August 2, 2008

Peter Turchin as Hari Seldon

Razib at GNXP offers a useful summary-review of Peter Turchin's ambitious "War and Peace and War," in which Turchin offers three theories to explain much of human history. I offer my thoughts in the GNXP comments.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

August 1, 2008

I hate this kind of thing

A reader writes to tell me that he can't read my blog using MS Internet Explorer 7. He says all I have to do is remove my Sitemeter code. But I've been using Sitemeter for many years, so I'm not going to do that.

Of course, this post is most relevant to you if you use MS IE 7. But if you do, then you probably can't read this, so it all seems pretty futile.

Well, whatever it is, it's not my fault, so I'm just going to procrastinate and hope it goes away by itself.

UPDATE: It seems to have gone away by itself. Chalk up another triumph for procrastination!

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Temporary ban on new fast food restaurants in South Central LA

Recently, the LA city council voted to ban for one year the opening of new fast food restaurants in South Central Los Angeles (which, by the way, we're not supposed to call South Central anymore, due to the unfortunate events of April 1992 -- it's just South Los Angeles now, officially speaking).

Interestingly, the recent proliferation of chain fast-food restaurants and retail outlets in South-Central LA is actually the solution to an older problem.

As you'll recall, South Central LA witnessed vicious racial pogroms in April 1992 against immigrant (typically Korean) entrepreneurs operating within the black community. Korean shopkeepers tended to treat black customers brusquely and would seldom hire and almost never promote local blacks.

Since then, corporate America, often in partnership with black entrepreneurs like Magic Johnson, has greatly expanded the number of chain outlets in South Central. These are more willing to employ local residents than immigrant mom-and-pop establishments, and promote them too.

For example, the Florence-Normandie neighborhood where the 1992 riot broke out now has a quite decent chain-run supermarket with a first rate fresh produce section.

In general, the Stuff White People Like coterie sees immigrant-dominated retail streets as "vibrant" and chain-dominated retail streets as "boring," but the latter are better for African-Americans looking for jobs.

On the other hand, Hispanics are slowly pushing blacks out of South Central, so a lot of businesses tip to all Hispanic employees. Once you reach a certain percentage of Spanish-only employees, you have practical reasons to start demanding that new employees all speak at least Spanish. And there are virtually no bilingual African-Americans in LA. (Among the 900 black LAPD officers, I was told on good authority in 2001 that only four spoke Spanish -- and LA cops have plenty of career reasons to learn Spanish.)

By the way, the ban on fast food restaurants is hardly unprecedented. It's just that they are usually banned in upscale neighborhoods. For example, Avalon, the quaint little tourist town on Catalina Island, had, as of my last visit in 1997, absolutely no national chain restaurants, retailers, or hotels of any kind. Similarly, on Martha's Vineyard, McDonalds famously waged an epic battle trying to get permission to open an outlet.

So, what's different about this is that it's happening in a poor neighborhood, where fast food restaurants have typically been welcome since they provide jobs to poor people. I'm just speculating, but perhaps what has happened in South Central is that black politicians in LA have turned against fast food outlets because so many tipped to workforces that are all Hispanic, because once you have a certain fraction of Spanish-only employees, it makes sense to get rid of all your English-only employees. And African-Americans in LA are almost never bilingual.

The Latino employees are frequently illegal immigrants who don't vote, so the black politicians' electoral base doesn't benefit as much from fast food employment anymore.

In general, black politicians in LA represent districts where most of the voters are black but most of the residents and workers are Latino. This can make for some unusual policies.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Undocumented workers and undocumented mortgages

From "Mexicans Sending Less Money Home" in the Washington Post:

Javier Martinez, 46, a construction worker who lives in Manassas, said that a year ago he was able to send up to $1,500 a month to his wife and two children in the Mexican state of Zacatecas. Now he can only send about $500 a month. His work laying tiles has slowed down, and he can no longer find renters for the three houses he owns as immigrants have left Prince William County because of the ongoing crackdown on illegal immigrants.

Wait a minute ... a guy who lays tile for a living and sends $18,000 per year to his wife and two kids in Mexico owns three houses in a pricey Washington D.C. suburb? How much you want to bet we taxpaying citizens are going to end up bailing out his three mortgages?

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

July 31, 2008

Suicide in 2001 anthrax case

David Willman of the LA Times breaks a big story on the post-9/11 terrorism wave that is one reason why we're in Iraq:

A top government scientist who helped the FBI analyze samples from the 2001 anthrax attacks has died in Maryland from an apparent suicide, just as the Justice Department was about to file criminal charges against him for the attacks, the Los Angeles Times has learned.

Bruce E. Ivins, 62, who for the last 18 years worked at the government's elite biodefense research laboratories at Ft. Detrick, Md., had been informed of his impending prosecution, said people familiar with Ivins, his suspicious death and the FBI investigation.

Ivins, whose name had not been disclosed publicly as a suspect in the case, played a central role in research to improve anthrax vaccines by preparing anthrax formulations used in experiments on animals.

Regarded as a skilled microbiologist, Ivins also helped the FBI analyze the powdery material recovered from one of the anthrax-tainted envelopes sent to a U.S. senator's office in Washington.

Ivins died Tuesday at Frederick Memorial Hospital after ingesting a massive dose of prescription Tylenol mixed with codeine, said a friend and colleague, who declined to be identified out of concern that he would be harassed by the FBI. ...

The anthrax mailings killed five people, crippled national mail service, shut down a Senate office building and spread fear of further terrorism after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The extraordinary turn of events followed the government's payment in June of a settlement valued at $5.82 million to a former government scientist, Steven J. Hatfill, who was long targeted as the FBI's chief suspect despite a lack of any evidence that he had ever possessed anthrax.

Early in the year, I took a look at a third Ft. Detrick scientist (since moved on to other jobs) -- i.e., neither Ivins nor Hatfill -- whose name has been fairly widely tossed around as the possible anthrax assassin. The more I Googled, the more the pieces seemed to fit together. I was about ready to post my conspiracy theory when I took one more look at it and -- poof -- I realized that I didn't have any real evidence at all. So, thankfully, I didn't post his name, and instead wrote:
"I'm not going to mention his name, but if you know who I'm talking about and think he did it, try to force yourself into a gestalt where you assume he didn't do it and see if you can think of less sinister explanations for the facts known about him."

As far as I can recall, Ivins's name, in contrast, didn't come up much in the conspiracy theorizing. Here's a Google search that shows relatively little in the way of theorizing about his involvement -- even though his name was published in USA Today in 2004 in regard to some dodgy doings at Detrick.

His name was featured suspiciously in the book Vaccine A by investigative journalist Gary Matsumoto about the anthrax vaccine that Ivins helped develop. But I don't see anything on Google suggesting Matsumoto linked Ivins to involvement with the 2001 terror attacks.

In general, it appears that almost nobody -- whether government investigators, professional journalists, or lone obsessives in their bathrobes -- suspected Ivins, at least not enough to leave much of a trace on Google. (Indeed, most of the Google searches on "Ivins anthrax" turn up references to the late pundit Molly Ivins.)

For example, here's the part of Ed Lake's website where he collects all the published facts on the anthrax attacks where he speculates on traits of the supplier and who the mailer might be. He doesn't sound too far off, but neither set of traits seems to fit Ivins terribly well. Lake's profile is in bold:

1. The supplier probably took the Ames anthrax from a government facility.


2. The supplier was probably fired from that facility.

Not when Lake wrote this a few years ago.

3. The supplier is probably considered an unstable personality, perhaps even a "drunk".

Sounds more like delusions of grandeur, according to Ivins's brother.

4. The supplier is almost certainly unmarried.

No, Ivins was married.

5. The supplier is a loner with few friends - if any.
6. The supplier is disgruntled and uncomfortable working with others.
7. The supplier probably uses phrases like "I keep telling them, but they don't listen."
8. The supplier doesn't care much about "rules".
9. The supplier believes that a free exchange of information is key to advancements in science.
10. The supplier may have had knowledge needed by the refiner/mailer.

I don't know about 5-10.

11. The supplier is probably in his late 40s or early 50s.

A little older.

12. The supplier probably lost his security clearance as a result of his actions.

No, Ivins got off scot-free despite admitting to breaking rules regarding handling of anthrax.

It's striking that here's one of the big historical mysteries of recent years, and yet nobody, official or unofficial, seemed to have had a clue for at least five years. I thought the Internet was supposed to make this kind of thing untenable.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

My contribution to the Stuff White People Like book

is the "Not a Bus" concept in "#147 - Public Transportation That Is Not a Bus." Christian Lander developed my basic point nicely:

... White people all support the idea of public transportation and will be happy to tell you about how the subways and streetcars/trams have helped to energize cities like Chicago and Portland. They will tell you all about the energy and cost savigns of having people abandon their cars for public transportation and how they hope that one day they can live in a city where they will be car-free.

At this point, you are probably thinking about the massive number of buses that serve your city and how you have never seen a white person riding them. To a white person a bus is essentially a giant minivan that continually stops to pick up progressively smellier people. You should never, ever point this out to a white person. It will make them recognize that they might not love public transportation as much as they though, and then they will feel sad.

The book is on Amazon for $11.80. I was going to mention that it's very easy to give books as gifts via Amazon (just fill in the address of the recipient), but then I noticed "#138 Books:"

So now that you know that white people like books, you might assume that a book is the perfect gift. Not so fast. There are a few possible outcomes from giving books, and few of them end well. If you get a white person a book that they already have, the situation will be uncomfortable. If you get them a book that they do want, you will be forever viewed as someone with poor taste in literature. In the event that you get them a book that they want and do not have, they are forced to recognize that they have not read it, which instantly paints you as a threat. There is no way to win when you give a book to a white person.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Hillary Clinton is the Katie Holmes of the Veepstakes

In the latest Batman movie (or "the Batman" as all the bad guys in the picture say), Katie Holmes has been replaced as the love interest by Maggie Gyllenhall, who looks like a sad cartoon turtle. Exactly why we're supposed to believe that Christian Bale and Aaron Eckhart are both hopelessly in love with Maggie Gyllenhaal is unexplained, but that's not the point.

The point is that casting Mrs. Tom Cruise in a blockbuster movie is like picking Mrs. Bill Clinton to run on the national ticket-- she's okay, but what's her husband going to do be doing? He's got way too much energy to stay out of the spotlight. Who needs him? And, thus, who needs her?

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

July 30, 2008

David Brooks as the Kinder, Gentler Steve Sailer

One of the eerier feelings for me is to start reading a New York Times op-ed and realize partway through that the columnist is engaging in an argument with me, even though I'm not named. That happens several times per year with David Brooks's NYT columns. (I've been told on trustworthy authority that he is a regular reader, so I'm not just being paranoid here.)

A moderate amount of his stuff seems to be either echoing or arguing with me, (The last time Brooks mentioned my name in the NYT back in 2004, he got a lot of grief from the commissars about it.)

Without the Secret Decoder Ring, it's often hard to figure out what Brooks is talking about. Consider his recent column "The Luxurious Growth." (Here's John Derbyshire's reply.) Or here's his September 2007 column on "The Waning of IQ" that makes no sense at all except under the presumption that NYT subscribers are regular iSteve readers who are almost persuaded by my work. (Here's GNXP's response to it.)

As you know, my basic shtick is that, increasingly, specific government policies tend to matter less than the quantities and qualities of various populations. For example, Hong Kong became prosperous under free trade and laissez-faire, while Singapore became prosperous under protectionism and paternalism.

Thus, immigration policy is more central to the future of America than most of the controversies more welcome in the pages of the New York Times.

My impression is that Brooks finds my work highly persuasive, but also highly troubling, both from an ideological and career perspective. So, he sometimes seems to be groping around for some way to refute me, but all without mentioning my name. Thus you end up with weird columns that are structured like this:

1. The conventional wisdom is [something that only iSteve readers would dare imagine].

2. But, the latest research actually shows that this [utter heresy] isn't quite the sure thing everybody [i.e., my readers, not NYT subscribers] assume, and the reality is [pretty much what politically correct people everywhere assumed all along it was].

For example, today's column parallels my January 1, 2008 column on James Heckman's research on high school graduation rates, but then skids off the rails at the end. Brooks writes:
The meticulous research of Goldin and Katz is complemented by another report from James Heckman of the University of Chicago. Using his own research, Heckman also concludes that high school graduation rates peaked in the U.S. in the late 1960s, at about 80 percent. Since then they have declined.

In “Schools, Skills and Synapses,” Heckman probes the sources of that decline. It’s not falling school quality, he argues. Nor is it primarily a shortage of funding or rising college tuition costs. Instead, Heckman directs attention at family environments, which have deteriorated over the past 40 years.

Heckman points out that big gaps in educational attainment are present at age 5. Some children are bathed in an atmosphere that promotes human capital development and, increasingly, more are not. By 5, it is possible to predict, with depressing accuracy, who will complete high school and college and who won’t.

I.Q. matters, but Heckman points to equally important traits that start and then build from those early years: motivation levels, emotional stability, self-control and sociability. He uses common sense to intuit what these traits are, but on this subject economists have a lot to learn from developmental psychologists. [See my February blog posting on this second aspect of Heckman's work: "Psychology for Economists."]

I point to these two research projects because the skills slowdown is the biggest issue facing the country. Rising gas prices are bound to dominate the election because voters are slapped in the face with them every time they visit the pump. But this slow-moving problem, more than any other, will shape the destiny of the nation.

Second, there is a big debate under way over the sources of middle-class economic anxiety. Some populists emphasize the destructive forces of globalization, outsourcing and predatory capitalism. These people say we need radical labor market reforms to give the working class a chance. But the populists are going to have to grapple with the Goldin, Katz and Heckman research, which powerfully buttresses the arguments of those who emphasize human capital policies. It’s not globalization or immigration or computers per se that widen inequality. It’s the skills gap. Boosting educational attainment at the bottom is more promising than trying to reorganize the global economy.

But, obviously, the current immigration system of large amounts of unskilled illegal immigration and large amounts of highly skilled legal immigration widens "the skills gap." And, nice as it is to imagine that, after 45 years of failing, we'll suddenly somehow dream up a way for "boosting educational attainment at the bottom," the much more plausible thing that we can actually get done before hell freezes over to slow the widening of the skills gap is to fix immigration policy.

July 29, 2008

A headline in the LA Times

The LA Times has one staffer, Andrew Malcolm, who was a big Hillary Clinton fan, so we are occasionally treated to headlines like this:

Phil Spector endorses Barack Obama

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

The U.S. Olympic team is always Californian-dominated

I had long had this impression, and now the Olympics issue of Sports Illustrated confirms it: Californians are hugely over-represented on the Summer Olympics team.

"Based on hometowns, California produced more members of Team USA (175) than any other state."

Indeed, the next seven states only produced 176 athletes.

"The colleges with the most team members (current students or alums) are Stanford (31), UCLA (19), USC (19), Texas (17), Cal (14), and North Carolina (13)."

Why is this?

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

July 28, 2008

Reagan's Protectionism

It's interesting to compare the different American policy responses to the rise of Japanese industrial might in the 1970s and 1980s to the rise of Chinese industrial might in the 1990s and 2000s. The Reagan Administration negotiated a "voluntary export restraint" agreement with the Japanese government that limited the number of Japanese cars imported into America. The limitation stayed in place until 1994. In the meantime, Japanese automakers built numerous car factories in the U.S., which have proved highly successful.

Today, most mass market Japanese cars like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry sold in the U.S. are of majority North American content. The Japanese sell their Japan-assembled versions of these models in the U.S. under their luxury nameplates (e.g., Infiniti and Lexus) with a price premium of something like $5,000.

This strike me, and, I would guess, most Americans, as a reasonable outcome -- at the cost of 13 years of protectionism, Americans wound up with a long-run solution in which American consumers now get quality cars at reasonable prices built primarily by American workers, while fashion-conscious Americans can buy even higher quality cars at less reasonable prices made by Japanese workers.

And yet, despite all these huge factories providing good paying jobs to large numbers of Americans, this bit of recent history has disappeared down the memory hole, so complete is the victory of the free trade ideology. While the U.S. government took effective action in the early 1980s regarding Japan, doing anything about the rise of China to industrial dominance has simply been off the intellectual table over the last 15 years.

Back in 2004, I blogged:

Why I'm a true believer in utterly free trade -- The theory of free trade has never been contradicted by history. For example, as we all know, the tremendous growth of the American economy in the 19th Century was due to Alexander Hamilton's insistence that free trade be the absolute cornerstone of our economic policy. Every schoolboy knows Abraham Lincoln's 1860 campaign slogan: "Free Labor and Free Trade!"

In contrast, Britain's slow, sad decline from its position of economic supremacy after 1846 was due to Prime Minister Peel's betrayal of Britain's traditional free trade policy in favor of protectionism.

Likewise, Bismarck's insistence on zero tariffs enabled outnumbered Germany to almost conquer Europe in WWI using its free trade-nourished industrial might.

And who can forget how contemptuously Ronald Reagan rejected a plan to impose quotas on Japanese car imports to get Toyota and Honda to build car factories in the U.S.?

Oh, wait a minute... Excuse me. Those were the policies of America, Britain, and Germany in the Bizarro reverse world.

Never mind...

On National Review's Corner, two normally level-headed people attacked me for daring to joke about the sacred ideology of free trade:

Ramesh Ponnuru answered, "I respect Steve Sailer's intellect too, Derb, but it's sad to see him embracing every bit of paleocon dogma."

Yup, there's nothing more dogmatic than satire.

Former Reagan speechwriter Peter Robinson, author of "How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life," jumped in to attack my examples. I particularly admired his alternative explanation of how Bismarckian Germany became an industrial powerhouse: "Industrialization." Now I've often expressed my taste for nearly-tautological explanations, such as "survival of the fittest," but this one might be a tad too tautological even for me.

It's hard to say exactly why the dogma of free trade has triumphed so completely, but status striving can't be ruled out. Economists are terribly proud that Ricardo's Law of Comparative Advantage is both significant and not trivial, so showing that you understand has become a major status marker.

Comparative Advantage theory should have starring role in the sequel to Stuff White People Like.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

July 27, 2008

Ward Connerly's initiatives and Presidential politics

My new column is up: "Obama hands McCain the quota issue. Will he use it?" It's about Ward Connerly's anti-racial preferences initiatives in three states including John McCain's Arizona. Obama opposes them, but today McCain finally said he supported them.

Here's an excerpt:

When asked whether his daughters should benefit from affirmative action, Obama routinely makes a head fake in the direction of supporting adding class-based preferences to the mix.

But he's not serious about this.

Nobody has ever adequately explained how class-based quotas would actually work, since class is a hazier concept than race. What class was Obama as a young man? For that matter, what class was McCain as a youth? Economically, McCain wasn't particularly well off, but within his caste, he was a prince of the finest blood—the son and grandson of admirals.

Moreover, you can intentionally lower your kid's class through your bad behavior. You can write the cartoon caption: "I'm drinking my kid into Harvard."

Finally, Obama knows perfectly well that his closest friends in Chicago's black corporate business elite benefit hugely from affirmative action. The plain truth is that, the farther up the social ladder a black person is born, the more money affirmative action puts into his pocket.

Consider Obama's friend John W. Rogers Jr., founder of Ariel Capital Management, who manages eleven-figures worth of Other People's Money. Obama knows Rogers through his brother-in-law Craig Robinson, who was Rogers's teammate on the 1979 Princeton basketball team.

I've followed Rogers' career since the early 1990s. He's a smart, cautious, responsible investor.

But let's not kid ourselves: Rogers profits from "minority set-asides"quotas. To take one of many examples, Black Enterprise reported in 2000:

"Raytheon looks to NCM, Ariel and MDL Capital to oversee pension fund monies. An $800 million deal via the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition's Wall Street Project has set up several minority-owned money management firms for a big payday.

"The Raytheon Co., which had $19.8 billion in revenues in 1999… will now entrust 5% of its pension fund assets to women-owned and African American-owned capital management firms during 2000. The Fortune 500 firm employs 105,000 and has $14 billion in its pension plan. Among the minority-owned firms chosen by Raytheon…Ariel Capital Management, based in Chicago …"

The Rainbow/PUSH Coalition is, of course, the shakedown racket run by the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

What's the human connection between John W. Rogers and Jesse Jackson? Well, let's see … Rogers's old teammate and former employee Craig Robinson has a sister who used to be named Michelle Robinson. Long ago, Michelle was Rev. Jackson's babysitter. She became a lifelong friend of the Rev.'s daughter Santita Jackson, who is the godmother of the first daughter born to Michelle Robinson Obama.

Are you starting to see how it all fits together?

John W. Rogers is not a poor kid from the streets who needed a break. He's the scion of perhaps the most upper crust black family in Chicago. His father was a judge. His mother, Jewel Stradford Rogers LaFontant Mankarious, was a third generation Oberlin graduate who served as Deputy Solicitor General in the Nixon Administration and Ambassador-at-Large in the first Bush administration. Rogers's mom was on the boards of directors of Mobil, Equitable Life, TWA, Revlon, Harte-Hanks, Hanes, and Bendix.

To see why affirmative action benefits blue-blooded blacks like Rogers most, think about it from, say, Raytheon's perspective. Jesse Jackson has badgered us into establishing a racial quota for our pension fund management. Okay, fine, we can afford a quota, just as long as the quotees don't lose all our money. So, are we going to hand millions over to some guys we never heard of operating out of a storefront on the West Side? No, we're going to find somebody who seems trustworthy, like this guy Rogers, whose mother was on all those boards of directors.


My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer