November 14, 2009

Toby Gerhart Update

Stanford 55
#9 USC 21

Five weeks ago I wrote about running back Toby Gerhart for Taki's Magazine. I don't really know much about any particular sport anymore, so I figured regression toward the mean would set in, but instead, Gerhart has just gotten better. Today, he rushed for 178 yards on 29 carries for 3 touchdowns against USC in front of 90,000 at the LA Memorial Coliseum. Through ten games of 2009, he has 1395 yards and 19 touchdowns (third and second in the country, respectively) on 262 carries.

Stanford has now upset two Top 10 teams in a row, scoring over 50 points against each, with Gerhart rushing for 401 yards and six touchdowns in those two games. Stanford is now 7-3, and 6-2 in the tough Pac-10.

His yards per carry average is an unspectacular 5.3, but has any offensive skill position player been more valuable to his team this year?

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

The Igony and the Ecstasy

In the NYT, Steven Pinker reviews Malcolm Gladwell's greatest hits book of New Yorker article reprints, What the Dog Saw:
An eclectic essayist is necessarily a dilettante, which is not in itself a bad thing. But Gladwell frequently holds forth about statistics and psychology, and his lack of technical grounding in these subjects can be jarring. He provides misleading definitions of “homology,” “saggital plane” and “power law” and quotes an expert speaking about an “igon value” (that’s eigenvalue, a basic concept in linear algebra). In the spirit of Gladwell, who likes to give portentous names to his aperçus, I will call this the Igon Value Problem: when a writer’s education on a topic consists in interviewing an expert, he is apt to offer generalizations that are banal, obtuse or flat wrong.

The banalities come from a gimmick that can be called the Straw We. First Gladwell disarmingly includes himself and the reader in a dubious consensus — for example, that “we” believe that jailing an executive will end corporate malfeasance, or that geniuses are invariably self-made prodigies or that eliminating a risk can make a system 100 percent safe. He then knocks it down with an ambiguous observation, such as that “risks are not easily manageable, accidents are not easily preventable.” As a generic statement, this is true but trite: of course many things can go wrong in a complex system, and of course people sometimes trade off safety for cost and convenience (we don’t drive to work wearing crash helmets in Mack trucks at 10 miles per hour). But as a more substantive claim that accident investigations are meaningless “rituals of reassurance” with no effect on safety, or that people have a “fundamental tendency to compensate for lower risks in one area by taking greater risks in another,” it is demonstrably false.

The problem with Gladwell’s generalizations about prediction is that he never zeroes in on the essence of a statistical problem and instead overinterprets some of its trappings. For example, in many cases of uncertainty, a decision maker has to act on an observation that may be either a signal from a target or noise from a distractor (a blip on a screen may be a missile or static; a blob on an X-ray may be a tumor or a harmless thickening). Improving the ability of your detection technology to discriminate signals from noise is always a good thing, because it lowers the chance you’ll mistake a target for a distractor or vice versa. But given the technology you have, there is an optimal threshold for a decision, which depends on the relative costs of missing a target and issuing a false alarm. By failing to identify this trade-off, Gladwell bamboozles his readers with pseudoparadoxes about the limitations of pictures and the downside of precise information.

Another example of an inherent trade-off in decision-making is the one that pits the accuracy of predictive information against the cost and complexity of acquiring it. Gladwell notes that I.Q. scores, teaching certificates and performance in college athletics are imperfect predictors of professional success. This sets up a “we” who is “used to dealing with prediction problems by going back and looking for better predictors.” Instead, Gladwell argues, “teaching should be open to anyone with a pulse and a college degree — and teachers should be judged after they have started their jobs, not before.”

But this “solution” misses the whole point of assessment, which is not clairvoyance but cost-effectiveness. To hire teachers indiscriminately and judge them on the job is an example of “going back and looking for better predictors”: the first year of a career is being used to predict the remainder. It’s simply the predictor that’s most expensive (in dollars and poorly taught students) along the accuracy-­cost trade-off. Nor does the absurdity of this solution for professional athletics (should every college quarterback play in the N.F.L.?) give Gladwell doubts about his misleading analogy between hiring teachers (where the goal is to weed out the bottom 15 percent) and drafting quarterbacks (where the goal is to discover the sliver of a percentage point at the top).

The common thread in Gladwell’s writing is a kind of populism, which seeks to undermine the ideals of talent, intelligence and analytical prowess in favor of luck, opportunity, experience and intuition. For an apolitical writer like Gladwell, this has the advantage of appealing both to the Horatio Alger right and to the egalitarian left. Unfortunately he wildly overstates his empirical case. It is simply not true that a quarter­back’s rank in the draft is uncorrelated with his success in the pros [see here], that cognitive skills don’t predict a teacher’s effectiveness [see here], that intelligence scores are poorly related to job performance or (the major claim in “Outliers”) that above a minimum I.Q. of 120, higher intelligence does not bring greater intellectual achievements.

The reasoning in “Outliers,” which consists of cherry-picked anecdotes, post-hoc sophistry and false dichotomies, had me gnawing on my Kindle. Fortunately for “What the Dog Saw,” the essay format is a better showcase for Gladwell’s talents, because the constraints of length and editors yield a higher ratio of fact to fancy. Readers have much to learn from Gladwell the journalist and essayist. But when it comes to Gladwell the social scientist, they should watch out for those igon values.

I suspect that on the Big Five personality traits, Gladwell, at least in his writing persona (which isn't necessarily the same as his day to day persona), would score very high on:

- Openness ("Wow, what an amazing idea Professor Frink has! I would never have thought of that in a million years! That's so cool!")

- and Agreeableness ("Now that I've met him, I realize that Professor Frink is a wonderful genius and I must help his insights reach the largest possible audience!")

- but very low on Neuroticism ("Could it be that I'll be making a fool of myself? Will that horrible Sailor person point out some obvious crucial flaw in my exposition of Frinkism and make me a laughing stock again? Should I pause before I publish and apply reality tests to Professor Frink's theory ... Nah! Professor Frink is a wonderful genius! This time I'm clearly not overlooking any problems with the basic idea of my article.")

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

November 13, 2009

Jody's HBD magnum opus

Commenter Jody sends me his Magnum Opus (or, as he would type it: commenter jody sends me his magnum opus).
steve, been working on this for a long time. not the email itself of course, but the ideas inside. the release of the new call of duty video game encouraged me to send it to you. anything that you read here and like, feel free to use it as your own. no need to credit me. so, let's begin:

THE TRANSITION IS COMPLETE

the transition from music to video games as the primary form of entertainment for young men is complete, as call of duty sets the all-time sales record of 4.7 MILLION copies sold, in ONE SINGLE DAY. generating a whopping \$310 million in revenue already, and likely to pass 1 billion in sales within a year, it is so far beyond even the best selling albums in history as to render them nearly trivial. and this is just sales in the US, canada, and UK. not even counting sales worldwide.

as i observed about 8 years ago, men now get excited about major new games, and no longer about major new albums (there aren't any to get excited about anyway). they wait outside the best buy at midnight, not outside the music store. indeed, the music store itself is largely extinct, and television commercials are run which literally portray men in their 20s and 30s returning from the best buy at 1am, unwrapping the game and immediately playing it like drug addicts. which is completely and totally accurate.

it is without hesitation that i say the best mainstream american music is long behind us, and we'll be listening to the 80s and 90s on repeat. teenagers are less interested in making music than they have been since the 50s rock and roll explosion. playing video games and watching movies have appropriated their free time. why learn to play an instrument? that's hard. pick up a controller instead.

i have done lots of amateur research into not only this topic, but the topic of human performance capabilities in general, including how athletes and scientists work. i have come to conclude that there is a powerful effect in operation here that i call the rule of 27. that is to say, almost all musicians, athletes, and math-based academics perform their best work at or around age 27, and then begin to decline until at about age 40, at which point they no longer produce any important work. there are exceptions, but the rule is highly predictive, like any decent, reliable hypothesis in science. for instance, you can wikipedia the birthdates of every major figure in heavy metal, and what you will find is that almost to a man, they produced their best albums between ages 26 and 29, many hitting the rule of 27 almost exactly. for instance, james hetfield, born in 1963:

1983 age 20 kill 'em all
1984 age 21 ride the lightning
1986 age 23 master of puppets
1988 age 25 and justice for all
1991 age 28 metallica

-30 year old transition point, beginning of natural decline for all professionals in fields with intense demands on mental and physical faculties, and the limit at which most musicians can still write major works-

-40 year old barrier, the point at which almost no musicians can produce anything worth listening to anymore-

2003 age 40 saint anger
2008 age 45 death magnetic

Okay, but how about Verdi coming out of retirement to debut Otello at 76 and Falstaff at 79? Granted, they aren't Master of Puppets, but some people like them.

Beethoven's Great Leap Forward, the 3rd Symphony, came when he was 33, and he stayed great through his death at 56 (?), although he had a dry spell in his 40s. Presumably, classical composing just takes longer to get really, really good at.
it is likewise in NBA basketball, of which i am a fairly big fan. dirk nowitzki had the best season of his career when he was 27, as do most basketball players. by the time he won the NBA MVP at age 29 he was already out of his peak and scoring less points per game. kobe bryant had the best game of career on january 22 2006, when he scored 81 points by himself on the toronto raptors. he was...exactly 27 years old. he's actually been in decline since the 2007 season. he's still in his prime, but he's already out of his peak. the general peak performance years of many athletes in many sports can be predicted reliably in a similar manner. simply add 27 to the year of birth and you will see that lebron james, for instance, at age 24, will continue to improve for the next 3 years. this does not work in every sport, for instance in boxing, where boxers are at their peak in their 30s, and track, where distance runners are also at their peak in their 30s. but it is predictive for many sports. there are more sports that it predicts for than sports it doesn't predict for. it works for swimming, where michael phelps will continue to get even faster for the next 3 years, as he is the same age as lebron james.

now you may be asking, how does the rule of 27 apply, in general, to the decline of american music, if we have already established that the rise of a mature video game industry is the primary culprit, as video games, and not making music, are what is sucking up all the free time of young men. millions of man-hours per year, in fact, have been diverted from learning and playing instruments into learning and playing video games.

the answer is, the rule of 27 dovetails with the development of reliable birth control medicine. reliable and effective birth control, which became widespread around 1965, greatly reduced the birthrate in the US. after 1965, people started having less and less kids. in addition to many other major effects on society, this naturally reduces the future talent pool for any activity or endeavor, and it is no different with mainstream music. we now use the rule of 27, and the year 1965, to describe trends in american music:

1973: right at the beginning of a major era of rock music, due naturally to the 1973 - 27 = 1946, or first year of the baby boom. many major musicians are in their prime here. indeed, all of the 70s can be viewed as the decade that the baby boomers were in their 20s, beginning an era of the production of a MASSIVE amount of pop music that would continue into the 90s. led zeppelin, pink floyd, eagles, rolling stones, elton john, boston, neil diamond, the who, the bee gees, queen, barbara streisand, aerosmith, eric clapton, fleetwood mac, barry manilow, black sabbath.

1981: the rise of punk and new wave, such as the clash, duran duran, and the cars. this is the 50s generation, 1981 - 27 = 1954. the 50s, long considered by some as the greatest era of american life, produces what is, in my opinion, the peak decade of american music. michael jackson, bruce springsteen, van halen, billy joel, madonna, prince, journey, stevie wonder, john mellencamp, tom petty, and whitney houston are in their prime. the world contributes AC/DC, the police, genesis, judas priest, iron maiden, and ozzy osbourne finds randy rhoads (born 1956 so 1956 + 27 = 1983, so he died 2 years before his peak but still delivered music in his prime, 1980 and 1981). phil collins and peter gabriel emerge from genesis. rush releases their best record, as geddy lee is...exactly 27 years old when moving pictures is written.

1988: the emergence of hair metal and thrash, the development of rap, the first musical output of people born in the 60s or 1988 - 27 = 1961. guns n roses, run DMC, bon jovi, bryan adams, metallica, public enemy, michael bolton, the beastie boys, U2, motley crue, NWA, def leppard. larry mullen, the primary force behind U2 and the band's founder, is born in exactly 1961. 26 years later he releases the joshua tree, U2's most important album. NWA releases the first recognizable gangster rap album, straight outta compton, in 1988.

1992: the lollapalooza era, and D-day for american music. the last time there was a recognizable musical climate or a dominant american music. the effects of widespread adoption of birth control begin here. 1965 + 27 = 1992. after 1992, the talent pool of american musicians in their prime begins to decline as every year after 1965, people were having less and less baby making sex. pearl jam, snoop dogg, nirvana, luther vandross, soundgarden, ice cube, smashing pumpkins, pantera, boys ii men, stone temple pilots, janet jackson, red hot chili peppers. dimebag darrell's parents conceive him in 1965, he goes on to become perhaps the last great american guitar player. at his funeral in 2005, eddie van halen shows up and puts his yellow frankenstein stratocaster in the coffin, to be forever buried with dime. kurt cobain, born in 1967, does not reach his peak, as he kills himself at age 27 instead of writing an album.

1997: the decline begins as the birth control of the late 60s exerts it's first effects. the first musicians born in 1970 hit their peak, 1970 + 27, but it is a lower peak than musicians born in decades before, as there are simply less people in the talent pool now. this is EXACTLY the year that american music began a recognizable decline. MTV flipped deliberately to showing reality television and rap, and the FCC deregulated FM radio, which was quickly turned into a medium for pumping out a corporate playlist. garth brooks, mariah carey, dave matthews band, celine dion, korn, shania twain, kenny g, tupac, matchbox 20, backstreet boys, tool, r kelly, britney spears, jay-z, dixie chicks, n sync, eminem, creed.

fast forward to today. it is 2009. that means that the musicians in their prime today were born in 2009 - 27 = 1982. so, if we want to know who they are, all we have to do is think about who was having baby making sex in 1982. and we find that it is generally rural whites and urban blacks. urban and suburban whites stopped having baby making sex in the 70s, reducing their family size to 2, and leaving the big families to southern whites and black americans in cities. in fact, urban and suburban whites have reduced their family size even further in this decade, down to 1. so there will never, EVER be anything like lollapalooza again, which, reduced to it's most basic description, was simply a meeting of suburban white guys and their guitars. this demographic group, the main creative force in the world, long ago put down their guitars and drum sticks in favor of keyboards, game controllers, and movie cameras.

the predictive value of the rule of 27 is in full effect. most american musicians today are:

1) rural white americans, who have developed the american country music industry into one of the dominant forces in american music. indeed, according to my research with soundscan, something like 60%, maybe even 70% of white american musicians who deliver top 20 debuts on the billboard top 200 are southern whites. even modern rock music today is written primarily by southerners. there hasn't been a major new white american rock band in a LONG time. nickelback, the most recent band to elevate itself to an international act, is canadian. rock music appears to be very, VERY over. it is actually white american WOMEN who seem to be more interested in making music, and primarily pop music at that. lady gaga, taylor swift, and miley cyrus are the most prominent white american musicians releasing new, career defining material right now. this seems natural, as women are less interested in video games, and would maintain interest in music.

2) urban and suburban black americans, who used to participate in all forms of music, but who have now limited themselves almost completely to rap and r&b. unfortunately, their output has become less musical and less listenable due to this shift. there used to be a vibrance and an easy listening, catchy joy to the best material from black american musicians. at their best, black jazz, motown, disco, and 80s pop music were fun. but that time is long gone. most black american musicians today deliver sounds that are abrasive and hard to listen to. darius rucker is the only prominent black american musician who plays rock or country music anymore. in fact, aside from alicia keys (who is genetically almost completely white) and john legend, there are few major black american musicians who even play any instrument.

In baseball, 27 has long been recognized as the peak age, although it may have gone up a year or two due to better conditioning and surgery. Generally, famous baseball players are in decline. In fact, overall, the vast majority of celebrities are in the decline phase of their careers. They don't become celebrities until they are close to their peaks, but their are lots of ways to stay a celebrity without being close to your peak.

Age 27 seems to be roughly the peak year for a number of different careers that emphasize youthful manhood and individual skill.

One of the big advantages the British Invasion rock bands had was that they became stars very young, well before peaks, and thus kept getting better while they were in the spotlight.

Other fields have much different age profiles: for example, there are extremely few 27 year old NFL head coaches who win the Super Bowl. It would be interesting to know, however, how a first rate coach would do as a 27-year-old. Being a football coach is like being an architect: they don't entrust you with anything big until you've been around awhile.

Being a coach is a more intellectually demanding job than being a player -- you have to know more stuff -- so, it would seem natural that the peak age for being a coach is later than for a player, but we don't really know that that's true. One problem is that we have better means for selecting good players than good coaches, because the coach's influence is misted over by questions about the quality of players. It takes a number of seasons to get a sense how good a coach is.

You could look at public high school coaches who are not supposed to recruit to get some objective measure of peak age for football coaching. Still, I recall reading about some amazing coach at a small town in Kansas who has been winning for 40 years, and I got the impression that people were moving to that little town just so their sons could be coached by this guy.

Even with high school coaches, differences in player quality make a huge deal. For example, at my old high school, two years after I graduated, they hired a very young coach in 1978, Kevin Rooney, who was around age 27. Over the years, he became more and more successful, winning his first SoCal championship in 1994, with Chris Sailer kicking seven 50+ field goals. After that, he started getting players like Justin Fargas (now with the Oakland Raiders) and all these other great kickers, and it's been easier for him to stay on top. For example, the 14-year-old quarterback on his school's freshman team is already 6'5" and his parents drive him 40 miles from Claremont everyday to go to the high school where the last two quarterbacks have earned scholarships to USC and Notre Dame. So, it's hard to tell if Rooney's really a better coach now than when he first got the job, or if the rest of the world has just woken up to how good he is.

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

The Return of the Eternally Undead Amnesty Bill

From the WSJ:
Immigrant Bill Is Back on Table

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano called Friday for Congress to consider an overhaul of immigration law early next year, a move that could rekindle a divisive debate during an election year.

Ms. Napolitano said the immigration landscape has changed sharply since 2007, when attempts at a comprehensive overhaul failed because many members of Congress lacked confidence in the government's ability to enforce existing laws, she said. Immigration overhauls backed by the Bush administration and some congressional leaders from both parties foundered in part because critics portrayed them as rewarding illegal immigrants with "amnesty" for violating U.S. law.

Since then, government statistics show a 23% drop in the number of illegal immigrants caught trying to enter the U.S. in the past year ... Without congressional action, "what I fear is we will see another wave of illegal immigration" when the economy improves, she said.

Uh, right ...

Look, the rationalization for Obama pushing for amnesty when unemployment is over 10% isn't supposed to make sense to current voters. The goal is to freeze unemployed illegal aliens in the United States so that they will be future voters. Obama doesn't want them to go home to their families in their warm home countries this winter. His message is: Leave America now and you'll miss out on the Amnesty.

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

Random health notes

1. Over the last decade, I've occasionally preached the prudence of using hand sanitizing alcohol gel. For example, keep a dispenser in your car for when you go through the Drive-Thru. This slowly seems to be catching on. Another habit to develop is to stop rubbing your eyes. Hand-eye contact is an important pathway for germs into your body. It's really not that hard of a habit to break. If you have to rub an eye, use the collar of your shirt.

2. A new study discussed in the NYT finds that various germs may contribute to strokes:
The infections in order of significance are Chlamydia pneumoniae, Helicobacter pylori, cytomegalovirus and herpes simplex viruses 1 and 2, according to the study, published online on Nov. 9 in The Archives of Neurology. The report will appear in the print edition of the journal in January.

This is more evidence for the Cochran-Ewald theory that germs play an underestimated role in illness. More money has gone into genetic research in recent years, but your genes didn't evolve to kill you. All else being equal, germs would prefer not to kill you -- you make a nice host -- but they don't really care about you all that much.

3. Gina Kolata has an article in the NYT entitled "Medicines to Deter Some Cancers Are Not Taken," noting that there are apparently useful preventative drugs for prostate cancer (finasteride and dutaseride) and breast cancer (tamoxifen), but few people take them to avoid getting cancer in the first place.

4. "Is it time to retire the football helmet?" ask Reed Albergotti and Shirley S. Wang in the WSJ, noting that Australian Rules football, where they don't wear helmets, seems to have fewer head injuries than American football, although, judging from promotional videos, kneeing a guy in the back of the head while jumping up to catch ("mark") a kicked ball seems to be considered the essence of sport by all true Australians. They do have tackling in Aussie football, although, lacking helmets, it's a lot more gingerly done than, say, Ryan Clark knocking Willis McGahee out cold with a helmet-to-helmet hit in last year's AFC Conference title game. The Australians tackle by tilting their heads back out of the way and trying to wrap the ballcarrier up and grapple him to the ground.

American football might be safer if helmets were never invented, but how would you make the transition with players trained to charge head-first suddenly playing unhelmeted?

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

November 12, 2009

Affirmative action strikes again

From CNN:

A second former medical school colleague of Hasan said several people raised concerns about Hasan's overall competence.

Even though Hasan earned his medical degree and residency, some of his fellow students believed Hasan "didn't have the intellect" to be in the program and was not academically rigorous in his coursework.

Hasan "was not fit to be in the military, let alone in the mental health profession," this classmate told CNN. "No one in class would ever have referred a patient to him or trusted him with anything."

The first classmate echoed this sentiment.

Hasan was "coddled, accommodated and pushed through that masters of public health despite substandard performance," the classmate said. He was "put in the fellowship program because they didn't know what to do with him."

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

Keywords: Why book titles have gotten so short and subtitles so long

Razib points me to this book that's new to America:
Soccernomics: Why England Loses, Why Germany and Brazil Win, and Why the U.S., Japan, Australia, Turkey--and Even Iraq--Are Destined to Become the Kings of the World's Most Popular Sport

I haven't read the book, and I certainly don't know anything about soccer, but I doubt that the U.S. will become a consistent contender in the World Cup (men's division) over the next several quadrennial competitions. Sure, a lot of American youths get driven by their soccer moms to soccer practice several times per week, but the way you get really good as a child at dribbling the ball, Ronaldino-good, is to walk to soccer practice, and everywhere else, kicking a soccer ball. So, I'm not sure that upper middle class Americans are going to take the U.S. all the way to the top.

(Women's World Cup ... well, I suspect the U.S. will get relatively worse as other countries follow our lead and get into Patriotic Feminist fervors over their national women's soccer team, but perhaps if we can put her on the team, we'll scratch and claw our way to the top again.)

Second, there's a widespread assumption that 50 million Hispanics will have to make the U.S. a soccer superpower. Yet, with 110 million Hispanics, Mexico is only a middling power. And the last U.S. World Cup team had only 2.5 Hispanics out of 23 players (compared to 6 blacks).

Moreover, what happens to upper middle class white participation in soccer if the game comes to be seen by upper middle class parents not as elegantly European but as, uh, vibrantly Mexican?

Maybe something like what happened to the U.S. in international basketball. In 1992, the U.S. was overwhelmingly the best with a Dream Team of eight blacks and four whites, but since then it has been only marginally the best with virtually all black teams. White dads are now focusing their tall, athletic sons to be soccer goalies, quarterbacks, pitchers, and so forth.

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

Rattling the tin cup

Sorry about having to make like an NPR fundraising drive, but I gotta do some more panhandling.

I wanted to thank everybody who has contributed so far (and guilt-trip everbody who hasn't).

There are, at the moment, three ways to give me money.

You can make tax deductible credit card contributions to me here (then, under "Steve Sailer Project Option" click on the "Make a Donation" button); or fax credit card details here (please put "Steve Sailer Project" on the fax); or you can snail mail checks made out to "VDARE Foundation" and marked on the memo line (lower left corner) “Steve Sailer” to:

VDARE Foundation
P.O. Box 211
Litchfield, CT 06759

Second: You can send me an email and I'll send you my P.O. Box address.

Third: You can use Paypal to send me money directly, either by just using any credit card or if you have a specific Paypal account.

If you want to use your credit card, click "Continue" on the lower center-left to fill in your credit card info. If you have a Paypal account fill in your Paypal ID and password on the lower right of the screen.

I'll try to get the Amazon donation link working in a day or two, but, in the past, Amazon has been limited to \$50 (hint, hint) and tends to stop working as soon as I've collected more than a pittance.

Thanks. I appreciate it, deeply.

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

Time for another Beer Summit

We all enjoyed the last one so much, so it's time for the White House to host another Beer Summit featuring a racially aggrieved black Ivy League professor. Here are the perfect disputants to invite.

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

What's changed since Don Draper's day?

Excerpts from my Taki's Magazine column:

Can I milk another column out of Mad Men?

Why not?

Matthew Weiner’s show about Madison Avenue in the early 1960s is so meticulously detailed that it’s worth using as a spur to consider what has and hasn’t changed in the Zeitgeist over the last half century.

The overall impression Mad Men gives of 1960 is that of a less crowded, less expensive world before we swarming hordes of Baby Boomers escaped our playpens and ruined everything.

• In a fecund era, when most families had heirs and spares to spare (the Total Fertility Rate peaked in 1957 at 3.77 children per woman per lifetime), kids could have more fun and parents weren’t as obsessive about safety. ...

• In 1960, however, there weren’t actually a lot of 20something babes throwing themselves at guys born in the 1920s, even ones as handsome as Don Draper, because there just weren’t that many babies born in the 1930s. There were 2.95 million live births in America in 1925, but only 2.38 million in 1935. Because supply and demand favored younger women, they were picky.

The real sex mismatch happened with the sexual revolution in the later 1960s, when a flood of Baby Boom babes born from 1946 onward came on the mating market and immediately set about stealing prosperous husbands away from their wives. ...

Something that Mad Men largely misses is that in the mid-20th Century the consensus of the most artistic and insightful souls was that American life was plagued by gender oppression. Men, in the view of social commentators such as James Thurber, Robert Benchley, Groucho Marx, and W.C. Fields, were relentlessly oppressed by women, who refused to sleep with them without a legally binding promise of lifetime support and fidelity.

The contemporary notion that women rose up as one to wrest from men the privilege of bringing home the bacon is one of the more curious myths in folklore.

Read the whole thing there and comment upon it below.

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

Iowa Hawk has a round-up of all the Fort Hood headlines. Well worth checking out.

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

Was Genghis Khan a dandelion or an orchid?

The December 2009 Atlantic contains an article by David Dobbs entitled The Science of Success that tries to take a Greg Cochran-Henry Harpending idea and give it a Malcolm Gladwell-like spin.

Dobbs' article begins:
Most of us have genes that make us as hardy as dandelions: able to take root and survive almost anywhere. A few of us, however, are more like the orchid: fragile and fickle, but capable of blooming spectacularly if given greenhouse care. So holds a provocative new theory of genetics, which asserts that the very genes that give us the most trouble as a species, causing behaviors that are self-destructive and antisocial, also underlie humankind’s phenomenal adaptability and evolutionary success. With a bad environment and poor parenting, orchid children can end up depressed, drug-addicted, or in jail—but with the right environment and good parenting, they can grow up to be society’s most creative, successful, and happy people.

Dandelions and Orchids are kind of like Malcolm Gladwell's Picasso and Cezannes: Malcolm gave a speech last year to a conference of math teachers on how some students are like Picasso and everything comes quickly to them, while others are like Cezanne, where it takes them a long time before they become geniuses.

Dobbs then explains about how having social workers come into the homes of new mothers can improve their parenting skills.

This is all part of the ongoing trend toward the future Stolen Generation of African-American children. Notice how there are two movies out this month, Precious and The Blind Side, both about how 350-pound impoverished black teenagers' lives can be fixed up by caring social workers and/or white adoptive parents.

Dobbs goes on:
... a genetic trait tremendously maladaptive in one situation can prove highly adaptive in another. We needn’t look far to see this in human behavior. To survive and evolve, every society needs some individuals who are more aggressive, restless, stubborn, submissive, social, hyperactive, flexible, solitary, anxious, introspective, vigilant—and even more morose, irritable, or outright violent—than the norm.

All of this helps answer that fundamental evolutionary question about how risk alleles have endured. We have survived not despite these alleles but because of them. And those alleles haven’t merely managed to slip through the selection process; they have been actively selected for. Recent analyses, in fact, suggest that many orchid-gene alleles, including those mentioned in this story, have emerged in humans only during the past 50,000 or so years. Each of these alleles, it seems, arose via chance mutation in one person or a few people, and began rapidly proliferating. Rhesus monkeys and human beings split from their common lineage about 25 million to 30 million years ago, so these polymorphisms must have mutated and spread on separate tracks in the two species. Yet in both species, these new alleles proved so valuable that they spread far and wide.

As the evolutionary anthropologists Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending have pointed out, in The 10,000 Year Explosion (2009), the past 50,000 years—the period in which orchid genes seem to have emerged and expanded—is also the period during which Homo sapiens started to get seriously human, and during which sparse populations in Africa expanded to cover the globe in great numbers. Though Cochran and Harpending don’t explicitly incorporate the orchid-gene hypothesis into their argument, they make the case that human beings have come to dominate the planet because certain key mutations allowed human evolution to accelerate—a process that the orchid-dandelion hypothesis certainly helps explain.

How this happened must have varied from context to context. If you have too many aggressive people, for example, conflict runs rampant, and aggression is selected out, because it becomes costly; when aggression decreases enough to be less risky, it becomes more valuable, and its prevalence again rises. Changes in environment or culture would likewise affect an allele’s prevalence. The orchid variant of the DRD4 gene, for instance, increases risk of ADHD (a syndrome best characterized, Cochran and Harpending write, “by actions that annoy elementary-school teachers”). Yet attentional restlessness can serve people well in environments that reward sensitivity to new stimuli. The current growth of multitasking, for instance, may help select for just such attentional agility. Complain all you want that it’s an increasingly ADHD world these days—but to judge by the spread of DRD4’s risk allele, it’s been an increasingly ADHD world for about 50,000 years.

Okay, but consider the single most successful individual of the last millennium from a Darwinian point of view: Genghis Khan. Was The Mighty Manslayer a dandelion or an orchid? And what kind of social worker / adoptive couple would have been ideal for little Genghis?

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

November 11, 2009

Happy Veterans Day! U.S. Navy diversity fiasco: Hey, at least nobody got shot

From the Washington Post:
Leaders of the U.S. Naval Academy tinkered with the composition of the color guard that appeared at a World Series game last month so the group would not be exclusively white and male. ...

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, elevated diversity to a "strategic imperative" during his tenure as chief of naval operations. Academy leaders, on their official Web site, call diversity "our highest personnel priority."

That thinking reflects "a sea change, in that this initiative was generated from within the military, rather than imposed from without by civilian overseers," said retired Marine Maj. Gen. Thomas Wilkerson, an academy alumnus and chief executive of the U.S. Naval Institute, an independent think tank. Some alumni, he said, "have voiced concerns that it will happen at the expense of quality and combat readiness."

A military-oriented blog, CDR Salamander, reported last week that two white men had been pulled from the color guard that went to Yankee Stadium and replaced with an Asian American man and a white woman to make the group more diverse

"No midshipman was ever given approval to attend this event and then later told they could not," said Capt. Matthew Klunder, commandant of midshipmen, in a statement Monday. He said he considered replacing two white men but chose to expand the color guard from six to eight to make it more representative of the Naval Academy.

Two of the eight could not perform because Zishan Hameed, one of the midshipmen added to the color guard, had forgotten parts of his uniform, Klunder said. The color guard marches in pairs.

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

November 10, 2009

Hanna Rosin on the Prosperity Gospel and the Mortgage Meltdown

Hanna Rosin's new article in The Atlantic -- "Did Christianity Cause the Crash?"-- has a lot of helpful info on Rev. Ike-like Protestant cults that helped turn fatalistic Catholic Mexican peasants into financial high-rollers in America, with disastrous effects on our economy. She focuses on Fernando Garay, a minister and mortgage broker.

Now that I think about it, this explains a lot about why George W. Bush and Karl Rove were so convinced that the future of the GOP depended upon a combination of Hispanics and zero downpayment mortgages. As I reported about the lost 2002 exit poll that I retrieved and crunched:
Among Hispanics, for example, one-third of polled Catholics voted Republican. Among the one out of four Hispanic voters who were Protestant, however, the GOP won a small majority.

My lazy assumption had been that Protestantization of Hispanics would help them get rid of bad financial habits like blowing all their savings on fiestas, but it turns out that it instead means borrowing money they can't pay back. If Cotton Mather were alive today, he'd be spinning in his grave.

Rosin writes:

Like the ambitions of many immigrants who attend services there, Casa del Padre’s success can be measured by upgrades in real estate. The mostly Latino church, in Charlottesville, Virginia, has moved from the pastor’s basement, where it was founded in 2001, to a rented warehouse across the street from a small mercado five years later, to a middle-class suburban street last year, where the pastor now rents space from a lovely old Baptist church that can’t otherwise fill its pews. Every Sunday, the parishioners drive slowly into the parking lot, never parking on the sidewalk or grass—“because Americanos don’t do that,” one told me—and file quietly into church. Some drive newly leased SUVs, others old work trucks with paint buckets still in the bed. The pastor, Fernando Garay, arrives last and parks in front, his dark-blue Mercedes Benz always freshly washed, the hubcaps polished enough to reflect his wingtips.

It can be hard to get used to how much Garay talks about money in church, one loyal parishioner, Billy Gonzales, told me one recent Sunday on the steps out front. Back in Mexico, Gonzales’s pastor talked only about “Jesus and heaven and being good.” But Garay talks about jobs and houses and making good money, which eventually came to make sense to Gonzales: money is “really important,” and besides, “we love the money in Jesus Christ’s name! Jesus loved money too!” That Sunday, Garay was preaching a variation on his usual theme, about how prosperity and abundance unerringly find true believers. “It doesn’t matter what country you’re from, what degree you have, or what money you have in the bank,” Garay said. “You don’t have to say, ‘God, bless my business. Bless my bank account.’ The blessings will come! The blessings are looking for you! God will take care of you. God will not let you be without a house!”

Pastor Garay, 48, is short and stocky, with thick black hair combed back. In his off hours, he looks like a contented tourist, in his printed Hawaiian shirts or bright guayaberas. But he preaches with a ferocity that taps into his youth as a cocaine dealer with a knife in his back pocket. “Fight the attack of the devil on my finances! Fight him! We declare financial blessings! Financial miracles this week, NOW NOW NOW!” he preached that Sunday. “More work! Better work! The best finances!” Gonzales shook and paced as the pastor spoke, eventually leaving his wife and three kids in the family section to join the single men toward the front, many of whom were jumping, raising their Bibles, and weeping. On the altar sat some anointing oils, alongside the keys to the Mercedes Benz.

Later, D’andry Then, a trim, pretty real-estate agent and one of the church founders, stood up to give her testimony. Business had not been good of late, and “you know, Monday I have to pay this, and Tuesday I have to pay that.” Then, just that morning, “Jesus gave me \$1,000.” She didn’t explain whether the gift came in the form of a real-estate commission or a tax refund or a stuffed envelope left at her door. The story hung somewhere between metaphor and a literal image of barefoot Jesus handing her a pile of cash. No one in the church seemed the least bit surprised by the story, and certainly no one expressed doubt. “If you have financial pressure on you, and you don’t know where the next payment is coming from, don’t pay any attention to that!” she continued. “Don’t get discouraged! Jesus is the answer.”

America’s churches always reflect shifts in the broader culture, and Casa del Padre is no exception. The message that Jesus blesses believers with riches first showed up in the postwar years, at a time when Americans began to believe that greater comfort could be accessible to everyone, not just the landed class. But it really took off during the boom years of the 1990s, and has continued to spread ever since. This stitched-together, homegrown theology, known as the prosperity gospel, is not a clearly defined denomination, but a strain of belief that runs through the Pentecostal Church and a surprising number of mainstream evangelical churches, with varying degrees of intensity. In Garay’s church, God is the “Owner of All the Silver and Gold,” and with enough faith, any believer can access the inheritance. Money is not the dull stuff of hourly wages and bank-account statements, but a magical substance that comes as a gift from above. Even in these hard times, it is discouraged, in such churches, to fall into despair about the things you cannot afford. “Instead of saying ‘I’m poor,’ say ‘I’m rich,’” Garay’s wife, Hazael, told me one day. “The word of God will manifest itself in reality.”

Many explanations have been offered for the housing bubble and subsequent crash: interest rates were too low; regulation failed; rising real-estate prices induced a sort of temporary insanity in America’s middle class. But there is one explanation that speaks to a lasting and fundamental shift in American culture—a shift in the American conception of divine Providence and its relationship to wealth.

In his book Something for Nothing, Jackson Lears describes two starkly different manifestations of the American dream, each intertwined with religious faith. The traditional Protestant hero is a self-made man. He is disciplined and hardworking, and believes that his “success comes through careful cultivation of (implicitly Protestant) virtues in cooperation with a Providential plan.” The hero of the second American narrative is a kind of gambling man—a “speculative confidence man,” Lears calls him, who prefers “risky ventures in real estate,” and a more “fluid, mobile democracy.” The self-made man imagines a coherent universe where earthly rewards match merits. The confidence man lives in a culture of chance, with “grace as a kind of spiritual luck, a free gift from God.” The Gilded Age launched the myth of the self-made man, as the Rockefellers and other powerful men in the pews connected their wealth to their own virtue. In these boom-and-crash years, the more reckless alter ego dominates. In his book, Lears quotes a reverend named Jeffrey Black, who sounds remarkably like Garay: “The whole hope of a human being is that somehow, in spite of the things I’ve done wrong, there will be an episode when grace and fate shower down on me and an unearned blessing will come to me—that I’ll be the one.”...

Among Latinos the prosperity gospel has been spreading rapidly. In a recent Pew survey, 73 percent of all religious Latinos in the United States agreed with the statement: “God will grant financial success to all believers who have enough faith.” For a generation of poor and striving Latino immigrants, the gospel seems to offer a road map to affluence and modern living. Garay’s church is comprised mostly of first-generation immigrants. More than others I’ve visited, it echoes back a highly distilled, unself-conscious version of the current thinking on what it means to live the American dream.

One other thing makes Garay’s church a compelling case study. From 2001 to 2007, while he was building his church, Garay was also a loan officer at two different mortgage companies. He was hired explicitly to reach out to the city’s growing Latino community, and Latinos, as it happened, were disproportionately likely to take out the sort of risky loans that later led to so many foreclosures. To many of his parishioners, Garay was not just a spiritual adviser, but a financial one as well.

Many of the terms and concepts used by prosperity preachers today date back to Oral Roberts, a poor farmer’s son turned Pentecostal preacher. Garay grew up watching Roberts on television and considers him a hero; he hopes to send all three of his children to Oral Roberts University, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In the late 1940s, Roberts claimed his Bible flipped open to the Third Epistle of John, verse 2: “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health. Even as thy soul prospereth.” Soon Roberts developed his famous concept of seed faith, still popular today. If people would donate money to his ministry, a “seed” offered to God, he’d say, then God would multiply it a hundredfold. Eventually, Roberts retreated into a life that revolved around private jets and country clubs.

Actually, Father Divine (c. 1876-1965), a black preacher, was there even before Oral Roberts, preaching a prosperity gospel in Harlem. Strikingly, George Gilder, the brilliant and slightly demented high tech prophet who made so much money for himself and his followers in the 1990s and lost so much when the Tech Bubble popped, was heavily influenced by Father Divine. Rather like Robin, he was the ward of millionaire David Rockefeller, head of Chase Manhattan bank. Some of the black servants were followers of Father Divine, so they took little George with them to Father Divine's services. Gilder has always argued that Father Divine's followers did well for themselves economically even net of their contributions to him.

... But since that time, the movement has made itself over, moving out of the fringe and into the upwardly mobile megachurch class. In the past decade, it has produced about a dozen celebrity pastors, who show up at White House events, on secular radio, and as guests on major TV talk shows. Kirbyjon Caldwell, a Methodist megapastor in Houston and a purveyor of the prosperity gospel, gave the benediction at both of George W. Bush’s inaugurals. Instead of shiny robes or gaudy jewelry, these preachers wear Italian suits and modest wedding bands. Instead of screaming and sweating, they smile broadly and speak in soothing, therapeutic terms. But their message is essentially the same. “Every day, you’re going to live that abundant life!” preaches Joel Osteen, a best-selling author, the nation’s most popular TV preacher, and the pastor of Lakewood Church, in Houston, the country’s largest church by far.

Among mainstream, nondenominational megachurches, where much of American religious life takes place, “prosperity is proliferating” rapidly, says Kate Bowler, a doctoral candidate at Duke University and an expert in the gospel. Few, if any, of these churches have prosperity in their title or mission statement, but Bowler has analyzed their sermons and teachings. Of the nation’s 12 largest churches, she says, three are prosperity—Osteen’s, which dwarfs all the other megachurches; Tommy Barnett’s, in Phoenix; and T. D. Jakes’s, in Dallas. In second-tier churches—those with about 5,000 members—the prosperity gospel dominates. Overall, Bowler classifies 50 of the largest 260 churches in the U.S. as prosperity. The doctrine has become popular with Americans of every background and ethnicity; overall, Pew found that 66 percent of all Pentecostals and 43 percent of “other Christians”—a category comprising roughly half of all respondents—believe that wealth will be granted to the faithful. It’s an upbeat theology, argues Barbara Ehrenreich in her new book, Bright-Sided, that has much in common with the kind of “positive thinking” that has come to dominate America’s boardrooms and, indeed, its entire culture. ...

Theologically, the prosperity gospel has always infuriated many mainstream evangelical pastors. Rick Warren, whose book The Purpose Driven Life outsold Osteen’s, told Time, “This idea that God wants everybody to be wealthy? There is a word for that: baloney. It’s creating a false idol. You don’t measure your self-worth by your net worth. I can show you millions of faithful followers of Christ who live in poverty. Why isn’t everyone in the church a millionaire?” In 2005, a group of African American pastors met to denounce prosperity megapreachers for promoting a Jesus who is more like a “cosmic bellhop,” as one pastor put it, than the engaged Jesus of the civil-rights era who looked after the poor.

More recently, critics have begun to argue that the prosperity gospel, echoed in churches across the country, might have played a part in the economic collapse. In 2008, in the online magazine Religion Dispatches, Jonathan Walton, a professor of religious studies at the University of California at Riverside, warned:
Narratives of how “God blessed me with my first house despite my credit” were common … Sermons declaring “It’s your season of overflow” supplanted messages of economic sobriety and disinterested sacrifice. Yet as folks were testifying about “what God can do,” little attention was paid to a predatory subprime-mortgage industry, relaxed credit standards, or the dangers of using one’s home equity as an ATM.

In 2004, Walton was researching a book about black televangelists. “I would hear consistent testimonies about how ‘once I was renting and now God let me own my own home,’ or ‘I was afraid of the loan officer, but God directed him to ignore my bad credit and blessed me with my first home,’” he says. “This trope was so common in these churches that I just became immune to it. Only later did I connect it to this disaster.”

Demographically, the growth of the prosperity gospel tracks fairly closely to the pattern of foreclosure hot spots. Both spread in two particular kinds of communities—the exurban middle class and the urban poor. Many newer prosperity churches popped up around fringe suburban developments built in the 1990s and 2000s, says Walton. These are precisely the kinds of neighborhoods that have been decimated by foreclosures, according to Eric Halperin, of the Center for Responsible Lending.

During my last golf vacation, a weekend in 112 degree Palm Springs in June 2006, my golf partner pointed out that here in the Inland Empire, religious preaching stations made up about half of what we could pick up on the car radio.

Zooming out a bit, Kate Bowler found that most new prosperity-gospel churches were built along the Sun Belt, particularly in California, Florida, and Arizona—all areas that were hard-hit by the mortgage crisis. Bowler, who, like Walton, was researching a book, spent a lot of time attending the “financial empowerment” seminars that are common at prosperity churches. Advisers would pay lip service to “sound financial practices,” she recalls, but overall they would send the opposite message: posters advertising the seminars featured big houses in the background, and the parking spots closest to the church were reserved for luxury cars.

Nationally, the prosperity gospel has spread exponentially among African American and Latino congregations. This is also the other distinct pattern of foreclosures. “Hyper-segregated” urban communities were the worst off, says Halperin. Reliable data on foreclosures by race are not publicly available,

Oh, yes the data are:

- California overall (adjusted for income and FICO)

- Massachusetts subprime

- National FHA.

They just haven't been much publicized.

but mortgages are tracked by both race and loan type, and subprime loans have tended to correspond to foreclosures. During the boom, roughly 40 percent of all loans going to Latinos nationwide were subprime loans; Latinos and African Americans were 28 percent and 37 percent more likely, respectively, to receive a higher-rate subprime loan than whites.

In June, the Supreme Court ruled that state attorneys general had the authority to sue national banks for predatory lending. Even before that ruling, at least 17 lawsuits accusing various banks of treating racial minorities unfairly were already under way. (Bank of America’s Countrywide division—one of the companies Garay worked for—had earlier agreed to pay \$8.4 billion in a multistate settlement.) One theme emerging in these suits is how banks teamed up with pastors to win over new customers for subprime loans.

Beth Jacobson is a star witness for the City of Baltimore’s recent suit against Wells Fargo. Jacobson was a top loan officer in the bank’s subprime division for nine years, closing as much as \$55 million worth of loans a year. Like many subprime-loan officers, Jacobson had no bank experience before working for Wells Fargo. The subprime officers were drawn from “an utterly different background” than the professional bankers, she told me. She had been running a small paralegal business; her co-workers had been car salespeople, or had worked in telemarketing. They were prized for their ability to hustle on the ground and “look you in the eye when they shook your hand,” she surmised. As a reward for good performance, the bank would sometimes send a Hummer limo to pick up Jacobson for a celebration, she said. She’d arrive at a bar and find all her co-workers drunk and her boss “doing body shots off a waitress.”

The idea of reaching out to churches took off quickly, Jacobson recalls. The branch managers figured pastors had a lot of influence with their parishioners and could give the loan officers credibility and new customers. Jacobson remembers a conference call where sales managers discussed the new strategy. The plan was to send officers to guest-speak at church-sponsored “wealth-building seminars” like the ones Bowler attended, and dazzle the participants with the possibility of a new house. They would tell pastors that for every person who took out a mortgage, \$350 would be donated to the church, or to a charity of the parishioner’s choice. “They wouldn’t say, ‘Hey, Mr. Minister. We want to give your people a bunch of subprime loans,” Jacobson told me. “They would say, ‘Your congregants will be homeowners! They will be able to live the American dream!’”

Garay often tells his life story from the pulpit, as an inspiration to the many immigrants in his church, some legal, some not. He grew up an outsider—a citizen by birth, but living a marginal existence in a diverse, working-class neighborhood in Flushing, Queens. His mother left when he was 8, and he was raised mostly by two older brothers; he spent most of his time on the street. “I ate jars of peanut butter for dinner,” he says.

Hey, I ate half a jar of peanut butter for lunch last week. I like peanut butter and it's very convenient (except it tends to give you the hiccups if you eat too much in one spoonful.)

The story of how he became a Christian begins in 1989, when he was 28 years old, and involves a large sum of money. He’d been selling drugs in Miami, then started using, and owed some dealers \$30,000 that he didn’t have, and they were going to kill him. He was on his mattress one night, in despair, when a picture of Jesus up on his wall “winked at me.” ...

One day, for no reason, he quit his job as a social worker counseling addicted juvenile delinquents. “I almost hit him with a frying pan,” Hazael, his wife, jokes. But the very same day, his mother-in-law walked into the house and said the bank was looking for a bilingual loan officer. He had no experience and had never used a computer. Yet he got the job and within a year was earning six figures. How did that happen? How did it all come together so neatly, one door opening the moment another had closed? When I asked him that, he smiled and pointed up at the sky.

... He often tells what’s known as Jesus’ parable of the three servants, from Matthew. A lord gives three of his servants money. Two invest the money and double their profit, and a third hides his in the ground. When the master returns, he declares the third “wicked and lazy” and a “worthless slave,” and casts him into the “outer darkness.” “To receive God’s bounty, you cannot hide your head in the sand,” Garay preaches. “You have to take a leap of faith.”

... While it sounds absurd, this kind of message can have a positive influence, according to Tony Tian-Ren Lin, a researcher at the University of Virginia who has made a close study of Latino prosperity gospel congregations over the years. These churches typically take in people who had “been basically dropped into the world from pretty primitive settings”—small towns in Latin America with no electricity or running water and very little educational opportunity. In their new congregation, their pastor slowly walks them through life in the U.S., both inside and outside of church, until they become more confident. “In Mexico, nobody ever told them they could do anything,” says Lin, who was himself raised in Argentina. He finds the message at prosperity churches to be quintessentially American. “They are taught they can do absolutely anything, and it’s God’s will. They become part of the elect, the chosen. They get swept up in the manifest destiny, this idea that God has lifted Americans above everyone else.”

At Casa del Padre, the celebration of consumer culture is quite visible, along with a sense of boundless opportunity. The people in the church, for instance, tend to have very expensive cell phones—never the free ones that come with a calling plan, nor the sort that can be bought cheaply at a convenience store. “They start wanting what’s considered the best and the most technologically advanced in this country,” Lin says. Garay’s church, it seems to me, teaches them that they deserve these things, so they go about getting them, with few resources and infinite adaptability. Before the crash, one group of young men got a \$12,000 loan to start a landscaping company; another man bought a \$270,000 house. One of the church’s Bible-study leaders, who’d grown up in a remote village in Mexico with an abusive, alcoholic father, had become a very successful contractor by the height of the boom, managing 30 men on multiple jobs and winning contracts to paint luxury subdivisions in the exurbs.

The tenets of the prosperity gospel, and the practical advice that pastors often give their parishioners, help immigrants learn “not just how to survive but how to thrive; not just live paycheck to paycheck but handle money—manage complicated payrolls, invest in equipment,” Lin told me. Along the way, they become assimilated. “While they’re trying to be closer to God, instead they become American,” he says, from their optimism and entrepreneurialism to the very nature of their dreams.

Garay says as far as he knows no one in his church defaulted. But at a bare minimum, some of his parishioners have run into intense financial difficulties, sometimes defaulting soon after leaving the congregation. The man who’d bought the \$270,000 house threw a huge housewarming party and invited everyone from church. He gave a weepy testimony about the house God had given him, passing around the title for all to see. At the time, he was working as a handyman, putting up drywall, painting, roofing, and doing other odd jobs. Within three months he had three families living in the three-bedroom house, and he still could not keep up with the payments. After five months, he went into foreclosure and ducked out of the country. Tony Lin is careful—and of course correct—to say that neither immigrants nor Latinos caused the crash; adherents of every stripe exhibited the same sort of magical thinking about finances, as did millions of nonbelievers. Still, he recalls, “I wasn’t very surprised when the whole subprime-mortgage thing blew up. I’m sure a loan officer never said, ‘God wants you to have a house.’ But you’ve already been taught that. Now here comes the loan officer saying, ‘Sign here, and this house will be yours.’ It feels like a gift from God. It’s the perfect fuel for the crisis.”

More

When I was at Rice U. in the 1970s, the Master of Rice's Sid Richardson College, sociologist Bill Martin (a leading scholar of American religions and Billy Graham's authorized biographer) brought Rev. Ike on campus for a lecture. Unfortunately, I missed it. He made quite an impression on those who saw him.
“If it’s that difficult for a rich man to get into heaven,” he would often say, citing Matthew, “think how terrible it must be for a poor man to get in. He doesn’t even have a bribe for the gatekeeper.”

His full name was Rev. Frederick J. Eikerenkoetter II and, like the Van Halen brothers, was Dutch and Indonesian on his father's side. He was black on his mother's side. He was an interesting looking fellow, rather resembling Little Richard.

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

U.S. Military Deaths in Afghanistan by Ethnicity

You used to hear all the time about how minorities are more likely to die fighting America's wars than whites are, but the ethnic distribution of military deaths no longer interests the mainstream media. This Pentagon document lists military deaths in Operation Enduring Freedom (i.e., Afghanistan) from October 7, 2001 through February 28, 2009.

Leaving out the five ambiguous cases (mixed or unknown), minorities have suffered only 20 percent of the military deaths in Operation Enduring Freedom, despite making up 38 percent of the 20 to 24 year olds in 2008. Per capita, Non-Hispanic whites have been 2.47 times as likely as minorities to die in Afghanistan.

How could this statistic be spun so it's "appropriate" for the mainstream media? Here's a feasible headline:
Minorities Discriminated Against at VA Cemeteries
Whites Get More Free Burials

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

Passing the hat

I wanted to thank everybody who contributed on the first day of the iSteve Panhandling Drive, and apologize to the earlybirds who were frustrated by the technical glitches that have become such a tradition. I've got most of them fixed (knock on wood).

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Thanks. I appreciate it, deeply.

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

November 9, 2009

Major Hasan: Stereotypes and Dual Loyalties

Why was the Palestinian Muslim terrorist / U.S. Army major such a hot potato for the mainstream media last week that they tried various misdirection ploys, such as the New York Times' November 7th article "When Soldiers Snap"?

A few reasons:

1. The press has indoctrinated itself to despise stereotypes, partly for ideological reasons, partly for economic ones -- "Man Bites Dog" is a better headline than "Dog Bites Man." Yet another Palestinian Muslim terrorist is a "Dog Bites Man" story.

2. Another reason is that Major Hasan is such a classic example of "dual loyalties." We've all been told over and over again that the entire concept of dual loyalties is a baseless anti-Semitic smear and therefore doesn't exist.

In truth, of course, multiple loyalties are an unavoidable reality of life, which is precisely why George Washington's Farewell Address (the single most carefully considered utterance by the Founding Fathers -- it was worked on over four years by Washington, Hamilton, Madison, and Jay) devotes so much effort to warning about how to handle them. For example:
Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But that jealousy to be useful must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.

3. There's the Barack Hussein Obama angle. The press has a strong feeling that they must protect Obama from anything that could tangentially tarnish him. Of course, if they would just read Obama's memoir carefully, they would see that Islam never had any appeal for him -- it's too universalist. The President liked all of The Autobiography of Malcolm X until the uninspiring conclusion when Malcolm converts from the Nation of Islam to orthodox Islam after seeing the races mix on pilgrimage in Mecca.

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

Major Hasan's Powerpoint: Can't say he didn't warn us

From the Washington Post:

Under a slide titled "Comments," he wrote: "If Muslim groups can convince Muslims that they are fighting for God against injustices of the 'infidels'; ie: enemies of Islam, then Muslims can become a potent adversary ie: suicide bombing, etc." [sic]

The last bullet point on that page reads simply: "We love death more then (sic) you love life!"

Under the "Conclusions" page, Hasan wrote that "Fighting to establish an Islamic State to please God, even by force, is condoned by the Islam," and that "Muslim Soldiers should not serve in any capacity that renders them at risk to hurting/killing believers unjustly -- will vary!"

The final page, labeled "Recommendation," contained only one suggestion:

"Department of Defense should allow Muslims (sic) Soldiers the option of being released as 'Conscientious objectors' to increase troop morale and decrease adverse events."

Of course, conscientious objection status is only granted to pacifists, not to people who would rather hurt us than the enemy.

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

Political correctness strikes again

Peter Brimelow points to this Telegraph article:
Fort Hood gunman had told US military colleagues that infidels should have their throats cut

By Nick Allen in Fort Hood

Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the gunman who killed 13 at America's Fort Hood military base, once gave a lecture to other doctors in which he said non-believers should be beheaded and have boiling oil poured down their throats.

He also told colleagues at America's top military hospital that non-Muslims were infidels condemned to hell who should be set on fire. The outburst came during an hour-long talk Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, gave on the Koran in front of dozens of other doctors at Walter Reed Army Medical Centre in Washington DC, where he worked for six years before arriving at Fort Hood in July.

Colleagues had expected a discussion on a medical issue but were instead given an extremist interpretation of the Koran, which Hasan appeared to believe.

It was the latest in a series of "red flags" about his state of mind that have emerged since the massacre at Fort Hood, America's largest military installation, on Thursday. ...

Fellow doctors have recounted how they were repeatedly harangued by Hasan about religion and that he openly claimed to be a "Muslim first and American second."

One Army doctor who knew him said a fear of appearing discriminatory against a Muslim soldier had stopped fellow officers from filing formal complaints. [Emphasis added]

Meanwhile, Dennis Mangan points to an NYT article that begins:

KILLEEN, Tex. — Leaders of the vibrant Muslim community here ...

Here's the UPI article, "Bush had called for laxer airport security" that I wrote on the evening of September 11, 2001 pointing out that George W. Bush had denounced airport security personnel for paying more attention to Arabs and Muslim fliers, and then had had Norman Mineta's Transportation Department start a program to stomp out airport profiling.

Also, we now know that the airport ticket agent who checked in Mohammed Atta on the morning of 9/11/2001 said to himself, as he told Oprah in 2005:
"I got an instant chill when I looked at [Atta]. I got this grip in my stomach and then, of course, I gave myself a political correct slap."

Michael Touhey told a reporter:

Then Tuohey went through an internal debate that still haunts him.

"I said to myself, 'If this guy doesn't look like an Arab terrorist, then nothing does.' Then I gave myself a mental slap, because in this day and age, it's not nice to say things like this," he said. "You've checked in hundreds of Arabs and Hindus and Sikhs, and you've never done that. I felt kind of embarrassed."

It wasn't just Atta's demeanor that caught Tuohey's attention.

"When I looked at their tickets, they had first-class, one-way tickets - \$2,500 tickets. Very unusual," he said. "I guess they're not coming back. Maybe this is the end of their trip."

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

The 2009 iSteve Panhandling Drive

I was looking at my bank account, and I was vigorously reminded that I haven't run a fundraising drive since the stock market crash of 2008. I usually run two panhandling efforts per year, but my last full-bore one started September 11, 2008, when the transmission went out on my '98 Accord. The fundraiser was going great guns until Lehman Bros. went belly up four days later, at which point we all started stocking up on canned goods. Donations, unsurprisingly, dried up.

Well, 1,067 blog postings later, I'm back with my hand out.

It hasn't been a great 14 months for the nation, but I think it's been a pretty good period here, in a Robert Conquest kind of way. Despite all the newfangled alternatives to reading blogs, such as MyFace (or whatever the kids call it), readership here is higher than ever, currently at 7,997 unique visits per day and 12,224 pages read daily.

Between blogging, VDARE.com, Taki's Magazine, The American Conservative, and (by the way, did I ever mention it?) writing a book, that must add up to about a half million words since the last time I passed the hat.

Your generosity makes it possible for me to make a living writing whatever I think is right.

There are, at the moment, three ways to give me money.

You can make tax deductible credit card contributions to me here (then, under "Steve Sailer Project Option" click on the "Make a Donation" button); or fax credit card details here (please put "Steve Sailer Project" on the fax); or you can snail mail checks made out to "VDARE Foundation" and marked on the memo line (lower left corner) “Steve Sailer” to:

VDARE Foundation
P.O. Box 211
Litchfield, CT 06759

Second: You can send me an email and I'll send you my P.O. Box address.

Third: You can use Paypal to send me money directly, either by just using any credit card or if you have a specific Paypal account.

Either fill in your your Paypal ID and password on the lower right of the screen, or click "Continue" on the lower center-left to fill in your credit card info.

I'll try to get the Amazon donation link working in a day or two, but, in the past, Amazon has been limited to \$50 (hint, hint) and tends to stop working as soon as I've collected more than a pittance.

Thanks. I appreciate it, deeply.

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

November 8, 2009

November 9, 1989

Dennis Dutton's Arts & Letters Daily has a heap o' links, and Ross Douthat has a good column.

Let's party like it's 1989 with songs about the Berlin Wall:

David Bowie: Heroes, 1977: Video / Lyrics (and here's a terrific live version video, supposedly from a show in Berlin in 2002; it doesn't have as much of the great Robert Fripp wall-of-sound of the studio version, but Bowie looks like a million bucks at age 55, kind of like how Cary Grant reached his peak at the same age in North by Northwest).

Sex Pistols: Holidays in the Sun, 1977: Video / Lyrics ("It's guys like me they'd shoot first")

Jesus Jones: Right Here, Right Now, 1990: Video / Lyrics

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

A busy week

From my new VDARE.com column:
It was a busy week for Invite the World / Invade the World / In Hock to the World news:

First, Gallup announced the results of polling 259,542 adults in 135 countries during 2007-2009:
700 Million Worldwide Desire to Migrate Permanently
U.S. tops desired destination countries

“… Gallup finds about 16% of the world's adults would like to move to another country permanently if they had the chance. This translates to roughly 700 million worldwide -- more than the entire adult population of North and South America combined.”

Second, a U.S. Army major / Palestinian terrorist shot two score soldiers at Fort Hood. Texas. President Barack Hussein Obama rushed to warn that there must be no rush to stereotype Major Nidal Malik Hasan. The New York Times played along, running a five-part red herring discussion on "Combat Stress and the Fort Hood Gunman." Presumably, Major Hasan, who had never seen combat, was suffering from PTSD: Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Third, the government announced that the unemployment rate had exceeded 10 percent for the first time in 26 years. But discussion of the role of immigration in unemployment was simply nonexistent in the Main Stream Media.

When things go very wrong, as they have, the most likely causes are ones that Nobody who is Anybody expected. Their conceptual framework leaves them unable to cope with unthinkable reality.

In contrast, my alternative Invite / Invade / In Hock analysis of the Bush-Obama Era’s dominant approach helps point out linkages behind events that baffle those brainwashed by the conventional wisdom.

For example, if you stop and think about it, you’ll notice that Hasan, whose mother was born in Jerusalem, was following in the tradition of Palestinian terrorist Sirhan Sirhan, who shot Sen. Robert F. Kennedy on June 5, 1968.

Few conceive of Sirhan as a Palestinian terrorist because nobody in American thought much about Palestine or terrorism before George Habash masterminded the skyjacking of four jetliners in 1970. Hence, most Americans mentally lump Sirhan in with the 1960s domestic assassins Lee Harvey Oswald and James Earl Ray.

Yet, Sirhan certainly saw himself as a Palestinian terrorist. Sirhan murdered Bobby Kennedy on the first anniversary of Israel’s June 5, 1967 attack on its Arab neighbors because RFK promised to send 50 fighter jets to Israel.

That there’s an inevitable conflict between “Invade” and “Invite” in terms of domestic terrorism is something that the Kennedy brothers never figured out.

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

Last week's election

A reader sends me an email asking me to write an article on last week's elections, but then proceeds to do all the work for me, so here it is:
I know you must be busy, but if you get a chance, I would ask that you write an article discussing the racial implications of the various 2009 elections. I would love to hear your thoughts. There really seemed to be a lot of what could only be described as "bloc voting" by whites, and I wonder if you think the election of Barack Obama, and the triumphalism of the mainstream media ("new era," etc.) may have had something to do with it.

In the race for Virginia Governor, the mainstream media keeps declaring it an "issues" oriented race, focusing on "pocketbook" issues, that McDonnell did better on than his opponent Creigh Deeds. As a Virginia resident who followed the elections, this doesn't explain it well enough for me. There has to be another angle. Yes, every ad for McDonnell I saw focused vaguely on "jobs." But other than ads attacking McDonnell for his 20-year old Master's thesis, every ad Creigh Deeds ran focused vaguely on "jobs." Everybody knew McDonnell's conservative positions on social issues, and that should have hurt him in what is (although still moderately conservative) becoming a more socially liberal state. Yet they still gave him a landslide victory, with 67% of the white vote and 54% of women of all races (the results weren't broken down by race and gender).

McDonnell's ads, and I think I saw most of them, in no way ever actually mentioned any details as to what his "jobs" plan was, how it would create jobs, and how it was different from his opponent's plan, almost like Nixon's secret plan to get out of Vietnam. His ads almost seemed to be providing explanatory cover, rather than trying to convince voters, basically having a hidden subtext of "Vote for me for racial reasons, and if a white liberal neighbor asks you...say you voted for me for 'jobs'."

I don't know much about New Jersey politics, but the reasons offered for the Republican win in the New Jersey gubernatorial race, corruption and taxes, just do not seem plausible. To begin with, New Jersey politicians have always been corrupt, many more so than John Corzine, yet always get re-elected. And as far as taxes, the only candidate who really seemed to have a solid tax-cutting platform, independent Chris Daggett, only received 6% of the vote. In addition to this, Chris Christie, although touted as a "moderate" post-election, always identified as "pro-life" in a dogmatically "pro-choice" state, and even proposed modest restrictions on abortion. Added to this, the Corzine campaign's focus on Christie's refusal to pay for mammograms, and you would think this would have hurt him with white female voters, but it couldn't have hurt too much, because Christie won 59% of the white vote (with 6% for Daggett), and still won 45% of women of all races (results weren't broken down by race and gender together).

67% of the white vote in Virginia and 59% in liberal New Jersey (65% if you gave Christie Daggett's votes)...these are ethnic bloc voting percentages comparable to those of Hispanics or Asians. And Barack Obama, personally, couldn't explain the defeats, since his approval rating outperformed the Democratic share of the vote. Even though the Republican Party is horrible on racial issues for whites, they are still, as you have noted, the party of white racial identity.

Four other results of note were:

-Wake County, NC school-board elections, where candidates pledging to end busing and forced racial integration won a majority for the first time in an "easy victory"

-Westchester County, NY, a liberal upper-income New York suburb, where the long-time County Executive, who supported a federal lawsuit settlement to purchase homes in upper-income white neighborhoods, and use them as "affordable housing" for lower income blacks and Hispanics, was soundly defeated by his Republican opponent, who pledged to oppose the settlement and fight the lawsuit, by a margin of 58-42

-Atlanta, GA mayoral race, now headed to a runoff, where whites appear to have voted as a bloc for the white candidate (just another liberal in a field of liberals)

-New York mayoral race, where blacks appear to have voted as a bloc (unsurprisingly) for the black candidate, and whites appear to have NOT turned out in large numbers for mayor Michael Bloomberg, who still won, but narrowly

If you get a chance, I would really like to read your view on these events. Either way, keep up the great work and take care.

I don't have much to add other than here's a press release from an interest group claiming that the GOP gubernatorial candidate got 58.5% of the Asian vote in Virginia.

Perhaps the GOP is indeed turning into the Covert Non-Black Party. But, will they eventually need to, you know, deliver some policies that actually help their voters?

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