February 5, 2005

Sistani speaks!


Who won in Iraq? In answer to my question, a reader sends this picture of Iraqi voters celebrating the presumed winner, and comments:

Answer: The guys who look like the Mullahs in Iran won. And that fact is why the "winners" aren't being shown on American TV. We won't want to give the "American people" the wrong idea, for example, that we wasted hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of lives in Iraq to install in power Mullahs who hate our guts and reject every aspect of America "civilization."

It's too bad all these Mullahs look alike. That makes it difficult to distinguish between the good democratic Mullahs we're handing power to in Iraq from the bad non-democratic Mullahs we're trying to overthrow in Iran.

BTW, the Frumster said on MSNBC that Bush's triumph in Iraq has emboldened him to call out the Iranian Mullahs now that Powell and Armitage (he didn't name Powell but did Armitage & the State Dept) aren't around to control the President of the World.

As far as Medieval Shi'ite Ayatollahs go, Sistani seems like a pretty open-minded guy. For example, his Sistani.org website offers his decrees in handy question and answer form:

Question: My wife has said the phrase “Amin” in her prayer for years. Recently she discovered that saying this invalidates the prayer. Does she have to make up all of these incorrect prayers due to the fact that she said “Amino”?

Answer: No need to make up for offered prayers.

See? He's practically an ACLU member.

Question: Can a Muslim Listen to music?

Answer: It is permissible to listen to music which is not fit for diversion and play.

My favorite kind! I guess Lou Reed's "Metal Machine Music" must be big in Baghdad.

Question: Is playing a chess allowed?

Answer: It is absolutely unlawful.

Question: Is having an orgy permissible under the Qur’an?

Answer: It's forbidden.

But, apparently not quite as unlawful as playing a chess.

Question: Are shaking of hands with girls allowed?

Answer: It is not permissible.

Handshaking can lead to playing a chess, you know.

Question: What is the Islamic viewpoint on adoption?

Answer: There is no objection in adoption, but he/she is Stranger and is not one's real child.

Ah, democracy!

Jared Diamond, Collapse, Deforestation, Haiti, Dominican Republic

Diamond's Collapse: A reader writes:

I flipped through "Guns Germs and Steel" earlier today and noticed that Diamond (correctly) refers to the Greenland settlement as a "tiny marginal colony." Little could the Iceland-Greenlanders have known that their tiny marginal colony in fact foretold the end of civilization, according to the New and Improved Diamond.

As an side, what is this fetish with deforestation? Diamond bases a book on it, that African woman scored a Nobel Prize for planting trees, and a coupe of weeks ago an (Asian-)Indian-British professor claimed in a letter to the FinancialTimes editor that Western wealth was built on deforestation.

Geez. I have cut down a few trees and planted hundreds more but I have neither a Nobel Prize nor much wealth to show for it. What am I doing wrong?

Many of the most beloved landscapes in the world, Tuscany, the Cotswolds, the Loire Valley, and so forth, are largely deforested. People love trees, but with the exception of specially adapted cultures like the Yanomamo and the Andamanese, they don't much like forests, which most people find dark and depressing. Actually, what humans really like are grasslands at the edge of forests: that's what the typical American golf course provides, and look how much money is spent on them.

On the other hand, this is not to argue that the near total deforestation of, say, Haiti was a good thing. Diamond has an interesting chapter comparing the two halves of the island of Hispaniola: basket case Haiti and mediocre but still viable Dominican Republic. In the DR, the megalomaniacal dictator Trujillo stole most of the forest land, which he then proceeded to exploit cautiously in a rational manner, thus avoiding the tragedy of the commons. (Surprisingly, Diamond even gets around to gingerly mentioning the most obvious difference between the two countries, mentioning that Trujillo encouraged European immigration. Indeed, Trujillo was the only world leader to look forward to admitting large numbers of Jewish refugees, asking for 100,000, although only 645 ever made it, but that wasn't Trujillio's fault.)

Best books on statistics


Question: Best book on statistics for beginner? A reader writes:

I'm looking for a good book on Statistics that can
take one from the basics to an advanced level while
building intuition. I was wondering if you had any

I received a couple of quick votes for Larry Gonick's Cartoon Guide to Statistics.

And a reader who is much smarter than me sent this list:

For self learning you need to have good books w/ worked examples and answers to even problems (at least) in the back of the book so that you can check yourself. My recommendations are made with this in mind.

I've read all of the following books pretty much cover to cover, so I'm not recommending blind (w/ the exception of Jun Shao which I keep around for reference purposes). With that in mind:

1) If he doesn't know probability, start with Pitman.

He should also know linear algebra to the level of Strang.

2) If he already knows probability, I like Degroot and Schervish.

Supplement with Schaum's if more practice is needed w/ specific problems.

This will get him to intermediate level. At this point he needs to figure out where he wants to go.

A) Computational statistics and data mining:

Duda & Stork

and *DEFINITELY* Venables and Ripley (which he can go through with R).

Depending on whether he's feeling his oats, he can also go for Hastie and Tibshirani, but it is somewhat opaque at times (though worth going through).

I also strongly recommend going through the various tutorials on the R project site. A lot of that stuff has not been put into book form but is very useful.

B) Stochastic processes, filtering, and time series - I like Papoulis

and then Oksendal:

C) Measure theory and theorem/proof stuff - go w/ Jun Shao. My background in this area is not as strong.

Well, we all have our weaknesses. Personally, I think I'll stick to the Cartoon Guide, myself.

Who won the Iraq election? - 1

By the way, who won the Iraq election? I know we aren't supposed to worry about such petty details and instead just perpetually glory in the wonderfulness of there simply being an Iraq election, but it's now been about 84 hours since the polls closed over there, and I'm just getting curious about who actually, you know, won.

Nobody else seems very interested in this, however. Everybody apparently assumes that most Iraqis just voted for their ethnic group's party, so the outcome was predetermined. I guess that's democracy for you, but it kind of reminds me of the 1962 election in Rwanda, where the Hutus made up 84% of the population and, funny thing, the Hutu party got 84% of the vote. But look how well democracy worked out in Rwanda, so I guess I shouldn't bother my pretty little head wondering about who actually won.

Hip-Hop Indians and masculinity

" A Win-Win Solution to Indian Team Name Disputes" - A reader responds:

I thought I had read everything you had written but this one surprised me. It was too good to keep hidden away wherever you had it so thanks for bringing it out.

You make the point that American boys are encouraged to act like rappers now and it extends to the rez. The boys there (at least on the reservations near here [in the Pacific Northwest]) have entirely abandon the Indian as their role model. They have adopted the 'thug life' in its entirety. New gangs that form even model themselves on inner-city gangs with the same type of nicknames and graffiti.

I was struck by the stories about 'Dagger' John the priest who saved the Irish of New York. It seems to me that the inner-cities of today could use their own 'Dagger' John. Someone to encourage young men to act like civilized young men while still being masculine. I think that young men in all parts of American society adopt the 'thug life' because mainstream American society is so emasculated.

Part of the reason that the boys in my town make good Marines is because they have not been emasculated by their society. Logging, Hunting and Fishing don't lend themselves to the wimpy values and attitudes of America today. So many boys in our small town become Marines that the other recruiters don't even bother coming out here. I am not sure how much our experience is relevant to the rest of American society though.

What do you think Americans should do as a society to 'remasculinize' our boys without turning them into thugs? I think your suggestion of making the tribal names copywritable and using them and their images for sports teams would help. Even if it is a romanticized image, the image of 'Quannah Parker' or 'Red Cloud' are way more appropriate than 'Tupac' or 'Snoop Dogg'.

Dirt Gap: California vs. Texas

The Dirt Gap: As you know, I've pointed out that the famous red state - blue state voting gap correlates closely with the baby gap (the 19 states with the highest white total fertility voted for Bush), the marriage gap (the 25 states with the highest rate of youngish white women being married voted for Bush), and the housing inflation gap (the 26 states with the least growth in home prices from 1980 to 2004 voted for Bush).

Now, in my article "A Tale of Two States: America's future is either Texas or California," in the Feb. 14th issue of The American Conservative, now available at newsstands, I point out an even more fundamental cause of these three gaps: The Dirt Gap. Briefly, most Red State metropolises are surrounded by almost 360 degrees of dirt, while most Blue State metropolises are partially bordered by water.

This restrained land price growth in Texas reflects a bedrock geographic reality about the metropolises of Texas, and of red states as a whole. Red state cities simply have more land available for suburban and exurban expansion because most of them are inland and thus not hemmed in by water, unlike the typical blue state city, which is on an ocean or a Great Lake.

Let's look at the 50 most populous metropolitan areas in the country. Of the ones in blue states, 73 percent of their population lives in cities, such as New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, where physical growth is restricted by unbridgeable water, compared to only 19 percent of the population of the biggest red state metropolises, such as Dallas, Atlanta, and Phoenix.

The Law of Supply and Demand controls housing prices. The greater supply of available land for suburban expansion in red metropolises keeps house prices down.

Contrast the Dallas-Fort Worth conurbation, the largest in red America, to San Francisco, culturally the bluest spot on the entire map.

Exurban Dallas-Fort Worth can expand outward around 360 degrees of flat, adequately watered land, easily bulldozed into lots and streets. In sharp divergence, San Francisco sits on a peninsula, with the Pacific Ocean to the west, the San Francisco Bay to the east, and mountain ranges to the north and south. This makes for superb scenery, but also for vastly expensive homes within an hour's commute of downtown San Francisco...

San Francisco therefore fills up with two kinds of people who don't need as much space per paycheck -- singles, most famously gays, and immigrants from countries where families don't expect American-style square footage. Neither is likely to vote Republican. The Chinese in San Francisco might have conservative social views, but, as journalist Arthur Hu has perceptively pointed out, they tend to take their voting cues from their native neighbors, who are more often than not quite liberal.

White heterosexual couples who meet in San Francisco know that if they want to marry and have several children, they are likely to have to leave this adult Disneyland of scenic beauty and superb restaurants and move inland, perhaps as far as the hot, smoggy, and dull Central Valley. The ones who do make this sacrifice to have children are more likely to become Republicans, but the ones who stay will likely vote Democratic.

I fear, though, that despite the explanatory power of the Dirt Gap, the concept will not be widely discussed. The problem is that it's too morally neutral. What people want to hear are explanations for why they are morally superior to their enemies.

No stink with ink

Suggestion: A reader writes:

Why don't we ink stain people's fingers here on election day? We have really shoddy electioneering safe-guards over here. I suspect the Dems engage in significant voter fraud in basket-case areas. A simple thing like ink stains could go a long way, I suspect.

It would certainly discourage voting by illegal aliens.

Steve Sailer articles from 2001

More of my old articles: Readers seem to like my old articles when I dig them up and put them in a presentable format. So, here are a random sample from the first half of 2001. A few might be out of date, but most of my topics are of the more things change, the more they stay the same variety:

Why the French Ignore Darwin
The Science of Being a Nightclub Bouncer
A Win-Win Solution to Indian Team Name Disputes

The Web's True Digital Divide

Russia's Kremlin: Symbol of Survival

Canada's Experience with Bilingualism

Is Bilingualism Needed in the US?

Q&A with Ron Unz, Bilingual Ed's #1 Enemy

Book Review: Lives of the Statisticians: The Lady Tasting Tea

Book Review: History of Drugs: Forces of Habit

Latino Quarterly Probe's Bush's Mexican Millionaire Contacts

Is Linda Chavez Hispanic Enough?

CBEST or Worst?


So you want to be a public school teacher? To teach in a California public school, you have to pass the California Basic Educational Skills Test. Somebody showed me a book of CBEST practice tests and while thumbing through the reading comprehension section, I was struck by how incomprehensible the reading samples were. For instance:

There is an importance of learning communication and meaning in language... Communication in the classroom is vital. The teacher should use communication to help students develop the capacity to make their private responses become public responses.


If you are looking for a single sentence that combines the banal, the barbarous, and the unfathomable, it's hard to beat: "There is an importance of learning communication and meaning in language."

The clarity of other passages on the exam could be enhanced by recasting them as, say, dialogue spoken by Shaggy on Scooby-doo. For example,

In view of the current emphasis on literature-based reading instruction, a greater understanding by teachers of variance in cultural, language, and story components should assist in narrowing the gap between reader and text and improve reading comprehension. Classroom teachers should begin with students' meaning and intentions about stories before moving students to the commonalities of story meaning based on common background and culture.

makes far more sense when rendered in Shaggy-speak:

You gotta dig where these stories are coming from, man! And you gotta grok where your kids heads are at.

Clearly, the point of the CBEST is to intimidate and/or bore anybody who didn't get a degree in Ed. into not trying to become a public school teacher in order to keep the supply of teachers down and their wages up. But, think of what it does to the souls of the people we entrust our children to that they had to spend their formative college years drenched in this gibberish.

PS, Looking at some other CBEST books, the test looks much more reasonable. I suspect that this book isn't representative.

Malcolm Gladwell on trial by jury

More Malcolm: A reader writes:

I saw Malcolm Gladwell on NY1, the local cable station in NYC. He continued the contradictions you identified, and then went on to make the loopy assertion that criminal defendants, because of racial prejudice, should testify from behind a screen --- or not at all, and respond to questions by email.

Great idea! Malcolm, who never met two contradictory ideas he didn't like, also writes at length in Blink about how people have an innate talent for recognizing whether somebody is telling the truth or not from their facial expressions. How exactly is the jury supposed to exercise their "rapid cognition" ability via email? Hmmhmmhm ... do you think if the racial makeup of defendants was different, Malcolm would be espousing the opposite view?

Look, the reason I hammer Malcolm Gladwell and Jared Diamond so hard is because they aren't invincibly ignorant. They are even a little bit courageous. They are people who like to prance up to the precipice of the truth and then dash away. They've made themselves rich by constructing politically correct rationales for stupider people to believe.

February 4, 2005

Efron on Slezkine's "The Jewish Century"

Yuri Slezkine's The Jewish Century is compared to The Origin of Species. Noah Efron, who is a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and teaches history & philosophy of science at Bar-Ilan University, writes in in the Jerusalem Report:

Still, the schematic nature of Slezkine’s analysis is an unavoidable cost of writing on such a capacious scale, and it’s a price well worth paying. The clarity of analysis is extraordinary, and the relatively simple conceptual tools Slezkine provides are unexpectedly powerful. After reading Darwin for the first time*, Thomas Henry Huxley registered shock that so clear and simple an explanation could explain so much, and that it had been overlooked for so long. I could be Slezkine’s Huxley.

It’s now 22 years since I moved to Israel to remake myself as an apollonian [man of the soil], and I find myself a fat university professor in a room lined with books, waiting for the next issue of the New York Review to arrive. The Soviet Union is gone, of course, and the great-grandchildren of Jewish revolutionaries are mostly trying to make a living in Brooklyn and Bat Yam. We are all mercurians now, but as Slezkine has shown, it may be that my personal failure to remold myself ultimately owes to the Jews’ great success remolding the world we all live in.

* To be precise, Huxley had read many articles and letters by his friend Darwin, but had never given much credence to Darwin's fragmentary advancement of his theory of natural selection, until Huxley read Darwin's book-length treatment in 1859, at which point he exclaimed, "How stupid of me not to have thought of that."

February 2, 2005

Neil Risch on race

Race is good enough for government work: Geneticist Neil Risch, who recently moved from Stanford to UC San Francisco medical school, has done a DNA study of 3,636 people from 15 locations in the US and Taiwan.

Checking a box next to a racial/ethnic category gives several pieces of information about people - the continent where their ancestors were born, the possible color of their skin and perhaps something about their risk of different diseases. But a new study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine finds that the checked box also says something about a person's genetic background.

This work comes on the heels of several contradictory studies about the genetic basis of race. Some found that race is a social construct with no genetic basis while others suggested that clear genetic differences exist between people of different races.

What makes the current study, published in the February issue of the American Journal of Human Genetics, more conclusive is its size. The study is by far the largest, consisting of 3,636 people who all identified themselves as either white, African-American, East Asian or Hispanic. Of these, only five individuals had DNA that matched an ethnic group different than the box they checked at the beginning of the study. That's an error rate of 0.14 percent....

Without knowing how the participants had identified themselves, Risch and his team ran the results through a computer program that grouped individuals according to patterns of the 326 [DNA] signposts. This analysis could have resulted in any number of different clusters, but only four clear groups turned up. And in each case the individuals within those clusters all fell within the same self-identified racial group.

"This shows that people's self-identified race/ethnicity is a nearly perfect indicator of their genetic background," Risch said.

When the team further analyzed each of the four clusters, they found two distinct sub-groups within the East Asian genetic cluster. These two groups correlated with people who identified themselves as Chinese and Japanese. None of the other genetic groups could be broken down into smaller sub-sections. This suggests that there isn't enough genetic difference to distinguish between people who have ancestry from northern Europe versus southern Europe, for example. Risch admitted that few people in this study were of recent mixed ancestry, who might not fall into such neat genetic categories.

I've often pointed out the absurdities inherent in the U.S. Government's race and ethnicity guidelines, but I've also admitted that on the whole they tend to be good enough for government work.

Risch has been working to show that self-identification into broad categories is good enough for medicine, too. I think it's important, though, that doctors keep a relativistic, nesting model of racial groups in mind. For example, although most white subgroups are fairly similar genetically, they should watch out for where they aren't.

Consider alcohol. While doctors who believe that one glass of red wine per day helps the heart shouldn't hesitate to recommend it to Italians and Jews, whose ancestors have been drinking wine for thousands of years, they should ask some questions before recommending alcohol to Swedes and Finns, who often have a hard time stopping once they start drinking. Likewise, the Japanese tend to get drunk fast but also don't have much trouble getting up and getting to work the next morning, but their distant cousins the American Indians have terrible problems with alcohol. Although Risch found that Hispanics lump together pretty well, I would guess that they'd be quite variable in relation to drinking, depending upon whether they inherited Iberian or Amerindian genes for processing alcohol.

February 1, 2005

Easterbrook vs. Diamond

Gregg Easterbrook has some sensible caveats to offer about Jared Diamond's Collapse.

Personally, I suspect that Diamond worked on his book too long. By the time he got it done, history had moved on and the word "collapse" was less evocative of environmental catastrophe than of what has happened to birthrates among the productive portion of the world's population. Diamond's book will help scare bright and impressionable young people into childlessness, which is turning out to be a much worse problem for civilization than the deforestation that scares Diamond.

Colds, zinc, echinacea, evolution

Fighting off the common cold: I have a lousy immune system, so I'm vulnerable to catching a cold almost any time I get tired. For example, right now I can feel a sore throat developing, so I'm headed to bed soon.

I've found that the herb echinacea temporarily boosts my immune system, often eliminating the sore throat for several hours. I've also found that zinc will knock down many a cold that has already started.

This does not mean these will work for you. But doctors don't seem to understand that immune systems differ. The NYT quotes:

Dr. Eric Larson, an internist at Group Health in Seattle, said, "If anybody actually found a way to prevent a cold, we'd all know about it and we'd all be using it, and there would be no disagreement among doctors."

No, no, no. The whole point of William D. Hamilton's famous Red Queen theory for why there are two sexes, instead of just females cloning themselves, is so there exists a diversity of genomes, most specifically immune systems, so parasites (i.e., germs) can't evolve specialized attacks Sexual reproduction reshuffles the genetic deck with each new generation so that we put up new defenses against germs.

So, what works for my immune system (echinacea and zinc) is not likely to work for everybody else's. It's basic evolutionary logic, but doctors don't know anything about evolution.

Ami Eden: "Playing the Holocaust Card"

Yuri Slezkine's The Jewish Century gets a positive review from The Forward, the former Yiddish newspaper now published in English.

Also, Ami Eden, the national editor of The Forward, published an important op-ed in the NYT called "Playing the Holocaust Card:"

Jewish organizations and advocates of Israel fail to grasp that they are no longer viewed as the voice of the disenfranchised. Rather, they are seen as a global Goliath, close to the seats of power and capable of influencing policies and damaging reputations. As such, their efforts to raise the alarm increasingly appear as bullying.

The most recent example came earlier this month, after Prince Harry of Britain was photographed attending a private masquerade party in a World War II-era German uniform and Nazi armband. His appearance touched off a frenzy in the news media. The prince was called insensitive to Jewish suffering, with some suggesting that he was infected with anti-Jewish bigotry lurking in the genes of the royal family. One protester, Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, called on the prince to make amends by traveling to Poland for the Auschwitz ceremony.

This is exactly the wrong approach. By playing the Holocaust card against Harry, Jewish critics deflected attention from how Harry had insulted the memory of the millions of Britons who suffered during World War II; they also risked squandering a diminishing supply of hard-won moral capital better spent in the fight against terrorism and the rise in Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism...

For more than half a century, Auschwitz has rightly stood at the heart of virtually every moral argument put forth by spokesmen for the Jewish community, a powerful testament to the consequences of otherwise decent people remaining silent in the face of evil. Yet this legacy is in peril, threatened by an increasing reliance on raw political muscle over appeals to conscience.

As the world recalls the horrors and liberation of Auschwitz, Jewish organizations and advocates for Israel should remember that "speaking truth to power" does not work when you are seen as the powerful one.

A brave essay. One thing that could be added is that Jews need to realize that people like Abe Foxman and Morris Dees are not on their sides. They are on the sides of Abe Foxman and Morris Dees, respectively. They make a very nice living scaring the bejeebers out of elderly affluent Jews with nightmare stories about how the New Cossacks are ready to ride, and then extracting big donations.

January 31, 2005


"We have now sunk to a depth at which re-statement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men." -- George Orwell, as quoted in John Derbyshire's month end NRO column. The Derb also tells of the Episcopal Church's response to Maggy Brimelow's last request.

Steve Sailer's homepage and blog is iSteve.com

The Election in Iraq

As my adolescent kids constantly ask me whenever we go anywhere, "Can we leave now?"

Steve Sailer's homepage and blog is iSteve.com

January 30, 2005

Melody composition and age

A reader writes:

I suspect that with composers there's an age correlation with melodic skill as well, i.e. other things being equal, a 40-year-old composer won't be nearly as melodically fertile as a 20-year-old composer. (He may, of course, be far superior to a 20-year-old composer in structural skills or other creative areas.) Maybe the brain cells that determine melodic ability are among those, like short-term memory cells, that decrease in numbers with the passing of years. I've never seen any print discussion of this theory. One reason I cherish Wagner so much is that his melodic inspiration flowed as freely in his old age as it did during his youth.

Has anybody ever done an objective study of the ages at which songwriters peaked? Irving Berlin, for example, was 23 when he wrote "Alexander's Ragtime Band" and 51 when he wrote "White Christmas," which sounds quite late in life to write a massive hit song. That's a long, long time to stay on top of the game. Richard Rodgers' last mega-musical, "The Sound of Music," debuted when he was 57.

Steve Sailer's homepage and blog is iSteve.com

Phony campus hate crime redux

Another phony campus hate crime: An e.e. cummings-like reader writes:

the article mentioned "crying." that says it all. this sort of behavior is *hysteria*...the byproduct of the feminization of higher education, that is, the change in the culture which tends to prioritize emotional values and empathy rather than facts or reason.

Steve Sailer's homepage and blog is iSteve.com

My old golf articles

When it comes to golf, I write better than I play:

The Decline of the Black Golf Pro

The Decline of the Black Caddie

Sociobiological Roots of Golf Courses

Lesbians Flock to Nabisco Ladies Golf Championship

Sorenstam "will miss cut by four strokes"

Sorenstam or Wie as future of women's golf

Why affluent homeowners like environmentalism:

1. Revolt of the Range Rover Republicans

2. A Golf Course 30 Years in the Making

3. All Green Politics Are Local

The Golf Recession:

1. The Golf Recession

2. Why Golf Has Gotten So Expensive

3. Will Less Expensive Golf Courses Catch On?

4. Golf's Demographic Dead-End

Steve Sailer's homepage and blog is iSteve.com

War Nerd

The War Nerd Is Back with his Superwar Preview: The U.S. versus Iran.

Of course all the NeoCon crazies are peddling the old story that "once we invade, the people will rally to the cause of freedom."

Yeah. Just like they did in Iraq. If we couldn't get people on our side after deposing a monster like Saddam, what chance do you think we have of winning hearts and minds in Iran? The kids in Iran are pissed off at the way the old Mullahs won't let 'em rock and roll, but the idea that they'll support an American invasion because they're bored is totally insane. It's like imagining that the kids in Footloose would've backed a Soviet invasion of Nebraska because John Lithgow wouldn't let them hold school dances.

The argument between Mullahs and kids in Iran is a classic family fight. And you know what happens when some intruder crashes in on the middle of one of those: the whole family unites in about a millisecond and tears him apart.

Steve Sailer's homepage and blog is iSteve.com

Malcolm Gladwell: "Blink"

My new VDARE.com column "Malcolm Gladwell Blinks at Racial Realities" is a demolition of #1 bestseller Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by the New Yorker writer who authored the 2000 hit The Tipping Point. Gladwell describes Blink as "A book about rapid cognition, about the kind of thinking that happens in a blink of an eye."

Here's what I learned from Gladwell's style about what the lucrative corporate audience wants a nonfiction writer to do:

  • Find or concoct marketable buzzwords for concepts with which readers are already familiar. For example, Gladwell uses the term "thin-slicing" to put a positive new spin on the old practice of judging a book by its cover.

  • Don't even try to make sense. Logic and consistency just annoy most readers.

Blink's individual anecdotes are interesting and well written. But taken as a whole, the book is a mish-mash of contradictions. Gladwell strongly encourages you to rely upon your snap judgments … except when you shouldn't.

Now, it would be tremendously useful if Gladwell had figured out some general rules of thumb for when to rely on your instantaneous hunches and when not to.

But as far as I can tell, his book boils down to two messages:

  • Go with your gut reactions, but only when they are right.

  • And even when your gut reactions are factually correct, ignore them when they are politically incorrect.

The most intriguing aspect of Gladwell's book is that its hopeless confusion and mind-melting political correctness stem from the author's own racial background. Although mostly white, Gladwell is partly of African descent (his mother was black, Scottish, and Jewish). But he doesn't look noticeably black in most of his pictures.

The origin of Blink, he writes on his website, came when, "on a whim," he let his hair grow long into a loose but large Afro.
As you can see in this picture of Gladwell with his Afro, he wound up with more of a Napoleon Dynamite Mormon 'fro than the genuine kinky kind that ABA basketball players espoused back in the 1970s. Still, it does finally make him look marginally black.

As soon as Gladwell grew his Afro, he claims, he started getting hassled by The Man: highway patrolmen wrote him speeding tickets, airport security gave him the evil eye, and the NYPD questioned him for 20 minutes because they were looking for a rapist with an Afro.
"That episode on the street got me thinking about the weird power of first impressions," he says. "And that thinking led to Blink."

Obviously, Gladwell is not being wholly honest about why he chose to grow an Afro, which is an extremely high-maintenance hairstyle.
(I know, because I looked just like Napoleon Dynamite myself back in 1978. If you are thinking about growing an Afro yourself, trust me when I tell you that anytime you lean your head against a wall or the back of your chair, you will dent your 'fro.)

People pick a hairstyle to project an image, and Gladwell presumably wanted to shed his nerdy son-of-a-math-professor look and start making first impressions that reeked of that dangerous, sexy, black rebel glamour associated with famous Afro-wearers like Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver and blaxploitation movie hero Shaft:

"Who's the cat that won't cop out
When there's danger all about?
Right On!"

Now the inevitable downside of trying to look dangerous to impress girls and interviewers is that you look dangerous to cops.

But you aren't going to hear about tradeoffs from Gladwell, nor about racial differences. He makes a huge amount of money lecturing corporations, and he prudently toes the EEOC-enforced party line about how there's no contradiction whatsoever between "diversity" and profit maximization.

Steve Sailer's homepage and blog is iSteve.com