December 7, 2013

Life expectancy in South Africa

Here's a chart of life expectancy in the USA, plus five countries that underwent political transitions roughly during the era of AIDS. It's interesting that Poland's transition from communism went better than Russia's.

You can click on Explore data in the lower right corner and add your own countries.

By the way, I don't know how much to trust this data that Google provides so conveniently. "Life Expectancy" is kind of an inherently made-up number. Moreover the smoothly elegant (if horrifying) South Africa and Zimbabwe curves are clearly stylized in contrast to the jittery line for Poland. (Mexico may or may not be stylized.)

Zizek on Mandela

In the New York Times, the nominally Leninist (but perhaps, deep down, more Mussolinist) Slovenian celebrity philosopher Slavoj Zizek laments:
Mandela’s Socialist Failure
In the last two decades of his life, Nelson Mandela was celebrated as a model of how to liberate a country from the colonial yoke without succumbing to the temptation of dictatorial power and anti-capitalist posturing. In short, Mandela was not Mugabe, South Africa remained a multi-party democracy with free press and a vibrant economy well-integrated into the global market and immune to hasty Socialist experiments.

Keep in mind that Mugabe wasn't Mugabe for the first two decades of his rule. He was handed a country with plenty of arable land for everybody (well, except for his archrival Joshua Nkomo's tribe, but that was quickly forgotten). By 2000, the population had nearly doubled, however.
... Two key facts remain obliterated by this celebratory vision. In South Africa, the miserable life of the poor majority broadly remains the same as under apartheid, and the rise of political and civil rights is counterbalanced by the growing insecurity, violence, and crime. The main change is that the old white ruling class is joined by the new black elite. Secondly, people remember the old African National Congress which promised not only the end of apartheid, but also more social justice, even a kind of socialism. This much more radical ANC past is gradually obliterated from our memory. No wonder that anger is growing among poor, black South Africans. 
South Africa in this respect is just one version of the recurrent story of the contemporary left. A leader or party is elected with universal enthusiasm, promising a “new world” — but, then, sooner or later, they stumble upon the key dilemma: does one dare to touch the capitalist mechanisms, or does one decide to “play the game”? If one disturbs these mechanisms, one is very swiftly “punished” by market perturbations, economic chaos, and the rest. This is why it is all too simple to criticize Mandela for abandoning the socialist perspective after the end of apartheid: did he really have a choice? Was the move towards socialism a real option? 
It is easy to ridicule Ayn Rand, but there is a grain of truth in the famous “hymn to money” from her novel Atlas Shrugged: “Until and unless you discover that money is the root of all good, you ask for your own destruction. When money ceases to become the means by which men deal with one another, then men become the tools of other men. Blood, whips and guns or dollars. Take your choice – there is no other.”
... We can safely surmise that, on account of [Mandela'] doubtless moral and political greatness, he was at the end of his life also a bitter, old man, well aware how his very political triumph and his elevation into a universal hero was the mask of a bitter defeat. His universal glory is also a sign that he really didn’t disturb the global order of power.

Judging from the TV commercials shown during golf tournaments, we live in the Age of Gladwell, the triumph of MultiCulti Capitalism.

Eric Hanushek's $20 trillion idea

Click to enlarge
In the 2010 paper The High Cost of Low Educational Performance: THE LONG-RUN ECONOMIC IMPACT OF IMPROVING PISA OUTCOMES, Stanford economist Eric A. Hanushek and Ludger Woessmann take a pretty scientific SWAG at what would be the economic benefits of your country enjoying the higher cognitive skills associated with higher PISA scores. They mull over the results of a series of mostly forgotten international math and science exams going back to the 1960 and find a surprisingly high, probably causal relationship between having a cognitively gifted student body in the past and an economically productive one today. 
This report uses recent economic modelling to relate cognitive skills – as measured by PISA and other international instruments – to economic growth. This relationship indicates that relatively small improvements in the skills of a nation’s labour force can have very large impacts on future well-being. Moreover, the gains, put in terms of current GDP, far outstrip today’s value of the short-run business-cycle management. This is not to say that efforts should not be directed at issues of economic recession, but it is to say that the long-run issues should not be neglected. 
A modest goal of having all OECD countries boost their average PISA scores by 25 points over the next 20 years – which is less than the most rapidly improving education system in the OECD, Poland, achieved between 2000 and 2006 alone – implies an aggregate gain of OECD GDP of USD 115 trillion over the lifetime of the generation born in 2010 (as evaluated at the start of reform in terms of real present value of future improvements in GDP) (Figure 1).

A number of years ago, I suggested that the American Establishment drop its obsession with Closing the Gap -- in effect, boosting black and Hispanic scores by close to a standard deviation while not allowing whites and Asians to improve -- in favor of a fairer and far more feasible goal of improving all groups by an average of a half standard deviation. Hanushek looks at just boosting everybody by a quarter of a standard deviation on test scores (25 points on a PISA test or on a SAT test) and finds the net present value for the U.S. would be $20 trillion.
Bringing all countries up to the average performance of Finland, OECD’s best performing education system in PISA, would result in gains in the order of USD 260 trillion (Figure 4). The report also shows that it is the quality of learning outcomes, not the length of schooling, which makes the difference.

December 6, 2013

Obama and his Uncle Omar

From the NYT, as another member of the President's Kenyan clan escapes deportation:
In Reversal, White House Says Obama Did Meet Uncle 
WASHINGTON — White House officials on Thursday abruptly changed their story about whether President Obama had ever met his father’s half brother, a Boston man who faced deportation to Kenya after a drunken-driving arrest in 2011. 

Drunk driving is an Obama clan theme. Both the President's father and his half-brother David died driving drunk, and his father killed a man in an earlier incident.
Two years ago, White House officials told The Boston Globe that the president had never met Onyango Obama, known as Omar, Mr. Obama’s uncle. But Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, said Thursday that the 2011 statement was incorrect. In fact, the two men lived together briefly while the president was a student at Harvard Law, Mr. Carney said. 
The president “had met Omar Obama when he moved to Cambridge for law school,” Mr. Carney said, and “he stayed with him for a brief period of time until the president’s apartment was ready.” 
Mr. Carney added: “After that, they saw each other once every few months while the president was in Cambridge, and then, after law school, they gradually fell out of touch. The president has not seen Omar Obama in 20 years and has not spoken with him in roughly 10 years.” 
White House officials explained the abrupt change in the story by saying that no one asked the president in 2011 whether he knew his uncle.

