July 3, 2010

A World Cup prediction

Ah, the irony. In the U.S., followers of overseas soccer tend to believe themselves to be diversiphiles, unlike those boorish fans of American football, who are, no doubt, racist under the skin for not liking soccer.

Here are the upcoming World Cup soccer semifinals:

Uruguayvs.Netherlands-Jul 6 11:30am (PT) on ESPN
Germanyvs.Spain-Jul 7 11:30am (PT) on ESPN

Let me make a prediction: somehow, some way, some American soccerati pundits are going to cite this as Another Triumph of Diversity for soccer in contrast to xenophobic, nativist, redneck, racist American sports like football, where NFL rosters average only 31% white (but every single one of the NFL's soccer-style placekickers is a non-Hispanic white guy, which tells you a lot about how soccer in the U.S. is largely White Flight in Short Pants). I don't know how they will do it, but they'll do it.

(And if the Final turns out to be Netherlands v. Germany, then they'll just redouble their efforts! Or, if it's Uruguay v. Spain, the whitest teams of the final four, then that will serve to, uh ... prove immigration skeptics wrong!)

Seriously, in today's mental climate, it's very hard for American soccer fans to express the thought, even in the privacy of their own minds, that soccer is, by the standards of big American teams sports, a white-dominated game.

At the highest levels of global soccer, about 75 percent or slightly more of the top players are white. Soccer in 2010 is like basketball in 1959. But, most Americans commentators are too mentally disabled these days to notice what's in front of their noses.

Let’s look at ESPN’s list from earlier this year of the “Top 50 players of the World Cup.” The five best players in the world -- Lionel Messi of Argentina (who is of Italian descent), Christiano Ronaldo of Portugal (a Tim Tebow-lookalike), Wayne Rooney of England, Kaka of Brazil (who is from an upper middle-class family), and Xavi of Spain --are white.

Out of the top 10, eight are white and two from West Africa. Out of the top 50, the proportions look similar. Judging from their pictures, I would say 10 are black, one is mostly white but clearly part black, and the other 39 look more or less white. None of the top 50 are East Asian or South Asian, and I don’t see any that are as part-Amerindian-looking as, say, Diego Maradona, the star of the 1986 World Cup.

In contrast, only one American-born white guy has been selected to the NBA All Star game in the last half dozen years. Most of the prestige positions in the NFL other than quarterback are dominated by blacks. 

Of the soccer top 50, 24 are white guys from the six sunny powers of Spain (9 of the top 50), Italy, Portugal, Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. In other words, almost half of the global soccer superstars are Southern Europeans. As baseball discovered back in the days of Joe DiMaggio, it doesn’t really hurt your sport’s popularity to have stylish Mediterranean guys as stars.

The World Cup is a paradox: the results of individual games seem pretty random but the results always come out about the same: traditional soccer powers get to the finals.

When people go on about how much they love diversity, what they mean is that they want about an 80% white majority and 20% colorful minorities to spice things up, roughly what high level soccer delivers -- not the opposite. (But the opposite is what everybody will eventually get.)

Much of the glamor of the World Cup stems from it being a mostly white sport. Do you think up-and-comers like the South Koreans would be fascinated by the World Cup if it were traditionally dominated by, say, Indonesia, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Pakistan, and Bolivia? Would SWPLs in the U.S. love soccer if it were associated in their minds with "Kinshasa" rather than with "Barcelona"?

Look at what's happened to interest in track & field over the decades as East Africans have come to dominate the endurance races and the West African diaspora the sprints. (People don't believe me these days when I say that the Olympic running races used to be a really big deal. Who'd ever be interested in people running?)

The rules of soccer could either be more favorable to men of West African descent who are great at sprinting but lack endurance, the way the NFL and the NBA are, by making the game more amenable to sprinters by having more times outs (great for TV commercials) and substitutions. Or soccer could be made more amenable to highlanders with less speed but great endurance such as East Africans, Mexicans, Bolivians, Rif Mountain Northwest Africans and the like by preventing players from wasting time whenever play stops. But the rules are set in such a way that whites predominate in soccer.

July 2, 2010

College ROI

Ben Espen blogs:
I did a quick plot of the top 50 schools on the Payscale list versus the 25th percentile SAT scores of incoming students, and some schools definitely do better than others. I also resorted the list by annualized rate of return, and plotted the top 50 again, and the public schools do much better on rate of return than on 30 year net return.

The same schools stand out on both lists:

    Georgia Institute of Technology
    University of Virginia (UVA)
    Brigham Young University (BYU)
    Colorado School of Mines
    College of William and Mary
    University of California, Berkeley
    University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA)
    University of Michigan
    Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech)
    University of Florida (UF)
    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNCH)
    California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (CalPoly)

All public schools with strong engineering and science programs, except for BYU, but they produce good engineers too. These schools are probably good options if you live in state, especially since there are often incentive programs to keep academically talented students at state universities. And they are a lot cheaper than the top private schools on the list

By the way, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo didn't have affirmative action last time I checked because it's in the second-tier Cal State system. Proposition 209 outlawed racial preferences in California in 1996, so the top tier University of California colleges responded by imposing "holistic admissions" where you submit an essay about how The Man Has Been Keeping You Down so the admissions officer can guess your ethnicity. But the Cal State system can't afford too many admissions staffers, so they just use the same system UC used to use: GPA and test scores. Nobody much cares about the other Cal State schools, but Cal Poly SLO is worth caring about so MALDEF sued it for not discriminating. 

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

Political Evolution in Tibet

Nick Wade writes in the NY Times:
Tibetans live at altitudes of 13,000 feet, breathing air that has 40 percent less oxygen than is available at sea level, yet suffer very little mountain sickness. The reason, according to a team of biologists in China, is human evolution, in what may be the most recent and fastest instance detected so far.

Comparing the genomes of Tibetans and Han Chinese, the majority ethnic group in China, the biologists found that at least 30 genes had undergone evolutionary change in the Tibetans as they adapted to life on the high plateau. Tibetans and Han Chinese split apart as recently as 3,000 years ago, say the biologists, a group at the Beijing Genomics Institute led by Xin Yi and Jian Wang. The report appears in Friday’s issue of Science.
If confirmed, this would be the most recent known example of human evolutionary change. Until now, the most recent such change was the spread of lactose tolerance — the ability to digest milk in adulthood — among northern Europeans about 7,500 years ago. But archaeologists say that the Tibetan plateau was inhabited much earlier than 3,000 years ago and that the geneticists’ date is incorrect.

When lowlanders try to live at high altitudes, their blood thickens as the body tries to counteract the low oxygen levels by churning out more red blood cells. This overproduction of red blood cells leads to chronic mountain sickness and to lesser fertility — Han Chinese living in Tibet have three times the infant mortality of Tibetans.

... The biologists found about 30 genes in which a version rare among the Han had become common among the Tibetans. The most striking instance was a version of a gene possessed by 9 percent of Han but 87 percent of Tibetans.

Such an enormous difference indicates that the version typical among Tibetans is being strongly favored by natural selection. In other words, its owners are evidently leaving more children than those with different versions of the gene.

The gene in question is known as hypoxia-inducible factor 2-alpha, or HIF2a, and the Tibetans with the favored version have fewer red blood cells and hence less hemoglobin in their blood.

The finding explains why Tibetans do not get mountain sickness but raises the question of how they compensate for the lack of oxygen if not by making extra red blood cells.

... Genetic differences between Tibetans and Chinese are a potentially delicate issue, given Tibetan aspirations for political autonomy. Dr. Nielsen said he hoped that the Beijing team’s results would carry no political implications, given that it is cultural history and language, not genetics, that constitute a people. There is not much genetic difference between Danes and Swedes, he added, but Denmark and Sweden are separate countries.
Well, it's a little more complicated than that. The Chinese government is encouraging Han Chinese to flood into Tibet and demographically overwhelm Tibetans. Is this strategy doomed by the Han's genetic lack of adaptation for living and reproducing at roughly the top of Pike's Peak? Or do these new findings hold out hope to the Chinese government that they could start a program to genetically screen potential Han colonists to find the small percentage with the right gene variants to thrive and reproduce in Tibet? After all, there are a lot of Han to choose among.

July 1, 2010

How to live to be 100

From the Washington Post:
Perls and his colleagues analyzed the genes of participants in the New England Centenarian Study, which is the largest study of centenarians and their families in the world. The study involves about 1,600 centenarians and has been ongoing since 1995.

"A lot of people might ask, 'Well, who would want to live to 100?' because they think they have every age-related disease under the sun and are on death's doorstep," Perls said. "But this isn't true. We have noted in previous work that 90 percent of centenarians are disability-free at the average age of 93."

They also noticed that longevity seemed to run in centenarians' families, indicating that genetics must play a role.

So the researchers compared the genes of 1,055 centenarians with 1,267 other people to see whether they could identify any unique patterns. Based on that work, the researchers identified 150 genetic variations that appeared to be associated with longevity that could be used to predict with 77 percent accuracy whether someone would live to be at least 100.

"Seventy-seven percent is a very high accuracy for a genetic model, which means that the traits that we are looking at have a very strong genetic base," said Paola Sebastiani, a professor of biostatistics at the Boston University School of Public Health who helped conduct the study.  

I'm not really interested in this topic enough to go find the paper, but my question would be whether the researchers split their sample in half, data-mined one half, then tested their findings on the other half. That's proper research hygiene so that you don't just come up with a lot of small, random associations. 

But it's hard to make yourself do it. I remember taking a finance course at UCLA in 1981 where we had to do a SAS analysis of a hypothesis about patterns in the stock market to test the Efficient Markets Hypothesis. So, I typed in from the Baseball Encyclopedia the dates of World Series home games involving the Yankees going back to 1921, and the stock market volume and change in Dow Jones average. The professor had said over and over that you had to divide your sample size in two, but there just weren't enough home games, so I didn't do it and got only a B on the project. (I didn't find any effect on prices, but NYSE volume was down on days of Yankee World Series home games.)

Hereditary Privilege through Rights and Complexity

America doesn't have as much social class mobility as we might think. People who do well now generally have kids who do pretty well. There are a lot of reasons for this, but one that's kind of obscure is the increasing complexity of the meritocratic ladder, often justified in the name of Rights. The result is that kids with smart, hard-working, married parents can get an edge on the system in multiple ways.

For example, when I was a kid, taking the SAT was pretty simple. For example, you didn't have any right to look at your test once you turned it in. But, now, you have the "right" to order (for a non-nominal although not extortionate sum) from College Board your SAT test booklet along with a reproduction of your answer sheet (at least for certain test dates) so that you can study what you messed up on. I just spent two hours looking at my son's May test performance looking for patterns in his mistakes so he can do better on his next try. It's an intellectually challenging process.

I suspect there are a lot of little angles like that that have emerged in recent decades that help upper middle class families stay ahead of broken lower middle class families.

Norman Rockwell

Norman Rockwell, painter of hundreds of Saturday Evening Post covers, was long derided as an artistic dead end because he had so little influence on subsequent celebrity painters. But that always struck me as stupid because Rockwell was hugely influential on one of the most influential cultural figures of the later 20th Century, Steven Spielberg, who mostly paid for the Rockwell museum in Massachusetts. 

That Rockwell didn't have much impact on subsequent painters just shows that painting was becoming a minor art due to technological advance. Rockwell operated much like a modern filmmaker, holding auditions for models and having his staff construct sets and assemble props. If he'd been born a couple of generations later, he might well have become a movie director.

It turns out that George Lucas owns even more Rockwells than Spielberg does. Together, they are mounting an exhibit at the Smithsonian: "Telling Stories: Norman Rockwell From the Collections of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg." 

If your followers include Spielberg and Lucas, your influence lives on.

Guardian: Lower IQs found in disease-rife countries, scientists claim

From The Guardian:
Lower IQs found in disease-rife countries, scientists claim
Energy can be diverted away from brain development to fight infection, explaining 'lower intelligence in warmer countries'
People who live in countries where disease is rife may have lower IQs because they have to divert energy away from brain development to fight infections, scientists in the US claim.
The controversial idea might help explain why national IQ scores differ around the world, and are lower in some warmer countries where debilitating parasites such as malaria are widespread, they say.

Researchers behind the theory claim the impact of disease on IQ scores has been under-appreciated, and believe it ranks alongside education and wealth as a major factor that influences cognitive ability.

Attempts to measure intelligence around the world are fraught with difficulty and many researchers doubt that IQ tests are a suitable tool for the job. The average intelligence of a nation is likely to be governed by a complex web of interwoven factors.

The latest theory, put forward by Randy Thornhill and others at the University of New Mexico, adds disease to a long list of environmental and other issues that may all play a role in determining intelligence. Thornhill made the news in 2000, when he coauthored a provocative book called A Natural History of Rape in which he argues that sexual coercion emerged as an evolutionary adaptation.

Writing in the journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society, Thornhill and his colleagues explain that children under five devote much of their energy to brain development. When the body has to fight infections, it may have to sacrifice brain development, they say.

In the American South, for example, hookworm, an energy-sapping infection that can cause cognitive impairment, was a giant problem until John D. Rockefeller funded a campaign against it starting in 1909. Poor Southerners seemed to have a lot more pep, physical and mental, once they started wearing shoes and taking other steps to avoid hookworm.

Hookworm is still a big problem in some of the warm-weather parts of the world. I'm sure there are other nasty parasites, and they tend to be more common in the tropics.

As Greg Cochran and Paul Ewald pointed out in the 1990s, there are probably numerous chronic infections that don't attract as much attention as major acute ones, but do often add up to trouble. A lot of things in the modern world, such as clean tap water, probably diminish their impact. Little kids get a lot of antibiotics these days for acute infections like earaches. The antibiotics might be killing off low-level infections at the same time. Who knows?

Likewise, Darwinian selection under conditions of heavy infectious disease burden will tend to be oriented toward improving the immune system more than raising intelligence, which will tend to have long term effects on tropical populations.
To test the idea, Thornhill's group used three published surveys of global IQ scores and compared them with data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) on how badly infectious diseases affect different countries. The list included common infections, such as malaria, tetanus and tuberculosis.

The scientists found that the level of infectious disease in a country was closely linked to the average national IQ. The heavier the burden of disease, the lower the nation's IQ scores. Thornhill believes that nations who have lived with diseases for long periods may have adapted, by developing better immune systems at the expense of brain function.

"The effect of infectious disease on IQ is bigger than any other single factor we looked at," said Chris Eppig, lead author on the paper. "Disease is a major sap on the body's energy, and the brain takes a lot of energy to build. If you don't have enough, you can't do it properly."

"The consequence of this, if we're right, is that the IQ of a nation will be largely unaffected until you can lift the burden of disease," Eppig added.

"It's an interesting and provocative finding," said Geraint Rees, director of the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience. "It explains about 50 to 60% of the variability in IQ scores and appears to be independent of some other factors such as overall GDP."

"The authors suggest that more infectious disease could lead to lower IQ scores through an impact on brain development. This is an interesting speculation, but the data don't prove it one way or the other," he said. "A bigger problem is that it might be driven by a third factor, that affects both infectious disease prevalence and IQ test scores."

Right. Multicollinearity is always a problem with correlation studies, and this topic especially: are lower IQs in the tropics caused by tropical diseases or by the tropics that cause the tropical diseases themselves?

For example, I've long hypothesized that one general problem that brains need to deal with is shedding heat and that is of course a bigger problem in the tropical than the temperate world. 

How to dissipate heat generated by computer chips is a huge issue in computer design. As I type on my laptop computer, the surface of the machine that is touching my wrists is about 100 degrees F. The bottom of my laptop must be 150 degrees or more. A fan is running full speed to shed heat to keep the CPU chip from melting. My office is heating up from the combination of my PC and myself, both working hard. I have just now opened my window to disperse the heat. It is a cool evening here, so the temperature is palpably dropping by the minute. If I was in a tropical climate, I'd need to turn on the air conditioning or start the fan or whatever.

Intel had driven up the power of CPU chips largely by increasing the clock speed, but when they hit four gigahertz, Intel found that chips were melting down. So, Intel  had to revamp massively and find other way to follow Moore's Law, such as multiple cores.

Similarly, your brain generates more heat when you are thinking hard than when it is idling.

Not surprisingly, skull shapes seem to be somewhat related to heat dissipation problems. Eskimos have round heads to conserve heat, while Kenyan marathoners tend to have narrow heads with a lot of surface area that dissipate heat more easily.
For reasons that are unclear, IQ scores are generally rising around the world. Thornhill suggests monitoring rates of infectious diseases in nations as they develop, to see if they decline and IQ tests scores rise.

Singapore would seem to be an example of a tropical place where public hygiene, antibiotics, air conditioning, education, and so forth combine in a virtuous circle.
Richard Lynn, professor of psychology at Ulster University, and author of the 2002 book, IQ and the Wealth of Nations, said disease and IQ is a two-way relationship, with low national IQs being partly responsible for widespread infectious diseases.

Right, it's hard to get started turning, say, Equatorial Guinea into Singapore without Singaporeans to get you started.

Here's the abstract of Thornhill's paper:
In this study, we hypothesize that the worldwide distribution of cognitive ability is determined in part by variation in the intensity of infectious diseases. From an energetics standpoint, a developing human will have difficulty building a brain and fighting off infectious diseases at the same time, as both are very metabolically costly tasks. Using three measures of average national intelligence quotient (IQ), we found that the zero-order correlation between average IQ and parasite stress ranges from r = −0.76 to r = −0.82 (p < 0.0001). These correlations are robust worldwide, as well as within five of six world regions. Infectious disease remains the most powerful predictor of average national IQ when temperature, distance from Africa, gross domestic product per capita and several measures of education are controlled for. These findings suggest that the Flynn effect may be caused in part by the decrease in the intensity of infectious diseases as nations develop.

Afghanistan would be the leading example of a cold winter place that seems pretty dim, perhaps due to disease burden. It's second in the world in infant mortality. (The rest of the Worst 20 are black African countries, while Afghans are, as Daniel Dravot notes in the Man Who Would Be King, a bunch of more or less white people. But how did that Civilizing Mission thing work out for you, Danny boy?)

James Michener's 1963 novel about Afghanistan, Caravans, has an Afghan leader arguing, with some pride, that while children die like flies in Afghanistan, if they survive past childhood, they grow up to be tough, mean bastards with well-tuned immune systems.

But, it's stupid of Afghans to have so much disease burden. So, I'm not sure that says much about causality. Are they so knuckleheaded because they are sick so much, or are they sick so much because they are so knuckleheaded?

But, even when it proves hard to determine ultimate causation from correlation studies, correlation itself is worth knowing. The general rule is that, as Kingsley Amis said in Lucky Jim: "There was no end to the ways in which nice things are nicer than nasty ones."

Ideology doesn't matter

The French have always had an ideological aversion to affirmative action, but, in the long run, ideology doesn't much matter, so the French government is imposing quotas on its elite virtually free tuition public colleges. The funny thing is that it's all playing out along the same exact lines as it has in America. Principles turn out to be less important than demography.
France is embarking on a grand experiment — how to diversify the overwhelmingly white “grandes écoles,” the elite universities that have produced French leaders in every walk of life... 

The background is that the winners of WWII, America and Britain, kept their old-fashioned elitist colleges like Harvard, Yale, Oxford, and Cambridge old-fashioned and elitist. The losers, like Germany, France, and Italy, after the war trashed their great universities on the altar of egalitarianism by going to open admissions. (In the U.S., CCNY was the only famous college to take the Spirit of '68 seriously enough to dump selective admissions.) Today, that's why ambitious Korean and Chinese students want to go to American or British universities, not to Continental ones: We won The War.

The French, not being fools, however, kept a number of small elite colleges, the grandes écoles, to publicly educate the small number of people who keep the place running. Not surprisingly, blacks and North Africans have a hard time passing the entrance exams to the French equivalent of Caltech at rates equal to whites.
Because entrance to the best grandes écoles effectively guarantees top jobs for life, the government is prodding the schools to set a goal of increasing the percentage of scholarship students to 30 percent — more than three times the current ratio at the most selective schools. But the effort is being met with concerns from the grandes écoles, who fear it could dilute standards, and is stirring anger among the French at large, who fear it runs counter to a French ideal of a meritocracy blind to race, religion and ethnicity.

France imagines itself a country of “republican virtue,” a meritocracy run by a well-trained elite that emerges from a fiercely competitive educational system. At its apex are the grandes écoles, about 220 schools of varying specialties. And at the very top of this pyramid are a handful of famous institutions that accept a few thousand students a year among them, all of whom pass extremely competitive examinations to enter.

... The problem is not simply the narrow base of the elite, but its self-satisfaction. “France has so many problems with innovation,” Mr. Descoings said. Those who pass the tests “are extremely smart and clever, but the question is: Are you creative? Are you willing to put yourself at risk? Lead a battle?” These are qualities rarely tested in exams. 

Whereas imposing a quota will suddenly produce creative risk-takers. Right. That's why Google was founded by Michelle Obama.

To an American, it's amusing to hear the French come up with the exact same cliches and fallacies as Americans have been telling each other for 40 years. Indeed, there are problems caused by reliance on entrance exams in terms of selecting for creativity and the like. But quotas do zip to fix those real problems. It's not like the American quota kids all flock to Silicon Valley and start-up their own firms. A quota won't give France its own Silicon Valley.
Gen. Xavier Michel, 56, runs École Polytechnique, one of the world’s finest engineering schools and still overseen by the Ministry of Defense. Known as X, the school is extraordinarily competitive, and its students do basic training and parade wearing the bicorne, a cocked hat dating from Napoleon, who put the school under the military in 1804. 
“The fundamental principle for us is that students have the capability to do the work here, which is very difficult,” with a lot of math, physics and science, very little of it based on cultural knowledge, General Michel said. Even now, he said, the school takes only 500 students a year, barely 10 percent of its specially educated applicants. “We don’t want to bring students into school who risk failing,” he said. “You can get lost very quickly.”
Despite the misgivings, in February the Conférence des Grandes Écoles, under considerable pressure, signed on to a “Charter of Equal Opportunity” with the government committing the schools to try to reach the 30 percent goal before 2012 or risk losing some financing.

But how to get there remains a point of contention. There is a serious question about how to measure diversity in a country where every citizen is presumed equal and there are no official statistics based on race, religion or ethnicity. A goal cannot be called a “quota,” which has an odor of the United States and affirmative action.

Maybe the distinction between "goal" and "quota" makes more sense in French than it does in English, but in my experience with corporate American sales force management, "goal" and "quota" were absolutely interchangeable. We'd hire some hotshot to be head of sales management, and he would issue the salesmen either "goals" or "quotas" depending upon which term was used where and when he first worked. When the salesmen missed their goals/quotas, they wouldn't get their bonuses. If they kept missing their goals/quotas, they'd get fired. Eventually, the sales force manager would get fired by the CEO for missing his goal/quota, and then we'd hire a new sales manager who'd use whatever the other term was until he got fired for his missing his.

Instead, there is the presumption here that poorer citizens will be more diverse, containing a much larger percentage of Muslims, blacks and second-generation immigrants. 

Or maybe not. I don't know anything about France, but my guess is that in the U.S., the biggest under-utilized repository of talent are white boys from broken homes.
But the government is examining whether the current test depends too much on familiarity with French history and culture. 

Like analytic geometry (Descartes) and probability (Fermat and Pascal).
“We’re thinking about the socially discriminatory character, or not, of these tests,” Ms. Pécresse said. “I want the same concours for everyone, but I don’t exclude that the tests of the concours evolve, with the objective of a great social opening and a better measure of young people’s intelligence.” 

"With the objective of a great social opening," the U.S. has been trying to invent "a better measure of young people’s intelligence" for 45 years, but we keep finding out that the old tests we had before the Great Society worked fine. It's the test-takers who turned out to be the problem, not the test. But why should the French government learn from the U.S. experience? The U.S. government never learns from the U.S. experience.

June 30, 2010

Return on Investment by College

Business Week has a big table attempting to calculate return on investment for different colleges based on the PayScale database of salaries (assuming you pay full fare with no financial aid). Private colleges with high graduation percentages benefit in this calculation.

MIT comes in first and Cal Tech second, both with a 12.6% estimated return over 30 years, followed by Harvard and Harvey Mudd. Obviously, MIT and Cal Tech students are supplying resources (e.g., brains, hard work, etc.) beyond merely their tuition. The top of the list has a lot of Hard Major schools with high percentages of sci-eng grads.

So it's not clear that any colleges are particularly fantastic deals that will turn sow's ears into silk purses.

The rest of the top 10 are Stanford and Ivy League schools, with the exception of Notre Dame being #9, which is interesting. It would be great if somebody could build a multiple regression out of this using old SAT scores and GPAs to see if any college really beats the curve? Does going to Notre Dame get you plugged into a particularly strong alumni network that would benefit you more than if you went somewhere else? That would be a nice thing to know.

Some universities work particularly hard to foster emotions of solidarity conducive to alumni backscratching (and donating). For example, Princeton (#7 on the list) has about 20,000 people come each year to its class reunion weekend in late May. All reunions are at the same time and new graduates come too. Each class wears a jacket custom-made for the reunion. Last year the first ever 85th-year Princeton Reunions old boy, Malcolm Warnock (class of '25), marched in the annual P-rade.

The top public university is Berkeley, followed by Colorado School of Mines (but you have to work in a hole in the ground, so they'd better pay you a lot) and Georgia Tech. Berkeley is a good excuse for talking about a methodological conundrum. Berkeley grads tend to wind up in the Bay Area, which has a very high cost of living, so the real ROI would be less relative to, say, U. of Michigan. 

Yet, the adjustments needed are even more difficult. For example, although it costs a lot to more to live in the Bay Area than in Michigan, on the other hand you do get to live in the Bay Area rather than Michigan. And although it will cost a fortune to own a house in the Bay Area, your kids will presumably get to inherit a Bay Area house in 60 or 70 years, which is nice. 

How to account for all that in the calculations? Beats me.

They also offer a list of lowest ROI colleges, which tend to be expensive private liberal arts colleges in lower income parts of the country. But maybe you'll wind up marrying a rich family's heir.

"America First?"

The global triumph of Anglo-Saxon culture is manifested in the World Cup, where the main heretics about the appeal of an English game, soccer, are other Anglo countries, such as America, Canada, and Australia, who have their own games.

Of course, cultural hegemony doesn't ensure political or economic power -- Greek cultural hegemony continued for centuries after Rome conquered Greece.

In the New York Review of Books, Tim Parks writes in "America First?" about the dominance of English-language literature in the 21st Century:
Americans do not read enough foreign fiction. The accusation is made by Aleksander Hemon in his anthology Best European Fiction 2010, and again by Edith Grossman, celebrated translator of Don Quixote, as well as many other Spanish works, in her Yale lectures, Why Translation Matters. Only 3 to 5 percent of books published in the US  are translations, we are told. 

And the percentage of books sold in the U.S. that are translations must be even smaller (leaving aside the Bible and high school assignments like Homer). The Swedish "Girl with a Dragon Tattoo" detective bestsellers are the first foreign language bestseller phenomenon in the U.S. that I can remember for a number of years.
Hemon sees this as another manifestation of “culturally catastrophic American isolationism”; Grossman feels that the resulting incomprehension of foreign cultures has dangerous implications for world peace. Thus both these publications that invite us to experience other cultures do so within the frame of a polemic at home.

Hemon’s anthology arranges thirty-five stories in alphabetical order of the country of origin, from Albania to Wales. ...

All the contributions are interesting and some impressive. That is enough for me. But it does make one wonder whether we are learning much about other cultures from this venture, whether it is true, as Hemon claims, that “ceaseless” and “immediate” translation of literature from abroad is a “profound, non- negotiable need.” ... Remarking, in her short preface, on this reluctance of the anthology’s contributors to be identified with their national cultures, Zadie Smith nevertheless feels that "if the title of this book were to be removed and switched with that of an anthology of the American short story, isn’t it true that only a fool would be confused as to which was truly which?"

Truly, truly, aside from superficial markers like names and places, or the fact that it is fairly easy to distinguish translated texts from those in their original tongue, I am not sure that Smith is altogether right. It seems to me rather that as we tackle intriguing stories from Latvia and Lithuania, Bosnia and Macedonia, we are struck by how familiar these voices are, how reassuringly similar in outlook to one another and ourselves.

This affinity is most evident in the stories that take a satirical approach. The Slovakian Peter Krištúfek imagines a city given a cosmetic facelift for an international summit, as a result of which it now “contained numerous phantom doors that led nowhere and false windows that could not be opened.” Ornella Vorpsi pokes bitter fun at male attitudes in Albania, a place where a woman is encouraged to “sew up her slit” when her husband is away, since Albanian men “have a highly developed sense of private property.” Julian Gough indulges in surreal farce to expose the extent of Irish xenophobia and backwardness. Each writer appeals confidently to an international liberal readership at the expense of provincial bigotry and hypocrisy.

This is equally true where humor is renounced for more direct denunciation: Polish writer Michał Witowski recounts the fate of a Slovak rent boy in Vienna; Croatian Neven Ušumovic´ tells of an illegal immigrant in Budapest tortured by local youths and eventually rescued by the local Chinese. 

The Magic Chinese doesn't sound as sure-fire box office as Morgan Freeman, although I guess that's the point of the various Karate Kid movies.
It is as if literary fiction didn’t so much reflect other cultures, obliging us to immerse ourselves in the exotic, but rather brought back news of shortcomings and injustices to an international community that could be relied upon to sympathize. These writers seem more like excellent foreign correspondents than foreigners. Across the globe, the literary frame of mind is growing more homogeneous.

The many different narrative forms used in the collection, though frequently “experimental,” are, again, hardly unfamiliar; stories are fragmented, seen from different angles, in ways that make it interestingly difficult for us to decide how much reality to attach to them or how much emotion to invest. Again this is in line with an eclectic renunciation of any absolute version of events. In personal statements included at the back of the book, writers mention such models as Kafka, Borges, and Barthelme, suggesting that narrative experimentalism (which invariably undercuts certainties, rather than reinforcing them) has become a literary lingua franca, an international convention. ...

Translation matters, Edith Grossman tells us, because without it we would not have books like Best European Fiction 2010, or indeed any literature written in other languages. This is self-evident. She also insists that American publishers have a special duty to foreign writers since without an English translation their work cannot compete for international literary prizes, in particular the Nobel. While it is debatable that American publishers need concern themselves with Nobel ambitions around the globe, the remark does hint at differences between the forces driving translation in Europe and America.

Both Grossman and Hemon applaud countries like Germany, France, and Italy where translations account for perhaps 50 percent of published fiction. What they do not say is that all but a few of these translations are from English and take the form of genre novels, detective stories, thrillers, and so on. So commercially successful are these books in a country like Italy that the newspaper Corriere della Sera splits its best-seller list into domestic and foreign fiction, since otherwise there might be times when domestic authors would not feature. Some publishers concentrate almost exclusively on translations, freeing themselves from the arduous task of finding and fostering new writers in their own language.

Is this, then, American isolationism, or imperialism, or a new kind of internationalism? Grossman says she is at a loss to understand the American reluctance to translate; the fact is that in Europe there is enormous public interest in America as the world’s first power and the perceived motor of changing mores. American authors take up considerable space in the literary pages of Europe’s newspapers not, or not only, because they are good, but because they are American, they talk about America. This gives them a celebrity value; readers want to read them. An equally good Polish author talking about Poland is simply not considered interesting and will very likely not be translated. Indeed many of the authors who appear in Best European Fiction 2010 are not widely published in other European countries.

Since many people have come to share a vision of the novel as a peculiarly liberal art, related, for better or worse, to journalism, dedicated to the construction of a better future through an account of the present, and deeply hostile to anything that curbs the freedom of the individual, it is not so surprising that we are moving toward a literary internationalism whose driving force, at least at the commercial and popular level, remains, for better or worse, the mainstream American novel.

It is ironic here to find Grossman quoting a Nobel Prize judge claiming that Europe is still the center of the literary world; this is wishful thinking on the Swede’s part. European writers may be unconcerned whether or not they are published in this or that other European country, or indeed in Chinese or Japanese, but they are all extremely anxious to be published in America, precisely because, as Grossman points out, this gives access to world recognition.

In America, I sense, that elite artistic culture has been, for the past two or three years, moving vaguely toward the right, in a reactionary direction. Don't ask me to quantify this -- that's just an intuition I'm picking up. In contrast, it sounds like the poor Euros are stuck around where America was in 1990, at the high tide of multi-culti mania. But, then, what do I know since I don't bother to read books in translation anymore?

June 29, 2010


NFL teams scored an average of 21.5 points per game in 2009's regular season, while World Cup teams scored an average of 1.05 goals per game in 2010's three-game miniseason. So, one World Cup goal is worth 21.5 / 1.05 or 20.5 NFL points. 

So, let's call it one goal equals twenty points.

Thus, a 1-0 World Cup game is like a 20-0 NFL game, while a 2-1 World Cup game is like a 40-20 NFL game. That traditionally most desirable score, 3-2, is like a 60-40 NFL game -- a bit of a farce, relatively speaking. Portugal's 7-0 defeat of North Korea was like a 140-0 football game.

Psychologically, however, 1-0 is quite different from 20-0. 

If your team is losing 20-0 in football, well, they might come back and score three touchdowns while blanking their opponents the rest of the way and win 21-20. American football is designed so that comebacks are possible by the offense taking on greater risks of interceptions, running out of downs, and sacks (with heightened chances of fumbles). But, you've got to admit, if your team is down 20-0, so far, at least, your guys are getting killed. You've given up two touchdowns and two field goals and you haven't scored at all.

In contrast, if you are down 1-0 in a World Cup game, that just shows ... well, whatever you want it to show:

- that just one play can equalize the score
- that you actually deserve to be winning if only you weren't the victim of malevolent fate
- that the opposing players are all devious, manipulative wogs
- that your players are overpaid yobs
- that your coach should be fired
- that the ref cheated you and should be lynched from the crossbar (in 1978, my dad and I paid about 50 cents each for "seats" in Rio's Maracana stadium, where 199,854 saw Brazil lose to Uruguay in the key game of the 1950 World Cup, but the seats turned out to be Standing Room Only at field level next to the deep moat with an overhanging lip guarding the ref from unfortunate incidents at the hands of overexcited spectators).

That's the beauty of a small sample size: you can spin it whichever way you like.

Low Scoring and Narrative Convenience

A reader comments:
"Consider the excitement of the USA's 1-0 victory over Algeria last week. For 90 minutes, the USA were going to tie and fail to make it out of the group stage. The USA had a goal disallowed on a bogus offside call in the 1st half. The tension builds, and builds, and builds, as the USA attacks and attacks and attacks the Algeria goal but fails to score. Finally, in the last possible moment, on a play from one box to the other, the full length of the field, from GK Howard to Donovan to (IIRC?) Altidore to Dempsey to a rebound to Landon Donovan who scores and the USA wins the group."

Well said.

And that illustrates the final point I made in my Taki's Magazine article on why low-scoring soccer is, despite American incredulity, such a popular game: it's easier to remember a stirring yet comprehensive narrative description of a 1-0 soccer game than of a well-executed (i.e., high-scoring) NFL game simply because the soccer game is simpler in outline.

Compare that 1-0 game to the 2009 Super Bowl won 27-23 by Pittsburgh over Arizona that was immediately acclaimed as a highly entertaining game, with tremendous ebb and flow. There were four scores in the fourth quarter alone, twice the total scoring in the typical 2010 group stage World Cup overall game. (The scores in today's World Cup quarterfinals: 1-0 and 0-0.)

Yet, because the two NFL teams scored a total of nine times in the game (six touchdowns, two field goals, and a safety), it's very hard to remember a coherent narrative of the game. News stories the day after typically mentioned the final touchdown pass, then quickly went into statistics (Kurt Warner 31-43 for 377 yards, Ben Roethlisberger 21-30 for 256 yards) to give readers a summary flavor of the complex action.

Personally, I like statistics (these days, for instance, I like NBA and baseball statistics more than I like watching the NBA or MLB), but they aren't of first order appeal to most human beings. Consider a competition that people have remembered for 3,000 years:
Final Score:
David 1
Goliath 0

That's the kind of thing people are good at remembering.

Paging Dr. Putnam

From El Paso Times:
El Paso was, once again, rated low by Men's Health magazine. This time the category was "Most Patriotic Cities."

Of 100 cities, the magazine rated El Paso No. 99, ahead of only Jersey City, N.J.

Portland, Ore., was ranked as the most patriotic city in the USA in the list published in the magazine's July/August issue. How does one measure something as unmeasurable as patriotism?

The magazine based its rankings on the percentage of registered voters who turned out for state and federal elections 2004 to 2008; money spent on military veterans per capita; percentage of residents who volunteer; and sales of fireworks and U.S. flags.

This is a mish-mash list of measures, but various studies of "civic-mindedness," such as Robert D. Putnam's big analysis of 40 communities, tend to come up with the same usual suspects at the top and bottom of the lists. 
Lubbock, Corpus Christi and New York City were also among the bottom 10 patriotic cities ranked by the magazine. Men's Health stated on its website that it is not suggesting any city is un-American. "There are no unpatriotic towns," the magazine stated.

Most patriotic cities
1. Portland, Ore.
2. Salt Lake City, Ut.
3. Kansas City, Mo.
4. Seattle. Wa.
5. Tampa, Fla.
Bottom five
96. Yonkers, N.Y.
97. Corpus Christi.
98. Honolulu.
99. El Paso.
100. Jersey City, N.J.
Source: Men's Health Magazine  

Audacious Epigone took a look at military enlistment rates by state recently. They tend to be driven by what fraction of the population is ineligible to enlist due to lack of education, intelligence, honesty, or slenderness. 

Utah did well on eligibility, but poorly on enlistment, probably because Mormon young men are supposed to serve 2-years overseas as missionaries. The FBI likes to hire Mormons because they tend to be honest and to lack dual loyalties to foreign powers.

Missing the Point

Christopher Hitchens writes in Slate:
Reviewing the sudden spasm of violence between the Uzbek minority and the Kyrgyz majority in Kyrgyzstan recently, many commentators were at a loss to explain why the two peoples should so abruptly have turned upon one another. Explanations range from official pandering to Kyrgyz nationalism, to sheer police and army brutality, to provocations from Taliban-style militias hoping to create another Afghanistan, but none go very far in analyzing why intercommunal relations became so vicious so fast. As if to make the question still more opaque, several reports stressed the essential similarity—ethnic, linguistic, cultural—between the Kyrgyz and Uzbek populations.

But that in itself could well be the explanation. In numerous cases of apparently ethno-nationalist conflict, the deepest hatreds are manifested between people who—to most outward appearances—exhibit very few significant distinctions. It is one of the great contradictions of civilization and one of the great sources of its discontents, and Sigmund Freud even found a term for it: "the narcissism of the small difference." As he wrote, "It is precisely the minor differences in people who are otherwise alike that form the basis of feelings of hostility between them."

Not necessarily. In general, people who are vastly different don't live near each other so they don't have much to fight over. And, if they do, they learn not to compete all that much for the same resources. For example, Pygmies are better adapted to life in the forest than Bantu, so they tend to stick to forests the Bantu find unprofitable. When they emerge into deforested agricultural land, they subordinate themselves to Bantu farmers as laborers.

When highly different people do compete, however, the competition can be so nasty that pretty soon they aren't competing much anymore: see the story of Ishi, for example, to understand why there aren't any wild Indians left in Northern California to compete with white men for land.
The partition of India and Pakistan, for example, which gives us one of the longest-standing and most toxic confrontations extant, involved most of all the partition of the Punjab. Visit Punjab and see if you can detect the remotest difference in people on either side of the border. Language, literature, ethnic heritage, physical appearance—virtually indistinguishable. Here it is mainly religion that symbolizes the narcissism and makes the most of the least discrepancy.

I used to work in Northern Ireland, where religion is by no means a minor business either, and at first couldn't tell by looking whether someone was Catholic or Protestant. After a while, I thought I could guess with a fair degree of accuracy, but most of the inhabitants of Belfast seemed able to do it by some kind of instinct. There is a small underlay of ethnic difference there, with the original Gaels being a little darker and smaller than the blonder Scots who were imported as settlers, but to the outsider it is impalpable. It's just that it's the dominant question locally.

Hitchens is an acute observer to notice physical difference on average in Northern Ireland.
Likewise in Cyprus, it is extremely hard to tell a Greek from a Turk. The two peoples have been on the same island for so long that they even suffer from a common sickle-cell blood disease called thalassemia. I once interviewed a doctor who specialized in the malady, and he solemnly told me that, from a blood sample, it was not possible to tell if the donor was Greek or Turkish. I had to stop myself from asking him if he had hitherto thought that different nationalities were made out of different genetic material. There have been almost no recorded cases of intermarriage between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, and the island remains sternly partitioned. 

Hitchens should reread this last sentence of his and he might start to get a clue about the forest that he can't see for the trees.
In his book The Warrior's Honor, Michael Ignatieff spent some time trying to elucidate what it was that made soldiers in the Balkan Wars—physically indistinguishable from one another—so eager to inflict cruelty and contempt upon Serb or Croat or Bosnian, as the case might be. Very often, the expressed hatred took the form of extremely provincial and local rivalries, inflamed by jealousies over supposed small advantages possessed by the other. Of course, here again there are latent nationalist and confessional differences to act as a force multiplier once the nasty business gets started, but the main thing to strike the outsider would be the question of "How can they tell?" In Rwanda and Burundi, even if it is true, as some colonial anthropologists used to claim, that Hutu and Tutsi vary in height and also in the delimitation of their hairlines, it still doesn't seem enough of a difference upon which to base a genocide.

In Sri Lanka, where again it takes a long time to notice that Tamils are prone to be slightly smaller and slightly darker than the Sinhala majority, it is somehow the most important information that either population possesses. And it doesn't take long for one population to start saying that the other one has too many children, takes too much leisure, is too casual about hygiene. Every time he heard a Shiites or Sunni Iraqi saying that religion didn't really count, said my friend Patrick Cockburn in his book on Baghdad, he noticed that every single one of them knew the exact faith allegiance of everybody else in the room. And if you want to see an expression of sheer racial disdain, try giving to an Iranian Shiites the impression that you think he and his Iraqi co-religionists are brothers under the skin.

The next example of this phenomenon will be among the most serious as well as the least dramatic. One of the most unobtrusive differences in the world—the line that separates French from Flemish-speaking Belgians—is about to be forcefully reasserted in a bid to split Belgium in two. If this secession occurs, then the headquarters country of NATO and the European Union will rather narcissistically cease to exist, undone by one of the smallest distinctions of all.

So pity the Uzbeks and Kyrgyz as they peer suspiciously at one another during a sudden time of scarcity and insecurity. Their mutual miseries may be just beginning. And all this contains the true ingredients of tragedy—and of irony. One of the great advantages possessed by Homo sapiens is the amazing lack of variation between its different "branches." Since we left Africa, we have diverged as a species hardly at all. If we were dogs, we would all be the same breed.

Dogs have been genetically engineered into more varieties than any other species. Human beings differ in looks roughly about as much as do house cats, another species to which people have devoted a lot of effort to differentiate.

But, all this is just barking up the wrong tree ...
We do not suffer from the enormous differences that separate other primates, let alone other mammals. As if to spite this huge natural gift, and to disfigure what could be our overwhelming solidarity, we manage to find excuses for chauvinism and racism on the most minor of occasions and then to make the most of them. This is why condemnation of bigotry and superstition is not just a moral question but a matter of survival.

Well, why do Montagues and Capulets fight in Romeo and Juliet? The Hatfields and McCoys? The Corleones and Barzinis in The Godfather? The Lancasters and Yorks? The children of Jacob and the children of Esau? Is it because of their differences in looks? In language? In religion?

No, it's because they are different extended families. They contend with each other to gain advantages and to prevent themselves from being subjected to disadvantages.

The other differences enumerated by Hitchens serve to help keep them different extended families through less than random levels of intermarriage and other forms of alliance. And, reduced intermarriage causes the various markers of genealogical difference (looks, language, religion, cuisine, customs, dress, etc.) to become more obvious over the generations.

Hitchens, like 99% of current intellectuals, gets all this backwards, starting from the top down of observable difference, rather than building solidly from the ground up of genealogy.

Hitchens writes "but the main thing to strike the outsider would be the question of 'How can they tell?'" But there is a more fundamental question than how do you tell what group some other person belongs to. Instead, how do you tell what group you belong to? But nobody asks that question because the answer is so obvious most of the time: you belong to the racial group that your relatives belong to. (When it's not obvious to an individual, he sometimes writes a 150,000 word book, such as Dreams from My Father, to justify his answer).

Similarly, you can tell what group somebody else belongs to generally by whom their relatives are.

And that's what different racial groups are: large extended families that possess more coherence and continuity over time than typical extended families due to higher than random levels of in-marriage. A racial group is merely a partly inbred extended family.

It's not very complicated to figure this out. All you have to do is to read a little history. The modern fashion is simply historically obtuse. The Old Testament, for example, goes to great lengths to explain the genealogical basis of various conflicts.

Similarly, the Sunni-Shi-ite split started as a family feud among the Prophet's relations over leadership after Mohammed's death. The Sunnis go back to the followers of Abu Bakr, Mohammed's father-in-law, while the Shi'ites go back to the followers of Ali, Mohammed's cousin and son-in-law.

Moreover, how did the Lancasters and Yorks of the War of Roses stop warring? Shakespeare explains in the last speech of Richard III, in which the victorious Richmond (Henry Tudor of the Lancaster clan) announces he will marry Elizabeth of the York clan:
O, now, let Richmond and Elizabeth,
The true succeeders of each royal house,
By God's fair ordinance conjoin together!
And let their heirs, God, if thy will be so.
Enrich the time to come with smooth-faced peace,
With smiling plenty and fair prosperous days!

It's frustrating to me that I've been explaining since the 1990s that there is a simple, Occam's Razor explanation for much of the group conflict in the world that's staring everybody right in the face and but the current worldview works to keep people, even ones as generally sharp as Hitchens, unperceptive and ignorant.

June 28, 2010

The Appeal of Nil-Nil Draws

From my new column in Taki's Magazine:
Is the grindingly low scoring in the World Cup soccer tournament a bug or—as I’m finally starting to suspect—a feature? Could it be that the World Cup’s global popularity is not so much despite all the nil-nil draws as because of the grimness of the scores?

The three-match mini-season that opened the 2010 World Cup set a new record for futility with the 32 teams scoring only 101 goals in 96 tries, or just 1.05 per team per game.

The American team, despite seemingly not noticing that its games had started until about a half hour had gone by, was, relatively speaking, an offensive juggernaut, scoring four times in its three group stage games. The only squad the USA managed to beat, Algeria, didn’t score at all in 2010. Portugal, led by the world’s most celebrated striker, Christiano Ronaldo, tied Argentina for most goals with seven, but all were notched against North Korean famine victims. Portugal’s other two encounters sputtered out 0-0.

Six of the 48 games ended 0-0, thirteen 1-0, six 1-1, and six 2-0. In contrast, there was only a single 3-2 game, the final score that naïve American viewers would typically pick as the ideal balance of entertainment and rigor. ...

Scoring trends have diverged in the cousin sports of soccer and American football. In the American cool weather game, scores have gradually risen as competence increased. In the 1970 NFL season, for instance, teams scored 3.5 times per game: 2.2 touchdowns and 1.3 field goals. (I’ll ignore point-after-touchdown conversions as vestigial.) That was 2.4 times the 1970 World Cup scoring rate of 1.48 goals per team per match.

By the most recent year, NFL teams were up to 4.1 scores per game (2.6 touchdowns and 1.5 field goals), while World Cup teams were down to 1.05. Hence, the NFL now sees almost four times as many scores as the World Cup.

Yet, both enterprises have flourished extravagantly over the last four decades.... It seems likely that the two kinds of football, in their different but both triumphant evolutions, are giving the people what they want. Hard as it can be for Americans to believe, people like soccer’s offensive ineptitude.

The appeal of high-scoring American football—with its action, expertise, and comebacks against the clock—is as obvious as the appeal of American summer movies.

In contrast, low-scoring soccer fulfills other human desires: such as ...

Read the whole thing there and comment upon it below.

"My Own Private India"

In Time, Joel Stein writes a column packed with traditional iSteve themes:
I am very much in favor of immigration everywhere in the U.S. except Edison, N.J. The mostly white suburban town I left when I graduated from high school in 1989 — the town that was called Menlo Park when Thomas Alva Edison set up shop there and was later renamed in his honor — has become home to one of the biggest Indian communities in the U.S., as familiar to people in India as how to instruct stupid Americans to reboot their Internet routers.

My town is totally unfamiliar to me. The Pizza Hut where my busboy friends stole pies for our drunken parties is now an Indian sweets shop with a completely inappropriate roof. The A and P I shoplifted from is now an Indian grocery. ... There is an entire generation of white children in Edison who have nowhere to learn crime. ...
I called James W. Hughes, policy-school dean at Rutgers University, who explained that Lyndon Johnson's 1965 immigration law raised immigration caps for non-European countries. LBJ apparently had some weird relationship with Asians in which he liked both inviting them over and going over to Asia to kill them.

After the law passed, when I was a kid, a few engineers and doctors from Gujarat moved to Edison because of its proximity to ATT, good schools and reasonably priced, if slightly deteriorating, post–WW II housing. For a while, we assumed all Indians were geniuses. Then, in the 1980s, the doctors and engineers brought over their merchant cousins, and we were no longer so sure about the genius thing. In the 1990s, the not-as-brilliant merchants brought their even-less-bright cousins, and we started to understand why India is so damn poor.

... Unlike some of my friends in the 1980s, I liked a lot of things about the way my town changed: far better restaurants, friends dorky enough to play Dungeons & Dragons with me, restaurant owners who didn't card us because all white people look old. But sometime after I left, the town became a maze of charmless Indian strip malls and housing developments. Whenever I go back, I feel what people in Arizona talk about: a sense of loss and anomie and disbelief that anyone can eat food that spicy.

To figure out why it bothered me so much, I talked to a friend of mine from high school, Jun Choi, who just finished a term as mayor of Edison. Choi said that part of what I don't like about the new Edison is the reduction of wealth, which probably would have been worse without the arrival of so many Indians, many of whom, fittingly for a town called Edison, are inventors and engineers. ...

Unlike previous waves of immigrants, who couldn't fly home or Skype with relatives, Edison's first Indian generation didn't quickly assimilate (and give their kids Western names). But if you look at the current Facebook photos of students at my old high school, J.P. Stevens, which would be very creepy of you, you'll see that, while the population seems at least half Indian, a lot of them look like the Italian Guidos I grew up with in the 1980s: gold chains, gelled hair, unbuttoned shirts. In fact, they are called Guindians. Their assimilation is so wonderfully American that if the Statue of Liberty could shed a tear, she would. Because of the amount of cologne they wear.

And here is a another good column by Joel Stein: "How Jewish Is Hollywood?"

June 27, 2010

"Acting White"

From my new VDARE.com column:
It’s widely argued that the reason that blacks tend to perform poorly in schools and jobs is their fear of being accused by other blacks of "acting white." Thus, in the current issue of The New Republic, linguist John McWhorter, the celebrated black intellectual associated with New York’s Manhattan Institute, lauds the new book Acting White: The Ironic Legacy of Desegregation by Stuart Buck. McWhorter argues, "Much of the reason for the gap between the grades and test scores of black students and white students was that black teens often equated doing well in school with ‘acting white.’" 

In an interview with Buck about his book, Rod Dreher defines "acting white" as when "academically accomplished black students are often accused of being traitors to their race (‘acting white’) because of their good grades and study habits."

Buck’s main argument: blame black underperformance on the paradoxical consequences of integration. He explains:
"An integrated school can often appear to black students to be controlled by whites, or to be run in a way that benefits white students. Thus, the black student who tries to curry favor from the white authorities is seen as saying, ‘I'm better than you.’"
... Are blacks held back by fear of "acting white"?

No doubt this is often true. Yet the benefits that whites bestow upon blacks for acting reassuringly white (for example, the White House itself) are so lavish that it’s hardly certain what the net effect is. ...

One peculiarity of this popular "acting white" theory: there is significantly stronger evidence that a lack of intellectual ambition holds back otherwise capable Hispanics (especially Mexican-Americans) than that it greatly debilitates African-Americans. But that never seems to come up in public discussion—probably because, as I’ve argued before, Anglos just find blacks much more interesting than Latinos.

Google finds 14 times as many pages featuring the phrases "African American" and "acting white" as it does "Mexican American" and "acting white." An expensive Harvard study by economist Roland Fryer intended to confirm the "acting white" hypothesis by showing that black students lost friends as they earned higher grades actually wound up demonstrating that this problem is much worse among Latinos.

Read the rest there and comment upon it below.