May 31, 2008

Obama quits Trinity United Church of Christ

The AP reports:

Barack Obama said Saturday he has resigned his 20-year membership in the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago "with some sadness" in the aftermath of inflammatory remarks by his longtime pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and more recent fiery remarks at the church by a visiting priest. ...

"This was one I didn't see coming," Obama said Saturday when he [was] asked if he had anticipated the firestorm that would erupt over his relationship with Wright.

Huh? "This was one I didn't see coming?" What kind of would-be President of the United States wouldn't see this one coming? Heck, I saw it coming for him in March 2007.

Of course, the latest Trinity brouhaha doesn't directly concern Wright, it involves a well-known far leftist Catholic priest, Michael Pfleger, who was invited to preach at Trinity by Wright's successor Otis Moss III. A month ago, Obama said of Moss, “Well, the new pastor, the young pastor, Reverend Otis Moss, is a wonderful young pastor.”

As I've said, Obama is running a Karl Rove style campaign designed to do the absolute minimum to get him 51% of the Democratic vote and 51% of the general election vote.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

New twin study finding on non-IQ cognition

From Science Blogs:

99% Genetic? Individual Differences in Executive Function Are Almost Perfectly Heritable

[ BPR , Cognitive Neuroscience ]
Posted on: May 13, 2008 10:54 AM, by Chris Chatham

Your ability to control thought and behavior relative to your peers - a set of capacities known as "executive functions" - is almost entirely genetic in origin, according to a newly in-press paper from Friedman et al. Over 560 twins completed tests to measure fundamental components of these executive functions, and the results were analyzed in terms of how similar identical twins performed to one another relative to fraternal twins (all twins in the study were reared together). Astonishingly, the results show that the variance common to all executive functions is correlated roughly twice as much between identical twins as between fraternal twins, and that individual variance in executive function falls directly in line with what would be expected from a perfectly heritable trait.

The components of executive function (as determined through previous latent variable analyses) can be loosely described as inhibition (the ability to resist habit), updating (the ability to quickly change the focus of attention or the contents of working memory), and shifting (the ability to quickly change goals and respond appropriately). …

The results from this approach are jaw-dropping: variance shared among each variety of executive function (inhibition, updating, and shifting) is nearly perfectly heritable: the contribution of the "A" component to those correlations is 99%. This heritable variance in the common executive function predicts nearly all of the genetic variance in the inhibition factor, consistent with the idea that those constructs are isomorphic from a heritability standpoint. Second, genetic influences on updating and shifting were roughly half due to the common executive function (43% and 44%, respectively) and half due to unique genetic influences (56% and 42%, respectively). Thus, the overall picture is that executive functions, in both their unity and diversity, are somewhere between 86 to 100% heritable.

Furthermore, Friedman et al. integrated measures of general intelligence ("g", estimated through the WAIS IQ test) and perceptual speed (essentially the speed with which subjects can complete very simple tasks) to show that the genetic contribution to executive function is not completely explained by genetic contributions to those more commonly-studied abilities. This is consistent with previous work showing that IQ is only moderately heritable (with 50-70% of variance explained due to genetic factors, far short of the 99% explained here). [More]

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

May 30, 2008

The "I'll See You in Hell" Syndrome

Dennis Mangan points to a WSJ article on a new behavioral economics study in which college students in 16 cities around the world played a positive sum game in which everybody benefited if nobody freeloaded.

Not surprisingly, players in all countries chose to give up some money to punish freeloaders. The difference was in how the freeloaders reacted to being punished. In prosperous countries, the cheaters tended to respond to punishment by mending their ways. In the more uproarious countries, however, the bad guys just got mad and hit back.

Among students in the U.S., Switzerland, China and the U.K., those identified as freeloaders most often took their punishment as a spur to contribute more generously. But in Oman, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Greece and Russia, the freeloaders more often struck back, retaliating against those who punished them, even against those who had given most to everyone's benefit. It was akin to rapping the knuckles of the helping hand. ...

Among those punished, differences emerged immediately. Students in Seoul, Istanbul, Minsk in Belarus, Samara in Russia, Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, Athens, and Muscat in Oman were most likely to take revenge by deducting points from other players -- and to give up a token themselves to do it.

"They didn't believe they did anything wrong," said economist Herbert Gintis at New Mexico's Santa Fe Institute. And because the spiteful freeloaders had no way of knowing who had punished them, they often took out their ire on those who helped others most, suspecting they must be to blame.

Such a readiness to retaliate, researchers said, reflected relatively lower levels of trust, civic cooperation and the rule of law as measured by social scientists in the World Values Survey, which periodically assesses basic values and beliefs in more than 80 societies. In countries with democratic market economies, peer pressure goaded people to cooperate. Among authoritarian societies or those dominated more by ties of kinship, freeloaders instead lashed out at those who censured them, the researchers found.

"The question is why?" said Harvard political economist Richard Zeckhauser.

This is not a big surprise. The Swiss, for example, have been playing positive sum games among themselves for centuries -- If we all, no matter what language we speak, get together and defend our country from invaders, we can all live in peace and prosperity.

In contrast, lots of people around the world, like Jared Diamond's pal in New Guinea who got 30 people killed in order to avenge his uncle's death, seem to enjoy negative sum games -- what I call the "I'll See You in Hell" Syndrome after what movie villains say when, finally thwarted by the good guy, they start the self-destruct timer on their volcano lair.

Really, the only unexpected result here is Seoul. This may be related to a strain of knuckleheadedness visible among the young in South Korea, who engage in possibly the world's largest and certainly best organized riots. The multitudinous South Korean riot police, dressed in Orc-like uniforms, don't attempt to prevent riots like other countries' wussy riot police -- their job, instead, is to go out and do battle with the rioters. And a good time is had by all.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Does the Wonderlic IQ test predict success in the NFL?

The National Football League requires all draft prospects to take the 12-minute Wonderlic IQ test, but it's not clear how much, if any, predictive value it has.

Here's a little study of quarterbacks who entered the league from 2000 to 2004 by IQ (21 = 100) versus yards passing, which shows a strong positive relationship.

On the other hand, is yards passing the best dependent variable? And there are some arbitrary cut-offs involved. What do you do with all the quarterbacks who have barely gotten to play at all? There are quite a few drafted quarterbacks in the data table with 120+ IQs who have barely gotten into an NFL game.

I wouldn't be surprised if teams keep an eye out for Brian Griese-types -- smart quarterbacks who aren't that physically talented -- and keep them around in case injuries wipe out the top two quarterbacks and they need to plug in a warm body who has memorized the playbook and won't throw too many interceptions. In non-emergency situations, you can use them as quasi-assistant coaches in the meantime, having them do clipboard-associated chores. The smarter ones won't rebel as much at not getting any glory and will be working hard mentally to learn the game so they can become coaches later on. And they're not likely to go to prison for dog-fighting.

Or maybe the NFL uses the Wonderlic for purposes of negotiating contracts? "This kid got 6 right out of 50 and he's being represented by his uncle. Nobody in that family will know "net present value" from a hole in the ground, so let's offer them a $10 million dollar contract with $9 million deferred until 2040. They'll think they're going to be rich." (Dennis Rodman signed that kind of deal with the Chicago Bulls once, where he got $100,000 per year for 30 years -- of course, that annual $100k might be what's keeping Rodman living indoors at present.)

It seems like with all the money involved, somebody should make up a quarterback specific cognitive test rather than rely just on a standard IQ test like the Wonderlic. I've played quarterback for a handful of plays in six on six flag football, but I was quickly yanked because I was clearly overwhelmed by the cognitive demands of following four receivers while dodging the pass rusher. Compare quarterbacks to baseball pitchers. The physical demands aren't that different -- a tall guy with a strong arm -- but pitchers can concentrate on one thing at a time, with just a little bit of multitasking for checking the baserunner's lead at first.

The QB brain test would involve things like memorizing plays and tracking multiple receivers and defensive linemen simultaneously -- the military probably has a "situational awareness" test for fighter pilot applicants that could be adapted.

You could validate the test at summer camps for elite high school quarterbacks, where you can get a big sample size, and then track them at the camp, in high school, and then in college.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

The Few, the Brave, the Other

Modern Western culture, dominated as it is by status striving among whites to score points off each other by most fervently embracing "The Other," has largely become dependent upon a tiny handful of Others to say the things that need to be said.

From the Daily Mail:

Bishop says collapse of Christianity is wrecking British society - and Islam is filling the void

By Sean Poulter and Niall Firth

The collapse of Christianity has wrecked British society, a leading Church of England bishop declared yesterday.

It has destroyed family life and left the country defenceless against the rise of radical Islam in a moral and spiritual vacuum.

In a lacerating attack on liberal values, the Right Reverend Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester, said the country was mired in a doctrine of 'endless self-indulgence' that had brought an explosion in public violence and binge-drinking.

In a blow to Gordon Brown, he mocked the 'scramblings and scratchings' of politicians who try to cast new British values such as respect and tolerance.

The Pakistani-born bishop dated the downfall of Christianity from the 'social and sexual revolution' of the 1960s.

He said Church leaders had capitulated to Marxist revolutionary thinking and quoted an academic who blames the loss of 'faith and piety among women' for the steep decline in Christian worship.

Dr Nazir-Ali said the ' newfangled and insecurely founded' doctrine of multiculturalism has left immigrant communities 'segregated, living parallel lives'.

Christian values of human dignity, equality and freedom could be lost as the way is left open for the advance of brands of Islam that do not respect Western values.

The Bishopric of Rochester is one of the ten most powerful positions in the Church of England.

Dr Nazir-Ali's attack on the decline of Christianity appears to put him in the opposite corner to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, and many of his fellow bishops.

But he holds some views in common with the Church's other widely-heard and popular prelate, Ugandan-born Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York.

Over the past six months, Dr Nazir-Ali has made a number of criticisms of Islam and its influence.

Among them have been charges about the spread of no-go areas for non-Muslims and worries over the impact of new mosques.

Last weekend he was one of just three bishops who backed a move in the Church's parliament, the General Synod, to encourage the conversion of Muslims to Christianity.

His latest attack once again criticises Dr Williams's backing for sharia law, saying that 'recognising its jurisdiction in public law is fraught with difficulties, precisely as it arises from a different set of assumptions than the tradition of law here'.

Dr Nazir-Ali detailed his arguments in an article in the newly-launched political magazine Standpoint.

The bishop, himself an immigrant from Pakistan in the mid-1980s, admitted that he might be thought the least qualified person to discuss British identity. But he quoted Kipling: 'What should they know of England who only England know?'

The bishop said 'something momentous' had happened in the 1960s. He quoted historians who point to a cultural revolution in which women ceased to uphold or pass on the Christian faith and to the role of Marxist revolutionaries.

Dr Nazir-Ali pointed with approval to a finding that 'instead of resisting this phenomenon, liberal theologians and church leaders all but capitulated.

He said: 'It has created the moral and spiritual vacuum in which we now find ourselves.' In the place of Christianity there was nothing 'except perhaps endless self-indulgence'.

The bishop said the consequences were 'the destruction of the family because of the alleged parity of different forms of life together, the loss of a father figure, especially for boys, because the role of fathers is deemed otiose, the abuse of substances (including alcohol), the loss of respect for the person leading to horrendous and mindless attacks, the increasing communications gap between generations and social classes - the list is very long.'

Another result, he said, was that immigrants had been welcomed, not on the basis of Britain's Christian heritage, to which they would be welcome to contribute, but by the 'newfangled and insecurely-founded doctrine of multiculturalism'.

Back in 2005, I wrote a VDARE column about why the white working class in the U.S. has lower crime rates than their distant cousins in the white working class in Britain. Stronger Christianity in America was the first explanation.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Jared Diamond: Life is full of interest in the New Guinea highlands

Winston Churchill learned in 1897 while fighting the feuding Pathan tribesmen of what's now the Pakistan-Afghanistan border:

"Every family cultivates its vendetta; every clan, its feud. The numerous tribes and combination of tribes all have their accounts to settle with one another. Nothing is ever forgotten and very few debts are left unpaid… The life of the Pathan is thus full of interest…"

Now Jared Diamond has published in The New Yorker an account of a tribal feud among New Guinea highlanders based on his native chauffeur's old war stories. It's an interesting description of the logic of violence when there's no state with a monopoly on force to put an end to squabbling.

The uncle of Diamond's pal was killed in battle by another tribe in 1992, so honor demanded that his nephew avenge it. The young tribesmen spent three years organizing his revenge, which involved expensive diplomacy with many other tribes to borrow their warriors, six battles, and thirty deaths before vengeance was finally his.

Granted, that just meant the ball was now in the other tribe's court to get revenge on him, but at least it gives the men something to do with their days while their women are out working in the fields.

These are the people that Diamond theorized in his bestselling Guns, Germs, and Steel must have higher intelligence than Westerners because they are under more intense selection pressure by their environment. As Diamond wrote in the Prologue of his Pulitzer Prize-winner:

"My perspective on this controversy comes from 33 years of working with New Guineans in their own intact societies. From the very beginning of my work with New Guineans, they impressed me as being on the average more intelligent, more alert, more expressive, and more interested in things and people around them than the average European or American is. At some tasks that one might reasonably suppose to reflect aspects of brain function, such as the ability to form a mental map of unfamiliar surroundings, they appear considerably more adept than Westerners. Of course, New Guineans tend to perform poorly at tasks that Westerners have been trained to perform since childhood and that New Guineans have not. Hence when unschooled New Guineans from remote villages visit towns, they look stupid to Westerners. Conversely, I am constantly aware of how stupid I look to New Guineans when I'm with them in the jungle, displaying my incompetence at simple tasks (such as following a jungle trail or erecting a shelter) at which New Guineans have been trained since childhood and I have not.

It's easy to recognize two reasons why my impression that New Guineans are smarter than Westerners may be correct. First, Europeans have for thousands of years been living in densely populated societies with central governments, police, and judiciaries. In those societies, infectious epidemic diseases of dense populations (such as smallpox) were historically the major cause of death, while murders were relatively uncommon and a state of war was the exception rather than the rule. Most Europeans who escaped fatal infections also escaped other potential causes of death and proceeded to pass on their genes. Today, most live-born Western infants survive fatal infections as well and reproduce themselves, regardless of their intelligence and the genes they bear. In contrast, New Guineans have been living in societies where human numbers were too low for epidemic diseases of dense populations to evolve. Instead, traditional New Guineans suffered high mortality from murder, chronic tribal warfare, accidents, and problems in procuring food.

Intelligent people are likelier than less intelligent ones to escape those causes of high mortality in traditional New Guinea societies. However, the differential mortality from epidemic diseases in traditional European societies had little to do with intelligence, and instead involved genetic resistance dependent on details of body chemistry. For example, people with blood group B or O have a greater resistance to smallpox than do people with blood group A. That is, natural selection promoting genes for intelligence has probably been far more ruthless in New Guinea than in more densely populated, politically complex societies, where natural selection for body chemistry was instead more potent.

... in mental ability New Guineans are probably genetically superior to Westerners ...

Hmmmh, so a low murder rate and a high level of social and political organization correlates with low IQ? Interesting ... but stupid.

After this introduction about how New Guineans have evolved to be genetically superior in IQ, Jared spends hundreds of pages explaining how it's totally racist to think that there could possibly be genetic differences in IQ (or at least genetic differences that favor the groups that actually have higher IQs). The distribution of power and accomplishment in the modern world is all due to geographical differences between the continents! But, as I gently chided in my review of his book in National Review in 1997, this popular argument of his only makes genetic differences more likely:

"Diamond makes environmental differences seem so compelling that it's hard to believe that humans would not become somewhat adapted to their homelands through natural selection."

And exactly what kind of Darwinian selection pressure does constant feuding impose? Diamond's buddy, as the victor in the feud, is presumably good at feuding and thus probably has good genes for feuding, but he's not exactly James Clerk Maxwell. Everybody in Diamond's story seems content to play the game by the old rules, over and over again, with nobody trying to change the rules by technological or political innovations. Even the European tradition of dueling, which strikes us as pretty moronic today, but which served to isolate feuds among two individuals, allowing honor to be satisfied without the extended families being dragged in, seems to have proved beyond the New Guineans.

The one time I talked to Jared, we we're chatting pleasantly until I asked him if tropical female farming economies wouldn't select for different behavioral genes than in economies in which men brought home the bacon. He got a very worried look on his face, said he didn't know anything about female farming economies (despite all those years in New Guinea!), grabbed up his papers, and half jogged out of the building at about 5 miles per hour.

I suspect that female farming cultures like New Guinea and Africa, where the men spend their ample leisure hours competing to be Big Men, selects for Big Men traits, Machiavellian skills at manipulating others into fighting your battles. (Of course, Machiavelli was hardly the first Machiavellian. He's famous because he brought the power of abstraction to coherently explain the rules of the game of power that so many Big Men had intuitively grasped before him.)

What these kind of female farming economies where the women do most of the work select for is not the nerd traits that are crucial to technological advancement. Perhaps the need to survive winter selects for nerdish genes that are good at technology, which can then be used for creating better weapons.

It's not exactly clear from Diamond's account what kind of battles took place. There seem to be "public" battles where young men show off in front of their fans just barely in range of the other side's arrows, and more serious "stealth" battles, which sound more like Mafioso rub-outs -- ambushes and massacres -- than the Battle of Gettysburg. The idea of the Waterloo-like "decisive battle," where armies line up and march shoulder to shoulder toward each other strikes most peoples down through history as nuts. Indeed, the whole idea of a "fair fight" strikes most peoples as nuts.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

May 29, 2008

Obama as the Rovian 51% candidate

David Axelrod has built Barack Obama's campaign around the old 1968 Nixon slogan of "Bring Us Together," rhetorically running against Karl Rove's central idea that you only need 51 percent to win.

The funny thing is, of course, that Obama will likely wind up winning with just 51% over Hillary Clinton. In Presidential primary campaigns, the leader normally pulls away due to the bandwagon effect, but Obama has been content to eke out the narrowest victory in recent primary history. He hasn't done a thing to reach out substantively to white voters worried about his long track record as a racial activist.

Obama tried to lie and bloviate his way out of his first Rev. Wright jam, so Wright went on his little media tour to set the record straight, finally getting Obama to defriend him by saying Obama's "a politician." Moreover, Obama has refused to compromise on any race-related issue. So, he's stuck at 51%.

But, guess what? Karl Rove was right. You only need 51%.

And Axelrod/Obama know it's really not hard to get 51% with these opponents. It's not like Germany in 1914, where they've got to beat France and Russia (plus any of their friends who tag along). Obama isn't running against FDR and Reagan, he's running against a proven screw-up in HillaryCare and the elderly Arizona Jones.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

My interim VDARE column

I've got a short column up now.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Huma's back, but who's got her?

We haven't checked in since November on Hillary Clinton and her Saudi-raised "body woman" Huma Abedin, whom some have theorized is an undercover plant of the Saudi intelligence service, but the NY Daily News is keeping a lookout for us:

"Yes, I'm hot for Hillary Clinton's 'body woman,' Congressman Weiner admits"

The skeptical comments from Daily News readers are crass but amusing.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Assassination threats against Tom Tancredo

The fine reporter Ralph Z. Hallow has an interesting interview with Tom Tancredo in the Washington Times. Tancredo remains perhaps the most modest of all the politicians who have had an important impact on the country in recent years.

Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado donned his bulletproof vest last year and hit the campaign trail expressly to get his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination - and the voters - to make illegal immigration a real, rather than rhetorical, priority.

He says he failed.

And he doesn't trust Democratic Sens. Barack Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton or even presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain to do the right thing on immigration once one of them moves into the Oval Office.

"Nobody's going to enter the White House in January of '09 who is committed to securing the border and ending the disaster of illegal immigration," said Mr. Tancredo, who wears the vest when he feels insecure about the enemies he has made over the years while touting his anti-illegals stance.

"Therefore, the next stage in the battle is going to be in the states," he said.

So, Mr. Tancredo is leaving the halls of Congress to join the front lines, possibly with either a new or established advocacy group, and promote court-tested efforts states and localities have adopted to address the strain illegal immigration has put on the educational systems, social services and law enforcement.

"We will have to see if we can replicate Arizona and Oklahoma in other states because that's what states and localities do whenever the federal government walks away from its responsibility," said Mr. Tancredo, who is not seeking a sixth term.

Mr. Tancredo's distrust of Mr. McCain on questions such as amnesty for illegal immigrants - which each man interprets differently - is so deep that he is not sure he will vote for the presumptive Republican nominee in November.

"Maybe I'll write me in - who knows?" he said. "When I'm in the voting booth, I'm going to just be tussling with this in my own heart." ...

Mr. Tancredo said Mr. McCain is the last of 10 Republican presidential candidates standing because he and the other eight didn't provide the leadership voters desired.

"Frankly, I don't see myself as this great leader, as capable as Ronald Reagan," he said. "I know I'm not. So I can't ask people to see something in me that I don't see in myself." ....

Opponents who thought he had too much power over immigration policy were snarling "Nazi" and "racist" at him well before entered the Republican nomination battle.

By the Columbus Day Parade in Denver three years ago, epithets were the least of his worries.

He recalled a Denver plainclothes police officer saying, "Congressman, are you aware of the threats on your life here today?"

" 'More than usual?' " Mr. Tancredo asked.

The officer read aloud from his notebook what people were overhead saying about "whacking" Mr. Tancredo that day. More alarming, a parade-route sweep had turned up high-powered rifle ammo taped inside a trash can.

The officer suggested that Mr. Tancredo not ride atop a float but walk the parade route surrounded by eight policemen instead. Along the route, however, he recalled seeing a young woman holding up her baby's hand "and she has the baby flip me off."

After that day, the Capitol Police, whose job is to protect members of Congress while in Washington, began showing up now and then at Tancredo speeches across the country.

Eventually he bought a "really good" bulletproof vest on the Internet and wears it when he thinks he needs it.

Mr. Tancredo's decision to quit the presidential nomination race seemed right at the time.

He was in his hotel room at 11 p.m. on Dec. 20 when he saw former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, a one-time advocate of giving sanctuary to illegals and the last of the candidates to adopt a border-security-first approach to the issue, promise in a spot commercial to secure the border and build a fence.

Mr. Tancredo immediately phoned campaign manager Bay Buchanan and said, "You can pull the plug on my campaign. The last domino just fell. Everybody's come the distance."

Since then, however, it is not clear whether the impact of Mr. Tancredo's 11-month presidential nomination campaign has left him as an immigration hero or zero.

"The issue has been elevated to a place it hadn't been before, but I will also be the first to admit, it has now begun to fall," he said. "I'm sorry if that's the result of my getting out of the race."

"I don't know that I have that much power over the issue," Mr. Tancredo said. "I don't know whether, if I had stayed in the race, it would still be up there at one or two, which is where it was. Now it's down to three or four. I just don't know."

Allow me to predict that the actual assassination threats against Tancredo (as opposed to the much fondled hypothetical ones against Obama) will generate very little interest. Similarly, the 2002 assassination of potential Dutch prime minister Pym Fortuyn by a Stuff White People Like pro-multiculturalist lawyer was greeted by the Great and Good with expressions boiling down to "He had it coming."

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Why did Bush start the Iraq War?

Former Bush press secretary Scott McClellan's new book seems to support the theory that I offered in 2005 when former Bush ghostwriter Mickey Herskowitz revealed that Bush had been talking about the political advantages of invading Iraq in 1999. I went on to speculate:

The idea of beating up on a sure loser like Saddam may have especially appealed to GWB because of the President's personal qualities. Bush sees himself not as a manager (which is certainly correct), but as a leader, one who makes tough decisions based on intuition where other men who worry about getting the facts first would suffer paralysis through analysis.

In other words, Bush doesn't particularly like to work hard, and he's not that interested in learning what it takes to administer the government. Spending eight grueling years on the blocking and tackling of effectively running the government like Dwight Eisenhower did is not for Bush. Instead, he's going to throw the Bomb, so he can then coast. And the Iraq Attaq sounded to him like a pushbutton war -- all Bush had to do was tell the Pentagon to go conquer Iraq and they'd go do it without bothering him with a lot of tiresome questions about minor details.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Hillary's "assassination" gaffe

I've been losing interest in the campaign, so I'm way late on this, but isn't it obvious that the berserk over-reaction by Obama supporters to Hillary mentioning that Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in June 1968 is in part a projection of their own dark fascination with the idea of Obama being martyred before the Chicago pol can disappoint their messianic hopes?

As I wrote in February:

For several weeks, I've been noticing that a lot of Obama supporters seem to fantasize about their man being assassinated. The creepy NYT article, "In Painful Past, Hushed Worry About Obama," only confirms this hunch. To be crass, I think a lot of Obamaniacs are fondling this fantasy, unable to keep themselves from noticing that a slain Obama would provide them with an iconic image of great usefulness. The best thing that ever happened to the left in the U.S. in the second half of the 20th Century was that John F. Kennedy was assassinated (by a far leftist, of course, but for complicated reasons everybody who was anybody acted like the opposite was true).

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Mexican-Americans vs. Mexican tackiness

Here's an amusing article by Hector Becerra in the LA Times about how American-born Mexican-American politicians are allowed to say in public what everybody feels in private: that Mexican immigrant neighborhoods aren't "vibrant," they're tacky:

It was as if the developers were talking about tacos, and the Latino politicians were talking about apple pie.

Baldwin Park Mayor Manuel Lozano and other city officials listened as the developers said they had studied the demographics of the city and could bring in a retailer known for offering credit to undocumented immigrants and a shopping center with a "Latino feel."

To Lozano, it was another case of developers typecasting his suburb, which is about 15 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. He didn't want to see more of what he calls "amigo stores."

The meeting ended like a bad date, with handshakes and excessive courtesy. But afterward, Lozano made it clear he was not happy.

"We want what Middle America has as well," said the second-generation Mexican American, recounting the meeting. "We like to go to nice places like Claim Jumpers, Chili's and Applebee's. . . . We don't want the fly-by-night business, the 'amigo store,' which they use to attract Latinos like myself."

Call it "immigrant" store fatigue. It's happening in cities that are overwhelmingly Latino, with Latino political leaders and with large immigrant communities.

For decades, these cities attracted working-class and immigrant-centric retailers: check-cashing businesses, Latino supermarkets, discount gift stores, bridal shops and Mexican western wear stores. Some are independent, and some are chains such as La Curacao, an appliance and electronics retailer that offers credit accounts to immigrants who lack the documentation for conventional credit cards.

Until relatively recently, cities like Baldwin Park, South Gate and Santa Ana had few options beyond "Latino" retailers. But this year, Baldwin Park -- a city of 70,000 in the San Gabriel Valley -- enacted a moratorium on new payday loan and check cashing stores. The city is now partners with Bisno Development Co. on an "urban village" of mixed-income housing, theaters and mainstream restaurants such as Claim Jumper, Applebee's and Chili's.

To make it happen, the city is considering a plan that could require the use of eminent domain power to clear a 125-acre area.

That would result in the loss of more than 80 homes and more than 100 small businesses.

The huge project has prompted charges that the City Council, composed of Mexican Americans, is ashamed of its culture.

"I'm proud of my roots," said Rosalva Alvarez, as she stood in her beauty store on Maine Avenue, which is in the redevelopment area. "I was born in Mexico and raised in this country. I agree we need some change. But what they want to bring here is totally unrealistic. Applebee is good, but a Kabuki? And also a Trader Joe's? Come on, I don't even go to Trader Joe's."

Some opponents say that one councilwoman had told critics to "go back to [Tijuana]."

"I don't know where they got that," said Councilwoman Marlen Garcia. "What I said was 'We're striving to insure Baldwin Park doesn't look like Tijuana.' " …

But Mayor Lozano is undaunted.

As he rode through the streets of his city, past the rows of low-slung mini malls with signs in a mix of English and Spanish, Lozano complained that downtown Baldwin Park had too many discount gift stores, too many beauty salons, too many Mexican restaurants and way too many pawnshops.

Lozano and his allies believe that mainstream retailers now fit better with Baldwin Park, where many of the residents are second-, third- and even fourth-generation Latinos with little interest in stores aimed at immigrants.

A more subtle point, one lost in the overblown hype about "immigrant entrepreneurialism," is that as American-born Mexican-Americans assimilate, they become less entrepreneurial than Mexican-immigrants. Over the generations, Mexican immigrants don't make the transition from owning tacky shops to owning distinctive boutiques. Their neighborhoods start out quirky, but not the kind of Stuff White People Like quirk; over the generations, if all goes well, the prosperous Mexican-American neighborhoods turn into National Chain Power Mall neighborhoods, identical to the rest of the Stuff White People Hate. (And that's the upside.)

Whereas, say, Armenian immigrants might move up the ladder as business owners from generation to generation, Mexicans instead tend to quit being self-employed and go to work for large institutions. Mexican immigrants start out at the bottom of the entrepreneurial totem pole, running businesses that appeal mostly to other Mexican immigrants. But they generally don't get more skilled as entrepreneurs with each generation -- instead, the next generation gives up and goes to work for somebody else.

National chain restaurants and chain stores are appealing employers to bilingual American-born Mexicans because they can get managerial jobs bossing around Spanish-speaking Mexican immigrants while reporting to English-speaking corporate bosses in Atlanta (or wherever).

As I mentioned last year, when I came back from a trip around the country, the libertarian advice to African-Americans to start their own businesses is ill-conceived. African-Americans tend to prefer working for big institutions where all the rules are already written down in three-ring binders (e.g., the U.S. Army) because they are more likely to be successful in that kind of environment. Something similar is true for Mexican-Americans (with perhaps the more macho Marines substituting for the Army).

There's nothing wrong with preferring to work for a big institution rather than being an entrepreneur -- indeed, succeeding in a job is better for all concerned that failing at owning a business -- but that much of the punditry about minority entrepreneurialism is romantic hooey.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

May 28, 2008

Are albinos smarter?

Sometimes appearance changes over the generations when behavior is being selected. For example, when Soviet classical geneticist Dmitri Belyaev lost his high ranking position due to Lysenkoism becoming Stalin's orthodoxy (Darwinism was seen as anti-social engineering), he began to quietly selectively breed Russian silver foxes to become pets. As they became more domesticated in behavior, their appearance became more dog-like, too.

It's been suggested that perhaps fair skin evolved among some human groups not because of huge advantages in fair skin (such as vitamin D) but because of selection pressure for some other trait. If so, albinos might have something to teach us about human evolution.

I don't see much evidence of albinos being smarter, but here's a New York Times article from 11 years ago from the good old days in Zimbabwe, when people had the time (and food and electricity) to worry about starting an Albino Rights movement.

February 9, 1997

Black, Yet White: A Hated Color in Zimbabwe


John M. Makumbe is a professor of political science. Richard Nyathi is chief librarian for a Government ministry. Stanley S. Gunda is a senior financial officer in another ministry. Not so long ago, they might have been killed at birth. '

Messrs. Makumbe, Nyathi and Gunda are albinos. In Africa, far more than on any other continent, that is a lifelong curse. They lack the gene that codes the skin pigment melanin, and they are very nearsighted. As white-skinned men in a black society, they are shunned and feared as the products of witchcraft, taunted by children and drunks as ''peeled potatoes,'' ''monkeys'' and ''ghosts.''

There is a stereotype that all albinos are intelligent and accomplished, as these three men are. But Professor Makumbe said successful albinos were ''a teeny-weeny minute number.'' Most, he added, languish at home without education because they cannot see the blackboard at school or because their parents, told such children die young, will not pay for their schooling.

In the United States, about 1 person in 20,000 is an albino, according to doctors at the University of Minnesota Medical Center, which has a clinic that studies the genetics of albinism. The condition is more common among blacks than among whites, and almost unknown among Asians.

In parts of Nigeria, as many as 1 in 1,100 are albino; in parts of South Africa the incidence is 1 in 1,800. It varies sharply from country to country and tribe to tribe, said Jennifer Kromberg, an expert on albinism at the South African Institute for Medical Research. For instance, in South Africa it is twice as high among Tswana as among Zulu, she said, because Tswana encourage marriage between cousins while Zulu forbid it.

… Albinism comes from a recessive gene and must be inherited from both parents. Not all children in affected families are albino. Mr. Nyathi, for example, has two albino siblings, while his parents and eight other siblings are black.

… Superstitions are strong in rural Zimbabwe. The practice of killing suspected witches survives, and albino children were once smothered at birth. The belief that adult albinos do not die, but simply vanish, is still widely held. …

Professor Kromberg said surveys she had done among young albino adults in Soweto, South Africa, found that they were rarely shunned on buses or in the classroom but did have much lower marriage rates and believed that they would have difficulty finding work. She said she had come across anecdotal evidence that black children were reluctant to share food with albino classmates. …

All three men did well in school, despite vision problems. The genetic differences that cause albinism also change the connections between the optic nerves and the brain. Many albinos have nystagmus -- ''dancing eyeballs'' -- and myopia that, even with thick glasses, can only be corrected to about 20-200.

''Albinos seem more intelligent because they try harder,'' Mr. Nyathi said. ''You have to get out of your seat, go up to the board, squint, write two sentences, go back, and still finish the test in the same time as the others.''

Dr. Kromberg said her intelligence studies had confirmed that. ''Albinos have normal I.Q.'s but a higher capability,'' she said. ''I think it's because they don't play in the sun all day. They stay inside and do their homework.''

So, are albinos smarter or just more bookish?

I can't find the names of too many high-achieving albinos in the West: just rock musicians Edgar and Johnny Winter (but Roy Orbison was not an albino), reggae star Yellowman, and, most interestingly, the famous Oxford don Rev. William Archibald Spooner, the Sam Goldwyn of Britain, for whom the term spoonerism is named:

At a naval review Spooner marveled at "this vast display of cattle ships and bruisers."

To a school official's secretary: "Is the bean dizzy?"

Visiting a friend's country cottage: "You have a nosy little cook here."

So, not much evidence for albinos being smarter than average.

Overall, it's a tough life being an albino.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

#101: Being Offended

Things have been slow lately at Stuff White People Like as Christian Lander and Co. work on their upcoming book (2/3rds new content!), for which Christian got a $350,000 advance. He's back today, though, with a vintage SWPL:

#101 Being Offended
May 28, 2008 by clander

To be offended is usually a rather unpleasant experience, one … that many people develop a thick skin and try to only be offended in the most egregious and awful situations. In many circumstances, they can allow smaller offenses to slip by as fighting them is a waste of time and energy. But white people, blessed with both time and energy, are not these kind of people. In fact there are few things white people love more than being offended.

Naturally, white people do not get offended by statements directed at white people. In fact, they don’t even have a problem making offensive statements about other white people (ask a white person about “flyover states”). As a rule, white people strongly prefer to get offended on behalf of other people.

It is also valuable to know that white people spend a significant portion of their time preparing for the moment when they will be offended. They read magazines, books, and watch documentaries all in hopes that one day they will encounter a person who will say something offensive. When this happens, they can leap into action with quotes, statistics, and historical examples. … All of which do an excellent job of raising awareness among white people who hope to change their status from “not racist” to “super not racist.”

Another thing worth noting is that the threshold for being offended is a very important tool for judging and ranking white people. Missing an opportunity to be outraged is like missing a reference to Derrida - it’s social death. [More]

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Aristocratic vs. Meritocratic Fashion

In days of yore, fashions in clothing started primarily with the aristocracy -- in the Victorian era, the British aristocracy. Since these glamorous folks were glamorous not because of their looks -- they came in all shapes and sizes -- but because of their pedigrees, fashions emerged to flatter the figure of the average sort of man and woman. The Prince of Wales, for instance, was often a rather unprepossessing fellow on whom the finest tailors of Bond Street devoted their wiles to make look presentable. (To be precise, aristocrats did tend to be taller and better looking than the peasants of the time, of course, but not compared to the models in today's Vogue.)

The now-fading business suit and its cousin, the sports coat, is an adaptation of the army officer's tunic of the Napoleonic wars, with the lapels folded back. Officers were aristocrats (the British didn't want a military coup, so the British Army leadership, unlike the more meritocratic because less threatening Royal Navy's officers, came from the insiders who already owned Britain; the British Army intentionally didn't fulfill the Corsican adventurer Bonaparte's ideal of "careers open to talent"), so tailors evolved a garment with padded shoulders that would do a pretty good job of making even a rather pear-shaped officer look like a natural leader of men.

Today, however, we have more of a fashion meritocracy where the charismatic individuals who spread fashions aren't more or less average looking aristocrats, but people who are chosen specifically for their physical superiority -- models, entertainers, and athletes. If you're Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie or Giselle Bundchen or Tom Brady, a winner in the genetic lottery, wearing the old aristocratic styles that would make the average person look better is silly. Indeed, the point of meritocratic fashion becomes to mercilessly expose the physical flaws of the wearer.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

May 27, 2008

White Guilt, Catholic Guilt, Jewish Guilt

Ron Rosenbaum writes in Slate:

In Praise of Liberal Guilt: It's not wrong to favor Obama because of race.

As I've mentioned before, I don't much believe in the existence of white liberal guilt. I haven't met many white liberals who sincerely feel personally guilty about 19th Century whites' treatment of blacks and Indians. What I do I see all around me, however, is white liberal status-striving. As Rosenbaum boasts:
"Guilt means you have a conscience. You have self-awareness, you have—in the case of America's history of racism—historical awareness."

Well, aren't you special!

He goes on to say that what we really need is more, lots more, "white conservative guilt."

As C. Van Carter summarizes white liberal guilt:
I feel terrible about what those other people did! About what I do, not so much.

C.S. Lewis described this as indulging “in the popular vice of detraction without restraint” while feeling “all the time that you are practicing contrition”.

Ron Rosenbaum wants you to know that if he had any ancestors who were mean to slaves or Indians, he'd feel just awful, and you should too.

One of the unmentionable ironies of this whole topic is that the most fervent proponents of white Americans feeling guilty about their ancestors owning slaves and fighting Indians tend to be white Americans whose ancestors didn't own slaves or fight Indians.

More generally, it's interesting to compare "white guilt" to "Catholic guilt" to "Jewish guilt."

White guilt is, at least nominally, about whites feeling bad about whites in the past being racist.

Catholic guilt is more personal. Typically, Catholics and lapsed Catholics complain about being made to feel guilty by the Church about their urges and behavior, particularly sexual. (Catholic guilt has a certain ethnocentric angle to it in mixed religion America -- stop fooling around, get married and have kids! -- but, in general, The Church, with its universal ambitions, doesn't do ethnocentrism well, for obvious reasons.)

Jewish guilt, on the other hand, is infinitely joked about, but its essence is almost never spelled out in such a way that non-Jews grasp what "Jewish guilt" means.

Clearly, there is a form of Jewish guilt much like Catholic guilt that focuses on personal ethical lapses (for example, my father got a call on Yom Kippur once from a former colleague asking forgiveness for wronging him on the job), but that's not what Americans typically mean by "Jewish guilt."

What is typically meant is something almost exactly the opposite of what is theoretically meant by "white guilt."

Joshua Halberstam wrote in The Forward in 2005 in "The Myth of Jewish Guilt:"

There is no credible empirical evidence — I’ve looked hard and carefully — that Jews feel more unwarranted guilt than others. The hypothesis is of course too amorphous to confirm or disconfirm with reliability; interestingly, however, when it comes to testable mental states such as psychosis, the data suggests that Jews suffer less than average. To be sure, sensitive, reflective individuals are discomforted when they disturb the traditions, the communities and the families to whom they feel attachments. This is true of Jews… and everyone else. ...

How, then, did this bromide about Jewish guilt attain its status as a distinctive Jewish disposition? Unlike jokes about kishke, which Jews actually ate (and eat), and such slurs such as the Jews’ association with money — originally propounded by non-Jews — the Jewish guilt syndrome is a Jewish creation, the invention of the previous generation of assimilated American Jews (see Portnoy, Alexander).

I recently reread Philip Roth's very funny 1969 novel Portnoy's Complaint about a Jewish bachelor lawyer with a high profile do-gooder job in the liberal Lindsay administration in New York City. Despite his being interviewed on Public TV, his parents don't consider him a success. They constantly nag him to stop chasing blonde shiksas, find a nice Jewish girl, get married, and move back to New Jersey and give them some grandkids. After he breaks up with his latest shiksa girlfriend, a semi-literate West Virginia hillbilly lingerie model (because she demands he marry her -- but she's not smart enough to mix her genes with his), he flees to Israel. But he finds he doesn't like Israel or Israeli women and returns to Manhattan At the end, he's on Dr. Spielvogel's couch, in a state of extreme frustration with his life, narrating his 309 page Complaint.

In other words, in the classic example of Jewish guilt, Portnoy's Complaint, Jewish guilt is the opposite of white guilt: Portnoy's feelings of Jewish guilt stem not from his ancestors being too ethnocentric (as in "white guilt") but from himself not being ethnocentric enough to please his ancestors. His parents make him feel guilty because he's individualistically ignoring his racial duty to settle down and propagate the Jewish race.

Halberstam goes on to give similar examples of what Jewish guilt means to modern Jewish Americans (he, himself, seems to side with Portnoy's parents):

A recently published book, “The Modern Jewish Girl’s Guide to Guilt” (Penguin Group USA), exemplifies the breadth of this presumption. Unlike the sophomoric parade of Jewish-mother books that, incredibly, still makes its way to the humor shelves of Barnes & Noble, this anthology features well-written contributions by significant, contemporary Jewish women writers. But while each entry describes some episode of guilt, crucial differences among them should be emphasized. Some are heartfelt accounts of their authors’ struggles, often ongoing, with the demands of Jewish tradition and the pressures of their Jewish subcommunities. The excerpt reprinted in this newspaper by the invariably brazen Daphne Merkin is representative of these conflicts. These are worthy investigations, as are the explorations of Jewish women experiencing guilt about their Christmas trees, non-Jewish romances or trading their expected domestic lives for careers. [In other words, Jewish women with, respectively, gentile husbands, gentile boyfriends, or careers instead of children.] They are of particular interest to us because they are our stories (though, undoubtedly, you could find the same strains among women calibrating their lives as Methodists and Mormons, Shias and Sikhs).

However, other contributions to this book gush with ludicrous and often offensive extrapolations from the authors’ own experiences to a national neurosis. What is striking — and sociologically significant — is not what these authors say, but the ease with which they say it. The tone is set by the editor’s introduction, in which she asserts that Jews are only too delighted and eager to make others feel guilty. Then she reduces her rabbi father’s discomfort with her dating a non-Jew as typical guilt-tripping. ...

Katie Roiphe, writing about the “infinite voraciousness” of Jewish guilt that refuses to allow anyone to be happy, is upset because her mother would like her to have children: “Could it be that lurking inside all the Jewish feminist mothers of the 70’s is a 1950’s housewife who values china patterns and baby carriages above the passions of the mind?”

In other words, "Jewish guilt" in modern America is, more than anything else, about not being racialist enough.

Similarly, an NPR article about this Modern Jewish Girl's Guide to Guilt book sums up Jewish guilt:

"At the center of the book is the battle between obligation to one's community, with its dictates and traditions, and the obligation to one's individual interests and needs. It's that tension that produces guilt."

Thus, Jewish guilt is the opposite of "white guilt," which is (theoretically, at least) about a white person's disobligation toward one's community, with its sins and crimes, and the obligation to boost other communities' interests and needs at the white community's expense.

Of course, in reality, "white guilt" turns out to be all about the individual white person's interests and needs to preen morally in order to demonstrate his superior social status over other white people. After all, when it comes to social-climbing, other white people are the competition.

Thus, it's not surprising that, while there is certainly demand among some American Jews for works that will help them feel guilty about what Israel is doing to the Palestinians (see The Nation magazine), there is zero market in America for the Jewish equivalent of "white guilt" about what some Jews did in the past.

Indeed, the most obvious analog to slavery and taking America from the Indians, the disproportionate role of Jews in inflicting Communism upon humanity (as documented in UC Berkeley historian Yuri Slezkine's book 2004 The Jewish Century), has almost completely been crammed down the global Memory Hole.

For example, the world's most famous living author published almost a decade ago a two volume history of the relationship between Russians and Jews. He called for mutual remembrance, contrition, apology, and forgiveness. Here's an excerpt from the only excerpt yet published in the United States:
Alas, mutual grievances have accumulated in both our people's memories, but if we repress the past, how can we heal them? Until the collective psyche of a people finds its clear outlet in the written word, it can rumble indistinctly or, worse, menacingly...

I have never conceded to anyone the right to conceal that which was. Equally, I cannot call for an understanding based on an unjust portrayal of the past. Instead, I call both sides -- the Russian and the Jewish -- to patient mutual comprehension, to the avowal of their own share of the blame...

I conceived of my ultimate aim as discerning, to the best of my ability, mutually agreeable and fruitful pathways for the future development of Russian-Jewish relations. ...

Indeed, there are many explanations as to why Jews joined the Bolsheviks (and the Civil War produced yet more weighty reasons [e.g., the mass pogroms detailed in Volume II, Chapter 16]. Nevertheless, if Russian Jews' memory of this period continues seeking primarily to justify this involvement, then the level of Jewish self-awareness will be lowered, even lost.

Using this line of reasoning, Germans could just as easily find excuses for the Hitler period: "Those were not real Germans, but scum"; "they never asked us." Yet every people must answer morally for all of its past -- including that past which is shameful. Answer by what means? By attempting to comprehend: How could such a thing have been allowed? Where in all this is our error? And could it happen again?

It is in that spirit, specifically, that it would behoove the Jewish people to answer, both for the revolutionary cutthroats and the ranks willing to serve them. Not to answer before other peoples, but to oneself, to one's consciousness, and before God. Just as we Russians must answer -- for the pogroms, for those merciless arsonist peasants, for those crazed revolutionary soldiers, for those savage sailors. ...

To answer, just as we would answer for members of our family.

For if we release ourselves from any responsibility for the actions of our national kin, the very concept of a people loses any real meaning.

Not surprisingly, the world's most famous living author can't get these two books published in New York City. Don't call us, Alexander, we'll call you.

Moreover, almost nobody in the American media has found it at all worth mentioning that Solzhenitsyn can't get published in New York City.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

May 26, 2008


From my new column on Jim Manzi's National Review cover story "Escaping the Tyranny of Genes:"

From Manzi’s vague article, it's difficult to figure out what he fears. But I would guess it is something like the silly 1997 eugenic dystopia sci-fi flick Gattaca. (Tagline: "There Is No Gene for the Human Spirit.")

Weirdly, Manzi argues that it would be okay to establish a scientific totalitarian state:

"Science may someday allow us to predict human behavior comprehensively and reliably, so that we can live in Woodrow Wilson's 'perfected, co-ordinated beehive.'"

Nevertheless, we shouldn't, yet, because science hasn't become accurate enough:

"Until then, however, we need to keep stumbling forward in freedom as best we can."

Well, that's a relief!

Although Manzi can't seem to find any living human beings who advocate converting American into a dictatorial scientocracy, he still spends much of his article laboriously (but pointlessly) documenting that the human sciences aren't advanced enough at present to implement Gattaca. It's a "straw man argument" raised exponentially to the point of self-parody.

My main memory of "Gattaca" is that astronaut training in the future will apparently consist of long rows of well-groomed young men dressed like extras from Brideshead Revisted typing away under the direction of Gore Vidal. That's what I remember -- lots and lots of typing.

Here's some of the film's screamingly repressed typing-centric dialogue:

Gore Vidal: "You keep your work station so clean, Jerome."

Ethan Hawke: "It's next to godliness. Isn't that what they say?"

Gore Vidal: "Godliness. I reviewed your flight plan. Not one error in a million keystrokes. Phenomenal. It's right that someone like you is taking us to Titan."

The filmmakers must have pitched "Gattaca" like this:
"It's like a gay version of 'The Right Stuff' crossed with "Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing."

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

"Escaping the Tyranny of Steve Sailer (and a Few Other People You’ve Never Heard of Either)"

I have a new column responding to Jim Manzi's "Escaping the Tyranny of Genes" cover story in the June 2, 2008 National Review. I write:

Software executive Jim Manzi warns darkly of powerful (yet unnamed) "genetic maximalists" who threaten human freedom in ominous (but unspecified) ways.

That's because these “popularizers” unscientifically ride the sociobiological "reigning presumption of academic America" in a climate in which "mass media are inundated with this biology-explains-all ideology."

Unfortunately, Manzi never identifies what planet in what year he's describing: Htrae in the year 8002 D.A. maybe?

Manzi proclaims:

"If the pretense to scientific knowledge is always dangerous, it is doubly so when wedded to state power, because it leads to pseudo-rational interventions that unduly extend authority and restrict freedom. That the linkage of race and IQ is provocative to contemporary audiences is not surprising: It is almost a direct restatement, in the language of genetics, of the key premise of Social Darwinism."

Manzi then recounts the stereotypical litany of early 20th Century horrors from eugenics to the Holocaust. ...

Who, exactly, are these dangerous proponents of "geneticism" who are currently running amok? National Review gives Manzi 3000 words, but he doesn't come up with any names more recent than Woodrow Wilson and Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., who was born in 1841.

Perhaps Manzi is alluding to James D. Watson, the co-discoverer of DNA, who indeed mentioned "the linkage of race and IQ" last year. Yet, as you will recall (although Manzi and the NR editors seem to have forgotten), Watson was not immediately elected Big Brother. Instead, in our world, he was subjected to a Two Minute Hate and kicked to the curb by the medical research laboratory he had built up for four decades.

Over at The American Scene, in the comments, I have a lot of fun at Manzi's expense as I slowly pin him down to explaining exactly what his article is supposed to mean. I keep asking him, Who are these tyrants-in-the-making?" After a three-day-weekend, I've finally extracted an answer from him that's hilarious enough that it may be worth your time reading through 60 comments.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Razib on Crotty's cow-centric theory of history

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon on Google Books part of When Histories Collide by the late Irish farmer turned economist Raymond Crotty. This book, unfinished up on the author's death in 1994, presents a cattle-centered history of the world, with an emphasis on the deep roots of individualistic capitalism in Western Europe. It's of particular interest because it marks an early milestone in including divergent recent evolution in history -- Crotty focuses closely upon the vast consequences of the emergence of a mutation for lactose tolerance, allowing adults to drink milk in some parts of the world. At GNXP, Razib has summarized the book -- it doesn't quite live up to its ambitions, but it deserves to be much better known in the U.S. than it is.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

May 25, 2008

"Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day"

My review in The American Conservative from a few months ago:

Although the dialogue in John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces is widely considered the funniest of any American novel of recent decades, the movie business has never been able to get its act together to film it. Yet, Confederacy's 28 years (and counting) in Development Hell pales beside the limbo in which languished Winifred Watson's 1938 novel Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, a Bertie Wooster and Jeeves-style farce for two female lead characters.

Universal once planned to film it with Billie Burke (Glinda the Good Witch in "The Wizard of Oz") as Miss Pettigrew. Then, Pearl Harbor scrambled the schedule and the adaptation was shelved (as was Watson's writing career when her house was lost in the Blitz). "I wish the Japanese had waited six months," Watson said in 2000 at age 94, when Miss Pettigrew was republished to enthusiastic reviews.

If Watson had survived to 101, she could have finally seen her concoction on the screen, with long-faced Frances McDormand (who won the Oscar as the pregnant sheriff in her husband Joel Coen's "Fargo") as the dour and dowdy servant Miss Pettigrew. Amy Adams (who, after last summer's Disney musical "Enchanted," has finally arrived at age 33 as the starlet of the moment) plays her ditzy employer, a gold-digging nightclub chanteuse named Delysia Lafosse.

Guinevere Pettigrew is the anti-Mary Poppins, a London governess who has been fired so many times for trying to impose her Victorian morals on her 1930s streamline moderne employers, that, half-starved, she descends to finagling a job she's utterly unqualified for as the social secretary to the ambitious American actress. Delysia has 24 hours to decide among three men: her gangster boss in whose lavish art deco flat she's living, a star-making theatrical producer with whom she's sleeping, and a true-hearted but flat-broke pianist whom she's still loving.

Within hours, Miss Pettigrew is surprised to find herself stage-managing Miss Lafosse's complicated love life so adeptly that the rest of the smart set, such as salon-owner Shirley Henderson (doing an impression of Jennifer Jason-Leigh's impression of Dorothy Parker), is turning to the servitor for advice on their romantic entanglements.

Of course, this plot only makes sense if you assume that all of these characters straight out of P.G. Wodehouse's novels have had their expectations of what to expect from the hired help molded by reading Bertie and Jeeves books. Miss Pettigrew, however, is not a Spinoza-reading superman like the beloved butler, but a troubled soul whose heart has never recovered from the fiancé she lost in the Great War. Fortunately, some musical comedy plotting of the kind that Wodehouse churned out when he wrote the stories underlying many early Broadway shows ensues, and everybody winds up with her true love.

The BBC director Bharat Nalluri, who was born in India and grew up in Newcastle, might seem like an odd choice to direct this period piece, but nobody loves Wodehousian trifles more than Indians. Back in 1992, before the World Wide Web, I was involved in starting up a Usenet discussion group, Possibly half the Wodehouse fans had Indians names.

Nalluri borrows the entire visual and musical style of his film from the overlooked but dazzling 2004 comedy "Bright Young Things," an adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies by Stephen Fry, who played Jeeves in the delightful 1990s BBC series. Farces, however, need superb timing and Nalluri never quite gets "Miss Pettigrew" firing on all cylinders. And because the setting -- café society London between the Wars -- is so familiar from the grand masters, Wodehouse and Waugh, the screenplay needs a little more expertise than it musters.

Fortunately, the movie's shortcomings don't matter when Amy Adams is on screen. McDormand chooses to underplay her role, leaving space for the All-American strawberry blonde Adams, who received an Oscar nomination as the over-enthusiastic country girl in 2005's "Junebug," to scene-steal nonstop.

On paper, the amount of energy Adams puts into her role doesn't seem that remarkable: she's on-screen for one or two minutes per day of shooting -- nice work if you can get it. And yet, in contrast to stage-acting where actors are propelled along by the audience's appreciation, film-acting is an excruciating ordeal of hurry-up-and-wait. It's precisely the glacial pace of shooting a movie that's the reason so few people can deliver on celluloid the star power of Amy Adams.

Rated PG-13 for some partial nudity and innuendo.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer