November 3, 2007

"Michael Clayton"

From my American Conservative review of the legal thriller starring George Clooney:

"Michael Clayton" churns out the same old plot about a murderous multinational rubbing out whoever gets in its carcinogenic way.

Tilda Swinton, so aristocratic and androgynous that she makes Cate Blanchett look like Angelina Jolie, plays the corporate counsel for UNorth, which peddles its cancer-causing herbicide in 62 countries. She pays Clooney's law firm tens of millions to fight weed-killer lawsuits, but then their lead defense attorney (Tom Wilkinson of "In the Bedroom") goes all Howard Beale of "Network," ranting about how working for UNorth has put blood on his hands while stripping naked during a deposition.

This sounds entertaining, but isn't, because auteur Tony Gilroy ignores even the ripest targets for satire, such as the plaintiffs' contingency fee attorneys, always a colorful subspecies (Homo avaricious vulgaris). Instead, he maintains a steady tone of doleful indignation.

Our common law doesn't work well with cases in which blame can only be assigned statistically. Say the defendant's herbicide raises the chance of cancer by 50 percent. So, one out of three customers who get cancer are victims of the company, while two out of three aren't; but science can't tell which is which. The contingency fee attorneys bring suits from everybody who might have been harmed, while the defense tries to insinuate to the jury that the plaintiff deserved to get cancer. It's an ugly but fascinating slice of modern Americana, but not one you'll hear anything about from the one-sided "Michael Clayton."

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

November 2, 2007

So now we know what the Iraq War was for -- a Green Card!

"It was a guy ["Curveball"] trying to get his green card essentially, in Germany, and playing the system for what it was worth" -- Tyler Drumheller, former CIA official quoted by CBS

The BBC Reports:

Iraq war source's name revealed

A US TV network has revealed the name of "Curveball" - an Iraqi man whose information was central to the US government's argument to invade Iraq.

The CBS show 60 Minutes identifies him as Iraqi defector Rafid Ahmed Alwan. The programme says he arrived in a German refugee centre in 1999 where he lied to win asylum and was not the chemical expert he said he was.

His claims of mobile bio-weapons labs in Saddam Hussein's Iraq were backed until well after the 2003 invasion.

The CBS 60 Minutes programme airs on Sunday but material released on its web site says Curveball was "not only a liar, but also a thief and a poor student instead of the chemical engineering whiz he claimed to be".

It also says it assumes Mr Alwan is now living in Germany under a different name.

The programme says he claimed to be a star chemical engineer at a plant that made mobile biological weapons in Djerf al-Nadaf. However, its investigation showed he received only low marks in chemical engineering at university and was the subject of an arrest warrant for alleged theft from a TV production company he worked for in Baghdad.

The programme also includes footage of his wedding in 1993 in the Iraqi capital.

It quotes former CIA senior official Tyler Drumheller as saying: "It was a guy trying to get his green card essentially, in Germany, and playing the system for what it was worth."

German intelligence agents warned the US in a letter that there was no way to verify Mr Alwan's claims. However, his information was used in a speech by then Secretary of State Colin Powell at the UN to back military action in Iraq.

The 60 Minutes report says the information was passed on by then CIA director George Tenet, who denies ever seeing the German intelligence letter. The programme says Mr Alwan's story unravelled once CIA agents finally confronted him with evidence contradicting his claims.

Back in November 2005, Col Lawrence Wilkerson, the chief of staff to Mr Powell, told the BBC's Carolyn Quinn he was aware the Germans had said that they had told the CIA of the unreliability. "And then you begin to speculate, you begin to wonder was this intelligence spun; was it politicised; was it cherry-picked; did in fact the American people get fooled?," Col Wilkerson said.

A presidential intelligence commission into the matter found that Curveball was a liar and an alcoholic.

I can't wait to hear libertarian Open Borders advocates explain that this just shows that we wouldn't have to fight pointless wars based on misinformation if we just gave Green Cards to all the alcoholic liars in the world.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

A Jewish Advantage

In Slate, William Saletan has a tussle with what he calls "Jewgenics:"

Are Jews a race? Is Jewish intelligence genetic?

If these notions make you cringe, you're not alone. Many non-Jews find them offensive. Actually, scratch that. I have no idea whether non-Jews find them offensive. But I imagine that they do, which is why Jews like me wince at any suggestion of Jewish genetic superiority. We don't even want to talk about it.

Actually, a bunch of us did talk about it, three days ago at a forum at the American Enterprise Institute. The main speaker was Jon Entine, an AEI fellow and author of a new book, Abraham's Children: Race, Identity, and the DNA of the Chosen People. He was joined by fellow AEI scholar Charles Murray and by Laurie Zoloth, a bioethicist at Northwestern University. Entine and Zoloth are Jewish. Murray isn't but talks as though he wishes he were. "One of my thesis advisers at MIT was a Sephardic Jew," he announced proudly, turning the old "some of my best friends" cliché upside down.

Saletan's assertion that Jews don't mention that they are a race out of politeness -- because gentiles would find the idea of Jews being a race offensive and Jews never want to cause offense -- is pretty funny. In reality, of course, gentiles seldom mention that Jews are, more or less, a hereditary racial group because they don't want to be denounced for it by hotly offended, verbally facile, high IQ, argumentatively tireless Jewish intellectuals.

My pet theory has long been that one important reason that Ashkenazi Jews are so suited to triumphing via argument in the modern world is because they developed for centuries in a largely unarmed shtetl culture where to argue aggressively didn't put your life at risk. Heinlein famously asserted that "An armed society is a polite society," but the inverse would seem also to be true: "An unarmed society is an argumentative society."

In contrast, gentlemen in England wore swords until some point in the 18th Century (and England was a fairly low violence society compared to the rest of Europe). Alexander Hamilton was removed from the gene pool in a duel in 1804, and a U.S. Senator was killed in a duel in San Francisco as late as 1859.

Argument is a two edged sword. Without arguing, you can't make as much progress as fast in understanding the world (as the enormous number of hard science Nobel Prizes won by Jews attests). But, you can also use your ardor for verbal combat to browbeat others who lack your love of endless argument into either acquiescence or silence, as shown by the long history of bad ideas such as Freudianism that Jewish advocates have verbally badgered much of the rest of the world into at least temporarily conceding.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Untethered on the Great Noose Mania of 2007

Quantitatively consistent blogging -- relentlessly feeding the beast -- tends to be the enemy of quality. There are a handful who can be prolific, steady, and still surprising over many years -- Michael Blowhard perhaps comes first to mind -- but many of the best bloggers are among the most erratic.

All of a sudden, Dennis Dale is back at Untethered with lots of good stuff, especially about the Noose Scourge sweeping our nation ever since the Jena Six story got all that media play:

CNN's Rick Sanchez, whose Hispanic surname seems to have made him the network's go-to guy on racial issues despite the fact that he is nearly as WASP-like in appearance and manner as Ted Knight's Judge Smails in Caddyshack, (or, for that matter, Knight's affable and clueless anchorman Ted Baxter of The Mary Tyler Moore Show), is valiantly traipsing into the dark heart of America, with his expedition of camera and make-up crew in tow, hunting the now legendary Great Noose Scourge of 2007.

My point here is not to pick on Rick, who evinces the same bemusing persona that Fred Willard periodically reprises in Christopher Guest's faux-documentaries: confident, cocksure and half-cocked--as enthusiastic as he is oblivious. He sees opportunity; he seizes it; he is no exception. But under his guidance the absurdity has moved beyond comic into surreal, and there will be no competing with real life now, my fellow amateur satirists. Soon we may find it difficult to delineate the boundaries between. Game over. It's time to simply shut-up and marvel.

Last night, on Halloween, Sanchez utilized a split-screen format to simultaneously deliver two reports, one from a private residence and one from a bar, each the subject of controversy because their elaborate Halloween displays featured corpses hanging from nooses. As the cameras tightened in on the offending figures to reassure us they weren't black (the report wasn't quite so thorough as to call in forensics to analyze one body, just bare decomposing flesh over a skeleton, which the homeowner assured Sanchez was "Caucasian"), also revealed was a fairly realistic upper torso (safely, reassuringly white), severed at the waist and hanging upside down from a meat-hook, unremarked upon.

I guess you had to be there, but the absurdity of it was riveting, delicious irony: this ghoulish, fetishistic fascination with gore, once a ritualistic, occasional transgression for days such as these, now as widespread and mundane as the dull safety of daily life it mocks, juxtaposed with the bizarre conceit of the segment and its cravenness (acting as a tie-in for CNN's upcoming, opportunistic report, "The Noose, An American Nightmare"), the real-life horrors of the war out of sight and mind; well, all I can say is genius. Pure, unadulterated, unintentional genius.

Bravo, Mr. Sanchez. Bravo, CNN.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Greenspan's bubble and hidden inequality

There is always a lot of arguing back and forth over income inequality, but expenditure inequality is little discussed, even though it's just the flip side of the standard of living inequality coin. The recent housing bubble created much inequality of lifestyle, much of it almost random in occurrence. Consider two couples who live side by side in one of the parts of the country with much housing inflation in this decade. The two 38 year olds at 106 Elm St. bought their house in 2000. Right now they are touring Tuscany. The two 32 year olds at 112 Elm St. bought the house next door in 2006. They are presently touring their local Aldi's supermarket looking for deals on canned beans so they they can keep paying their mortgage.

When the first family thinks of their good fortune, they are apt to chalk it up to their brilliant nose for the market. But they didn't exactly buy Wal-Mart stock in 1972. They just happened to reach the point in their lives when middle class American couples buy a house when it happened to be when all the smart money was going into Cisco Systems, not something boring like houses. So, houses were reasonably affordable. Their neighbors, those morons, reached that point six years later, when everybody knew that houses always rose in price so even if you overpaid you could always refinance.

It's interesting that their is almost no political outcry over this form of inequality. You might think that its randomness would make it seem more unfair, but randomness saps political salience. I noticed this years ago with diseases when I had non-Hodgkins lymphoma. An illness that hits a coherent group of people, such as AIDS, will get far more political attention and federal research money than one that hits people almost completely at random, such as lymphoma.

Similarly, while we hear constantly about past race discrimination, we almost never hear about past discrimination against lefthanders (e.g., Ronald Reagan, like many natural lefthanders of his generation, was forced to write right-handed. Nor do we ever hear about the heroic activists who changed social attitudes toward lefthanders. Why not? Lefties just are not a coherent group of people.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

November 1, 2007

Jon Entine and Charles Murray on Jewish DNA

AEI hosted a forum last Monday, with a guest appearances by Charles Murray and Sally Satel, to announce the publication of Jon Entine's long-awaited book Abraham's Children: Race, DNA, and the Identity of the Chosen People. (Here's my 2003 interview of Jon.)

In the Washington Post, the ever-shallow Dana Milbank, who seems to be be auditioning for the role of the male Maureen Dowd, snarked incoherently in a column entitled "Nature or Nurture? Well, Smart Guy?"

Philip Weiss comments, "Yes, Jews Are Smarter, But We're Undergoing an IQ Drop by the Minute."

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

October 31, 2007

Samuelson on "Farewell to Alms"

Robert J. Samuelson writes about Gregory Clark's "A Farewell to Alms" in the Washington Post. (My 2 part review of the book is here and here.)

Personally, I'm fairly optimistic about Third World poverty, in the absolute sense if not the relative sense. For example, telephones are hugely useful for getting things done, and the good news is that cell phone systems are much less dependent on having a functional culture than the old land line systems. The old systems required big bureaucracies that were reasonably honest and efficient, which many countries, including some Western European ones, couldn't reliably manage. But you can have working cell phone networks in places as anarchic as 1990s Somalia.

My guess would be that technology will continue to evolve toward plug and play solutions that will work even in dysfunctional cultures like Nigeria. The U.S. burned up a lot of brainpower in the 1980s and 1990s figuring out how to use, first, PCs and then the Internet. (For example, I worked mostly on introducing PCs to my marketing research company from the fall of 1984 to the summer of 1988, and on introducing the Internet to the company from late 1994 to the end of 1996.) The whole world has benefited and will continue to benefit from these investments. Granted, the Nigerians have latched on to the Internet most famously for the purposes of fraud, so maybe that's not the best example ...

And then there's the Secret Solution to African Poverty, the one that nobody talks about: get the men to work as hard as the women. By one estimate I've seen, from an African feminist organization, women do 80% of the work in sub-Saharan Africa. That's probably biased, so let's say it's only 70%. So, if the men started working as hard as the women, and were on average as productive, that would boost output by 40%.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

The Big Game

This Sunday's NFL game between the 7-0 Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts and the awesome 8-0 New England Patriots is the first November battle of undefeateds in the NFL in many years, with temporary possession of the title of the top American athlete up for grabs between quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. For years, Manning had the better statistics but Brady had the Super Bowl rings, but now it's reversed, with Brady putting together an unbelievable half season. If he could somehow keep up this pace, Brady would break Manning's record of 49 touchdown passes and finish with 60 touchdown passes versus only 4 interceptions. By way of comparison, Manning is on pace to finish with the second best TD to interception numbers at 28 to 7.

A couple of weeks ago, sportswriter Jason Whitlock pointed out:
African-American football players caught up in the rebellion and buffoonery of hip hop culture have given NFL owners and coaches a justifiable reason to whiten their rosters. That will be the legacy left by Chad, Larry and Tank Johnson, Pacman Jones, Terrell Owens, Michael Vick and all the other football bojanglers.

In terms of opportunity for American-born black athletes, they're going to leave the game in far worse shape than they found it.

It's already starting to happen. A little-publicized fact is that the Colts and the Patriots — the league's model franchises — are two of the whitest teams in the NFL. If you count rookie receiver Anthony Gonzalez, the Colts opened the season with an NFL-high 24 white players on their 53-man roster. Toss in linebacker Naivote Taulawakeiaho "Freddie" Keiaho and 47 percent of Tony Dungy's defending Super Bowl-champion roster is non-African-American. Bill Belichick's Patriots are nearly as white, boasting a 23-man non-African-American roster, counting linebacker Tiaina "Junior" Seau and backup quarterback Matt Gutierrez.

For some reason, these facts are being ignored by the mainstream media. Could you imagine what would be written and discussed by the media if the Yankees and the Red Sox were chasing World Series titles with 11 African-Americans on their 25-man rosters (45 percent)?

We would be inundated with information and analysis on the social significance. Well, trust me, what is happening with the roster of the Patriots and the Colts and with Roger Goodell's disciplinary crackdown are all socially significant.

Hip hop athletes are being rejected because they're not good for business and, most important, because they don't contribute to a consistent winning environment. Herm Edwards said it best: You play to win the game.

I'm sure when we look up 10 years from now and 50 percent — rather than 70 percent — of NFL rosters are African-American, some Al Sharpton wannabe is going to blame the decline on a white-racist plot.

Back in October 2005, Inductivist did a statistical analysis for my article showing that in the 2.3 seasons he looked at -- 2003, 2004, and early 2005 -- that NFL teams with more white second stringers won more games. The correlation between the racial makeup of the starters and percentage of games won was close to zero, suggesting that teams rationally evaluated their starting line-ups. But, it appeared that, at least in 2003-early2005, teams with whiter benches did better, suggesting there had been an under-exploited opportunity to win more games:

Why would having more white nonstarters help a team? Caste Football’s J.D. Cash has suggested that perhaps white utility players are more likely to master the playbooks for multiple positions (as suggested by their higher average IQ scores on the Wonderlic test mandated by the NFL).

Or, possibly, the reason that teams with a higher number of white reserves have been winning more games is because whites are better team players about sitting on the bench without complaining about not starting. Perhaps white back-ups are less likely than black back-ups to poison the atmosphere and ruin the team spirit.

After all, our society for the last 40 years has lavishly encouraged blacks to claim to be victims of injustice, so it would hardly be surprising if, among pampered egotistical athletes, whites might tend to be more likely than blacks to keep quiet for the good of the team when they feel they are being treated unfairly.

Whatever the reason for this pattern, this quick study, while not definitive, is important news—both to team officials in charge of player personnel choices and also to anyone who likes to bet on football games.

It would pay to extend the study over more years to see if it represents a long-term pattern, and to go into more depth to find the reasons for this apparent market failure.

Anyway, there's now a couple of years more data, so somebody might want to check and see if this pattern persisted.

The definitive James Watson posting

Over at GNXP, Jason Malloy unloads on the Watson brouhaha.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

A brilliant parody in

For Halloween, Slate publishes the most hilarious parody of egomaniacal lesbian-feminist self-righteousness and general tiresomeness I've seen in awhile: "The Invisible Lesbian: Challenging the Myth of Merit-Based Publishing." It's attributed to "Sarah Schulman," who I assume is probably actually some guy who writes for The Simpsons or Letterman's Top Ten lists.

Update: Wow, this is a really elaborate hoax. There's a whole Wikipedia page (almost as funny) devoted to this obvious nom de plume.

Hats off to Slate for going to all this trouble to amuse us!

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

What's gone wrong with music?

A recurrent topic of mine is "Kids These Days: What's the Deal with Their Music?" Unlike the previous generation, my complaint is that popular music has barely changed in 25 years. Rap music is still the same old same old; the LA "New Rock" radio station KROQ sounds almost exactly the same as when I left LA in 1982, except styles have gotten narrower (fewer synthesizers and fewer girl singers); and country sounds like the lamer sort of 1970s rock.

The great age of rock music was driven in part by the electric guitar, which first emerged with Charlie Christian's participation in Benny Goodman's band in the late 1930s. Just as the development of the pianoforte (soft-loud) was essential to the Romantic music of the 19th Century (imagine if Romantic composers had had to compose on harpsichords!), the electric guitar was central to turning rock 'n' roll (which could be performed just fine on the piano, as Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard had shown) into rock. Around 1964-1965, the world discovered how protean the electric guitar could sound, and that set off one of the great eras in popular music history.

But there was an important ethnic angle, the slow synthesis during the 19th and 20th Centuries, mostly in the Mississippi watershed, of an Afro-Anglo-Celtic style. And that started to come apart with the punk-New Wave era at the end of the 1970s, which was a rebellion, in large part, against the dominance of the blues, as institutionalized by the Brits from the Beatles onward in the sainted Sixties. Devo, with their robotic rendition of the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction," was a representative New Wave act -- not particularly talented, but that made them more representative than some idiosyncratic genius. Their message was: Let's stop pretending we're Mississippi Delta bluesmen; we're nerdy suburban white kids with three digit IQs.

The problem has become that the punk-New Wave rebellion against the blues got institutionalized, and the same musical styles that were refreshing in 1977-1982 are still hanging around. The more linear, abstracted styles that emerged after 1977 were interesting, but you can't keep mining that vein -- abstracting an abstraction hits diminishing marginal emotional returns pretty quickly.

An article in The New Yorker --"A Paler Shade of White: How indie rock lost its soul" by Sasha Frere-Jones -- starts off as a review of an Arcade Fire concert and then touches on some of these issues.

By the time I saw the Clash, in 1981, it was finished with punk music. It had just released “Sandinista!,” a three-LP set consisting of dub, funk, rap, and Motown interpretations, along with other songs that were indebted—at least in their form—to Jamaican and African-American sources. As I watched Arcade Fire, I realized that the drummer and the bassist rarely played syncopated patterns or lingered in the low registers. If there is a trace of soul, blues, reggae, or funk in Arcade Fire, it must be philosophical; it certainly isn’t audible. And what I really wanted to hear, after a stretch of raucous sing-alongs, was a bit of swing, some empty space, and palpable bass frequencies—in other words, attributes of African-American popular music.

There’s no point in faulting Arcade Fire for what it doesn’t do; what’s missing from the band’s musical DNA is missing from dozens of other popular and accomplished rock bands as well—most of them less entertaining than Arcade Fire. I’ve spent the past decade wondering why rock and roll, the most miscegenated popular music ever to have existed, underwent a racial re-sorting in the nineteen-nineties. Why did so many white rock bands retreat from the ecstatic singing and intense, voicelike guitar tones of the blues, the heavy African downbeat, and the elaborate showmanship that characterized black music of the mid-twentieth century.

Unfortunately, the author appears to be too young to know his history correctly:
"MTV had been on the air for nearly two years before it got up the courage to play the video for Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” in 1983. (Jackson was the first black artist to appear on the channel, though it had played videos by the equally gifted white soul act Hall & Oates.) Jackson’s 1982 album “Thriller” is the second-biggest-selling record of all time (after “Eagles: Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975”), but he alone could not alter pop music’s racial power balance. Black and white musicians continued to trade, borrow, and steal from one another, but white artists typically made more money and received more acclaim."

No, he's confused here. Blacks were huge stars long before then -- Ever hear of the Supremes? Stevie Wonder? Aretha Franklin? Jimi Hendrix? Marvin Gaye? Ray Charles? Johnny Mathis? Nat King Cole? Ella Fitzgerald? The biggest stars of the post-1964 classic rock era were British (Beatles, Stones, Who, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd), but among American acts, blacks did fine.

The first two years of MTV, 1981-1982, were an anomalous period in which white rock fans were overtly anti-black. (I recall Prince, opening for the Rolling Stones at the LA Coliseum in 1981, being showered with boos no matter how much heavy Hendrix-style electric guitar he laid on.) This was specifically because white rockers blamed blacks (wrongly) for disco. (They should have blamed gays -- as Tom Wolfe pointed out at the time after visiting Studio 54, the music industry was covering up just how gay disco was.) It was a passing phase growing out of the anti-disco backlash, and wasn't true before or after.
"If young white musicians had been imitating black ones, it was partly because they had been able to do so in the dark, so to speak. In 1969, most of Led Zeppelin’s audience would have had no idea that Robert Plant and Jimmy Page had taken some of the lyrics of “Whole Lotta Love” from the blues artist Willie Dixon, whom the band had already covered twice (with credit) on its début album."

Oh, come on ... Everybody knew British rockers were copying black bluesmen. The Brits talked about it constantly -- in their limey speaking accents that contrasted so hilariously with their Memphis singing accents.

Nor were whites only "stealing" from blacks. Consider Aretha's 1967 classic "(You Make Me Feel Like a) A Natural Woman," which was written by the Brill Building husband-wife team of Gerry Goffin and Carole King. Indeed, a strong respect for Jewish showbiz professionalism contributed mightily to black musical success. Most famously, Motown founder Berry Gordy explicitly organized his recording company to mimic the methods of Hollywood movie studios of the 1930s.

The author goes on to make a better point:
"In the mid- and late eighties, as MTV began granting equal airtime to videos by black musicians, academia was developing a doctrine of racial sensitivity that also had a sobering effect on white musicians: political correctness. Dabbling in black song forms, new or old, could now be seen as an act of appropriation, minstrelsy, or co-optation. A political reading of art took root, ending an age of innocent—or, at least, guilt-free—pilfering. This wasn’t a case of chickens coming home to roost. Rather, it was as though your parents had come home and turned on the lights."

For example, after the first rap Top 40 hit in late 1979, white bands released various raps in 1980-81, such as Talking Heads' "Crosseyed and Painless" (with super-nerd David Byrne rapping "Facts are simple and facts are straight / Facts are lazy and facts are late"), The Clash's "Magnificent Seven," and Blondie's #1 hit "Rapture." It was a fun novelty fad, and the cool New Wave bands were hopping on the bandwagon. And why shouldn't they?

Now, though a white performer has to be as good at rapping as Eminem or he'll be tarred as the new Vanilla Ice.

So, white musicians retreated from anything to do with black music, not wanting to be accused of being the new Pat Boone and stealing Little Richard's act.

Meanwhile, it turned out that blacks weren't such almighty natural creative geniuses either, at least when freed of the anxiety of living up to white demands. Black songwriting collapsed. Writing melodic hooks came to be seen as incompatible with keepin' it real. By the 1990s, black songs that weren't raps didn't have much more melody than the raps did. Hip-hop just droned on forever, although it may now, hopefully, be finally dying.

The terrible irony is that blacks turned themselves into new minstrels, acting out ridiculous gangsta rap fantasies for white fans, sometimes with lethal results.

At the Super Bowl halftime show this year, oldtimer Prince gave a tremendous performance in the pouring rain. For his two cover versions, he pointedly chose songs written by whites and covered by blacks -- Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower" (most famously peformed by Jimi Hendrix) and Creedence Clearwater's "Proud Mary" as done by Ike and Tina Turner. His message was clear: Let's get over this obsession with who stole what from whom. Together, we Americans conquered the musical world. We can do it again if we just grow up.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Larry Auster on Michael Hart's "Understanding Human History"

Larry Auster has a long review of a book I reviewed over the summer, Michael A. Hart's Understanding Human History. Here's an interesting section:

The reason for Hart's low opinion of India become evident from his similarly (and unfashionably) low opinion of ancient Egypt. Egypt, he tells us, was not nearly as important a civilization as everyone thinks. This is because Egypt was relatively poor in the sorts of inventions and innovations that are influential and useful for other civilizations. In other words, Hart's criterion of the worth of a civilization is its material contributions to general human progress. Which means that the internal structure and inner life of a society, what it is subjectively for its own members, is of no interest to him. Because the Egyptians did not add a great deal to civilizational advance, ... they are of no importance to him, even though, as many other observers and students of Egypt have seen it, the Egyptian society achieved a kind of perfection. The Egyptians experienced their earthly life as so beautiful, pleasant, harmonious, and stable (as one can glean from their paintings), that their idea of the afterlife was to continue in that experience forever. Once we understand this, the Egyptian cult of the afterworld, with its mummies and monumental tombs and pyramids, starts to make sense in terms of the Egyptians' own experience of life and of eternity. Seen from this perspective, the pyramids are not just very large and very impressive structures, they are representations of the cosmos. Of course this Egyptian culture with its focus on eternity was not as innovative as, say, fifth century Athens; indeed, it led to a static conception of society with little room for human freedom and creativity. But at the same time it represents an awe-inspiring human achievement, which explains Egypt's continuing hold over men's imagination.

In other words, Hart misses the Egyptians' experience of order. Every society and civilization is an attempt to create order, an orientation of men's lives toward nature, society, and the divine, which will be different in each society. But to grasp a civilization's order, we must attempt to see the civilization whole, and this is impossible if we reduce its meaning to a comparative list of its material and even its intellectual achievements. What was most remarkable about the Egyptians--and what still draws us to them today, even if we can't explain the nature of the pull--was not this or that achievement, but the underlying vision of order that each of those achievements expressed. A materialist will have little interest in all this. It doesn't come within his ken. He wants solid, useful accomplishment and that's that.

With the obvious caveat that this assessment of Egyptian civilization applies more to the Egyptian on top of the social pyramid than to the poor bastard down at the bottom, this is a good point. But I also admire Hart's reductionism. With history, you can profitably move in both directions.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

October 30, 2007

A dog that isn't barking

A reader writes:

Have you noticed that no one on the right is willing to say anything about race and gender preferences during this election cycle? All the candidates had positions on preferences in 2000. Today, the pundits don't even chide them for keeping mum.

That's particularly strange because in November 2006, on a night that Republicans were getting drubbed across the country, Ward Connerly won a smashing victory in Michigan on his initiative outlawing racial and ethnic preferences.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

An interview with Dr. Effect

The LA Times runs an interview with James Flynn, of the Flynn Effect.

And here's my review of his new new book.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

African vs. African-American family structures

An anthropologist responds to my posting on the loss of interest among the public in the bread-and-butter topic of cultural anthropology -- kinship structures:

Steve Sailer noted that the study of family structure has fallen on hard times in anthropology. This is perfectly true. It is now very widely believed by anthropologists that 'kinship' is a Eurocentric construction, and that other folks actually have their own folk theories about 'relatedness' which have to be understood in their own terms, and don't map closely on to Western folk theories of 'blood' and biology (which in turn don't map closely on to actual genetic relatedness).

Meanwhile, back on Planet Earth, even serious treatments of kinship often veer between microscopic and telescopic: either details of particular societies or general principles underlying all human kinship systems. But there's also a middle range to kinship: different geographic areas have (on average) characteristic differences in their kinship systems.

In Sub-Saharan Africa (henceforth just 'Africa'), for example, family establishments commonly take the form of separate households for each of a man's co-wives (and her children), with husbands moving between wives' households, and women having considerable autonomy, and not much day-to-day economic support. Polygyny is certainly found outside of Africa, but this particular household arrangement is vastly more common in Africa than anywhere else. African societies also generally have strong unilineal descent groups, and great religious power vested in elders and ancestors. (This actually converges somewhat with China, but economics and male-female relations are very different there). Marriage is stronger in some parts of Africa than others, but is generally seen as a device for expanding the lineage, rather than as an economic and emotional union. Within Africa. the major exceptions to these generalizations are often genetic outliers as well: Bushmen, Pygmies, and Ethiopians.

Africans on the other side of the Atlantic are an interesting comparison. In some ways they look very African: marriage is not very strong among blacks in the New World. But in other respects, New World blacks look Western: African lineage systems and ancestor worship didn't survive the Middle Passage and slavery (except among scattered maroon (i.e. runaway slave) groups in places like Surinam). One result is that, although blacks in the US, the Caribbean, and Brazil have all sorts of social problems related in part to family structure, tribalism is really not the issue that it is in Africa.

More speculatively, another result may be much higher levels of creativity in popular culture, especially music, among blacks on the western side of the Atlantic than in Africa. I suspect that Jamaica alone has had as much impact on popular culture around the world as all of sub-Saharan African. There are all sorts of factors contributing here: more money, more miscegenation, a greater proportion of English speakers. But it may also be that in the African Diaspora as in the Jewish Diaspora, the assimilation of Western individualism has unleashed a degree of cultural creativity not seen in more tradition-bound kin-group-oriented sectors of the population.

I had a summer job once sharing an office with a Ph.D. student from Cameroon. All day long we played his tapes of African pop music. Wonderful stuff, but it lacked the "star power" of African-American pop music. It was more communal, less show-offy than James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, or Jimi Hendrix.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Neo-Cons vs. Nepo-Cons

A friend points out:

A note on neo-nepotism: One difference between Norman Podhoretz and Irving Kristol and their sons is that the fathers were shaped in part by serving in the armed forces, alongside guys they otherwise wouldn't have spent much time with. They've both written about this. In Podhoretz's case, he discovered that his fears of anti-intellectualism and anti-semitism among the masses were overblown. The GIs he rubbed shoulders with were actually fairly respectful of the brighter guys, and they were more curious than hostile about his religious/ethnic background. Kristol learned another lesson: there was so much corruption and racketeering going on among his fellow soldiers that he lost his socialist faith that putting lots of government property in the hands of The People was a wonderful idea. My impression (I could be wrong) is that John Podhoretz and William Kristol haven't had this range of social experience. The great theme of The Bell Curve is that a cognitive elite is increasingly cut off from the rest of the population. The end of conscription may be part of this trend.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Wolfgang Zernik v. Steve Sailer on The Big Question

In the Letters column on, Wolfgang Zernik raises a common question:

The real problem Sailer should tackle is this: society has no way to treat the recognition that one racial group is intellectually inferior to others.

I mean simply no way to deal with it, legally, constitutionally or morally. We are not Nazis, after all, and are not likely to become like them. Why not discuss important issues?

If we ever get to the point where we are forced to acknowledge that people of African descent are on average far less intelligent than whites or Asians, what do we do then?

Click here for my answer.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

The Great Flood or The Epic of Gilgabush

On the Tigris River lies the world's most dangerous dam, built on top of water-soluble gypsum (hey, at least the Iraqis didn't build it out of sugar), which threatens to unleash a 66-foot tall wall of water on Mosul, with an expected death toll of up to half a million.

From the Washington Post, this is almost too perfect of a metaphor for our whole experience in Iraq.
Seepage from the dam funnels into a gushing stream of water that engineers monitor to determine the severity of the leakage. Twenty-four clanging machines churn 24 hours a day to pump grout deep into the dam's base. And sinkholes form periodically as the gypsum dissolves beneath the structure.

Read the whole thing. It's hilariously horrifying.

Greg Cochran emails:
There is only one right answer - drain the reservoir as rapidly as is safe. But we don't get around to it. We have more important things to think about.

Once upon a time this country was a fountain of competency: we got things done and we were _famous_ for getting things done. Not any more.

Bush is the Apostle of incompetence. Everything he does is stupid, and he does it in a stupid way. If he'd run the space program back in the 60s, the iconic movie would be Journey To The Center Of The Earth rather than Apollo 13.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

October 29, 2007

Obama's life v. Obama's autobiography, continued

As I've been pointing out all year, when people actually get around to reading Senator Barack Obama's memoir, Dreams from my Father, all sorts of questions open up. Now, the New York Times runs a rather dull article pointing out that the brief section in it about his life in New York in the early 1980s is somewhat misleading: he wasn't a glamorous international business consultant, he was a copyeditor of a newsletter, etc.

There's's a pretty good blog called Analyze This written by a former colleague at the newsletter company named Dan Armstrong. He posted in "Barack Obama Embellishes His Resume:"

Don’t get me wrong - I’m a big fan of Barack Obama, the Illinois freshman senator and hot young Democratic Party star. But after reading his autobiography, I have to say that Barack engages in some serious exaggeration when he describes a job that he held in the mid-1980s.I know because I sat down the hall from him, in the same department, and worked closely with his boss. I can’t say I was particularly close to Barack - he was reserved and distant towards all of his co-workers - but I was probably as close to him as anyone. I certainly know what he did there, and it bears only a loose resemblance to what he wrote in his book....

All of Barack’s embellishment serves a larger narrative purpose: to retell the story of the Christ’s temptation. The young, idealistic, would-be community organizer gets a nice suit, joins a consulting house, starts hanging out with investment bankers, and barely escapes moving into the big mansion with the white folks. Luckily, an angel calls, awakens his conscience, and helps him choose instead to fight for the people.

Like I said, I’m a fan. His famous keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention moved me to tears. The Democrats - not to mention America - need a mixed-race spokesperson who can connect to both urban blacks and rural whites, who has the credibility to challenge the status quo on issues ranging from misogynistic rap to unfair school funding.

And yet I’m disappointed. Barack’s story may be true, but many of the facts are not. His larger narrative purpose requires him to embellish his role. I don’t buy it. Just as I can’t be inspired by Steve Jobs now that I know how dishonest he is, I can’t listen uncritically to Barack Obama now that I know he’s willing to bend the facts to his purpose.

As I've mentioned before, the autobiography Obama wrote at age 33 gives the impression of somebody who is interesting but not quite right in the head: verbally talented, depressive, humorless, and overly sensitive, like Joan Didion or an unfunny Evelyn Waugh. That's not the impression most people have of him now (everybody says "He seems so comfortable in his own skin," which raises the question of how did he get his head turned around -- it's too bad he can't tell us how he did it, at least so long as he's running for President).

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Warning! May Contain Spoilers! (If you've been in a coma for seven years)

"Recount" is an upcoming TV movie, whose IMDB listing takes the contemporary fetish for protecting the reader from unknowingly discovering the exciting conclusion of the movie to the point of absurdity:
Plot Outline:
A chronicle of the weeks after the 2000 U.S. presidential election and the subsequent recounts in Florida.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

October 28, 2007

James Watson, Steven Rose, and the Lives of Others

Here's another excerpt from my new essay on James Watson:

Perhaps the most widely quoted smear-artist attacking James Watson has been Steven Rose. Rose is a professor emeritus of neurobiology at the Open University, a sort of British 1960s lefty version of the University of Phoenix. Rose is a Marxist and the co-founder of the boycott Israel movement among British academics.

He was also the co-author, with Leon Kamin and Richard Lewontin, of the 1984 manifesto with the amusingly unprophetic title Not In Our Genes. (Here's Richard Dawkins's scathing review—which led to Rose threatening to sue Dawkins for libel!)

During the attack on Watson, Rose wrote in The Guardian:

"As for freedom of speech, these freedoms are and must be constrained. We don't have the right to casually cry fire in a crowded theatre, or to use hate speech—at least in Europe, as opposed to the US. Watson's now retracted [sic] remarks came into these unacceptable categories. So the repercussions are to be welcomed." [Watson's bad science, October 21, 2007]

Not surprisingly, Steven Rose has been accused of practicing what he preaches: having the government silence scientists whose ideas he dislikes.

According to social scientist Volkmar Weiss, a dissident under the East German Communist dictatorship, Rose ratted him out to the East Berlin regime, setting in motion the crushing in East Germany of IQ research and human behavioral genetics.

Weiss explains this in a 1983 essay entitled The Suppression of Human Behavioral Genetics by the Radical Left—unpublished, for obvious reasons, until 1991. He wrote:

"In 1980, the manuscript of the monograph Psychogenetik (Weiss 1982a) was complete. Now some fierce dogmatists were discovering that a cuckoo’s egg had been laid in the nest of socialism. One example: S. Rose asked his East German colleague, the professor of neurochemistry D. Biesold at the Karl-Marx-University of Leipzig (personal communication by Biesold), whether there was no means of stopping further publications by Weiss, because such publications printed in a socialist country were particularly disadvantageous to the propaganda of the Radical Left in the Western world. …”

Rose’s wish appears to have been the East German Communists’ command:

"[A]t the end of the year 1982 [Walter] Friedrich [ director of the Central Institute of Youth Research in Leipzig] sought and obtained the backing of high-ranking officials of the Communist Party and all further research in psychogenetics in East Germany came to an end."

Weiss goes on to describe the aftermath he endured, which would be familiar to anyone who saw the tremendous 2006 film about life in East Germany under the thumb of the secret police, The Lives of Others:

“… the cited author was under the threat of arrest and had already lost all possibility of doing further empirical work of defending his field of research. After 1984, Weiss was forced to work in a quite different field … What follows is the usual story of life and resistance under totalitarian conditions. In order to be published abroad, any new theoretical contributions had to be smuggled out of the GDR." [More]

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Working for The Clampdown

From my new article:

Why did so many so enthusiastically sign up as auxiliaries of the Thought Police to hound James Watson, who is perhaps America's most distinguished man of science?

Because it's fun.

The psychology of those who rushed to attack Watson was memorably outlined in Orwell's 1984, when the interrogator O'Brien explains to his prisoner Winston Smith the exciting future envisaged by the Party:

"Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever. …The heretic, the enemy of society, will always be there, so that he can be defeated and humiliated over again. … The more the Party is powerful, the less it will be tolerant: the weaker the opposition, the tighter the despotism. Goldstein and his heresies will live for ever. … Always we shall have the heretic here at our mercy, screaming with pain, broken up, contemptible—and in the end utterly penitent, saved from himself, crawling to our feet of his own accord."

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer


Leaving aside all the usual moral issues for the moment, as a taxpayer, I want to complain about this 21st Century innovation of using ex-U.S. military servicemen as highly paid mercenaries alongside much lower paid servicemen.

The government has forfeited its monopsonistic (i.e. sole employer) buying power over government-funded jobs killing people and breaking things, so the taxpayers are having to shell out much higher pay, either to Blackwater mercenaries or in six figure re-enlistment bonuses to U.S. military servicemen to keep them from going over to Blackwater. From the taxpayers' point of view, it's a ridiculous situation.

This is not a unique case restricted to the military. Much of the demand for privatization of traditionally governmental jobs comes from government employees themselves who want a competitive job market for their skills. For example, the folks who run state lotteries have been working for years to get the state lottery business privatized so they can transfer from a civil service job to a "private"-sector job ... running a state-licensed monopoly. It's the best of both worlds!

As a taxpayer, I'm tired of paying to train somebody in a government job, then, when they are finally productive, having them jump to an privatized for-profit job that costs me two or three times as much.

I want our monopsony back!

(I've also been wondering, how did the Blackwater company decide to name themselves after a particularly lethal complication of malaria? Were "Black Plague" and "Black Death" already trademarked by somebody else?)

By the way, mercenaries are not some brilliant 21st Century innovation that nobody ever thought of before. Renaissance Italy, for example, used lots of mercenaries and how'd that work out for them? There are good reasons why advanced societies got rid of their reliance upon mercenaries. Same with Max Boot's brainstorm of using lots of illegal aliens in our armies. These are old, old ideas. Machiavelli discussed the downsides of mercenaries and foreign fighters in Chapters 12 and 13 of The Prince.

The mercenary captains are either capable men or they are not; if they are, you cannot trust them, because they always aspire to their own greatness, either by oppressing you, who are their master, or others contrary to your intentions; but if the captain is not skilful, you are ruined in the usual way.

And if it be urged that whoever is armed will act in the same way, whether mercenary or not, I reply that when arms have to be resorted to, either by a prince or a republic, then the prince ought to go in person and perform the duty of captain; the republic has to send its citizens, and when one is sent who does not turn out satisfactorily, it ought to recall him, and when one is worthy, to hold him by the laws so that he does not leave the command. And experience has shown princes and republics, single-handed, making the greatest progress, and mercenaries doing nothing except damage; and it is more difficult to bring a republic, armed with its own arms, under the sway of one of its citizens than it is to bring one armed with foreign arms. Rome and Sparta stood for many ages armed and free. The Switzers are completely armed and quite free.

I conclude, therefore, that no principality is secure without having its own forces; on the contrary, it is entirely dependent on good fortune, not having the valour which in adversity would defend it. And it has always been the opinion and judgment of wise men that nothing can be so uncertain or unstable as fame or power not founded on its own strength.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer