August 22, 2009

Demographics of the Inland Empire Mortgage Meltdown

The New York Times article "A Cul-de-Sac of Lost Dreams, and New Ones" profiles a nice-looking street in Moreno Valley in Riverside County, CA, where four of the eight homes have been foreclosed, and two more are teetering. It provides a human interest illustration of what I've been saying all along based on statistics.

Riverside Co. is ground zero for the mortgage meltdown. Moreno Valley, with 180,000 people, is 60 miles east of downtown LA, 80 miles in from the ocean. It was filled in by houses from west to east in the 1980s and 1990s. When I played golf there around 1990, the west half was completely carpeted by subdivisions, with homes under construction making up the eastern edge of the carpet, and the rest of the valley, farther from the jobs, all sagebrush. The demographics in 2007:
The racial makeup of the city was 23% Non-Hispanic White, 20% African American, 0.94% Native American, 8% Asian/Pacific Islander, 3% from other races, and 5.83% from two or more races. 46% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

The street attracted strivers from the working class and the lower middle class. Since people moved in and moved out, it's a little hard to calculate the demographics of the street from the article, but it looks like at the peak of the bubble it was at least half Mexican, one quarter white-Mexican couples, and perhaps one-eighth black. (The retired white couple featured in the article, the Hansons, who own their house outright and serve to keep the neighborhood organized, live around the corner from this culdesac.) This seems typical of who defaulted -- people from the second quartile up from the bottom who bought a nicer home than they could maybe afford, often to get into a decent school district and keep their kids out of the 'hood.

The houses on this street were built around 1997 so a lot of the owners got in before prices went crazy around 2004. But the ones who got in at non-crazy prices often couldn't resist home equity loans to live the good life or to speculate further on the Bubble.

Equity soon became irresistible.

Ms. Sanchez and Mr. Winkler, the couple with two daughters, wanted a new car. So they pulled $15,000 out of the house. Mr. Godfrey and Ms. Saldamando, the schoolteachers, dipped into their equity to landscape their back yard. Mr. Blanco, the electrician, used it to invest in a lot in the desert, and Mr. Soto, the landscaper, picked up a rental home in the Central Valley, an agricultural area northwest of here.

The block’s first residents, Ms Hernandez and her husband, bought a shiny commercial truck, with dreams of expanding his trucking business. He pulled money out of the house nearly annually. And the couple from South Los Angeles [I'm guessing they were black] used their house — bought for $152,500 in 1997 — as a veritable cash machine, refinancing three times before selling it in 2006 for $440,000.

But one by one, the strings began to come apart.

The new buyer of the Los Angeles couple’s home was quickly in over his head; he lost the house in less than a year, with $375,273 still owed.

Title records show that Ms. Hernandez and her husband bought their home in 1997 for $123,000, using nearly 100 percent borrowed money. They refinanced first in 2003, at 11.1 percent interest on $129,000. The equity loans kept coming: the balance rose to $230,000 in 2004; $323,00 in 2005; $374,000 in 2006; then, finally, $415,000, at 8.12 percent, in 2007.

“For a while things were going really, really good,” Ms. Hernandez said. “Then the truck broke down, and things went down from there. One day I came home and there was a note on the door that said call this number.”

It was only then, Ms. Hernandez said, that her husband told her about the equity loans and that “we were in foreclosure and needed to get out.” Last fall, the bank offered them $1,000 to leave the house quietly.

In general, the people who defaulted, setting off the crash, are the kind of people for whom our elites in recent decades had no plans for how they could earn more money (such as through immigration restriction or tariffs), but lots of plans for how they could borrow more money.

How's that working out lately?

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

August 21, 2009

"Neill Blomkamp's Giant Apartheid Metaphor"

Here's a characteristically clueless interview in the Toronto Globe and Mail with District 9 filmmaker Neill Blomkamp, whose Afrikaner family fled Johannesburg for Vancouver in 1997 when he was 17 because of street violence. It's entitled "Neill Blomkamp's Giant Apartheid Metaphor:"

Q. In District 9 , aliens land in Johannesburg and are forced to live in a filthy shanty town, segregated from human society. Can we get the giant apartheid metaphor out of the way first?

A. It isn't necessarily just a metaphor for apartheid. It's not. … What it is meant to be is a whole bunch of topics that had an effect on me when I was living there. Topics I became more interested in once I left.

Q. Such as?

A. Just everything that goes on in that country – xenophobia, the collapse of Zimbabwe and the flood of illegal immigrants into South Africa, and then how you have impoverished black South Africans in conflict with the immigrants. All that amounts to a very unusual situation. And South Africa is kind of the birthplace of the modern private military contractor … so there's a lot of other things besides apartheid that I wanted to touch on, such as segregation in general. ...

Q. How the world mistreats the helpless aliens struck me as very probable, sadly. Did you research histories of displaced peoples?

A. Not actively. But, because I grew up in South Africa, the topics I'm interested in tend to be that kind of thing. Israel and Palestine, I'm really interested in, displaced people wherever. The left side of my brain is very interested in these things that I, at the time, felt were unrelated to filmmaking. I just wanted to be a filmmaker – I like design, science fiction, weapons, I like the geekery of it. And this was separate; I read all of those world topics separately. So, at some subconscious level, it [refugee history] worked its way in.

Q. You come from a visual effects background, but yada yada off to a different topic ...

Is it really that hard for film writers to recognize that Neill Blomkamp is particularly interested in the topic of displaced persons because he is a displaced person? Are we that far gone into Who? Whom? thinking that Blomkamp's answers in dozens of interviews over the last month are largely incomprehensible to the great majority of journalists?

Just because your parents can afford to get you to some safe place that's also nice like Vancouver doesn't mean you aren't displaced. Vladimir Nabokov spent his first four years of exile at Cambridge U. during the Brideshead Revisited era, but he spent the rest of his life making art about displacement. Nabokov carefully nurtured his homesickness. His saintly wife put up with his refusing to ever have a home (when he taught at Cornell they moved each year, housesitting for professors on sabbatical) on the grounds that it would weaken his memories of his Russian home because she was convinced he was a genius. (Suddenly, when he was 59, the world agreed with her.)

Blomkamp is likewise a homesick artist. Unlike Nabokov, he's allowed to visit his old home country, but downtown Johannesburg deteriorated so rapidly that it was kind of like if Stalin had let Nabokov revisit St. Petersburg just to taunt him. One of the last shots in District 9 is of Ponte City (the oval skyscraper with a "Vodacom" sign on the top). The Wikipedia article on the building points out the symbolism:
Ponte City is a skyscraper in the Hillbrow neighbourhood of Johannesburg, South Africa. It was built in 1975 to a height of 173 metres, making it the tallest residential skyscraper in Africa. The 54-story building is cylindrical, with an open center allowing additional light into the apartments. The center space is known as "the core" and rises above an uneven rock floor. Ponte City was an extremely desirable address for its views over all of Johannesburg and its surroundings.

During the 1990s, after the end of apartheid, many gangs moved into the building and it became extremely unsafe. Ponte City became symbolic of the crime and urban decay gripping the once cosmopolitan Hillbrow neighborhood. The core filled with debris five stories high as the owners left the building to decay.

This kind of thing has nurtured a dystopian Garrett Hardinesque turn of mind in Blomkamp.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Paul Theroux on Hawaii's 50th Anniversary

When I started studying Barack Obama's life, I was struck by how remarkably few famous Hawaiians there are. Most of those ambitious few tend to be people born there who got out early and you'd never guess they were from Hawaii, like Obama or Bette Midler. Otherwise, famous people living in Hawaii tend to be retirees or, say, closeted country singers. Even Wilt Chamberlain got tired of being a legendary tourist attraction for female vacationers and left.

In general, Hawaii, which absorbed a disproportionate amount of America's attention from December 7, 1941 through the Hawaii 5-0 / Magnum PI era, has largely dropped off the national radar screen. (That's been a help for Obama, since a lack of public familiarity with Hawaii has helped him spin various narratives about himself for different audiences, stories that would strike people more familiar with Hawaii as implausible.)

You might think that a few financial or software companies would be based in Hawaii -- the ethnic backgrounds of Hawaiians aren't all that different from Silicon Valley's (with lots of New England Protestants and northeast Asians) -- but I'm not aware of many success stories.

Similarly, Hawaii is lacking in intellectual life. As America's most successful example of diversity (although not the kind of diversity that we normally mean when we say diversity), it's striking that it's so lacking in intellectual stimulation. Is it merely the Lotus Eater weather? Or does diversity itself require a lack of debate and controversy?

