October 13, 2012

As immigration becomes more of a sacred civil right for foreigners, free speech becomes less of a one for Americans

From the NYT, a column that won't be terribly novel to iSteve readers, but it's good to see this kind of sensible analysis getting out there more broadly:
The Mystery of Benghazi 
TWENTY-FOUR hours after the American compound in Benghazi was attacked and our ambassador murdered, the tragedy seemed more likely to help President Obama’s re-election campaign than to damage it. 
... What happened instead was very strange. Having first repudiated the embassy’s apology to Muslims offended by a movie impugning their prophet, the Obama administration decided to embrace that apology’s premise, and insist that the movie was the crucial ingredient in the Sept. 11 anniversary violence. 
For days after the attack, as it became clearer that the Benghazi violence was a Qaeda operation rather than a protest, White House officials continued to stress the importance of the “hateful” and “disgusting” video, and its supposed role as a catalyst for what Susan Rice, the ambassador to the United Nations, insisted was a spontaneous attack. 
This narrative was pushed on Sunday morning programs, on late-night talk shows and at news conferences, by everyone from Rice to Hillary Clinton to the president himself. When Obama spoke at the United Nations shortly after the attacks, the video was referenced six times in the text; Al Qaeda was referenced only once. 
... What explains this self-defeating strategy? ... 
Perhaps, then, the real explanation for the White House’s anxiety about calling the embassy attack an act of terror has less to do with the “who” than with the “where.” This wasn’t Al Qaeda striking just anywhere: it was Al Qaeda striking in Libya, a country where the Obama White House launched a not-precisely-constitutional military intervention with a not-precisely-clear connection to the national interest. 
In a long profile of President Obama published last month by Vanity Fair, Michael Lewis suggested that the president feared the consequences of even a single casualty during the Libyan incursion, lest it create a narrative about how “a president elected to extract us from a war in one Arab country got Americans killed in another.” 
How much more, then, might the president fear a narrative about how our Libyan intervention helped create a power vacuum in which terrorists groups can operate with impunity? That’s clearly happened in nearby Mali, where the ripple effects from Muammar el-Qaddafi’s overthrow have helped empower a Qaeda affiliate. In this context, it’s easy to see why the administration would hope that the Benghazi attack were just spontaneous mob violence rather than a sign of Al Qaeda’s growing presence in postintervention Libya as well. The only good news for Obama in this mess is the fact that Romney, always intent on projecting toughness, hasn’t attacked the original decision to go to war in Libya, or tied the intervention itself to Al Qaeda’s North African advances. 
If the Republican nominee were less reflexively hawkish, the White House might be facing the more comprehensive critique that it deserves — and the story wouldn’t be about just the specifics of Benghazi, but also the possibility that Obama’s entire policy in the region has put American interests and lives at risk.

The Grand Strategy of the Obama Administration isn't much different from that of the Bush Administration: Invite the World, Invade the World, In Hock to the World. But, you won't hear that from Romney and Ryan.

I would add one more explanation. The Obama Administration is reflexively pro-multicultural and therefore anti-free speech in the advanced European and Canadian fashion. They see the First Amendment as all very fine for pornography, but, to be frank, more substantive free speech is outdated in a multi-ethnic age of empire when the government has to keep hot-under-the-collar newcomers, such as Muslims, and old grievance groups, such as blacks, from burning down cities over perceived slights. 

For example, the guy who posted this video on Youtube is an immigrant career criminal. Making a video is one of the few legal things he's done in recent years. But you don't hear anybody saying, "I disagree with what you say, but I shall defend to the death your right to say it, but not your right to live in my country, you crook."

So, now he's back in jail. Nominally, he's back inside for all the illegal stuff he has been doing, but we're not supposed to pay that much attention to immigrant conmen as long as they stay nonviolent. But we all know that he's really in jail for exercising his First Amendment right to wage his homeland's ethnic struggles on the Internet. 

Of course, nobody is talking about: Why is that crook in the United States? That's because immigration is increasingly become a sacred civil right for foreigners, which, in turn, means that freedom of speech is increasingly undermined for Americans.

Speaking of supporting free speech, have I mentioned lately that speech isn't free? It turns out to be expensive to keep your family going. So, if you'd like to help support my work:

First: You can send me money via Amazon (not tax-deductible). Click here and then click on the button for the amount you want to pay. It's especially quick if you already have an Amazon account, but any major credit card will work fine. (I want to thank all the generous folks who helped me work out the kinks in this method, using their own real money.)

Second: You can make a tax deductible contribution to me via VDARE by clicking here. You can use PayPal for that, or the usual credit cards.

Third: You can mail a non-tax deductible donation to:

Steve Sailer
P.O Box 4142
Valley Village, CA 91617-4142


Awardable Housing news: "Petition Calls for 'Shulamith Firestone Memorial Apartment' for Low-Income Feminists"

The New York Times reports:
Petition Calls For ‘Shulamith Firestone Memorial Apartment’ For Low-Income Feminists 
Acquaintances of Shulamith Firestone want the rent-stabilized apartment where the author and activist died this summer to be preserved as a residence for a low-income feminist, according to a petition obtained by The Local.
The petition, which can be read below, outlines a plan to earmark her fifth-floor walk-up at 213 East 10th Street for tenants doing “important” feminist work, who cannot afford current market rates in the rapidly gentrifying East Village. The rent would be no more than $1,000 a month. 
Women’s liberation stalwarts like Kate Millett along with East Village literary agent Frances Goldin and Annette Averette, co-director of Sixth Street Community Center, are among those who have signed the petition directed at landlord Robert Perl, owner of Tower Brokerage. 
Written by Fran Luck, executive director of the WBAI radio program “Joy of Resistance: Multi-Cultural Feminist Radio,” it notes that owners and developers of housing in formerly working-class neighborhoods have for decades “set aside” affordable rentals. Ms. Firestone paid about $400 a month, according to Mr. Perl, who said he had been planning to increase the rent of the next tenant in order to offset rising taxes imposed by the Bloomberg administration. A one-bedroom in the building, between First and Second Avenues, was recently leased for $2,095, according to StreetEasy.

Ms. Firestone, who in the 1960s helped organize women’s liberation groups such as Redstockings, New York Radical Women and New York Radical Feminists, was found dead in her apartment in late August. She was 67 and had long been afflicted with mental illness in the years following the 1970 publication of her influential feminist treatise, “The Dialectic of Sex.” Her book embraced technology as a way of freeing women from “the tyranny of their biology.”
“I think she was a difficult tenant,” said Ms. Goldin. “She was a disturbed person and would leave the water on and flood other apartments. She didn’t mean to do this, but if we could persuade the landlord that we could guarantee him a reasonable tenant, maybe he could become a hero. It’s worth a shot.” 

For some reason, I'm reminded of Nick Lowe's 1978 song Marie Prevost
September 30, 2012 
Because…The Feminist world, the Art world and the Lower East Side/East Village Community have just lost one of our great visionaries–Shulamith Firestone–a woman who was able to remain, work and survive in her/our neighborhood for many years because she paid a relatively low rent…. 
Because…the average rent being charged new renters in our neighborhood is about $2,100., and had Shulamith tried to rent here today, it would have been impossible for her to find, live and work in an apartment she could afford…
Because… the Lower East Side/East Village environment is all the poorer for the loss, due to skyrocketing rents, of the kind of creative spirits that formerly gave the neighborhood its unique character–but who are now being priced out… 
Because… Shulamith’s sister feminists, friends and admirers would like to memorialize her by making it possible for a feminist(s) coming after her to be able to live in this neighborhood and do feminist work here–such work usually being either unpaid or poorly paid, and therefore requiring an affordable rent… 
Because.. it is well within “fair housing practices” developed over decades for developers/owners of housing in formerly working class neighborhoods to create “set-asides” of affordable rental units for those who cannot pay market rates… 
Therefore…We, the undersigned, do hereby Petition Robert Perl, owner of 213 East 10th Street, and do strongly urge him to work with us to create a “Shulamith Firestone Memorial Apartment” that would, in perpetuity, remain well below market rates and which rent would, at this time, not exceed $1,000. per month; this apartment would be reserved for a woman who is making an important contribution to the feminist movement that is not well remunerated. 
Candidates for residence in such an apartment would be vetted by a committee of feminists drawn from the list below and would meet the same standards as any other tenant–with the exception of paying a lower-than-market-rate rent. 
Signatures (so far)
Kate Millett, Feminist, Author: Sexual Politics
Frances Goldin, Co-Founder Cooper Square Committee, Literary Agent for Mumia Abu Jamal
Carol Giardina, Professor of Hisory, Queens College, CUNY, Author: Freedom for Women
Kathie Sarachild, Director, Redstockings Archives for Action
Ti-Grace Atkinson, radical feminist
Nellie Hester Bailey, Director, West Harlem Tenants Council
Annette Averette, Co-Director, Sixth Street Community Center
Howard Brandstein, Co-Director, Sixth Street Community Center
Rosalyn Baxandall, Distinguished Professor, SUNY-Old Westbury
Fran Luck, Executive Producer, Joy of Resistance Multicultural Feminist Radio @ WBAI
Erin Mahoney, National Women’s Liberation(NWL)
Allison Guttu, Organizer, NWL, Women of Color Caucus of NWL, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement
Amy Kesselman, Professor Emerita, SUNY-New Paltz
Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz, Professor Emeriti, California State University
Ann Snitow, Network of East-West Women
Marisa Figuereido, Redstockings
Jennifer Sunderland, Redstockings
Pete Dolack, Former Editor, New York State Green Party Newspaper
Bill Koehnlein, Brecht Forum
Marie-Claire Picher, Co-Founder,Theater of the Oppressed Laboratory
Nancy Kogel, MNN TV Producer, Reaching Out for Animal Rights (ROAR)

It's always 1980 for Republicans

When I was young, it was always 1932 for the Democrats. They were always running against Herbert Hoover. It was fun for Democrats and brought back warm memories. Finally, an ex-FDR Democrat, Ronald Reagan, fully exploited his opponents' frozen-in-time aspect, convincing the Democrats after Mondale's big loss that they had to modernize. 

Not surprisingly, it's always 1980 for the Republicans. Mansized Target notes:
Romney’s W-Esque Foreign Policy 
Romney gave a big foreign policy speech at VMI.  In it, he shows he has basically been living in a cave since 1980.   Bottom line for him:  America must be strong and America must lead. ... 
He wants to be the next Reagan, but his written-by-others foreign policy neglects to remember that Reagan was a creature of time and place:  a diminished economy, much like what we face today, but also a world where American faced a sui generis and aggressive foreign policy threat in the form of the Soviet Union. Likewise, Reagan inherited a demoralized military gutted by the post-Vietnam malaise of the 1970s.  Today we have a strong and capable, if small, military, that is state of the art in every way.  Whereas in 1980 out-in-front leadership and universal engagement made sense, today we are in a period of forced austerity, overcommitment, and failed nation-building.

Boosting military spending in the 1980s turned out to be colossally successful. The Red Army gave up without a fight. But because there's no more Red Army, the upside of more defense spending is small. What's the best that can happen now?

Historically successful policies can't help but run into diminishing returns.

Reagan's hidden historical advantage over Carter: the military enlistment exam misnorming fiasco of 1976-80

Many people who lived through the 1970s recall a pervasive sense of national cruddiness. American cars were lousy, our greatest city, New York, seemed to be falling apart when not being actively torched for the fire insurance money, and perhaps most alarmingly, our military didn't seem up to the job as the Soviets became increasingly bold. Perhaps the nadir was the failure of Jimmy Carter's Iran hostage rescue mission in April 1980. 

And you didn't get much reassurance from scuttlebutt passed along from within the military. Incompetence seemed rife and soldiers were increasingly seen during the later 1970s as oafs.

Then Ronald Reagan was elected and the military's reputation began rising. The superb execution of the 1991 Gulf War sealed the American military's reputation, which remains, to this day, skyhigh compared to the 1970s, despite the frustrations of Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Now, there are many plausible theories to explain this turn of events. But one factor is almost utterly unknown to Americans: one reason that military personnel seemed stupider under Carter than under Reagan was because they were. 

A 1993 study reported:
The "Misnorming" of the U.S. Military’s Entrance Examination and Its Effect on Minority Enlistments 
Joshua D. Angrist 
... In 1979, only 64 percent of Army recruits were high school graduates, and 46 percent had Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) test scores between the 10th and 30th percentiles of the national youth AFQT score distribution. 
Beginning in 1980, however, test scores and schooling levels of newly enlisted soldiers improved steadily. This improvement was partly attributable to the correction of incorrect ASVAB scoring procedures in the late 1970s (described more fully below) and to legislative limits on the number of low-scoring enlistments; 

In a classic example of Seventies shoddiness, the Pentagon's enlistment exam was revised in January 1976, but the military botched the scoring system, which allowed in all sorts of dumbos the Pentagon had intended to keep out. This was finally fixed in October 1980, a month before the election. (The biggest chuck of data in The Bell Curve is from the renorming of the ASVAB-AFQT on the National Longitudinal Study of Youth in 1980.)
it was also due to poor civilian labor market conditions and new packages of veterans benefits that made military service relatively attractive for many young people. 
By 1987, 93 percent of all new recruits had a high school diploma, and 95 percent had scores in the top 70 percent of the AFQT score distribution (Categories I–III). At the same time, the fraction of minority enlistments fell from an all time high of 35.5 percent in 1980 to 24.2 percent in 1983, rising again to 28.1 percent in 1987 (Defense Department 1988, p. II-33). 

Since the fall of the Soviet Union and the victory in the Gulf War, typically only about 1% of enlistees are from the 30th percentile or below of the AFQT (which is more or less of an IQ test). So, if you want to know why the military seems to function better than the public schools, well the military just doesn't deal with the bottom 100 million people in the country. (This is a little bit of an exaggeration because people who want to enlist in the military study up for the test, while it's normed on the NLSY-97 nationally representative sample who presumably didn't have any reason other than pride and cooperativeness to work hard on the test. But, still ...)

By the way, if you like the kind of stuff you read here, please give me money so I can continue to produce it. I want to thank everybody who responded to Friday's appeal. It's been a good fundraising drive so far, with a large number of individual donors. (On the other hand, there haven't been any four-digit donors yet.)

First: You can send me money via Amazon (not tax-deductible). Click here and then click on the button for the amount you want to pay. It's especially quick if you already have an Amazon account, but any major credit card will work fine. (I want to thank all the generous folks who helped me work out the kinks in this method, using their own real money.)

Second: You can make a tax deductible contribution to me via VDARE by clicking here. You can use PayPal for that, or the usual credit cards.

Third: You can mail a non-tax deductible donation to:

Steve Sailer
P.O Box 4142
Valley Village, CA 91617-4142


October 12, 2012

Chinese government, worried about quality as well as quantity of population, advises smart women not to waste their attractive years; American feminists outraged

From the NYT:
China’s ‘Leftover’ Women 

BEIJING — The headlines scream like sensational tabloids: “Overcoming the Big Four Emotional Blocks: Leftover Women Can Break out of Being Single.” “Eight Simple Moves to Escape the Leftover Women Trap.” And my personal favorite: “Do Leftover Women Really Deserve Our Sympathy?”

These eye-catching topics do not appear in supermarket-aisle gossip magazines. They are articles about single, professional women published on the Web site of China’s state feminist agency, the All-China Women’s Federation. ... 
In 2007, the Women’s Federation defined “leftover” women (sheng nu ) as unmarried women over the age of 27 and China’s Ministry of Education added the term to its official lexicon. Since then, the Women’s Federation Web site has run articles stigmatizing educated women who are still single. 
Take this uplifting column from March 2011 that ran just after International Women’s Day: 
Pretty girls don’t need a lot of education to marry into a rich and powerful family, but girls with an average or ugly appearance will find it difficult. These kinds of girls hope to further their education in order to increase their competitiveness. The tragedy is, they don’t realize that as women age, they are worth less and less, so by the time they get their M.A. or Ph.D., they are already old, like yellowed pearls. 
After knocking some good sense into those misguided women who pursue a higher education, the column accuses educated, single women of sleeping around and having degenerate morals: 
Many highly educated “leftover women” are very progressive in their thinking and enjoy going to nightclubs to search for a one-night stand, or they become the mistress of a high official or rich man. It is only when they have lost their youth and are kicked out by the man, that they decide to look for a life partner. Therefore, most “leftover women” do not deserve our sympathy. 
Glad we got that straight. Now, why would China’s state feminist agency conduct a scare-mongering campaign against single, educated women? 
Curious, I searched the Women’s Federation Web site and found that it posted its first article on “leftover” women in 2007, shortly after China’s State Council issued an edict on strengthening the Population and Family Planning program to address “unprecedented population pressures.” These pressures include the sex-ratio imbalance — which “causes a threat to social stability” — and the “low quality of the general population, which makes it hard to meet the requirements of fierce competition for national strength,” according to the State Council. The State Council names “upgrading population quality (suzhi)” as one of its key goals, and appoints the Women’s Federation as a primary implementer of its population planning policy. 
What better way to upgrade population quality than to frighten “high-quality” women into marrying and having a child for the good of the nation? 
The Women’s Federation columns on sheng nu all share the same goal: convince single, educated women to stop being so ambitious and get married already: 
The main reason many girls become “leftover women” is that their standards for a partner are too high … As girls are not too picky, finding a partner should be as easy as blowing away a speck of dust. 
Some of the columns have been reposted several times over the years and list helpful tips, such as “seduce but don’t pester” and “be persistent but not willful”: 
When holding out for a man, if you say he must be rich and brilliant, romantic and hardworking ... this is just being willful. Does this kind of perfect man exist? Maybe he does exist, but why on earth would he want to marry you? 
Since 2008, local population planning commissions in cities such as Nanjing and Ningbo have carried out “interventions” to address the “leftover women crisis.” Local Women’s Federation branches have arranged matchmaking events for “highly educated, high-quality” women. This March there was a drive in Pinghu, Zhejiang Province, for “leftover women to speedily find conjugal happiness.”

Here in the Enlightened West, however, we have moved far beyond such retrograde notions as "conjugal happiness" and all realize that true feminist bliss is dying alone, like Shulamith Firestone.


Headline in the NYT:
European Union Wins 2012 Nobel Peace Prize

For what? Not invading Poland?

Couldn't they have given it to Obama again?

By the way, who can forget that moment exactly three years ago when we heard the big news about the President's unexpected honor? As reported in iSteve on Friday, October 9, 2009:

Here is the text of former President Barack Obama's farewell address, which he delivered before departing in the interstellar battlecruiser that had landed near the Washington Monument on Friday morning:
I am both surprised and deeply humbled by the decision of the Directorate of the Milky Way to honor me by naming me Galactic Overlord. 
Let me be clear. I do not view my apotheosis as Supreme Imperator of the Nine Million Subjugated Planets as a recognition of my own accomplishments. Rather, it is an affirmation of Milky Wayling leadership on behalf of aspirations held by sentient life-forms across the entire local cluster of galaxies. 
To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honored by the Galactic Overlordship, the men, the women, the self-fertilizing clones, the androids, the telepathic hive minds, and the cybernetic avatars who've inspired me (during the half hour I've been aware of their existence) and inspired the entire galaxy through their courageous pursuit of extending the Milky Way's hegemony over the Lesser Magellanic Cloud. 
But I also know that my aggrandizement reflects the kind of cosmos that all Milky Waylings want to build, a trans-galactic imperium that gives life to the promise of our founding documents, such as, uh, that gold-plated recording of Johnny B. Goode that Carl Sagan shot out of the solar system on a space probe ... plus, no doubt, some other stuff. 
And I know (at least since my conversation with Grand Vizier Xzqhtpv fifteen minutes ago) that throughout history the Overlordship has not just been used to honor specific achievement; it's also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes, such as the utter enslavement and/or annihilation of the Andromeda Galaxy. 
And that is why I will accept exaltation to Supreme Imperator, as I've accepted so many promotions in the past, not just as a convenient career move, not merely as a way to continue to fail upward (although I do wish to extend my sincerest hope to the Altgeld Gardens community that somebody will finally get them organized for a change; yet, let us never forget, I did help get some of the asbestos removed), but as a call to action, a call for, uh ... can we back up the Teleprompter here? ... a call for all higher species to confront the common challenges facing the Galactic Empire in its 3,452nd eon of prepotency.


And to those doubters who whisper that I'm no more qualified for my new responsibilities than I was to chair the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, that my tenure as Galactic Overlord will prove as ineffectual as all my previous careers at accomplishing anything besides stoking my vanity, that I will soon require yet another promotion to sidestep the looming consequences of my inevitable mediocrity at my latest job, let me remind them that David Axelrod is already spinning my image in infinite parallel universes.

By the way, if you like the kind of stuff you read here, please give me money so I can continue to produce it.

First: You can send me money via Amazon (not tax-deductible). Click here and then click on the button for the amount you want to pay. It's especially quick if you already have an Amazon account, but any major credit card will work fine. (I want to thank all the generous folks who helped me work out the kinks in this method, using their own real money.)

Second: You can make a tax deductible contribution to me via VDARE by clicking here. You can use PayPal for that, or the usual credit cards.

Third: You can mail a non-tax deductible donation to:

Steve Sailer
P.O Box 4142
Valley Village, CA 91617-4142


"How Deep Are the Roots of Economic Development?"

Here's an extract from a lengthy new paper assessing various acceptable economic history theories of everything:
How Deep Are the Roots of Economic Development?
Enrico Spolaore
Tufts University,
NBER and CESIfo 
Romain Wacziarg
In order to illustrate the main empirical findings of the contributions discussed herein, we punctuate this paper with our own empirical results based on a unified dataset, regression methodology and sample. This analysis is not meant to be an exhaustive recapitulation of existing results, but simply to illustrate some important milestones in the recent literature. We use, alternately, log per capita income in 2005 (from the Penn World Tables version 6.3) as a measure of contemporary economic performance, and population density in 1500 (from Colin McEvedy and Richard Jones, 1978) as a measure of economic performance in 1500, and regress these on a variety of proposed determinants of development, starting here with geographic factors. 
Table 1, column 1 shows that a small set of geographic variables (absolute latitude [i.e., the distance from the equator, e.g., New Zealand has a similar absolute latitude as Oregon], the percentage of a country's land area located in tropical climates, a landlocked country dummy, an island country dummy) can jointly account for 44% [r = 0.66] of contemporary variation in log per capita income, with quantitatively the largest effect coming from absolute latitude (excluding latitude causes the R2 to fall to 0:29 [r = 0.54]). This result captures the flavor of the above-cited literature documenting a strong correlation between geography and income per capita.

Thus, in the 21st Century, the Nordic social democracies are at the top of most measures of societal competence. The usual winner in recent years is Norway. 

Nor should we assume this is wholly coincidental.

As I mentioned yesterday, Spolaore's analysis is much in line with Michael Hart's 2007 book Understanding Human History. I wrote in VDARE in 2007:
This overall pattern of north conquering south has long been apparent from the historical record—even though northern lands are generally less populous, due to shorter growing seasons.... 
Hart offers a simple, deliberately reductionist model for explaining this (and much else): Foresight is needed to survive cold winters. So harsher, more northerly climates select for higher average intelligence. And intelligence is useful in war. 
Indeed, there is a positive correlation between latitude and the average intelligence of modern countries, as summarized in Richard Lynn's and Tatu Vanhanen's IQ and the Wealth of Nations. (Here's my table listing their data.) In 2006, Lynn found a substantial r = 0.67 correlation between national average IQ and the absolute value of latitude. Similarly, the correlation between IQ and average temperature is r = -0.63. 
On the other hand, within continents there often aren't obvious latitude-related IQ disparities. For instance, the IQ differences among most European countries are too small to worry about. 
Northerners have tended to be better at organizing on a large scale. This could be related to intelligence, but doesn't have to be. ...
Enough about conquest. What about contributions? 
The most productive centers of cultural innovation have tended to move north over the millennia, for example, from the Fertile Crescent to Ancient Greece to Renaissance Northern Italy to Enlightenment Northern Europe. Hart attributes this to agriculture tending to arise first in low-to-medium latitude locations with long growing seasons then spreading northward. In hunter-gatherer economies, every man must hunt. But in farming economies, enough food can be produced to support urban sophisticates.

Unfortunately, this survey paper never mentions the highly relevant Hart.

Speaking of the North, I'm reminded of the story of the Russian peasants in a sleigh pursued by wolves who periodically toss one of their number out to delay the wolves.

Another victim of the Word Gap

The 21st Century upper-middle class parent speaks constantly and encouragingly to his or her child, thus readying the little one for the SAT Verbal in 10 or 15 years. But, other cultures have not always demanded that parents speak to their children frequently. For example, here is the story of a man whose parents almost never spoke to him, which presumably accounts for his notoriously small vocabulary.
Only once do I remember my father having breathed a word of complaint about his fortunes to me, and that for a passing moment. ... He had been very angry and disturbed. Understanding at once that I was distressed, he took occasion to reassure me. I then had one of the three or four long intimate conversations with him which are all I can boast. He explained how old people were not always very considerate towards young people, that they were absorbed in their own affairs and might well speak roughly in sudden annoyance. … I listened spellbound to this sudden complete departure from his usual reserve, amazed at his intimate comprehension of all my affairs. 

Winston Churchill 

October 11, 2012

VP Debate open thread

You watch it so I don't have to ...

Advice for economists contemplating incorporating genetic information in their theories

In the wake of the latest brouhaha with anthropologists denouncing two economists for daring to correlate "genetic diversity" with wealth in 145 countries, allow me to make a suggestion for economists interested in dipping their toes into studying the impact of genetic differences on economic phenomena: 

Start small. 

Don’t go for a Theory of Everything right away. Instead, look for a well-understood example of genetic differences and see how that plays out in the economic sphere, such as, say, the impact of altitude tolerance on real estate prices.

There are a handful of well-established, uncontroversial cases of simple gene variants helping individuals adjust to a particular environment. For example, the Duffy allele fights vivax malaria and the famous sickle cell mutation fights the worst form of malaria, falciparum.

Similarly, Cynthia Beall and colleagues have identified separate mutations in Tibet and Bolivia-Peru that make life at very high altitudes more endurable. (There appear to be other adaptations in Ethiopia, but they hadn’t yet been pinned down the last time I check.)

The various lactose tolerance mutations have huge economic effects. The population density of northern Europe, such as Denmark and Ireland, before the industrial revolution would have lagged substantially without this mutation that supported a dairy-centric economy.

These noncontroversial genetic differences have obvious effects on quantifiable measures such as who lives where and how much the land they live on costs. For example, the Beijing government has been trying to swarm Tibet with loyal Han colonists, but lowland Chinese have problems adjusting to the lack of oxygen. I would predict that real estate prices in Tibet, all else being equal, would be highest in the deepest valleys and canyons, just as they are in La Paz, Bolivia, where the whitest people live at bottom of the canyon.

In Nepal, the Tibetan population (e.g., the famous mountaineering Sherpas) doesn’t like to live below about a mile high because they lack some of malaria resistance that the Indian population enjoys. The Indians, in turn, don’t like to get too high because they don't handle thin air as well as the Tibetans.

In Colorado, resort towns at around 8000 feet like Aspen and Vail are vastly expensive because they appeal to energetic, aerobically fit rich white people. But Leadville, a couple of thousand feet higher at 10,152 feet, remains something of a curiosity due to its extreme altitude, which is definitely pushing the envelope for whites, so land prices are lower.

A study of altitude tolerance in different populations would be relevant to say, real estate developers. Is a retirement community at 9000 feet a good idea, or does altitude tolerance drop off with age? How about 7000 feet? 5000 feet? This is a serious issue: my uncle spent 20 years building his retirement dream house at 8,900 feet in his beloved Sierra Nevadas, only to discover that he and his wife couldn't tolerate altitude as well anymore once they reached retirement age. (There are also big problems for pregnant women at extreme altitudes.)

Does the growing Mexican-American community of the Rocky Mountain States, many of whom are migrants from fairly high altitude parts of Mexico, have better or worse altitude tolerance than whites? 

You might be able to score some speakers fees at real estate conventions just by assembling all the relevant information on altitude tolerance.

There are a host of interesting implications, large and small, that might be uncovered by an exploration of the interplay of altitude (and/or latitude), genes, and economics.

Can somebody please dumb down the theory and practice of Bitcoin for me?

Several readers have suggested that I accept contributions in Bitcoin.

I've gone to the Wikipedia page on Bitcoin several times to learn what it is, but I immediately feel like I'm reading a monograph on how the Wizard of Oz is an allegory about the bimetallism debates of the 1890s. 

Personally, I'm not confident that I totally understand why, say, the grocery store accepts my greenbacks in return for food, so asking me to grasp a novel form of non-governmental currency that exists mostly in cyberspace is way too many levels of abstraction for me.

So, please help me achieve Bitcoin enlightenment.

In the meantime, I am accepting payment in several convenient ways:

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The latest car crash in trendy economics: "The Out of Africa Hypothesis, Human Genetic Diversity, and Comparative Economic Development" by Quamrul Ashraf and Oded Galor

Recently, Science and the American Economic Review teamed up to splash a paper by two economists correlating the wealth of nations with genetic diversity. Here's the abstract:
The Out of Africa Hypothesis, Human Genetic Diversity, and Comparative Economic Development 
Quamrul Ashraf and Oded Galor

Forthcoming in the American Economic Review 
This research advances and empirically establishes the hypothesis that, in the course of the prehistoric exodus of Homo sapiens out of Africa, variation in migratory distance to various settlements across the globe affected genetic diversity and has had a long-lasting hump-shaped effect on comparative economic development, reĆ”ecting the trade-offs between the beneficial and the detrimental effects of diversity on productivity. While intermediate levels of genetic diversity prevalent among Asian and European populations have been conducive for development, the high diversity of African populations and the low diversity of Native American populations have been detrimental for the development of these regions. 

Not surprisingly, Nature is promoting a backlash against the paper splashed in Science on the grounds of political incorrectness. 

From Nature (via Marginal Revolution)
Economics and genetics meet in uneasy union 
Use of population-genetic data to predict economic success sparks war of words. 
Ewen Callaway 
10 October 2012 
The United States has the right amount of genetic diversity to buoy its economy, claim economists. 
“The invalid assumption that correlation implies cause is probably among the two or three most serious and common errors of human reasoning.” Evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould was referring to purported links between genetics and an individual’s intelligence when he made this familiar complaint in his 1981 book The Mismeasure of Man.  

Oh, boy, here we are in 2012 and “Nature” is still citing the authority of Stephen Jay Gould’s dopey and discredited 1981 bestseller as an unquestioned authority text …

Are we ever going to make any intellectual progress?
Fast-forward three decades, and leading geneticists and anthropologists are levelling a similar charge at economics researchers who claim that a country’s genetic diversity can predict the success of its economy.
To critics, the economists’ paper seems to suggest that a country’s poverty could be the result of its citizens’ genetic make-up, and the paper is attracting charges of genetic determinism, and even racism. But the economists say that they have been misunderstood, and are merely using genetics as a proxy for other factors that can drive an economy, such as history and culture. The debate holds cautionary lessons for a nascent field that blends genetics with economics, sometimes called genoeconomics. The work could have real-world pay-offs, such as helping policy-makers to set the right level of immigration to boost the economy, says Enrico Spolaore, an economist at Tufts University near Boston, Massachusetts, who has also used global genetic-diversity data in his research. 

Spolaore then writes in to Nature to say that he never ever said anything about the I-word.

Here's Spolaore's upcoming review of all non-crimethink theories of why some countries are richer than others. It's pretty good, but the only marginally non-PC thinker it cites is Gregory Clark. Lynn & Vanhanen and Rindermann are conspicuous by their absence, as is Michael Hart, whose theory that winter makes people smarter due to natural selection seems to be the most plausible explanation of Spolaore's own research showing a major role for "absolute latitude." Spolaore's main focus is "long-term genealogical relatedness," which is a very good thing to think about, but intellectual life has gotten so thuggish that anybody thinking useful thoughts has to tread carefully these days to not attract the thugs.

To return to Nature:
But the economists at the forefront of this field clearly need to be prepared for harsh scrutiny of their techniques and conclusions. At the centre of the storm is a 107-page paper by Oded Galor of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, and Quamrul Ashraf of Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts1. It has been peer-reviewed by economists and biologists, and will soon appear in American Economic Review, one of the most prestigious economics journals.
The paper argues that there are strong links between estimates of genetic diversity for 145 countries and per-capita incomes, even after accounting for myriad factors such as economic-based migration. High genetic diversity in a country’s population is linked with greater innovation, the paper says, because diverse populations have a greater range of cognitive abilities and styles. By contrast, low genetic diversity tends to produce societies with greater interpersonal trust, because there are fewer differences between populations. Countries with intermediate levels of diversity, such as the United States, balance these factors and have the most productive economies as a result, the economists conclude. 
The manuscript had been circulating on the Internet for more than two years, garnering little attention outside economics — until last month, when Science published a summary of the paper in its section on new research in other journals. This sparked a sharp response from a long list of prominent scientists, including geneticist David Reich of Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, and Harvard University palaeoanthropologist Daniel Lieberman in Cambridge. 

Mostly anthropologists at Harvard. Unfortunately, the PC critique is intellectually lame and misses the actual flaws in Galor and Ashraf's paper.
In an open letter, the group said that it is worried about the political implications of the economists’ work: “the suggestion that an ideal level of genetic variation could foster economic growth and could even be engineered has the potential to be misused with frightening consequences to justify indefensible practices such as ethnic cleansing or genocide,” it said. 
The critics add that the economists made blunders such as treating the genetic diversity of different countries as independent data, when they are intrinsically linked by human migration and shared history. “It’s a misuse of data,” says Reich, which undermines the paper’s main conclusions. The populations of East Asian countries share a common genetic history, and cultural practices — but the former is not necessarily responsible for the latter. “Such haphazard methods and erroneous assumptions of statistical independence could equally find a genetic cause for the use of chopsticks,” the critics wrote. 
They have missed the point, responds Galor, a prominent economist whose work examines the ancient origins of contemporary economic factors. “The entire criticism is based on a gross misinterpretation of our work and, in some respects, a superficial understanding of the empirical techniques employed,” he says. Galor and Ashraf told Nature that, far from claiming that genetic diversity directly influences economic development, they are using it as a proxy for immeasurable cultural, historical and biological factors that influence economies. “Our study is not about a nature or nurture debate,” says Ashraf. 

Even less surprisingly, the most interesting question is whether the paper or its critics are more wrong, because the economists' paper simply assumes as truth one of my Seven Dumb Ideas about Race: that the old saw about how Africans are the most genetically diverse is really meaningful, when population geneticists try hard to find the least important genes to track.

I’ve only read the abstract of the paper, but it’s not encouraging: “the most homogeneous country, Bolivia, placed at 0.63 and the most diverse country, Ethiopia, at 0.77.” How does Bolivia pass any kind of reality check as the “most homogeneous country”?

Heck, Bolivia and Ethiopia are oddly rather similar in some ways: both have isolated highlands and both feature some population groups that are part-Caucasian, part indigenous to the continent.

My guess is that the way they came up with Bolivia as the least genetically diverse and Ethiopia as the most is that they got fooled into naively focusing on the so-called junk genes that population geneticists study to determine racial groups’ genealogies. 

And they may have also followed the population geneticists’ rule of thumb of ignoring everything from 1492 onward — e.g., you sample DNA extensively from isolated indigenous tribes in Bolivia’s Amazon and mountains, you don’t sample much from the big cities where most people have both Caucasian and Amerindian background.

Population geneticists try hard to avoid looking at economically useful mutations, such as lactose tolerance, because those get selected for and thus can be misleading about the past. Instead they prefer to study mutations on parts of the genome that don’t have much effect on anything important, because those genes tend to get passed down according to the laws of statistics governing random phenomena.

Those are much easier to project than economically powerful genes, such as lactose tolerance, which can set off wildly contingent consequences (e.g., the spread of the Indo-European languages may, or then again may not, have been caused by some Eurasian group getting that mutation and setting off on a career of conquest -- see Cochran and Harpending for details).

Looking at junk genes, sub-Saharan Africa has the most genetic diversity since most sub-Saharans’ ancestors didn’t get squeezed through the Out-of-Africa event. Pre-1492 South America had the least junk gene diversity because its ancestors were squeezed through both the Out of Africa and Out of Siberia events.

Here's how the two economists reason: Africa is the poorest continent so you assume that’s because of its high rate of junk gene diversity, and South America is kind of poor, so that must be because of its low rate of junk gene diversity. Europe is rich and it’s in the middle in terms of junk gene diversity, so all you have to do is fit an upside down U-shaped curve to your datapoints and voila, you have a cause celebre paper.

Or, I may have this all wrong, but this is the terrible feeling I got from reading their abstract.

Here’s economists Ashraf and Galor’s defense of their study.

Their critics are pretty silly, but Ashraf and Galor screwed up almost exactly the way I figured they did, only maybe even more so: instead of using diversity of junk genes in isolated pre-Columbian tribes like I assumed, they went one step farther and used a measure of migratory distance from the ancient Out of Africa event to come up with a stylized version of how much Out of Africa junk gene diversity there _would_ be if there hadn’t been any post-1492 admixture with Europeans or Africans!
“To this end, our work employs migratory distance from East Africa (i.e., distance along land-connected routes) as an “exogenous” source of variation in intrapopulation diversity across regions. Put differently, rather than directly employing the observed diversity measure, which may be tainted by genetic admixtures resulting from movements of populations across space in response to spatial differences in economic prosperity, we employ the variation in the diversity measure that is predicted by distance along prehistoric migration routes from East Africa.”

Oh, dear …

So, that’s how Bolivia comes out genetically most homogeneous in their study. To you and me, Bolivians may look pretty genetically diverse, with major contributions from Europe and the indigenes, with maybe some African in there in the lowland.

But, to Ashraf and Galor, Bolivia _has_ to be the most homogeneous because it’s just about the hardest place to walk to from the Olduvai Gorge. You have to get out of Africa, then you have to get out Siberia, then you have to get past the Panamanian isthmus, then you have to climb high into the Andes. I’m tired just typing all that.

The funny thing is that genetic differences in non-junk phenotypic genes obviously play an economic role in Bolivia. Real estate prices in La Paz are strongly negatively correlated with altitude. The richest, whitest people tend to live at the bottom of the canyon in La Paz where the air is thickest because white women tend to have pregnancy problems at over 10,000 feet, while the upland suburbs are cheap and almost all Indian. Cynthia Beall of Case Western has discovered the mutation that allows the indigenous people of the Altiplano to get by there better than outsiders.

If economists want to study the impact of genetic differences on economic life, just look at life as it really is in Bolivia.

October 10, 2012

Let's invent some new quotas

A reader writes:
As you’ve written earlier, I think the value of affirmative action is that it co-opts dissent by including the most intelligent from every ethnic group. This reinforces the ability of the elite to continue discriminating ruthlessly on intelligence for the jobs “that matter” in law, finance etc. As such, it is unlikely that AA would be banned outright. Even a restriction would just push it “into the shadows” – eg, it will still happen, just in another way or form.

Because I think the above is true, it seems like the only way affirmative action would end is if it is taken to its ridiculous logical conclusion, whereby admissions test are made easy and applicants are chosen randomly. A better strategy for folks opposed to AA would probably be to try and achieve these ends – to push on elite institutions with disparate impact (universities and corporations).

The downside case to this strategy, is that there is a social benefit to have a cluster of very smart people in one place, so they can feed off one another and do more interesting things together than they might do alone.

With places that focus on engineering (Stanford etc) this results in tangible and incredible technologies. The ivy league seems to be the font of financial engineering, so clusters can also produce products that more focused on the clever taking advantage of the clueless. (Yes, the economy benefitted from the additional leverage that was available from these innovations, but it has now left us with major structural problems).

The upside case from this strategy, for the folks who are disadvantaged by the practice, is that it would undermine the value placed on “elite” credentials, making the individual’s performance more important. This is a form of equalizing outcomes by lowering the standard. Not pretty, but it would have a big effect.

For society - if smart folks were more evenly spread throughout various industries and fields, rather than concentrated into a few value transference sectors, we might see a very different country 25 years from now.

An alternate way to achieve this last outcome would be to mandate reverse quotas – no single university can have no more than x% of their students from the top y% of scores. This would force the spread of our smart fraction and ensure we have smart people working in more fields. Safer for society since the “next big thing” is always unpredictable.

I can recall visiting Stanford as a high school student in 1974 or 1975 and being suitably impressed Why would anybody want to go anywhere else, I thought at the time, what with the weather, the beautiful campus, the easy grades, and now the rise around Stanford of this thing that was then starting to be called "Silicon Valley," where guys get rich living out science fiction dreams?

As far as I can tell, Stanford has fulfilled my exorbitant expectations of 37 years ago, but has it even moved up in the rankings since then? Not particularly. And that's mostly because Wall Street has sucked up more and more of the wealth, making the Ivy League colleges with the best pipelines to Wall Street ever more desirable, which in turn encourages Tigermothermania and so forth.

The sensible thing would be to take concrete actions to rein in Wall Street, but that may turn out to be politically unfeasible because they are, after all, Wall Street. So, perhaps we could nibble away at the Ivy League via Wall Street? 

We're all supposed to be worked up over inequality, right, so why is it so important which college you get into at 18? 

The Ivy League takes in about 15,000 freshmen per year out of an annual cohort of 4,000,000. Obviously, they do a pretty good job of selecting people likely to write them big checks in future fundraising drives, but, still ...

Perhaps regional hiring quotas could be imposed on firms in proportion to how much TARP money they took in 2008. For example, Goldman Sachs got a ten billion dollar loan in 2008 from the feds, so why not guidelines for Goldman Sachs about diversifying their hiring, showing that they are now recruiting at Big Ten and at SEC campuses. It's not like Goldman can't afford the airfare.

Amazon will deign to take your money again!

My apologies to all the readers who attempted to give me money via Amazon on Wednesday afternoon, only to find that Amazon had once again decided that their money wasn't good enough or something. As of ten minutes ago, Amazon is now deigning to pass your contributions on to me (minus their 2.9% and $0.30 transaction fee).

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More high comedy at the High Court

More from the transcript of oral questions at the Supreme Court in the Fisher affirmative action case today:

 CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: General Verrilli. 

[General Verrilli is the Obama Administration's Solicitor General]

... JUSTICE ALITO: Does the United States [i.e., the Obama Administration] agree 
with Mr. Garre that African American and Hispanic 
applicants from privileged backgrounds deserve a 

 GENERAL VERRILLI: I understand that 
differently, Justice Alito. Here's how we understand 
what is going on with respect to the admissions process 
in the University of Texas, and I am going to address it 
directly.  I just think it needs a bit of context to do 
 The Top 10 Percent Plan certainly does 
produce some ethnic diversity. Significant numbers get 
in. The problem is the university can't control that 
diversity in the same way it can with respect to the 
25 percent of the class that is admitted through the 
holistic process.
 So my understanding of what the university 
here is looking to do, and what universities generally 
are looking to do in this circumstance, is not to grant 
a preference for privilege, but to make individualized 
decisions about applicants who will directly further the 
educational mission. For example, they will look for 
individuals who will play against racial stereotypes 
just by what they bring: 

[In other words, economically privileged blacks and Hispanics should also be personally given special legal privileges in order to undermine the stereotype of blacks and Hispanics as disprivileged. It's a tough job but somebody's gotta do it!]

The African American fencer; 
the Hispanic who has -- who has mastered classical 

[I love the General's pause before coming up with the example of the Hispanic who gets into UT despite presumably mediocre grades and test scores but "who has -- who has mastered classical Greek." His pause as he tries to come up with an example reminds me of Waugh's Scoop where novice foreign correspondent William Boot is shown into the office of newspaper magnate Lord Copper and gets some advice on covering wars in Africa:
There are two valuable rules for a special correspondent — Travel Light and Be Prepared. Have nothing which in a case of emergency you cannot carry in your own hands. But remember that the unexpected always happens. Little things we take for granted at home, like...” he looked about him, seeking a happy example; the room, though spacious, was almost devoid of furniture; his eyes rested on a bust of Lady Copper; that would not do; then, resourcefully, he said: “...like a coil of rope or a sheet of tin, may save your life in the wilds. I should take some cleft sticks with you. I remember Hitchcock — Sir Jocelyn Hitchcock, a man who used to work for me once; smart enough fellow in his way, but limited, very little historical backing — I remember him saying that in Africa he always sent his despatches in a cleft stick. It struck me as a very useful tip. Take plenty.]

They can also look for people who have a 
demonstrated track record of -­

JUSTICE ALITO: If you have two applicants 
who are absolutely the same in every respect: They both 
come from affluent backgrounds, well-educated parents. 
One falls within two of the groups that are given a 
preference, the other doesn't. It's a marginal case. 
It's the last -- the last position available in the 
class. Under the Texas plan, one gets in; one doesn't 
get in. Now, do you agree with that or not?


JUSTICE ALITO: Do you agree with -- do you 
agree that that is an incorrect statement of the facts, 
or do you agree that that's an incorrect understanding 
of the Equal Protection Clause?

 GENERAL VERRILLI: I think it's both. I 
think the -- there is no automatic preference in Texas. 
And I think this is right in the -- it says at page 398a 
of the Joint Appendix -- the -- they describe the 
process as saying, "An applicant's race is considered 
only to the extent that the applicant, viewed 
holistically, will contribute to the broader vision of 
diversity desired by the university."

 JUSTICE SCALIA: Yes, but -- but the 
hypothetical is that the two applicants are entirely the 
same in all other respects.

 GENERAL VERRILLI: Right. But the point -­

JUSTICE SCALIA: And if -- if the ability to 
give a racial preference means anything at all, it 
certainly has to mean that, in the -- in the 
hypothetical given -- given by Justice Alito, the 
minority student gets in and the other one doesn't.

Justice Scalia. What the -- Texas, I think, has made 
clear -- and I think this is a common feature of these 
kinds of holistic approaches -- that not everyone in an 
underrepresented group gets a preference, gets a plus 

 JUSTICE SCALIA: It's not a matter of not 
everyone; it's a matter of two who are identical in all 
other respects.


 JUSTICE SCALIA: And what does the racial 
preference mean if it doesn't mean that in that 
situation the minority applicant wins and the other one 

 GENERAL VERRILLI: There may not be a racial 
preference in that situation. It's going to depend on a 
holistic, individualized consideration of the applicant.

 JUSTICE KENNEDY: I don't understand this 
argument. I thought that the whole point is that 
sometimes race has to be a tie-breaker and you are 
saying that it isn't. Well, then, we should just go 
away. Then -- then we should just say you can't use 
race, don't worry about it.

 GENERAL VERRILLI: I don't think it's a 
tie-breaker. I think it functions more subtly than 
that, Justice Kennedy. 

[C'mon, that's the best you can do, General? "More subtly"? What about "more ineffably"? "More transcendentally"? Lay it on thick, man! You have to get Kennedy's vote.]

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: It doesn't function 
more subtly in every case. We have findings by both 
courts below -- and I'm reading from the court of 
appeals opinion at Petitioner appendix page 33.
 "The district court found that race is 
indisputably a meaningful factor that can make a 
difference in the evaluation of a student's 
application." If it doesn't make a difference, then we 
have a clear case; they're using race in a way that 
doesn't make a difference. The supposition has to be 
that race is a determining factor.
 We've heard a lot about holistic and all 
that. That's fine. But unless it's a determining 
factor, in some cases they're using race when it doesn't 
serve the purpose at all. That can't be the situation.

 GENERAL VERRILLI: It can make a difference. 
It just doesn't invariably make a difference with 
respect to every minority applicant, and that's the 
key -­

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: You have to agree 
that it makes a difference in some cases.

 GENERAL VERRILLI: Yes, it does.


 GENERAL VERRILLI: But it doesn't 
necessarily make a difference in the situation that 
Justice Alito posited -­

JUSTICE GINSBURG: But that's the same -­
the same would be true in -- of the Bakke plan, that in 
some cases it's going to make a difference. The same 
would be true under Grutter. The same would be true 
under the policies now in existence at the military 

[In other words, we've been BSing Americans since Bakke in 1978 and we'd better not stop now, or embarrassing questions might be asked.]

 GENERAL VERRILLI: That -- that is exactly 
right, Justice Ginsburg, but the point is that it's not 
a mechanical factor.

[It's an organic factor! No, it's a supernatural factor! I've got it, it's a metaphysical factor!]

 Now, with respect to the implementation 
of -- and the narrow tailoring inquiry, with respect to 
the University's implementation of this -- of its 
compelling interest, I do think it's clear that, 
although the Petitioner says she's challenging 
implementation, that this plan meets every requirement 
of Grutter and addresses the concern of Justice Kennedy 
that you raised in dissent in Grutter. Whether Texas 
had to or not, it did address that concern.
 There's no quota. Everyone competes against 
everyone else. Race is not a mechanical automatic 
factor. It's an holistic individualized consideration. 

[Yeah, that's the ticket: It's a holistic factor! It's an holistic individualized consideration!"]

And because of the way the process is structured, they 
do not monitor the racial composition on an ongoing 

JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: General, I think, as I 
take your answer, is that the supposition of 
Justice Alito's question is truly impossible under this 
system. There are not two identical candidates because 
there are not identical mechanical factors that -­
except the 10 percent plan.
 Under the PIA, the factors are so varied, so 
contextually set, that no two applicants ever could be 
identical in the sense that they hypothesize.

[It's a contextual factor!]

 GENERAL VERRILLI: That's correct. They 
make specific individualized judgments about each 
applicant -­

JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: Because no two people 
can be the same -­

[It's an in-the-mind-of-God factor.] 

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: To get back to what 
we're talking about

[Oooh, diss ...]

, you -- as I understand it, race by 
itself is taken into account, right? That's the only 
thing on the cover of the application; they take race 
into account.
 And the district court found -- and you're 
not challenging -- that race makes a difference in some 
cases, right?

 GENERAL VERRILLI: Yes. But the key, 
Mr. Chief Justice, is the way it makes a difference. 
And it makes a difference by casting the accomplishments 
of the individual applicant in a particular light, or 
the potential of an individual applicant in a particular 
 What -- what universities are looking for 
principally with respect to this individualized 
consideration is what is this individual going to 
contribute to our campus? And race can have a bearing 
on that because it can have a bearing on evaluating what 
they've accomplished, and it can have a bearing for the 
reasons I tried to identify earlier to Justice Alito on 
what they can bring to the table, what they can bring to 
that freshman seminar, what they can bring to the 
student government, what they can bring to the campus 
environment -­

JUSTICE BREYER: All right, sir. But it is 
the correct answer to Justice Alito's -- if there are 
ever two applicants where the GPA, the test -- the 
grades, the SA1, SA2, leadership, activities, awards, 
work experience, community service, family's economic 
status, school's socioeconomic status, family's 
responsibility, single-parent home, languages other than 
English spoken at home, and SAT score relative to 
school's average race, if you have a situation where 
those -- all those things were absolutely identical, 
than the person would be admitted on the bounds of race. 

GENERAL VERRILLI: Not necessarily.


[The audience gets the joke!]

... CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: General, how -- what 
is your view on how we tell whether -- when the 
University has attained critical mass?

 GENERAL VERRILLI: I don't think critical --
I agree with my friend that critical mass is not a 
number. I think it would be very ill-advised to suggest 
that it is numerical.

 CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Okay. I'm hearing a 
lot about what it's not. I'd like to know what it is 
because our responsibility is to decide whether this use 
of race is narrowly tailored to achieving, under this 
University's view, critical mass.

Mr. Chief Justice?


 I think -- I don't think that this is a 
situation in which the Court simply affords complete 
deference to the University's judgment that it hasn't 
yet achieved the level of diversity that it needs to 
accomplish its educational mission.

[Complete deference -- that's all were asking.]

 I think that the Court ought to -- has to 
make its own independent judgment. I think the way the 
Court would go about making that independent judgment is 
to look at the kind of information that the university 
considered. That could be information about the 
composition of the class. It could be information about 
classroom diversity. It could be information about 
retention and graduation rates. It could be information 
about -- that's specific to the university's context in 
history. Is it a university that has had a history of 
racial incidents and trouble or not? 

[If we haven't had any racial incidents, we can get you some quick. Our Ed School professors are very obliging when it comes to racial incidents. You want a noose? We can get you a noose, believe me. There are ways, Dude. You don't wanna know about it, believe me. Hell, we can get you a noose by 3 o'clock this afternoon.]

A series of 
 And then what the Court's got to do is 
satisfy itself that the University has substantiated its 
conclusion based on that -- based on the information 
it's considered, that it needs to consider race to 
further advance the educational goals that Grutter has 
identified as a compelling interest.
 And I will say, I do think, as the number of 
minority enrollees gets higher, the burden on the 
university to do that is going to get harder to meet. 
But I don't think -- I don't think there is a number, 
and I don't think it would be prudent for this Court to 
suggest that there is a number, because it would raise 
exactly the kind of problem that I -- that I think 
Justice Kennedy identified in the Grutter dissent of 
creating hydraulic pressure towards that number.

 JUSTICE SCALIA: We should probably stop 
calling it critical mass then, because mass, you know, 
assumes numbers, either in size or a certain weight.


 JUSTICE SCALIA: So we should stop calling 
it mass.


 JUSTICE SCALIA: Call it a cloud or 
something like that.



 GENERAL VERRILLI: I agree that critical 
mass -- the idea of critical mass has taken on a life of 
its own in a way that's not helpful because it doesn't 
focus the inquiry where it should be.

[In other words, nobody should think nuthin' about nuthin', the Supreme Court should just let the public universities do whatever they feel like. If you can't trust college administrators, who can you trust?]

[For the Supreme Court's questioning of the U. of Texas lawyer, which is also pretty amusing, click here.]

[It's hard not to be reminded once again of Theodore Dalrymple's insight:
“In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, not to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. ... I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.”]

Why it pays to read iSteve: Naive Hong Kong parents pay conman $2.2 million to bribe their sons into Harvard

From the Boston Globe:
To Gerald and Lily Chow, education consultant Mark Zimny must have seemed like the answer to many parents’ prayer: Please let my child get into Harvard University. 
The Chows, who lived in Hong Kong, knew little about the US educational system, but they did know that they wanted an Ivy League education for their sons. And they had money to spend on consultants like Zimny, who, they believed, could help make the dream come true. 
What transpired, however, turned out to be a cautionary tale for the thousands of parents who are fueling the growing global admissions-consulting industry. 
Zimny, whom they met in 2007, had credentials. He had worked as a professor at Harvard. He ran an education consultancy, IvyAdmit. And he had a plan to help the Chows’ two sons, then 16 and 14. 
First, Zimny’s company would provide tutoring and supervision while the boys attended American prep schools. Then, according to a complaint and other documents the Chows filed as part of a lawsuit in US District Court in Boston, Zimny said he would grease the admissions wheels, funneling donations to elite colleges while also investing on the Chows’ behalf. 
According to the suit, Zimny warned the Chows against giving to schools directly. “Embedded racism” made development offices wary of Asian donors, he allegedly advised them; better to use his company as a middleman. 
Over two years, the Chows gave IvyAdmit $2.2 million. 
Now, they are charging that Zimny lied to them repeatedly, committing fraud, breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and several other transgressions — and they want their money back.

If only the Chows had been regular readers of iSteve, they would have known what the real Harvard Number for getting your kid into Harvard is, and that anybody asking for only $1.1 million per child is a palpable fraud.

Speaking of all the useful information you learn from reading iSteve, I gratefully announced last night that the first full day of my first fundraising drive in 14 month was most encouraging.

UPDATE: It turns out the next paragraph was based on a wrong assumption. It turns out that Amazon simply turned off my account without mentioning it to me when I check in to my account on their website. They've sent me an email demanding I answer the exactly same questions I answered the last time they turned off my account in the middle of Sunday night, which is why I posted their questions and my answers on my Amazon page.

Being a former member of the marketing research industry, I hoped that would encourage fencesitters to want to jump on the bandwagon. But being a notoriously bad marketer, my strategy, perhaps unsurprisingly, has so far had the opposite effect from what I intended: donations have since slowed to a trickle. So, today, let me beg you: I really, really need to make more money off my writing. It's all I do. I'm not a good multitasker, and if I had to go back and get a real job, I wouldn't be able to write much at all.

There are a few ways to support my work:

UPDATE: A reader emails:

I tried to send you another $10 (wish it was a lot more), but when I clicked on the one-time $10 donation button, I was taken to a page that says this:
Invalid Request

Error Message:
An Amazon Payments Business account with verified email address and
credit card is required to accept payments using Amazon Simple Pay.

Which I provided last weekend.

This is extraordinarily frustrating. Here you have Amazon, a company with a $100 billion market capitalization and it can't seem to not break down every day or two. 

You might almost think it's personal. 

Nor does Amazon go out of its way to publicize where to call or email when it decides to stop working.

So, for the moment:

First: You can send me money via Amazon (not tax-deductible). Click here and then click on the button for the amount you want to pay. It's especially quick if you already have an Amazon account, but any major credit card will work fine. (I want to thank all the generous folks who helped me work out the kinks in this method, using their own real money.)

Here's what is still working at present:

Second: You can make a tax deductible contribution to me via VDARE by clicking here.

Third: You can mail a non-tax deductible donation to:

Steve Sailer
P.O Box 4142
Valley Village, CA 91617-4142


The irony of "critical mass" in the pursuit of academic diversity

After the Grutter / Gratz cases of 2003 legalized racial/ethnic preferences in college admissions to ensure a "critical mass" of minorities on campus, a lawyer complained to me that I had introduced the concept of "critical mass" to the debate in my 1995 National Review article "Where the Races Relate." I am extremely doubtful that I was the first to use the term "critical mass" in regard to college admissions quotas, but it would be ironic since I pointed out why the pursuit of diversity works against the achievement of a critical mass:
What could colleges learn from the Army and from their own athletes about race? 
(1). Selection 
(1A). Specialization and Critical Mass -- One little-appreciated reason for the impressive record of accomplishment by blacks in the Army (e.g., after Desert Storm there were 26 black generals) is their lack of success in the Navy (only two black admirals). Achievement in one field naturally breeds more success in that same field. Initially arbitrary variations self-perpetuate. Successful immigrant group like Asian Indians rise to affluence precisely by dominating niches of the economy like motel-keeping. As Adam Smith pointed out on P. 1 of The Wealth of Nations, specialization is the road to riches. 
According to Charles Moskos of Northwestern, the leading sociologist of military life, one key to the strong performance of black Army officers has been a widespread self-help organization for black officers called Rocks. In it, senior officers mentor younger men in how to live up to the demands of being an officer and a gentleman. In the Navy, however, a lack of critical mass hampers similar efforts: if, say, you are the only African-American officer on your nuclear submarine, you can't turn to another black man for advice for your entire cruise. Thus, it continues to makes more sense for an ambitious young black to join the Army than the Navy. 
On campus, however, the automatic reaction whenever an embarrassing shortfall of blacks in any field is pointed out is another affirmative action campaign. For example, architecture schools have been attempting for years to recruit more blacks and Hispanics. Now, I commend a career in architecture to any young person with a trust fund, but the less privileged should remember that architecture pays wretchedly for the first decade or two (or three or four). 
Conservative critics of quotas often argue that lowering entrance standards for minorities is Bad, but that more intensely recruiting minorities is Good. Yet, seldom does any race-based recruitment campaign stem from a hardheaded analysis of what's in the best interest of the minorities. Instead, affirmative action is an automatic response by white leaders to their discomfort over their Black Lack. African-Americans have enough problems of their own without taking on this new Black Man's Burden of helping whites feel better about themselves. 
Before affirmative action, unpopular but "unprotected" minorities tended to initially congregate at certain congenial schools: e.g., Mormons at Brigham Young, Catholic ethnics at Jesuit colleges, lesbians at Smith, or free-market economists at the University of Chicago back during the Keynesian heyday. At these havens, the minorities could be confident of ample role models, freedom from snubs, fair shots at leadership positions, courses addressing their interests, responsive audiences for their ideas, and opportunities for their future leaders to meet. The most striking example of this occurred during the Depression when the Ivy League enforced anti-Semitic quotas. So, brilliant Jews concentrated at City College of New Yorks (e.g., three Nobel Prize winners came from the class of 1937 alone). This critical mass of talent set off chain reactions that energized American intellectual life for decades. 
Today, though, a black high school senior looking for universities where blacks comprise a significant fraction of the best minds on campus would end up with the same list as his grandfather: the historically black schools like Howard. In fact, these colleges still appear to produce a disproportionate share of black high achievers, despite debilitating competition from far richer colleges for the brightest black minds. 
Why can't wealthy mainstream universities afford the critical mass of top black talent that would make them nurturing environments for black students and professors? Paradoxically, the lock-step obsession of elite colleges with appearing "diverse" has scattered the finest black thinkers in a homogeneously thin and lonely diaspora across every college town in urban and rural America. Consider the career path of the outstanding scholar of African-American literature, Henry Louis Gates. A few years ago he publicly mused about going to Princeton, where he could have teamed with Nobel Laureate Toni Morison, philosopher Cornel West, and other leading black humanists. But hiring Dr. Gates is a quick (though not cheap) way for a school with few first rate black professors to advertise its Commitment to Diversity. Bidding wars have thus carried Dr. Gates instead from Yale to Cornell to Duke to Harvard.