November 28, 2009


I'm not exactly Mr. Finger-on-the-Pulse-of-America, but sometimes I stumble onto something early, and I'm not above gloating over it over and over:

- "The Blind Side" -- It earned $11 million on its first Friday in release, and $16 million on its second Friday in release, which means it has big legs. In contrast, the Twilight: New Moon, dropped from $72 million to $18 million. I've been telling you that a large fraction of the public wants to see a movie about how Republicans are actually nice because they like blacks.

- Toby Gerhart -- About what you'd expect: a 45-38 victory for Stanford over Notre Dame, with Gerhart rushing for 205 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries. Less expected was his completing two passes for 32 yards and a touchdown. Stanford finishes the regular season 8-4, with Gerhart rushing for 1730 yards and 26 touchdowns. I suspect he needed a 27th touchdown in the last minute against Cal to have a decent shot at winning the Heisman.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer


I often complain that the America's foreign policy would be better off if there were hotshot college football teams in New York City and Washington D.C. to absorb more of the competitive energies of NYC / DC elites into bribing high school cornerbacks rather than into waging war for sheep grazing rights in the Karakorum.

Today, the Washington Post has articles about how the coaches of two of the nearest big time college football teams, U. of Virginia and U. of Maryland, have their heads on the chopping blocks because alumni are sore about losing seasons.

The Virginia story at least mentions talent issues:
On the morning of Jan. 5, 2001, University of Virginia President John Casteen uttered two words -- national championship -- that established a lofty goal for Al Groh, even before Groh could provide his first comments as Virginia's newly named head coach. ...

"As long as it takes us to get players like I saw on television the other night," Groh said that day, when asked how quickly Virginia can become a national power. "We saw the other night that Florida State can be beat if you get the players Oklahoma got." ...

"I think everyone was excited nine years ago," said Shawn Moore, a former all-American quarterback at Virginia. "But if you ask any alum today, they will tell you that they are extremely disappointed that the program has not gone to that next level, has not taken that next step."... "There's no way that we should not be competing for an ACC title," Moore said. "There's a ton of athletes playing in the NFL right now with University of Virginia degrees. I truly believe that with all the things we have in place now -- the facilities, the new stadium, the new locker room, all the things we've added in the last 10 years, we should be competing with Texas, Oklahoma, Virginia Tech, Alabama. We should be competing on that level."

If Saturday is Groh's final game as head coach, he will not need to look far to realize what went wrong. When asked why his program has trouble winning at home in recent seasons, Groh answered bluntly: "talent." The answer was not much different when discussing the difference between winning and losing seasons.

There's so many components that go into winning, but certainly the key one that you start with is talent," Groh said. "And the more top-end talent -- that is playmaking talent, guys who can just make the play -- that makes the difference."

...The slide started after the 2005 season. Virginia had been to four consecutive bowl games and won three of them. Groh lost four members of his coaching staff before the offseason: offensive coordinator Ron Prince to Kansas State, defensive coordinator Al Golden to Temple, associate head coach/outside linebackers coach Danny Rocco to Liberty and inside linebackers/special teams coach Mark D'Onofrio, who followed Golden to Temple.

The problems were exacerbated when the Cavaliers' 2006 recruiting class included eight players, out of 24, who were not admitted into school that year. Only two of those eight ended up attending Virginia, creating a gap on the roster.

Then the Cavaliers ran into disciplinary and academic issues, and saw players depart early for the NFL draft. Sewell and cornerback Chris Cook, both key players on this season's team, missed the 2008 seasons because of academics. Standout defensive end Jeffrey Fitzgerald transferred to Kansas State because of an academic issue. Heralded recruits J'Courtney Williams and Mike Brown were dismissed for disciplinary reasons. Offensive lineman Branden Albert and wide receiver Kevin Ogletree both left Charlottesville early for the NFL.

However, no departure was more costly than Peter Lalich, who was the best pro-style quarterback recruited during Groh's tenure. Lalich was dismissed from the team last season while facing legal issues [underage drinking], leaving the team without a long-term answer at quarterback. ...

"There are a lot of alums who are extremely disappointed that we can't even win the in-state recruiting battle right now," Moore said. "And Virginia Tech has owned Virginia eight of the last nine years."....

"Coaches with schemes but without talent," Groh said that day, "quickly become unimportant coaches."

As Groh enters what is likely his final game as head coach, he could see his words come true.

One thing the article doesn't mention is that U. of Virginia has a mean SAT score of 1326, one of the highest for any public university in the country. Maryland's is about 50-60 points lower, but still pretty good for a state flagship university, and flagships are much harder to get into than a generation ago. To win a college football national championship, you need a whole lot of players who have no business being in college except to play football.

Similarly, Charlie Weis of Notre Dame has his job on the line, too, with talk of the college paying him $18 million to go away if they lose to Stanford on Saturday. (Nice work if you can get it.) The Fighting Irish, 6-5, have had a very entertaining season, with numerous thrilling victories and defeats, but alumni don't want entertainment, they don't want equality, they don't want egalitarianism, they just want what Genghis Khan wanted from life.

But the University of Notre Dame has used its football reputation to build a strong academic institution. And that means it can't recruit the kind of players it takes to win national championships. One insider said that if the ND coach brought the current admissions office the files of the stars of ND's last national championship team in 1988, they would set them on fire.

Nowadays, ND can recruit a lot of good offensive players, but not too many top defensive players, so it plays a lot of 33-31 games. The over-under on ND-Stanford is 64.5 points.

On defense, "talent" pretty much is synonymous with "speed times weight." Speed basically means blacks which means lower SAT scores. Notre Dame legend Paul Hornung pointed that simple truth out on the radio a half decade ago:
"We can't stay as strict as we are as far as the academic structure is concerned because we've got to get the black athletes. We must get the black athletes if we're going to compete."

Hornung then got fired from his job broadcasting Notre Dame gams after the New York Times raised a stink.

They fired Paul Hornung for being honest with the public.

Football's not like basketball, where Duke can compete for the national championship with a team of whites, mixed race kids like Shane Battier, and mostly upscale blacks like Grant Hill. College football teams are huge. Alabama, for example, has 109 players on its roster.

It costs a lot of money to keep a huge number of fast/huge kids eligible. And it helps if the school just isn't that tough in the first place. Alabama's mean SAT score is around 1100, a standard deviation lower than U. of Va.'s.

Florida's SAT scores are quite high, but, presumably, they are willing to do what it takes to win at football.

You might think that secondary state schools with lower average SAT scores, like Florida State, Auburn, or Texas A&M, would be a better fit for football players than state flagship schools like Florida, Alabama, and Texas. But, it usually doesn't work that way because flagship schools tend to have richer alumni.

It's kind of like diversity crisis at the Coast Guard Academy. We aren't supposed to talk about the Inevitable Logic of Diversity -- if the Naval Academy takes in more maritime-oriented blacks in the name of Diversity, there will be fewer for the Coast Guard Academy -- so nobody understands the Logic of Diversity.

It's also like the two Academies in that one reason the Coast Guard Academy doesn't have affirmative action in admissions is because it doesn't play big time college football.

Basically, the battle for the national championship in college football comes down to who is willing to a tradeoff between the SAT score of the students versus the SAT score of the football team.

November 25, 2009

Latest Diversity crisis: the Coast Guard Academy

Here's an excerpt from a long article in the Washington Post:
Despite pact, few blacks at Coast Guard school

Eight years after the U.S. Coast Guard and the NAACP signed a voluntary agreement to work together to boost the number of African-Americans at its 1,000-cadet service academy, the annual enrollment and graduation figures for blacks remain in single digits.

Seven blacks graduated from the academy based in New London, Conn., in the spring of 2001, the year the agreement was signed. The same number graduated from the Class of 2006, the first class for which blacks were recruited under the agreement. Subsequently, there were seven black graduates in 2007, five in 2008 and four in 2009.

That makes 23 graduates in four years under the agreement, including the academy's first black female valedictorian. In the four previous years the number was 33.

Leading lawmakers have grown increasingly upset with results even as they repeatedly are told the Guard is working hard to improve diversity in a service where only 311 of its 6,787 commissioned officers are black, with only one black admiral.

"The Coast Guard has just not paid attention to it. It is not antipathy or animosity toward it," said Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., chairman of the House Transportation Committee. "I think we're moving in the right direction and got the Coast Guard's attention and we're not going to let up."

Under a House bill, sponsored by Oberstar and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the Coast Guard subcommittee chairman, members of Congress would nominate candidates for the academy. All the other service academies have long used congressional nominations.

On a 385-11 vote last month, the House advanced the legislation to the Senate.

The Coast Guard Academy historically has taken pride in viewing itself merit-based and choosing its applicants without regard to their geographical distribution among the states.

Cummings, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, expects black enrollment to grow with congressional involvement, at least in part because the House typically has about 40 black lawmakers who would be effective recruiters in largely black congressional districts.

The Coast Guard's position on the bill has been rather subdued.

The academy's superintendent, Rear Adm. J. Scott Burhoe, likes the existing "merit-based system," but would be "fine" if Congress adopted congressional nominations.

"I think for us part of our fear is the unknown, really, right now," he said in an interview with The Associated Press.

The Coast Guard Academy graduated its first black officer in 1966. In the 43 years since, only about 2 percent of the academy's graduates have been black and only once has there been as many as 10 in a single year.

Two years ago, the academy drew national attention when a noose was found among a black cadet's personal effects on a Coast Guard vessel. That was followed with the appearance of a noose for a white officer who was conducting race relations training at the academy.

Cummings said at the time that the Coast Guard must redouble its efforts in the face of a clear attempt to threaten and intimidate efforts to increase diversity.

An investigation involving 50 federal agents including the FBI produced no arrests or motives.

At present, the academy reports it has 136 minorities, with 72 Hispanics, 39 Asians and 25 African-Americans.

The Coast Guard, when asked by The Associated Press how many African-Americans were admitted to its academy as a result of the NAACP memorandum of agreement, said, through spokeswoman Nadine Santiago, that there was no way to know.

Lawmakers lashed out at the Coast Guard at a hearing last June for admitting so few blacks for the 2013 class only months after a previous hearing and discussion about the need to provide for congressional nominations.

"I am shocked that you only have five African Americans entering the class of 2013 and that you only offered two African American students appointments that were coming directly from high school that did not need additional preparation from a preparatory school," Oberstar said. "The Naval Academy found 149 fully qualified African-Americans to attend their Academy."

The U.S. Naval Academy, in Annapolis, Md.,, accepted 1,328 as cadets for its Class of 2013. For that class, 327 African-Americans applied, with 138 of the 149 blacks deemed fully qualified accepting offers of admission.