That all leaves a problem for Hawaii on its 50th birthday as a state since who is going to write about it? The best writer I could think of who lives in Hawaii is travel essayist Paul Theroux (The Great Railway Bazaar), but Theroux is as big a misanthrope as his ex-mentor and current enemy V.S. Naipaul.

So, sure enough the NYT gets Theroux to write about Hawaii. Theroux can be entertaining As Alice Roosevelt used to say, "If you don't have anything good to say about anyone, come sit next to me:"

Other plantation lands have become bungaloid subdivisions or luxury housing or golf courses. Some children of the plantation workers have become doctors and lawyers, or construction workers and caddies. And an immense number have become politicians — each island has its own local government — which may account for its reputation for political buffoonery and philistinism. Public intellectuals do not exist; public debate is rare, except on issues that transgress religious dogma. Hawaii is noted for its multitude of contentious God-botherers. One hundred sixty-three years ago, Melville remarked on this in “Typee.” Yet “tipsy from salvation’s bottle” (to borrow Dylan Thomas’s words), they stick to specific topics (same-sex marriage a notable example). No one else pontificates. It is regarded as bad form for anyone in Hawaii to generalize in print, as I am shamefully doing now.

Individuality is not prized; the family — the ’ohana — is the important social unit. But this Polynesian ideal of the family group, or the clan, extends to other communities. It is as though living on the limited terra firma of an island inspires people to form incurious metaphorical islands, like the Elks and the other exclusive clubs of the past. Even today, the University of Hawaii is an island that has almost no presence in the wider community. And each church, each valley, each ethnic group, each neighborhood is insular — not only the upscale enclaves like Kahala or Koko Head, but the more modest ones too. On leeward Oahu, the community of Waianae is like a remote and somewhat menacing island. [I drove up one of those isolated valleys in 1981 with my parents and remember the distinctly non-aloha looks we got from the local dope farmers.]

Each of the actual islands has a distinct identity — a person from Kauai would insist that he or she is quite unlike someone from Maui and could recite a lengthy genealogy to prove it. ...

The most circumscribed islanders are the Hawaiians, numerous because of the one-drop rule (though by this dubious measure, I am a member of the Menominee nation and the whole of Wisconsin is my ancestral land). People who, before statehood, regarded themselves as of Portuguese or Chinese or Filipino descent identified themselves as Hawaiian in the later 1960s and ’70s, when sovereignty became an issue and their drop of blood gave them access. [They're still waiting for their tribal casinos.]

The Hawaiian language as a medium of instruction hardly existed 20 years ago, but now it is fairly common, and there has been a substantial increase in Hawaiian speakers [If you want to compete economically in the global marketplace, there's nothing like learning Hawaiian.] But there are 40 or more contending Hawaiian sovereignty groups, from the strictest kanaka maoli (original people), who worship traditional gods like Pele, the goddess of fire (and volcanoes), to the Hawaiian hymn singers in the multitude of Christian churches, to the Hawaiian Mormons ...

And, like many who believe they are poorly governed, people in Hawaii have an abiding hatred of regulation. ...

Some of this seems either dysfunctional or annoying, and yet there are compensations. All my life I have thought, Give me sunshine. Hawaii has the balmiest weather in the world, and its balance of wind and water gives it perfect feng shui. No beach is private: all of the shoreline must be accessible to the casual beachgoer or fisherman or opihi-picker. And since people’s faults are often their virtues when looked at a different way, the aversion to self-promotion is often a welcome humility; the lack of confrontation or hustle is a rare thing in a hyperactive world. Islanders are instinctively territorial, but bound by rules, so privacy matters and so does politeness and good will.

I have this sense that Hawaii represents a Best Case Scenario for the future of humanity: pleasant but boring and static.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

"Cold Souls"

Cold Souls (the title is a reference to Gogol's 1842 satire Dead Souls) is a slight metaphysical fiction movie with Paul Giamatti ("Sideways") playing Paul Giamatti. He's rehearsing to portray Chekhov's Uncle Vanya on Broadway, but all that plumbing the depths of the Russian soul is just making Giamatti more hangdog than ever. His agent points out an article in The New Yorker (unfortunately, not by Malcolm Gladwell -- the movie consistently misses chances to be funnier) about how Manhattan's elite are lightening their moods by having their souls extracted and put in cold storage at a clinic on Roosevelt Island. (According to Descartes, the soul is found in the pineal gland.)

Without his heavy soul dragging him down, Giamatti feels chipper, like I, a notably shallow-souled individual, do with nine hours of sleep: doot-de-doot-de-doot. But his soulless performance as Uncle Vanya is about as good as I could give. On the verge of getting fired, he discovers the clinic will also rent you souls, most of them smuggled out of impoverished Russia. He immediately puts his credit card down on a Russian poet's soul and knocks them dead on-stage.

Then he wants his own soul back, but the wife of the head soul-smuggler, a St. Petersburg soap opera actress, wants to rent an American Hollywood movie star's soul to help her make it big globally. Giamatti is the only American actor's soul on ice, so a Russian operative steals it from cold storage on Roosevelt Island. Unfortunately, nobody in Russia has heard of Paul Giamatti, so the thief tells the gangster's wife that it's Al Pacino's soul, which makes her very happy. Complications ensue as Giamatti flies to mid-winter St. Petersburg to retrieve his soul.

"Cold Souls" sounds like a cross between Charlie Kaufman's Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but the writer, Frenchwoman Sophie Barthes (no relation to the French intellectual) was thinking of Woody Allen movies like Purple Rose of Cairo and Sleeper, and wrote it for Woody. For an American, you have to come out of pre-1960s American highbrow/middlebrow culture, like Woody did, to automatically associate "soul" with Russian writers rather than with Motown singers.

There's little evidence of the role being tailored for Giamatti -- he appears to be playing a more generic, less funny version of the traditional Woody Allen character rather than himself -- which is a shame since he's an interesting fellow.

Giamatti is famously undistinguished looking, but he's actually a princeling of the American meritocracy. His father A. Bartlett Giamatti, the Dante scholar, was president of Yale and then (strangely enough) Baseball Commissioner, in which post he dropped dead of a heart attack during the stress of banning Pete Rose from baseball.

Cold Souls is not as well thought-out as Kaufman's Eternal Sunshine: for example, the soul extraction clinic is posh, while Kaufman's memory erasure clinic is downscale because memory erasure is a really bad idea (Jim Carrey: "Is there any danger of brain damage?" Tom Wilkinson: "Well, technically, the entire process is brain damage") that appeals mostly to losers.

So, don't expect a Kaufman-level of exploitation of the inherent opportunities in the premise. I smiled a lot through Cold Souls, but only laughed a few times. On the glass is half-full side, however, Cold Souls is a lot less dense than Kaufman's latest, Synechdoche, New York.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

August 20, 2009

"The Hurt Locker"

You should definitely pay the extra dollar or two to see it in a state of the art movie theater with full sub-sonic audio system. Then, sit in the back row because you'll get what you pay for: this story of insanely courageous U.S. Army bomb-disposal guys in Iraq is loud.

I've loved director Kathryn Bigelow, who is like a 6'-tall real life version of one of James Cameron's butt-kicking babes (she's one of Cameron's countless ex-wives), since 1991's "Point Break," which featured a hat-trick of Hollywood's most cerebral-looking leading men -- Keanu Reeves, Patrick Swayze, and Gary Busey -- as surfing bankrobbers.

Bigelow's shtick is a little like Patti Smith's or Chrissie Hynde's in rock music a generation ago: being an admiring but slightly astounded outside observer of masculinity at its most unhinged.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

NYT Mag Ethicist: OK to cheat goyim to punish lack of diversity awareness

Randy Cohen, who writes "The Ethicist" column for the New York Times Sunday Magazine is the gift that keeps on giving. C. Van Carter of Across Difficult Country points in a comment to Cohen's April 13, 2008 entry:

Years ago in Seattle I worked for an insurance company with just one Jewish employee, a good friend. He invented Jewish holidays, taking days off several times a year. As the only other employee at all familiar with Judaism, I could have finked on him or kept silent and been disloyal to my employer. I kept silent. Was that the right choice? — WALTER HENRY, DOWNEY, CALIF.

It was an acceptable choice. ... This is not to justify your friend’s actions. He lied to his boss and burdened his co-workers, who presumably filled in for him while he was out cavorting.

So says my head . . . but my heart says mazel tov! This imaginative scheme imposed a tax on ignorance, penalizing an employer for lacking even a cursory grasp of a world religion’s holidays. Such a plan could encourage all of us in our diverse, immigrant nation to learn more about our neighbors, or reward them with extra vacation time if we cling to our provincialism. Diwali — real or imaginary?

I do have some sympathy for your boss. When I was growing up, autumn’s Jewish holidays seemed to occur in such rapid succession that I half suspected our rabbi of inventing them to qualify for some kind of bonus.

Send your queries to or The Ethicist, The New York Times Magazine, 620 Eighth Avenue, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10018, and include a daytime phone number.

Something that has changed over my lifetime is the decline of "Is it bad for the Jews" thinking on the part of Jews about the behavior of other Jews. While "Is it good for the Jews" thinking by Jews about the behavior of non-Jews is going strong, the urge among Jews to chastise other Jews for bad behavior that might offend non-Jews has gotten rarer and rarer. (You can occasionally find manifestations in Jewish publications such as The Forward.)

You might think that Randy Cohen would have written something like, "To my fellow Jews: please do not cheat non-Jews (or Jews, either); especially, do not play tricks that call attention to your Jewishness. It's bad for the Jews." But, fewer and fewer Jews worry about other Jews making a bad impression anymore.

Here's an exception that validates the tendency: I vaguely recall a minor incident from early in this decade in which some British journalist (perhaps Toby Young?) was complaining because the New York Times had censored some phrase of his, such as "for Christ's sake" or something like that. The NYT copyeditor explained to him, roughly, "The New York Times is a Jewish-owned newspaper in a mostly Christian country. Thus, the copyediting policy of the New York Times is to not treat the name of Jesus Christ with casual disrespect."

I thought to myself, "Wow, that's really old-fashioned. You don't see much of that kind of thinking anymore." Of course, copyediting is a bastion of traditionalism.

That kind of prudence-based respect is largely gone. What you see now is a fair amount of public expression of Jewish anxiety about right-wing Christians coming after them with pitchforks and torches and such, but, the psychology is 180 degrees different from the copyeditor's. The people claiming to be terrified of being oppressed by Christians aren't acting like they are. Indeed, they act as if they hold their putative oppressors in contempt for being weak.

The simplest explanation for this sizable change is that Jews in America have gone from being the underdogs to the overdogs. But nobody is supposed to mention this historic shift in public.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

August 19, 2009

NYT Magazine Ethicist on Golf: Who? Whom?

The New York Times Magazine features a weekly column entitled "The Ethicist" in which Randy Cohen dispenses ethical judgments from a contemporary perspective -- i.e., Who? Whom?

Is Golf Unethical?
By Randy Cohen


Last week in Berlin, the International Olympic Committee’s executive board voted to recommend that golf be included in the 2016 Games; the full membership will vote in October. In July, in Caracas, the Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez denounced golf as “a bourgeois sport,” and officials have taken steps to close two courses. The joys or miseries of playing the game aside, when it comes to assessing golf’s underlying ethos, who is more persuasive, Chávez or the I.O.C.?


While it would be oversimplifying either to uncritically exalt or utterly damn the culture of golf, on balance Chávez has the stronger case. The golf community, like most others, is neither monolithic nor immutable, but the current customs and values of big-time professional golfers, those most likely to dominate Olympic play, seem remote from the Olympic ideal. ...

American golfers are even more homogeneous and more conservative than their global colleagues, Selcraig asserts, citing a Sports Illustrated survey of 76 P.G.A. tour players: 91 percent endorsed the confirmation of Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.; 88 percent supported the invasion of Iraq; and 0 percent had seen “Brokeback Mountain.” Not science, perhaps, but not unrevealing.

As stated on an official Olympic Web site, “the goal of the Olympic Movement” — it is a movement, not just a gateway to a Wheaties box — “is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination … with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.” The culture Selcraig describes is more redolent of a gated community than amiable international populism.

That culture was discreditably displayed in 2002, when protests arose over the Masters Tournament being held, as ever, at the Augusta National Golf Club, a private club without a single woman member.

Lamentably, few male golf stars joined the protest. Tiger Woods was conspicuously willing to play at a sexually segregated club (and one that did not accept a black member until 1990). He had no particular duty to step up — no honorable person can play at a segregated club — but his inspiring personal history made his complacency especially sad. As of April, when the Masters again returned to Augusta, the club still had no women, a fact that should worry the golf-besotted I.O.C., which trumpets its determination “to enhance women’s participation in sport at all levels.”

Reactionary bastions like Augusta are not the whole story. ... Yet golfers appear to be a less diverse group, and a group less interested in diversity, than, say, soccer players or runners. As Chávez put it: “There are sports and there are sports. Do you mean to tell me this is a people’s sport?” He answered his own question: “It is not.”

Although not explicitly mentioned by Chávez or the I.O.C., golf entails questionable environmental ethics. ...

Every big-time sport has its disheartening elements. College basketball, a game I love, is marred by periodic recruiting scandals; academic mischief; the strange behavior of the N.C.A.A., its governing body; and Rick Pitino’s love life. Perhaps the only moments of grace and beauty and virtue in any game occur during actual play, and we should not look too closely at its broader culture and implicit ethics without expecting to be dismayed. But there are genuine differences between the ethos of one sport and another. It is hard to imagine the Duke of Wellington declaring, “The Battle of Waterloo was won in the corporate hospitality tents of the P.G.A. tour.”

Now, you might think that what would actually be most interesting from an ethical perspective about golf is that it's the most prominent sport in which players are required to referee themselves on the honor code. In 1984, I watched Arnold Palmer knock himself of contention on the next to last hole of the United States Senior Open by calling a penalty on himself that absolutely no one else saw or even could have seen. In sharp contrast, the culture of most other big time sports encourages players to cheat when the ref isn't looking.

As for the ethics of college basketball ...

The ethical issue for golf is whether it wants to lower itself to the level of the Olympics. I like the Olympics a lot, but their ethical history is a lot dodgier than golf's.

For example, the essence of the modern Olympics is that the stars of the show, the athletes, don't get paid. That makes hosting an Olympics potentially quite lucrative, as LA showed in 1984 by turning a $300 million profit, which makes the bidding to be a host city an ethical nightmare as IOC members shakedown host cities for bribes.

In contrast, since the 19th Century, golf (being a Scottish game) had a perfectly reasonable solution for amateur/professional quandaries that bedeviled more aristocratic sporting enterprises such as tennis until 1968, the Olympics into the 1980s, and The Ethicist's favorite, college basketball, today.

In golf, you could always choose to be either a professional or an amateur. It's your choice. Everybody could compete in the Open tournaments but only amateurs could compete in Amateur tournaments. This system continues today: earlier this year, Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo won $60,000 in a celebrity tournament, but donated the money to charity to preserve his right to play in the U.S. Amateur.

In the past, attempts to get golf into the Olympics have foundered on the lack of enthusiasm of golf pros for playing without getting paid. Golf is apparently now going to be in the Olympics primarily because Tiger Woods wants to be an Olympian. He has everything else he's ever wanted (except Jack Nicklaus's career major championship record, and he's fallen behind Roger Federer in major championships), so it's perfectly reasonable for him to look forward to representing his country in the Olympics.

As for golf in the Olympics overall, well, it's kind of silly. The Olympics are good for minor sports that aren't widely interesting enough to hold public attention without the Olympics. Adding Tiger Woods to the Olympics is just going to distract from obscure athletes' single shots at momentary fame. Moreover, golf is not the kind of sport like the 100m dash that's deterministic enough to make one gold medal every four years interesting. Too much luck is involved, even more than in, say, tennis. Thus, golf holds 16 major championships ever four years. Woods is by far the best golfer ever, but he's lost 38 of the 52 major championships held since he turned pro. So, the idea of one gold medal in golf every four years is just ho-hum dumb.

Making the Olympics the global amateur golf championship makes a fair amount of sense, although not from a business standpoint since it would just be a low-key event like the Walker Cup. Of course, "The Ethicist" would blow a gasket because amateur golfers tend to be The Wrong Kind of People.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

What the University of California is up to

From an op-ed by Marc B. Haefele in the LA Times: "Is UC Opening the Door to Trouble?"
For 13 years, University of California officials have wrestled with a seemingly insoluble problem: how to sustain a student body that reflects the state's vast diversity without violating Proposition 209, the 1996 ballot measure banning race-based affirmative action.

The latest attempt to formulate a policy that is both legal and capable of increasing diversity is a controversial new admissions mandate that will take effect in fall 2012. ...

Currently, the top 12.5% of high school seniors in the state are guaranteed admission to a UC school -- something originally set out in the 1960 California Master Plan for Higher Education. More recently, the top 4% of students at all schools in the state have been assured a spot. Under the new guidelines, only the top 9% statewide are guaranteed spots, as well as the top 9% at every high school. The theory is that this will guarantee more spots for students at underperforming high schools where opportunities are not as great and more of the students are underrepresented minorities.

In other words, George W. Bush's Talented Tenth of Texas plan is being imported (which he shoved through when the 1995 Hopwood decision temporarily banned racial preferences in Texas), except in California it will be the Excellent Eleventh.

An old college friend who is a surgeon in Austin, Texas came out to visit Southern California colleges recently with his high school kid. I told him that my opinion is that you ought to go to college where you're most likely to end up so that you'll have your college friends around you when you are in your 20s and need a social set. And if you start out in Austin, which everybody says is a wonderful small city to wind up in (Is that because it's more German-American than the rest of Texas's cities?), then why not go to the University of Texas at Austin?

But his kid is only at about the 85th percentile by class rank in high school, not the crucial 90th percentile. Granted, that's the 85 percentile at the kind of high school that an Austin surgeon who went to Rice sends his children to, but the quality of the student body doesn't matter under GWB's Talented Tenth plan.

Parents finally got the Texas legislature to cut that plan back a little recently, but now they are bringing it to California.
The new rules also will create a larger pool of students entitled to be considered for -- but not guaranteed -- admission. To be considered, applicants must still take required college prep courses, have a 3.0 grade-point average and take the basic SAT exam. But they will no longer be required to also take SAT subject tests, something the plan's designers hope will benefit black and Latino students, who are less likely to take the exams.

One of the ideas behind having students take three SAT Subject exams is that one can be a foreign language, which makes it a gimme putt for immigrants. (That's bad for blacks, though, because they despise all foreign languages other than French, especially Spanish.) But apparently Hispanics and blacks have a hard time remembering to sign up to take the tests.

Actually, one reason for dropping these three extra tests sounds reasonable, in kind of a stupid way: As the College Board's biggest client, UC forced all sorts of changes to the main SAT, like adding the little-liked Writing test, dropping analogies, and upping the hardness of the math. In other words, a lot of stuff that UC was tracking through SAT Subject Tests has now been incorporated in the main SAT itself, so it might make sense to drop the SAT Subject Test requirements. Of course, screwing around with the main SAT was probably a bad idea, but what's done is done.
But as is always the case when admissions policies change, there will be winners and losers. The plan's critics say it is unlikely to bring in more black and Latino students and that white applicants will be the biggest beneficiaries.

It's hard to see why since so many Non-Asian Minorities go to schools that are overwhelmingly NAM. I would think the Excellent Eleventh rule would bring in lots more NAMs than the current Terrific Twenty-Fifth program.

Of course, right now the UC system has about a 1000 open spots each year it can't seem to fill at its new UC Merced campus that Cruz Bustamante had located out in the middle of Damn All on the theory that if you stick a research university out among a bunch of strawberry pickers, the strawberry pickers will turn into researchers by osmosis. Or something. They could have built the latest UC school near Napa Valley or near San Luis Obispo or Escondido or Eureka or at the serene old Camarillo looney bin where Cal State Channel Islands went instead, but, no, the Latino Caucus made them stick it in the Central Valley where Davis already is and nobody wants to go.
More important, they allege, it will slash the UC eligibility of Asian American students, who benefit by the current larger guarantee of placement for top students statewide.

Sacramento's 10-member Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus has proclaimed the plan to be outright discrimination against Asian Pacific Islanders. And many Asian Americans see the move as directly aimed at bringing down their numbers in California's universities.

Is this true?

Who knows?

I haven't seen much evidence presented for this popular theory, other than it's likely that Asians remember to sign up for three secondary tests when everybody else forgets. (You have to get UC applications in by October 31st, two months before Cal Tech applications, so lots of people forget.) Another possibility is that the Asian Caucus just figures that by raising a stink they'll remind people of their power, the way a baseball manager will yell and scream about an umpire's call not because he will get it changed but to get the next one shaded in his favor.

