Sunday, December 31, 2006

Saddam hanging settles what?

Early yesterday (December 30th), I stumbled into my car just before five in the morning, and was jolted out of lethargy by a BBC radio piece reporting that Saddam had been hanged. Convenient stores in the area were out of the KC Star (the metro area's only major newspaper) by noon. While the conversations about his death were imbued with patriotism and more widespread than I imagined they would be (both assuring in a way), the execution raised even more questions in my mind, settling nothing.

Not inquiries about the prospects of Iraq's success through an Occidental prism--rampant consanguineous marriage with over half of Iraqi men married to a second cousin or closer and relatedly tribalism, an estimated IQ of 87 (and likely declining as those fleeing the 'nation' are disproportionately from the professional classes), a PPP of $1,800 (even as it produces more oil than 150+ countries it is roughly as wealthy as Rwanda), and Islam preclude anything approaching a Jeffersonian democracy, or even a non-authoritarian/non-brutally repressive functioning society of any sort.

The questions that arise instead involve what we're trying to do their now. Unbelievably, many Sunnis see the abrupt hanging of Saddam as brought on by a sort of Iran-US alliance!

While Iran's President vocally blathers on about how the Holocaust is a myth and how the Iranians need nuclear power, neocon publications paint paltry Persia as the Third Reich reincarnated (nevermind that Germany circa 1941 would crush Iran circa 2006), and our President praises the execution of Iran's greatest antagonist. Our tenuous alliance with Saudi Arabia is strained as the kingdom logically fears growing Iranian influence in the Persian Gulf. While partisan militias (and I'm oversimplifying) cleanse neighborhoods of one another, on the eventual road to relative calm as fanctions that cannot live peacefully together separate from one another, we consider throwing another 20,000 troops into the miasma that is Iraq to train Shia fighters who increasingly use the Iraqi Security Forces and Army as an extension of Mahdi Army and other similar splinter groups targeting Sunnis with ever-growing ferocity. I'm flummoxed and depressed at what appears to be the biggest military blunder in the history of the Republic.

The Sunni response has been noticeably tame. Western media sources have been scouring for evidence that Sunnis are responding to Saddam's hanging with accentuated terrorist activity, but so far it just hasn't been happening:
At least 80 Iraqis died in bombings and other attacks Saturday as they prepared to celebrate Islam’s biggest holiday, their first without Saddam Hussein.

The bombings came hours after Saddam was hanged in Baghdad for ordering the killings of 148 Shiites in the city of Dujail in 1982. Despite concerns about a spike in unrest, Saturday’s violence was not unusually high for Iraq, nor did it appear to be in retaliation for the execution.
Since Saddam's death it doesn't appear that Sunnis have even been able to slaughter 200 Shiites.

Has the tide turned irreversibly in favor of the Shia majority? Iraq has, at best, 27 million people, 4-5 million of whom are Arab Sunnis. Of these, perhaps, liberally, one million are males over eighteen and under forty-five. Many of these one million are in Western provinces away from large Shia populations. For how long can a relatively small minority sustain a guerrilla fighting force large enough to keep the Iranian-backed Shia majority from dominating the capital, the oil, and most of the country?

No wonder Saudi Arabia is alarmed.

Steve on how far your dollar will go

Steve Sailer takes the time to comment in some detail about this post that takes a look at how far your American dollars will take you in the various nations of the world. His wide-ranging erudition adds quite a bit to my relatively bland opining.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Seeking worthy land preservation funds

I'm looking for suggestions on worthy land preservation funds focusing on native wildlife within the continental US. The personal row with the National Wildlife Federation has augmented to the point that it's no longer an organization I'm willing to donate to. There's a plethora of funds out there, but I'm clueless.

The NWF's misanthropy doesn't especially bother me (DDT, abortion-on-demand, etc), as it is ubiquitous across the environmentalist spectrum. But the dogmatic obsession with anthropogenic global warming is more than I can take. President and CEO Larry Schweiger pines for the courage to "confront the toughest social and spiritual issue of our day: global warming." Why not more focus on ending Hispanic underclass immigration? The borderlands are being trashed, and brainpower in the US is being diverted toward addressing the social problems and costs third-world immigrants create instead of being utilized in other fields like sustainability and energy research. On immigration, the environmentalist movement is inexplicably ambivalent.

It's fascinating that the mainstream left putatively celebrates Darwin's theory of natural selection while doing everything possible to keep it from continuing (habitually denying that it even has in the last 50,000 years or can continue into the future), while a good portion of the mainstream right denies that evolutionary pressures have shaped life on earth while not seeming to care if evolutionary pressures continue to do so.

The most recent issue of National Wildlife magazine runs special features on several animals that are or may be soon facing existential threats (in part due to climate change): The black-footed ferret, the snail kite, and the polar bear (which flourished in the Pleistocene as human populations contracted drastically due to extreme cold and is now on the losing side as the pendelum swings back the other direction). All three of these creatures, like so many other endangered animals, are at risk due to rigid specialization: black-footed ferrets live almost exclusively on prairie dogs, snail kites have hooked peaks and brittle talons perfect for pulling snails out of their shells but ineffective at hunting mobile game, and polar bears appear to lose weight and reproductive capabilities at drastic rates as temperatures increase (in Canada's James and Hudson Bays, the bears' average adult weight has dropped an astounding 22% in about as many years). Unfortunately, evolutionary pressures put such creatures at perpetual risk.

But one animal's trash is another's treasure. Without batting an eye, the magazine runs a feature on western hummingbirds that have expanded their migration patterns into the eastern United States due to more favorable climate conditions. Anthropogenic warming, of course, isn't applauded or even referred to as "global warming" (instead euphemized only as "climate change"). We can add turkey vultures, red-tailed hawks, great-horned owls, and American kestrels to the list of birds that have probably, if anything, benefited from climate change.

I'd rather my paltry donations go to something palatable, like land acquisition, instead of into futile lobbying efforts designed to curtail emissions by a couple of pounds while India and China add spew over five times more in emissions each year into the atmosphere than all the Kyoto countries combined would be reducing if they were all meeting their reduction obligations (and they're not even coming close--only a couple of the 156+ are making the cut). The economic malaise isn't worth it.

Innovation is the only sustainable way to reach, well, sustainability--it is the developing, not the developed, world that presents the greatest challenges to pollution management. I want to buy up land and keep it free of private development (where were the green voices following the US Supreme Court's Kelo decision?), especially low-value adding crap like retail centers and tourist destinations. And I want nuclear fusion and photovoltaics to wean us from fossil fuels. I'm not sold on financial markets for the trade of pollution credits.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Where to get the most bang for your buck

A few seemingly informed commenters have reported that friends have shifted into reverse, emigrating across the Atlantic back to the Old Continent, the bar lowered from hopes of verdant pastures to wishes for a little soil fertile enough for merit and the preservation of Western culture. I'm nowhere near that stage, but I live in the heart of flyover country. Racial politics are mostly a national phenomenon and the surrounding population strongly resists governmental interference in the private sector. Nonetheless, remembering the words of Martin Niemoller, it seemed nice to have some idea of where I may jet off to in the future to live it up if the US continues down the path of economic feudalism and a political race-spoils system.

To get an idea of how far my money US dollars will take me, I compared the GDP of the globe's nations at the official exchange rate with the US to the CIA's best estimate of each nation's respective GDP in terms of purchasing power parity. Currency fluctuations, regional differences within nations, and the inherent problems in creating a (sometimes hypothetical) basket of items to be purchased comparatively (Burmanese medical care may be cheap but qualitative concerns obviously exist), do not lead to exact cost-of-living comparisons, but they do provide a nice way to compare generally how far your dollars will go in different parts of the world.

The greater the exchange rate (all data is in US dollars at the GDP level) compared to purchasing power parity, the more stuff you'll be able to buy with the dollars exchanged in the foreign country under examination. Conceptually, imagine you can get $1,000 Eagleland for $10 US. In Eagleland, a burger only costs $10 Eagleland. At home it costs $1 US. So where you could've bought ten burgers in the US, you can now buy 100 in Eagleland. Sweet! Except Eagleland probably trades what it offers in cheap goods (and services) with things like rampant poverty, political instability, and underdevelopment.

The ideal runaway spot is a place that is modern but also allows you to live like a king. What follows is a rank order listing of countries by exchange rate-PPP ratio as a percentile. The US is theoretically 100% since the comparisons are in US dollars--$1 exchanged should buy you $1 worth of goods in the US (CIA data actually has it at 98.6%, probably due to the estimative nature of PPP). Over 100% means your dollars will go further than they will in the US, less than 100% means they won't go as far.

1. Burma -- 1073.3%
2. Zimbabwe -- 801.1%
3. Burundi -- 740.3%
4. Ethiopia -- 734.0%
5. Cambodia -- 720.7%
6. Gambia -- 707.2%
7. Rwanda -- 690.1%
8. Uganda -- 603.9%
9. Nepal -- 588.1%
10. Ghana -- 582.8%
11. Dem. Rep. of Congo -- 555.0%
12. Vietnam -- 537.6%
13. Guinea -- 521.5%
14. Mauritania -- 512.7%
15. Uzbekistan -- 510.2%
16. India -- 509.3%
17. Laos -- 487.1%
18. Bangladesh -- 481.3%
19. Kyrgyzstan -- 470.1%
20. Mozambique -- 457.1%
21. Tajikistan -- 456.7%
22. Philippines -- 451.5%
23. Pakistan -- 441.3%
24. Togo -- 440.3%
25. Guyana -- 439.8%
26. Ukraine -- 438.0%
27. Sierra Leone -- 437.9%
28. Guinea-Bissau -- 418.2%
29. Azerbaijan -- 413.4%
30. Paraguay -- 399.8%
31. China -- 399.2%
32. Sri Lanka -- 398.1%
33. Sudan -- 377.5%
34. Mongolia -- 376.6%
35. Dominican Republic -- 371.6%
36. Malawi -- 371.2%
37. Lesotho -- 367.7%
38. Papua New Guinea -- 366.2%
39. Eritrea -- 359.4%
40. Colombia -- 349.0%
41. Moldova -- 348.1%
42. Bhutan -- 345.0%
43. Madagascar -- 340.1%
44. Niger -- 337.7%
45. Equatorial Guinea -- 336.1%
46. Egypt -- 329.7%
47. Haiti -- 323.3%
48. Indonesia -- 322.1%
49. Nicaragua -- 320.1%
50. Iran -- 314.5%
51. Burkina Faso -- 308.2%
52. Afghanistan -- 303.0%
53. Macedonia -- 300.5%
54. Sao Tome -- 299.8%
55. Thailand -- 299.2%
56. Argentina -- 298.6%
57. Armenia -- 296.8%
58. Liberia -- 292.7%
59. Chad -- 291.3%
60. South Africa -- 288.7%
61. Nambia -- 284.6%
62. Turkmenistan -- 279.8%
63. Solomon Islands -- 279.7%
64. Bulgaria -- 277.9%
65. Syria -- 276.4%
66. Algeria -- 276.1%
67. Belarus -- 273.8%
68. Bosnia -- 271.8%
69. Swaziland -- 268.3%
70. Tunisia -- 267. 8%
71. Bolivia -- 267.4%
72. Cape Verde -- 265.1%
73. Kazakhstan -- 264.4%
74. Honduras -- 263.8%
75. Morocco -- 260.1%
76. Cameroon -- 259.0%
77. Senegal -- 258.0%
78. Uruguay -- 256.6%
79. Samoa -- 250.6%
80. Georgia -- 250.5%
81. Mali -- 250.5%
82. Romania -- 250.1%
83. Brazil -- 247.9%
84. Peru -- 239.7%
85. Costa Rica -- 235.7%
86. Mauritius -- 235.4%
87. Malaysia -- 235.2%
88. Kenya -- 235.2%
89. Jordan -- 233.3%
90. Nigeria -- 226.9%
91. Tanzania -- 223.7%
92. Suriname -- 222.5%
93. Latvia -- 218.0%
94. Albania -- 218.0%
95. Libya -- 215.9%
96. Serbia -- 214.4%
97. Montenegro -- 214.4%
98. Russia -- 213.9%
99. Guatemala -- 210.7%
100. Lithuania -- 210.3%
101. Slovakia -- 206.1%
102. Poland -- 205.2%
103. Iraq -- 202.4%
104. Zambia -- 198.7%
105. Belize -- 195.8%
106. Taiwan -- 194.8%
107. Benin -- 194.0%
108. Botswana -- 193.8%
109. Somalia -- 193.7%
110. Estonia -- 191.5%
111. El Salvador -- 189.5%
112. Kiribati -- 187.0%
113. Fiji -- 187.0%
114. Czech Republic -- 186.6%
115. Ecuador -- 186.4%
116. Angola -- 186.1%
117. Turkey -- 175.8%
118. Cote d'Ivoire -- 166.4%
119. Chile -- 164.3%
120. Barbados -- 162.4%
121. Oman -- 161.7%
122. Croatia -- 159.7%
123. Panama -- 156.7%
124. Mexico -- 153.5%
125. Hungary -- 153.3%
126. Maldives -- 153.0%
127. American Samoa -- 152.8%
128. Venezuela -- 152.8%
129. Malta -- 151.4%
130. Gabon -- 145.4%
131. Bahrain -- 144.4%
132. Northern Mariana Islands -- 142.1%
133. Trinidad/Tobago -- 139.1%
134. Dominica -- 137.6%
135. South Korea -- 137.4%
136. Israel -- 137.3%
137. Hong Kong -- 135.7%
138. Yemen -- 135.0%
139. Jamaica -- 133.5%
140. CAR -- 132.6%
141. Saudi Arabia -- 131.2%
142. Brunei -- 124.7%
143. Slovenia -- 122.9%
144. Micronesia -- 119.4%
145. UAE -- 118.0%
146. Portugal -- 117.8%
147. Singaore -- 114.4%
148. Greece -- 113.6%
149. Lebanon -- 110.0%
150. Comoros -- 109.7%
151. Cyprus -- 109.2%
152. New Zealand -- 107.8%
153. Canada -- 107.3%
154. San Marino -- 106.8%
155. East Timor -- 106.0%
156. Bahamas -- 105.6%
157. Saint Lucia -- 105.0%
158. Australia -- 103.7%
159. Virgin Islands -- 101.6%
160. Cuba -- 101.4%
161. Spain -- 101.4%
162. Macau -- 99.5%
163. Congo (Rep. of) -- 97.7%
164. Italy -- 97.5%
165. Luxembourg -- 97.3%
166. Grenada -- 96.9%
167. Isle of Man -- 93.5%
168. Belgium -- 92.0%
169. Austria -- 91.6%
170. Germany -- 90.8%
171. Guam -- 90.2%
172. Kuwait -- 89.8%
173. Djibouti -- 88.2%
174. Finland -- 87.9%
175. Ireland -- 87.6%
176. France -- 87.3%
177. Qatar -- 87.1%
178. Seychelles -- 86.7%
179. Japan -- 86.3%
180. Palau -- 85.9%
181. Netherlands -- 85.7%
182. UK -- 81.6%
183. Iceland -- 81.1%
184. Vanuatu -- 81.0%
185. Saint Vincent -- 79.9%
186. Marshall Islands -- 79.9%
187. Norway -- 79.5%
188. Denmark -- 77.8%
189. Sweden -- 77.1%
190. Niue -- 75.9%
191. Tonga -- 73.2%
192. Liechtenstein -- 71.8%
193. Switzerland -- 65.6%

The comedic role-playing game, Earthbound, has a character commenting a-la 100 Grand that if he discovered a sought-after diamond worth $1 million that he'd move to Japan and live it up. Given that this was in the mid-nineties, when Japan dominated the video game market even more so that it does today, it makes regional sense. But Western Europe is actually the least affordable destination. The Euro's appreciation against the dollar over the last few years has made this even more true. Of course, we're talking about current dollars, not earning potential. Like living conditions in general, the most affordable spots don't offer the greatest prospects (esepcially if you're of European descent--Zimbabwe is #2!).
China and India both offer prospective emigrants lots of bang for their buck (although Bangalore and northern India are, Shanghai and China's rough Western provinces, are both encompassed in the national estimates). Unfortunately, this is antithetical to the US' desire to retain the Asian brains it attracts. Instead, Indian and Chinese tech workers can apply for H1-B visas, live frugally stateside while working for a company like Microsoft, moving back home ten or fifteen years down the road to live like maharajas (the father of one of my brother's best friends did just that--I helped him load up the moving truck last summer).

What about cheap tropical islands? The Solomon Islands are chaotic, and hard to become naturalized in even if you wanted to. Cape Verde? It is a beautiful archipelago and a stable country by African standards. The fishing industry is said to be in an infantile stage of development.

Taiwan is attractive as well. Little crime or unemployment, an export-based economy with a huge trade surplus, and an intelligent population. The PRC looms, but continued trade across the Taiwan Strait means the nation's economic future is bright.

In the Occident? Maybe Hungary? Probably somewhere in the Anglosphere, although these countries seem the least concerned about retaining their cultures and economic competitiveness.

Notice Mexico. Many open-borders advocates try to take a humanitarian position, claiming that Mexico is a destitute place with a victimized population that is trying to flee from so their children (or the kids they'll have once they arrive) won't starve. But Mexico's isn't that poor. Mexicans enjoy a higher standard of living than most people on the planet.

Tight labor market good for wages

Obviously. But it's nice to see the WSJ, putatively the nation's leading free-market newspaper, admit it. The WSJ makes sense economically so long as the immigration issue does not need to be brought up:
Why are wages finally starting to show smart gains for workers? First, the labor market is tight with very low unemployment (4.5% nationwide), giving workers more bargaining power. Second, the big spike in energy prices in recent years raised the cost of living and offset nominal pay hikes, but energy costs have declined since Labor Day and those lower costs translate into higher real wage gains. Third, the surge in business capital spending that began in 2003 with the passage of the investment tax cuts has increased the capital to labor ratio that is a major driver of wage increases over time.

An end to third-world underclass immigration through the construction of a full barrier along the US-Mexico border (a move the WSJ supports in Israel and along the Pakistan/Afghanistan border), tougher employer punitions, and immediate response to local authorities by ICE, will continue the first and third wage-positive trends highlighted in above. Increasing the supply of menial laborers, on the other hand, depresses wages and accentuates the wealth gap.

The op/ed piece ultimately argues for tax cuts, so wage increases may be nothing more than a tool used in favor of the board's argument.

A better idea is to eliminate personal and corporate income tax entirely and shift to a national sales tax. By taxing consumption, the lucrative practice of making cash payments to illegal Hispanic laborers will cease to provide employers an economic benefit. And by providing citizens with an automatic poverty-threshold tax credit, the native poor will be able to utilize at least one meaningful asset--US citizenship. This will lead to a massive migration of capital into the US and will be a boon for manufacturing exporters. Fairtax estimates a 30% sales tax (23% for an apples-to-apples comparison with income tax rates) necessary for the plan to be revenue neutral.

Ideally, I want to see a national sales tax implemented in conjunction with Charles Murray's idea of direct wealth transfer uninhibited by the massive deadweight loss that riddles virtually every governmental program in operation and a merit immigration system. A national free-market where there is enough transfer that no one will live in destitution unless he chooses to do so, with the guarantee that only productive migrants will be admitted in.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Lynn and Vanhanen IQ data

Is anyone aware of an online location of national IQ estimates in Lynn and Vanhanen's IQ and Global Inequality? I'd like to estimate future global IQ using their most recent data.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Congressman Goode on immigration, Koran

Virginia Congressman Virgil Goode is disturbed by representative-elect Keith Ellison's intention to be sworn with Koran in hand. In a letter addressed to many of his fifth district constituents, Goode wrote:
I do not subscribe to using the Koran in any way. The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don't wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be any more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran.

We need to stop illegal immigration totally and reduce legal immigration and end the diversity visas policy pushed hard by President Clinton and allowing many persons from the Middle East to come to this country.

I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped.
Amen.

The liberal right has been quick to condemn Goode, citing freedom of religion as outlined in the First Amendment. The two neoconservative show hosts on my local talk radio station attempted to justify the violence that is championed throughout many of the Koran's Suras by pointing to similar militancy in the Bible. Of course, such an equivocation is a standard tactic of those wanting to confuse the situation. The Old Testament has a few passages along the lines of those in the Koran. The New Testament has virtually nothing glorifying such militancy (the closest one can get is Jesus' throwing the moneychangers out of the Temple in Jerusalem). The Muslim holy book, by contrast, is full of militant passages.

While denying an elected representative the right to use the text of his choosing upon being sworn in to Congress is problematic, that a US Congressman intends to be sworn in using the Koran is illustrative of what the future of America portends.

I do not worship at the altar of the Constitution. The US has enjoyed prosperity and global influence due to a combination of factors: A high IQ population surrounded by populations that provided little technological or military competition (in this sense the US is unique in all of the world), abundant natural resources, a low population density and a relatively tight labor supply, a (until the mid-sixties) racially homogenuous population, and two massive oceans largely isolating the US from the carnage of the Twentieth Century's wars that tore Europe and Asia asunder.

Tolerating virulently intolerant cultures does not enjoy a spot on the list above. The neocon-right doesn't realize that the tolerance it favors has no way to combat an intolerance that takes advantage of such fertile ground and that the only way to preserve Western liberalism is to preserve the civilization (that of European descent) that supports it.

The Propositionalism that has been borne out of these auspicious circumstances only works because of them--if they disappear, so do the benefits putatively ascribed to the Constitution as such. We see most conspicuously how feeble governmental documents are in bringing forth a Jefforsonian, democratic utopia in the Iraq disaster, but the history of interventionism to install such values is riddled with failure: the Philippine's is a tenuous democracy under the continual threat of a military junta, Mexico united in support of a dictator in the early 1900s to repel the US' attempt to topple him, the Middle East that was carved into putative nation-states by Western colonial powers overwhelming rejects liberalism and to the extent that the Occident encourages it, fundamentalist anti-Westerners flourish (the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and its offshoots, Hamas' victory in Palestine, the stunning popularity of Hezbollah in Lebanon, an Iraqi population that largely supports attacks on US troops by the Mahdi Army and other anti-liberal militias, the tenuous hold on power that the House of Sa'ud retains in the Kingdom (and will lose to Al Qaeda types if democracy is tried there)), the US' failed attempt to liberalize Cuba resulting in authoritarian regimes of Batista and then Castro, Bolivia's disintegration into quasi-anarchy, and on and on.

Of course empiricists will clearly see that all of these places do not have what is necessary to sustain a liberal democracy (how many stable democracies are enjoyed by the sub-90 IQ nations? India goes in the quasi-category. That's as close as we get.) They astutely realize that a 'democratic' Iraq or Iran is a much worse place to live than an 'authoritarian' Singapore. The quality of the population is orders of magnitude more important than the verbiage of a nation's constitution. Liberalism and prosperity tend to overlap, but it is because high IQ, homogenuous nations can afford to be liberal (although that do not necessarily choose to do so). A productive population can lead to prosperity, and prosperity can then lead to liberalism. To this point there is scant evidence that the process works in reverse.

And of course rationalists will realize that the more Muslim the US becomes, the more the US will come to resemble the Muslim world. The more Hispanic the US becomes, the more the US will come to resemble Latin America. Do we want to become more like Lebanon? More like Mexico? Has Islamic immigration been a positive development anywhere in Europe (or anywhere in the world, for that matter)? Do we want international parity, where the influx of people into the US is curtailed only when the US is no longer more attractive than these migrants' places of origin? Our civilization is several tiers above the global 'average' (an average IQ of 90, purchasing power parity of just under $10,000, a life expectancy of 64 years, a literacy rate of 82%, etc). It's worth preserving.

Goode is courageous to put it so bluntly. The silent majority is solidly behind him, with over two-thirds of the country desiring not only an end to illegal immigration but a reduction in legal immigration as well.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

WSJ's Rago faces the challenge that is beating him

Joseph Rago of the WSJ's op/ed page has a haughty piece about the growing size and influence of the blogosphere. There isn't much to excerpt--it's the typical puerile scornfulness laced with a supercilious sense of superiority (his second sentence reads: "Even Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has [a blog].") that is always to be expected from movie/art/social critics. As a newly-minted editor of and writer for the nation's second largest newspaper, the competition that is killing newspaper's dominance in the dissemination of information by one thousand pin pricks is understandably threatening.

A few lines may as well be referring to the Journal's treatment of the immigration issue:
A tone of careless informality prevails; posts oscillate between the uselessly brief and the uselessly logorrheic; complexity and complication are eschewed; the humor is cringe-making, with irony present only in its conspicuous absence; arguments are solipsistic; writers traffic more in pronouncement than persuasion...
Of course that is exactly what op/ed boards can afford to do with little challenge. When was the last time the WSJ editorial pages were inked with the words of Stephen Camarotta, Mark Krikorian, or Tom Tancredo? Although the positions these men hold are much more popular and empirically-sound than the vacuous vitriol of the WSJ's writers who amazingly argue that immigration restriction will leave jobs that require the least specialization to go unfulfilled (an absolute impossibility in every general market theory) and present a false-dichotomy between open-borders and zero immigration.

Bloggers have provided the public with lots of information that newspaper fails or refuses to deliver: 'Memo-Gate', Bush's slight cognitive advantage over Kerry, the flawed exit poll results regarding Hispanic votes in the 2004 Presidential election, the real reasons coalition goals in Iraq are doomed, incorrect measurements of generosity, the utter unsoundness of the abortion-cut-crime theory, and on and on.

Still, it isn't in the realm of news reporting that blogs are truly revolutionary, although they're a welcome addition. It is in the realms of commentary and analysis. Many bloggers are purists in the way traditional editorialists cannot be. They work not for renumeration or even recognition, typing away under pseudonyms on their own time and dime.

Journalism as a putative vocation has always been questionable. What specific skills do journalists need to have to work in their putative profession? A working knowledge of the language they publish in? Some understanding of that language's idioms?

Journalism simply doesn't require a skill set that has to be acquired prior to success. To be a lawyer (the Bar), a programmer (various computer language certifications), or an accountant (CPA, CMA) one has to learn the rules, formalities, and laws governing these respective professions. Journalism requires nothing of the sort. Not surprisingly, scores and scores of people are better at journalism than many journalists. Add in the fact that you have to pay to access the latter, and its obvious why the opinion pages of the WSJ and the NYT are perpetually losing influence.

Competition is rough. Not only is the ability of people who work for less and do a better job than you do to have their thoughts made easily accessible an impossible obstacle for newspapers to overcome, the accountability that is mandated by instant repudiation (via comments) makes high-end blogs the location of choice for many of the most erudite consumers of information out there. Why would you read the WSJ's incoherent argument that by liking foreign sports players (an extreme example of merit-based immigration) you are being a hypocrite if you don't like hordes of uneducated, criminally and disease prone third-worlders streaming into your country, knowing that the paper will neither entertain nor even address the many challenges to the view it holds? Why not instead read as articulate people on both sides of the issue hash it out with everything they have and chime in yourself when something hasn't been stated to your satisfaction?

Parenthetically, Rago is addressing blogs in response to Time Magazine's interesting choice of 'You' as person of the year, and he's not alone in his cynicism. Perhaps Time is throwing in with the enemy, or perhaps its editors wanted to avoid the barrage of criticism from the blogosphere that would've been volleyed its way had it went with the runner-up, and named Ahmadinejad its person of the year.

Whatever the case, I understand the accusation that Time is stoking the egoism of so many faceless pundits with its reflective cover. Whenever I review old posts I'm always struck by how well-put my writing is. It seems to express with alacrity my thoughts to a tee. Even the delivery is patterned on the very thought processes that are pulsing through the neurons as I read. A few paragraphs in, I'm exclaiming "This is great! I could've written it myself!" And then I realize that I did write it myself, and it seems to so accurately reflect exactly what I'm thinking because it is exactly what I was thinking!

Newspaper circulation will continue to decline in absolute numbers even as the number of potential readers continues to grow. It will continually become a less and less attractive place for opinion especially.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Raising IQs should make the left happy

As a vegetarian and aspiring practitioner of ahimsa, a critic of the Iraq debacle, a conservationist in my personal life (I hang my clothes out to dry on nylon threads strung across the basement rather than use the dryer), and a non-religious person, I've more than few things in common with liberal-leftist folks. But despite my credentials, I've not had much success selling them on how policies and incentives for instituting eugenic practices will make the social utopia they pine for more of a reality. In his latest VDare column, Steve tries to ascertain the US' future IQ, estimating that it will fall to around 93 by mid-century. This portends a future chock-full of the social problems the left generally wants to eradicate.

Much of the opposition is the result of thinking patterns solidified over time. Eugenics is associated with Nazi Germany, which is put forward as the ugly example of extreme right-wing politics brought to life. It's a fairly common phenomenon: American Jews are, as a group, the most supportive group of open borders in the US, despite the fact that current immigration trends threaten them orders of magnitude more than a restrictive immigration policy will. Republican terror warrior voters oppose a new Manhattan-style project to develop viable alternative energy even though obselscing oil will be the single greatest blow to Islamic international terrorism imaginable. Abortion enthusiasts assume that those who are the least capable of effectively raising children are the most likely to terminate pregnancies even when the evidence to support such a view is flawed to say the least.

An expanded lower class and a squeezed middle class will accentuate the wealth gap. Wealth-enhancing innovations that lift all boats (ie cheaper PCs and more efficient vehicles) aside, basic economics makes this clear. If there is an abundant supply of professionals, the wages they command will be depressed. If there is a shortage of laborers, the wages menials earn rises. Our current dysgenic immigration policies and procreative patterns are doing the opposite--inundating the US with unskilled workers who are undercutting one another's wages while doing little to grow the pool of talent on top. Not surprisingly, IQ and the gini coefficient (a measure of income inequality) correlate at a statistically significant .30 at the state level. And so the gap widens.

In addition to wage parity, getting rich couples to have more children and poor ones to have fewer children will move us closer to wealth parity. Consider two couples, the Rich family (net worth of $1 million) and the Modest family (net worth of $100,000). If the Rich's have one child and the Modest's have five, upon the deaths of the parents, the Rich child has $1,000,000 and each Modest kid has $20,000. Now assume the Rich's knock out five urchins and the Broke's only conceive one. At the parents' passing, each Rich is worth $200,000 while the Modest primogeniture has $100,000. That's more socially palatable.

Such parity isn't just limited to inheritance--it plays out throughout the life of the children (what activities their parents are able to enroll them in, where they go to school, etc). Wealth equality is a noble goal, as it is second only to physical health in determining people's self-described level of happiness.

What about prison populations? The US incarceration rate of 738 per 100,000 is abhorrent to the left. Well, immigration policies and eugenic reproductive incentives will help bring this number down. Acknowledging the sagacity of Charles Murray's assertion that murder rates are strong measures of actual criminal activity since they are unlikely to go unreported, it is worth looking at how murder and estimated state IQ relate.

They correlate at an astounding .78. That is, knowing how well eighth graders perform on standardized tests 'explains' almost two-thirds of how prone people in a state are to being victims of homicide. Put in another way, for every one point IQ boost a state receives its murder rate declines by 2.5 per 100,000. Given that the the nation's murder rate is under six per 100,000, that's hardly insignificant!

The surest way to trim the size of the prison population is to decrease the number of people who are the likely to commit crimes. Sharper people have more wealth and therefore less incentive to act illegally, and also more of a long-term orientation that dissuades them from acting foolishly.

Diversity as such, or race?

Robert VanBruggen, budding writer for National Interest, discovered in running a few correlations that while diversity (as calculated using the Ethno-Linguistic Fragmentation index) and incarceration rates are meaningfully related in the developed world, murder rates are not. The wide variance by country in what lands one in jail renders criminality statistics based on incarceration rates unsatisfactory. Murder, which is unlikely to go unreported, serves as a decent proxy for the total violent crime rate in a country. So what he has apparently highlighted is that more ethnically and linguistically diverse nations are more likely to have harsher rules on social conduct than homogenuous ones are. Multiculturalism at work--differing social mores and lifestyle expectations mean less toleration of each of them for the sake of retaining cohesion at the expense of personal freedoms.

But a diversity index isn't an optimal measure of anything. I've tried creating a couple of my own diversity indices but they've consistently been far less predictive of conditions than simply looking at race. To understand why, consider San Diego, East St. Louis, and Leawood--by a measure of ethnic/racial diversity, San Diego will always come out as being the most diverse, while East St. Louis and Leawood will register as being similarly quite homogenuous. But in measures of social pathology, the homogenuous East St. Louis and Leawood will be at opposite ends of the spectrum, with San Diego bemusingly in the middle. If we just look at the percentage of the population in each city that is non-Hispanic white, things suddenly make a lot more sense. That East St. Louis and Leawood are both ethnically homogenuous is about the only thing the two have in common.

Attacking balkanization as a universal problem specific to say, London, carries less political risk than pointing out the poor performance of Central Asian Muslims there. How things are mixed does matter (creating feelings of resentment, etc), but the ingredients themselves are of paramount importance. I suspect the language your neighbor speaks has less to do with how likely he is to kill someone than who his ancestors were.

Unfortunately, most countries don't release demographic data broken down by race or ethnicity, so quantitative comparisons are much more difficult to make than they need be. Last year, I responded to the tendentious paper written by Gregory Paul claiming that America's religiosity was somehow the cause of its social pathologies compared to a secular Europe. Of course, the countries across the Atlantic do not have to deal with a population that is one-eighth black (and one-eighth Latin American Hispanic). By finding the frequency of behavior in whites in the US on the various measures Paul used (teen pregnancy, murder, etc) and pretending American blacks acted in the same way as American whites, I showed that the US would be in the thick of the European pack if not for its demographic disadvantages.

Robert didn't include the US in the numbers he ran due to its astronomically high incarceration rate of 738 per 100,000 with the next closest country a diminutive 193. But the non-Hispanic white US incarceration rate is only 230--higher than comparative developed nations due to tough sentencing especially with regards to drug use and possession, but not astonishingly so.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Sailer, raptors, and a rabbit

As many of those who see this blog also read Steve Sailer, I feel compelled to bloviate a bit in reaction to his recent comments about the raptor who harrassed his son's pet rabbit. Steve originally thought the perpetrator was a hawk:

This evening, shortly after dark, I was stepping into the enclosed backyard where Fred, my older son's large white rabbit, lives, when a gray shape suddenly swooped down out of the night sky and a white shape shot across the lawn inches ahead of it and took refuge in the dense star jasmine bush.

The hawk (or perhaps an owl, but it looked more like a hawk) landed on the roof of the house behind us. I threw lemons at the predator, but when it took flight again, it landed on the telephone pole in the backyard and peered down hungrily. Eventually, it tired of the lemons flying past and took off for parts unknown, but I fear it will be back for Fred.
Falconer and naturalist Stephen Bodio and I both doubted a hawk as the culprit. The ubiquitious Red-tailed hawk is a possibility, but unlikely for a couple of reasons: First, a well-fed pet rabbit is far too large for a red-tail to carry off, so he'd have to pick at it in the backyard. Despite being well-adapted to living near humans, red-tails are fairly skiddish at close range, especially if they're being watched (often times I'll see one on a telephone pole that I'm running under and when I conspicuously look up, he abruptly flies off). I've only had one encounter close enough to have made contact if I'd wanted to, when biking on a nature trail (he was just inches off the pavement with a rat snake apparently too thick to hoist away).

Second and more importantly, red-tails don't do nighttime. The equally ubiquitous Great-horned owl owns the night (just as the swifter Red-tail dominates the day). For a creature that lives and dies by sight, darkness is just too risky. Narrates the great outdoorsmen Marty Stouffer:

Sharing the same hunting territory, the Great Horned, and the Red-tailed hawk feed on the same prey species. They occupy different niches because the hawk hunts by day, and the owl mainly by night...

HAWK DEFENDING TERRITORY FROM OWL

But when the hawk has a family to feed and the sun is shining, it will not tolerate the presence of the owl in their shared territory.

By night, the owl would have the advantage. Now, the hawk, a much faster flier climbs high into the air, then drops to deliver the message.

Speed is one of the hawk's primary weapons.

It may reach a hundred miles an hour in a dive. Powerfully, repeatedly, the point is driven home. The owl is surely ready to leave by now. But if it tries to fly, it's slower than the hawk and will surely be hit in midair. Finally a chance to escape. The hawk is the clear winner, and the owl will probably not hunt here in daylight again.

This sort of territorial confrontation regularly occurs in nature. Different species and even members of the same species constantly compete.

Great-horned owls frequent chimney tops at night, scouting out songbirds perched in neighborhood trees and 'feral' suburban rabbits with few other serious predators. A Red-tail tearing at a catch in an open yard would be really be rolling the dice.

There are a few other potentially culpable raptors. The Harris hawk is conceivable, but these neotenous predators often hunt as a group with other members of the family. They're not inclined to live in areas with lots of people, and face the same Great-horned quarry threat that the Red-tail (and most other raptors) does.

The aggressive Northern Harrier is another possibility. But similar in size to the American crow, rabbits are too large to be a staple.

If Steve lived out east near the Arizona border in a rural setting, the Ferruginous hawk would be a possibility, as it lives mostly on rabbits and might resemble a grey blob when zipping around in the dark. But her lifestyle is not conducive to territory populated by people.

Steve seems to have come to the conclusion that Fred (the rabbit) was being preyed upon by a Golden eagle. That Steve would be so lucky! This majestic bird rules the sky (although slightly smaller than his cousin, the Bald eagle, Golden eagles are more alacritous and equipped with more devastating talons--our national bird, by contrast, lives largely on carrion and by filching fish from Ospreys and the spoils of other bird's hunts), but on the few occasions I've seen him in the wild (not in Kansas!), I've not been able to get within 500 or so feet, unable to even distinctively make him out until he takes off. To be after a pet rabbit in a suburban setting with the tenacity to hang around while missiles are hurled in his direction, the Golden eagle would have to have been either an emaciated immature bird or sick. On the bright side, if Steve is right Fred probably doesn't face a lingering threat.

Back to that bodacious badboy, the Great-horned owl. These guys are scary and are as aggressive as the raptor world gets. A friend and future veterinarian whose volunteer work includes helping nurse injured birds of prey back to health nearly lost an eye to one. They're known to truculently (or valiantly!) attack anything that approaches their nests (including humans), relenting only when death demands it.

A Great-horned will eat just about anything he can get his talons on, including other owls (barn owls are a particular favorite). It is also not uncommon for him to go after backyard pets, and small canines (often with a nose glued to the ground in the evening while searching for a place to do business) are especially vulnerable (we won't let the Shi-Tzou out at night unless the black and tan coonhound goes out with her). While primarily active at night, the Great-horn is a common sight at dusk and dawn, and at times will come out in broad daylight.

If Steve is able to give his brain a good racking, a few things may stand out if he was close enough to what turns out to have been a Great-horned: Piercing, yellow eyes resembling those of a housecat (unique to birds of prey, owls have eyes facing forward instead of off to the sides, giving them tremendous depth perception at the cost of panoramic vision (which they make up for with swiveling necks that can turn upwards of 270 degrees in both directions)), and eponymous pseudo-ears (or 'horns') that are really just feather tufts.

If the hunter is anything other than a Great-horned, a Great-horned scarecrow may provide some protection (even if it is a Great-horned the thing may help). But what if Fred fell for it? Is living an extra tomorrow worth turning his Eden into Hades?

Another option is getting an dexterous dog along the lines of an English Pointer. But that's a hefty investment on behalf of a rabbit.

Fierce though Great-horns are, they, like the rest of their raptor brethren, are never safe from the relentless heckling of boisterous crows. Even if you don't realize it, you've almost certainly seen crows pester a hawk, an owl, or a falcon at some point (if you look for it, you'll see it almost daily). These omniverous birds may be attracted by placing corn kernels or fruit grinds in bushes or trees in the backyard. A murder of crows will keep all of Fred's tormenters away (and they won't bother him unless they start nesting on Steve's property). But then again maybe we don't want a situation along the lines of one faced in Springfield:

Skinner: Ahh, but as it turns out the lizards where a godsend since they've eaten all the pigeons.

Lisa: Isn't that a little short-sighted? What happens when we're up to our ears with lizards?

Skinner: Ah, well we shall simply release wave after wave of Chinese needles snakes.
Lisa: Then what about the snakes?

Skinner: We simply import gorillas who will eat all the snakes.

Lisa: Well what happens when we're up to our ears in gorillas!?

Skinner: Ah that's the beauty of the thing, come winter the gorillas will simply freeze to death.

Perhaps a pellet or BB gun is in order? That should scare the raptor off without fatally wounding him. Let's hope Steve doesn't take the advice of one of his commenters and brandish a shotgun. That's the last thing the empirical right needs--one of its intellectual heavyweights spotlighted for firing a deadly firearm at a federally protected bird in an irascible spat of intolerant favoritism toward his own animal over another of equal moral worth!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Gene for pain perception found

The famous late Pakistani kid who walked on hot coals without giving the slightest indication of discomfort has helped a research team led by C. Geoffrey Woods discover the human gene that regulates pain perception:
A mutation in the gene knocks out all perception of injury, raising hopes of developing novel drugs that would abolish pain by blocking the gene’s function.
As a kid I loved Piers Anthony's Xanth novels, full of clever puns and set in a medieval age fantasy realm. The fictional universe has a healing spring that upon drinking instantly upgrades the one imbibing it to a state that is as healthy as possible given his genetic makeup. Drugs regulating this gene (SCN9A) might do the next best thing--allow us to feel optimally healthy. All those daily discomforts (stubbing a toe, tapping a 'funny bone', etc) eliminated. Of course, you'd probably be more likely to break a toe or gash your arm if you were oblivious to the pain. Pain sensation has obvious evolutionary benefits (the Pakistani scamp in feature tragically died after jumping off a roof while playing with friends), and ridding yourself of it would probably put you at greater risk of seriously injuring yourself to the point of decapacitation.

A neurologist quoted in Wade's piece thinks drug developers will be able to do a lot with Woods' discovery as the defective gene in the Pakistani boy (and a few other members of his community) doesn't appear to have any side effects.

Because of its rarity and the fact that expression requires two defective copies of the gene, there is little chance of it spreading rapidly. But perhaps it occurs relatively frequently in the Muslim and Hindu worlds. The Mahdi Army could use such information. It be easier to convince a potential suicide bomber to take a first-class ticket to heaven if having his insides exploded in a thousand directions would be a painless experience.

If drugs are developed to effectively shutdown SCN9A, what will this mean for the sports world? How much money will a pay-per-view fight between two prizefighters who don't experience pain sensations bring in? Jackass antics will be taken to a whole new level. More ominously, what about criminal activity? High potency drugs like meth and PCP can already make criminals especially bold and vicious--what if the miscreants feel no pain at all?

Take all this to yet another level if gene therapies are developed to manipulate the gene. Science will continue to allow people to take their bodies to the very edge. It'll be interesting to see, if drugs are developed, how their use will be regulated.

Thinking about the Middle East

It looks like we may be trying to play both ends of the table. While the Bush Administration appears to be leaning towards stepping up support for Shia political factions at the expense of the Sunni insurgency and moving away from a policy of evenhandedness, it has also recently sent top representatives including Secretary of State Rice and VP Dick Cheney to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan to petition for their help in Iraq. All three of these Sunni states do not want to see Iranian influence spread into nearby Iraq and are naturally going to favor the Sunni minority in Iraq's center.

Saudi Arabia, with a significant Shia population in its oil-rich east along the Persian Gulf, is especially anxious about the growing militia might of Iranian-backed Shia militias in Iraq. Nawaf Obaid, a senior Saudi security advisor, has publicly stated that as the US begins to pull back in Iraq, Saudi Arabia will step in to fill the vacuum on behalf of Iraq's Sunni minority. He highlighted three options the kingdom is considering (and probably already doing to some extent) to realize that pledge:
• providing Sunni military leaders (ex-Iraqi officer corps, now the backbone of the insurgency) with funding and arms.
• establishing new Sunni brigades to combat the Iranian-backed Shiite militias.
• choking off Iran's ability to fund the militias by flooding the oil market.
Conspiratorially, the Administration's tactics might be consistent. Ostensibly, top officials went to leaders of the Sunni world to ask for help stabilizing Iraq. But is it conceivable that they might have actually been trying to dissuade said leaders from getting involved in Iraq on behalf of the Sunni fighters?

With Rumsfeld's resignation, the Iraq Study Commission's findings that have been trumpeted in the media, and the bipartisan confirmation of Robert Gates (who as CIA director in the early nineties has had experience dealing with both non-Arab Shia and Sunni fighters in Afghanistan and may even have a few contacts in Baathist Iraq, having allegedly passed intel to Saddam's regime during the Iraq-Iran War), perhaps the idea of effectively throwing in with the Shia has fallen out of favor. In just the last couple of days the Administration has warmed to a Pentagon plan to up troop levels by as much as 40,000 and confront the Sunni insurgency in al Anbar while simultaneously hammering Sadr's militia (and its offshoots).

Bush's approval rating has sunk to a numbing 34%. Congress and the country have turned on him in his war. With things so dismal, any alleviation in the situation will look successful by comparison. Pathetically, things can't get any worse politically, so the Administration may finally be ready to try something new with little political downside. An uptick in troop levels, something Democrats (and many Republicans) have voiced support for in their criticism of the war, will be more acceptable to Bush than the Iraq Study Group's suggestions since it pushes in the direction of 'victory' (whatever that, if somehow achievable, would even look like) instead of disengagement. The Administration might be genuinely trying to keep the Saudis and Jordanians out of Iraq while continuing to try and keep Iran and Syria out as well.

Even if the ostensible call to bring more Middle Eastern states into Iraq is just a prestidigitation, would Saudi Arabia have faith in the US' ability to break the Mahdi Army and quell Iranian influence? The Saudis don't have anything in the way of firepower to challenge the Persians militarily even if the US pulled out. But the sharp rise in global oil prices over the last few years has been a propitious godsend for the kingdom, which is now running an annual budget surplus of nearly $100 billion after facing shortfalls at the beginning of the decade. Using less than one percent of that surplus during the eighties the Saudis were crucial in knocking the Soviets out of Afghanistan. The kingdom might also reverse course and up oil production (DOE estimates show that Saudi Arabia has the capacity to put between another 1 and 1.5 million barrels into the market, potentially setting Iran back around $20 million a day).

In the nineties, the Saudis (along with Pakistan's ISI) funded the Taliban as they brutally expanded out of Afghanistan's southwest and into Kabul, pushing Massoud's Northern Alliance into the mountainous northeast of the country. That the 'progressive' (by Middle Eastern standards) Prince Turki would butter the Taliban's bread even as it became increasingly close to a bin Laden who'd called for the toppling of the House of Sa'ad (all of this taking place after the terrorist's Saudi citizenship had been revoked and he'd been expelled from the country) leads me to believe that the Saudis are not above funnelling resources to Sunnis in Iraq. Much of that money might end up in the hands of Al Qaeda types that aren't keen on the royal family, but we're talking about the Muslim world, where the enemy of an enemy ethos prevails.

For its part, Iran is trying to stoke support in the Sunni world with an absurd conference on the Holocaust and by sending millions in aid to the teetering Hamas-led government in the Palestinian territories. To become Islam's global epicenter, it'll have to win the support of the Sunni street. Bare in mind that Sunnis represent between 85%-90% of Muslims worldwide.

Saudi Arabia and company have also taken the first steps toward their own nuclear armarment:
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Dec. 10 — Arab leaders, meeting in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, on Sunday, said they intended to start a joint nuclear energy development program, a move certain to heighten concerns over a possible race for nuclear power in the oil-rich Persian Gulf.

Leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council concluded a two-day summit meeting in Riyadh on Sunday, agreeing to study how to proceed with development of such capacity.
In Riyadh a gallon of gas costs less than a dollar. The Sunni world is trying to let the West know that if we don't do the dirty work to keep Iranian nuclear and regional ambitions in check, they're going to respond by making non-proliferation a (greater) nightmare. Relatedly, last week Israeli Prime Minister Olmert 'gaffed' an admittance that wasn't really news to the rest of the world--his nation has nuclear weapons.

What a mess we've made in Iraq. Welcome to the new Great Game (with most players coming from dull, inbred countries made relevant by the black gold they happen to be sitting on).

Monday, December 11, 2006

Left-handed people good gamers

Left-handed people appear to have an edge when undertaking complex tasks:
Left-handed people can think quicker when carrying out tasks such as playing computer games or playing sport, say Australian researchers.

Connections between the left and right hand sides or hemispheres of the brain are faster in left-handed people, a study in Neuropsychology shows.

The study took 100 people, 80 predominately right-handed and 20 predominately left-handed, and found that the more left-handed a person is, the better the person is at processing information across the two hempispheres of the brain.

I wonder if the results are merely proxies for the two-point or so IQ advantage that is associated with left-handedness, or if it is something else. While it's tempting to speculate that left-handedness' intelligence advantage might run along the same lines as Ashkenazi IQ, and also be associated with brain disorders like Tay-Sachs that are caused too much material in the brain, but to the contrary, left-handedness is associated with diseases like autism and Down's syndrome.

Also, left-handedness is purportedly on the rise. Estimates are all over the place, but the contemporary best guess seems to be between 12%-15%, up from the historical one-in-ten. I wonder if this has any relationship to the Flynn effect (the phenomenon of moderate IQ increases across populations over time), or if the increase is simply a result of the social acceptability of left-handedness today compared to its undesirability in the past when children were frequently forced to become proficient with the use of their right hands even when naturally left-handed. Left-handedness is partly genetic but apparently partly random or environmental as well (the identical twin of a southpaw has a 76% chance of being left-handed as well).

A great way to see how strong the effect is on the ground would be to survey top gamers. Warcraft III and Warcraft II, its predecessor, would enhance the dot tests used in the study--the real-time strategy games are like complex chess matches on steroids and without pauses to fully assess the situation. The simultaneous processing of lots of information and the transmission of that information into responses characterizes these games to a tee. And respondents would almost certainly be truthful.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Blacks in Congress narrowly vote against dead policeman

Largely symbolic, but also largely illustrative of multiculturalism hard at work.

Going 368-31, the House overwhelmingly voted to condemn the French city of St. Denis for horoning convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal with the eponymous naming of a street there.

Abu-Jamal shot Officer Danny Faulkner after the officer became involved in an altercation with Abu-Jamal's brother, and the ensuing gunfire exchange left Faulkner dead. The only legitimate question is whether Abu-Jamal should've been convicted with first- or second-degree murder (he was convicted with first-degree murder and handed a death sentence which has since been successfully overturned but the case faces continuing appeals from both sides).

Thirty-one House members voted against it. Seventeen--over half--are black, even though the 109th Congress only has 43 black members, two of whom are non-voting delegates (Christensen of the Virgin Islands and Norton of DC) and Senator Barack Obama. Seven black House members didn't vote. Only 16 voted with the majority.

So of those chirping yea or nay, over 96% of non-black House members voted in condemnation of the city; 48% of blacks did. Conversely, 52% of blacks opposed even symbolically censuring the city. Staggering.

But Abu-Jamal is a negro, a Muslim, and a former member of the Black Panthers. Oh, and he's a cold-blooded murderer. It's hard to be any more antithetical to the ideals of the white American middle class than that. Irrespective of his egregious conduct, black representatives have split their collective support between Abu-Jamal and Faulkner's widow, who'd only been married to her husband a year yet has refused to remarry, indefatigably fighting Abu-Jamal's continual appeals and suffering the torment of her husband's killer being lionized by celebrities like Mike Farrell and Tim Robbins. She is white, afterall.

Haven't we been fighting for an individualistic, colorblind society since decades before I was born? Well, I don't want to wake up lost in the dreams of our fathers if this is the realization of those dreams.

Functional individualism, and the democracy that it is able to breed, relies upon relative equality--and parity--among members of the society cradling it (and a level of intelligence sufficient to sustain it). Yet virtually nothing is more powerfully related to inequality than racial and ethnic diversity, be it in measurements of IQ, wealth, or criminality. Our immigration policies and birthing trends make us more vibrant each day.

Spanish, English, and Portuguese Europeans brought blacks to the New World in bondage, and their problems are inescapably our problems as well. But as OJ, Durham, Tookie, and Abu-Jamal show, social cohesion has remained elusive after more than four centuries. We don't need to voluntarily be dumping more fuel onto the fire by recently posted on how his Kiwis will be a minority on the islands by mid-century. Funny, stateside so will we. A commenter from the UK portends similar clouds in his kingdom's future. While viscious imams call for the destruction of everything Western from London, criminal charges are brought against a native Briton who sounds the tocsin, warning of Islamic trouble.

The West is dying. In 1960, people of European ancestry represented one-fourth of the world's population. At the turn of the century, that had fallen to one-sixth. By 2050, Westerners will comprise only one-tenth of the globe's people. Europeans have never faced an existential crisis this grave. Everywhere save the US and Israel, we aren't reproducing fast enough to maintain a stable population into the future. Much of the non-Occidental world is, and then some.

Keep the pressure up on the immigration front. Don't let the political elites depress your neighbor's wages and inhibit yankee innovation. Stay healthy, sharp, and fecund as you can.

Fast, convergent evolution witnessed in East Africans

NYT's Nick Wade reports that lactose tolerance in East Africans appeared as recently as 3,000 years ago. It spread through Europe somewhere between 5,000 and 6,000 years ago.

Lactose intolerance in the African heat and drought is conceivably a severe disadvantage, not only in limiting the amount of available fluid intake, but also in causing bowel problems and water loss in those unable to tolerate it. Such an advantage should spread like wildfire. In evolutionary terms, 3,000 years approximates that pace (though the time thought to be required for major evolutionary change continues to lessen)--about four-fifths of African Tutsis (historical herders) are lactose tolerant.

ASPM and microcephalin have also cropped up recently in varying degrees by ancestral population. Stubbornly feral silver foxes have become as amicable toward humans as golden retrievers in a mere thirty generations. That comes to about 750 years for us--less time than Dr. Cochran and crew hypothesize it took Ashkenazi Jews to obtain a one standard deviation advantage in intelligence over their Gentile brethren.

We're a work in progress--moving at difference paces and in different directions. The differences are more than skin deep.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Novelist, or black novelist?

The WSJ has an interesting article (free here) on racial segregation in the US book market. The debate housed within the feature concerns how novels written by black authors should be categorized: As black novels, or by genre like the rest of the fiction world.

While bookstore revenues are down 1.6% so far in 2006 (and given the continual growth in second-hand online auction sites like Ebay that hardly indicates a drop in total book purchases), black consumers are now spending $300 million a year on books, twice what was spent in during the nineties (hopefully this is in part a result of potentially rising black IQs).

In a nation with nearly 39 million blacks, that comes to a paltry $7.70 per year, but at least the growth rate is significant. The most recent year I could find comparative national data for was economically stagnant 2002, in which US consumers spent $26.9 billion on books, or about $90 per person. Taking the WSJ estimate and removing blacks from the total 2002 number, non-blacks in the US spent about $102 on books. The gap is still huge.

Why the segregation? Because it makes money:
Carol Stacy, [Romantic Times Book Reviews'] publisher, says the African-American label makes it easier for readers to find those books. "We know we're walking a fine line, but the reader wants to know if a book has African-American characters," she says. Publishers deliberately market books to black readers that way, she adds.
Translation: Blacks want to read about blacks. Yeah, we're race-pandering, but we're talking about black racialism. That only elicits a subtle frown in elite circles, and only when the issue can't be skirted. No curtain please, we have images to cultivate.

A top business executive from Third World Press, comforting putatively ammoral and unscupulous marketing majors ("We don't create culture, we represent what is already there"), echoes Stacy's sentiments:
Bennett J. Johnson, vice president of Chicago's Third World Press and a longtime publisher of black authors, says the practice appeals to a universal proclivity to think in terms of race. In that sense, publishing is merely a reflection of how the world works, he says.

Of course it does. Racial groups are best understood as extended families with some level of inbreeding present. As a son prefers his father over a stranger, and shares more in common with his father than the stranger, so do blacks tend to prefer the company of other blacks and share more in common with them than with people of other races. This closeness is cemented in both genetics and culture. Grasping this creates a world that is much easier to make sense of. And it's not rocket science. But widespread, willful ignorance on the subject is why discerning guys like Johnson are able to propel their companies to the top--Third World is the largest black-owned press in the US.

The article highlights an interesting court battle:
Ms. Aldred filed a lawsuit against her publisher, the American arm of Pearson PLC's Penguin Group, in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. In the suit, she alleges that her editor asked her to change the characters in her newly published second novel, "The Great Betrayal," from white to black or race-neutral. In an attempt to lure black readers, the proposed cover art featured an African-American couple, the suit adds. ...

In her filing, Ms. Aldred says the publisher eventually backed down -- the final cover features an unmade bed -- but she still sued, alleging racial discrimination.

Racial discrimination against the characters in her novel? Even the fantastical recesses of our minds aren't safe!

Presumably Penguin's done its marketing research and doesn't want to move away from marketing to an explicit black identity, although the article mentions that there are no publicly available sales figures to compare the two alternative strategies (I assume there are plenty of private data, though). To understand how powerful this identity is (constantly reinforced in media sources from magazines like Ebony to clothing lines like FUBU to audio broadcasts like the Steve Harvey Morning Show), consider this:

Although there are eleven times as many white households with home computers as there are black households with home computers in the US, a Google search for "White community" yields only 415,000 hits. "Black community", in contrast, returns 1,140,000. Aldred wants to hit it big time, but risks capsizing in the open ocean. Marketing by genre is an all-or-nothing proposition; marketing exclusively to blacks is a safer bet.

The challenge she faces is similar to the challenge black politicians face--they can either race-pander unapologetically in majority-black districts and be elected to the House (where there are 42 black representatives) or take the message to the broader public, usually with very limited success (Barack Obama is the US' lone (half) black Senator, and unlike the world of politicking, building a sustainable reader base requires more than vague press adulations (ie "rising star") and euphemized, unspecific policy positions).

Perhaps Aldred, in trying to determine if her books will do better in the "Romance" section or the "Black" section of bookstores should heed the advice of another author quoted in the article:
[McMillan's] solution: Put books by African-Americans in both places.
Great idea. I'll ask Google to follow suit. Instead of returning this site only when "state iq estimates" or only when "audacious epigone" is searched for, let's also return it when "movie", "politics", "religion", "thanksgiving", "football", "music", "blog", "mammon machine", or any of the first 26 letters of the alphabet are present somewhere in the search.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Swivel already somewhat useful

Curse me for being an eternal pessimist. I've not yet managed to shake the perpetual cynicism and supercilious scornfulness that is the academia I've recently escaped from. Or something.

Anyway, I shouldn't have been so sour on Swivel's preliminary test site. Investing a little more time in it, it's apparent that it is already useful--at this point to the extent that you find a title that appears to have what you're looking for, and then in the bottom left of that title's page, you click on "View on page" in the "Source data" box. The hyperlinked headers at the top under "Data", I maintain, are clunky, confusing, and pretty useless.

I experimented by uploading data I'd been using to look at the relationship between the net worth of Congressional representatives and how they vote on immigration issues. As a group, the five wealthiest Senators receive a D+, while the five most modest Senators earn a B. For GOP Senators, wealthier representatives are more supportive of open-borders (a moderate but statistically significant inverse correlation of -.32), probably due in part to having been around longer and consequently becoming more beholden to big money special interests and also to having acquired their own wealth in the business world (or coming from families who have), therefore appreciating the (short-term) benefits to the bottom line that slave labor can provide.

It does allow users to upload data from a few sources (including Excel in the limited CSV format), and it similarly allows users to download them in the same formats. By tagging the uploaded data in an accurate way, users are essentially going to have free access to an enormous database containing all kinds of stuff. Swivel is going to have to figure out a way to make it easy to sift through, so that when I'm searching for income per capita I'm able to narrow it down to fewer than 2,400,100 matches.

I can't figure out how to create my own graphs using my data, but Swivel created a few automatically. Two of them are useless (Swivel apparently crosses columns randomly), but one of them is somewhat informative.


Steve mentions that intellectual property rights aren't going to be preserved when handed over to Swivel. Seeing the litigious mess that Youtube, Napster, and other filing sharing services have run into, the site is prudent to try and get the message that it's going to operate as 'open source' out there as far ahead and as emphatically as possible.

Still, if your livelihood is based on this sort of thing, any data you release are going to find their way onto the site. As a curious amateur, I echo the words of Harry Truman:

It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.
Easy for me to say!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Swivel to be Youtube of data

[Spending more time with Swivel, I've already become a bigger fan]

Fat Knowledge recently reported on Swivel.com, a website that is billing itself as a Youtube for data. The site is reportedly going to allow internet users across the globe to upload data and accompanying graphs to be viewed and used by that same global community of users. The Swivel preview site is tantalizing me over what it might become, although for now it is pretty clunky and not very useful (I can't figure out how you're supposed to obtain the data in table form used for the graphs that are viewable. Instead, there are just links to the data sources putatively used, which really isn't any more helpful than any other standard search engine).

Hopefully when the full site is launched data tables formatted for statistical tools like SPSS and Excel will be made available. For scrappy amateurs with limited cognitive firepower like myself, finding and entering data sets is restrictively time consuming and exhausting. The stuff I've put out regarding IQ estimates by state consumed tens of hours, mostly in finding numbers and building the regression equations. When afflatus strikes and I think certain variables may be related, I invest an hour or so finding the numbers, entering them, and running them. Not infrequently, no meaningful relationship will exist and that time will have been squandered. By being able to access data sets custom made and formatted for anything anyone who uploads to Swivel can come up with, so much of that tedium will be removed and the energies of curious folks can spend more time finding relationships.

Imagine also how much utility this will provide as genetic sequencing becomes progressively more affordable. I invision the frequencies of different haplotypes by location being made available so that a host of social variables can then be correlated with them. The prison population, the Harvard alumnus pool, political leanings, and how the genetic makeup of these people relate to their genotypes and phenotypes, on and on. The possibilities are endless.

The internet is already smashing myths propagated by the mainstream media and political and academic elites. It is hastily becoming the empiricist's best friend.

Immigration reformers fare better than GOP on whole in midterms

After the mid-term elections last month, I posted on an analysis done by Roy Beck's NumbersUSA on the results. The immigration reductionist group reported that only 6.7% of Tom Tancredo's Immigration Reform Caucus lost their seats, while the GOP gave up 11.5% of its own. It's not clear if seats made vacant by retirement or resignation were included in computing either figure, but in either case the caucus figure appears too high. I've the six caucus members that lost their seats listed below.

This isn't an apples-to-apples comparison, as four of the IRC's 105 members are Democrats. But Numbers combined the relatively strong IRC performance with the dismal performance of GOP members outside the caucus. The organization could've spun the numbers more positively than it did.

Transferring the caucus status of seats thrown up for grabs due to a would-be incumbent not running for re-election to the Republican candidate trying to fill the seat (with the would-be incumbent followed by the candidate who ran to fill his spot), Republican members of the IRC suffered a loss rate of 5.9% as a group (six of 101) . The victims were:

Hayworth, AZ
Beauprez/O'Donnell, CO
Ryun, KS
Bradley, NH
Sweeney, NY
Taylor, NC

Republican Congressional members not party to the caucus suffered a loss rate of 16.7% as a group (22 of 132). The victims were:

Kolbe/Graf, AZ
Pombo, CA
Simmons, CT
Johnson, CT
Foley/Negron, FL
Clay Shaw, FL
Chocola, IN
Hostettler, IN
Mike Sodrel, IN
Nussle/Whalen, IA
Leach, IA
Northup, KY
Bass, NH
Kelly, NY
Boehlert/Meier, NY
Ney/Padgett, OH
Hart, PA
Weldon, PA
Fitzpatrick, PA
Sherwood, PA
DeLay/Seklua-Gibbs, TX
Green/Gard, WI

Numbers should've asked readers to consider that only 5.9% of IRC GOPers lost their seats, while 16.7% of non-caucus members did. If Beck's game was tendentiousness instead of honesty, he could've even trimmed the IRC loss rate to 5.7% by including its Democratic members (none of whom lost their seats).

Expect Tancredo's caucus to become more bipartisan during the next Congress. Both the Republican and Democratic parties have both become skeptical of open borders. The threat comes from the leadership of both parties.

Looking forward to 2008, the continued Iraq disaster will increasingly tarnish not just the GOP, but the Democratically-controlled Congress as well. If the open-bordered agenda remains a top priority of the Bush Administration and Pelosi (who employs Hispanic menials at all three of her businesses), hopefully candidates running on pro-sovereignty, anti-nation building will be able to run in opposition to the 'political establishment'.