October 23, 2009

UPDATED: Ricci II: New Haven sued by black fireman

In Slate, Stanford law professor Richard Thompson Ford is trumpeting:
Sure enough, last week, just as New Haven prepared to promote a group consisting almost entirely of white fire captains and lieutenants based on the exam results, a black New Haven firefighter, Michael Briscoe, filed a disparate-impact lawsuit against the city. Like Frank Ricci, Briscoe is a sympathetic plaintiff. He received the highest score of any candidate on the oral portion of the lieutenant's promotion exam. But he isn't eligible for promotion because the city based 60 percent of each candidate's score on the written exam. On this part of the test, Briscoe—like most black candidates for promotion—did comparatively badly. ...

UPDATED: Fortunately, the test scores were posted by Adversity.net, and we can figure out who Briscoe is pretty easily.

Actually, Briscoe did very badly on the written test in any sense. Although he scored a 92.08 on the oral test, he only scored a 59 on the blind-graded written test, putting him 66th out of the 77 test-takers on that test. He scored 13th out of 19 blacks on the written-exam. Overall, counting both the oral and written exams, Briscoe finished 24th, with five blacks ahead of him. Why is Briscoe more deserving than the five blacks who did better under the rules?

Briscoe had the largest divergence in scores between the two tests of any of the 77 test-takers, implying his high score on the oral part could well be a fluke. Oral tests are more likely to produce unreliable scores because the sample size of questions per hour of testing is smaller due to the lower bandwidth of oral vs. written communication.

Or, perhaps Briscoe is a smooth talker who can impress outsiders in the short run, but lacks the job knowledge to maintain the confidence of underlings in even the medium run.

This is a classic example of why Disparate Impact is worse than plain old racial quotas. There are five black guys who are better under the rules than Briscoe, but now we're supposed to rip up the rules and use a different system that will promote Briscoe ahead of the five more competent blacks, as well as push a lot of less qualified whites and Hispanics ahead of more qualified whites and Hispanics.

Moreover, if you changed the weighting on the Lieutenant's test to favor the Oral component over the Written component, that would have Disparate Impact on Hispanics!
Briscoe's claim is a perfect example. Why didn't black candidates do as well as whites on the written exam? Black firefighters argue that because whites are more likely to come from families where firefighting is a legacy (for instance, one New Haven captain's father and grandfather both served as fire chief in New Haven), they are more likely to get help from a network of friends and relatives in studying for the written exam. Few blacks have such family connections—in large part because blacks were deliberately shut out of firefighting jobs until the 1970s, when black firefighters won discrimination suits in New Haven and in many other cities nationwide. ... So heavy reliance on a written exam, if it gives an advantage to legacy candidates, could perpetuate the evils of past discrimination.

Damn white fire geeks always studying how to save people's lives!

Kind of like how Slate's other Ricci expert, Emily Bazelon got her job writing about the law by being the second cousin of Betty Friedan and the granddaughter of the most powerful non-Supreme Court judge in America, David Bazelon. Except she didn't have to pass a written exam to get the cushy Truman Capote Fellowship in Creative Writing and the Law at New Haven's Yale Law School.
That violates Title VII, unless the exam is job related and there are no less discriminatory alternatives. New Haven's written exam may be as good as any written exam could have been: The Supreme Court in its ruling in favor of the white firefighters in Ricci pointed out that the city's written test was carefully developed by a professional company to be job-related and to avoid racial disparities. But Briscoe argues that the written exam did not, in fact, test for the skills that fire captains and lieutenants need on the ground; instead, it rewarded rote memorization. As for alternatives, Briscoe says that the city could have relied more heavily on the oral exam, which required candidates to respond to real-life firefighting and training scenarios. Neither the city nor the company that designed the exam defended making it worth 60 percent of the promotion score. Briscoe also points out that New Haven could have used an assessment-center model, which tests candidates through simulations of real-life job challenges. Many other cities use assessment centers successfully.

Although Ricci was often described as a challenge to affirmative action, getting rid of a flawed exam isn't affirmative action and doesn't push diversity at the expense of merit.

Yes, it is affirmative action. The reason Professor Ford wants more weight given to the oral test is because the oral test is inherently flawed.

The key difference between the oral and written test is that the written test was blind-graded while the grading of the oral test was racially rigged from the outset by making almost two-thirds of the judges minorities, which is highly unrepresentative of the distribution of senior firefighting leadership expertise.

The whole point of civil service examinations is to eliminate favoritism, which is why the union insisted on a 60% weighting in favor of the blind-graded test over the easily-rigged oral test.

I would strongly recommend that the Supreme Court fast-track Briscoe's case. I'd look forward to reading Justice Alito's opinion.

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

October 22, 2009

More on Forbes 400 by ethnicity

Race / History / Evolution Notes has taken Jacob Berkman's list from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency a step farther and broken out all the obvious ethnicities of the 2009 Forbes 400.
My initial estimate of the ethnic breakdown:

Northwestern European 53.5%
Jewish [or part Jewish] 35.25%
Italian 3.5%
East Asian 2%
Indian 1.25%
Middle Eastern 1.25%
Greek 1.25%
Eastern European 1.25%
Hispanic 0.5%
Black 0.25%

The black Forbesian is Oprah.