The Coast Guard, for its own 2013 Class, offered admission to 411 of 1,672 applicants, with 290 accepting offers. Only 47 blacks had applied, with seven being offered admission and five accepting. At the same time, 26 Hispanics and five Asian-Americans accepted admission. ...

The Coast Guard must graduate 70 percent of its cadets in science, math and technological fields. For the 2013 Class, the average SAT math and verbal scores totaled 1240, with the average GPA a 3.8, and half of the students were in the top 10 percent of their high school class.

A couple of points: Is it really that surprising that as the Naval Academy increases its "commitment to diversity," that has an effect on the demographics of the Coast Guard Academy?

I call it the Diversity Domino Effect.

Second, I introduced the concept of "critical mass" into the diversity debate in this 1995 National Review article, which the Supreme Court used in its Grutter and Gratz decisions of 2003:

One little-appreciated reason for the impressive record of accomplishment by blacks in the Army (e.g., after Desert Storm there were 26 black generals) is their lack of success in the Navy (only two black admirals). Achievement in one field naturally breeds more success in that same field. Initially arbitrary variations self-perpetuate. Successful immigrant group like Asian Indians rise to affluence precisely by dominating niches of the economy like motel-keeping. As Adam Smith pointed out on P. 1 of The Wealth of Nations, specialization is the road to riches.

According to Charles Moskos of Northwestern, the leading sociologist of military life, one key to the strong performance of black Army officers has been a widespread self-help organization for black officers called Rocks. In it, senior officers mentor younger men in how to live up to the demands of being an officer and a gentleman. In the Navy, however, a lack of critical mass hampers similar efforts: if, say, you are the only African-American officer on your nuclear submarine, you can't turn to another black man for advice for your entire cruise. Thus, it continues to makes more sense for an ambitious young black to join the Army than the Navy.

Of course, the Supreme Court got the concept of critical mass absolutely backwards, seeing it as a reason for quotas: We must have critical masses of talented blacks in every single institution in America! To have Diversity we must have utter homogeneity at the institutional level!

Yeah, well, there simply aren't enough talented blacks to go around -- that the reason for quotas in the first place. Instead, what happens when, say, the Army gets a critical mass of black talent is the Navy gets pressured to raid the same pool of black military academy applicants. Then, when the Navy gets its quota system going full strength, the next domino to fall is the Coast Guard. Unsurprisingly, you end up with no critical mass of talented blacks anywhere. There's no place where blacks feel comfortable.

Of course, that's the point of it all. The NAACP doesn't want talented blacks to come together where they feel comfortable. It wants to spread them thinly, mixed in with untalented blacks, so they always feel people around them are biased against them. Thus, the NAACP stays in business. As Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison wrote in 1964 about Quebec in his Oxford History of the American People, "Racial minorities, as the history of the last century shows, are seldom satisfied because their leaders, to keep in power, are always stirring up fresh resentments." [Vol. III, p. 77, 1972 edition]

But, nobody in power understands this simple chain of logic because if you wrote it down and emailed to anybody, your career is in jeopardy the next time there's a discovery process in a discrimination lawsuit. So, nobody even thinks about it.

It's the unilateral intellectual disarmament of America.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer


I don't understand why some Americans are simply unable to grasp how important these tribal struggles over the best goat pasturage in the Hindu Kush are to the American national interest. I would refer you to the various outlets of the Washington Post Co. for voluminous elucidation on the vital goat lands issue.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

November 24, 2009

"The Blind Side:" A story America wants to see

When I first heard of Michael Lewis's 2006 book "The Blind Side," about a giant homeless black teen who is adopted by a white family, I thought to myself the same thing Lewis did when he heard the story: this is what America wants to hear.

On the Hollywood Stock Exchange prediction market, where people bet on how much money films will make in their first four weeks of domestic release, "The Blind Side" was trading at $20 million all summer, then slowly rose to about $40 million last Thursday. Right now, it's trading at over $108 million.

Of course, I'm not claiming that, literally, many white Americans want to adopt giant black children. I'm just saying that the success of "The Blind Side" fits into a growing cultural trope that what black children need is to be taken away from their black parents for as much of their waking hours as possible and raised right. Look how it worked out for the President!

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

IQ Arbitrage

Buffalo News reports:

With the holidays nearly upon us, no documentary is more timely than tonight’s “Frontline” presentation, “The Card Game.”

Better yet, it should have run on Halloween week because it exposes many of the “tricks and traps” disguised as treats to credit card holders. ... The show airs at 9 tonight on WNED-TV. ...

But the interview subject who contributes the best perspective is a former banking executive, Shailesh Mehta, who made millions when he ran Providian Bank by using deceptive credit card practices that targeted financially stressed customers. Mehta tells how the game is played to entice lower-and middle-income people with low rates that can quickly rise to loan-shark levels if a payment is missed or if a bank just decides it wants to raise rates.

He made a fortune on the practices. Bergman explains that Mehta resigned from Providian after the company had to pay $300 million following an investigation by federal regulators.

Mehta tosses around terms like “stealth pricing” and “the unbanked” to illustrate how easy it is to destroy vulnerable Americans who are a job loss or a medical issue away from financial ruin. The stories of several credit card victims are told, serving as cautionary tales for viewers. ...

With Mehta’s help, Bergman’s report illustrates that practically every positive move to protect the vulnerable can be overcome by banks looking for easy marks.

