent in poverty, the poorer your working memory, and that link is largely explained by this chronic physiologic stress," Evans said. "We put these things together and can say the reason we get this link between poverty and deficits in working memory is this chronic elevated stress."

If they had given the working memory IQ subtest first at age 9 and then again at age 17 and shown that those under more stress had seen bigger IQ declines, then it would be suggestive that stress might lower IQ. But by waiting until age 17 to give the IQ subtest for the first time, the study is of almost no use. How do we know that individuals who are exposed to a lot of stress because they and/or their families made a lot of stupid decisions are stupid because of the stress or were they exposed to a lot of stress because they were always stupid?

And, are we so sure that upper middle class Korean families are all that stress free when the scion brings home a 700 instead of an 800 on his SAT? Judging from Portnoy's Complaint, I would say that Philip Roth did not grow up in a low stress environment, but he seems pretty smart. I volunteer to lead an expedition to a low stress culture, such as Maui, and tabulate all the brilliant intellectual achievements the local kids have come up with.

By the way, why did they just use one IQ subtest, on working memory, instead of an entire IQ test? First, it's probably quicker and easier, especially for giving it to kids who speak exotic languages. Second, by just giving one IQ subtest, you don't have to mention the dread letters IQ. Third, blacks do relatively better on average on working memory than most other subtests -- Jensen says the white-black gap is only half a standard deviation on working memory.

Also, blood tests of hormones tied to emotions can give very different responses depending upon the current emotional state of the patient. For example, a medical clinic with people in lab coats walking around holding clipboards and discussing things in muted tones would be a fairly nonstressful environment for me (assuming I'm just being asked to give a sample for a scientific study, not for a personal diagnosis). But for some homeboy, well, it seems like a long way from home.

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

Yosemite Sam McCain blows his stack at Hispanics

From "McCain Rebukes Hispanic Voters" by Kirk Victor in the National Journal, via Larry Auster:
John McCain sounds angry and frustrated that, despite the risks he took in pushing immigration reform, Hispanic voters flocked to Democrat Barack Obama in last year's presidential contest. McCain's raw emotions burst forth recently as he heatedly told Hispanic business leaders that they should now look to Obama, not him, to take the lead on immigration.

The meeting in the Capitol's Strom Thurmond Room on March 11 was a Republican effort led by Sens. McCain of Arizona, John Thune of South Dakota, and Mel Martinez of Florida to reach out to Hispanics. But two people who attended the session say they were taken aback by McCain's anger.

What began as a collegial airing of views abruptly changed when McCain spoke about immigration" ... He was angry," one source said. "He was over the top. In some cases, he rolled his eyes a lot. There were portions of the meeting where he was just staring at the ceiling, and he wasn't even listening to us. We came out of the meeting really upset."

McCain's message was obvious, the source continued: After bucking his party on immigration, he had no sympathy for Hispanics who are dissatisfied with President Obama's pace on the issue. "He threw out [the words] 'You people -- you people made your choice. You made your choice during the election,' " the source said. "It was almost as if [he was saying] 'You're cut off!' We felt very uncomfortable when we walked away from the meeting because of that."

In 2006 and 2007, McCain was a leader on immigration, but his efforts ran aground largely because his legislation included what many Republicans derisively characterized as "amnesty," a pathway to citizenship for the nation's estimated 12 million illegal immigrants if they took a series of steps to earn legal status.

Having stuck his neck out in the past, McCain apparently is in no mood to do so again for an ethnic group he seems to view as ungrateful. ... Asked on the show whether he would work with Obama on the issue, McCain said, "At any time, I stand ready. But the president has to lead." ...

[Sen.] Martinez, who is Hispanic, continued, "John is John. Sometimes when he talks, he talks forcefully. He wasn't ranting or raving or anything. I have seen John rant and rave. I don't think this was one of those moments."

This almost sounds like Martinez is talking about Dodger slugger Manny Ramirez ("That's just Manny being Manny"), who is a lot of fun, but not what most people consider Presidential Timber.

But one person's straight talk is another person's vitriol. "My hands were shaking," one source said. "I was nervous as no-end." The senator's comments went on for several minutes at least. And by the end of the meeting, another participant, who had supported McCain in last year's presidential election, was so shaken by the display of temper that he decided it is good that McCain isn't in the White House.

McCain has become irate over immigration legislation before. During negotiations over a bill two years ago, he was so enraged by the comments of Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, that he got in Cornyn's face and said, "F-- you!" ...

Going forward, some of McCain's allies question whether Obama will be willing to lead on immigration, especially given what they saw as his failure to take risks to advance immigration reform when he was a senator. "He was AWOL most of the time," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said of Obama in an interview in July. "I learned a lot about Obama on immigration, and it wasn't good. I learned that to talk about bipartisan change and to stick by a bipartisan deal are two different things. He came by several times, more [for] the photo ops. The only time he came by, he wanted to re-litigate something that had already been decided."

Asked recently whether he would be surprised that McCain's feelings about Hispanic voters and immigration legislation sound very raw, Graham, who also took risks in backing the legislation, which was very unpopular in South Carolina, said: "John understands politics. But he is a human being, like all of us, and it is disappointing because he really was the driving force on the Republican side... to produce a bill that would solve this problem. And the groups that were cheering him on were gone when he needed them."

Hispanics gave Obama a whopping 67 percent of their votes, more than double the 31 percent they gave to McCain. A former colleague of McCain's, Rick Santorum, R-Pa., who opposed immigration reform, told National Journal, "John risked a lot to go out there and do what he did. They basically turned their back on him, a guy who had done a lot more for them than Barack Obama ever would. So I can understand his anger, but I also know that John doesn't get over things easily." ...

Remind me again how the Republican Party came to nominate this guy for President?

By the way, I've been explaining for nine years that amnesty is not the royal road to Hispanic voters' hearts. With the exception of the Cubans and the born-agains, they tend to be natural Democrats for both tax-and-spend and racial reasons. But why should anybody listen to a crazed extremist like me when the statesmanlike Sen. McCain is assuring you of the exact opposite? Who you gonna believe, a wild-eyed nut like me with all my hatefacts and hatestats and hategraphs, or a thoughtful, judicious cross between Pericles and King Solomon like Sen. McCain?

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

The Water Park of Doom

This is the new $242 million arts high school in downtown Los Angeles. I don't know what the giant spiral thing-a-mabob is supposed to be: to me, it looks like a nightmare water slide that will send children plummeting out of its airborne bottom end to their deaths:

Whhhheeeeeeeee ... Splat.

Designed by the award-winning Austrian architecture firm of Coop Himmelb(l)au, this public high school is alongside the Hollywood Freeway. It's right across from the Roman Catholic LA Cathedral that was erected a decade ago by an award-winning Spanish architect in the style of a secret police headquarters. From the east, the new high school (unsurprisingly, billionaire busybody Eli Broad was intimately involved in its creation) looks like an invading robot from Planet Japania that's aiming to torch the Cathedral with its flamethrower:

Not surprisingly, the new $242 million high school is a political football. At a time when LAUSD is laying off math teachers, race is getting in the way of doing anything with this expensive boondoggle. The LA Times reports:

A tug of war erupted last week over L.A.'s new downtown arts high school, with some of its biggest supporters declaring that they had given up on the Los Angeles Unified School District and wanted the $242-million campus turned over to a charter school organization. In response to the critics, who included philanthropist Eli Broad, Supt. Ramon C. Cortines shot back: "There is not a for-sale sign on it."

The tension had been building for months, fueled in part by the district's plan to reserve most of the school's seats for students from the surrounding neighborhood rather than open it up to the most talented students districtwide. It bubbled over after two star principals from the East Coast turned down offers to take charge, leaving the school leaderless less than six months before it opens in September.

It's been totally forgotten in the mania for starchitects, but Southern California has a 200-year-old indigenous architecture style that would make its heavily Hispanic population feel much more at home than these theory-laden monstrosities by cutting edge European architects. Here, for example, is the Santa Barbara Mission, built 189 years ago:

Personally, I would like to see more public buildings in the Spanish Mission style than in that high school's Piranesi's Handicap-Accessible Wheelchair Ramp of Death mode.

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