October 11, 2013

The 1998 NFL #1 draft pick

Malcolm Gladwell famously argued in 2008 that the performance of quarterbacks in the NFL "can't be predicted:"
This is the quarterback problem. There are certain jobs where almost nothing you can learn about candidates before they start predicts how they'll do once they're hired. ... The problem with picking quarterbacks is that [U. of Missouri quarterback] Chase Daniel's performance can't be predicted. The job he's being groomed for is so particular and specialized that there is no way to know who will succeed at it and who won't. In fact, Berri and Simmons found no connection between where a quarterback was taken in the draft—that is, how highly he was rated on the basis of his college performance—and how well he played in the pros.

Chase Daniel, who finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting in 2007, went undrafted by the NFL. Yet, he's now in his fifth year in the NFL, and has a spectacular career completion percentage of 77.8%. Unfortunately, he's only been allowed to throw 9 passes over five years.

There are many examples of bad quarterback draft picks, such as the wasting of the #2 draft pick in 1998 on Ryan Leaf. 

Still, although I haven't been following football closely this year, I've gathered the impression that the #1 pick of 1998 remains gainfully employed in a quarterbacking capacity.

October 10, 2013

Everybody Hates Malcolm

Way back in 2005, 2006, and 2008, when Malcolm Gladwell was wildly esteemed, I pointed out the fundamental flaws in his thinking. 

This led Malcolm, in his disastrous 2009 debate with Steven Pinker, to denounce me in the New York Times as an evil source of data about (of all things) NFL quarterbacks: "Sailer, for the uninitiated, is a California blogger with a marketing background who is best known for his belief that black people are intellectually inferior to white people."

By 2013, however, everybody hates Malcolm, so it's worth reading Gladwell's defense of himself.

October 9, 2013

Galton and Boas go head to head

A reader writes:
As a Galton enthusiast you might find these photos interesting. They show one of the entrances to the Social Sciences Research Building, completed in 1929 and part of the neogothic UChicago quad ("the city gray").  
 With an implied parity, twin reliefs of Francis Galton and Franz Boas stare at each other above the doorway. They look like a couple of logos from the Sunday night ESPN coverage of that storied rivalry, nature vs. nurture. They remind me, every time I walk beneath them, that it was not too long ago that a scholar could respectably have an interest in heredity as well as culture.

The relief of the much-demonized Galton is used by Chicago's statistics department as its logo. U. of Chicago stats professor Stephen M. Stigler is the foremost spokesman for the importance of Galton in the development of statistics.

Galton and Boas seem like a good balance. The intellectual climate in 1929 was well-modulated: the hereditarians were respected, but the environmentalists had landed some solid punches on the Darwinians' worst ideas. Both sides were upping their games due to this competition.

According to historian Carl Degler's In Search of Human Nature: The Decline and Revival of Darwinism in American Social Thought, the tipping point into dogmatic blank slate extremism was the Stock Market Crash of October 1929 (not the coming to power in 1933 of the Nazis, as history was later rewritten). The sudden inability of businessmen to donate magnificent new buildings for intellectuals to work in led to an Agonizing Reappraisal of human nature: Hey, maybe those Bolshies are on to something!

It was a little bit more complicated than that, but never underestimate the intellectual appeal of piles of money and the revulsion that the disappearance of the big bucks generates in the brainy.

The decline of wise women

One more observation to add to my Taki's column "In Search of Sexier Scientists," which compares the feminist complaints in the NYT from a lesbian Harvard Business School dean (last month) and from a Yale grad girly-girl novelist (this month). The homosexual is upset by the pressure society puts on young women to dress sexy, while the heterosexual is upset by the pressure society puts on young women to not dress sexy.

By now it should be clear that a large fraction of lesbians will always have obtuse and self-serving theories about what pretty girls need: Young women should stop wasting time mooning over boys and instead follow the leadership of strong women (perhaps into bed). As Betty Friedan lamented in the 1970s about the fate of her National Organization for Women, feminist organizations tend to get taken over by lesbian cabals.

But, there aren’t many lesbians, on average; they're not particularly appealing; and most women don’t pay much attention to organized feminism. (For example, whatever happened to NOW?) Clueless lesbians ye shall always have with ye.

Of more concern is Eileen Pollack’s kind of disorganized feminism. Autism researchers have a term "theory of mind" to describe what autistics lack in their perceptions of other people. Pollack's 8000 word article on Yale coeds is strikingly lack in theory of mind terms when it comes to Yale men. They're pretty much ciphers. That's peculiar because she is a novelist in her later 50s and has a son. 

In contrast, to lesbians, there’s nothing inevitable about feminine women in late middle age being as lacking in wisdom as Ms. Pollack. That’s real damage caused by marinating in decades of feminist ideology: feminism encourages self-absorption.

Mature female wisdom is a valuable societal resource. If you want advice on an interpersonal problem that is baffling you, the single most likely demographic segment to understand the various human perspectives involved is older women, especially ones who had fathers in their lives, brothers, husbands, and/or sons so that they have sympathetic experience with how males think.

Unfortunately, we're going to have the dumbest, most self-centered grandmothers in history.

The slowness of innovation

From the NYT:
Peapod, an online grocer in the Northeast and Midwest that provides home delivery, recently developed a feature on its mobile app that allows customers to restock household staples by scanning bar codes with their smartphones at home. 
“You are finishing the box of Cheerios, pouring your last bowl,” explained Mike Brennan, Peapod’s chief operating officer, “and before throwing the box away, you take out your phone and scan the bar code.” The order goes straight to the consumer’s virtual shopping basket.

Back around 1995, I wrote a consulting report for Peapod, advising them that there was this new thing out there called the Internet and that it was going to be big, so they need to have a "website" rather than their then-current bank of dial-up modems and non-HTML software interface.

I followed-up with a speculative report for private investors on the next level beyond Peapod, which would appear be what Peapod is groping for in 2013: to bring the logistics revolution to your pantry. American retailers have become vastly more efficient at minimizing their capital and warehouse space tied up in inventory. They scan bar codes to know when they are running out of a product so they can order more just-in-time.

But one way they lower nominal prices is by offloading much of the cost of inventory management onto their shoppers. To shop at Costco, it helps to have a strong back to lift cases, an SUV to carry your purchases home, a large amount of storage space, and maybe a second refrigerator for storing goods. For example, I'm currently drinking a lukewarm Kirkland diet cola from Costco that I just got from my storage dump on my back stoop, because I have no more room in my kitchen, much less my refrigerator.

Not surprisingly, spoilage tends to be high as well because container sizes are so large.

In the distant future, families will use inventory management systems that track the depletion of groceries off their shelves and deliver optimally sized new shipments as needed. But, as I pointed out in 1995, there were huge hurdles to this process. Perhaps the most daunting I could see was how to deliver fresh (and thus spoilable) groceries to household where nobody is home most of the day.

A message to my future patrons

I am most heartened by the response to my fundraising drive. Many thanks to the generous veteran contributors who have anted up once again. 

Today, I'd like to focus my appeal on readers who haven't contributed before. Please consider taking the plunge. Sure, it may wind up on your Permanent Record in the yottabyte of information stored at the Utah Data Center. (Or not, depending upon which option you choose below.) But think about how good it would feel to take a tangible stand.

Here are some options:

First, you can make a tax deductible contribution via VDARE by clicking here. You can use credit card or check (please put my name on the memo line of any checks).

Second, you can make a non-tax deductible contribution via WePay by clicking here

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

Steve Sailer
P.O Box 4142
Valley Village, CA 91607-4142


P.S., A reader wants to know if I have other sources of income than my writing.

Well, I have a very hardworking wife.

But, other than that, no.

I have been a full time professional writer throughout this century. Virtually everything I write is published under my own name and is linked to from my websites or otherwise easily accessible on the web (e.g., I comment on other websites under my own name). I don't do corporate writing -- not that I have anything against it, just that it would take a lot of time to do it well and would thus distract from my writing under my own name.

I've seen the suggestion that I probably also write under a pseudonym. If only there were 29 hours in a day. I would presume that at least the quantity (and, hopefully, quality) of my output would suggest I'm not just doing this in my spare time. I probably put in somewhere around 65 hours per week of work related to what you read. I can't imagine a more pleasant way to work 65 hours per week, but it doesn't leave much time for anything else. Hence, I'm highly dependent upon my readers.

Women in Life Sciences v. Lifeless Sciences

"Now I am become Death,
the destroyer of worlds."
My current Taki's article reflects upon an impassioned New York Times article about the societal forces preventing as many women as men from getting Ph.D.'s in physics. 

Of course, a lot of top female science talent prefers to go into the Life Sciences rather than into physics.

Consider Nobel Prizes. These are lagging indicators, extremely so in the case of this week's Physics Nobel for theoretical work on the Higgs boson 49 years ago. Still, they are of interest.

Let's use 1969 as the year when modern feminist consciousness crystallized. So, here are the before 1969 and after 1969 number of female laureates for each hard science:

Before 1969
Physics: 2
Chemistry: 3
Physiology or Medicine: 1

So, no particular pattern was apparent back then.

After 1969
Physics: 0
Chemistry: 1
Physiology or Medicine: 9

So, in the feminist era, great women scientists have increasingly concentrated upon the higher, messier, living end of Edward O. Wilson's hierarchy of consilience. Even higher up (e.g., in evolutionary psychology), women become even more important.

Personally, having probably had my life saved in 1998 by a new life science invention, the monoclonal antibody for fighting lymphatic cancer, the fact that so much female talent goes into the Life Sciences seems pretty okay with me.

In contrast, the appeal to smart women of working with lifeless things is more limited. Patti Hausman, who has a doctorate in a life science, said:
Most of the physical sciences bore me silly. Efforts to attribute my apathy to "masculinist bias" in the curriculum amuse me no end... Reinventing the curriculum will not interest me in learning how my dishwasher works. It is a thing and things bore me. People are another story. I find them fascinating. 

But the distinction isn't just between the Life and Lifeless Sciences, but between the Life Sciences and the Death Sciences. 

The colossal prestige of physics was permanently cemented on July 16, 1945 at Trinity, NM. As the shockwave from the first ever atomic bomb passed beyond the Los Alamos physicists' observation post, J. Robert Oppenheimer reflected, in the words of the Bhagavad-Gita
"Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."

To a highly intelligent adolescent female mind, this most famous quote from the history of 20th Century physics is alien and horrifying. To a certain number of highly intelligent adolescent male minds, however, "destroyer of worlds" is the most awesome thing anybody ever said outside of a comic book.

Mr. Porter's Finishing School for Proper IQ Thought

Miss Porter
The NYT's long-time correspondent covering Hispanic-Americans, the Spanish-firstnamed Eduardo Porter (is he related to the Porters of Miss Porter's School for girls in Connecticut?), points out that America's top dogs and fat cats deserve better underlings and minions.
Stubborn Skills Gap in America’s Work Force 
One of the few things that nearly everyone in Washington agrees on is that American workers are the best. ...

I never thought that. When I was about six or seven, it occurred to me that I was wildly lucky to be born in America.

In general, this notion that Americans have to be better than everybody else in order to deserve the benefits of being American is an insidious one that benefits elites at the expense of average Americans.
Fact is, they are not. 
To believe an exhaustive new report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the skill level of the American labor force is not merely slipping in comparison to that of its peers around the world, it has fallen dangerously behind. 
Though we possess average literacy skills, we are far below the top performers. Twenty-two percent of Japanese adults scored in the top two of six rungs on the literacy test. Fewer than 12 percent of Americans did. 
Twenty-nine percent of Americans scored in the lowest two rungs [of numeracy] — 10 percentage points more than the average. By percentage, more than twice as many Finns as Americans scored in the top two.

Among those at the lowest level of literacy in the U.S., 53% are Hispanic and 20.9% are black, or 73.9% NAM. Among those at the lowest level of numeracy, 37.3% are Hispanic and 31.5% are black, or 68.8% NAM.
The O.E.C.D. study lands in the midst of a contentious debate over whether the United States faces a skills shortage. Over the last couple of years, employers have been saying that they can’t find enough skilled workers. Economists and other commentators have pointed out that employers would probably find them if they offered higher wages. 
The report suggests that the sluggish employment growth since the nation emerged from recession probably has little to do with a skills deficit that has been a generation in the making. But it pretty forcefully supports the case that this deficit is an albatross around the economy’s neck. ... 
Yet while other countries seem to have gotten the message, racing ahead to build skills, the American skills set is standing still. 
For instance, the youngest Koreans, age 16 to 24, scored 49 points more, on average, on literacy tests than the oldest cohort of 55- to 65-year-olds. ... in the United States that is not always the case: 30-year-olds in 2012 scored lower, on average, in literacy tests than 30-year-olds in 1994. ...
And yet, the report raises a couple of vexing questions. The highly skilled in the United States earn a much larger wage premium over unskilled workers than in most, if not all, other advanced nations, where regulations, unions and taxes tend to temper inequality. So if the rewards for skills are so high, why is the supply of skilled workers so sluggish? 
“The human capital base in the United States is quite thin,” said Andreas Schleicher, the O.E.C.D, deputy director for education and skills. “The American economy rewards skill very well, but the supply hasn’t responded.” 
... Immigration by less educated workers from Latin America plays some role. But as the O.E.C.D. notes, two-thirds of low-skilled Americans were born in the United States.

In other words, the Hispanics born in the USA aren't doing so hot.
And the United States has a poor track record in improving immigrants’ skills. ...
The other question is equally perplexing: if the supply of skilled workers is so poor, how can the United States remain such an innovative, comparatively agile economy? In other words, even if the American skill set is poor compared with that of its peers, who cares? 
Mr. Schleicher answered that question like this: today, the American labor market is good at attracting talented foreigners, offering them more money than they could make elsewhere.
“Japan has fantastic human capital but uses it quite poorly,” Mr. Schleicher told me. “The United States is the opposite. It has mediocre assets but is good at extracting value from them.”

It might have something to do with Japan having only as much land as California (and probably less usable land), but more than three times as many people.

And still, with every advantage (including oil), California manages to have the highest poverty rate of the 50 states (according to the most sophisticated new measure of poverty).
The question is, which country has the most difficult challenge? Mr. Schleicher says it’s no contest. In Japan, all you have to do is liberalize labor market regulations and allow firms to exploit human capital to its fullest. Here, human capital has to be painstakingly built, one cohort at a time. That work cannot begin soon enough.

You know, when you find yourself in a hole, dig faster. Go Schumer-Rubio!

October 8, 2013

Lesbian Eugenics marches on

Last month in Taki's Magazine, I wrote about Bill Clinton-lookalike Frances Frei, the Dean of Something at the Harvard Business School, and her war on slutty Halloween costumes. I mentioned that Frei is gay-married to a former student at HBS named Anne Morriss. Now, a reader points out that, in one of those iSteve Convergences, Morriss is involved with a new Lesbian Eugenics firm. From the BBC:
Genepeeks firm to offer 'digital baby' screen for sperm donors 
By Paul Rincon

A service that digitally weaves together the DNA of prospective parents to check for potential disease in thousands of "virtual babies" is set to launch in the US by December. 
New York start-up Genepeeks will initially focus on donor sperm, simulating before pregnancy how the genetic sequence of a female client might combine with those of different males. 
Donors that more often produce "digital children" with a higher risk of inherited disorders will be filtered out, leaving those who are better genetic matches. 
Everything happens in a computer, but experts have raised ethical questions. 
"We are just in the business right now of giving prospective mothers, who are using donor sperm to conceive, a filtered catalogue of donors based on their own underlying genetic profile," Genepeeks co-founder Anne Morriss told BBC News. 
"We are filtering out the donor matches with an elevated risk of rare recessive paediatric conditions." ...
She was motivated in part by her own experience of starting a family. Her son was conceived with a sperm donor who happened to share with Morriss the gene for an inherited disorder called MCADD. 
MCADD (medium-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency) prevents those affected from converting fats to sugar. It can be fatal if it is not diagnosed early. 
Luckily, in Ms Morriss's case, the condition was picked up in newborn screening tests. 
"My son has a pretty normal life," Ms Morriss said, "but about 30% of children with rare genetic diseases don't make it past the age of five." 
Genepeeks has formalised a partnership with a sperm bank - the Manhattan Cryobank - and has a patent pending on the DNA screening technology. ...
Ms Morriss's business partner, Prof Lee Silver, a geneticist and expert on bioethics at Princeton University, New Jersey, told BBC News: "We get the DNA sequence from two prospective parents. We simulate the process of reproduction, forming virtual sperm and virtual eggs. We put them together to form a hypothetical child genome.

Lee Silver, another blast from the past. The Human Genome Project came with a rider mandating 5% of the money be spent on ethics experts. Thus, Lee Silver was omnipresent in the media back around 2000.
"Then we can look at that hypothetical genome and - with all the tools of modern genetics - determine the risk that the genome will result in a child with disease. 
We're looking directly for disease and not carrier status. For each pair of people that we're going to analyse, we make 10,000 hypothetical children." 
The process will be run for the client and each potential donor one by one, scanning for some 600 known single-gene recessive conditions. In this way, the highest-risk pairings can be filtered out. 

If you are going to spend money for donor sperm, why not?

I could imagine a scenario -- feel free to use this in a Lifetime movie -- in which a woman is choosing between Donor X and Donor Y, and Genepeeks says Donor Y is clean but Donor X has a 1 out of 1000 chance of horrible Disease Z. But the lady says, But, from their pictures, I like X's smile more than Y's, so I'll go with Donor X. But then the baby is born with Disease Z, for which the mother can't forgive herself. Until, she discovers that ... well, I don't know what the plot twist would be because I lose interest in making up my own narratives with consistent rapidity.

But the subject of babymaking is inherently interesting.

Here's Razib's analysis of what Genespeek is selling.

Sailer: "In Search of Sexier Scientists"

From my new column in Taki's Magazine:
Continuing its blanket coverage of the problems of people who don’t really have problems, The New York Times turns from the plight of female Harvard Business School students to the woes of female Yale physics majors. 
In “Why Are There Still So Few Women in Science?,” Eileen Pollack, head of the creative writing MFA program at the U. of Michigan, devotes 8,000 words to the churning passions that accompanied her return to Yale, where she was a physics major in the mid-1970s before losing all interest in science and math. ... 
Together, these Harvard and Yale articles make informative reading because they show how protean feminist analysis has become. Feminism rationalizes a culture of complaint no matter how contradictory the gripes.

For example, the Harvard article recounted a lesbian dean’s struggle to prevent heterosexual women students from coming to class on Halloween dressed up in “sexy pirate costumes.” In contrast, the Yale tale told by Ms. Pollack, a middle-aged girly girl with an ex-husband and a son, protests how our culture discourages women scientists from wearing sexy clothes, such as fishnet stockings, in the laboratory.

Read the whole thing there.

A message to our sponsors

Thanks for the donations that flowed in today. There's nothing that encourages me more to keep up the fight than my readers' appreciation, especially in monetary form.

First, you can make a tax deductible contribution via VDARE by clicking here. You can use credit card or check (please put my name on the memo line of any checks).

Second, you can make a non-tax deductible contribution by credit card via WePay by clicking here

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

Steve Sailer
P.O Box 4142
Valley Village, CA 91607-4142


Race in the OECD test of adults

This new OECD test, which is sort of PISA for adults, comes with endless documentation of the results, including reports by country. The U.S. report says:
Black and Hispanic adults are substantially over-represented in the low-skilled adult population. Data on race/ethnicity were collected as part of the US national data collection in the survey (comparable data from other countries are not available). While one in ten (10%) white adults scores below Level 2 in literacy, more than one in three (35%) black adults do so, and nearly one in two (43%) Hispanics do. Similar patterns are observed in numeracy: 59% of black and 56% of Hispanic adults score below Level 2, compared to 19% of white adults.  

You expect poor literacy from immigrant groups, but the poor-to-mediocre numeracy of Hispanics in the U.S. came as something of a surprise to me when I was looking at the data in 1991. Hispanics are not like Asians in being relatively better at math than verbal.
Given that blacks and Hispanics are three to four times more likely to have poor skills than whites, these groups are substantially over-represented in the low-skilled population. Half of those with the lowest level of literacy (below Level 1) are Hispanic, and a further one in five are black. Among those with Level 1 literacy skills, about one in four are black and a little over one in four are Hispanic. Among those scoring at the lowest level of numeracy (below Level 1), 31% are black and 37% are Hispanic, while 22% of adults scoring at Level 1 are black and Hispanic

So, there are three Hispanic innumerates for every two white innumerates ... in absolute terms. Among adults with bad numeracy skills, there are 50% more Hispanics than whites. That's not saying that Hispanics are 1.5 times more likely per capita than whites. Instead, there are 1.5 times as many millions of innumerate Hispanics in the U.S. as innumerate whites in the U.S.

That may explain something about why the subprime bubble was so disproportionately concentrated among Hispanics.

By the way, I have no idea how valid the results for this test are. There seems to be a paradox that we should bear in mind when evaluating test results:

- The more everybody tried their hardest when taking the test, the more likely it is that some people cheated.

- The less anybody cheated, the more likely it is that some people just blew off trying on the test. 

Nicholas Wade on Ashkenazi ancestry

Berlusconi and Netanyahu
Genetic research on the ancestry of Jewish populations tends to get politicized because of the sneaking suspicion that the average Palestinian may be more closely related to the Hebrews of 70 AD than is, say, Bibi Netanyahu.
Ringo Starr and Bibi

Here's a new NYT article that validates what always seemed likely just from looking at European Jews: they're part-European.
Genes Suggest European Women at Root of Ashkenazi Family Tree 
Over the last 15 years geneticists have identified links between the world’s Jewish communities that point to a common ancestry as well as a common religion. Still, the origin of one of the most important Jewish populations, the Ashkenazim of Central and Eastern Europe, has remained a mystery.

A new genetic analysis has now filled in another piece of the origins puzzle, pointing to European women as the principal female founders, and to the Jewish community of the early Roman empire as the possible source of the Ashkenazi ancestors. 
The finding establishes that the women who founded the Ashkenazi Jewish community of Europe were not from the Near East, as previously supposed, and reinforces the idea that many Jewish communities outside Israel were founded by single men who married and converted local women. 
The study, published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, is based on a genetic analysis of maternal lineages. A team led by Martin B. Richards of the University of Huddersfield in England took a fresh look at Ashkenazi lineages by decoding the entire mitochondrial genomes of people from Europe and the Near East. 
Earlier DNA studies showed that Jewish communities around the world had been founded by men whose Y chromosomes bore DNA patterns typically found in the Near East. But there was a surprise when geneticists turned to examine the women founders by analyzing mitochondrial DNA, a genetic element that is separate from the main human genome and inherited just through the female line. 
... With the entire mitochondrial genome in hand, Dr. Richards could draw up family trees with a much finer resolution than before. His trees show that the four major Ashkenazi [maternal-line] lineages in fact form clusters within descent lines that were established in Europe some 10,000 to 20,000 years ago. The same is true of most of the minor lineages. 
“Thus the great majority of Ashkenazi maternal lineages were not brought from the Levant, as commonly supposed,” Dr. Richards and colleagues conclude in their paper. Overall, at least 80 percent of Ashkenazi maternal ancestry comes from women indigenous to Europe, and 8 percent from the Near East, with the rest uncertain, the researchers estimate. 
Dr. Richards estimates that the four major lineages became incorporated into the Ashkenazi community at least 2,000 years ago. A large Jewish community flourished in Rome at this time and included many converts. This community could have been the source of both the Ashkenazim of Europe and the Sephardim of Spain and Portugal, given that the two groups have considerable genetic commonality, Dr. Richards said. 

Here is Greg Cochran's take on the new paper.

Irresponsible speculation on implausible diplomatic revolutions

Awhile ago, I speculated irresponsibly about the highly unlikely possibility of Obama going full Hitler-Stalin Pact and dumping Israel in favor of Iran. Or, to frame the possibility in less inflammatory terms, there always exists a tiny potential for a diplomatic revolution akin to the mid-1970s reversal in which the Soviets flipped Ethiopia and the U.S. then picked up Ethiopia's enemy, formerly Soviet-backed Somalia. 

Today, I'm going to free associate about whom Israel might sign up as its new allies in the implausible eventuality it ever loses the global hyperpower as its ally. Presumably, the government of Israel maintains contingency plans for all such possibilities, so let's guess at what they might be.

If the American president were to take adamant steps against Israeli occupation of the West Bank, I'm sure the top priority for the Israeli government would be to help its friends in America place a more satisfactory individual in the White House, rather as George H.W. Bush's attempt to penalize Israel financially if it continued to support West Bank settling was followed by the elder Bush having the opportunity to spend more time with his family.

But, if that were to fail, what would be next on the diplomatic front?

Israel's more aggressive policies get little support in the United Nations from anybody other than the United States and a few random countries, especially Pacific microstates such as Palau and Nauru. Unfortunately, scraping all the guano off Nauru has lowered its elevation, thus making it more vulnerable to disappearing beneath the waves in case of global warming, which would cost Israel a reliable vote in the General Assembly.

Presumably, there are other countries whose General Assembly votes could be acquired, for whatever that's worth (mostly, I presume, as flanking for a major power's votes). Having the whole world against you, like the late Rhodesia, gets to be a drag.

But having a big power on your side is key. So, which one would be next for Israel?

China, of course, is first on most people's minds. Yet, I'm just not seeing it. China's foreign policy strategy appears to be to have its way with resource-rich African countries, many of which have large fractions of Muslims. Mineowners generally aren't popular with the masses, especially not foreign ones. So, if you are Beijing, why poke your finger in the Israel-Palestine hornet's nest when things are going smoothly at present for you in part-Muslim Africa? For China to align with Israel could stir up populist resentment in African countries.

Even though India is something like 13% Muslim, it might be a possible ally for Israel, especially if the Hindu nationalist BJP opposition party comes to power.

The most plausible road to Israel obtaining a Security Council veto vote if it lost its American one is through Moscow. There are hundreds of thousands of Russians in Israel, many of them in important positions. There are hundreds of thousands of Jews in Russia, many of them prosperous. Further, Russia, which always worries about its path to ice-free oceans, has its only Mediterranean naval base in Syria, and it may lose that. 

Putin and Netanyahu are not all that far apart ideologically. Putin is always looking for ways for Russia to successfully resist America's corrosive soft power and recommendations, and Israel is a worthy role model in that regard. Israel is the world champ at paying no attention to the American Establishment's thinking (such as it is) on domestic questions like population policy, undocumented workers, border fences, and so forth.

Test cheating by children of Asian immigrants

Education Realist, who has much experience teaching and tutoring children in Silicon Valley, has an interesting post "Asian Immigrants and What No One Mentions Aloud." She digs into news reports of scandals of cheating on important tests in schools, such as Advanced Placement, and finds a recurrent pattern of disproportionate Asian involvement. 

Now, cheating has been going on for a long time in America. Ted Kennedy got kicked out of Harvard for having an impostor impersonate him on a Spanish test. Fraternities routinely keep files of old tests to familiarize brothers with reused questions. Pushing the ethical envelope to keep football and basketball stars academically eligible is an American tradition.

Still, there seems to be a change going on that institutions like test designers aren't taking seriously enough. You'll notice that the federal government has been devoting a fair amount of resources to changing our paper money repeatedly to stay a step ahead of counterfeiters. I haven't noticed that kind of resolve among testing institutions to come up with technical solutions for this growing problem. 

The foremost problem is a lack of awareness among the media and public.
Teachers will tell you that high achiever cheating has a distinctly demographic tilt, which you can find in the stories if you look for it. Scratch the surface of any cheating story and odds are well above average the school or the class in question is disproportionately Asian. Journalists carefully scrub cheating stories of any racial references—unless it’s rich whites.... 
(Cheating by high ability black and Hispanic students is virtually unknown, both in my own experience and a complete dearth of reported stories. The major cheating scandals involving black and Hispanic students is done on behalf of the lowest performers, usually by teachers, usually being ordered to do so by administrators.)

Or coaches.
Researchers categorize cheating in three ways: impersonation, collaboration, and prior knowledge. 
First, and least likely for Asians in this country, is impersonation, the method used by the Great Neck SAT scandal and the Clarence Mumford case. Cheaters need lots of money, an impostor who can guarantee results, and an anonymous setting. The Mumford case was so extensive, I think, because teacher testing is anonymous and a passing score, as opposed to a high score, was the only thing needed. That, coupled with a whole bunch of existing teachers who couldn’t pass the test. While impersonation is common in China and India, the ETS/College Board spot maybe 200 cases of impersonation a year in the US—at least, they only admit to that many. According to this story, impersonation used to be an issue among college athletes, which makes sense (and would therefore involve low-ability blacks more than Asians). 
The next formal cheating category is “collaboration”, which means that students engaged in the work—test usually, homework almost always—are getting answers from other students also doing the work at that time. We don’t call this “copying” anymore, because getting answers almost always involves the consent and, well, collaboration of the person who has the answers. 
Collaboration stories that hit the news usually involve Advanced Placement tests. “Chaos cheating”, as I call it, is nicely illustrated by the Mills High School story, in which the entire school’s AP scores were invalidated. While the first article only mentions one student with an Asian name, the student site protesting the decision has each student signing in by name, and the names are so Asian it’s funny, making it almost unnecessary to confirm that Mills is 60% Asian. ...
Chaos cheating starts with a school screwup. The school doesn’t enforce security, sits the kids too close together, in circles or facing each other, directly against the rules. I know: what the hell does that have to do with the kids? They aren’t arranging this. At best, some kids are taking advantage of something that they had no control over. 
Except. ...
Then I heard the story [of chaos cheating] several more times from different kids, different schools, different review classes, always involving “Asian” schools or a heavily Asian testing population. I checked it against my white tutoring students, from a wide range of high schools, and the only ones who know of it also went to “Asian” schools. My Asian middle school students don’t know of it. The few Asian students I found who’d never seen it attended majority white or majority Hispanic schools—and they knew exactly what I was talking about, but told me that “wouldn’t fly” at their school. 
The kids who know of it tell me some variation of this: the testers rush into the room as chaotically as possible, pull chairs close together, sit next to a buddy, whine like crazy when the proctor tries to impose seating order. The proctor sighs, exhorts them not to cheat, and pretty much turns over control of the class to the students. At that point, the kids can quietly discuss answers, text a buddy for help, and basically “collaborate” in any way needed. 
Now, any decent, experienced proctor would never allow this. And yet, the “chaos cheating” stories that make the news all involve schools with a long history of high-achieving students taking all sorts of AP tests. The lax administration explanation simply doesn’t make sense.  
(AP Stats is a common cheating test. I mentioned this to a colleague, a third generation Japanese American, and he snorted, “Of course. That’s the math test for Asians who aren’t good at math.” and I suspect that this is, in fact, a good bit of the reason.) 
The Mills students tried to sue. While the effort failed, the decision includes detailed descriptions of Mills, Skyline, and Trebuco testing procedures. It’s very hard to believe that Mills and Trebuco, in particular, were so blatantly incompetent. ...
The third category of cheating is “prior knowledge”—students are aware of the specific content of the test before taking it. Again, prior knowledge cheating occurs in every day classes as a way to get As on tests, as well as national tests. Students take advantage of prior knowledge in school by breaking in or in some other way obtaining the tests ahead of time. Students caught in the widespread cheating scandal at Stuyvesant High had both provided answers for their strong tests and received them for their weak tests—and this NY Magazine article makes it clear that cheating at New York City’s top high school is endemic and common. Notice that none of the schools mention the dominant race of the students involved, but the hints are there and all but one of the example schools are over 40% Asian. The North Carolina school, Panther Creek High School, is only 16% Asian, but it’s in a highly educated area, the students involved were all top-tier, and did you notice the mention of parental pressure? Dead giveaway. Some kids use the TA gig—TA for a teacher, get copies of the tests ahead of time (or in some cases change the grades) and either trade or sell. 
Then there’s the national high stakes prior knowledge cheating scandals, in which the parties get the actual test information, sometimes from the Korean hagwons who pay testers to take pictures of the test ... 
(I’ve been talking about my work for a few months, and a friend just came back from taking her acupuncture board tests, shocked. She noticed all the “Asian testers” (no idea what countries) were disappearing into a large conference room, so she meandered down that way and discovered that they were all in a room with rows of laptops, typing ferociously. They weren’t studying. They were entering the questions for later testers.) 

#18 on Stuff White People Like is Awareness. I'm all for it.

OECD: American adults are innumerate, especially immigrants

From the NYT:
U.S. Adults Fare Poorly in a Study of Skills

American adults lag well behind their counterparts in most other developed countries in the mathematical and technical skills needed for a modern workplace, according to a study released Tuesday.

The study, perhaps the most detailed of its kind, shows that the well-documented pattern of several other countries surging past the United States in students’ test scores and young people’s college graduation rates corresponds to a skills gap, extending far beyond school. In the United States, young adults in particular fare poorly compared with their international competitors of the same ages — not just in math and technology, but also in literacy. 
More surprisingly, even middle-aged Americans — who, on paper, are among the best-educated people of their generation anywhere in the world — are barely better than middle of the pack in skills. 

Hey, it was the 70s, man. What did you expect?
... The study is the first based on new tests developed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a coalition of mostly developed nations, and administered in 2011 and 2012 to thousands of people, ages 16 to 65, by 23 countries. Previous international skills studies have generally looked only at literacy, and in fewer countries. 
The organizers assessed skills in literacy and facility with basic math, or numeracy, in all 23 countries. In 19 countries, there was a third assessment, called “problem-solving in technology-rich environments,” on using digital devices to find and evaluate information, communicate, and perform common tasks. 
In all three fields, Japan ranked first and Finland second in average scores, with the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway near the top. Spain, Italy and France were at or near the bottom in literacy and numeracy, and were not included in the technology assessment. 
The United States ranked near the middle in literacy and near the bottom in skill with numbers and technology. In number skills, just 9 percent of Americans scored in the top two of five proficiency levels, compared with a 23-country average of 12 percent, and 19 percent in Finland, Japan and Sweden. 
“The first question these kinds of studies raise is, ‘If we’re so dumb, why are we so rich?’ ” said Anthony P. Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. “Our economic advantage has been having high skill levels at the top, being big, being more flexible than the other economies, and being able to attract other countries’ most skilled labor. But that advantage is slipping.”

This is very much of a recent assumption that America is rich from being smart.  Older generations would have assumed that Americans were rich from having good institutions, being cooperative, enterprising, hard working, and having stolen a nice continent from the poor Indians, not from Americans being particularly smart. The U.S., for instance, barely won any Nobel Prizes before the late 1920s, yet America had the highest standard of living of any large country in the world.
In several ways, the American results were among the most polarized between high achievement and low. Compared with other countries with similar average scores, the United States, in all three assessments, usually had more people in the highest proficiency levels, and more in the lowest. The county also had an unusually wide gap in skills between the employed and the unemployed. 
In the most highly educated population, people with graduate and professional degrees, Americans lagged slightly behind the international averages in skills. 
But the gap was widest at the bottom; among those who did not finish high school, Americans had significantly worse skills than their counterparts abroad. 
“These kinds of differences in skill sets matter a lot more than they used to, at every level of the economy,” Dr. Carnevale said. “Americans were always willing to accept a much higher level of inequality than other developed countries because there was upward mobility, but we’ve lost a lot of ground to other countries on mobility because people don’t have these skills.” 
Among 55- to 65-year-olds, the United States fared better, on the whole, than its counterparts. But in the 45-to-54 age group, American performance was average, and among younger people, it was behind.

Like I said, you can't expect anybody to have learned anything during the 1970s.
American educators often note that the nation’s polyglot nature can inhibit performance, though there is sharp debate over whether that is a short-run or long-run effect. 
The new study shows that foreign-born adults in the United States have much poorer-than-average skills, but even the native-born scored a bit below the international norms. White Americans fared better than the multicountry average in literacy, but were about average in the math and technology tests.

So, what's the point again of the Schumer-Rubio bill to expand immigration?

October 7, 2013

NYT: "A Jew Not Quite English Enough"

One of the juicier political tales of recent years was the 2010 sibling struggle for leadership of the British Labour Party between brothers David and Ed Miliband, with the younger, more leftist brother Ed winning, and the elder brother going into a sort of exile in America.

Geoffrey Levy has written a fun article for the Daily Mail about the brothers' late father, the far left intellectual Ralph Miliband, and his relationship to his sons' sibling rivalry.
On a hot summer day, a young man made his way alone to Highgate Cemetery in North London to make a lifelong vow.  
Solemnly, he stood at the grave of Karl Marx at a moment when, in his own words, 'the cemetery was utterly deserted . . . I remember standing in front of the grave, fist clenched, and swearing my own private oath that I would be faithful to the workers' cause'.  
The year was 1940. The young man was Ralph Miliband, a Jewish immigrant who, with his father, had fled to London from Belgium just weeks earlier to escape the Nazi Holocaust. 
Miliband, father of Ed and David Miliband, died in 1994, aged 70, soon after the publication of his last book, Socialism For A Sceptical Age. In it, the venerated Marxist philosopher and academic continued to espouse his lifelong 'socialist' cause. 
One voice, however, vehemently informed him that he was still pursuing a lost cause. It was that of his elder son David. He did not mince his words.  
Having read the manuscript before publication, David wrote to his father asking, 'whether you are restating a case that has been traduced in theory or practice, or whether you are advancing a new case. I think that the book reads like the former . . .'

The word 'traduced' - which means 'disgraced' or 'denigrated' - was surely rather harsh, considering his aged father had always included his two sons (even when they were small), in the trenchant political discussions with ever-present academics and Left-wing thinkers that took place round the basement dining table of the family home in Primrose Hill, North London. 
Indeed, some family friends feel this episode, not long before their father died, could have been a contributory factor towards the younger - and considerably more Left-wing - son Ed unexpectedly deciding to fight his elder brother for the leadership of the Labour Party in 2010, and, of course, beating him. 
In his explosive memoirs, serialised last week in the Mail, Gordon Brown's spin doctor Damian McBride argued that Ed Miliband was obsessed with maintaining his father's legacy. Winning the leadership was Ed's 'ultimate tribute' to his father - an attempt to 'achieve his father's vision and ensure David Miliband did not traduce it'. Again, that word 'traduce'. 
Ed is now determined to bring about that vision. How proud Ralph would have been to hear him responding the other day to a man in the street who asked when he was 'going to bring back socialism' with the words: 'That's what we are doing, sir.'  
Ed's victory over David, made possible only with the unions' block votes, was perfectly in step with his father's fervent and undimmed conviction that 'alliance with the trade unions is not only one of the party's great strengths; it is by far its greatest strength'.  
Ralph's Marxism was uncompromising. ...

I have no idea if Levy's psychoanalyzing of the Miliband family makes sense, but it's certainly interesting. And it's hard to say that attention shouldn't be paid to the potential next prime minister.

But that's not good enough for Roger Cohen, op-ed columnist for the New York Times, who is now denouncing Levy in the NYT for "Jewish stereotyping" of Ralph Miliband.
A Jew Not Quite English Enough 
... This is Ralph (born Adolphe) Miliband, the late father of David Miliband, Britain’s former foreign secretary, and of Ed Miliband, the leader of the Labour Party. He is also, for that voice of the British conservative heartland, The Daily Mail, “The Man Who Hated Britain.” 
The headline stood atop a recent piece that portrayed Ralph Miliband as a disloyal socialist. He is accused of “availing himself” of a good British education while criticizing the nationalism he encountered on arrival. He helped his father in “rescuing furniture from bombed houses in the Blitz.” He stood reverently at the grave of Karl Marx in north London. He denounced the Falklands War, even while — The Mail insinuates — scheming to avoid death duties on the family house in fashionable Primrose Hill, and suffered from a “giant-sized social chip on his shoulder” that explained his criticism of British institutions. 
Sound familiar? The rootless Jewish Bolshevik who profits from others’ losses, shows no loyalty to the society in which he prospers, and devises clever two-faced financial maneuvers that demonstrate his essential hypocrisy: All this could of course have been borrowed from the Nazi propaganda Ralph Miliband fled as a young man. 
No matter, for The Daily Mail, that the young Jewish immigrant put his life on the line for Britain. Jews also served Germany with distinction as officers during World War I, but their military decorations, displayed with pride in their Berlin living rooms, did not prove they were loyal Germans (even if they loved nothing more than Germany) and could not save them.... 
... the evident Jewish stereotyping oozing from every insinuation in The Mail piece, which was written by a Jew, Geoffrey Levy, and defended most publicly by another Jew, The Mail’s deputy editor, Jon Steafel. For Levy and Steafel, in what the historian Lewis Namier characterized as the land of the “trembling Israelites,” Miliband was somehow not quite English enough. He was the Jewish communist outsider masquerading as an Englishman. 
John Mann, a Labour member of Parliament and chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, clarified the issue in a tweet. He called the attack on Ralph Miliband a “classical age-old anti-Semitic smear about disloyal Jews.” 
Dressed up as a defense of British values — when in fact it was a demonstration of bigotry in a land of overriding tolerance — that is precisely what The Mail article was: a smear laden with stereotypes of the scheming Jew. The fact that it has scarcely been debated as such demonstrates the existence of a problem rather than its absence. 
In his book “Anglomania,” Ian Buruma writes about his grandparents, German Jewish immigrants who became British, felt British, loved Britain — and yet. He writes: “Instead of using the word ‘Jew’ in public we would say ‘forty-five.’ The origin of this odd phrase is unknown. When Bernard was refused a senior position in a famous hospital in 1938, he wrote to Win: ‘It is the old, old story — (45).”’ 
This is indeed an old, old story. Keep quiet, use code, ignore the occasional comments about “pushiness” or “flashiness” or “stinginess” or “Jewish behavior” (whatever that might be) or a comment about a Jewish woman’s “great conk of a nose.” This, after all, is no more than genteel prejudice, harmless enough, unlike the Continental brand that Ralph Miliband fled. 
In The Mail article, a letter of Miliband’s is quoted: “Respectability, good taste, don’t rock the boat, there will always be an England, foreigners, Jews, natives etc. are all right in their place and their place is outside.” 
The worst of the piece is that it reflects the attitudes that could give Miliband these feelings at a time when Britain is a far more open society than the one he first encountered. 

Fortunately, David Miliband, at least, has found asylum from London's looming anti-Semites. Cohen concludes on a defiant note:
David Miliband tweeted that his father loved Britain. He now lives in New York, city of full-throated Jewishness. 

Well ... Okay!

Considering that Benjamin Disraeli was Queen Victoria's favorite prime minister in the 1870s, perhaps, though, Levy was objecting to Ralph Miliband's ideology rather than their mutual ethnicity? From Wikipedia:
"[Ralph] Miliband published his first book, Parliamentary Socialism, in 1961, which examined the role that the Labour Party played in British politics and society from a Marxist position, finding it wanting for a lack of radicalism.[10] .... He began arguing that socialists in Britain had to start working towards building a viable alternative that would be genuinely revolutionary socialist in its positions.[12]"

Let's take a look at recent British political history. The two main candidates for leadership of the Labour Party were Jewish (brothers, to boot, and sons of a well-known Jewish radical). The Tory prime minister David Cameron is a little bit Jewish by ancestry, and the previous Tory leader, Michael Howard, was Jewish.

Perhaps anti-Semitism at the top of British life is not quite the burning problem that it appears to Mr. Cohen?

Fall Panhandlemania

I want to thank readers who have recently donated, and alert others that it's time for the Fall 2013 iSteve Panhandling Drive. There's nothing that encourages me more to keep up the fight than my readers' appreciation, especially in monetary form.

First, you can make a tax deductible contribution via VDARE by clicking here. You can use credit card or check (please put my name on the memo line of any checks).

Second, you can make a non-tax deductible contribution by credit card via WePay by clicking here. 

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

Steve Sailer
P.O Box 4142
Valley Village, CA 91607-4142


Does Race Exist (part 49)?

Here are a couple of professors of philosophy debating the existence of race.

Adam Hochman explains "how to be a social constructionist about race in the post-genomic era."
In his recent article Race: a social destruction of a biological concept, Sesardic argues that social constructionists have been ‘refuting’ a straw-man characterisation of racial naturalism, the view that ‘race’ is a legitimate biological category (Sesardic, 2010). Social constructionists have burdened the concept of race, he claims, with clearly unacceptable essentialist connotations; all with the aim of dismissing it outright. In light of the modern synthesis, with its rejection of species essentialism, we are committed to the rejection of racial essentialism. The task for race naturalists, then, is to develop a “biologically informed but non-essentialist concept of race” (Sesardic, 2010, p. 146). 
But what are race naturalists made of, if not straw?

Neven Sesardic responds to Hochman in Confusions about race: A new installment.

Why the rise of Open Borders moralizing?

Back in the mid-2000s, the Sand States — California, Arizona, Nevada, and Florida — were booming, especially in areas with many immigrants and descendants of recent immigrants, such as California’s Inland Empire. Powerful figures such as George W. Bush and Angelo Mozilo of Countrywide had repeatedly and explicitly framed the expansive mortgage lending of the mid-2000s as a bet on the credit-worthiness of minorities, especially Hispanics. Only bigots would be skeptical. 

The booming economies in heavily immigrant areas were promoted by pro-immigrationists as proving that only racists had doubts.

The Sand State mortgage catastrophes of 2007-2008 led to a change of tack among immigrationist intellectuals. Rather than reassess their policy recommendations following the huge blow to their empirical case, they shifted sharply toward a moralistic argument for more immigration. Instead of saying massive immigration was good for Americans, economists began saying more vociferously: It’s evil to care about your fellow Americans. So what about the empirical questions, the important one is ethical. We must let in more poor Third Worlders because caring about your fellow citizens is wrong, wrong, wrong.

Of course, this sacralization of disloyalty as the highest morality hasn't stopped economists from aspiring to salaried positions of influence in federal and state government.

A Theory of Airports

It seems pretty obvious that metropolises that host major air transport hubs (e.g., Atlanta, Dallas, or Chicago) enjoy major economic advantages over metropolises that don't, such as Cincinnati, Cleveland, or Milwaukee. All else being equal, if you are a frequent flyer, you would prefer to live in a metropolis that offers numerous direct flights, rather than having to change planes constantly in Atlanta and other privileged places.

This must have been studied a million times, but I'm not familiar with what rules of thumb have been discovered about which cities tend to become the winners in the air hub competition.

So, here's a theory based on my limited and extremely out of date experience with business travel. Maybe having an airport convenient to the white collar part of the metropolis helps. For example, Chicago’s old Midway airport was built in the middle of the industrial, polluted, smelly (stockyards and slaughterhouses) southwest side. 

But then, mighty O’Hare was built out in the northwest. The wind tends to blow from the north in Chicago, so the wealthy long ago moved out of the South Side for the north side. O’Hare thus turned out to be relatively convenient for the upper middle class.

In contrast, Cincinnati’s main airport is way out in the sticks in Kentucky. I presume business travelers tend to live on the Ohio side of the metropolis, so they probably don’t find the airport’s location as convenient as they would hope in a small metropolis.

Unfortunately, those are the only examples I can think of.

Deep History: Genetic Economics

From Vox:
Long-term barriers to growth 
Enrico Spolaore, Romain Wacziarg, 3 October 2013 
There is now widespread agreement that ‘deep’ history matters for comparative development. Recent research has shown that ancestry – the transmission of genetic and cultural traits across generations – matters more than the history of geographic regions. This column argues that long-term divergences in inherited traits can create barriers to the diffusion of technology. The greater a population’s genetic distance to the population on the technological frontier, the lower its relative income will be. Development policies should aim at reducing barriers to exchange and communication. 
Students of comparative development have turned their focus to factors rooted deeper and deeper in history. 
There is growing agreement that human and geographic factors inherited from eras as far removed as the Neolithic period still influence the wealth of nations today. 
An early example of this hypothesis was Jared Diamond’s book Guns, Germs and Steel (1997), where he argued that geographic advantages from early human history still affect prosperity today. 
Economists no longer focus exclusively on the proximate determinants of growth, such as capital accumulation or technology – they now study deeper causes rooted in long-term history. The debate today is not whether deep history matters, but why and through which mechanisms it operates to affect current outcomes. 
Ancestors matter, but why? 
An important insight from the recent empirical literature is that the history of populations is a much stronger predictor of current economic outcomes than the history of geographical locations. For example: 
A long familiarity with organised modes of government and a long exposure to agriculture are good for economic development. But it is the history of a population that matters – more than the population’s location. The US is rich today because of the historical heritage of its European colonisers. 
The deep history of North America matters much less (Putterman and Weil 2010; Comin, Easterly and Gong 2010). 
The reversal of fortune – documented by Acemoglu, Johnson and Robinson (2002) at the level of geographic locations for former colonies – disappears when correcting for ancestry and expanding the sample beyond former colonies (Spolaore and Wacziarg 2013a; Chanda, Cook and Putterman 2013). 
This once more suggests that development can be accounted for by factors that are transmitted from generation to generation. 
A closely related literature argues that geography and biology affect current development because of long-term indirect effects, transmitted from one generation to the next, and going back to prehistoric times (Diamond 1997; Olsson and Hibbs 2005; Ashraf and Galor 2011, 2013). 
Even though Jared Diamond’s well-known book Guns, Germs and Steel is often presented as a purely ‘geographic’ interpretation of comparative development, at its core is the historical transmission of biogeographic advantage – such as agricultural knowledge and resistance to germs – across generations. According to Diamond, early inhabitants of Eurasia passed those advantages on to their descendants, who then moved to dominate large parts of the rest of the world.

Lots more good stuff here.

In the comments to Alex Tabarrok's post at Marginal Revolution, I ask:
Steve Sailer October 7, 2013 at 4:46 pm 
It would be interesting to compare genetic distance to language distance. Does genetic distance provide us any retrospective predictive power that language distance does not? The two measures correlate positively, but there are a number of interesting test cases where they are strikingly divergent, such as Hungary, Finland, and Basque country.

And Dr. Spolaore, one of the co-authors, replies:
Enrico Spolaore October 7, 2013 at 7:05 pm 
Good question. In our article “The Diffusion of Development” (QJE, May 2009), Romain Wacziarg and I discuss the relation between genetic distance and linguistic distance, and study the effect of relative genetic distance on income differences when controlling for measures of linguistic distance (and religious distance) (pp. 504-514). We conclude (p. 512): “In summary, using the best available measures of linguistic and religious distance, the effect of genetic distance on income differences is reduced by about 12%, but the effect remains large and significant. Overall, these results are consistent with our interpretation: when we measure some specific differences in vertically transmitted traits, such as in language or religion, we obtain a reduction in the size of the coefficient on genetic distance, suggesting that genetic distance was capturing some of the barrier effects associated with differences in these vertical characteristics. However, the reduction is not large enough to suggest that genetic distance only captures the effect of linguistic and religious distance. On the contrary, the reduction is relatively modest, and the effect of genetic distance remains large and significant even when controlling for linguistic and religious distance. This suggests that language and religion are but two of the many vertical characteristics that differ across populations, and perhaps not the most important barriers to the diffusion of economic development.”

News Flash: Science proves important people pay less attention to unimportant people

Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, explains in the NYT:
A growing body of recent research shows that people with the most social power pay scant attention to those with little such power. This tuning out has been observed, for instance, with strangers in a mere five-minute get-acquainted session, where the more powerful person shows fewer signals of paying attention, like nodding or laughing. Higher-status people are also more likely to express disregard, through facial expressions, and are more likely to take over the conversation and interrupt or look past the other speaker. ...
This has profound implications for societal behavior and government policy.  

I didn't quite follow Goleman's logic all the way to the end, but it has something to do with Republicans being Bad.

As a follow-up, they should investigate the burning problem that beautiful women tend to pay scant attention to homely, cheaply dressed guys who hit on them in bars and supermarket checkout lines.

Tyler Cowen denounces Open Borders

And no I do not favor open borders even though I do favor a big increase in immigration into the United States, both high- and low-skilled.  The simplest argument against open borders is the political one.  Try to apply the idea to Cyprus, Taiwan, Israel, Switzerland, and Iceland and see how far you get.  Big countries will manage the flow better than the small ones but suddenly the burden of proof is shifted to a new question: can we find any countries big enough (or undesirable enough) where truly open immigration might actually work? 
In my view the open borders advocates are doing the pro-immigration cause a disservice.  The notion of fully open borders scares people, it should scare people, and it rubs against their risk-averse tendencies the wrong way.  I am glad the United States had open borders when it did, but today there is too much global mobility and the institutions and infrastructure and social welfare policies of the United States are, unlike in 1910, already too geared toward higher per capita incomes than what truly free immigration would bring.  
Plunking 500 million or a billion poor individuals in the United States most likely would destroy the goose laying the golden eggs.  (The clever will note that this problem is smaller if all wealthy countries move to free immigration at the same time, but of course that is unlikely.)

Nobel Prize Week begins

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2013 was awarded jointly to James E. Rothman, Randy W. Schekman and Thomas C. Südhof "for their discoveries of machinery regulating vesicle traffic, a major transport system in our cells."

It's always interesting to look for new trends in laureates. These, however, look traditional: Two Americans and a German.

Key publications run from 1979, 1984, 1990, 1990, 1993, and 1993. My vague impression is that the prizes started to lag more in time to make sure they don't miss all the great stuff done in the 1970s. You could test that using the Nobel Foundation's lists of "key publications."

October 6, 2013

The Dynastic Gene (megalomania allele)

An article from the Los Angeles Times about my high school's football team:
It's all in the family name for prep football players 
By Eric Sondheimer 
From the land of high school football weirdness comes this tale: 
One of the top defensive players at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame is senior linebacker Anthony Gutierrez, the identical name of last year's top linebacker. 
They're brothers. And that led a reporter to ask the question: What's going on? 
Their father is also named Anthony Gutierrez and he decided to name his first son Anthony. No problem there. But then he started feeling guilty. 
"He didn't want to name the oldest Anthony and not the others," the second Anthony son said. "He didn't want to be unfair." 
So the second son was named Anthony, then the third son also became Anthony. He's 3. 
"People think it's weird," the mother, Gloria, said. 
Last season, Notre Dame players called them "The Anthonys." 
... To avoid identification weirdness, everyone has been given a nickname. Big Anthony is the father. Anthony is the first born. Tony is the second. Antonio is the third. 
The Anthonys are just two boys away from equaling boxer George Foreman's five sons, all of whom are named George. 
At Long Beach Poly, there's Rodney Shorter II and Rodney Shorter III. They're brothers. One's a senior linebacker and the other is a sophomore running back. One is known as Bama and other Little Bama. Their father is also Rodney Shorter.

Making money

The new $100 bill, with its additional anti-counterfeiting features
The $100 bill is an especially hot item on the global stage: The Federal Reserve estimates that one-half to two-thirds of $100 notes in circulation are abroad at any given time, making them one of the nation’s largest exports.

Remember how, before internationally usable credit cards, when you were about to travel abroad you first bought a bundle of American Express travelers checks? You told yourself that when you returned, you would take your unused travelers checks to the Amex office to get (most) of your money back. But, it turned out, you were tired from your trip so you just stuck them in a drawer, rationalizing that you were sure to travel internationally real soon now again so you'd just use them then. But, it turned out, you actually didn't get out of the country for several years, and by the time you did, you'd forgotten you had travelers checks sitting around, and even if you did remember, they were probably in one of those 8 still unpacked moving boxes of old vacation souvenirs and eight track tapes, so you just bought some more travelers checks from American Express. Meanwhile, interest rates were running 10% annually.

What a great business Amex had! Just sell people fancy pieces of paper for money. 

This is totally different from what the U.S. government does, of course. I think. But I have to say that I've never understood money at all. Trading salt for bullets in the Sahara is about as far as my powers of abstraction go when it comes to money. By the way, if you someday take the tour of the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington, don't ask any of the employees if they ever have so much work to do that they have to take some of it home with them. They've heard it before.

I'm reminded of the scene in the 1984 movie The Killing Fields when Dr. Haing S. Ngor is making his escape from the Khmer Rouge. There's a close up shot of a roll of American $100 bills that will be essential in getting out of Cambodia. This was one of 1984's U-S-A! U-S-A! moments. It's hard to recall just how battered American economic self-esteem was after the late 1970s, but I spoke to several viewers at the time who felt like Sally Field accepting an Oscar: "You like it! You really like our paper money!"

Of course, most money doesn't exist in paper form, just in electronic notation. So, how much does it benefit America that the digital dollar is the reserve currency for, say, the oil trade? Former French president Valery Giscard d'Estaing argued that the U.S. enjoyed a sizable "exorbitant privilege." This Wikipedia article sums up various studies attempting to quantify this concept, but they make my head hurt.

But, the vague sense that a few insiders' heads must not hurt so that we'd all better do what they say, has vague but broad political effects. Because I, like most people, don't comprehend anything about reserve currencies, I find myself a sucker for those who intimate that they know just how uncountable are the benefits America gets from dollars being the reserve currency and that they know how to keep the dollar the reserve currency.

So, they imply, if the government were to prosecute Wall Street muckety-mucks, or tax billionaires more, or not build the F-35 flying money pit, or not bomb Syria, or not invite the world, or whatever violates this moment's DC-NY Economist-reading consensus ... well that would have catastrophic consequences that little me can't begin to understand. They obviously must understand things I don't, so who am I to question their plans to, say, build 10 new aircraft carriers?