“Because none of you are smart enough,” concludes Mehta. “You make the stupid laws and I’ll comply and I’ll make money. . . . There are always some desperate people who will take the product. Lending money to people is never a difficult exercise. OK? People will take money if you’re willing to give it to them.”

We used to have a variety of usury laws setting maximum interest rates, which meant that some people couldn't get credit , but when inflation came along, driving interest rates through the roof, the old limits became temporarily untenable. Usury laws were widely junked, although my impression, as an Economics major from 1976-80 and as a Finance major from 1980-82 was that the economics profession thought getting rid of anti-usury limits on interest rates was a feature, not a bug of high inflation. Why shouldn't everybody be able to borrow at whatever interest they freely agreed to?

Moreover, I have a general sense that anti-usury laws during these years were seen by reformers as relics of an anti-Semitic past. Once freed from benighted prejudice, how could anybody logically argue against unlimited interested rates? Legal limits on interest rates artificially restricted the number and diversity of people who could get loans. How could anybody be in favor of that? Liberty, diversity, profit ... how could anybody complain?

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

November 23, 2009

Afghanistan: The Future Is Feudal!

For most of the decade, I've been pointing out that feudalism would work better in Afghanistan than nation-building. Europeans came up with feudalism to defend themselves from the Vikings after the breakup of Charlemagne's empire. It's cheap, it doesn't require much organizational capital, it doesn't need a national language, and it doesn't require a Charlemagne. Feudalism doesn't work particularly well, but, for minimal security needs, it does work.

Now, they're finally thinking feudally in Washington. Fred Kaplan says in Slate:
... special-operations forces have begun to help anti-Taliban militias in southern and eastern Afghanistan, where the insurgents are concentrated. These militias have risen up spontaneously in certain tribal groups, but U.S. commanders hope that they can use the example of these revolts "to spur the growth of similar armed groups across the Taliban heartland." ...

... it has drawn high-level attention to a 45-page paper by Army Maj. Jim Gant, the former team leader of a special-ops detachment stationed in Konar province. The paper, called "One Tribe at a Time: A Strategy for Success in Afghanistan," recounts his experiences with organizing "tribal engagement teams" to help local fighters beat back the Taliban—and it spells out a plan to replicate these teams across the country. ...

The premise of his paper is that Afghanistan "has never had a strong central government and never will." Rather, its society and power structure are, and always will be, built around tribes—and any U.S. or NATO effort to defeat the Taliban must be built around tribes, as well. The United States' approach of the last seven years—focusing on Kabul and the buildup of Afghanistan's national army and police force—is wrongheaded and doomed. ...

A tribe-centered strategy may appeal to Obama in several ways. First, it keeps the Afghan people, not American occupiers, at the center of the operation. The U.S. soldiers live alongside the tribes, build trust, train them, supply them, gather intelligence from them, and fight with them. We are supporting players, not the lead.

But what happens when our friendly tribes stop fighting whoever it is we want them to fight, and start fighting our other friendly tribes?

That's where feudalism comes in.

Gant has no illusions about the difficulty of working with tribes. He spells out the risks of getting enmeshed in internecine feuds. Several times during the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, our guerrilla allies called in U.S. air and artillery strikes on what they said were "Taliban targets" but in fact turned out to be gatherings of rival tribes.

An explicit and essential part of Gant's strategy is to draw the individual tribal teams into a network of tribes—first across the province, then the region, then the nation—tied in to the Kabul government through a web of mutual defenses and the supply of basic services. He's less clear on the mechanics of how this "bottom-up" approach to national unity takes hold, but he recognizes that without it the Taliban can gain advantage by playing the tribes off against one another.

Or, then again, maybe in Afghanistan the future is always futile.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Unanswerable questions

From the Wall Street Journal:
  • Where Tech Keeps Booming

    By James K. Glassman
    In "Start-Up Nation," Dan Senor and Saul Singer document Israel's economic dynamism—especially in the realm of advanced technology—and try to account for the country's extraordinary success.

Lemme think about this one. What could account for Israel's extraordinary economic dynamism in the realm of advanced technology ... hmmhmmh ... No, I'm drawing a complete blank ... I guess I'll have to buy the book to find out what the answer could possibly be.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Can Obama write?

The opponents of politicians naturally assume that everything they speak or publish was written for them by professional writers. Until I visited the Reagan Library for the first time in the late 1990s, for instance, I had simply gone along with the conventional wisdom that President Reagan was an actor reading other people's lines. The Reagan Library takes pains to display numerous documents in Reagan's handwriting, such as long letters to Gorbachev. The publication a number of years ago of a book of Reagan's 1970s newspaper columns, along with photographs of his handwritten original drafts, conclusively demonstrated that Reagan, in one of his minor careers, was at least as good a newspaper columnist as the newspaper columnists who called him dumb.

What about Obama? The evidence is curiously mixed. He displayed a sizable degree of enthusiasm for writing, but his published output is limited. His high school friends recall him as a facile writer of term papers. He submitted poems to his first college's literary magazine and at least one article to his second college's newspaper. None of them are terribly good, but he was young.

He steadily wrote in his diary. During his first sojourn in Chicago he wrote short stories (never published) that impressed his boss. Presumably, they were incorporated into Dreams from My Father. His friends at the time thought he might become a professional writer.

He contributed one chapter to a nonfiction book, After Alinksy, but the prose style is as ho-hum as the topic.

Although Wall Street was booming after he graduated from Columbia, the only private sector job he got was as a copy editor. Similarly, as a discrimination lawyer in Chicago, he rarely spoke in court, explaining later that his most of his jobs were more on the writing side.

On the other hand, as editor of the Harvard Law Review he passed up the traditional right to publish an essay, and only contributed one unsigned note. He appears to have been an acceptable editor of other people's writing, perhaps a little below average, although that might have been more from a desire to avoid political struggles that could impede his future career. There was a feeling in the next class that they wanted to elect an editor with a heavier blue pencil.

When he was elected the first black head of HLR, he was given a 6 figure advance to write a nonfiction analytical book on race and the law, but didn't deliver.

He then received a smaller advance for an autobiography, which he also struggled with, even going off to Bali to write. Eventually an elegantly written but soporific book, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, was published.

Jack Cashill has pointed out certain similarities with the works of Bill Ayres (a dull anecdote about which way the East River in New York flows, for example), and then makes the leap to asserting that the whole thing was written by Ayres. Celebrity biographer Christopher Andersen claims to have two sources who told him that Ayres provided much help to a stumped Obama, but the sources remain anonymous. Ayres has tried to make a joke out of the question by claiming to have written every word of Dreams from My Father.

Whether Obama's difficulties in finishing his first book stemmed from the composition of it being beyond Obama's literary competence is a possibility. But there are others: for example, the sheer absurdity of being paid to turn his boring life into an autobiography at age 33; the problems of writing a life story filled with other characters who are still alive; and his need to avoid providing ammunition to future political opponents (which Dreams certainly succeeded at through its trance-inducing prose style).

When elected State Senator, Obama took on the curious assignment of being a regular columnist for the local Hyde Park newspaper and the Chicago black newspaper. Stanley Kurtz has read these columns in the library stacks, but they don't exist online.

Finally, in 2006 he published an abovve-average campaign book, The Audacity of Hope, which was read over by 28 individuals before publication, so it's hard to know out how much Obama contributed to it.

Moreover, there were numerous speeches during these years, most notably his keynote address to the 2004 Democratic convention.

In conversation, Obama is brilliant at restating the other person's point of view at least as well as they can state it themselves. This is the source of his "I have understood you" powers. On the other hand, he often stumbles when expressing his own views. But the President has good reason to speak cautiously and review everything in his head as he's saying it. For example, when he blurted out how he truly felt about the Henry Louis Gates brouhaha it turned into a fiasco for him.

My best guess is that Obama is a competent writer whose innate urge to express himself is shackled by his fear that leaving a paper trail or spoken trail would undermine his enormous ambitions for power. (Surely, he noted the contrasting career paths of Supreme Court nominees Robert Bork and David Souter.)

That's why any samples of Obama prose are a welcome addition to our understanding of the President of the United States. One source that I read over in 2008, but hasn't been much noticed are the elaborate essay questions that he gave his students at the U. of Chicago Law School from 1996 through 2003, which were linked to by the New York Times in 2008, along with the syllabus for his 2004 class "Current Issues in Racism and the Law," a title that is perhaps more revealing about how Obama feels (the class wasn't entitled, you'll note, "Current Issues in Race and the Law") than the more neutral contents.

Perhaps these essay questions were actually ghostwritten by, say, Professor Lawrence Tribe under retainer from George Soros as part of a complicated plot to make Obama President twelve years later, but I suspect Obama banged them out himself, perhaps with a little help.

Here, for example, is one of the three questions from his 1996 test, along with his "Answer Memo:"
2) Fire Department Hiring.

The second major area of concern for the Mayor [of fictional Wazoo City, which resembles Chicago; the "Mayor" resembles Richie Daley] involves the method by which new firefighters are hired by the Fire Department. At the moment, only 15 percent of the city’s fire-fighters are African-American, despite the fact that the pool of applicants largely mirrors the general population of Wazoo City (50 percent African-American). It is well-established that up until 1980, the Fire Department engaged in discriminatory hiring practices; indeed, getting a job as a firefighter was based largely on your political connections to party ward bosses. As the result of several lawsuits brought by African-American plaintiffs, and a federal consent decree subsequently entered into by the city in 1980, the Fire Department now hires new firefighters exclusively based on each applicant’s ranking on a written exam that is administered once a year. The examination is prepared and graded by a well-reputed testing firm that screens for any potential cultural bias in the examination, and all applicants are provided the necessary materials to prepare for the examination.

Despite claims by some of his supporters that the fire-fighter examination is rigged, the Mayor believes that the difference in test performance between African- Americans and whites is primarily the result of the inferior schooling that African- American applicants have received in the past. At the same time, the Mayor is skeptical that the existing written exam accurately measures aptitude for the job of being a firefighter. He therefore plans to announce that starting next year, Fire Department hiring will no longer be based on the applicants score on an extensive written examination. Instead, the Department will administer to each applicant a short basic aptitude test; all applicants who pass this simple test and meet other basic qualifications (physical examinations, etc.) will be deemed qualified for hire, and will then be selected to fill available job openings on the basis of a lottery. The Mayor’s staff predict that as a result of this change, the makeup of the Fire Department, over time, will come to more closely resemble the racial makeup of the city.

The Mayor has a major political problem brewing, however: the Firefighter’s Union has learned of the Mayor’s plan, and is adamantly opposed to any change in existing hiring practices. The Union argues that the Mayor’s plan represents nothing more than a disguised affirmative action program, and a return to old-fashioned patronage. The Union therefore plans to mount a major petition drive to place a binding referendum on the ballot in the next statewide election. The referendum would essentially require that all applicants for government employment in the State of Wazoo, including municipal employees, be hired on the basis of their ranked performance on state approved written examinations (the referendum would exempt the filling of certain “political appointees” from the requirement).

The Mayor points out that for the better part of this century, the city has had exclusive power to determine the manner in which it selects its employees. It is clear, however, that under the Wazoo State Constitution, a majority of voters may transfer this power to the state through the referendum process. The Mayor also believes that the referendum is likely to pass, particularly because it is phrased without reference to race or gender, but will be packaged solely as a “good government” measure.

The Mayor asks you to write up a brief analysis regarding the possibility of challenging the referendum, should it come to pass, as unconstitutional racial discrimination violative of the Equal Protection Clause. As before, you should make the strongest argument that you can for bringing such a challenge, and then indicate the weaknesses in your argument. In considering this question, however, feel free to present to the Mayor any broader policy issues or theories of racial justice that are raised by his plan and/or the referendum.

Answer Memo Question IIB -

Mayor Dwight’s Firefighter Plan

This question offers a slight variation on the issues raised by the Mayor’s contracting plan.

The surface parallels between our hypothetical and the fact pattern in Washington v. Seattle School Board should have been relatively easy to spot (Some of you also cited Romer, which isn’t quite right - it was the lower court, and not the Supreme Court, that emphasized the “government restructuring” aspects of the Colorado initiative. Still, I gave you credit if your analysis tracked the discussion below, albeit citing the wrong case). Like the voter initiative in Seattle, the referendum being proposed by the union appears to single out an issue of special interest to blacks - in our case, fire department hiring practices -- and attempts to shift decision decision-making power over that issue from the local to the state level. According to Seattle, the fact that a state has the authority to make such a shift isn’t be [sic] relevant; a restructuring of the political process to make passage of “race legislation” more difficult than other forms of legislation places “special burdens on racial minorities within the governmental process,” in violation of Equal Protection Clause.

But is the Mayor’s plan in fact legislation/decision-making of a “racial nature” as that term is used in Seattle? And, even if the Mayor’s plan can be considered “racial” in nature, does that automatically render a facially race-neutral referendum that disallows the plan a “racial classification” subject to strict scrutiny?

These are tricky questions, mainly because Justice Blackmun’s opinion in Seattle lends itself to at least two very different readings. On the one hand, it is possible to argue that for all its fancy talk about government restructuring and democratic processes, Seattle is really just a straight-forward disparate impact case that was settled using the principles set out in Washington v. Davis. Under this reading, the Seattle School Board’s busing program was an explicitly raced-based effort to vindicate the rights of black schoolchildren to .a non-segregated education. By forbidding busing to achieve this explicitly racial purpose (while still permitting busing for various non-racial reasons), Initiative 350 disproportionately impacted black schoolchildren; and although the initiative may have been framed in race-neutral terms, the Court determined -- based on the sequence of events, the initiative’s alteration of normal procedural. practices; and so on., (i.e., the Arlington Heights factors discussed above) -- that the initiative was enacted “because of’ and not “in spite of’ its adverse effect on black schoolchildren.

If this reading of Seattle is correct, and the facially race-neutral referendum being proposed by the union is simply subject to the Washington v. Davis test for intentional discrimination, then the Mayor will have real problems mounting a successful court challenge. After all, not only is the referendum written in non-racial terms, but the Mayor’s plan is also facially race-neutral.

The Mayor might argue, of course, that although written in race-neutral terms, his plan really benefits blacks, and that the union’s referendum is therefore an act of intentional discrimination designed to keep the City’s Fire Department predominately white. But given the fact that the referendum appears to uphold the very principles of “merit through testing” that the Court in Washington v. Davis found to be so persuasive, it is hard to imagine that a court in this case would be willing to find that the voters of Wazoo voted to uphold such principles “because of,” rather than “in spite of’ its effect on future black hiring (as a number of you pointed out, examining a referendum under Washington v. Davis also raises serious issues regarding whose intent we are suppose to examine). The fact that the current test being used appears to have been “validated” through the consent decree process further weakens the Mayor’s argument. Indeed, in light of the court’s acceptance of testing as a legitimate means to measure merit and upgrade the workforce (were dealing here only with Equal Protection doctrine, and not Title VII law), it is conceivable that a court would sooner find the Mayor’s effort to change the testing procedure to be an impermissible affirmative action program than it would strike down the referendum as an impermissible racial classification.

There is another, no doubt more controversial way to read Seattle. The argument would go something like this: Seattle recognizes that blacks are burdened not only by intentional racism, but also by facially neutral processes that nevertheless place blacks in a structurally subordinate position. Thus, anti-discrimination legislation of the type at issue in Hunter v. Erickson (in that case, a fair housing ordinance) is not the only type of legislation that is “racial” in nature; blacks may also seek to extract through the political process affirmative programs - like the voluntary busing program in Seattle - that may not be constitutionally required, but that nevertheless help alleviate structural inequality. Precisely because such affirmative programs are not constitutionally required (given the Court’s “negative charter of liberties” reading of the Constitution and theories of judicial restraint), a majority of voters may choose not to enact such programs, and may even choose to repeal those programs that the majority feels have outlived their usefulness. What the majority cannot do is to change the rules of the game so as to make it more difficult for blacks and other minorities to achieve such affirmative programs through the give and take of the democratic process - by resort, for example, to state-wide initiatives and referendums in which minority influence is lessened.

If a court were willing to accept such a reading of Seattle, then the Mayor might have a chance at defeating the referendum. The Mayor could argue that once you get beyond certain baseline constitutional requirements of fairness - i.e. no outright discrimination on the basis of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc. -- there are no pre-political, non-racial, “legitimate” ways to select a tire department or determine “merit.” The Mayor’s plan is “racial” in the sense that it represents an affirmative effort to increase black representation on the police force without resorting to quotas or lowering standards of performance; at the same time, it is no more racial than is the union’s plan to maintain the status quo through a regime of written examinations. The union is free to debate the pros and cons of the Mayor’s plan in the public square; it can put pressure on the City Council to block the Mayor’s proposal, and can organize to vote the Mayor out of office. What it cannot do is shift decision-making over these racially-charged issues to the state level, where (we assume) blacks have less of political clout.

There are problems with this argument, of course, the most obvious being the one that was raised by the state in Seattle - namely, if the “rules” of democracy in a given state include the possibility of state-wide initiatives and referendums, and if the “rules” of democracy also envision the state imposing its sovereign will on local governments within its borders, then in what sense does the initiative in Seattle, or the referendum in our hypothetical, change the rules of the game? If states and their voters can’t decide, through democratic processes sanctioned by that state’s constitution, to take certain decisions that happen to touch on race out of the hands of localities, then is there any limit to the state legislation that might be potentially overturned? To cite just one example, how do we evaluate state legislation that places property tax caps on localities? Such caps prevent localities from raising taxes to fund public schools beyond a certain level without a majority vote, and presumably has a disproportionate impact on black populations that are both younger and more likely to rely on public, as opposed to private, education. Are they unconstitutional under Seattle?

The bottom line is that such an expansive view of Seattle would implicitly overturn the intent-based approach to evaluating racial issues embodied in Washington v. Davis. My personal guess is that the current Supreme Court would almost certainly shy away from such a reading of Seattle. Of course, we won’t have to guess on the Court’s position for long, since it is precisely these sorts of arguments that will come up in the current challenge to California’s Proposition 209, which bars state government from engaging in any form of affirmative action.

Obama's views seem to reflect his general boredom with the courts as an agent of social change, in contrast to, say, getting himself elected Mayor of Chicago or President of the United States. Obama passed up clerking for federal judges in order to become a discrimination plaintiff's attorney in Chicago, precisely to position himself for a run for the Mayor's office. Certainly, though, he is a well-informed professional discrimination attorney. (That fact, of course, raises obvious questions about his Axelrodian campaign image as being beyond all that race stuff. But you already knew that.)

As writing, the questions and answers seem competent. (I recall that some of the others may be more elegantly written, but I chose this one because I'm interested in firemen's discrimination lawsuits.)

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

November 22, 2009

"Precious" and "The Blind Side"

An excerpt from my new column:
This weekend saw the national rollout of two crowd-pleaser movies about impoverished 350-pound black teens: Precious and The Blind Side. (What an amazing country we have, where a pair of poor waifs can tip the scales at 700 pounds!)

Together, the two films reflect an emerging, if seldom fully articulated, consensus among all right-thinking people in this Bush-Obama era about what to do with underclass black children.

Precious is the story of an illiterate 16-year-old girl who was made pregnant and HIV-positive by her rapist father, but her even bigger problem is her abusive welfare mother with whom she shares a Section 8 apartment. Still, with the help of tireless teachers and social workers, she moves into a halfway house and begins to turn her life around.

The Blind Side is an adaptation of Michael Lewis’s 2006 nonfiction bestseller about Michael Oher. A homeless 16-year-old with a drug addict mother and a father who was thrown off a bridge, Oher was adopted by a rich white family. He’s now a rookie starting offensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens of the NFL, with a five-year $13,795,000 contract.

The Blind Side’s writer-director John Lee Hancock told Michael Granberry of the Dallas News:
“He loves what he calls its nature vs. nurture story line. 'It's like a test case for nurture, and nurture wins in a big way. You've got a kid who's cast on the junk heap of life, socially and from an educational standpoint. And it's amazing what a roof, a bed, meals and an emphasis on schools can do, when everybody had written him off.'

The Blind Side is the rare movie in which white Southern Republican born-again Christians are portrayed favorably. One liberal commenter on raged, “I feel insulted (in the same way I felt insulted when McCain chose Palin for his running-mate) …”

But, whether Republican or Democrat, white or black, everybody who is au courant is coming to agree upon one solution for poor black children: keep them away from their own families as much as possible.

Read the rest of my review The Blind Side here and comment upon it below.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

NYT: "Hispanic Immigrants’ Children Fall Behind Peers Early, Study Finds"

The media build-up for the oncoming Stolen Generations Apology Act of 2050 continues. From the New York Times:
The children of Hispanic immigrants tend to be born healthy and start life on an intellectual par with other American children, but by the age of 2 they begin to lag in linguistic and cognitive skills, a new study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, shows.

The study highlights a paradox that has bedeviled educators and Hispanic families for some time. By and large, mothers from Latin American countries take care of their health during their pregnancies and give birth to robust children, but those children fall behind their peers in mental development by the time they reach grade school, and the gap tends to widen as they get older.

The new Berkeley study suggests the shortfall may start even before the children enter preschool, supporting calls in Washington to crack down on illegal immigration by the unskilled, uneducated, and unintelligent.

Oh, wait, sorry, that was in the Non-Bizarro Universe.

Here in the Bizarro Universe:

The new Berkeley study suggests the shortfall may start even before the children enter preschool, supporting calls in Washington to spend more on programs that coach parents to stimulate their children with books, drills and games earlier in their lives.

“Our results show a very significant gap even at age 3,” said Bruce Fuller, one of the study’s authors and a professor of education at Berkeley. “If we don’t attack this disparity early on, these kids are headed quickly for a pretty dismal future in elementary school.”

Professor Fuller said blacks and poor whites also lagged behind the curve, suggesting that poverty remained a factor in predicting how well a young mind develops. But the drop-off in the cognitive scores of Hispanic toddlers, especially those from Mexican backgrounds, was steeper than for other groups and could not be explained by economic status alone, he said.

One possible explanation is that a high percentage of Mexican and Latin American immigrant mothers have less formal schooling than the average American mother, white or black, the study’s authors said. These mothers also tend to have more children than middle-class American families, which means the toddlers get less one-on-one attention from their parents.

“The reading activities, educational games and performing the ABCs for Grandma — so often witnessed in middle-class homes — are less consistently seen in poor Latino households,” Professor Fuller said.

The study is based on data collected on 8,114 infants born in 2001 and tracked through the first two years of life by the National Center for Education Statistics. The findings will be published this week in Maternal and Child Health Journal, and a companion report will appear this fall in the medical journal Pediatrics.

The analysis showed that at 9 to 15 months, Hispanic and white children performed equally on tests of basic cognitive skills, like understanding their mother’s speech and using words and gestures. But from 24 to 36 months, the Hispanic children fell about six months behind their white peers on measures like word comprehension, more complex speech and working with their mothers on simple tasks.

The study comes as the Obama administration has been pushing for more money to help prepare infants and toddlers for school. In September, the House passed an initiative that would channel $8 billion over eight years to states with plans to improve programs serving young children.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Toby Gerhart Update

In the Big Game against #25 Cal, Toby Gerhart had his typical game: four touchdowns (giving him 23 on the season) and 130 yards on 20 carries. But he really needed another 200 yard game, as Stanford's freshman quarterback went back to playing like a freshman quarterback (10 of 30 passing). Cal won 34-28.

From the New York Times:

[Stanford Coach] Harbaugh said he regretted not handing the ball to Gerhart at the end.

“There were a lot of should-haves in this game,” Harbaugh said.

... The Cardinal looked poised to make Tedford pay for his decision, charging to the foot of the Cal end zone on two big runs by Luck and a 29-yard sideline pass from Luck to Gerhart. Gerhart shook three defenders and dragged two others down to the Cal 13.

Luck dropped back on second down and sent a pass over the middle, intended for tight end Coby Fleener. Instead it landed in the arms of Mohamed.

“I thought I had a shot at Coby in the end zone, but I didn’t make a good enough throw,” said Luck, who finished 10 of 30 for 157 yards.

Stanford threw its fatal interception with 1:36 left, so they had enough time to try to let Gerhart run the ball in. You can see why Stanford's coach is kicking himself for calling a pass instead of giving it to Gerhart. Not only did they lose, but if Gerhart had scored his fifth rushing touchdown of the game in the final minute to beat Stanford's arch-rival 35-34, he might have vaulted to the top of the Heisman race.

Gerhart did get a nice write-up in the New York Times about how he was his high school valedictorian and how he's taking five classes at Stanford this fall, along with carrying the ball 26 times per game on Saturday. (He's no genius -- he's just a real all-arounder.) If I ran, say, a big commercial real estate development firm in Silicon Valley, I'd tell him to come see me whenever he decides to hang up his football and/or baseball spikes. Heisman Trophy winners who have done very well for themselves in real estate include Roger Staubach and Gary Beban.

As for the Heisman race, the frontrunner apparently is undefeated Alabama's running back Mark Ingram, who has had a very solid season. Still, he's only a sophomore, he's coming off an a good but undistinguished freshman season, and while his 2009 stats are excellent, they're not spectacular. The Heisman is supposed to be a single year award, but it tends to have a career achievement aspect to it as well, at minimum to prevent flukes.

Ingram, himself, argues that he's not even the best player on his own team, which might not be false modesty.

Anyway, without an overwhelming candidate this year, it would be a good time for a PR dynamo to generate a last minute publicity stampede for somebody besides the usual quarterback or running back -- either a multi-role player like C.J. Spiller of Clemson, a defensive player (Charles Woodson remains the only defensive player ever to win), or even, mirabile dictu, an offensive lineman.

With so much video available online these days, it's a shame that players whose contributions don't show up in the headline stats aren't being given a fair consideration for the Heisman. I spend about 2-3 hours per week watching college football or looking up statistics, and that tiny investment of time lets me come to roughly the same conclusions as the full time sportswriters: maybe Ingram, then Spiller, then Gerhart. But that's kind of sad. The experts who vote should be coming up not with just the same names as us Joe Amateurs who glance at the headlines, but with the names of tight ends and cornerbacks and centers as well.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer