June 6, 2009

Driving Green

The American Model of driving, which is based on cheap fuel and ample horsepower, has interesting driving safety implications compared to the Rest of the World Model of expensive fuel and stingy horsepower, which we are constantly advised to take up.

Car companies advertise horsepower as desirable because it lets you go fast, but perhaps more importantly, the American Model encourages you to slow down any time you feel it's advisable, because you can get back up to speed quickly and cheaply.

In contrast, the Rest of the World Model of expensive fuel and small engines encourages you to conserve your velocity, because it's time consuming and expensive in gas to get back up to speed after you slow down. So, you really don't want to slow down until you get to where you're going, no matter how many ladies are pushing baby carriages across the road in front of you.

Also, the American Model means there are much smaller class differences on American roads than on Rest of the World roads. The differences between high end and low end cars on American highways aren't that salient. They can all go 75 mph and can all accelerate more or less adequately. In the RotW, however, the difference between the 0-60 in 14 seconds subcompact you rented and the BMW 7-Series bearing down on you from behind at 100 mph is not immaterial. Not at all.

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

The environmental cost of Europeans taking August off

As you know, Europeans usually get five or even six weeks vacation per year. They mostly take most of their vacation in August so that they don't mess up organizational productivity the rest of the year by being absent too much.

Something I hadn't thought about was how this system requires enormous amount of building of holiday lodging in order to have enough capacity in late July through early September. I was on the Bodrum peninsula in the southwest corner of Turkey in late Spring, when the weather is perfect, but the place, with its immense numbers of vacation homes and small hotels was practically empty because A. the Turkish schools weren't out for the year yet, and Turks vacation as families; B. Europeans (in Turkey, mostly Germans and Brits) aren't going on vacation now because they have so much vacation coming up in a couple of months.

California resorts probably aim for, say, 50% occupancy over the course of a year (hey, it's a Mediterranean climate, so the weather is okay most of the year), but Mediterranean resorts can't expect much above 15% occupancy. So, there has to be a remarkable amount of holiday lodging sprawl to accommodate the teeming Europeans during the brief high season.

Personally, I don't mind the sprawl and constant construction along Turkey's spectacular coasts, but by the anti-development standards of the California Coastal Commission, European vacation schedules would be considered an environmental disaster.

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

The dogs of Turkey

Turkey is full of unleashed or outright stray dogs (as well as cats). The place looks like the illustrations for the classic children's book by P.D. Eastman Go Dog Go.

Many of the dogs have collars, so they aren't stray, but their owners don't bother tying them up. Almost nobody leashed his dog when taking Fido for a walk. Dogs sleep all over the sidewalk and in the streets, typically in parking places, usually placing their noses about 9 ninches from traffic before drowsing off. I imagine that some of these sleeping dogs on the pavement are guard dogs owned by nearby shopkeepers, but there isn't all that much street crime in Turkey, so the dogs have it easy.

This sounds fairly chaotic, especially with cats everywhere, and many of the dogs with lean and hungry looks. Yet, it isn't, because the dogs, about one-third of whom appear to be some kind of retriever, halfway between Labrador and Golden retrievers, are so laid-back. I saw a dog curled up dozing with a sleeping cat, like a picture out of a children's book. Other times, I saw dogs sleeping on the beach a few feet from sleeping flocks of ducks and geese. Most of the few yappy, hyper dogs in Turkey were held on leashes by German tourists.

The reason for the profusion of dogs in Turkey is presumably the lack of programs for and indoctrination into neutering dogs. As my son pointed out, to enjoy a well-run country like Sweden, you have to worry about a whole lot of little niggling details, like spaying dogs, that most people in the world just don't worry about.

As for the personality differences between Turkish and American dogs, I can only speculate. My guess would be that in a society without much in the way of leash laws or big backyards, dogs with anti-social habits are dealt with, summarily, and that selects for pro-social habits of sedateness among the survivors.

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

June 3, 2009

Controlling the terms of discourse

Marx defined the ruling class as those who control the means of production. But that seems so 19th Century. Today, the key is to control the terms of discourse.

For example, consider how affirmative action largely disappeared as something disussable in polite society in recent years. John McCain had a chance to take it up as an issue in 2008 but decided not to touch it. How'd that work out for him?

Today, people are talking about affirmative action again because Obama blundered by appointing a judge who had voted against Frank Ricci.

And yet, consider how the discourse remains structured even among Sotomayor's critics: as a moral issue of fair play. Hey, it's 2009: why not talk also about it as an economic issue? Can we continue to afford racial/ethnic preferences? Will we be able to continue to afford them in the future as the country adds 97 million Hispanics from 2000 to 2050?

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

June 2, 2009

"Hamilton's Curse" by Thomas J. DiLorenzo

The Austrian economics scholar Tom DiLorenzo defends Thomas Jefferson at the expense of his great rival Alexander Hamilton in a lucid new book, Hamilton's Curse.

My personal view is that America was very lucky that the two men tended to concentrate on their strong suits and let the other man carry out his field of expertise. Hamilton restored confidence in government finances and protected "infant industries." Jefferson concentrated on making sure America's distribution of land ownership wasn't as unequal as Latin America by abolishing primogeniture and setting up a sophisticated system for land sales so that land would be available to small farmers. If the they had reversed their fields of focus, the country would probably have ended up like Argentina, with huge inequalities in land ownership and shoddy finances.

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

Baltimore's "reverse redlining" lawsuit against Well Fargo

From an article in the Maryland Daily Record:
The city of Baltimore has beefed up its groundbreaking racial discrimination lawsuit against Wells Fargo with sometimes shocking testimony from a pair of the megabank’s former subprime-loan officers.

The two whistleblowers claim their co-workers targeted black ZIP codes and churches, used software to “translate” marketing materials into African-American vernacular, and referred to subprime loans in minority communities as “ghetto loans” and to borrowers as “mud people.”

Their declarations were attached to an amended complaint filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

The loan officers, who worked for Wells Fargo in the Baltimore-Washington area from the late 1990s until 2007, also alleged bank employees deceptively steered prime borrowers into subprime loans for their own financial benefit and joked that they were “riding the stagecoach to Hell.”

The city also filed declarations from four city residents who live near Wells Fargo’s foreclosed properties. They complained of squatters, rats and burst pipes, all of which have required attention from some city department.

It cites 10 studies, including one specific to Baltimore, which studied reverse-redlining in black neighborhoods; and updated the foreclosure data to include the first part of 2009.

The new material “shows the City has been injured…and that Wells Fargo’s policies and practices employ subjective and discretionary underwriting practices that have disparately impacted African Americans,” according to the city’s motion for reconsideration. ...

The city has alleged Wells Fargo targeted minority neighborhoods and borrowers for high-rate subprime loans — a practice known as reverse red-lining, which is illegal under the federal Fair Housing Act, according to the city’s legal team. The city wants tens of millions of dollars to compensate for the collateral costs of Wells Fargo’s foreclosures, such as increased police and fire department expenditures.

The bank has denied any such strategy and said its loan pricing is simply based on credit risk. It has also challenged the city’s standing to bring suit and pointed to the city’s own role in the foreclosure crisis.

“We have worked extremely hard to make homeownership possible for more African-American borrowers and all customer segments, and we have done so fairly and responsibly,” Wells Fargo spokesman Kevin Waetke wrote in an e-mailed statement late Monday. “We absolutely do not tolerate team members treating our customers disrespectfully or unfairly, or who violate our ethics and lending policies. Race is never a factor in the pricing or products we offer.”

The government spent decades attacking redlining as evil and irrational, so in this decade we got "reverse redlining" -- a.k.a., Diversity Outreach. Also, no doubt the bank was under pressure to hire more diverse workers, and to work more with more diverse mortgage brokers. All this is conducive to boiler room high pressure tactics that stay under the radar screen of regulators and the media until the bubble bursts.

I'm not particularly impressed by the implicit argument that the higher default rates on subprime loans taken out by blacks and Hispanics are due to them being steered into subprime loans instead of the prime loans they deserved. First, lots of them defaulted while still on the two year introductory teaser rates. Second, all that just suggests the risk premium should have been even higher, so high that many of these loans wouldn't have been made. But of course that would just lead to charges of "redlining." So, Housing Bubbles and Busts in heavily minority areas are inevitable under the current conventional wisdom about race.

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

June 1, 2009

Sotomayor on Ricci

The Weekly Standard has a transcript of a WSJ link to oral arguments in 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals hearing of the Ricci case:
KAREN LEE TORRE (lawyer for Ricci et al): I think a fundamental failure is the application of these concepts to this job as if these men were garbage collectors. This is a command position of a First Responder agency. The books you see piled on my desk are fire science books. These men face life threatening circumstances every time they go out. ... Please look at the examinations. ... You need to know: this is not an aptitude test. This is a high-level command position in a post-9/11 era no less. They are tested for their knowledge of fire, behavior, combustion principles, building collapse, truss roofs, building construction, confined space rescue, dirty bomb response, anthrax, metallurgy, and I opened my district court brief with a plea to the court to not treat these men in this profession as if it were unskilled labor. We don't do this to lawyers or doctors or nurses or captains or even real estate brokers. But somehow they treat firefighters as if it doesn't require any knowledge to do the job. ...

JUDGE SOTOMAYOR: Counsel ... we're not suggesting that unqualified people be hired. The city's not suggesting that. All right? But there is a difference between where you score on the test and how many openings you have. And to the extent that there's an adverse impact on one group over the other, so that the first seven who are going to be hired only because of the vagrancies [sic] of the vacancies at that moment, not because you're unqualified--the pass rate is the pass rate--all right? But if your test is always going to put a certain group at the bottom of the pass rate so they're never ever going to be promoted, and there is a fair test that could be devised that measures knowledge in a more substantive way, then why shouldn't the city have an opportunity to try and look and see if it can develop that?

KAREN LEE TORRE: Because they already developed it, your honor.

JUDGE SOTOMAYOR: It assumes the answer. It assumes the answer which is that, um, the test is valid because we say it's valid.

KAREN LEE TORRE: The testing consultant said it was valid. He told them it was valid.... They had evidence that the test was job-related and valid for use under Title VII.

Once again, I predict a narrowly drawn verdict for Ricci on the grounds that the city of New Haven refused to have done the validation study that they had already paid for.

But Sotomayor's question reveals the kind of disingenous intentional cluelessness that is the media conventional wisdom.

The unmentionable truth is that a fair test of a complicated subject will always tend -- on average -- to put NAMs at the bottom. Life is one long series of aptitude tests. Fire captains need to know a lot of stuff -- much of it that will never come up in their jobs ... until the day it does -- and studying for their promotions exams are times when they are motivated to really learn.

So, what should be done legally about the fact that fair and relevant tests will be tests that whites do better on average than blacks?

I don't really like the idea of burning to death because the less competent guy got the promotion due to his race, so I'd say: nothing.

On the other hand, if we must offer firey sacrifices to the goddess Diversity, then it's better to have explicit racial / ethnic quotas than to lower standards, as, say, Chicago has done to meet the EEOC's Four-Fifths Rule by passing 17,000 out of the 20,000 firefighter applicants who walked in off the street, then choosing randomly among the top 85% of the distribution. People are less likely to die horrible deaths if we have quotas that at least select the best whites, the best blacks, and so forth.

If any Supreme Court clerks are reading this, here's my suggestion: as the EEOC's "Four-Fifths Rule" that put's the legal burden of proof on hiring or promoting methods under which any group does less than four-fifths as well as the best-performing group should be abolished for the same reason that the "separate but equal" doctrine was no good. Sure, it sounds okay in theory, but in practice, separate but equal turns out to be largely a fraud. Similarly, as decades of social science (orders of magnitude more conclusive than the tentative social science confidently cited in Brown v. Board of Education) show, the Four-Fifths Rule institutionalizes fraudulence, as Judge Sotomayor's question demonstrates.

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

Link Fixed: My VDARE.com column on Sotomayor ...

... can be found here.

Thanks to everybody who pointed out my mistake.

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

If we're serious about global warming ...

... then President Obama should do what President Nixon did in 1973: institute a 55 mph speed limit.

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