If true, that fits a general pattern in the various remaining mysteries about the President's life: the people who would ask Obama questions don't have access to him, and the people who do have access almost never ask him. For example, apparently none of Obama's campaign aides asked him about the man Obama had invited to give the invocation at his Presidential campaign kickoff rally, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, until the day before. Obama had published thousands of words about Wright's influence upon him, and if you read them carefully you'd notice they represented Trouble, but Axelrod and Plouffe really didn't want to think about the subject, much less talk about it with their candidate.

Ironically, discoursing about his life story is one of Obama's favorite hobbies (e.g., his quasi-eulogy for war hero Senator Daniel Inouye, which included Obama's memories of his childhood fascination with motel ice machines).
Instead, Mr. Carney told reporters that White House officials then had simply relied upon the president’s own books and the public record to determine that they had never met.
“Back when this arose, folks looked at the record, including the president’s book, and there was no evidence that they had met,” Mr. Carney said.

Actually, Uncle Omar in Boston is mentioned three times in Dreams from My Father:
- "'Let’s say a son or husband moves to the city, or to the West, like our Uncle Omar, in Boston.'" 
- "On the walls were various family artifacts: the Old Man’s Harvard diploma; photographs of him and of Omar, the uncle who had left for America twenty-five years ago and had never come back. ... She asked if I had seen him, and I had to say no."
- "'When my first children, Omar and Zeituni, were born, he bought them cribs and gowns and separate mosquito nets, just as he had for Barack and Sarah.'" 

The President's book ends with his visit to Kenya the summer before he started Harvard Law School. In Kenya, he was asked by family members if he knew his Uncle Omar in America. He didn't -- during the time covered in the book -- but then Obama moved in with his uncle later that year, just like Uncle Omar said. That Obama later got to know Uncle Omar well explains why Obama kept mentioning his offstage presence in his autobiography.
“That was what was conveyed. Nobody spoke to the president.” ...  “Nobody had asked him in the past.”

Stanley Kurtz points out that this gives plausible deniability regarding Obama's inconveniently leftist past. But, you also might almost get the impression that the people who know Obama best find him and his twice-bestselling life story kind of boring, and thus avoid giving him excuses to talk about it.
On Tuesday, a judge in Boston ruled that Omar Obama could stay in the United States and apply for eventual citizenship after he testified that he had lived in the country for 50 years, paid income tax and been arrested only once.

Wow, I keep reading in the New York Times about how the Obama administration is rounding up and deporting all the illegal aliens in the country in a ferocious dragnet, even thought I haven't noticed this to be, technically, happening. Maybe the truth is more boring in regard to this, too?

J.M. Coetzee on Nelson Mandela

In the Sydney Morning Herald, the South African-born 2003 Nobel laureate in literature J.M. Coetzee writes:
Nelson Mandela has died after a long life – long yet lamentably truncated in that he spent 27 of the best years of his manhood incarcerated at the pleasure of the state. 
Incarcerated, he was hardly powerless. During the final years of that long sentence he in effect exercised a power of veto over the foreign policy of his country, exerting more and more of a strangehold over his jailers. 
With F.W. de Klerk, a man of much smaller moral stature, yet also, in his way, a contributor to the liberation of South Africa, Mandela held a turbulent country together during the dangerous years 1990-94, exercising his great personal charm to persuade whites that they had a place in the new democratic republic while step by step emasculating the separatist white right wing.  
By the time he became president in his own right, he was already an old man. His failure to throw himself more energetically into the urgent business of the day – the creation of a just economic order – was understandable if unfortunate. Like the rest of the leadership of the ANC, he was blindsided by the collapse of socialism world-wide; the party had no philosophical resistance to put up against a new, predatory economic rationalism. 
Mandela's personal and political authority had its basis in his principled defence of armed resistance to apartheid and in the harsh punishment he suffered for that resistance. It was given further backbone by his aristocratic mien, which was not without a gracious common touch, and his old-fashioned education, which held before him Victorian ideals of personal integrity and devotion to public service. 
He managed relations with a wife, whose behaviour became increasingly scandalous, with exemplary forbearance. 
He was, and by the time of his death was universally held to be, a great man; he may well be the last of the great men, as the concept of greatness retires into the historical shadows. 
J.M. Coetzee is an internationally renowned novelist praised for his unsparing recording of the impact of apartheid on South Africa. He won the Nobel prize for literature in 2003 and is now an Australian citizen.

Of course, there is an interesting story behind the concluding biographical phrase: "... is now an Australian citizen." 

Coetzee's 1999 novel Disgrace is about a white college professor in post-apartheid South Africa whose lesbian daughter is gang-raped by blacks. She ultimately agrees to become the polygamous wife of her rapists' clan leader to escape further violence at their hands. (I reviewed the 2009 movie starring John Malkovich as the Coetzee-like main character terrorized by the new ruling race.)

Unsurprisingly, Coetzee's book was not welcomed warmly by the ruling party, which held hearings to probe into the novel's "racism." After Coetzee's profile was raised even higher by winning the 2003 Nobel, he left for Australia where he has maintained a high level of discretion about why he is in exile.

By the way, I read all the time about African refugees being expensively brought to America (here's a new NYT Magazine article about a Sudanese refugee's misadventures trying to become a cop in America) rather than America paying to resettle them at much lower cost in neighboring countries where the climate is more congenial.

But certain African refugees elicit extraordinarily little concern or interest in this country. For example, I've never heard anyone ask why the U.S. failed to become the new home for Coetzee, a Nobel laureate wary of political persecution. You might think that Nobel prize winners looking for a safe country would be near the top of the list. Yet, not only did America fail to attract Coetzee, we didn't try, and we didn't even notice we didn't try.

World War T Hate Hoax at Vassar

From the Daily Mail:
Bias incidents at Vassar were a hoax as one of the culprits was 'the transgender student leading the investigations into the offensive graffiti' 
Six bias incidents of graffiti were reported on the school's campus 
Messages included offensive threats at transgender students and African Americans 
Claims were investigated by student-led group and school officials later realized that one of the group leaders was behind the graffiti 
Both of the students involved have left the school

This is based on reporting done by Robby Soave for the Daily Caller.

The purported hate crime included a graffito reading "Avoid being a hot mess."

Chait: How dare anyone criticize Obama's narcissism! Didn't you see "12 Years a Slave?"

Jonathan Chait treats an Obama critic to a free screening of 12 Years a Slave
With 12 Years a Slave petering out at the box office after a decent but unspectacular run (currently $34 million and losing screens), liberals are increasingly angry that the well-filmed, erratically-acted, and poorly-scripted biopic remake has failed to shut down criticism of the President. From New York:
12 Years a Slave and the Obama Era 
By Jonathan Chait

This last weekend, I finally saw 12 Years a Slave. It was the most powerful movie I’ve ever seen in my life, an event so gripping and terrifying that, when I went to bed ten hours later — it was a morning matinee — I lay awake for five hours turning it over in my mind before I could fall asleep. I understand it not merely as the greatest film about slavery ever made, as it has been widely hailed, but a film more broadly about race. Its sublimated themes, as I understand them, identify the core social and political fissures that define the American racial divide to this day. To identify 12 Years a Slave as merely a story about slavery is to miss what makes race the furious and often pathological subtext of American politics in the Obama era. 
... The social system embedded within slavery as depicted in the film is one that survived long past the Emancipation Proclamation – the one that resulted in the murder of Emmett Till a century after Northup published his autobiography. It’s a system in which the most unforgivable crime was for an African-American to presume himself an equal to — or, heaven forbid, better than — a white person. 
That context was fresh in my mind when I read this column in National Review by Quin Hillyer, a conservative pundit, think-tank fellow, and former candidate for the GOP nomination in Alabama’s first Congressional district. In the midst of an otherwise unremarkable rant against the perfidious big-government liberalism of President Obama, Hillyer unleashes this: 
Every time decent people think the scandals and embarrassments circling Barack Obama will sink this presidency, we look up and see Obama still there — chin jutting out, countenance haughty, voice dripping with disdain for conservatives — utterly unembarrassed, utterly undeterred from any assertion of power he thinks he can get away with, tradition and propriety and the Constitution be damned. The man has no shame, no self-doubt, not a shred of humility, no sense that anybody else has legitimate reason to question him or hold any other point of view. 
It is bizarre to ascribe haughtiness and a lack of a capacity for embarrassment to a president whose most recent notable public appearance was a profusely and even flamboyantly contrite press conference spent repeatedly confessing to “fumbles” and “mistakes.” Why would Hillyer believe such a factually bizarre thing? 
One answer is that, by the evidence of this column, Hillyer believes all sorts of factually bizarre things. But most African-Americans, and many liberal whites, would read Hillyer’s rant as the cultural heir to Northup’s overseer: a southern white reactionary enraged that a calm, dignified, educated black man has failed to prostrate himself. 
Before plunging further into a poisonously defensive racial debate, I should note that I feel certain Hillyer opposes slavery and legal segregation, and highly confident he abhors racial discrimination, and believes in his heart full economic and social equality for African-Americans would be a blessing. (More than two decades ago, Hillyer worked against the candidacy of David Duke.) His feeling of offense at Obama’s putative haughtiness (“chin jutting out”) might be a long-ago-imbibed white southern upbringing bubbling to the surface, but more likely a flailing partisan rage that could just as easily have been directed at a white Democrat. 
You can accept the most benign account of his thought process – and I do – while still being struck by the simple fact that Hillyer finds nothing uncomfortable at all about wrapping himself in a racist trope. He is either unaware of the freighted connotation of calling a black man uppity, or he doesn’t care. In the absence of a racial slur or an explicitly bigoted attack, no racial alarm bells sound in his brain. 

Conservatives need to impose total crimestop upon their thoughts. Therefore, the operant conditioning will continue until morale improves.

December 5, 2013

A Mandela mystery

Back in 2004 I recounted a story about Nelson Mandela's 1994 election that I could have sworn I'd read in The Economist in the mid-to-late 1990s. But I've never been able to track down the article (perhaps I read it in the Financial Times instead of The Economist?), nor seen any confirmation of the events since then. So, this may be completely apocryphal. Or not.
You may vaguely recall that the first open election in South Africa in 1994 was accompanied by huge lines at the polling booths and scenes of chaos at vote-counting centers. The media predicted it might take weeks to tabulate all the ballots. Then, almost instantly, the final, official results were announced, with no one objecting that that was logistically impossible.

Several years later, The Economist explained what happened: The vote counting was indeed chaotic and looked to go on indefinitely, but early returns conclusively showed Mandela's African National Congress winning a crushing victory that would give it the 2/3rd's majority needed to write the new constitution all by itself. So, Mandela called together the leaders of opposition parties and told them he was rigging the results to restrict his own party to about 5/8ths of the seats so that the new constitution would require some support from other parties to pass. He also gave local control of the Cape province to the white-led party and the KwaZulu province to the Zulu party. Not surprisingly, the opposition was deeply grateful and while many within the ANC were angry, they could hardly overrule Mandela.

Did this act of statesmanship really happen? 

I don't know. The article I read back in the day seemed very confident, and the story fit my recollection from watching the TV news (Election Day: Vote counting will take weeks. Day after Election Day: With 99.99% of precincts reporting ...). But I've never been able to track down what I read (and/or hallucinated).

Mayor De Blasio decides to make his own luck

The upcoming mayor of New York City has decided he's not going to wait around for the Crown Heightses of New York to unravel his term, the way they destroyed the career of the last mayor elected as a Democrat. Today, Bill De Blasio named the brains behind Rudy Giuliani's operation, William Bratton, as his top cop.

By the way, here's a candid interview that Bratton gave in Toronto in 2006 that you might find interesting reading. (De Blasio would probably prefer that it stay obscure.)

Bratton was also head of the police department in Boston and Los Angeles. Appointing Bratton cost Los Angeles mayor Jim Hahn a second term. Hahn, a white liberal Democrat, had been elected in 2001 over Antonio Villaraigosa by a fragile coalition of blacks and Republicans. When the black police chief Bernard Parks' term was up, Hahn decided to let him go and pick the top available guy in the country, Bratton. This angered blacks, costing Hahn re-election in 2005.

I suspect that it's not going to work like that in New York this time. New York is too important to too many important people to let petty black politics get in the way of law and order. But, we shall see.

The War on Christmas in the Netherlands

Just because your country doesn't celebrate December 25th doesn't mean you can't have your very own War on Christmas. In the New York Times, a black Dutch writer says:
Why the Dutch Love Black Pete 
WHEN I was growing up in Amsterdam in the 1970s, the phenomenon of Santa Claus was relatively unknown. Christmas was celebrated without Santa and mostly without gifts. St. Nicholas — Sinterklaas in Dutch — was the man with the presents. 
If one had the good fortune to be Jewish, one received presents not only on Dec. 5, the eve of Sinterklaas’s name day, but also at Hanukkah. Only in recent years has Santa Claus, who comes on Dec. 25, made his rise to stardom in Holland, and today a Dutch child — or a Dutch adult for that matter — no longer has to be Jewish to cash in twice in December. 
Sinterklaas arrives from Spain by steamboat in late November, travels farther on horseback, climbs onto roofs and on Dec. 5, known as “Pakjesavond,” drops presents through the chimney with the help of the Black Petes, a crew of dark-skinned helpers wearing large earrings who cavort and entertain and, as Dutch parents often tell their children, owe their blackness to chimney soot. ...
Until recently, Black Pete was uncontroversial. Not because the Dutch are particularly racist, but because Sinterklaas, like the royal family, is sacred in the Netherlands, perhaps because of a dearth of other, specifically Dutch traditions. A matter, in other words, of conservatism. 
Such traditions are even more important today, given the view that, in order to safeguard the Dutch national identity, homegrown culture and folklore must not be tampered with — a view expressed primarily, though not exclusively, by the extreme right wing Party for Freedom, run by Geert Wilders. 
But just as the defense of traditions has grown stronger, so has the criticism that Black Pete is a racist holdover from the Netherlands’s colonial past. In January the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights sent a letter to the Dutch government stating that Black Pete perpetuated the image of people of African descent as second-class citizens and constituted a “living trace of past slavery.” 
The Dutch government responded by saying that it regarded the Sinterklaas tradition as a children’s celebration, that it was aware of the differences of opinion concerning Black Pete, but that it was highly committed to combating discrimination in all forms. 
... Yet the general tenor among the Dutch public was that “they” should keep their mitts off “our tradition,” an opinion you can hear in any number of variations on any street corner. By “them” people mean the United Nations and “unnatural” Dutch citizens, by both birth and naturalization, who want to put an end to this admittedly dubious tradition. 
The Black Pete debate underscores how deep within the Netherlands’s prosperous and safe society lies the fear of losing identity, undoubtedly fueled by globalization, migration and the notion that the European Union is gradually doing away with the European nation state. 
... The truly disturbing thing is the aggression conjured up by this public debate, the thinly disguised xenophobia that roiled to the surface when attempts were made to make Black Pete less black. A civilized person, after all, could say: “Personally, I don’t have much of a problem with Black Pete, but if others do, well, then, why don’t we make him Green Pete or Blue Pete?” 
But no. To my utter amazement, at least two million Dutch people have taken the stance: “Black Pete, c’est moi.” 
Which once again goes to prove that national identity often boils down to distasteful folklore. 
Arnon Grunberg is the author of the novels “The Jewish Messiah” and “Tirza.” This essay was translated by Sam Garrett from the Dutch.

Oh, sorry, check that. It turns out that the NYT did not find a black writer to be offended on behalf of blacks over this burning issue of international importance.

My apologies.

Nelson Mandela, RIP

The death of Nelson Mandela, 95, recalls the events of 1987-1991, that hinge of history. After the Fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 discredited socialism, the South African white leadership, now relieved of worries that the African National Congress would actually implement its traditional Soviet-style economic ideology, quickly moved to make a deal with the black statesman while he was still hale.

The South African Solution was an early exemplification of our post-Communist world. White and black elites came together and agreed that there is plenty of money to be made, at least for white and black elites. South Africa has tremendous resources, so affirmative action for the top layer of blacks would be affordable.

For non-elites, well, the New Model South Africa might not work all that well, but they are by definition non-elites, so where exactly is the problem? If they aren't happy, all they have to do is become elites. If they don't have what it takes to be elites -- such as raped white rural women or gunned down black miners who evidently don't -- then their problems aren't very important, are they? I mean, why are you asking about them? What are you, some kind of Communist?

All in all, the post-Communist world is a better one than the one in which the Soviet Union had 53,000 tanks. Similarly, the South African Solution was a better one than would have been feasible in the pre-November 9, 1989 world.

Still, it's time to start getting used to how the post-Berlin Wall world works because it's likely to be one we are living in for a long time. Many of the ideological and intellectual categories that made sense before are now obsolete, but new realities are harder for us to understand because we lack relevant conceptual vocabularies.

Tom Wolfe Alert: Heisman Trophy frontrunner won't be charged with rape (this time, at least)

A continuing theme at iSteve is how often the latest headlines resemble plots in old Tom Wolfe novels. From the NYT:
Jameis Winston, the Florida State quarterback who was a leading contender for the Heisman Trophy as the nation’s top player before accusations of sexual assault surfaced, will not face charges, the state attorney for Florida’s Second Judicial Circuit said Thursday. ...
Winston, 19, has been the most dominant player in college football this season, and his Florida State team is undefeated and a contender for the national championship. But ever since a sexual assault allegation by a former Florida State student became public last month, his on-field exploits have been weighed against how law enforcement in a rabid college football community handled the investigation as well as the role character plays in awarding one of sport’s most iconic awards: the Heisman Trophy. ...
The 19-year-old woman first reported an off-campus sexual assault to the police on Dec. 7, 2012. ... 
The woman told the police she was raped at an apartment after a night of drinking at a bar near campus, according to a search warrant released hours before Meggs’s announcement. She said she was with friends and had five to six shots at a local bar and that her “memory is very broken from that point forward.” She told the police that she had taken a cab with a “nondescript” black man to an apartment where she was raped. She did not identify that man as Winston until about a month after she reported the assault. 
She tried to fight the man off, and at some point, another man intervened and told him to stop, according to the warrant. But the two went into a bathroom “where he completed the act.” She had no idea where the assault took place, she said, but recalls riding on a scooter and being dropped off at a campus intersection. 
Evidence gathered the day of the incident matched Winston’s DNA, which was collected by the police last month. Winston’s lawyer, Tim Jansen, of Tallahassee, said Winston had consensual sex with the accuser, a contention that the woman’s family has vehemently denied. 
“In the lab work we did, there was DNA from two males: Winston’s DNA and the other was unknown,” Meggs said. “If we had proceeded to trial, not knowing whose that DNA is would have been a problem.”

This is of course the central plot device of Wolfe's novel A Man in Full that brings together the elite of Atlanta, black and white, as they try to make their problem go away: the daughter of Georgia Tech's chairman of the board of governors is accusing Georgia Tech's Heisman Trophy contender, Fareek Fanon, of raping her after a night of drinking.

You would assume that the Jameis Winston case would have been a huge story in the New York Times all fall with lots of long think pieces about the Meaning of It All. After all, the prestige press has been getting worked up recently over Rape Culture on Campus and in the Military and the like. But it has been slow to delve much into this particular story about the star of the #1 team beyond laconic news accounts like this one because it runs into other social concerns: promoting black quarterbacks, and the worry that the woman is white.

In contrast, the NYT was all over a story a year or two ago about an obscure white college quarterback accused of rape in some place like Montana or Wyoming. He wound up acquitted. (Reinstated as starting quarterback the day after his acquital, he's thrown for 28 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions this year for Montana, which will be in a small college playoff game on Saturday against Coastal Carolina.)

And of course the NYT ran a couple of dozen stories promoting the hoax that a black stripper (who, by the way, was just convicted of murder) had been gang raped by the white Duke lacrosse team.

There's a similar case at the Naval Academy where three black football players are accused of raping a female student, presumably white, but that has gotten some Serious Attention because that can be filed under the Sexual Assault Epidemic in the Military category (talk about bogus trend stories ...). And the alleged rapists are not shattering stereotypes by being passing quarterbacks.

In case you are wondering about whether the football star was guilty in A Man in Full, well, Wolfe had a quintuple bypass before finishing the book, and then problems with manic-depression (which is sometimes a side effect of open heart surgery). Eventually, Wolfe decided he couldn't get back to the high quality of his writing in his manuscript and slapped on a conclusion. So, Wolfe has Charlie Croker's wife explain at length what she figures really happened, but it's unsatisfying. (Then, Wolfe is the absolute opposite of a mystery writer, so his books never wrap up nicely.)

December 4, 2013

PISA Heat Map more of a PISA Cool Map

The nice people at provide a free tool for making a "heat map," like this one I made of average overall 2012 PISA scores. Click on the map to enlarge it.

PISA discovering that accuracy = boredom to the press

Three years ago, Andreas Schleicher and the other well-funded folks at PISA were media darlings. This year ... not so much. You can sense that the bloom is off the rose. 

A big part of PISA's new PR problem is that the results were so similar from 2009 to 2012. Now, you might think that stability is a good sign that suggests that the PISA people aren't just pulling these numbers out of thin air. But accuracy is boring. The media likes change for the sake of change. Who's up? Who's down? A school test that's more or less a giant budget IQ test doesn't produce enough random changes to maintain media interest.

Decades ago when the news magazine US News & World Report was launching their college ranking system, there was much interest from year to year as they improved their methodology, frequently casting overlooked colleges toward the top. But, after awhile, USNWR got pretty good at measuring as much as could be conveniently measured ... and then what? Colleges, it turns out, don't change much from year to year, so the future looked a lot like the present. And without trends, we don't have news. 

So, USNWR came up with the idea of changing some of the fairly arbitrary weights in its formula each year to generate a new #1 frequently. One year, for example, Caltech shot up to #1, which generated a lot of press coverage. But it was almost all just churn for the sake of churn. Caltech was pretty much the same place before, during, and after its sudden rise and fall.

But spectators like churn. In fact, one side effect of bad quantitative methodologies is that they generate phantom churn, which keeps customers interested. For instance, the marketing research company I worked for made two massive breakthroughs in the 1980s to dramatically more accurate methodologies in the consumer packaged goods sector. Before we put to use checkout scanner data, market research companies were reporting a lot of Kentucky windage. In contrast, we reported actual sales in vast detail. Clients were wildly excited ... for a few years. And then they got kind of bored. 

You see, our competitors had previously reported all sorts of exciting stuff to clients: For example, back in the 1970s they'd say: of the two new commercials you are considering, our proprietary methodology demonstrates that Commercial A will increase sales by 30% while Commercial B will decrease sales by 20%. 


We'd report in the 1980s: In a one year test of identically matched panels of 5,000 households in Eau Claire and Pittsfield, neither new commercial A nor B was associated with a statistically significant increase in sales of Charmin versus the matched control group that saw the same old Mr. Whipple commercial you've been showing for five years. If you don't believe us, we'll send you all the data tapes and you can look for yourselves.


It was pretty amazing that we could turn the real world into a giant laboratory (and this was 30 years ago). But after a few years, all this accuracy and realism got boring. 

It turned out that clients kind of liked it back in the bad old days when market research firms held a wet finger up to the breeze and from that divined that their client was a creative genius whose new ad would revolutionize the toilet paper business forever. (New ads and bigger budgets mostly work only if your ad has some actual message of value to the consumers to convey: e.g., "Crest now comes with Unobtanium, which the American Dental Association endorses for fighting Tooth Scuzz.")

These parallels between the consumer packaged goods industry in the 1980s and the educational reform industry in the 2010s are not really coincidental. Everybody says they want better tests, but what they really want is more congenial results. So, when they get better tests, they aren't as happy as they thought they'd be.

Knockout Game in Crown Heights: Good luck, Mayor De Blasio!

Crown Heights is a mixed black-Hasidic area in Brooklyn where the career of the last NYC mayor elected on the Democratic ticket, David Dinkens, came a-cropper in 1991 when the motorcade of a high rabbi struck and killed a 7-year-old black child, setting off a three day pogrom.

From DNA Info:
CROWN HEIGHTS — The alleged "knockout" attacks on Jewish residents of Crown Heights may stem from ongoing racial tension between the neighborhood's black and Jewish communities, a newly-elected Brooklyn politician said. 
Councilwoman-elect Laurie Cumbo, who was elected to represent Crown Heights starting in January, released an open letter Tuesday saying that many of her black constituents told her they feel threatened by the growth of the neighborhood's Jewish community — and she fears the tension could be spiking the recent violence. 
"Many African American/Caribbean residents expressed a genuine concern that as the Jewish community continues to grow, they would be pushed out by their Jewish landlords or by Jewish families looking to purchase homes," Cumbo wrote in the 1,200-word letter, which was emailed to supporters and posted on her Facebook page. 
"I respect and appreciate the Jewish community’s family values and unity that has led to strong political, economic and cultural gains. While I personally regard this level of tenacity, I also recognize that for others, the accomplishments of the Jewish community triggers feelings of resentment, and a sense that Jewish success is not also their success." 
She added that these sentiments among black Crown Heights residents "offer possible insight as to how young African American/Caribbean teens could conceivably commit a 'hate crime' against a community that they know very little about."

These tensions have surfaced in the press before. Here's an excerpt from a January 15, 2013 article in Narratively entitled The Ins and the Outs about gentrification in Crown Heights:
“These guys—right here,” Sharon says angrily, standing on Franklin Avenue and pointing up to a banner reading MySpace NYC. “These guys are changing the whole block.” 
Sharon is a thirty-nine-year-old black woman, a former construction worker who has lived in the area for twenty-eight years. MySpace NYC is a real estate agency that arrived in 2008, and is perhaps the most controversial, notorious player in the entire Franklin Avenue saga. 
By all accounts, MySpace, which is the most visible real estate firm in the neighborhood, does much more business as a brokerage firm working with landlords than it does as a landlord itself. But rumors abound about shell corporations that principals of the company create and then use to purchase property. A undated marketing letter from a group called IDG Holdings but signed by a principal of MySpace informs building owners: “We buy properties ‘As is’ and in any condition and price range. We pay Top Dollar, in Cash, without any Broker fees. We can close as fast as 7-10 days…” 
“They try to harass you into selling,” said a West Indian man named Mike, who owns a building just off of Franklin on St. John’s Place. Two years ago, he put his building up for sale, but subsequently withdrew it from the market. He claims that MySpace NYC agents have been hounding him ever since. 
“They call you at all kinds of hours,” said Mike. “They’ve come to my house and I have to chase them away…They make offers to you: ‘Oh, we’ve got lots of cash. Let’s do it right now,’ like you’re desperate…Every day the same thing. You tell them no, and no don’t mean nothing!” 
The fact that many real estate agencies that do business in the neighborhood happen to be Jewish-owned injects another level of ugly ethnic animosity into the debate. “The Jews” was a phrase that slipped off of many peoples’ tongues in reporting on housing for this story—a kind of shorthand for “real estate” among many blacks and Latinos. (Just a few blocks off of Franklin lies one of the largest communities of Hasidic Jews outside of Israel.) 
“I think it’s like the Jewish underground mob going on,” said Sharon. “From what I know of Jewish people, they all stick together…They try to handle their own business.” 
But as for the ownership of MySpace NYC specifically, Sharon elaborated: “They’re not regular Jews who wear black. They wear the jeans, the designer labels.”

Wunderkind David "Common Core" Coleman finds fixing SAT harder than he expected

Valerie Strauss reports in the Washington Post:
The new version of the SAT college admissions exam that was due to be unveiled in 2015 is now being delayed until spring 2016.

The College Board hired David Coleman after he got done writing the Common Core to work his magic for them. He quickly announced he was going to fix the flagship SAT college admission test based on some ideas he had like Critical Thinking and why do we need all those complicated vocabulary words?

It doesn't seem to be going as smoothly as he expected.

Like I've said, if the American Establishment is going to bet the educational future of the country on one guy, Coleman's not the worst choice. But still ...

PISA: Which countries to trust the least

How can you be confident that local officials didn't pull any fast ones with their PISA results? Well, you can't, but you can get some sense of how much room there is to pull the wool over your eyes by looking at the response rate. 

Large countries have to test at least 4,500 students, and the sample is supposed to be carefully designed to represent the entire country's 15-year-olds. But projected coverage usually turns out less than perfect. For example, countries can exclude students with disabilities. This sounds reasonable -- it's hard for a blind person to take a pencil and paper test. But, what about cognitive disabilities, such as not being very bright? From the federal government's website on PISA:
PISA 2012 is designed to be as inclusive as possible. The guidelines allowed schools to be excluded for approved reasons (for example, schools in remote regions, very small schools, or special education schools). Schools used the following international guidelines on student exclusions: 
Students with functional disabilities. These were students with a moderate to severe permanent physical disability such that they cannot perform in the PISA testing environment. 
Students with intellectual disabilities. These were students with a mental or emotional disability and who have been tested as cognitively delayed or who are considered in the professional opinion of qualified staff to be cognitively delayed such that they cannot perform in the PISA testing environment. 
Students with insufficient language experience. These were students who meet the three criteria of not being native speakers in the assessment language, having limited proficiency in the assessment language, and having less than 1 year of instruction in the assessment language. 
Overall estimated exclusions (including both school and student exclusions) were to be under 5 percent of the PISA target population.

Buried in a PISA appendix entitled Annex 2A are PISA figures for what percentage of the target populations of 15-year-olds didn't get tested. America didn't come close to getting 95% representation, and many Third World countries were far worse.

"Coverage Index 3: Coverage of 15-year-old population" shows what percentage of the cohort are represented if the test taking sample was projected to the whole country. I subtracted this percentage from 100% to come up with the % Missing index. For example, Costa Rica only managed to test half the people they were supposed to, and Albania only tested 55%. Vietnam, which made a splashy PISA debut with high scores, somehow couldn't find 44% of their 15-year-olds. At the other end, the dutiful Dutch managed to test slightly more students than were thought to be around.

% Missing
Costa Rica 50%
Albania 45%
Vietnam 44%
Mexico 37%
Colombia 37%
Indonesia 37%
Turkey 32%
Brazil 31%
Thailand 28%
Peru 28%
Uruguay 27%
Liechtenstein 25%
Bulgaria 23%
Shanghai-China 21%
Malaysia 21%
Argentina 20%
Kazakhstan 19%
Macao-China 19%
Hungary 18%
United Arab Emirates  17%
Canada 17%
Chile 17%
Hong Kong-China 16%
Czech Republic 15%
Serbia 15%
Latvia 15%
Lithuania 14%
Jordan 14%
Australia 14%
Italy 14%
Greece 13%
New Zealand 12%
Korea 12%
Austria 12%
Portugal 12%
Spain 12%
France 12%
United States 11%
Chinese Taipei  11%
Poland 11%
Luxembourg 11%
Montenegro 10%
Israel 9%
Denmark 9%
Japan 9%
Ireland 9%
Slovak Republic 9%
Tunisia 9%
Switzerland 9%
Norway 8%
Estonia 8%
Russian Federation 8%
Iceland 7%
Sweden 7%
United Kingdom 7%
Slovenia 6%
Qatar 6%
Croatia 6%
Germany 5%
Singapore 5%
Belgium 5%
Finland 4%
Romania 4%
Cyprus 3%
Netherlands -1%
In general, Third World countries were bad at getting good coverage, suggesting that the First World v. Third World gap is even larger than the test scores imply.

Top scorer Shanghai missed 21%, so we should take its flashy scores with a few grains of salt.

America was at 11% missing, down from 18% missing in 2009, which may account for the slight decline in U.S. scores?

Consistent high-flier Finland had only 4% missing, so they aren't cheating on this measure more than the competition is.

A major question is how random were the missing test-takers. If the missing were purely random, then no harm no foul. But of course, many of the missing are dropouts, or in special day classes, or in juvy hall, or whatever.

This may help excuse slightly Argentina's horrible scores. The Argentineans misplaced only 20% of their 15-year-olds compared to the 37% of Mexicans who went missing.

Swedes accuse PISA of fabricated data

Via Staffan's Personality Blog, here's an article from a Swedish (ahem, sore loser, ahem) newspaper accusing PISA of using fabricated data from Slovenia, Italy, and the United Arab Emirates. The charges don't involve students, but high school principals. The principals were supposed to fill in a 184 question survey for the Nosey Parkers at PISA, but there is evidence that dozens of principals just cut and pasted somebody else's answers, which wouldn't be hugely surprising with a survey that is 184 questions long.

A general problem with comparing results of countries in international tests are differing levels of motivation. It's remarkable how plausible the PISA results are in general considering how much this factor is likely to vary from place to place and time to time.

The 5 most expensive words in the world: "We'll fix it in post"

Commenter Power Child notes:
"We'll fix it in post" are known to production guys as the five most expensive words in filmmaking.

"We'll fix it in post" is also the reasoning behind an awful lot of government spending on education, welfare, medicine, prisons, and many other Gaps caused by lack of care upfront in the production of residents of America.

PISA by state by race: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Florida

The PISA test was given to large samples sizes in three American states. From the federal National Center for Educational Statistics:

PISA 2012
Race / Ethnicity Mean Math Science Reading
White 538 530 545 540
Black 467 458 466 476
Hispanic 460 446 460 475
Asian 578 569 580 584
Multiracial NA NA NA NA
White 542 534 547 546
Black 434 421 433 447
Hispanic 456 442 463 463
Asian 548 534 553 558
Multiracial 512 496 520 521
White 512 499 520 518
Black 429 413 425 449
Hispanic 474 458 475 489
Multiracial 486 467 500 492
White-Black Gaps
Massachusetts 72 72 79 64
Connecticut 109 113 114 99
Florida 83 86 95 69
White-Hispanic Gaps
Massachusetts 78 84 85 65
Connecticut 86 92 84 83
Florida 38 41 45 29

The standard deviation is supposed to be 100, so you can just put a decimal place in front of those gap numbers to convert them into rough z scores.

We can see patterns here that shouldn't be unexpected. Massachusetts, home to the education-industrial complex since 1636, has smart whites. Connecticut, home to the hedge fund industry, has smart whites.

Florida, not so much. Still, this would be a good time for an old anecdote about how Florida isn't wall-to-wall Parrot Heads. I had a girlfriend in college who went to the public high school in Cocoa Beach, FL (the town that was the setting for the 1960s sit-com I Dream of Jeannie). She told me she scored 1580 on the SAT (M+V, old-style). I exclaimed:

"You must have had the highest score in your high school!"

"Oh, no, I was fourth-highest."

"Fourth? Who were the other three? The children of rocket scientists?" (In my defense, this was a relatively new witticism in 1979.)


Massachusetts has pretty smart blacks, going back to Phillis Wheatley and W.E. Du Bois. Connecticut and Florida, not so much.

Florida has pretty smart Hispanics, although the wealthy Cubans and other rich Latin Americans are getting diluted more and more.

A thought on the cause of growing inequality

In this globalist age, we all know that nationalism was the worst thing ever. 

Except that the masses tended to do pretty well for themselves under nationalist governments that needed well-educated, well-fed, and enthusiastic populations to man their giant armies.

Perhaps Tyler Cowen's "Average Is Over" is, fundamentally, a function of the development of smart bombs, cruise missiles, stealth, and other military technology in the 1970s that increased the accuracy of weaponry, and thus decreased the need for large numbers of conscript soldiers firing vaguely in the general direction of the enemy to make them keep their heads down. 

During the Great Compression in the middle of the 20th Century, elites needed mass armies, so they treated the masses well economically. But, warfare has gone high tech and the need for cannon fodder has dropped sharply, so elites don't need the masses to fight their wars for them, so they don't feel any longer the need to cut the masses a large share of the economic pie anymore.

Americans students have trouble with "higher cognitive demands"

From the "Country Note" for the United States from PISA:
Students in the United States have particular weaknesses in performing mathematics tasks with higher cognitive demands, such as taking real-world situations, translating them into mathematical terms, and interpreting mathematical aspects in real-world problems. An alignment study between the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and PISA suggests that a successful implementation of the Common Core Standards would yield significant performance gains also in PISA.

The key phrase there is "a successful implementation."

How does PISA really work? "Fix it in Post"

How can PISA claim to fairly test in 65 countries in dozens of languages?

My vague hunch is that modern Item Response Theory testing, of which the PISA test's Rasch Model is an example, allows testers to say, much like movie directors of sloppy productions: "We'll fix it in Post." 

You tell me that during the big, expensive action scene I just shot, the leading man's fly was open and in the distant background two homeless guys got into a highly distracting shoving match? And you want to know whether we should do another take, even though we'd have to pay overtime to 125 people? 

"Eh, we'll fix it in Post."

Modern filmmakers have a lot of digital tricks up their sleeves for rescuing scenes, just as modern psychometricians have a lot of computing power available to rescue tests they've already given.

For example, how can the PISA people be sure ahead of time that their Portuguese translations are just as accurate as their Spanish translations? 

Well, that's expensive to do and raises security problems. But, when they see the results come in, they can notice that, say, smart kids in both Brazil and Portugal who scored high overall, did no better on Question 11 than kids who don't score well on the other questions, which suggests the translation of Question 11 might be ambiguous. Oh, yeah, there are, now that we think about it, two legitimately right answers to Question 11 in the Portuguese translation. So we'll drop #11 from the scoring in those two countries. But, in the Spanish-speaking countries, this anomaly doesn't show up in the results, so maybe we'll count Question 11 for those countries.

This kind of post-hoc flexibility allows PISA to wring a lot out of their data. On the other hand, it's also a little scary. 

Israel's PISA scores: Arab v. Hebrew-speakers

From Globes, an Israeli business publication:
The PISA exam shows substantial gaps between Hebrew and Arabic-speaking pupils. In the math exam, Hebrew speakers achieved a score of 489 points, while Arabic speakers achieved a score of 388 points. Arabic speakers scored 98 points less than Hebrew speakers in the science exam.

Graph of 2012 PISA scores for 65 countries/economies

This graph displays the mean of the Math, Science, and Reading test scores from the OECD's 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment. American scores are red, white countries are blue, East Asians countries are yellow, Muslim countries are green, and Latin American countries are brown.

So, Asian Americans outscored all large Asian countries (with the exception of three rich cities); white Americans outperformed most, but not all, traditionally white countries; and Latino Americans did better than all Latin American countries. African Americans almost certainly scored higher than any black majority country would have performed.

Bear in mind that many countries did not take part in PISA, such as India, which dropped out after a trial run in two states produced average scores below any seen on this chart. For a broader sampling of Third World scores, see the 2011 TIMSS Math and Science scores.

The reality is that there is not much difference in PISA or TIMSS scores within major racial blocs of countries. The Northeast Asians all tend to score well, the European and white Anglosphere countries tend to score fairly well, the Latin American countries tend to score fair to middling, and on down from there. The rank order of continents is very much like the rank order of racial/ethnic groups on NAEP or SAT or CST tests. Newcomers to the topic like Amanda Ripley, author of The Smartest Kids in the World, get excited about minor differences in PISA scores within continents, but those often are statistical noise. 

For more on how to think about PISA scores, see here. And all my postings on PISA are here.

December 3, 2013

Steve in Taki's: PISA, Piece by Piece

From my new column at Taki's Magazine:
PISA, Piece by Piece 
by Steve Sailer  
With the release of new PISA test scores for 65 countries’ 15-year-olds this week, it’s worth taking a look at TIME reporter Amanda Ripley’s latest book The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got that Way
Ripley came up with the clever idea of following three American high schoolers as exchange students in Finland, South Korea, and Poland. She chose Finland and South Korea because they are perennial PISA powerhouses, while Poland has improved its ranking significantly in this century. 
Her sample size of three American kids abroad is hardly foolproof, and yet it’s a start. Everybody has opinions on schooling, but few people have firsthand experience with different countries’ school systems because it’s immensely time-consuming to sit in on classrooms long enough that the teacher runs out of her dog-and-pony shows for visitors and finally gets down to normal business. 
Having only recently become interested in the topic of education, Ripley is a true believer in PISA scores. 
Should you be? In truth, nobody seems to really know how much to trust PISA and its ace salesman Andreas Schleicher. ... The sheer logistical challenge of what PISA attempts to do should raise common-sense questions about how perfectly 65 countries can be compared. Translation of tests, selection of representative samples, and prevention of local authorities putting their thumbs on the scale are challenges so daunting to get exactly equal around the world that most observers just seem to hope for the best and trust that Schleicher has somehow devised a globally level playing field.

Please read the whole thing there.

Mandatory Finnish Content: Finland still #1 in Europe

There has been much talk about how Finland plummeted from its traditional top spot in the PISA scores, but:

- Finland was always only tops in white countries. Some Northeast Asians would typically beat the Finns.

- Finland is still #1 in white countries if you weight Math (519 for Finland), Science (545), and Reading (524) equally, for an overall score of 529, ahead of runner-up Estonia (526). This go-round of PISA emphasized Math, on which Finland came in fifth among white countries behind Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Netherlands, and Estonia.

Overall, though, across all three subjects, Finland was still #1 in Europe and its diaspora.

In contrast, the Scandinavian countries did not excel in 2012, with overall means of 498 for Denmark, 496 for oil-rich Norway, and 482 for Sweden. Among members of the OECD, the rich countries' club, Sweden beat only Israel, Slovakia, Greece, Turkey, Chile, and Mexico. (Some of those countries that Sweden edged out are in the rich countries' club only for "courtesy" or "aspirational" reasons.)

Overall PISA rankings, including America by race

Here are today's 2012 PISA average scores ranked by the mean across the three subjects. Americans' scores by race are broken out to make the comparisons less misleading. In summary, each race in America appears to average a little better than their racial cousins overseas. (By the way, in the following list, the italicized names refer to non-OECD places):

Country or "Economy" Reading Science Math Mean
OECD average              496 501 494 497
Shanghai-China            570 580 613 587
Singapore                 542 551 573 556
Hong Kong-China           545 555 561 554
Asian Americans 550 546 549 548
Korea, Republic of        536 538 554 542
Japan                     538 547 536 540
Chinese Taipei            523 523 560 535
Finland                   524 545 519 529
Estonia                   516 541 521 526
Liechtenstein             516 525 535 525
Massachusetts All Races 527 527 514 523
Macao-China               509 521 538 523
Canada                    523 525 518 522
Poland                    518 526 518 521
Netherlands               511 522 523 519
Switzerland               509 515 531 518
White Americans 519 528 506 518
Connecticut All Races 521 521 506 516
Vietnam                   508 528 511 516
Ireland                   523 522 501 516
Germany                   508 524 514 515
Australia                 512 521 504 512
Belgium                   509 505 515 510
New Zealand               512 516 500 509
Multiracial Americans 517 511 492 507
United Kingdom            499 514 494 502
Austria                   490 506 506 500
Czech Republic            493 508 499 500
France                    505 499 495 500
Slovenia                  481 514 501 499
Denmark                   496 498 500 498
Norway                    504 495 489 496
Latvia                    489 502 491 494
United States             498 497 481 492
Luxembourg                488 491 490 490
Spain                     488 496 484 490
Italy                     490 494 485 490
Portugal                  488 489 487 488
Hungary                   488 494 477 487
Iceland                   483 478 493 484
Lithuania                 477 496 479 484
Croatia                   485 491 471 482
Sweden                    483 485 478 482
Florida All Races 492 485 467 481
Russian Federation        475 486 482 481
Israel                    486 470 466 474
Slovak Republic           463 471 482 472
Greece                    477 467 453 466
Hispanic Americans 478 462 455 465
Turkey                    475 463 448 462
Serbia, Republic of       446 445 449 447
Cyprus                    449 438 440 442
United Arab Emirates      442 448 434 441
Bulgaria                  436 446 439 440
Romania                   438 439 445 440
Thailand                  441 444 427 437
Chile                     441 445 423 436
African Americans 443 439 421 434
Costa Rica                441 429 407 426
Mexico                    424 415 413 417
Kazakhstan                393 425 432 416
Montenegro, Republic of   422 410 410 414
Malaysia                  398 420 421 413
Uruguay                   411 416 409 412
Brazil                    410 405 391 402
Jordan                    399 409 386 398
Argentina                 396 406 388 397
Tunisia                   404 398 388 397
Albania                   394 397 394 395
Colombia                  403 399 376 393
Indonesia                 396 382 375 384
Qatar                     388 384 376 383
Peru                      384 373 368 375

Source: My previous PISA postings, which are based on federal NCES access to PISA scores.