One of the Hispanics is John Arrilliga, son of Basque immigrants. (Do Basques consider themselves Hispanic? I know a 93-year-old Basque lady who arrived in America in the early 1920s, and still has her Basque accent.)

The other is billboard baron and Angels owner Arturo Moreno, a genuine Mexican-American from a family of 11 in Tucson.

In these estimates, Northwestern European serves as kind of a catch-all for people who don't obviously jump out at you as something else. So, maybe there's, say, a Bulgarian whose immigrant father changed his name to "Johnson" to fit in. He would get listed as Northwestern European at first glance. And "Northwestern European" doesn't recognize the fairly sizable ethnic divide between the Protestants and Catholics (Irish and more than a few Germans), who tend to have gone to separate schools.

The Jewish percentage is probably a little high because it includes some some people who are half or even just quarter Jewish by ancestry. (It may however miss some others who are part Jewish.) My preference is to allot by fraction of ancestry, but that's a lot of work.

The small number of Slavs jumps out at you. The various kinds of Slavic-Americans tend not to show up in large numbers in elites (outfielders being one exception: Musial, Yastrzemski, etc.)

RHE Notes has all 400 names and his guess at their ethnic identification, which is always interesting.

For example, after 20 years of watching the back of Larry David's head as he plays George Steinbrenner on Seinfeld, I'd assumed that the owner of the Yankees was Jewish. There's a natural tendency to assume that anybody with a Germanic-language surname who has made himself conspicuous in the media is Jewish, but that's by no means always true. Various confident-sounding individuals on the web say Steinbrenner isn't Jewish. And that's how RHE Notes lists Steinbrenner: as Northwestern European.

Steinbrenner's father's Great Lakes shipping firm was named Kinsman, perhaps after the neighborhood in Cleveland, which was a center of Cleveland's Jewish community at one point (but not at other points). His mom's name was Haley. George's upbringing seems Midwestern gentile: Culver Military Academy, Williams College, Delta Kappa Epsilon (same fraternity as the Bushes and three other Presidents), US Air Force officer, graduate assistant at Ohio State to football coach Woody Hayes, etc. Steinbrenner does have an advanced degree, but it's a Master's in P.E., which is about the least Jewish advanced degree imaginable.

So, I dunno.

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

Whatever happened to environmentalists' enthusiasm for 3rd World population control?

Apparently, there's another famine coming in Ethiopia. Matthew Yglesias has links to reports by the BBC, Oxfam, and CAP all listing strategies for fighting Third World hunger, with lots of interesting stuff about how Ethiopia's system of land inheritance is suboptimal and so forth.

What's striking to me as an old-timer, though, is how little emphasis the great and the good give to Third World population control these days, as compared to the 1960s and 1970s, when it was a Center-Left obsession.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, people on the left talked about the need for population control in the Third World all the time. Now, that suggestion seems to be largely off the table, apparently because it’s considered racist.

Yet, it's not like the problems of population growth in Ethiopia have vanished of their own accord.

According to the CIA World Factbook, Ethiopia’s population is over 85 million, up from 32 million in 1975, despite the famous killer famine of the 1980s. Its current total fertility rate is 6.12 babies per woman per lifetime. The annual population growth rate is 3.2%. At that rate of growth, Ethiopia’s population will be over 140 million in just 16 years.

A Voice of America article in 2006:

At an estimated population of 77 million people, Ethiopia is second only to Nigeria – currently sub-Saharan Africa’s most populous nation. And Ethiopia’s population is growing at a rapid pace, adding some two million people every year. Experts are warning the Horn of Africa nation may not be prepared to handle the consequences of such a population boom.

Ethiopian scholar and population expert Sahlu Haile says the situation in his country is grim.

“Drought and famine continue to plaque the country,” he said. “And although the government is investing a considerable amount of resources for social services, including health and education, this is being neutralized by the number of people needing these services. Deforestation, soil erosion and the resulting shortage of rain and water is creating conflict among people who have been living together peacefully for years.”

By the year 2050, the Washington-based Population Reference Bureau says Ethiopia’s population will grow by an astounding 120 percent.

That means in 44 years, the population of Ethiopia is expected to be around 169 million people.

It is this projection that has Sahlu, a senior program advisor at the Packard Foundation, worried – worried about the strain such huge population growth will put on society.

“The environment continues to deteriorate,” he said. “Not only in the vulnerable areas of the highlands of northern Ethiopia but even in the south and southwest of the country, which are considered the breadbasket of the country. A senior government official said because of population pressure, they are obliged to apportion land, not in hectares, but in square meters. He said, and I quote, the situation is ‘dramatic,’ end quote.” ...

But, Sahlu points out the Ethiopian government is beginning to take the issue of overpopulation seriously. He says it has come up with policies to help reduce the birth rate, currently averaging six children per woman in Ethiopia.

One part involves a major public health initiative. Over the next three years, the government has set a goal of bringing family planning services to Ethiopia’s rural areas by providing basic health training to more than 25,000 young women and deploying them to each village in the country.

And the population may indeed be receptive to such a program. Sahlu says nearly 78 percent of married women in Ethiopia either want to space their births or end them altogether.

But, Sahlu says the lack of money for contraceptives presents a serious problem.

“The 2005 contraceptive deficit is estimated at $12 million,” he said. “And if these young girls go out and promote family planning in the countryside, that is only going to aggravate the situation.”

He adds the Ethiopian government has committed itself to cover 50 percent of the cost of contraceptives, a goal, he says, that may not be realistic.

All experts agree that much work remains to be done to address Ethiopia’s high fertility rate. But those efforts are in competition with a number of other important development issues in Ethiopia: food security, basic infrastructure, healthcare and education.

So, they're short $12 million bucks for contraceptives? $12 million? Can’t, say, Al Gore write them a personal check?

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

How many of the Forbes 400 are Jewish?

Since the early 1980s, Forbes has been publishing its list of the 400 richest Americans. Periodically, various people have tried to estimate the percentage who are Jewish. My recollection is that they usually come up with about 22% to 25%, although of course that varies as different sectors of the economy boom and bust. For example, Texans were heavily represented on the first list during the early 1980s oil boom, but quickly diminished and were replaced by New York real estate tycoons, who gave way to Silicon Valley tech prodigies, and so on.

Jacob Berkman of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, who specializes in reporting on Jewish philanthropy, spent a couple of days on Google with the 2009 Forbes 400, and came up with a list of Jewish Forbes 400 members for use by Jewish charities:
At least 139 of the Forbes 400 are Jewish

But that's just one man's estimate. For example, he includes Meg Whitman of E-bay, who is running for the GOP nomination for governor of California, but most of what I see about her suggests she is largely Boston Brahmin. And some of his "maybes" on his overall list of 149 possibilities are definitely not Jewish, such as the two Bechtels, who have made billions out of Saudi Arabia. (One of Bechtel's key executives in Ibn Saud's kingdom was Cornelius Stribling "Strib" Snodgrass, whom I'm going to guess wasn't Jewish.)

Note the helpful comments from Santos L. Halper below Berkman's posting for recommended changes, some of which Berkman has gone back and incorporated. And, of course, there are the usual issues of how to count people with one Jewish parent, converts, and so forth.

So, I don't know exactly where Berkman stands at this point. The most accurate number might not be 139 anymore. But it's definitely at least 30% (120), and "about one-third" would appear to be a reasonable approximation.

Part of the increase in Jewish numbers is due to the proliferation of Pritzkers of Chicago (there are now 11 on the Forbes 400). They've been rich a long time (an old friend of mine was their nanny in Europe in the 1970s). Presumably they are multiplying due to inheritance.

But the increasing importance of Wall Street in the economy in recent years no doubt played a major role in this increase over the historic baseline.

If the Forbes 400 is about one-third Jewish, that's less than the one-half Jewish Atlantic 50 of most influential pundits. Tom Friedman's chances of someday being on both lists took a hit this year when his father-in-law Matthew Bucksbaum, who was #205 on the Forbes 400 in 2008, dropped off the list in 2009 when his shopping mall company filed for bankruptcy. He must not have been reading his son-in-law's economics advice books closely enough.

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

October 21, 2009

Tom Friedman: America's schools failing to educate enough rainmakers

I've never been to India, but I've somehow gotten the impression that Untouchables are unfortunate. Apparently, I was misinformed because Thomas Friedman, who has been to India lots of times, entitles his NYT column "The New Untouchables" and his New Untouchables are sitting pretty.

I've mentioned before that the NYT op-ed page is one of the fringes of the Steveosphere. But, really, I've got it so much easier than those poor bastards. All I have to do each day is use Occam's Razor to find the simplest explanation for whatever subject comes up. (A long time ago an old venture capitalist who had given dozens of depositions under oath told me: "Always tell the truth; it's easier to remember.") But to be an NYT columnist, you have to wield Occam's Butterknife like Mickey Mouse in the Sorcerer's Apprentice.

For example, I could have happily written half of Friedman's new column, but I couldn't have pounded out the other half with a straight face:

Last summer I attended a talk by Michelle Rhee, the dynamic chancellor of public schools in Washington. Just before the session began, a man came up, introduced himself as Todd Martin and whispered to me that what Rhee was about to speak about — our struggling public schools — was actually a critical, but unspoken, reason for the Great Recession.

There’s something to that. While the subprime mortgage mess involved a huge ethical breakdown on Wall Street, it coincided with an education breakdown on Main Street — precisely when technology and open borders were enabling so many more people to compete with Americans for middle-class jobs.

And middle-class houses, let's not forget, but then most people who read Friedman have never been told that in the first place, so how can they forget what they've never learned?

In our subprime era, we thought we could have the American dream — a house and yard — with nothing down. This version of the American dream was delivered not by improving education, productivity and savings, but by Wall Street alchemy and borrowed money from Asia.

A year ago, it all exploded. Now that we are picking up the pieces, we need to understand that it is not only our financial system that needs a reboot and an upgrade, but also our public school system. Otherwise, the jobless recovery won’t be just a passing phase, but our future.

Importing tens of millions of people from the bottom of the Latin American pyramid of productivity didn't exactly help, either.

Nor did letting much of our manufacturing go overseas with the idea that we'd all get rich off selling each other ever more complicated financial instruments.

“Our education failure is the largest contributing factor to the decline of the American worker’s global competitiveness, particularly at the middle and bottom ranges,” argued Martin, a former global executive with PepsiCo and Kraft Europe and now an international investor. “This loss of competitiveness has weakened the American worker’s production of wealth, precisely when technology brought global competition much closer to home. So over a decade, American workers have maintained their standard of living by borrowing and overconsuming vis-√†-vis their real income. When the Great Recession wiped out all the credit and asset bubbles that made that overconsumption possible, it left too many American workers not only deeper in debt than ever, but out of a job and lacking the skills to compete globally.”

This problem will be reversed only when the decline in worker competitiveness reverses — when we create enough new jobs and educated workers that are worth, say, $40-an-hour compared with the global alternatives. If we don’t, there’s no telling how “jobless” this recovery will be.

A Washington lawyer friend recently told me about layoffs at his firm. I asked him who was getting axed. He said it was interesting: lawyers who were used to just showing up and having work handed to them were the first to go because with the bursting of the credit bubble, that flow of work just isn’t there. But those who have the ability to imagine new services, new opportunities and new ways to recruit work were being retained. They are the new untouchables.

Oh, now I get it! Being an "untouchable" is now a good thing. Just like "the world is flat" is a smart thing to say.

Friedman's New Untouchables are basically the Old Rainmakers -- lawyers who could bring in big accounts.

That's just swell ... So what Friedman is telling us is that even for those people who pass the Bar Exam, our K-19 education system is failing them because, while it is turning them into lawyers, it isn't turning them into rainmaker lawyers.

That is the key to understanding our full education challenge today. Those who are waiting for this recession to end so someone can again hand them work could have a long wait. Those with the imagination to make themselves untouchables — to invent smarter ways to do old jobs, energy-saving ways to provide new services, new ways to attract old customers or new ways to combine existing technologies — will thrive. Therefore, we not only need a higher percentage of our kids graduating from high school and college — more education — but we need more of them with the right education.

As the Harvard University labor expert Lawrence Katz explains it: “If you think about the labor market today, the top half of the college market, those with the high-end analytical and problem-solving skills who can compete on the world market or game the financial system or deal with new government regulations, have done great. But the bottom half of the top, those engineers and programmers working on more routine tasks and not actively engaged in developing new ideas or recombining existing technologies or thinking about what new customers want, have done poorly. They’ve been much more exposed to global competitors that make them easily substitutable.”

Those at the high end of the bottom half — high school grads in construction or manufacturing — have been clobbered by global competition and immigration, added Katz. “But those who have some interpersonal skills — the salesperson who can deal with customers face to face or the home contractor who can help you redesign your kitchen without going to an architect — have done well.”

Just being an average accountant, lawyer, contractor or assembly-line worker is not the ticket it used to be. As Daniel Pink, the author of “A Whole New Mind,” puts it: In a world in which more and more average work can be done by a computer, robot or talented foreigner faster, cheaper “and just as well,” vanilla doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s all about what chocolate sauce, whipped cream and cherry you can put on top. So our schools have a doubly hard task now — not just improving reading, writing and arithmetic but entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity.

Bottom line: We’re not going back to the good old days without fixing our schools as well as our banks.

Okay, so our schools have to not only teach the times tables, they have to teach salesmanship and entrepreneurship. Hmmhmm, my impression from watching The Wire was that our public schools were already turning out more than enough crack salesmen but not enough kids who were good at arithmetic.

You know, this is almost enough to make you wonder if globalization isn't all that Tom Friedman has cracked it up to be.

I kind of have the impression that quite a few Americans, like, maybe, two or three hundred million of them, don't possess either the IQs or the personalities to be rainmakers. Are they permanently obsolete in the world that Friedman has been such an energetic cheerleader for?

Fortunately, all we have to do is Fix Education.

And, fortunately, as David Brooks has been informing us recently, IQ is so yesterday and personality hardly even exists.

You know what else our schools have been failing to do? They've been doing a terrible job of teaching our children another crucial skill for survival in Tom Friedman's globalized economy: how to marry a billionaire's daughter.

Tom did it, so how hard could it be?

Let's get Michelle Rhee and Arne Duncan cracking on this right away. As a start, all Washington D.C. public schoolchildren should make annual field trips to the 7.5 acre Friedman-Bucksbaum compound in Bethesda for socializing with Tom's daughters.

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

Good News! Annual harvest worker shortage solved

This is the first autumn in memory when we haven't been deluged with articles about how we're all going to starve because of looming shortages of illegal aliens to pick crops.

Remember the Pearanoia of 2006 when the New York Times, among others, ran a front page article about how pear growers in Lake County, CA couldn't find enough pear pickers (at the wages they felt like paying)? But in 2009, Google News finds only one mention all October of Tamar Jacoby, chief lobbyist for Guest Peasant Programs.

Congratulations to the federal government and financial industry for working closely together to stave off for at least one year this annual threat to the survival of humanity by merely doubling the unemployment rate. Bravo!

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

Hiding in Plain Sight

From my Wednesday Taki's Magazine column:

Everybody complains about how dumbed-down movies have gotten. Here, for example, are representative quotes from A.O. Scott of the New York Times in “Spoon-Fed Cinema” bemoaning the state of cinema c. 2009: “infantile,” “male immaturity,” and “a program of mass infantilization.”

Yet, nobody ever seems to mention one obvious change in audience composition over the decades that has exacerbated blockbusteritis. And only one renegade filmmaker has used this trend in demographics to be able to afford to make innovative movies; but nobody wants to talk about him, either.

Read it there and comment about it here.

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

October 20, 2009

F. Scott Fitzgerald's finances

Here's an article based on the tax returns of F. Scott Fitzgerald from 1919 to 1940. Fitzgerald averaged about the contemporary equivalent of a half million bucks per year for two decades, mostly from short stories (and movie sales of short stories, such as Benjamin Button.) Short stories were a remarkably lucrative line of work between the wars, since the big magazines like the Saturday Evening Post were the chief venues for advertising nationally distributed products like cars. After 1950, advertising dollars moved to television, and the really big magazines like Life, Look, and the Post folded up within a couple of decades.

People used to like to read short stories because each one was a story and it was short. Now, though, nobody reads short stories except other short story writers. And the stories always end with an "epiphany" in which the main character realizes his life is hopeless, as utterly doomed as, say, the contemporary short story author's life.

I've never seen cause and effect concerning the decline of short stories untangled. Did short stories become unpopular when they became depressing? Or did they become unpopular first, which then made the short story writers all depressed?

Novels don't come with advertising, so they weren't as lucrative for Fitzgerald. (By the way, why don't novels include advertising? I'm slowly making notes for a novel and I would be happy to have the book include advertising.) Fitzgerald only made $8,397 in royalties off The Great Gatsby during his lifetime. It didn't become a classic until WWII, when the Pentagon gave away paperback novels to soldiers. For whatever reason, it struck a chord with servicemen at war, and has since become a high school staple. Fitzgerald's grandchildren make a half million per year off the 84-year-old book.

That's pretty wild that Fitzgerald's descendant are making over a half mil per year off his books 69 years after he died. Do copyrights last forever these days? I recall that 98-year-old Irving Berlin was sore when his 75-year copyright on the song Alexander's Rag Time Band ran out in 1987, so I guess Congress decided 75 years just wasn't long enough.

I think the reason why everybody loves Gatsby is because everybody wishes they'd been invited to Gatsby's parties, but the book also lets you feel morally superior to the soulless people who, unlike you, were invited. So, what's not to like?

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

WaPo: Quarterbacks Gone Wild

From the Washington Post:
The wide-open era
Led by some of the NFL's current greats, quarterback play is as exciting and efficient as ever

By Mark Maske

"There are a lot of quarterbacks playing at a high level, more than I've seen in a long time," former Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann said.

If this indeed becomes one of the greatest seasons for quarterbacks, collectively, in league history, the question will be: Why now?

The answer seems to be that it's a combination of having a collection of excellent quarterbacks and a set of circumstances highly favorable to good quarterback play. ...

But it's more than just an assemblage of good quarterbacks. It's also the most passing-friendly era in NFL history. The game has been wide open since the 2004 season, before which the league cracked down on clutching-and-grabbing tactics by defensive backs with a directive from the competition committee to officials to strictly enforce the rule prohibiting defensive contact against receivers more than five yards downfield.

Actually, after the pass-happy 2004, referees tended to shift against the offense again, as Aaron Schatz of FootballOutsiders pointed out in 2005. Maybe the way the refs are calling has shifted back in 2009 to more 2004-like customs? The NFL can change things by winks and nudges as well as by overt rule changes.
The game changed immediately. That season, Peyton Manning threw 49 touchdown passes, breaking Dan Marino's 20-year-old NFL season record, and had the highest passer rating in league history, at 121.1. Brady threw 50 touchdown passes two seasons ago to set a new record. Last season, Brees had only the second 5,000-yard passing season in NFL history. Add to that the fact that the league has cracked down on hits on quarterbacks by defenders, and stopping the top passers seems to have become next to impossible.

"I think the rules benefit the passing game right now," said Tim Hasselbeck, a former quarterback for five NFL teams, including the Redskins and New York Giants. "You have the way pass interference and the plays down the field are being called. You have quarterbacks being protected by the rules, and I think that obviously plays into it. It helps guys stay healthy and play every week."

Peyton Manning and Roethlisberger are on pace for 5,000-yard passing seasons. Perhaps more strikingly, eight NFL quarterbacks currently have passer ratings above 100. Six more have passer ratings above 90. Compare that to last season, when only the San Diego Chargers' Rivers had a passer rating above 100 at season's end, and eight others topped 90.

The passer rating is a figure designed to assess overall throwing efficiency through a complicated formula that takes many statistical elements into account. The system, which gives a passer a rating between zero and 158.3, has its detractors. But it most often seems to confirm what knowledgeable observers say about which quarterbacks are playing well and which aren't, and this season it affirms that many of the sport's biggest stars are putting on dazzling displays. ...
"I don't necessarily love the passer rating system as a measure of quarterback play," Hasselbeck said. "If a guy is sacked and fumbled, that doesn't show up in the rating. But there are obviously a number of guys playing well, and that's reflected in the numbers. ...

"There are probably 15 to 17 guys where if you were running a team you'd say, 'I definitely feel comfortable building my franchise around this guy in any system. We can get to the Super Bowl with this guy as our quarterback,' " Hasselbeck, now an NFL analyst for ESPN, said by telephone this week. "I do think that's an unusually high number, to think that half the league or over half the league is comfortable with its quarterback situation."

The productive passing seems to be benefiting the teams involved and the league as a whole. The combined record of the clubs with quarterbacks who have passer ratings above 100 is 37-8. The league, meanwhile, has seen its television ratings soar this season; they're up 13 percent over last season and were at a 20-year high five weeks into the season. The sport's rules-makers always have considered a wide-open style of play attractive to fans.

"The ratings have been incredible," Colts owner Jim Irsay said last week at an NFL owners' meeting in Boston. "You really have to understand the sort of numbers we've been able to put up. That's been incredible and it shouldn't be understated."

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

The White City

From New Geography:

Among the media, academia and within planning circles, there’s a generally standing answer to the question of what cities are the best, the most progressive and best role models for small and mid-sized cities. The standard list includes Portland, Seattle, Austin, Minneapolis, and Denver. In particular, Portland is held up as a paradigm, with its urban growth boundary, extensive transit system, excellent cycling culture, and a pro-density policy. These cities are frequently contrasted with those of the Rust Belt and South, which are found wanting, often even by locals, as “cool” urban places.

But look closely at these exemplars and a curious fact emerges. If you take away the dominant Tier One cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles you will find that the “progressive” cities aren’t red or blue, but another color entirely: white.

In fact, not one of these “progressive” cities even reaches the national average for African American percentage population in its core county. Perhaps not progressiveness but whiteness is the defining characteristic of the group.

Read the whole thing.

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

October 19, 2009

Quarterback statistics

When evaluating groups of quarterbacks, I tend to use the NFL's much maligned "passer rating" statistics. It synthesizes a "quarterback's completion percentage, passing yardage, touchdowns and interceptions" into one number.

There are a lot of problems with it:

- Almost nobody knows how to calculate it. Wikipedia has the formulas here. Hence, nobody knows what a good number is. The NFL average is typically in the low to mid-80s. A rule of thumb is that 100 is excellent.

- Because it includes touchdown passes v. interceptions, which are inherently small sample sizes, it's not terribly stable from year to year. For example, according to passer rating, the sixth best single season of all time was Milt Plum's in 1960 when he threw 21 touchdowns v. only 5 interceptions. Plum was a good quarterback, but that year's passer rating was anomalous. Luck plays a sizable role in a single season's touchdowns and interceptions. Nonetheless, when you aggregate over multiple seasons or across multiple players, the larger sample sizes make the emphasis on touchdown passes and interceptions more reliable. After all, there is a pretty high correlation between them and winning.

- Passer Ratings is a "Pedro Martinez statistic" in that it doesn't give credit for durability. A brilliant but fragile pitcher like Pedro Martinez looks very good in sophisticated statistics like ERA but not quite so great in simple counting statistics like career wins. Similarly, guys who played forever like Dan Marino, Brett Favre, and John Elway don't look quite as good as the guys with shorter careers like Steve Young and Jeff Garcia. (Garcia is an interesting case in that he was a career journeyman -- his statistics might be inflated because he would get plugged in when the situation was ripe for his particular talents and benched when they weren't.) Similarly, Daunte Culpepper, is ranked 11th all-time in career passer rating, but has only managed to start about 9 games per season on average.

On the other hand, passer rating has advantages over simpler qb statistics like yards passing. If you rush for 150 yards per game, you are probably better than somebody who rushes for 100 yards per game, because rushing is debilitating, so there are diminishing marginal returns. On the other hand if you pass for 300 yards per game, you aren't necessarily better than somebody who passes for 200 yards per game. Throwing a football isn't that tiring. Also, although it's less true in today's passing-oriented offenses, but in the past, the big yardages were typically wracked up by quarterbacks who fell behind early and had to mount desperate comeback attempts, often unsuccessful.

Then there are the problems with all current quarterback statistics:

- Quarterbacks are much more dependent on their receivers, running backs, and offensive lines than, say, baseball pitchers are on their teammates, so San Francisco quarterbacks throwing to Jerry Rice, for example, will rate better than guys throwing to people who weren't Jerry Rice.

- There's no home field adjustment like in modern baseball statistics. This goes to the heart of the long-running Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady dispute. Manning usually has better passer ratings, but he plays his eight home games per season indoors, while Brady plays outdoors in suburban Boston.

Nonetheless, I think history has largely vindicated passer rating. Why? Notice that 12 of the top 15 quarterbacks of all time in career passer rating are currently active. This suggests that it measures pretty accurately the direction that improvements in offensive play are taking football in order to win games.

Other statistics have been invented. For example, Adjusted Net Yards per Pass Attempt looks like a pretty good single number stat based on yards per attempt: It dispenses with completion percentage and augments yards per attempt by adding 20 yards per touchdown pass and subtracting 45 yards per interception. It also subtracts yards lost when sacked.

This has the advantage of making the statistical differences more comprehensible than passer rating. For example, over his career, Peyton Manning's team has averaged a 7.13 yard gain everytime he passed (or was sacked), while his younger brother Eli Manning only averages 5.39 yards. So, if both brothers drop back to throw 30 passes per game, Peyton's team will gain 214 yards and Eli's team only 162 yards. I would guess that Peyton's extra 52 yards is worth somewhere between a field goal and a touchdown more points per game, plus it keeps the other team's offense off the field a little more.

Yet, the results for ANY/A are pretty much the same as for passer rating, though. Steve Young drops from #1 to #3 for career, and Peyton Manning moves up to #1 with 7.13 yards per attempt. (Young doesn't get credit for his rushing yardage, which seems a shame, but that's a tricky thing to account for because a lot of quarterbacks rush mostly on 3rd and 1 quarterback sneaks. If they average 2 yards per carry, they're doing fine, but including that would lower their overall yards per play average. I mean, you don't want to penalize the QBs who are good at sneaks worse than the ones who are no good at sneaks and thus never attempt them. On the other hand, it would be nice to find a way to credit quarterbacks who were genuine rushing threats like Young and Michael Vick.)

The top of the ANY/A list continues to be dominated by active players, with Young, Joe Montana, and Dan Marino the only old-timers in the Top 10.

Among the 29 active quarterbacks on the all-time Adjusted Net Yards per Pass Attempt career list, Culpepper is the highest ranking black quarterback at 12th with an average of 5.97 yards per attempt, Donovan McNabb is at 15th, David Garrard at 16th, Byron Leftwich at 20th, Jason Campbell at 21st, and Michael Vick at 26th (4.91). Some of these guys were good to very good runners, especially when they were younger, so they were probably a little more effective overall than this ranking suggests.

Overall, not too bad, but not at all "the future of football," as was widely hyped as recently as a few years ago.

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

Rush Limbaugh and black quarterbacks

In all the brouhaha over Rush Limbaugh being prevented from buying part of an NFL team, has anybody noticed that his endlessly denounced remark -- the one he actually said in 2003, not the libelous made-up ones we've been hearing lately -- about the media overrating black quarterbacks for political reasons has been largely vindicated?

Six years later, 2009 is turning out to be a bust for black quarterbacks in the NFL. Not a single one is having a good season.

Seven of the 36 most active quarterbacks are black. David Garrard is probably doing best so far: on Sunday, he got Jacksonville back to .500, but he's only #20 in passer rating.

On Sunday, Jason Campbell got benched at halftime by the Redskins. Former #1 draft pick JaMarcus Russell did win a game for Oakland, by beating Donovan McNabb 13-9. Seneca Wallace is back on the bench in Seattle. In Tampa Bay, Byron Leftwich has been replaced by young Josh Johnson, who is 32nd in passer rating.

With 140 yards rushing in six games, Garrard is the only black quarterback with at least 100 yards on the ground 30% of the way into the season.

Meanwhile, white quarterbacks are having a great year, with seven with passer ratings over 100, versus only one at the end of last year, although presumably top end ratings will come down as sample sizes increase and the weather worsens.

You could argue that black quarterbacks did better 20 years ago in 1989, when Warren Moon finished 4th in passer rating and Randall Cunningham 14th.

Overall, it looks like the first half of this decade, 2000-2004, was the peak for black quarterbacks in the NFL, while 2005-2009 has marked a surprising regression.

I have to admit that I wasn't expecting that. I thought they'd gradually get better. Back in 2003, during the first Limbaugh-NFL brouhaha, I wrote in VDARE.com about the emergence of black quarterbacks:

It's been a slow process, however, with frustration on all sides. Football teams are like armies—it takes them a lot of trial and error to figure out how to use a new kind of weapon effectively.

Perhaps surprisingly, Hollywood has already produced a good dramatization of the complicated opportunities and difficulties posed by black quarterbacks: Oliver Stone's 1999 football movie Any Given Sunday. It's not Stone at his best (or worst), but it's a perceptive and fair depiction of the black quarterback issue by a man who gave up all hope of being politically correct years ago.

Dennis Quaid plays the white drop-back quarterback who gets too banged up to play. In desperation, old-school coach Al Pacino replaces him with a young black QB (an undersized Jamie Foxx) who has a chip on his shoulder because, throughout his career, coaches have tried to convert him to other positions.

Foxx doesn't like studying the playbook. He just makes things up as he goes along, with often wonderful (but sometimes disastrous) results. This delights the sportswriters, who declare him "the future of football." It drives Pacino crazy.

Eventually, Pacino and Foxx begin to respect each other's strengths. They reach a compromise. Foxx finally bears down and learns the playbook. Pacino gives him more freedom on the field to make things happen. Together, they win The Big Game.

This Hollywood happy ending will probably eventually come true in NFL, too. Lots of talented men are working hard to make it a reality.

Meanwhile, expect no toleration for those so rude as to point out that the emperor has no cleats.

Well, six years later, my latter prediction is certainly valid, but not my former one.

What happened?

Well, I don't watch enough football to have much of an opinion, but here's a hypothesis. When my older kid played football in a league for 9 and 10 year olds, the coach came out into the huddle and called plays and the teams usually took about two minutes between plays to get themselves organized. Football is just really complicated. The best team in the league just simplified matters by putting their best athlete, a black kid, at quarterback and letting him do whatever he wanted with the ball.

Similarly, whenever my younger kid got roped into playing Madden, a game he never paid much attention to, he'd always pick Michael Vick as his quarterback and just have him run around with the ball, because that was a lot easier than trying to have a quarterback throw to receivers running routes.

From that perspective, all this "future of football" stuff about quarterbacks who can run is backwards: having one player Do It All isn't the future of football, it's the past. You can't stop a great athlete in PeeWee Football, but you can in the NFL. They apply a lot of brainpower to the problem of stopping one man.

No, the future of football is like the present in the NFL, just more so: having all eleven players execute in tandem ever more sophisticated schemes.

Part of the problem is that getting a mobile black quarterback became a quick fix for having a lousy offense. Is your offensive line so porous that a 30 year old white guy would get killed? Put a fast young black guy in at quarterback and let him outrun the defenders. At minimum, it will excite your fans.

After a few years of this, maybe you've finally fixed your offensive line, but now your fast black quarterback is banged up and isn't quite as fast anymore, but he's been confirmed in his instinct to take off with the ball and run rather than to step up into the pocket.

This happens at lower levels, too. If you are a high school or college coach, why try to train a fast black quarterback to be an NFL pocket passer when you can win now by just letting him freelance?

In contrast, the white sideline dads of America with tall, strong sons have given up on basketball, and they don't trust their coaches to take the long view of their sons' potential. So, they are paying out of their own pockets to hire personal quarterbacking tutors. (When USC played Notre Dame this weekend, Matt Barkley of USC said he'd know Jimmy Clausen of Notre Dame for years because they have the same off-season quarterback coach, Steve Clarkson.)

So, the quarterback trends of the last half decade are a triumph of Nurture over Nature., and thus should be celebrated by liberals everywhere. (Of course, it doesn't hurt to have Nature and Nurture together on your side, like the two Super Bowl-winning Manning brothers enjoy.)

October 18, 2009

My new VDARE.com column on Asian voters

From my new column in VDARE.com, once again on last week's Asian voter theme:
I’m continuing to think about how the Republican Party—or, more accurately a generic patriotic party that reflects traditional American values—can win national elections if current immigration policy is not altered and the racial balance of the U.S. continues to be shifted by the federal government. ...

Overall, though, the trend toward East Asians voting Democrat stems largely from Democrats winning in the struggle to be chic among elite whites. East Asians tend to be rather conformist. They take quickly to mouthing a society’s dominant platitudes, which in America are increasingly liberal.

I’m reminded of something that surprised me in the late 1990s. My wife worked with a Korean immigrant lady named (unsurprisingly) Ms. Kim. The poor woman’s husband had died in a car crash a few years before, leaving her with two small children to raise.

I was startled to learn that Ms. Kim referred to herself as a "single mother" rather than as a "widow," which seemed to me to be the more accurate and more respectable term.

But that just showed what an out-of-date fuddy-duddy I was. As a relative newcomer to America in the Age of Oprah, Ms. Kim had noticed what I hadn’t: that it’s now uncool for modern American widows to attempt to distinguish themselves from unwed mothers. That would be insensitive and discriminatory.

This doesn’t mean that, in her heart, Ms. Kim agreed with contemporary American mores. After all she grew up in a culture that stigmatizes illegitimacy as strongly as any in the developed world. In 2007, only 1.6 percent of babies were born out of wedlock in South Korea, versus a staggering 39.7 percent in the U.S. (That’s 72 percent illegitimacy among blacks, 51 percent among Hispanics, 28 percent among whites, and 17 percent among Asians).

But East Asians are used to hypocrisy. If the rich and respectable in America demand certain pro forma declarations, well, that’s a small price to be paid to not be excluded from polite society.

Granted, American hypocrisy is bizarrely inverted—rather than pretending to be better than she is, fashionable Americans want the Widow Kim to pretend to be worse than she is. But if that’s what the socially-influential whites in America say they want to hear, well, lip service is cheap.

Hu’s Rule, invented by journalist Arthur Hu in the 1990s, is that Asians tend to be slightly more conservative than their white neighbors—but they tend to choose liberal white neighbors.

Read the whole thing here and comment upon it below.

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

You don't say!

Steven D. Levitt's and Stephen Dubner's new surefire bestseller ¡SuperFreakonomics! is being widely anathematized for exhibiting signs of heretical doubts about Global Warming or Climate Change or whatever it's called these days.

In his defense, Dubner blogs on the New York Times in Global Warming in SuperFreakonomics: The Anatomy of a Smear:
Yes, it’s an ancient clich√©: a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes. But it’s still accurate.

Gosh, Steve and Steve, you don't say!

Funny how Levitt became a global celebrity for theorizing in 1999 that legalizing abortion cut crime, even though juvenile homicide rates for teens born in the half decade following legalization were several times higher than for teens born in the half decade preceding legalization, as I pointed out in our debate in Slate in August 1999.

A half dozen years later, he made that theory the centerpiece of Steve's and Steve's Freakonomics despite having no plausible refutation other than it was all based on very complicated statistics that little me wouldn't understand. Then, late in 2005, Boston Fed economists Christopher Foote and Christopher Goetz tried to replicate Levitt's findings and found he had simply made two technical mistakes in his programming that made a hash of his results.

By then, however, Steve and Steve's lie had traveled all the way round the world and their permanent celebrity status was assured.

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

Number of Mexicans wanting to move to America down ...

... to a mere 39 million in the latest Zogby poll of Mexicans in Mexico. During the housing bubble, a couple of Pew Polls found 40 to 45 million more Mexicans wanting to move here.

Inductivist has all the details, such as:
- Of Mexicans with a member of their immediate household in the United States,65 percent said a legalization program would make people they know more likely to go to America illegally.

- An overwhelming majority (69 percent) of people in Mexico thought that the primary loyalty of Mexican-Americans should be to Mexico. Just 20 percent said it should be to the United States. The rest were unsure.

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

City of God and Olympics

From the Guardian:
Two weeks after Rio de Janeiro celebrated winning the 2016 Olympic Games, the Brazilian city was tonight bracing itself for a further night of violence after an intense gun battle erupted in one of the city's favelas and a police helicopter was shot down, killing two officers.

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