As I've said before, we no longer live in an Age of Ideologies where it's Capitalism vs. Communism, Democracy vs. Fascism. Like Francis Fukuyama said, Communism and Fascism lost. Instead, we now live in the Age of the Fine Print, where you have to read all the fine print to figure out whether some government action is out to get you.

Some people get Legislative Caucuses to read the fine print for them.

Others don't.

Will the Republican Party read the fine print for its supporters? Republican governor George W. Bush sure didn't.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

August 18, 2009

Does "District 9" = Section 8?

My review of the South African-set hit sci-fi movie District 9 will likely be up at Taki's Magazine on Wednesday morning.

When it's up, you can read it there and comment upon it here.

And from a few years ago in Taki's Magazine, here's my review of Jimmy Carter's Palestine Peace Not Apartheid, in which I compare South Africa and Israel. (Part II about Israel here.)

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Why no housing bubble / bust in Vermont?

The Wall Street Journal has a long article, Vermont Mortgage Laws Shut the Door on Bust -- and Boom, on how Vermont's old-fashioned skinflint mortgage regulations prevented excessive lending in that state. State regulations played a sizable role in the Bubble -- for example, Ohio has a lot more foreclosures than Pennsylvania due to differences in regulations. (Although without the expectation of continued massive Hispanic immigration, as in California, Florida, Nevada, and Arizona, home prices couldn't reach levels where losses mattered much in the big picture.)

In general, state laws on lending, which typically were devised back when "usury" was considered a bad thing, were more Mr. Potterish than federal laws and regulations, which, being more recent, were more George Baileyesque.

Vermont is, of course, the whitest state in the union, which means that, despite Vermont's liberalism, the bipartisan federal push for more minority lending through lower credit standards had little way to gain traction in Vermont. The federal government couldn't persecute anybody in Vermont for not lending enough to minorities or reward anybody with lighter regulation for pledging to lend more to minorities because there were no minorities in Vermont.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

August 17, 2009

Wajda's "Katyn" finally released on DVD in the US

Famous Polish director Andrzej Wajda's Katyn, which tells the story of the massacre of Poland's natural leaders (such as his father) by the Soviets in 1940, has finally been released in the U.S. It's available for purchase from Amazon, and for rental by mail from Blockbuster Online and Netflix.

Here's my review from last year in The American Conservative.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Anti-Idiocratic Immigration

Jason Richwine of the American Enterprise Institute reviews the data suggesting that Mike Judge was right in Idiocracy: low IQ people tend to be surlier and more distrustful (presumably because they are easier to fool, like the prison guard who gets mad at Luke Wilson for telling him he got into the line going into prison when he should have gotten into the line going out of prison).

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

What kind of profiling was Bob Dylan subjected to?

Walking while being an old, weird American.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

First full-blooded East Asian to win a major golf championship

For the first time, Tiger Woods (who is a quarter Chinese and a quarter Thai) failed to win one of golf's four major championships after leading after three rounds. He was beaten by 37-year-old Y.E. Yang of South Korea, the first full-blooded Asian winner of a major championship.

It's rather odd that it took so long for an East Asian to win a major championship, because East Asians were runner-ups in 1971, 1980, and 1985 (when T.C. Chen needed to hole a bunker shot on the 72 hole in the U.S. Open to force a playoff -- I was standing behind him at Oakland Hills in Michigan and couldn't see the hole, but could hear the thonk as the ball struck the flagstick, then saw Chen whirl around in regret as it rolled away from the hole). Looking at that trendline for second place finishes, you'd figure there would have been an Asian winner around 1989, but instead it took 20 years longer.

In contrast, Continental Europeans emerged as contenders in this Anglosphere-dominated game at about the same time, yet quickly broke through as champions.

South Korean women, like Swedish women, have done very well in ladies' golf, but that's mostly because those two countries invested a lot in training girl golfers.

So far, there's no particular pattern of any race being better or worse at golf. Success largely depends upon starting intensive practice at a young age. Malcolm Gladwell talks about how it takes 10,000 hours of practice to be great at anything, but to win a major championship in golf typically takes about 20,000 hours. For example, it took Tiger Woods 19 years of playing and Phil Mickelson 32 years. The shortest period between taking up the game and winning a major was Gary Player's seven years.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer