December 19, 2009

The Harvard-Goldman Filter of Recursive Credentialism

Arnold Kling writes:

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

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

The Harvard-Goldman filter works like this.

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

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

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

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

Kling says later:

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

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

The Year in Ideas 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

How indubitably right they are.

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

Where's Akili Smith?

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

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

Step 1: Start with completion percentage. Subtract 30 and

divide by 20.

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

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

Alternatively, divide the touchdown percentage by 5.

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

(interceptions divided by pass attempts) divided by 4.

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

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

The rating formula simplifies to:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By the way, Gladwell goes on to say:

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

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

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

December 18, 2009

Could Tiger have had his accuser arrested?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

True Blue

The San Francisco Weekly rakes the muck about San Francisco city government in "The Worst-Run Big City in the U.S." I especially liked the picture of San Francisco's male model mayor with the caption, "Mayor Gavin Newsom ponders the differences among the Accountability Matrix, Accountability Index, and Accountability Report."

In short, the better your location, the more you can get away with. (I bet Istanbul is a poorly run city, too.) Due to geography, San Francisco doesn't have much in the way of nearby suburbs to compete with, giving it lots of leeway to be incompetent.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

In praise of David Frum

I have a few nice things to say about pundit David Frum in my new column.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

An Observation

The current President of the United States, like the previous President, is a lightweight who got elected only because of who his daddy was.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

December 17, 2009

The future

From the AP:
The final chapter has been written for the lone bookstore on the streets of Laredo. [That's Laredo, Texas, not Nuevo Laredo across the Rio Grande in Mexico.]

With a population of nearly a quarter-million people, this city could soon be the largest in the nation without a single bookseller.

The situation is so grim that schoolchildren have pleaded for a reprieve from next month's planned shutdown of the B. Dalton bookstore. After that, the nearest store will be 150 miles away in San Antonio.

The B. Dalton store was never a community destination with comfy couches and an espresso bar, but its closing will create a literary void in a city with a high illiteracy rate. Industry analysts and book associations could not name a larger American city without a single bookseller.

"Corporate America considers Laredo kind of the backwater," said the city's most prolific author, Jerry Thompson, a professor at Texas A&M University International who has written more than 20 books.

Since the closing was announced, book lovers in Laredo have flocked to the small store located between City Trendz ("Laredo's No. 1 Underground Hip Hop Shop") and a store that offers $4 indoor go-kart rides to stock up on their favorite titles.

I'm sure the local Wal-Mart sells bestsellers as well. And there's

Still, I probably spend a couple of hours per week in my local bookstore, a big Barnes & Noble that fills what used to be the local movie theater. It's not necessary to my life, but it's certainly a civilized amenity.

The future doesn't look terribly apocalyptic to me. In fact, it probably won't even be worse than the present, mostly due to the beneficent workings of Moore's Law. But the opportunity cost ...

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

December 16, 2009

The samurai version of hitting a bucket of balls

I finally figured out why the Japanese love to go the driving range and hit golf balls instead of play golf on a course.

It ties into the ancient samurai tradition of practicing for battle by first beheading a bunch of criminals. Beheading prisoners is to war as the driving range is to the golf course.

For example, the 60-something retired samurai Yamamoto Tsunetomo said in Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai, from the early 17th Century:
Yamamaoto Kichizaemon was ordered b his father Jin'emon to cut down a dog at the age of five, and at the age of fifteen he was made to execute a criminal. Everybody, by the time they were fourteen or fifteen, was ordered to do a beheading without fail.

Last year I went to the Kase Execution Grounds to try my hand at beheading and I found it to be an extremely good feeling. To think that it is unnerving is a symptom of cowardice.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

December 15, 2009

Shinnecock "Indians" get their casino

From the New York Times:

The Obama administration said Tuesday that the Shinnecock Indians on Long Island meet the criteria for federal recognition, signaling the end of a 30-year court battle and clearing a path for the tribe to pursue its plans for a casino in New York City or its suburbs.

The announcement all but assures that the 1,066-member Shinnecock Indian Nation will receive formal federal recognition, though a public-comment period of up to six months must be held before the final order is issued.

The news could mean significant changes for the relatively poor tribe, most of whose members live on 800 acres in Southampton, N.Y., not far from some of Long Island’s wealthiest communities and expansive celebrity-owned estates.

Shinnecock leaders have long argued that a casino could turn around the tribe’s fortunes.

“This recognition comes after years of anguish and frustration for many members of our Nation, living and deceased,” Randy King, chairman of the Shinnecock trustees, said in a statement, adding, “Perhaps this recognition will help some of our neighbors better understand us and foster a new mutual respect.”

Once it is federally recognized, the tribe would be entitled to build a “Class II” casino on its land that could have thousands of video slot machines but no table games. That has worried some local officials because of the implications that such a casino would have for traffic and tourism in the wealthy resort areas. ...

The tribe is also hoping to resolve more than $1 billion worth of land disputes in the Hamptons, including its claim to the site of the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, which has played host to the U.S. Open several times.

The article doesn't mention that the Shinnecock "Indians" are well known to be triracial, with ample African and white ancestry. That's just too complicated for New York Times readers, I guess.

Here, for example, is a photo I found of Randy King, chairman of the Shinnecock trustees, who is mentioned (but not, of course, pictured) in the NYT article. In the same picture there is also one white guy and three NAACP officials. Try to guess which is which. It's not too hard, but it's not totally obvious either. (The answer appears in the Comments.)

I'm not saying that zillion dollar casinos shouldn't be handed out to mixed race people based on their ancestry, just that you might think that the New York Times would at least mention in a long article why it took from 1978 until the Obama Administration for the federal government to accept that the Shinnecocks are Indians under the law. I mean, I live 3,000 miles away and I knew all about the Shinnecocks' ancestry for decades, but, apparently, no word about it is fit to print in the NYT.

Indeed, decades ago I read an article about how the first African-American to play in the U.S. Open golf tournament was in 1895, when a Shinnecock who had helped build the first course on the site, competed in the Open.

For example, here's the 1892 oil painting Shinnecock Indian Girl by William Merrit Chase. The text explains: "In the features was to be seen a curious blending of the two types, Indian and African."

Or, here's a picture of tribal trustee, Lance Gumbs, who looks a little like comedian David Allan Grier.

And here's a picture of Peter Smith, who was head groundskeeper at Shinnecock Hills, a position long reserved for a Shinnecock, for the 1995 U.S. Open. There was a big to-do about racism when he was replaced by a groundskeeper from Pebble Beach to get ready for the 2004 Open. Smith looks rather like Hugo Chavez, whose ancestry isn't that different from the Shinnecocks.

One interesting thing is how within a couple of hundred years, a moderately endogamous population of highly divergent antecedents can develop a fairly homogeneous look.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

The Jews of Bentonville, Arkansas

Back in 1991-1993, I long-distance managed two employees who were stationed near Wal-Mart headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, a small town not far over the border from Missouri, Oklahoma, and Kansas. (Local legend had it that Sam Walton had picked out Bentonville because of its easy access to four different hunting seasons). So, I made a lot of visits to Bentonville.

It was a nice place: pleasant rolling countryside. The locals were friendly, and happy they were finally catching up to the rest of the country in prosperity. Low level Wal-Mart employees, such as assistant shoe department manager, had gotten in on Wal-Mart stock options early and hence were retiring to lake front homes.

In contrast, the upper ranks of Wal-Mart management were the brusquest clients I ever dealt with. Yet, they had principled reasons for treating visiting salesmen like me like dirt: they felt that America corporate life was corrupted by all the little favors salesmen did their clients, like taking them to nice restaurants and NFL games, and that they owed it to their stockholders (including stockholder-in-chief Sam Walton) to maximize profits rather than maximize the lifestyles of managers.

As far as I could tell, at the time, most of Wal-Mart's headquarters staff, including their brilliant IT department, were recruited from middle America.

Most of the Merchant Princes of the second half of the 20th Century, Leslie Wexner, Bernie Marcus, and so forth, were Jewish, and most at home serving metropolitan areas. Sam Walton, the greatest merchant of the era, however, was a product of the underserved middle of the country. He got started quietly building the biggest retail chain in world history by better meeting the needs of the kind of small town folks whom he understood better than than urban merchants.

Big city companies like mine were opening satellite offices to better serve at Wal-Marts' beck and call, and tended to rotate in big city outsiders. Of the two people whom I inherited to manage in Bentonville, one was a local good old boy, and one was a transplant from the East Coast, either Jewish or Italian, I forget which. She liked it a lot in Bentonville -- it was cheap, the locals were friendly, and business was heading up -- and was intent on staying.

Hence, Bentonville is one of the few small towns in middle America with a growing Jewish population, for which it has attracted, unsurprisingly, a fair amount of media attention.

From a book review by Jay P. Greene, a Jewish professor at the U. of Arkansas (35 miles away in Fayetteville) in the Wall Street Journal of Boom Town: How Wal*Mart Transformed an All-American Town into an International Community by Marjorie Rosen.
In recent years, Tyson Foods, J.B. Hunt Trucking and, most prominent of all, Wal-Mart have attracted workers from across the globe to the tiny corner of northwest Arkansas where the companies are headquartered. The effect on the local community, according to Marjorie Rosen in "Boom Town," has been "cold stark fear—at least among a segment of the white Christian majority, which sees its comfortable, all-white way of life fading."

But very little in "Boom Town," an engaging if sometimes distorted community portrait, actually supports this storyline of white Christians resenting the influx of diverse newcomers. Instead, we learn about African-American, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu groups blending rather smoothly into business and social life in Bentonville, Ark. (Wal-Mart's home base), and the surrounding area. Peaches Coleman, the African-American wife of Wal-Mart's now-retired director of human resources, captures the real state of community relations. She remembers that "people threw bricks at our house" when she was growing up in Chicago; but in northwest Arkansas, she reports, her white neighbors "reached out to us in many ways that they didn't really have to . . . and in ways that have endeared this place to me."

There are really two distinct narratives in "Boom Town." One shows the ease with which well-educated African-American, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu newcomers have been accepted by local residents; the other shows the difficulties that low-skilled Hispanics have experienced, many of whom were attracted to the region by jobs at Tyson's chicken-processing plants. Ms. Rosen tries hard but can't comfortably combine the two into a single narrative about how white, rural Christians react to diversity. Besides, her accounts of police tension with low-income minorities and of over-reaction to illegal immigration could as easily be told about any American city. Being the "buckle of the Bible Belt" does not seem to make things any worse than in Phoenix or New York.

Ms. Rosen seems to expect that there should be especially severe problems with the acceptance of diverse newcomers in a geographical area that is, as she repeatedly puts it, "emphatically Christian." Instead, she finds that people of faith have an easy time understanding and accepting one another, including people who belong to different religious traditions, because they share a respect for religious belief. This type of tolerance is common in semi-rural northwest Arkansas but is not so common, one suspects, in the media and political centers that dot the coasts. ...

"Boom Town" does reveal some biased thinking, but it is often Ms. Rosen's own. In her epilogue she provides a stereotype-laden description of how she was pulled over by the Bentonville police for driving slowly through a construction zone at midnight. The police obviously suspected that she was drunk and subjected her to a sobriety test. In Ms. Rosen's mind the particular policeman who confronted her "regards me as though I were an alien . . . just arrived from an alternate universe called New York City." She continues: "My heart races as the boy-cop looks through my pocketbook, perhaps for a kilo of marijuana or a fifth of moonshine." Moonshine? The irony of associating Arkansans with moonshine in a book condemning stereotypes appears to be lost on the author.

Actually, when trying to navigate my rental car from Bentonville to the airport while talking business strategy on my first cell phone in 1991, I got so lost I ended up way up a holler with guys sitting on the front porches of their shacks, giving me very suspicious looks. I don't know if they were wondering whether I was a revenooer from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms out to look for their stills, but I like to think they were.

Anyway, there's not much money to be made in writing about how things are actually pretty nice in Bentonville. And there's little downside for distorting the situation. So, why not do it?

A 2006 New York Times article, "In Wal-Mart's Home, Synagogue Signals Growth," gives a less tendentious account than Ms. Rosen's book. This article is unusual in attributing agency to Jews, who are more typically treated by the press as purely passive individuals who get pushed around by yokels.

Then the Wal-Mart Jews arrived.

Recruited from around the country as workers for Wal-Mart or one of its suppliers, hundreds of which have opened offices near the retailer's headquarters here, a growing number of Jewish families have become increasingly vocal proponents of religious neutrality in the county. They have asked school principals to rename Christmas vacation as winter break (many have) and lobbied the mayor's office to put a menorah on the town square (it did).

Wal-Mart has transformed small towns across America, but perhaps its greatest impact has been on Bentonville, where the migration of executives from cities like New York, Boston and Atlanta has turned this sedate rural community into a teeming mini-metropolis populated by Hindus, Muslims and Jews.

It is the Jews of Benton County, however, who have asserted themselves most. Two years ago, they opened the county's first synagogue and, ever since, its roughly 100 members have become eager spokesmen and women for a religion that remains a mystery to most people here.

When the synagogue celebrated its first bar mitzvah, the boy's father — Scott Winchester, whose company sells propane tanks to Wal-Mart — invited two local radio D.J.'s, who broadcast the event across the county, even though, by their own admission, they had only a vague idea of what a bar mitzvah was.

"Jesus was Jewish," one D.J. noted in a dispatch from the reception at a local hotel. The other remarked, "I love Seinfeld."

Shortly after he moved to the area, Tom Douglass, a member of the synagogue who works in Wal-Mart's logistics department, made a presentation about Hanukkah to his son's kindergarten class. The lesson, complete with an explanation of how to play with a spinning dreidel and compete for chocolate coins, imported from New York, proved so popular that the school's librarian taped it for future classes....

Not everyone is ordering the knishes, but Christians throughout Benton County are slowly learning the complexities of Jewish life. Gary Compton, the superintendent of schools in Bentonville and a member of a Methodist church in town, has learned not to schedule PTA meetings the night before Jewish holidays, which begin at sundown, and has encouraged the high school choir to incorporate Jewish songs into a largely Christian lineup.

"We need to get better at some things," he said. "You just don't go from being noninclusive to being inclusive overnight."

Surrounded by Christian neighbors, Bible study groups, 100-foot-tall crucifixes and free copies of the book "The Truth About Mary Magdalene" left in the seating area of the Bentonville IHOP, the Jews of Benton County say they have become more observant in — and protective of — their faith than ever before.

Marcy Winchester, the mother of the synagogue's first bar mitzvah, said, "You have to try harder to be Jewish down here."...

There were, for example, Betsy and Marc Rosen, who moved to Benton County from Chicago in 2000 after Mr. Rosen was offered a job in Wal-Mart's technology department. The family did not attend a synagogue in Chicago because, Mrs. Rosen said, "you didn't need a synagogue to have a Jewish identity." There were Jewish neighbors, Jewish friends, Jewish family.

But not in Bentonville, where her daughter brought home from day care a picture of Jesus to color in. Suddenly, a synagogue did not seem like a luxury anymore, but a necessity to preserve her family's Jewish heritage.

In summary, some of Bentonville's Jews, most of them not very religious, highly assimilated corporate staffers from Suburban America, upon finding themselves in a heavily Christian region, rediscover and aggressively assert their Jewishness, using their advantages in media-savviness and argumentativeness to shake things up locally. Keep in mind that the number of Jews in Benton County, population 203,107, remains tiny: the synagogue had about 100 members in 2006, so the various changes that the polite locals graciously made in their customs at the insistence of Bentonville's Jews benefit only a tiny fraction of the community.

My guess would be that most Jews in Bentonville would prefer not to inconvenience the locals by making a big stink about how Christmas vacation is called "Christmas vacation" instead of "Winter break." (Here's Tom Piatak's 2006 article on Christmas I mean Winter in Bentonville.)

But there's no conceptual vocabulary in 21st Century America anymore for talking sense to the handful who get a kick, like George Costanza's father on Festivus, out of "the airing of grievances." They wouldn't schedule a PTA meeting on Christmas Eve, would they? Why should the majority rule? The minority should be equal to the majority!

In the 21st Century, Jewish Studies is perhaps the most understudied field of knowledge relative to its importance in understanding how the contemporary world works, and Bentonville provides an interesting case study of tendencies under the mildest of circumstances.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Amnesty Kabuki Theatre: April Fools Day Countdown

From the Washington Post,
A broad cross-section of House Democrats unveiled a new comprehensive immigration reform bill Tuesday, laying down an early marker for what they hope will be a major 2010 debate.

More than 80 co-sponsors have already signed on to the legislation, which is authored by Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and titled the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America's Security and Prosperity Act of 2009, or "CIR ASAP" for short. The bill includes provisions strengthening border security, creating a streamlined employment verification system, altering the visa program to promote the reunification of families and establishing a commission to recommend changes to the current system of H-1B and H-2B visas for skilled workers.

The measure, a summary of which is available here (PDF), also contains an "earned legalization program" for current undocumented workers, giving them the chance to get legal status if they pay a $500 fine, pass a criminal background check and show that they have made valuable contributions to American society "through employment, education, military service or other volunteer/community service."

Gutierrez and several members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus as well as the Congressional Black Caucus and other groups jammed into an overstuffed, sweltering House committee room Tuesday to release the bill and demand action.

Standing before a cadre of activists chanting "Si, se puede," and a group of children wearing shirts that said "future voter," Gutierrez said that years of hard work and negotiations on the issue had brought them "to this bill and to this meeting, which marks the final push toward comprehensive immigration reform."

All through 2009, the Obama Administration and Congressional Democrats have repeatedly announced that they are about to begin work on amnesty legislation Real Soon Now. Their unstated goal is to freeze unemployed illegal immigrants in place in the U.S. through April 1, 2010, the date of the Census, by implying that if they go back to their warm homelands this winter to live with their families, they'll miss out on the coming Amnesty.

But, from the point of view of people like Rep. Gutierrez, the key date is April Fool's Day, when the Census will count every warm body it finds in the U.S., citizen or legal immigrant or illegal immigrant equally. The more unemployed illegal immigrants stick it out through the winter before going home, the more power professional Hispanics like Gutierrez will enjoy under the Voting Rights Act, the bigger the explicit and implicit quotas for Hispanics, and so forth and so on.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Tiger's HGH doctor?

The New York Times has a long story on a high-end Canadian sports doctor who got arrested crossing the border with Human Growth Hormone. Tiger Woods is one of his patients.

End of story? No, it's a little more complicated. The doc says that the HGH is for himself, and, judging by the 50 year old's picture, he looks like he does partake. He says, you don't need an expensive Canadian doctor to fly in to to provide you with HGH.

Which is true. I know two identical twin businessmen. One has prescriptions for HGH and ritalin, the other is into a sort of Christian Zen spirituality, and the difference in personal affect is striking: one is very energizing to be around, the other is very calming to talk to.

Instead, says the Canadian doc, what he provides athletes is his special "platelet" treatment, and he was just called in by Tiger's agent to help him recover faster from his knee surgery.

But, it looks like the topic that I raised in May: Is Tiger a Juicer? is now in play in the media.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

December 14, 2009

Oscar Prediction

I certainly haven't seen all the 2009 movies (and I never will), but I'll predict that the Best Director Oscar won't go to James Cameron for "Avatar," but to his ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow for "The Hurt Locker," making her the first woman to win an Oscar for Best Director.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

December 13, 2009

"English Lessons"

My March 23, 2009 article in The American Conservative on the first decade after the demise of mandatory bilingual education California was never fully on line, so here's the whole thing.
I was visiting a typical Southern California public high school, one in which the student body is close to three-fourths Latino, when it dawned on me that virtually all the kids’ hallway conversations with friends were conducted in English. Indeed, most of the students spoke English without an accent. Well, to be pedantic, they had teen accents -- it’s practically impossible for a high school girl to roll her eyes and exclaim “That is so gay” without sounding a little like Moon Unit Zappa in Valley Girl -- but only a minority of the Hispanic students had Spanish accents.

Nor, I recalled, had I heard teachers lecturing in anything but English. I found out later that a couple of percent of all the classes were conducted in Spanish for the children of parents who requested it, but few parents did.

I realized then that I had barely heard any public discussion in half a decade about the once contentious topic of bilingual education. Yet, it had been promoted adamantly by America’s educational and political establishment from 1968, when Congress passed the first of five Bilingual Education Acts, through the 1990s.

I went home and read up on bilingual education. I quickly discovered the topic of educating “Limited English Proficient” (LEP) students is buried under a bureaucratic jargon that appears to consist of literal translations from some distant language unknown to Earthlings. For example, when an LEP child masters English, he becomes a Reclassified-Fluent English Proficient (R-FEP). His R-FEP status is tabulated at the federal Office of English Language Acquisition, Language Enhancement, and Academic Achievement for Limited-English-Proficient Students (OELALEAALEPS).

Eventually, I discovered that bilingual education is by no means dead. Yet, it has clearly lost the momentum, the sense of inevitability, it long enjoyed.

That means that America may have dodged a bullet, a long-term threat to our national unity, because nothing divides a country more than multiple languages. In contrast, a shared language enables shared sentiments.

In the three decades when America’s great and good actively promoted Spanish in the public schools, giving official blessing to a second language, it seemed plausible that our country was inflicting upon itself something that could turn into another Quebec a generation or two down the road. Or worse, a Kosovo, which was plunged into war in the 1990s by decades of unassimilated illegal immigration from Albania into a Serbian part of the republic formerly known as Yugoslavia.

And, it struck me, the man who did more to head off the dangers posed by bilingual education is a friend of mine. In fact, he’s my boss: The American Conservative’s publisher Ron Unz.

Okay, I’m biased. But a decade after the 61-39 landslide victory of Ron’s initiative, Proposition 227, put bilingual education on the ropes in California, America’s forerunner state, it’s time to review how the seemingly predestined triumph of bilingualism was knocked off track.

The history of educational plans in America is notoriously littered with broken dreams.

Unintended consequences predominate because the reigning dogma of the education industry—the intellectual equality of all students—is wrong. This obdurate refusal on the part of everybody who is anybody in the education business to admit publicly the manifold implications of some kids being smarter than others makes it difficult to get anything done in the real world.

Thus, for example, George W. Bush and Ted Kennedy got together in 2001 to pass the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, which mandates that by the 2013-2014 school year, every student in America’s public schools score on reading and math tests at the “proficient” level (roughly, a B+). This, I can assure you, won’t happen.

Yet, the terrible irony about the decades wasted pushing bilingual education is that the conventional wisdom that no child need be left behind is much truer for young children learning English than for anything else in American education. That’s why the otherwise often zany NCLB has helped consolidate the progress initiated by Unz’s pro-English initiatives.

The most popular public rationale for bilingual education -- that the children of immigrants need to be taught in their native language so that they don’t fall behind academically while they spend many years learning English -- sounds plausible as long as you forget how remarkably good small children are at learning a new language.

Most little kids can pick up a language simply by being immersed in it. But if they wait until high school, it becomes a struggle that many will never overcome.

Linguist Noam Chomsky’s 1950s research showed that very young people have an innate language-learning ability. As he noted by email, "There is no dispute about the fact that pre-puberty (in fact, much earlier) children have unusual facility in acquiring new languages.”

Harvard cognitive scientist Steven Pinker, author of the bestseller The Language Instinct, told me, "When it comes to learning a second language, the younger the better…. People who began to learn English at six ended up on average more proficient than those who began at seven, and so on." Pinker pointed to the famously thick Bavarian accent of Henry Kissinger, who arrived in America at age fifteen. In contrast, his one-year younger brother acquired a nearly perfect American accent. (Walter Kissinger, though, has suggested another reason for the fraternal accent difference: “Because I am the Kissinger who listens.”)

Judith Rich Harris, author of the The Nurture Assumption, pointed out, "The problem with bilingual education is that these programs create peer groups of children who do not speak English well. They don't have to learn English in order to communicate with the children they want to play with, and they don't have to learn English in order to be accepted by their classmates. So, their motivation to learn English is no different from their motivation to learn the state capitals or the multiplication tables.”

The hidden reason why bilingual education supporters wanted to drag out the learning of English over many years was to keep Latinos from ever being fully adept in English. The chief donor to the campaign against Proposition 227, for example, was the Republican Italian-American billionaire Jerry Perenchio, then-owner of the giant Spanish-language Univision television network. As Perenchio evidently reasoned, bilingual educations keeps Hispanics chained to Univision.

Similarly, Hispanic political leaders want American-born Latinos to go through life marked by Spanish accents so that they will feel isolated from the American majority … and thus in the need of Hispanic political leaders.

Bilingual education was always widely disliked by the public (a national Zogby poll in 1998 found that 84% of Republicans and 72% of Democrats favored requiring schools to use English immersion), but the bilingual industry succeeded in branding it a civil rights issue, intimidating most would-be opponents.

Unz, a theoretical physicist (who had studied under Stephen Hawking) turned Silicon Valley entrepreneur, had debuted in politics at age 32 by challenging incumbent California governor Pete Wilson for the GOP nomination in 1994. Wilson beat him (and went on to win re-election by 15 points), but Unz garnered 34 percent of the vote. Since Ron may have the least stereotypically political personality I’ve ever come across, I’m still amazed by that percentage, which seems as unlikely as would, say, Babe Ruth having won a bronze medal at the 1928 Winter Olympics in Men’s Figure Skating.

With the help of immigrant parents tired of having their children not taught English, Unz’s English for the Children organization put on the ballot Proposition 227, which made one year of “sheltered English immersion” instruction the default. (Bilingual instruction was only allowed upon a parent-initiated request.) It passed easily, and even won 37 percent of Latinos and 57 percent of Asians.

Unz’s Proposition 203 campaign in Arizona in 2000 showed this was no fluke. With 29 months to learn from their California mistakes, the best that bilingual advocates could come up with for the rematch was to ignore Spanish and campaign against Prop. 203’s impact on the right of Navajos and Hopis to school their children in their own languages. Native Americans didn't decide to come to the U.S.; instead, the U.S. had decided to come to the Native Americans. This clever tactic cut Prop. 203’s 50-point lead in half, but it still wound up winning 63-37.

Ron’s initiatives were a rare example in recent years of an assertion of cultural self-confidence by the American majority. Proposition 227 meant that California schools were finally told to sell to immigrants what the world wants to buy: the English language.

Immigrant parents understand that English is the language of money, the lingua franca of the global economy. (In Switzerland, for instance, 24% of the work force speaks English on the job). And their children have reacted positively to schools asserting the primacy of English. After all, English is the world’s coolest language, the mother tongue of blockbuster movies.

When the No Child Left Behind bill came up for debate in Congress shortly after Unz’s victory in Arizona, proponents of bilingual education were in disarray. Not a single member of the Hispanic Caucus voted against dumping the 1994 Bilingual Education Act (which had called for "developing the English skills ... and to the extent possible, the native-language skills" of LEP students) in favor of a new English Language Acquisition Act as part of NCLB, in which all references to “bilingual education” and “bilingualism” as goals were stricken.

The 2001 NCLB legislation wound up muddled. For example, the law directs that by 2014 every student in the Limited English Proficient category be proficient in English, which isn’t even theoretically possible. Still, the NCLB’s obsession with testing for progress in math and “English language arts” achievement (and penalizing school districts that fall behind) had the salutary effect of making long, drawn-out bilingual programs an expensive luxury.

At least some of the government funding incentives have finally started pointing vaguely in the right direction. Consider Garfield H.S., the 99 percent Latino high school in East L.A., once home to famed calculus teacher Jaime Escalante (played by Edward James Olmos in the 1988 film “Stand and Deliver”). Back in the 2002-2003 school year, before the effects of NCLB were fully felt, exactly zero students were reclassified as having become proficient in English. In other words, the Garfield administration wasn’t in the mood to see students learn English. In 2006-2007, though, 155 students were reclassified. This is out of 1862 “English Learners,” so progress isn’t quick. Still, you can at least say it’s up ∞ percent.

[A student, no matter how accent-free in English, can't get reclassifed as no longer being an English Learner until he achieves at least a Basic score on a scale running from Far Below Basic to Advanced on the California Standards Test in all subjects, including math. So, lots of students remain locked into classification as English Learners not because they haven't learned English but because they are below average in intelligence -- a problem, unlike not speaking English, that schools can't do all that much about.]

This de-emphasis on bilingual education hasn’t solved all problems. The test score gaps between ethnic groups remain substantial, and the huge number of illegal immigrants means that many communities are de facto Spanish-speaking.

At least, though, in the decade since Prop. 227, the country has slowly been cutting back on the schools using the taxpayers’ money to make America’s dual language problem even worse.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Ingram edges Gerhart for Heisman

From the NYT:
Ingram received 1,304 total votes in the closest contest in the award’s 75-year history, beating Stanford running back Toby Gerhart by 28 points.

To win, Gerhart needed to have scored five touchdowns instead of just four against Cal in Stanford's 34-28 late season loss.

Personally, I would have voted for the the big Cameroonian lineman Suh, but it was fun following Gerhart from earlier than almost everybody else this season, and acting like I actually knew something about college football.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer