April 19, 2008

Obey Giant Obama

A reader writes about Obama's popular Soviet constructivist-style propaganda poster:

Here is the official poster sold at the Obama campaign website:

It's sold out of its limited edition of 5,000 at $70 apiece.

The artist who created this image is Shepard Fairey.

Apparently, that's his real name.

As Time Magazine puts it, SF is "The man who launched the sticker revolution."

Previously people who did "graffiti art," like Warhol find Jean-Michel Basquiat, spray painted buildings. Even if they did the same image over and over again, each spray painting was unique. Fairey hit on the idea of pre-printing his vandalism as stickers and then covering an urban area with the endless repetition of the same image.

The first idea Fairey had was a sticker of the late professional wrestler Andre the Giant:

AndreTheGiantSticker.jpg

In Fairey's mind, Andre the Giant gets mixed up with Big Brother, since Andrea, is, well, big. This produces Fairey's next sticker campaign: "Obey Giant:"

LARGE SIZED STICKER

Hitting upon Soviet aesthetics, Fairey became a big hit with those who wax nostalgic for the return of the USSR. He founded BLK/MRKT Visual Communications to sell his rebel hipness to Hawaiian Punch. Here's one of Fairey's various Lenin/Stalin posters:


The art side is run out of http://obeygiant.com ...

Here are some examples of that work:

http://obeygiant.com/archives?nggpage=7

http://mkgallery.com/artists/fairey/fairey_2006_3.html

Of course God reminds us not to value this life to too highly by allowing it to endlessly descend to lower and lower levels of self parody. Thus it came to pass, my comrade, that when Penguin Books was getting around to reissue the Orwell "backlist," they picked Fairey to do the covers for "1984" and "Animal Farm" ... i.e., a guy who thinks Stalin was cool will now insert himself into the history of these texts:

http://thepenguinblog.typepad.com/the_penguin_blog/2008/04/it-was-a-bright.html

Animalfarm_afrmt_2

Here is the NYT article that prompted this all:

What does it all mean? Obviously, the Obey Obama the Giant poster isn't "ironic." Humorless credulity, not irony, is the hallmark of Obama fans.

Instead, the Obey Obama poster just shows once again what Michael Blowhard and Shouting Thomas pointed out recently: Most artists aren't very smart. They like shiny stuff:
"There was a stretch in the '90s when edgy theater artists were showcasing garish colors, laughtracks, snappy pacing, game-show formats and such. The critics were treating themselves to a field day explaining that what these deep, complex, and (as always) "critical" artists were up to was subverting our media-drenched assumptions with their media-based strategies. Vanessa, who actually hung out with a number of these actors and directors, laughed and said to me, "What nonsense. These kids are creating theater pieces that resemble live versions of television because TV is what they really like. They like TV, and they want the theater they create to be like TV.""
So, all these Obama fans are buying posters done in the style of Soviet propaganda posters because ... because they think they look cool. Which explains a lot about their politics, too.

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

Good question

I have absolutely no cognitive aptitude for criminal schemes, so I've been baffled trying to understand the apparently increasingly popular "straw buyer cash-back" mortgage fraud scam. But, while looking, I did stumble upon an equally stumped person who left this plaintive (and sadly unanswered) comment on the Mortgage Fraud website:

"Can someone please help me understand the straw purchaser situation? I have recently discovered that my b/f has changed his surname to his mother’s maiden name then either sold his house to himself in the new name OR he may have just put the house into that name without any type of financial transaction. Since I’m not familiar with how this works, I don’t want to confront him until I have all the facts. Am I on the right track with this or is this something harmless that he’s doing ‘just on paper?’ I’m extremely concerned that something fraudulent may be occurring."

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

Whatever happened to Rep. Waxman's April 17 AEY hearing?

Back in March, energetic Congressman Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills), chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform committee, announced he would be holding hearings on Efraim Diveroli's Albanian Afghan Ammo scandal at 10am on April 17, which was last Thursday.

Yet, I can't find any mention on Google News of anything happening this past week. Does anybody what happened? (If anything happened, which is a big if.)

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

April 18, 2008

In 2007, Obama gave $26,270 to Rev. Wright's church

The Washington Post reports:

Barack Obama released his 2007 tax returns yesterday as the latest move in a running dialogue with Hillary Clinton over which presidential candidate has been more open about personal finances.

Obama's tax returns showed that he made $4.2 million last year, most of it ($3.9 million) a result of profits from his best-selling books. He reported paying $1,396,772 in federal taxes and making charitable contributions totaling $240,370. Those donations included $26,270 to the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, which was the parish of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., his controversial former longtime pastor.

The funny thing is that I bet Rev. Wright considers Obama an ungrateful tightwad. After all, Obama makes $3.9 million in one year off his two books, for one of which Wright's "Audacity of Hope" sermon provides the title and for the other it provides the central climax.

Does Obama do the Christian thing and tithe? Hardly. Instead of 10%, Obama chips in 0.7% of his income.

Betrayed, I tell you. Betrayed.

Just like with Oprah Winfrey. She starts making 9 figures annually, but does she tithe as a reward to Rev. Wright for all the spiritual uplift he's provided her?

No. In fact, she quits the church.

Poor Rev. Wright will have to spend his retirement years living in a mansion in a gated community on a public golf course, Odyssey in Tinley Park, and not a particularly superb one either, only $78 to play on weekends.

Do you think Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. might be in the mood to sign a contract to write a book himself? Something with a title like "Me and My Spiritual Mentee, Sen. Esq. Barack H. Obama, Jr." only catchier. Publication date, say, October 1, 2008?

I was also wondering if anybody has made more money off of nonfiction books that fewer people have finished than Sen. Obama (Stephen Hawking, maybe?). But then I started thinking about what percentage of all best-selling books that don't reveal who the murderer is on the last page or whether the kids escape being eaten by the tyrannosaurus ever get finished. I bet it's low.

Update: A reader points out that one definite answer to the question of "Who has made more money off unfinished books than Obama" is Obama's opponent's husband, Bill Clinton, who has made $29.6 million in advances and royalties for his 1008 page autobiography (and miscellaneous quasi-books). Heck, I could barely finish reading Bill's opening sentence, with its 11 prepositional phrases:

"Early on the morning of August 19, 1946, I was born under a clear sky after a violent summer storm to a widowed mother in the Julia Chester Hospital in Hope, a town of about six thousand in southwest Arkansas, thirty-three miles east of the Texas border at Texarkana."

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

The business of the future: home inventory management systems

One of the great accomplishments of the business world in recent decades has been to make the supply chain leaner, whether Toyota's just-in-time parts delivery system or Wal-Mart's minimization of inventory.

Retailers, in particular, have become vastly more efficient, greatly lowering the mark-up. If you pay $100 to a manufacturer on January 1, but the merchandise sits around in various warehouses until you sell it on July 1, and if your cost of capital is, say, 10%, the financing costs alone added 5% or $5. But, if you can sell it by February 1, you've saved over 4%.

And yet, much of what retailers like Costco are doing is handing the problem of inventory management off to customers. Costco is operating on a just-in-time inventory system, but you aren't. If you buy a giant jar containing a six month's supply of pickels, instead of a one month supply, you've handed Costco five months worth of your money.

And, of course, your Corolla isn't big enough to haul around a full shopping trip worth of giant products from Costco, so you trade it in for an SUV.

And then, you stick your giant jar of pickels in your refrigerator and after a few months, while it's still half full, you bring home some other giant jar and you have to throw something old out of the refrigerator to squeeze the latest Deal of the Century in. So, you look around, decide you're sick of pickels, and who knows if they are still good? They are pickels, so they should last a long time, but it's hard to remember when you got them it was so long ago. And they don't look very appetizing. So, out they go, half-consumed.

Eventually, it occurs to you that you're wasting money throwing out old food to squeeze in new food, so the only solution is to get one of those enormous Viking refrigerators. But to do that you'll have to enlarge your kitchen and, while you are at it, put in granite countertops. Fortunately, everybody knows that home prices will go up forever, so you just take out a new mortgage on your house, with one of these adjustable rate mortgages with a super low rate for the first two years.

What could possibly go wrong?

And that's not all, because most consumers have only the most rudimentary inventory management skills.

Products come in such large quantities now that you can't get in an old-fashioned rhythm like "Buy a one pound can of X every week." That's easy to remember, whereas remembering to "Buy a three kilo vat of X every month and a half" is hopeless.

They have so much stuff around the house that they can't find the thing they are look for, so they go buy another one, which only makes finding stuff even worse.

And there's no easy way to keep track of what you need, so you tend to overbuy some products and forget to buy others.

The good news is that the basic technology businesses to track inventory, such as UPC scanners, Radio Frequency Identification tags to find goods you've already bought, wi-fi networks, the Internet, PCs and printers to generate shopping lists are mature.

On the downside, it's a giant systems integration problem, and there are lot of chicken and egg problems involved.

For example, better supply chain management could include home delivery of groceries triggered automatically by analysis of consumption rates and supply on hand. Home delivery based on customers laboriously picking from menus has been tried ever since the mid-1990s, but if you have the time to hang around the house waiting for the deliveryman to show up so you can put your food away in the refrigerator before it spoils, you probably have time to go shopping yourself. What you would need is indoor-outdoor access to a refrigerator, like old-fashioned coal bins had an outside door for the deliveryman and an inside door for the resident so deliveries could be made even when nobody was home. But nobody is going to rebuild their house for that purpose until all the other parts are in place, but will all the other parts be profitable to put into place until all the parts are in place?

So, I assume most businesses who invest in these systems will lose money for the next decade or two, but a generation from now, I expect that millions of American homes will be equipped with sophisticated inventory management systems.

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

Saving the Environment & Anti-Momism

With all the hype over the environment and carbon footprints etc etc these days, it's worth thinking about how much excess oil has been consumed over the last 15 years because married women with children haven't wanted to be seen driving mom-shaped minivans that make them look like married women with children.

Minivans, with their three rows of seats, get about 30% better gas mileage than big Sport-Utility Vehicles with three rows of seats, due to better aerodynamics (a more rounded look) and less general blockheadedness. But the minivan, which traces back to Lee Iacocca's Chrysler in 1983, isn't sexy, so, looking at Consumer Reports, I see 87 models of Sport Utility-Vehicle listed, but only 10 models of minivans.

Tellingly, the Big Three Japanese automakers sell minivans only under their mass market labels -- Toyota, Honda, and Nissan. Their luxury labels (Lexus, Acura, and Infiniti, respectively), which typically take their mainstream cars and SUVs, put some different sheet metal on them, and offer them at $10k higher prices, don't offer any minivans. Nor do Cadillac or Lincoln. (The Chrysler Town & Country is the only example of rebadged upscale minivan.) Presumably, there is no demand for a prestige minivan, and/or the companies don't want to taint their upscale marques by associating them with minivans.

The problem with the minivan is that the only reason you'd buy one is if you have children, so you can't pretend you're still on the market. In contrast, moms driving around in massive SUVs can tell themselves that everybody who sees them assumes they bought it because they, uh, go whitewater kayaking every weekend so they need the off-road capability.

Considering the constant environmentalist propaganda we hear in the corporate media, it's ironic that the near-extinction of the highly efficient minivan has elicited so little comment, but, then, environmentalism these days is mostly about status striving through sexier shopping.

The good news is that some SUVs have been growing more aerodynamic (i.e., minivan-like, but, shhhh, don't tell anybody). And the station wagon has come back from the dead, with 26 models listed, although I think much of the revived popularity of the wagon comes from Chrysler's discovery from the success of the PT Cruiser and its running boards -- which played such an important role in 1930s Chicago gangster movies (mobsters would fire their tommy-guns at the coppers while clinging to the outside of the getaway car) -- that there was a market for evil-looking station wagons. Thus, the introduction in 2004 of the trendsetting Dodge Magnum wagon, with its dark-tinted windows and high beltline, making it look like what a 21st Century version of Capone's gang would drive to a rubout.

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

April 17, 2008

Nixon's IQ

James Fulford has the full story on Nixon's IQ score on the VDARE.com blog.


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

McCain's reported IQ

UPDATE: If you are interested in learning the IQs and SAT scores of recent Presidents and candidates (and who isn't), I discuss them on pp. 127-130 of my new book, America's Half-Blood Prince: Barack Obama's Story of Race and Inheritance, which you can read online here:

http://www.vdare.com/half-blood_prince/half-blood_prince.pdf

Now back to my specific posting on John McCain:

When John McCain was released by the North Vietnamese in 1973, he began to participate in a series of psychiatric and medical exams by U.S. doctors, the American Ex-Prisoners of War study, that went on for two decades. In late 1999, he let several news organizations paw through a big stack of his records from this project (with some parts redacted, which apparently referred to his first marriage).

Does anybody know if these (and other military) records of McCain's are online anywhere? The news reports from 1999 make it sound like he just let some of his (favorite?) reporters read through them to summarize, rather than release them to the public.

In 2004, John Kerry posted a whole bunch of his military papers online, from which I was able to figure out how his performance on his military officer aptitude test compared to George W. Bush's on a similar test: a little lower (just as Kerry's GPA at Yale was revealed, after the election, to be slightly lower than Bush's GPA at Yale). Kerry's documents were scanned images of papers, so they weren't Googleable. I didn't find out about Kerry's documents until the fall of 2004, so I imagine it's unlikely that McCain has posted much yet.

The military shrinks gave McCain good marks for mental stability. The main bad-sounding thing that anybody published (other than one embarrassing medical condition) is that he has a "histrionic pattern of personality adjustment" (i.e., he's a big drama queen), but probably anybody who wants to campaign for President is kind of like that.

They tested his IQ twice. I can only find the second (and presumably higher) result. Time wrote in 1999:

Included in the records is a 1984 IQ test. His score, 133, would rank him among the most intelligent Presidents in history.

How exactly Time would know that 133 "would rank him among the most intelligent Presidents in history" is not explained. The only known tested IQ is JFK's (which was in the 115-120 range at prep school). I'd long heard that Nixon scored 143; when I tried to verify it a couple of years ago, I found lots of webpages saying that Nixon's IQ was 143, but all their supporting links pointed to a 1999 article by ... me. And I've forgotten where I got that figure. (I would guess I got it from the late historian Jim Chapin, who would certainly be a reliable source, but I don't know for sure where I got it.)

UPDATE: The ever-helpful James Fulford of VDARE.com tracks down the Nixon 143 figure to a 1991 Fortune magazine article by my friend Dan Seligman:

"The IQs of those who rise to the top are hard to come by, mainly because most such folks are shy about their scores. Not shy was Spiro Agnew, who arranged a luncheon with the editors of Time after the magazine said he was unqualified to be President, and there made the point that his IQ was 130. Nixon biographer Roger Morris says RMN tested at 143 when he was in Fullerton High School in California. Kennedy biographer Thomas C. Reeves tells us JFK tested at 119 just before entering Choate Academy. That last figure looks low. Might there have been some kind of testing error? The ''standard error'' for the Otis test -- the one taken by both future Presidents -- was six IQ points. That means there are two chances out of three that the true IQ is within six points of the reported score. So maybe Jack really was entitled to 125. But then maybe Nixon was worth 149. The only gangster whose IQ we have come across is John Gotti, who weighed in at 110 when tested at Franklin K. Lane High School in Brooklyn, an institution in which he did not linger overlong."

All these reports on McCain sound pretty good, but there aren't any records from other POWs to compare them to in order to tell whether the POWs' examining doctors were playing it straight or were accentuating the positive.

Also, IQs are adjusted for age, so a 100 is the average for your age group, with the highest raw scores being attained as a young adult and then a long downward drift that often accelerates past 65 or 70.

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

April 16, 2008

Maoists win Nepal election

Daniel Hannan writes in The Daily Telegraph:
Nepal’s Maoists are keen to tell anyone who’ll listen that they will respect property rights and market principles. The bourgeois-capitalist phase of Nepal’s development, one of them told me this morning, will be a long one; but, he added, it’ll still be an improvement on feudalism.

Even so, it’s not often that Maoists win elections. Final results are still coming in, and some constituencies need to be re-polled, but it is already clear that the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) has confounded all the pundits and trounced its rivals.

How did they do it? The answer is partly demographic. Two thirds of Nepalese are under 35, and most of these have never voted before. They are sick of the elderly high-caste gents who have run the system so far, and want something different. Conservative and monarchist sympathisers have done themselves few favours over the years. And the Maoists' majority may have been artificially inflated: there are credible reports of irregularities in the rural constituencies where the militias are strongest. (Foreign election observers, who rarely like to stray too far from five-star hotels, have none the less endorsed the poll.) Still, irregularities or no, the Maoists plainly won colossal support.

It’s a funny thing: the other country which has experienced a major Maoist insurgency in modern times is my native Peru. Visiting Nepal for the first time, I am struck by the similarity of the people to indigenous Peruvians. Their physiognomy is virtually identical, their music akin, their temperament comparable. And something in their common character evidently answers the essentially Millenarian call of rural Maoism.

Peruvian Indians, like Nepalese, are a contemplative, spiritual people. Yet one day, without warning, they gave themselves over to a decade of abominable violence, which stopped as suddenly as it had started following the capture of the Shining Path leader. In Nepal, the end has come through victory rather than defeat, but the appeal of the creed was essentially the same: the promise of total transformation, of a new era, of redemption through violence.

Is it, I wonder, a case of parallel evolution – two civilisations evenly suited to high mountains – or did some offshoot of the Himalayan peoples cross the Pacific in pre-Columbian times?

The population of Nepal is now almost 30,000,000, with a high growth rate. Four-fifths are Hindus and only one-tenth are Buddhists. Racially, they are a complicated mixture of East Asian (like the Tibetans) and Caucasian (like Northwest Indians). In general, the higher the altitude, the more Tibetan they tend to be. The East Asian-looking ones often don't like to venture below 4,000 feet altitude, which is considered the malaria line.

My assumption has been that the recent successes of Maoism in Nepal aren't driven by a new-found enthusiasm for backyard steel furnaces but are instead a proxy for some identity politics struggle within Nepal such as ethnicity. The Maoist uprising in Peru , for example, was more of a flare-up of the ancient Inca vs. Spaniard struggle, just with a few white intellectual leaders to provide it with a 20th century ideology.

But Nepal is a complicated place, so I don't know what's going on.

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

Is religion the opiate of the Rust Belt masses?

One of the oddities of Obama's remarks about how Pennsylvania's bitter small town losers are taking refuge in conservative religion is how factually off base it is. The heartland of the flourishing conservative Protestantism in the U.S. is not the declining Rust Belt but the relatively fast-growing South.

What's distinctive about the Rust Belt religiously is what a sizable fraction voters, especially non-urbanites, are Catholics, whether Roman or Orthodox (as in the movie "The Deer Hunter," which, by the way, showed that back when the heavy industry towns of Pennsylvania were booming in the 1960s, guys still liked guns). Judging from enrollment at Catholic schools, which has been steadily declining despite the huge influx from Mexico, Catholicism is not succeeding at present at being a refuge for either the economic losers or winners.

For example, in the 2004 election, in which economically-declining Pennsylvania voted for Kerry while economically-growing Georgia voted for Bush, 35% of Pennsylvania voters were Catholics versus only 10% of Georgia voters. Only 13% of Pennsylvania voters identified themselves as white conservative Protestants vs. 26% of Georgia voters.

From the perspective of Obama and his San Francisco supporters, the problem with Pennsylvania and Ohio is not religion, but that, due to high union membership, there are still a lot of white blue collar guys who vote in the Democratic primaries. In contrast, Obama could sweep the South Carolina Democratic primary because, due to low unionization, almost all the white blue collar guys vote in the GOP primary.

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

More on pathogens and personality

Here's the abstract of the new paper I briefly discussed yesterday that claims there is a high correlation between a culture's level of psychological "collectivism" and the local level of infectious disease:

Pathogen prevalence predicts human cross-cultural variability in individualism/collectivism

Corey L. Fincher, Randy Thornhill, Damian R. Murray, and Mark Schaller

Pathogenic diseases impose selection pressures on the social behaviour of host populations. In humans (Homo sapiens), many psychological phenomena appear to serve an antipathogen defence function. One broad implication is the existence of cross-cultural differences in human cognition and behavior contingent upon the relative presence of pathogens in the local ecology. We focus specifically on one fundamental cultural variable: differences in individualistic versus collectivist values. We suggest that specific behavioural manifestations of collectivism (e.g. ethnocentrism, conformity) can inhibit the transmission of pathogens; and so we hypothesize that collectivism (compared with individualism) will more often characterize cultures in regions that have historically had higher prevalence of pathogens. Drawing on epidemiological data and the findings of worldwide cross-national surveys of individualism/ collectivism, our results support this hypothesis: the regional prevalence of pathogens has a strong positive correlation with cultural indicators of collectivism and a strong negative correlation with individualism. The correlations remain significant even when controlling for potential confounding variables. These results help to explain the origin of a paradigmatic cross-cultural difference, and reveal previously undocumented consequences of pathogenic diseases on the variable nature of human societies.

Part of their argument is one that I've been half-jokingly suggesting about the ferociously xenophobic pygmy negritos of North Sentinel Island in the Andamans, off the coast of Indonesia. As I wrote in 2006:

A long time theme here at iSteve.com is defending human biodiversity. Although defending plant and animal biodiversity is extremely fashionable, nobody else speaks up for human biodiversity. Of particular concern to me has been the survival of the pygmy negrito Andamanese of North Sentinel Island in the Indian Ocean (located roughly where Skull Island in "King Kong" would be), one of the last tribes out of contact with the rest of the world. If they ever come into contact with us, most of them will die from diseases for which they have no defenses.

Fortunately, the Sentinelese have no intention of going down without a fight. The Daily Telegraph reports:

Stone Age tribe kills fishermen who strayed on to island

But, it's not at all clear that this evolutionary mechanism, if it exists, could play a sizable role in explaining why, say, the Japanese are more collectively minded.

Certainly, infectious diseases have played a hugely important r0le in the development of cultural and biological differences among humans, but this paper has some major problems. Let's leave aside for now the individualism / collectivism dimension, which clearly is difficult to define, much less measure accurately.

Let's look at their measure of disease. To measure the pathogen burden in about 100 different locations, they look at incidence rates for nine infectious diseases, eight of them from the early or mid-20th Century:

To create our primary measure of pathogen prevalence, we were able to estimate the prevalence of nine pathogens detrimental to human reproductive fitness (leishmanias, trypanosomes, malaria, schistosomes, filariae, leprosy, dengue, typhus and tuberculosis) within each of the 93 geopolitical regions worldwide. By necessity, a contemporary source was used to estimate the prevalence of tuberculosis (National Geographic Society 2005), but the prevalence of the remaining eight pathogens was estimated on the basis of old atlases of infectious diseases and other historical epidemiological information (Simmons et al. 1944; Rodenwaldt & Jusatz
1952–1961).

But, the key point in the war between germs and people is that it's a constant struggle that goes on and on. All this correlation tells us is that during the first six decades or so of the 20th Century, northern Europeans and their offspring tended to be richer, more scientific, and thus had better public health systems than everybody else. Not surprisingly, their traditional high individualism correlates with low levels of infectious disease at that time.

Although European individualism appears to be deeply rooted many centuries into the past, European health and cleanliness most definitely is not. The cultures that emerged from the barbarian invasions of the Roman Empire were among the dirtiest ever.

When Germanic barbarians took over the Roman Empire and couldn't figure out how to keep the supply of clean water flowing to the cities, the population dropped and the survivors dispersed. The English, for example, developed a culture where their upper classes lived in splendid isolation in the healthy countryside, and congregated in London only in summer, when the risk of epidemic was lowest in that northern region.

When 19th Century Europeans finally developed sanitary habits, supported by the wealth of the Industrial Revolution, the populations of their cities finally exploded.

Today, the four countries with the longest life expectancies (a reasonably proxy for low levels of infectious diseases) are cool Andorra (in the Pyrenees), Macau (across from subtropical Hong Kong), temperate Japan, and tropical Singapore). So, psychologically collectivist East Asians are rapidly overtaking Europeans in freedom from infectious disease, and its not clear that Europeans were better off before the 19th Century either. Marco Polo, for example, was impressed by the cleanliness of China, and so were Christian missionaries in 16th Century Japan.

Both Europe and East Asia, having trade contact with each other for millennia, were within the Old World disease complex, unlike the resistance-weak New World.

Pathogen burden is a function of a lot of different factors: climate (warm is typically worse, but cold is worse for some respiratory diseases); density of population; public health measures such as drinking water, sewer systems, mosquito-spraying, and vaccinations; exposure to domestic animals; isolation; and experience with the diseases in generations past leading to selection for resistance or in childhood leading to individual immunity. It's an extremely dynamic feedback system, with only climate being close to a constant over evolutionary time.

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

April 15, 2008

Pathogens

Sharon Begley writes in Newsweek:

The West epitomizes individualistic, do-your-own thing cultures, ones where the rights of the individual equal and often trump those of the group and where differences are valued. East Asian societies exalt the larger society: behavior is constrained by social roles, conformity is prized, outsiders shunned. "The individualist-collectivist split is one of the most powerful differences among cultures," says {Richard] Nisbett [author of The Geography of Thought]. But the reason a society falls where it does on the individualism-collectivism spectrum has been pretty much a mystery. Now a team of researchers has come up with a surprising explanation: disease-causing microbes. Societies that evolved in places with an abundance of pathogens, they argue, had to adopt behaviors that add up to collectivism, for reasons of sheer preservation. Societies that arose in places with fewer pathogens had the luxury of individualism, which is less effective at limiting the spread of disease but brings with it other social benefits, such as innovation.

The scientists started with the fact that certain behaviors make you less likely to contract an infectious disease. A reluctance to interact with strangers can protect against pathogens because strangers are more likely to carry strange microbes that the group lacks immunity to, says Mark Schaller of the University of British Columbia; xenophobia keeps away strangers and their strange bugs. Respect for traditions also works: ways of preparing food (using hot pepper, say, which kills microbes), rules about hygiene and laws about marriage (wed only in-group members, whose microbes you're probably immune to) likely arose to keep pathogens at bay. "Conformity helps maintain these buffers against disease," says Corey Fincher of the University of New Mexico; mavericks are dangerous. In places with a high prevalence of pathogens, such cultural traits—which happen to be the hallmarks of societies that value the group over the individual—would be adaptive. Put another way, societies that arose in pathogen-rife regions and did not have such traits would be wiped out by disease. Societies that did have them would survive.

When the scientists examined how closely collectivism tracked the prevalence of pathogens, they found a strong correlation, they will report in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. In general, tropical regions have more pathogens, and societies there tend to be more group-oriented than those at higher latitudes. Ecuador, Panama, Pakistan, India, China and Japan are the world's most group-first societies—and historically have had the highest prevalence of natural pathogens due to their climate and topography. The most individualistic are in Northern Europe and the United States, where there have historically been fewer native pathogens. For years scientists have scratched their heads over why collectivism declines with distance from the equator, and why living in colder regions should promote individualism (you'd think polar people would want to huddle together more). The answer seems to be that equatorial regions breed more pathogens.

How might pathogen-fighting customs and attitudes arise, or fail to? Maybe people make conscious efforts to act in ways that inhibit the spread of pathogens, such as by shunning strangers and demanding conformity. Or maybe there are genes for behaviors that, at the level of a whole society, manifest themselves as collectivism or individualism, and genes for individualism get wiped out in disease-plagued regions. But when East Asians move to the West or Westerners go East, says Nisbett, they begin to see, think and behave like people in their adopted society. That would be hard to do if they were in the grip of collectivist or individualistic genes.

The presence of pathogens also predicts cross-cultural differences in personality traits, not just shared cultural values. "In places that have historically had a lot of diseases, people generally score lower on measures of extraversion and 'openness,' which is jargon for curiosity and related traits," Schaller says. "Our history of living with infectious diseases may have shaped, in ways we're not even aware of, human cognition, behavior and culture." To trace all that back to the environment may seem a step too far. But the physical world has shaped skin color and other superficial features. The next frontier is fathoming how it might have shaped our very thoughts and values.

Here's the PDF of Schaller's paper.

I dunno.

I think pathogens are extremely important -- for example, John Reader argues that that may be why there were so few urban centers in sub-Saharan Africa until recently: too many epidemics, so people had to spread out fairly evenly across the land in little villages -- but I'm not sure at all about whether this individualism - collectivism axis fits the data.

I'm dubious of pronouncements like: "Ecuador, Panama, Pakistan, India, China and Japan are the world's most group-first societies..." Exactly how does Japan resemble Panama? (Here's a picture of a prominent Panamanian.)

Perhaps Panamanians and Japanese answer psychological quizzes similarly, but they don't seem to behave similarly. Has anybody made up a testable list of how much people in different countries behave in the collective good? For example, do they not litter? Do they return dropped wallets? Do they expect provide good service without tips? The Japanese would typically score well on many such measures, as would the Swedes. Scandinavia is a low-pathogen place. Japan, judging from its temperate latitude would be a moderate pathogen place, except that the Japanese are so clean that they've managed to crowd a lot of people together.

Let's consider within-region differences, which are easier to wrap our heads around than global comparisons of the Who's more individualistic: Who's more individualistic and less collectivist: the residents of Stockholm or the residents of Naples? And who has been in more danger from pathogens? Naples, right? Indeed, the residents of Naples are so uncollectivist that over the past year, they haven't been able to get their collective act together long enough to routinely collect the garbage, so they are in increasing danger from pathogen-borne epidemics.

What about just within China? Which region is more economically entrepreneurial: north or south? The south, which of course has a larger pathogen burden -- indeed, that's where so many forms of flu originate.

In summary, I think pathogens are very important, but I don't see much of a link to individualism-collectivism, which may be too large and hazy a generalization to work with.

Is Efraim Diveroli back in the country?

I notice that 22-year-old AEY arms dealer Efraim Diveroli, who was "out of the country," when the Albanian-Afghan Ammo story broke was supposed to be in a Miami courtroom last Friday, April 11 for hearing related to his March drunk driving arrest. Does anybody know if he showed up?

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

April 14, 2008

Ashkenazi Jewish Genes in 3-d

In response to readers' questions about how Ashkenazi Jewish genes compare to other groups', Utah anthropologist Henry Harpending sends along a 3d graph he and Greg Cochran created for (but didn't use in) their famous paper on the evolution of high IQs among Ashkenazi Jews.

You can click on the graph to see it in a larger, more readable version. The main left to right axis is the first Principal Component, accounting for 45% of the variance. The axis running from the middle bottom to the upper right is the second Principal Component, accounting for 25%, while the vertical axis is the third PC, accounting for 15%.

As always, the principal components methodology doesn't tell you what the axes mean. That's just how the data cluster and you've got to come up with insights to figure out why. (Don't look to me for them.)

On the first two axes, Ashkenazi Jews are rather close to "Europeans" and "Russians." They are similar to Yemenites (from Southern Arabian peninsula) on the first axis, but not on the second. And they are similar to Samaritans (who currently subsist on two hilltops in Israel), good, bad or indifferent, on the second axis but not on the first. They are fairly similar to the Druze (of Lebanon and Israel) on the first two axes, but not on the third.

On the other hand, if you included some Australian Aborigines, Bushmen and Tierra del Fuegans on this graph, probably all six of these data points would look clustered fairly closely together.

So, Ashkenazis look pretty European on this chart compared to a few Middle Eastern groups. But, as the recent graph showed, genetics has progressed to the point where Ashkenazis (at least those with four Ashkenazi grandparents) can now be reliably distinguished from other Europeans.

Tautologically enough, when it comes to ancestry, everything is relative.

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

Obama's Afrocentrism is his mother's passive-aggressive revenge on her Indonesian second husband

One of the mysteries of the Democratic frontrunner's life is why he isn't the cosmopolite that so many of his supporters assume he must be. For example, the new New York Times op-ed columnist Roger Cohen has a column this week returning once again to his theme of Obama as the ideal post-nationalist Citizen of the World, a notion based on Obama having lived from age 6 to 10 in Indonesia and having spent a few weeks in Kenya.

Cohen visits Obama's old school in Indonesia:

"There's a mosque and a small Christian prayer room with a sign saying: "I understand we are all different and include everyone." Kuwadiyanto, the principal, told me: 'Christians and Muslim kids mix easily. Maybe more Americans should come here to see what's really happening.'

"Obama already has. If he's shed his chubbiness, he hasn't shed Indonesia's lesson, emblazoned on its coat of arms, of 'unity in diversity.'"

Huh? Once again, an Obama supporter's fantasies about Obama can be deflated just by quoting Obama. The last time Obama was in Indonesia was a vacation in (Hindu) Bali, and that was a long time ago, before he was married. He sums up his potted history of Indonesia in The Audacity of Hope with a reflection on how out of touch he is with contemporary Indonesia:
"All of which underscores perhaps the most profound shift in Indonesia -- the growth of militant, fundamentalist Islam in the country. ... As much as the world has shrunk, with its direct flights and cell phone coverage and CNN and Internet cafes, Indonesia feels more distant now than it did thirty years ago. I fear it's becoming a land of strangers."

Nonetheless, his few years in Indonesia offer a comically convoluted explanation for why, with the whole world to choose from, Barack Obama Jr. worked so methodically to make himself into an African-American politician in that most parochial of burghs, the South Side of Chicago.

Most voters initially assumed that Barack Obama, like Tiger Woods, identifies with all sides of his heritage. When they discovered from the belated Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. scandal that the mild-mannered Obama has long fiercely identified with the black half of his identity, many assume that this was forced upon him by white racism. After all, on the South Side of Chicago, anybody who is half-black is considered just plain black.

Obama, though, chose Chicago as an adult, just as he later carefully chose the extremist Rev. Wright. He actually spent 14 of his first 18 years in Hawaii, where the racial rules are very different from the rest of America. But, strikingly, it was during those other 4 years, from age 6 to 10, which he spent in Indonesia, that his white mother began her methodical campaign to inculcate in him the black identity that led this preppie from paradise to try so hard, at least through the year 2000, to prove he's "black enough."

As he neared graduation from the U. of Hawaii, Barack Obama Sr. was offered a full scholarship to the prestigious New School for Social Research in Manhattan. This would have paid not only his own living expenses, but also those of his wife Stanley Ann Dunham Obama and tiny son Barack Jr. Yet, he turned it down in favor of a scholarship from Harvard -- because it was even more prestigious -- even though Harvard would not pay for his family to accompany him. This ended his bigamous marriage to Stanley Ann.

The young mother then took up with another Third World student at the U. of Hawaii, Lolo Soetoro. Lolo had been in Hawaii on a scholarship presumably paid for by Indonesia's leftwing Sukarno regime. Obama wrote in Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance:

"... that was part of what had drawn her to Lolo after Barack had left, the promise of something new and important, helping her husband rebuild a country in a charged and challenging place beyond her parents’ reach. ... In Hawaii [Lolo] had been so full of life, so eager with his plans. At night when they were alone, he would tell her about growing up as a boy during the war, watching his father and eldest brother leave to join the revolutionary army, hearing the news that both had been killed and everything lost, the Dutch army’s setting their house aflame, their flight into the countryside, his mother’s selling her gold jewelry a piece at a time in exchange for food. Things would be changing now that the Dutch had been driven out, Lolo had told her; he would return and teach at the university, be a part of that change.

After the horrific events of 1965-1966 in which a Communist Party uprising led to a bloody crackdown by the Army and leftist blowhard Sukarno's replacement by rightist Gen. Suharto, Lolo was recalled home and assigned to the army as a young officer to prove his loyalty. When he got back from military service as a geologist in New Guinea, his wife and little Barack traveled from Hawaii to Jakarta to join him.

Stanley Ann later told Obama she hadn't heard about the scenes of slaughter during the putsch just the year before her arrival in Indonesia, and perhaps it's true -- she generally gives the impression of having a strong capacity for not paying attention to things she didn't want to notice, like Barack Sr. already being married when she let him impregnate her and then marry her.

Unfortunately, one thing she very much noticed in 1967 was that Lolo at home in a pro-American capitalist country full of apathetic, corrupt incompetents wasn't as romantic as he had seemed in Honolulu as the representative of a socialist country of the non-aligned future.

Stanley Ann never really fell back in love with her second husband after their year's separation -- "something had happened between her and Lolo in the year that they had been apart" -- and she eventually abandoned him in 1972.

In the meantime, in his easygoing way, Lolo helped little Barack adjust to Indonesian culture, teaching him how to ignore beggars, how to change a flat tire, and how to fight with his fists. The last was necessary because, as Chicago Tribune reporters who interviewed his schoolmates discovered, Obama was routinely subjected to racist violence by Indonesian lads: "All say he was teased more than any other kid in the neighborhood--primarily because he was so different in appearance." He was frequently attacked by three Indonesian kids at once, and one time they threw him in a swamp. "Luckily he could swim."

(Obama doesn't mention in his voluminous autobiography the racism of Indonesians toward him, although he recounts in microscopic detail every hint of white racism he believes he has endured in America, such as the palimpsest of the N-word that he claims to have discerned under coats of paint in a men's room stall at that hotbed of racism, Columbia University. He left out getting beaten up by Indonesians for being black presumably because Asian anti-black racism just doesn't fit into his black-white worldview. That's a little too nuanced for Senator Nuance.)

While Stanley Ann and Lolo were still stuck with each other, she found herself becoming irritated by his dutifully climbing the corporate ladder to support her and her kid (even though everybody instantly could tell just by looking at his hair that he wasn't Lolo's own son).

"Looking back, I’m not sure that Lolo ever fully understood what my mother was going through during these years, why the things he was working so hard to provide for her seemed only to increase the distance between them. ... With the help of his brother-in-law, he landed a new job in the government relations office of an American oil company. We moved to a house in a better neighborhood; a car replaced the motorcycle; ... Sometimes I would overhear him and my mother arguing in their bedroom, usually about her refusal to attend his company dinner parties, where American businessmen from Texas and Louisiana would slap Lolo’s back and boast about the palms they had greased to obtain the new offshore drilling rights, while their wives complained to my mother about the quality of Indonesian help. He would ask her how it would look for him to go alone, and remind her that these were her own people, and my mother’s voice would rise to almost a shout.

"They are not my people."

But, as Obama tells it, Stanley Ann had American standards when it came to her son. Once Barack had come home with a gash in his arm:

"But her tone alters slightly as she remembers that Lolo suggested we wait until morning to get me stitched up, and that she had to browbeat our only neighbor with a car to drive us to the hospital. She remembers that most of the lights were out at the hospital when we arrived, with no receptionist in sight; she recalls the sound of her frantic footsteps echoing through the hallway until she finally found two young men in boxer shorts playing dominoes in a small room in the back. When she asked them where the doctors were, the men cheerfully replied “We are the doctors” and went on to finish their game before slipping on their trousers and giving me twenty stitches that would leave an ugly scar."

Obama claims:

"She had always encouraged my rapid acculturation in Indonesia ... She had taught me to disdain the blend of ignorance and arrogance that too often characterized Americans abroad. But she now had learned, just as Lolo had learned, the chasm that separated the life chances of an American from those of an Indonesian. She knew which side of the divide she wanted her child to be on. I was an American, she decided, and my true life lay elsewhere."

The difficulty with this interpretation is that Stanley Ann spent most of the rest of her fairly short life in Indonesia, returning repeatedly to Indonesia (but not to Lolo), writing her 1067 page anthropology Ph.D. dissertation on "Peasant blacksmithing in Indonesia: Surviving and thriving against all odds." That's where she mostly raised her daughter, Obama's half-sister.

A more parsimonious explanation for what followed might be that she just couldn't stand her husband Lolo, and hated seeing her precious son fall under his influence.

So, she strove to inculcate white American values in her son.

"It was as if, by traveling halfway around the globe, away from the smugness and hypocrisy that familiarity had disclosed, my mother could give voice to the virtues of her midwestern past and offer them up in distilled form.

This presented a problem for her, though, since, as we've seen, she despised white Americans. But, at least she had an object lesson of bad values ready at hand: her annoying husband Lolo and his casual ways:

"Honesty-Lolo should not have hidden the refrigerator in the storage room when the tax officials came, even if everyone else, including the tax officials, expected such things. Fairness-the parents of wealthier students should not give television sets to the teachers during Ramadan, and their children could take no pride in the higher marks they might have received."

So, although the anti-role model was naturally Lolo, little Barack must have a positive role model as well to combat Lolo's pernicious influence:

"The problem was that she had few reinforcements; whenever she took me aside for such commentary, I would dutifully nod my assent, but she must have known that many of her ideas seemed rather impractical. Lolo had merely explained the poverty, the corruption, the constant scramble for security; he hadn’t created it. It remained all around me and bred a relentless skepticism."

So, Stanley Ann decided that the perfect role model for Barack Jr. would be that paragon of Midwestern virtues, Barack Sr.!

"She had only one ally in all this, and that was the distant authority of my father. Increasingly, she would remind me of his story, how he had grown up poor, in a poor country, in a poor continent; how his life had been hard, as hard as anything that Lolo might have known. He hadn’t cut corners, though, or played all the angles. He was diligent and honest, no matter what it cost him. He had led his life according to principles that demanded a different kind of toughness, principles that promised a higher form of power. I would follow his example, my mother decided. I had no choice. It was in the genes.

"“You have me to thank for your eyebrows…your father has these little wispy eyebrows that don’t amount to much. But your brains, your character, you got from him.”"

Now, obviously, the Kenyan politician Barack Obama Sr., an alcoholic bigamist Big Man on the make who had abandoned his son without a penny of support, was, by any objective standard, a skunk compared to poor Lolo. But, that wasn't Stanley Ann's point. The point was to stick the knife in her irritating second husband and twist it around by constantly emphasizing that the boy he was working and conniving to support was a cuckoo's egg left by her sexy and morally superior first husband.

Over time, Stanley Ann's strategy expanded to depicting the entire black race as the epitome of bourgeois virtues:

"Her message came to embrace black people generally. She would come home with books on the civil rights movement, the recordings of Mahalia Jackson, the speeches of Dr. King. When she told me stories of schoolchildren in the South who were forced to read books handed down from wealthier white schools but who went on to become doctors and lawyers and scientists, I felt chastened by my reluctance to wake up and study in the mornings. If I told her about the goose-stepping demonstrations my Indonesian Boy Scout troop performed in front of the president, she might mention a different kind of march, a march of children no older than me, a march for freedom. Every black man was Thurgood Marshall or Sidney Poitier; every black woman Fannie Lou Hamer or Lena Horne. To be black was to be the beneficiary of a great inheritance, a special destiny, glorious burdens that only we were strong enough to bear."

One obvious political implication of Stanley Ann's line of indoctrination is that the only possible explanation for why these embodiments of all middle class values weren't rich and happy was that "white folks' greed runs a world in need," as Barack Jr.'s surrogate father Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. was later to phrase it so felicitously in his "Audacity of Hope" sermon. All that blacks needed to lead them to what they deserved were audacious political leaders who had achieved "a higher form of power," like that nation-building statesman Barack Obama Sr.

"Burdens we were to carry with style. More than once, my mother would point out: “Harry Belafonte is the best-looking man on the planet.”"

As opposed, it goes without saying, to her second husband, who was not the best-looking man on the planet. (Stanley Ann, by the way, looked like a girl named Stanley Ann.)

Stanley Ann bundled Barack Jr. off to his grandparents in Honolulu when he was 10. A year later, she ran off from her husband with their newborn daughter and rented an apartment in Honolulu so she could nag young Barack up close and personal. But after two or three years, she felt she had to go back to Indonesia to do whatever it was that was so important for her to do there, so she took his half-sister with her and dumped him back on his grandparents.

Young Obama grew up alternately resenting his mother's constant nagging when she was around him and being crushed by her absence when she'd abandon him to her grandparents.

But he fell hook, line, and sinker for her canonization of his absent father, with whom he only spent one month after the age of two.

As a teenager, he started to notice that blacks weren't always the paragon of Midwestern virtues -- instead, they were something much better, they were cool.

And, in his 20s, he eventually discovered his father was indeed a skunk.

But he's never quite gotten over his mother's indoctrination that 1) Being a politician, especially a politician who stands up for his race, is the highest calling in life, far superior to being some corporate sell-out like her second husband; and 2) What blacks need is not more virtue, but merely better political leadership to achieve a higher form of power.

Or, in his case, the highest.

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

Biggest booms?

I've got a question for you explosion junkies out there.

How does the March 15th mushroom cloud in Gerdec, Albania compare in magnitude to previous accidental man-made explosions?

Not surprisingly, Wikipedia has a list of "Largest Artificial Non-Nuclear Explosions," including such oldies-but-goodies as the explosion of ammunition ships in Halifax in 1917 and Port of Chicago (San Francisco Bay Area) in 1944, which were both in the several kiloton range. (I wouldn't be surprised if the record wasn't actually held by some colossal Soviet screw-up that got covered up.)

But Gerdec isn't yet included on the list. Any estimates of where it would stand?

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

April 13, 2008

Ashkenazi genes

On GNXP.com, Greg Cochran points to an interesting graph of the genetic distribution of individuals of European descent along two "principle component" axes:
"This SNP study (and others) also shows that Ashkenazim are genetically distinct from other Europeans, which allows fairly accurate identification of group membership. Almost perfectly distinct, if you look at Ashkenazim whose grandparents are all Ashkenazi (the violet dots)."

The violet dots that cluster in the upper right amidst purple dots are Ashkenazi [Northern European] Jews with four Ashkenazi grandparents. The more scattered purple dots are self-identified Ashkenazi Jews with more mixed pedigrees. The green dots in the upper left corner are Irish (this may be the first racial graph I've seen in years where the color coding wasn't intentionally randomized) and the light blue dots at the bottom are Greeks.

I don't know what the two axes are -- factor analysis is a creative tool, in which you've got to come up with the insights. The statistical mechanics won't do it for you.

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

The Beijing Olympics

A half dozen or so years ago, during the debate over which city should host the 2008 Olympics, I was against China getting it, for all the reasons being bandied about today -- lack of free speech, lack of democracy, oppression of Tibet, and air pollution. If the Chinese government wanted the Olympics so much, then they should be withheld until such time as they've earned them as a reward for their progress.

But, the Olympics were promised to Beijing, anyway, and the Chinese have since spent vast amounts of money getting ready for them. They haven't improved on freedom, democracy, or Tibet, but they haven't gotten worse, either. They've lived up their end of the bargain, such as it was.

Yet, now, enlightened opinion wants to punish China's Olympics for all the same sins China was committing back when it was handed the Olympics in the first place. All the evidence suggests that this moral grandstanding by Westerners would just infuriate the Chinese people, who are always looking for reasons to be angry at the round eyes, and strengthen the Beijing government's grip.

The runner-up city for hosting the 2008 Olympics was Paris. I blogged back in 2002:

Yet, just because French anti-Americanism is not our fault doesn't mean it's not our problem. We should be looking for low-cost ways to placate France's wounded amour-propre. Backing Paris over Beijing for the 2008 Olympics would have been an easy one. I mean, Paris would have been a fantastic place to attend the Olympics, while Beijing's air pollution is horrendous. It was a no-brainer, but we blew it.

Sure, afterwards the French would have bragged about how much better Paris was as the site of the Olympics compared to Atlanta in 1996 (which, no doubt, would have been true), but, so what? If we are going to be the sole superpower and "provide the world with adult supervision," as one of my readers says, then we've got to grow up. Sure, it would be fun to appoint Jonah Goldberg ambassador to France, but if we are going to be the global hegemon, we've got to avoid juvenile pissing wars with our lackeys.

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

Obama's Civil Rights Vision: "Who? Whom?"

On VDARE.com, I read through the two "civil rights" plans on the official BarackObama.com campaign website: "Obama's 'Civil Rights' Vision: Quotas, Increased Crime, More Socialism."

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

"Cling to Guns" vs. Golf

Barack Obama's remarks to San Francisco supporters on all the various things that are the opiates of the masses in Pennsylvania reminded me that when I was about nine, just like the kid in the movie classic "Christmas Story," I relentlessly nagged my parents into getting me a BB gun. But, living in a dense suburb, there really wasn't much to do with a BB gun, so before I could put my eye out with it, I was on to nagging for other toys. Around my 13th birthday, some friends talked me into trying golf at the tiny par-3 course a few blocks away, and I was instantly infatuated.

I suspect golf took the place in my life that hunting would have filled if I had grown up differently. Golf is a suburbanized form of hunting. You wander around a landscape using a long stick to violently project a pellet into the distance. There's a big overlap in the demographic among hunters and golfers -- male and heterosexual -- but golf tends to appeal more to the fastidious white collar class who shrink at the blood in bloodsports. We like to shoot birdies, but in the metaphorical sense that golf provides. (Let me be clear -- I don't have any emotional or moral aversion toward killing animals. It's the gutting and cleaning of them after the fun part of shooting them that grosses me out.)

So, hunting has been in decline for a long time, with golf rising to replace it. (Obama, for example, is a slightly above average golfer, with a 16 handicap.) Now, golf is in decline, too, as the concept of "going outside" strikes the new generation as so Second Millennium. Why go outdoors when you can stay inside and shoot bad guys on your screen?

Still, while guys who like guns mostly like guns because they like guns, there is a functional dimension to the gun control debate that is omnipresent, but nobody wants to spell out: As I wrote in my Baby Gap article in 2004:

The endless gun-control brouhaha, which on the surface appears to be a bitter battle between liberal and conservative whites, also features a cryptic racial angle. What blue-region white liberals actually want is for the government to disarm the dangerous urban minorities that threaten their children’s safety. Red-region white conservatives, insulated by distance from the Crips and the Bloods, don’t care that white liberals’ kids are in peril. ...

White liberals, angered by white conservatives’ lack of racial solidarity with them, yet bereft of any vocabulary for expressing such a verboten concept, pretend that they need gun control to protect them from gun-crazy rural rednecks, such as the ones Michael Moore demonized in “Bowling for Columbine,” thus further enraging red-region Republicans.

Still:

In sparsely populated Republican areas, where police response times are slow and the chances of drilling an innocent bystander are slim, guns make more sense for self-defense than in the cities and suburbs.

In contrast, in Britain, where there are fierce gun control laws, rural dwellers are constantly subjected to "Clockwork Orange"-style home invasions by urban criminals who drive out from the city. In contrast, due to gun ownership and, likely, the greater effectiveness of racial profiling in America, crime rates in the exurbs and rural areas tend to be very low. When Congressman Denny Hastert suddenly became Speaker of the House, and thus second in line of succession to the Presidency, the Secret Service came out to change the locks on his house in a far suburb of Chicago so nobody could let themselves in and steal national security documents. They discovered he didn't have any locks on his house.

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

Time Magazine on Mama Obama

Time Magazine runs a cover story on Stanley Ann Dunham Obama Soetero, but bowdlerizes her leftist politics and exotiphilic sexuality. For example, Time vaguely burbles:
"Shortly before she moved to Hawaii, Stanley saw her first foreign film. Black Orpheus was an award-winning musical retelling of the myth of Orpheus, a tale of doomed love. The movie was considered exotic because it was filmed in Brazil, but it was written and directed by white Frenchmen. The result was sentimental and, to some modern eyes, patronizing. Years later Obama saw the film with his mother and thought about walking out. But looking at her in the theater, he glimpsed her 16-year-old self. "I suddenly realized," he wrote in his memoir, Dreams from My Father, "that the depiction of childlike blacks I was now seeing on the screen ... was what my mother had carried with her to Hawaii all those years before, a reflection of the simple fantasies that had been forbidden to a white middle-class girl from Kansas, the promise of another life, warm, sensual, exotic, different."

But as I noted in The American Conservative over a year ago, on that same page (p. 125), Obama went on to make much clearer why the incident was so upsetting to his delicate sensibilities:
Years later, when he’s working on Wall Street, he’s creeped out by his visiting mother’s insistence on seeing her favorite film, the 1959 Brazilian art-house classic “Black Orpheus.” He belatedly realizes that his very fair-skinned mother is sexually attracted to dark men. He pompously intones, “The emotions between the races could never be pure; even love was tarnished by the desire to find in the other some element that was missing in ourselves. Whether we sought out our demons or salvation, the other race would always remain just that: menacing, alien, and apart.”

Ben Wallace-Wells mentions in Rolling Stone:

"There is an amazingly candid moment in Obama’s autobiography when he writes of his childhood discomfort at the way his mother would sexualize African-American men. ‘More than once,’ he recalls, ‘my mother would point out: “Harry Belafonte is the best-looking man on the planet.”’"

I summed up:

I suspect he feels that she messed up her life due to na├»ve faith in Third World countries and Third World men; but if she had been wiser, where would he be? This is one of life’s conundrums that’s hopeless but not serious, and yet Obama can’t help being serious about himself.

A British reader writes:

Have you seen the Time profile on Obama’s mom? It is a wonderful read-between-the-lines piece.

Aid agency circles are rife with stories of white females falling for charismatic Third World figures. Many come from frightfully-posh English private-school backgrounds. It usually ends disastrously.

Sixties black nationalist Michael de Freitas worked in London as a pimp, drug dealer and strong-arm man. Then he reincarnated himself as a black leader called Michael X and started doing away with rivals in his native Trinidad. He was tried and hanged in his native Trinidad for murder in 1975.

One of his victims was Gale Ann Benson, the infatuated, privately educated daughter of a Conservative MP. She was a model and a socialite and was attracted by the aura of danger. Again she bit off more than she could chew.

Her body was found in a shallow grave. She was still alive when she’d been buried.

Nobel Laureate V.S. Naipaul told their gruesome story in his short book "The Killings in Trinidad." (Here's Joan Didion's review.)

My correspondent goes on:

It also ended disastrously for a 27-year-old children’s aid worker called Emma McCune. In 1991, she took herself off to a refugee crisis in southern Sudan.

McCune scandalized the relief community by marrying a local guerrilla leader; to whom she became a "First Lady-in-Waiting"

Formerly a champion of children's rights, Emma couldn't stop her husband from holding hundreds of adolescent boys in a squalid camp. According to Wikipedia she embraced the hardships of African life (bouts of malaria, water teeming with bilharzia), she was well-fed by local standards, eating fish that her husband's soldiers had stolen from a weaker, starving tribe.

“They were instantly attracted to one another, and Machar, who already had a wife, proposed on their second meeting a year after the first. After taking up with Machar, including using a UN-supplied typewriter to produce manifestoes, she was fired by Street Kids International. She lived with Machar as war intensified and he split his faction away from the larger movement. At one point they fled a machine-gun attack. In 1993, after becoming pregnant, she moved to Nairobi; she died in a car crash.”

A book about her has been written by Deborah Scroggins called Emma’s War. It was to be filmed by Tony Scott.

Nicole Kidman was scheduled to play Emma.

By the way, I've finally figured out why the seemingly cosmopolitan Obama grew up so narrowly Afrocentrist in his identity and why he became a politician. It's a pretty funny story rooted in his mother's passive-aggressive war on her poor second husband Lolo's attempts to provide a decent living for her and some other guy's kid, but I'll have to postpone it until I have time to type in more of Obama's endless sentences.

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