Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Religious demographics from Pew: Mormons get it done at office, in bedroom

++Addition++GNXP's Razib Khan, the epitome of why I favor a merit system crudely along the lines of the EB-5 Visa program as opposed to a moratorium on immigration, takes notice.

Also, a commenter points out that a non-significant number of Hindu men in the US have spouses that are living back home. So the 71% of Hindus in the US who are married to other Hindus could theoretically be comprised of the 61% of the total Hindu population in the US that is male, with five out of six of them married to a spouse living overseas, and only one-third of Hindu women married to other Hindus. But 86% of Hindus surveyed were foreign-born, and over 90% of people of Indian descent (both genders) in the US have spouses that are also Indian. So the pickings are still slim, but maybe not that slim. And as Agnostic points out (via Razib), beyond the first generation, Indian women are not averse to marrying white men. The Manjula reference holds, since she was born and raised in India, although I didn't initially think it through with that in mind!

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Pew Research just released a demographic report on religious affiliation in America. Due to a law passed in the mid-seventies, the US Census is unable to mandate information concerning religion be volunteered by the population. Consequently, much of the data available come from religious organizations themselves. That leads to a lot of apples-to-oranges comparisons and an incomplete picture.

What immediately caught my eye, in light of the surge of attention given to Mormonism, is how its adherents are both moderately affluent and fecund. I used 20 of Pew's classifications to build a self-contained linear equation predicting what percentage of each categories' population 'should' have three or more kids living with them.

The equation was created by running a regression on the percentage of each group earning $50,000 or more per year and the percentage of each group with 3 or more kids under the age of 18 currently living at home, adjusting the 3+ kids percentages for the portion of each group aged 65 and older (I presumed no one in this age group had any children living at home under the age of 18 and removed them from the 3+ kids percentages to avoid an age skewing as much as possible). The two variables inversely correlate at a firm .44. That is, by religious affiliation, as income increases, the number of children decreases.

Included are the sub-category figures for Protestants, Jews, "Other faiths", and "Unaffiliated" (but not their parent categories, to avoid double-counting); for Mormons I did not distinguish between LDS and the other 4% of the total Mormon population (which must largely be made up of Community of Christ Mormons*); I broke the Orthodox categories into non-Greek Orthodox and Greek Orthodox. That sounds jumbled, but take a quick look at the categories here and it'll make sense.

Then I compared the predicted and actual percentages of 3+ kid households by subtracting the predicted from the actual. So if, based on level of affluence, 10% of the Catholic population is 'expected' to have 3 or more children at home, but in actuality 15% of the population does, the Catholic population has a +5 propagation 'score'. They do more procreating than would be expected for how much money they make. The propagation scores:

AffiliationPropagation score
1. Mormon16.1
2. Muslim5.0
3. Catholic3.6
4. Jewish (Reform)2.0
5. Religious (Unaffiliated)1.4
6. Other Christian0.9
7. Greek Orthodox0.6
8. Protestant (Evangelical)0.5
9. Jehovah's Witness(0.1)
10. Jewish (Conservative)(0.3)
11. Protestant (Mainline)(0.9)
12. Protestant (Hist. Black)(1.2)
13. Hindu(1.4)
14. Atheist(2.3)
15. Non-Greek Orthodox(2.7)
16. Agnostic(3.4)
17. Secular (Unaffiliated)(3.8)
18. Buddhist(4.1)
19. Unitarian/other liberal(4.9)
20. New Age(5.1)

Asked in a mock debate awhile back why Christian conservatives should vote for the Mormon Mitt Romney, Jack Cashill, playing the former governor, cleverly launched into how all-American (that is, GOP stalwarts) Mormons are: They're socially conservative, baby-making married members of the middle class and they vote overwhelmingly Republican, so why worry about their theology when you're getting those kinds of results?

Pew didn't inquire about actual income figures, just ranges, so to say that Mormons are the most fruitful when income is controlled for is to make a precise assertion that isn't justified by the numbers available. Also, the use of a linear equation means the range of expected percentages are narrower than the range of actual percentages are. Thus, Mormons, a fourth of whom under the age of 65 have three or more kids living at home, are moderate outliers and so stand out with the highest score by a long shot.

Further, I removed the 65+ population of each group, reasonably assuming that the vast majority of them do not have children living at home. But I couldn't make an age adjustment for income without more complete data on all of the individuals surveyed. Since people between the ages of 18-64 have considerably higher average incomes than people 65 and older do, the relatively elderly groups--Reform Jews, Conservative Jews, and Greek Orthodox, specifically--actually appear less wealthy than they actually are (even though they are the highest, third highest, and fourth highest groups of the twenty, respectively, in terms of income!) and so are 'expected' to have more children than would likely be the case if income was adjusted to account for age.

That said, I suspect that if income and age were controlled for, the fecundity rankings (the scores, again, are the product of a linear regression based on data entirely from the categories represented--the rank order is more meaningful) would pretty closely resemble the table presented above.
This suggests something that comes as little surprise--traditional religious groups do a better job spreading their genes than religiously progressive and irreligious groups (I'm including most American Buddhists here, over half of whom are white) do, even when income is roughly adjusted for.

Some other points of interest:

- The Hindu and Jewish income distributions are very similar. Together, they comprise an affluent 2% of the US population!

- Buddhists are less likely than members of the general public to make under $50,000 a year (44% to 53%) and more likely than members of the general public to make over $75,000 a year (39% to 31%). I hear Dave Matthews mixing it up a little, singing "What I want is what I've not got, but what I have is what I say I don't want!"

- Subjected to a fairly religious upbringing, in common parlance I've often heard "atheists and agnostics" grouped together as a single entity representing the non-believer, as though they're the same thing. The 'opposition' usually looks less diverse than the 'coalition' does, whether its religious beliefs or any other arena in which groups compete. I've been surprised on more than one occasion during the election season by politically active friends on the left (as most of mine are) who saw the Republican field as largely indistinguishable (with the exception of McCain and Paul to some extent). This surprise, in spite of how, with the exception of Biden and Kucinich, the Democratic crop seemed like a gaggle of doppelgangers to me!

Well, A&As are strikingly similar with regards to the major demographic markers: In terms of income levels, educational attainment, race (mostly white, although Asians are overrepresented), age, geographical distribution, marital status, and the number of children at home, gender (eep, don't say anything about the pious being pinheads now, as there are twice as many male A&As as there are female A&As!), etc. That is, on every single attribute Pew examined, atheists and agnostics are virtually identical in their distributions (with the minor qualifications that agnostics are a bit more likely to be boomers than atheists are, 22%-16%, and are slightly less likely to be male than atheists are, 64%-70%).

- The Reformed Jewish population has more children across the board than the Conservative Jewish population does, with the exception of 4+ children families--a category that represents only 1% of the Reformed and 2% of the Conservative populations. That certainly surprises me. Is it just orthodox Hasidic Jews, then, who tend to have large immediate families?

- Hispanics make up almost one-third of American Catholics, even though they only comprise 12% of the population. They make up single-digit percentages of all the other major religious affiliations with one exception--Jehovah's Witnesses. Twenty-four percent The Watchtower people are Hispanic. I had no idea.

- If you want to marry Manjula but won't worship Vishnu, you're just about out of luck. Excepting A&As, Hindus are the most gender-skewed group, with a 61%-39% male advantage. Hindus have the highest marriage rate of all (79%), as well as the highest rate of marriage to someone who shares their religious affiliation (90% of those who are married). Thus, 71% of Hindus aged 18 or older are married to other Hindus.

For that 71% to be reached, 35%-36% of the total Hindu population must be comprised of Hindu males married to Hindu females and conversely another 35%-36% of the total Hindu population must be comprised of Hindu females married to Hindu males. That means 3%-4% of the total Hindu population consists of Hindu women either married to non-Hindus or still on the market. Slim pickings!

* The CoC is headquartered in the eastern part of the Kansas City metro area. Theologically, it is closer to mainline Protestantism than the Church of LDS is.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Oscar household rating lowest in over 50 years

I have some predictable theories, none of them novel, on why leftist media sources I regularly imbibe of devote an inordinate amount of attention to things for which such coverage is not merited by public interest. That is, stories on the New Orleans recovery, the writers' strike, profiles of music artists few people have heard of and even fewer want to ever hear of, Hollywood movie award presentations, etc.

Regarding the latter most, I'm holding out hope that hard numbers will lessen airtime devoted to them in the future:
The national viewer tally reported by Nielsen Media Research for ABC's live, three-hour-plus telecast [of the Oscars] on Sunday was down about 1 million viewers [to 32 million] from the previous record low, set in 2003 when the Oscars were presented just after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq had begun. ...

Sunday's broadcast, with comedian Jon Stewart making his second appearance as Oscar host, now ranks as the smallest U.S. TV audience for the Oscars since 1974, when actual viewer totals first became available.

The national household rating of 18.7 also marks the lowest level by that measure going back to the very first televised Oscars in 1953.
In '98, the year of Titanic, 20% of the country tuned in. A decade later, fewer than 11% did. I understand the slate of films released during '07 were devoid of any big blockbusters, but attrition in favor of other forms of virtual entertainment, like YouTube and video games, strikes me as a good. The former, created less than three years ago, is now among the top five most visited sites in the country. Video game sales, which surpassed total box office revenues in the US in 2001, will likely more than double box office revenues in 2008.

These new forms of entertainment are more interactive, less ideologically rigid, and potentially offer rich, intimate character development that is difficult to accomplish on the big screen. And they offer a means to "depussify" the lives of the next generation!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

FairTax (national sales tax) now mostly criticized over collection enforcement

Mike Huckabee's ascension paralleled the ascension of the FairTax idea--replace the federal income tax with a national sales tax. That rise is evident on the editorial pages of the WSJ, where multiple pieces in opposition to the idea have been run in recognition of Huckabee's potential VP spot on the GOP side. The board's position is not surprising, as a large chunk of its readership earns their livelihoods through a better understanding than most people have of an arcane income tax structure.

But while the opposition is to be expected, the sloppiness with which it has been carried out is not. Bruce Bartlett incorrectly claimed that the monthly prebate to offset any regressive effects of the tax would be based on income. It calls for a set amount given to each citizen irrespective of income, varying only in that people with a greater number of children would get more. That Bartlett was unaware of one of the foundational aspects of the plan shows that he may not have even taken a cursory glance at it before leveling his critique. That does not speak well for the op/ed board's diligence, either.

He also wrongly claimed that the plan would add 30% to the price of every house sold. For one, he is using a tax-exclusive rate to gauge the national sales tax, while the federal income tax uses a tax-inclusive rate. If a tax-inclusive rate is implied, so that an apples-to-apples comparison can be made, it would add only 23% to the price of a home (a further flushing out is presented, about ten paragraphs down, in my long repudiation of Bartlett's piece). More importantly, it would only be levied on new homes, which comprise about one-in-four of the residences sold each year in the US.

Awhile back, the op/ed board gave Jerry Bowyer space to criticize the idea. His first two paragraphs are substantivally devoid:

If talk show hosts ran the world, we'd have a national sales tax. We'd have no immigration, and we would have long ago carpet-bombed the entire Middle East. We'd also have something called "fair trade," which means no real trade at all.

But they don't run the world; they just pretend that if they did, everything would be great. I would be a lot more confident that this was true if I didn't know so many talk show hosts. I would be even more confident if they had really run anything of consequence before. But I do, and they haven't.
This supercilious smearing is not meant to win over those previously supporting the idea. Instead, it attempts to intimidate those who may be on the fence or hearing about the idea for the first time. It is a standard tactic employed when a heretical idea is gaining momentum and needs to be stopped before it reaches 'mainstream consciousness'. Those who question the orthodoxy's view on catastrophic anthropogenic global warming, zero group differences, or unrestricted immigration regularly face similarly vicious insults.

Parenthetically, Bowyer used to be a radio talkshow host and has called for theocracy in the US in the past (so the word 'heretical' is appropriate enough).

A few points should be responded to:

We could simply declare that by switching from a federal income tax to a national retail sales tax, tax cheating would end, code complexity would be a thing of the past, and illegal immigrants would start paying taxes. And, of course, we'd switch into high economic growth -- forever.

The problem is that none of this would happen. People would simply switch from cheating on income taxes to cheating on sales taxes.
Of course proponents do not claim cheating would end. Whether or not the magnitude of avoidance would rise or fall is mostly speculative. Currently, there is more avoidance of income taxes than of sales taxes at the state level (as Bowyer implicitly implies). This is because individuals are largerly responsible for the former and large retail establishments for the latter.

Asserting whether or not that would hold on the national level is conjecture. The IRS estimates that about $400 billion in federal income taxes go uncollected each year (this is referred to as the "tax gap" in accounting parlance). On the services side, the cheating would almost certainly be more problematic than on the retail side, where it is difficult to imagine major retailers like Wal-Mart refusing to collect the tax.

A national sales tax would reverse the inherent advantage illegal immigrants enjoy in the labor market. Paying people under-the-table becomes a non-issue. Income isn't taxed. So paying the iillegal, Pedro, who shows up at the construction site $10 an hour no longer confers an advantage over paying John Smith who has a Social Security card, a residential address, and a accessible background the same amount. Both guys pay the same in taxes--it's forked over when they go to McDonald's for lunch and buy a pack of smokes at the convenience store.

Further, because illegals are not entitled to the monthly rebate that citizens are, they go into the labor market at a disadvantage. When the foreman is deciding between Joe and Pedro, Joe bargains for his wage knowing that he has a check for $300 coming at the end of the month.

Bowyers is incoherent on this point:

The immigrant stuff is nonsense on stilts. Let me ask you this: If they're here illegally, why won't they also buy and sell goods on the black market?
If they're here illegally, why won't they also break into your car or rob you at the ATM? The point is not that illegal aliens will somehow stop engaging in criminal activity. It's that employers will no longer enjoy the artificial premium that makes illegal labor so attractive to them now. If businesses find illegal labor less attractive, entering the US illegally becomes less attractive, and the problem is partially ameliorated. Unsurprisingly, that nonsense was all Bowyers had to say on illegal immigration in the entire piece.

The rest of Bowyer's submission isn't much worth reading. He uses the apples-to-oranges 30% figure and fallaciously insinuates it will be levied on everything that is bought and sold, not just new products.

He complains that decisions previously made due to tax considerations will no longer seem beneficial, like Roth IRAs (of course, people with traditional IRAs would benefit as much as the Roth guys would suffer). One-time transition pains would come with a complete overhaul. If the overhaul institutes something preferable though, these one-time pains shouldn't be decisive.

He also brings up questions of gradation--what if I use the internet for personal use but say its for work (business-to-business purchases are not to be subject to taxation)? Uh, what if you do that now? You claim it as a deduction. There's a good chance you slide by undetected. Maybe you're field audited and you get caught. Of course enforcement is still going to be a significant concern.

That the bulk of his piece focuses on compliance concerns does evince the growth in the idea's popularity (HR 25, its legislative embodiment, now has 59 sponsors in the House). As the knowledge base of its readership grows, the op/ed board is no longer able to slip in falsehoods as easily as it was able to in the past (a similar trend has occured on the immigration front, where the board has given up the mythical 44% figure, dropped some of its hysteria over the importance of the Hispanic vote, and stopped asserting that favoring immigration restriction is a minority-held position among the public).

And the WSJ recently let Leo Linbeck, President of the FairTax movement, run a piece to even the playing field a little. Granted, it was during the dead time in between Christmas and New Year's, but it is astonishing that a proponent's voice was even allowed to be heard. Now, if Gigot and company would just let Steven Camarota or Roy Beck have some space, we'd really be getting somewhere!

Primary reasons I see to support the FairTax:

- Ending (and reversing) the wage advantage illegal immigrants enjoy over the native working class.

- Encouraging conservation. The plan hasn't been pushed for its environmental merits, but slapping a 23% premium on new goods relative to used goods will extend the 'useful' life of a host of products and increase second-hand purchasing.

- Relative to the income tax structure, it encourages exports and discourages imports. While US exporters must pay income taxes in the US, their products are also subject to the taxes of the nations they are exported to. Several European countries refund VATs for goods that are exported, and East Asian currency manipulation serves as a furtive tariff on imports there. Why not similarly favor our exporters as the rest of the developed world favors their own?

- It will reward wealth creation and penalize personal expenditures (relative to the current structure). An income tax does just the opposite; Penalizes wealth creation and encourages personal expenditures.

- Businesses and individuals will make economic decisions based on efficiencies that are not distorted by income tax considerations (postponing equity sales into early January that should have been made previously, etc).

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Wealth and environmentalism go together

In the previous post on the most recent EPI rankings, Fat Knowledge pointed out that purchasing power parity and environmental performance are apparently related (they correlate at .58), and more strongly so than industrial growth, which is the case.

I tend to take for granted that the environmental movement is generally affluent, and to the extent that it is anti-capitalistic, opposes further economic and population growth rather than outright societal regression (although there is that element, too). Yet it is important to note that combatting environmental degradation seems to require wealth. Wealth alone is not sufficient, though, as several poorly-performing oil states demonstrate.

The environmental Kuznets curve conceptualizes environmental performance as being U-shaped, starting off and ending relatively well, but suffering during the developmental (China, India) stages. This isn't the case for the EPI rankings, with sub-Saharan Africa being at the bottom of the environmental and economic ladders.

So the EPI trend lends credence to the arguments China and India are making about how other industrialized nations had to cause a lot of environmental damage to get where they are today, to a point where they can ameliorate that damage, and so they too must be allowed to rapidly grow without restriction. I Don't know if that's what most environmentalists want to hear, but there is plenty of precedent for the developing nations' position on their own growth.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Michelle ensures Barack keeps it real, fights The Man?

++AdditionIII++Watch the video below once more, but focus this time on Michelle's traps (trapezia are the shoulder muscles that distinguish hard-hitting linebackers from hard-hitting fullbacks--Bill Goldberg and Brian Urlacher both have 'outsized' traps relative to other conspicuous strength regions, which is why they inspire more physical awe in guys who carried in their football days than in those who never did, relative to other body-builder types). The underbite only adds to the virile virago effect.

She apparently shares an affinity for regular exercise that the current President does, and boy does it show! If the couple got into a physical brawl, my money would be on Michelle--her scrawny, thin-necked, cigarette-smoking spouse doesn't match up!

++AdditionII++Randall Parker notices the same, but raises the possibility that her frustration may not come from her status as a 'black woman in a white world' but from her general leftism or from an enthusiasm for multiculturalism.

++Addition++It appears Michelle's undergrad thesis says pretty much what you'd expect it to say. See Steve Sailer's commentary on it as well.

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I wonder if Barack is "experienced" enough to realize that muzzling his wife might be a good thing for his candidacy. At the least, she should read from prepared remarks instead of allowing herself to be caught up in a genuine emotional riff. Here she is speaking in Madison just before the Wisconsin primary:
"Let me tell you something -- for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country. And not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change. And I have been desperate to see our country moving in that direction and just not feeling so alone in my frustration and disappointment. ..."
So a Princeton-educated woman (who got into the Ivy via affirmative action ahead of some unknown who was more qualified) living in a multi-million dollar home, named one of the 25 most inspiring women in the world by Essence magazine, married to a Senator who may become one of the youngest Presidents in American history--says she's been ashamed of her country for more than four decades. That isn't something likely to go far in 'unifying the red states and the blue states'. Realizing she'd overstepped, Michelle then covered herself by insinuating that the shame was shared by the farmer in Iowa, too.

But as things continue to come out about her, she looks more and more like a self-aware black woman who strongly resents the white power structure. IMDb reports that the first movie she went to see with Barack was Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing, a film that climaxes when white police officers suffocate a black man who is upset over an Italian-American's refusal to honor black athletes in his restaurant. The two met while employed as the only two black lawyers at the law firm of Sidley and Austin in Chicago.

Newsweek reports (in an article that, perhaps fittingly, begins its caption with "She's the one who keeps him real...") that her undergraduate thesis entitled "Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community" is sealed from public record (Steve Sailer has more on it here). Her racial discomfort regarding her Princeton educational experience is not insignificant to her, either--she has made mention of it to other major media outlets as well.

In the run-up to the Iowa caucuses, when Barack was trailing nationally among blacks, Michelle responded to an inquiry as to why he was behind:

First of all, I think that that's not going to hold. I'm completely confident: black America will wake up, and get it. But what we're dealing with in the black community is just the natural fear of possibility.

When I look at my life, the stuff that we're seeing in these polls has played out my whole life, always been told by somebody that I'm not ready, that I can't do something, my scores weren't high enough.

There's always that doubt in the back of the minds of people of color. People who've been oppressed and haven't been given real opportunities [like herself, presumably?!]. That you never really believe. That you believe that somehow, someone is better than you. You know, deep down inside, you doubt whether you can do it, because that's all you've been told, is "no, wait."

That's all you hear, and you hear it from people who love you. Not because they don't care about you, but bcause they're afraid. They're afraid that something might happen.
Indeed, black America did "get it". She could've easily offered a more politically palatable answer that wouldn't insinuate Barack should be the de jure choice for American blacks.

Personally, her candidness is appreciated. I'm hardly a fan of politically correct conformity. But this woman could be the next First Lady. That she seems to harbor such a deep grudge against white America on behalf of the black community is a little unsettling in light of the fact that she may be living in the White House in a year.

Ron Guhname, in a post on black attractiveness in which he noted Michelle was the most African-looking among several black female celebrities, remarks:
Evidently, Barry wanted to prove he was black enough when he chose Michelle.
Ron may have only been half-serious, but I do wonder if Barack's obsession as a halfrican over his blackness factored into his choice of a marriage partner. He may have put that internal struggle to rest, but there's much that indicates Michelle has not.

New Jersey to take control of immigration situation

New Jersey's Senate majority leader is encouraged by Arizona's tough sanctions on illegal immigrants and companies employing them:

Senate Majority Leader Stephen Sweeney said his decision comes after a federal judge upheld an Arizona law that prohibits businesses from knowingly hiring illegal immigrants and yanks the business licenses of those that do.

"Companies that knowingly hire illegals are destroying job opportunities for the working men and women of New Jersey," said Sweeney, D-Gloucester. "The practice has to be stopped." ...

On Feb. 8, a federal judge in Arizona dismissed a lawsuit filed by business groups against Arizona's law, which was approved last year by the Republican-led Legislature and Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano.
Even before the Arizona law went into effect, hundreds of illegal immigrants were heading to other states and back to their countries of origin by the day. In Oklahoma, which passed similar measures that will come online in July, estimates put the immigrant exodus in the hundreds daily as well.

The mass deportation argument is a strawman--states do not even have to power of deportation. As was the case during Operation Wetback, most illegal immigrants will leave of their own volition when it becomes more difficult to live here illegally.

State legislatures are more beholden to their constituencies than congresspeople at the national level are. Although immigration enforcement is one of the few issues the Constitution expressly charges the Federal government with handling, its dereliction has led other states like Arizona to take matters into their own hands. It's not just happening in the Southwest, either. Rhode Island is moving in the same direction as New Jersey:

Rhode Island, facing a budget crisis that will lead to massive cutbacks, is engulfed in the most intense battle over illegal immigration in New England, with Republicans and Democrats alike calling for a crackdown on unauthorized workers.

In the past few weeks, state lawmakers and the governor have proposed a battery of measures targeting unauthorized workers, from expelling undocumented children from the state's healthcare system to making English the official language to jailing business owners and landlords who harbor illegal workers.

Congressional Democrats are less restrictionist than their Republican counterparts are, but among the public it is more an issue of several members of the Establishment (big business for low-wage throw-away labor, big religion for more adherents, big government to justify bigger government to take care of an expanding underclass and for more people to vote for bigger government, big media for more sob stories and racial/ethnic/class conflict, big racial interests like La Raza for obvious reasons, etc) against the bipartisan majority of the citizenry.

This is an encouraging trend. The measures are having the desired effect even before becoming law and in the face of legal challenge. As the immigrants who do not leave the US instead head to other states, pressure in those states for similar laws will increase, as residents of the receiving states suffer rising economic inequality and poverty, overburdened public infrastructure, and poorer academic performance in their communities.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Economic inequality as the best predictor of mugging rates

I came upon a post by Ron Guhname at Inductivist from a little over a year ago in which he looks at mugging rates by country as reported in the International Crime Victimization Survey. His impetus was a reader who apparently suggested that free market economies breed criminality. The guy clarifies in the comments section of Ron's post that he was referring only to the US relative to other developed nations.

His qualified assertion is still not satisfactory--the glaringly obvious reason that the US fares poorly relative to other developed European and Asian countries on a host of social attributes is that one-fourth of the US population is black or brown. As detailed in response to a paper by Gregory Paul that suggested religiosity was at the root of many social problems (he focused primarily on the US and to a lesser extent Portugal versus the rest of Europe), when NAM statistics are removed, the US falls in line with the rest of the pack, alongside other Anglo countries.

Ron's interpretation of the reader's original assertion--that free market economies breed crime--is baseless. The correlation between the percentage of a country's population that had been mugged in the last year and its economic freedom index score correlate inversely at .50. They trend in opposite directions, and pretty vigorously.

This doesn't necessarily rule the commenter's idea out, as there are a host of other differences between the 37 countries touching each of the six settled continents that Ron looks at. There's more than just economic freedom separating Japan from Uganda! But it suggests that, if anything, economic freedom reduces criminality.

In the body of the post and the subsequent discussion in the comments, there is more speculation on what is influencing the differences in rates. The same commenter who spurred the post suggests that wealth inequality might be a driving factor, specifically in that Latin American countries have higher mugging rates than African countries do.

He appears to be on the money this time. I looked at the gini coefficient (a measure of income inequality in which higher values indicate less economic parity), economic freedom as measured by the Heritage Foundation's index, purchasing power parity, estimated average IQ, and median male age to see how these interact with mugging.

All five of the factors correlate expectantly with the rate of mugging. A nation's level of economic equality (.70), level of economic freedom (.50), higher purchasing power (.61), higher average IQ (.52), and older male population (.59), all reduce the likelihood of a denizen being mugged. That these relationships are robust isn't surprising--the attributes are all measures that characterize the first-world on the 'high' end and the third-world on the 'low' end.

But when each factor is looked at with the other four being controlled for, economic equality is the only one that retains statistical significance (p<.01), losing less than one-fifth of its stand-alone 'explanatory' power. The other factors do not even come close. Their coefficients all approach zero with the lowest p-value at .37. In fact, estimated IQ and median male age actually correlate inversely with mugging rates. Botswana is an outlier of this trend, with considerable wealth inequality but a relatively low mugging rate. I imagine this has something to do with lots of security for the diamond interests that have all the money, as well as low population density. If it is removed from the analysis, the gini-mugging correlation increases to .76. This meshes with the finding that, at least in the US, people gauge their level of happiness based on wealth relative to that of their peers more than they do on measures of absolute wealth. It follows that the greater the disparity between what others have and what you have, the more likely you are to want to take stuff from them to even things out and reduce the tension that disparity creates within you.

It also suggests that immigration by those who are poorer (and likely to remain poorer after they've settled) than the average resident of the receiving nation is unwise as far as thievery against persons is concerned. Further, higher birthrates among those lower on the economic ladder relative to those who are higher up on the ladder will accentuate the mugging rate.

A few strategies for the US to attain greater economic parity (as well as greater absolute wealth per capita):

- End illegal immigration. Build a physical barrier along the US-Mexico border and enact and enforce tough laws against illegal immigrants and those who employ them. The former has been tremendously successful in Israel, along another first-world/third-world border that attracts members of the latter to cross into the territory of the former. In the US, local and state laws have sent hundreds of illegals packing each day before even going into effect, giving lie to the strawman that a massive deportation effort is necessary to get the illegal population to leave.

- Institute a merit immigration system. After blotting out illegal immigration to the maximum extent possible, expand things like the EB-5 Visa program that grants residency and then citizenship contingent upon at least a $500,000 investment in a 'distressed' area ($1 million otherwise) and the creation of at least 10 American jobs. Why not leverage the value of American citizenship by getting as much is possible in return for it, while working to ensure that its valuation remains high going forward by bringing in people who have $500k to put down on projects with uncertain returns?

- Make the child tax credit ($1,000 per, at least through 2010) progressive. Currently, it is reduced once a MFJ couple's combined income reaches $110,000. Tax strategies designed to alter birthing patterns historically have not been of major consequence. Still, anything that reduces the number of children birthed on the low end of the economic spectrum and increases the number of children born on the high end will reduce economic inequality. It's better for a retired CEO to spread his millions across six children than to leave it all to one, and better for a retired janitor to devote a modest life savings to his only child than to spread it even more thinly across six of them.

All of these ideas, along with a host of others like them, share a commonality that makes them attractive--they reduce the size of the under- and working-classes relative to the size of the professional and entrepreneurial classes. Simple economics dictates that as supply increases, prices will decrease. More CPAs means that each CPA cannot charge as much as he otherwise would in the face of less competition. This also applies to the unskilled labor market in terms of wage rates. Fewer workers means higher wages for workers. Overall, it means more total wealth creation.

Forced wealth redistribution is only a temporary fix that doesn't get at the heart of the problem. It must be repeated in perpetuity. As the natural income gap continues to widen, the magnitude of redistribution similarly must grow. Better to go for fundamental changes underlying the natural wealth distribution occuring from differences in wealth creation than to just redistribute that wealth once it is created.

Another reigning leftist solution for the last half-century has been an emphasis on greater education to move those on the lower end of the economic spectrum into higher echelons. But simply put, this just hasn't worked. There is literally no relationship between educational expenditures and scholastic performance*. Demographic data are far more reliable predictors of performance than are a host of conventional attributes like per-student expenditures, average class size, and teacher salaries.

*Although there is a meaningful relationship (.65) between a state's standard-of-living at its NAEP performance. To the extent that greater real spending is associated with better performance, it's a symptom of a smarter, more productive population. A state's standard-of-living, not educational expenditures, is what's important. That's not surprising, given that monetary SoL proxies quite well for IQ.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Environmental performance by growth and by civilization

The 2008 Environmental Performance Index (EPI), led by professors from Columbia and Yale, was recently released. It uses 25 indicators to assign a score to 149 countries (thanks to Fat Knowledge for clearing this up for me). Three of the thirteen categories used in computing the rankings are based on CO2 emissions, while only two are based on water quality and accessibility (climate change accounts for one-quarter of the total weighted index). So it seems to me skewed against practical concerns (is my water safe to drink?) for the populations of the countries in question and towards IPCC worries over emissions (is that guy driving a Hummer or a hybrid?).

Environmentalism has a reputation for misanthropy and an antagonism towards capitalism. The EPI does little to amend that reputation. Environmental performance inversely correlates with a nation's industrial growth at a moderate but statistically significant .16 and inversely with its total fertility rate at a rigorous .80.

This association is natural enough, since the easiest way for a person to reduce his environmental impact is to just die. In the words spoken by David Graber decades ago:

I know social scientists who remind me that people are part of nature, but it isn’t true. Somewhere along the line – at about a billion [?!] years ago – we quit the contract and became a cancer. We have become a plague upon ourselves and upon the Earth. It is cosmically unlikely that the developed world will choose to end its orgy of fossil energy consumption, and the Third World its suicidal consumption of landscape. Until such time as Homo Sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along.”
As argued previously, green initiatives have to be economically sensible and painless in their execution to receive broad support and to ultimately be successful. The inordinate amount of attention given to human-induced CO2 emissions, and the consequential sacrifices urged and regulatory bodies advocated does not endear the guy on the street to the cause. Instead, the whole thing seems silly:

Attributing global climate change to human CO2 production is akin to trying to diagnose an automotive problem by ignoring the engine (analogous to the Sun in the climate system) and the transmission (water vapour) and instead focusing entirely, not on one nut on a rear wheel, which would be analogous to total CO2, but on one thread on that nut, which represents the human contribution.
That most major environmental groups like the Sierra Club and the WWF do not advocate immigration restriction in the US or explicitly favor strategies to reduce births in the third-world generally and among the most destitute women especially (instead emphasizing access to generic family planning services throughout the world) gives the impression that being good stewards of the earth is not their sole reason for being.

Risking too much self-indulgence, this train of thought lies at the heart of my ambiguity toward such groups. It seems there are ulterior motives antagonistic towards capitalism and human progression more generally among many environmentalists. The two-page press release, for instance, devotes two full paragraphs to the US' poor performance (39th best of the 149 countries evaluated) relative to other industrialized nations.

Why not focus instead on the fact that developed Euro-descended countries (plus Japan) clean (heh) the rest of the world's clocks? There isn't a single Western nation in the entire bottom half of the rankings. Using Samuel Huntington's nine civilizational categorizations, the aggregated EPI score for each* (adjusted for population size at the national level):

Japanese -- 84.5
Western -- 84.0
Latin American -- 81.3
Orthodox -- 79.5
Buddhist -- 71.0
Sinic -- 67.0
Islamic -- 65.2
Hindu -- 60.7
African -- 59.0

In a contemporary West that is so hard-pressed to criticize other civilizations or praise its own, environmental performance and human (and animal) rights are areas where most Good progressives are still willing to make critical value judgments.

A little tweaking and the broader movement is aiming at some worthy eugenic goals--namely drastically cutting third-world birthrates, especially in Africa, and at least advocating Western fertility rebounds to replacement levels. If the worst environmental performers are also the countries that are growing the fastest, the obvious conclusion is that the 'global' environmental performance is going to suffer going forward.

I say "eugenic" because there is also a strong correlation of .76 between estimated national average IQ and environmental performance. A more intelligent, industrialized, liberal, white (and Japanese) world is a more environmentally-friendly world. To make a statement that is made so clear by the EPI rankings themselves, however, is to invite excoriation from the very same people who attach so much importance on the index scores. But their moral posturing does nothing to repudiate the fact that the world is becoming less intelligent, less liberal, and less white (and much less Japanese).

Third-world immigration fuels a growth in purchasing power for the home country through remittances and migrant returns without doing much to ensure that commensurate 'EPI' progress takes place there. These groups could easily advocate that until, say, Nicaragua reaches environmental parity with the US, immigration from that country cannot be condoned. Leverage the developed world's wealth to get less developed nations to clean up their acts, instead of appearing to oppose wealth creation in itself.

Environmentalists could make an even more direct appeal to immigration restriction, of course--that more people mean more problems. But an article in the most recent issue of National Geographic illustrates this moral bankruptcy through its glaring omission of any mention of immigration in a 4,000-plus word feature about dry conditions in the American Southwest:


For most people in the region, the news hasn't quite sunk in. Between 2000 and 2006 the seven states of the Colorado basin added five million people, a 10 percent population increase. Subdivisions continue to sprout in the desert, farther and farther from the cities whose own water supply is uncertain. Water managers are facing up to hard times ahead. "I look at the turn of the century as the defining moment when the New West began," says Pat Mulroy, head of the Southern Nevada Water Authority. "It's like the impact of global warming fell on us overnight."

It has been much warmer and drier in the past (the 20th Century was the wettest the American Southwest has seen in the last thousand years) of course, although there's not agreement on why. Yet the article takes as fact that CAGW is going to lead to a secular rise in temperature and dryness in this region. Whatever the prognosis going forward, the threat of the Colorado River being drained is being made more potent through rampant immigration from Latin America.

CAGW has many of the strappings of a religious movement. There are carbon offsets (indulgences); Chosen climate modelers (prophets) who can see a future that Others cannot; those who point out their failures to take into account various feedbacks and solar activity, or who more directly protest that global average temperatures have become slightly cooler over the last decade when a secular warming trend supposedly should be occuring, are attacked as deniers (false prophets); apocalyptic scenarios await a world that doesn't inact IPCC recommendations immediately (the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah); the messianic zeal with which all nations and people are urged to cut growth under threat of economic and social sanctions (conversion of pagans and smiting of heretics); the general circulation models are not falsifiable because they're predicting what will occur in the future (what Revelations says will happen at the end); etc.

I can understand the frustration atheists and agnostics have with the outwardly pious. In their certainty many will not give your skepticism the time of day. Parenthetically, if you're interested in that skepticism, the prolific Al Fin regularly features it in his posts.

*I made a few executive decisions in determining where certain countries fit. Sudan and Chad are both 'Islamic', Nigeria is 'African' (Huntington splits the three of them between those two civilizations), and the Philippines are Sinic (he labels them as both Western and Sinic). All of China is 'Sinic', though Huntington sensibly considers the Tibetan autonomous region to be Buddhist. Guyana is 'Hindu' since those of Indian descent comprise at least half of its population. I left Papua New Guinea out, even though Huntington bemusingly considers it Western, presumably due to the high percentage of the population that practices Christianity (exclusionary, I know!). Also, neither Fiji nor the Solomon Islands are included. Data via Swivel here.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Pot withdrawal comparable to quitting smoking?

Marijuana may be more addictive than is generally thought:

Research by a group of scientists studying the effects of heavy marijuana use suggests that withdrawal from the use of marijuana is similar to what is experienced by people when they quit smoking cigarettes.

Abstinence from each of these drugs appears to cause several common symptoms, such as irritability, anger and trouble sleeping - based on self reporting in a recent study of 12 heavy users of both marijuana and cigarettes.

“These results indicate that some marijuana users experience withdrawal effects when they try to quit, and that these effects should be considered by clinicians treating people with problems related to heavy marijuana use,” says lead investigator in the study, Ryan Vandrey, Ph.D., of the Department of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug in the United States. Admissions in substance abuse treatment facilities in which marijuana was the primary problem substance have more than doubled since the early 1990s and now rank similar to cocaine and heroin with respect to total number of yearly treatment episodes in the United States, says Vandrey.

The small sample size renders this more of a suggestive case study than a reliable scientific trial.

That rehabilitation numbers are now comparable to those of cocaine and heroin is potentially misleading, as an order of magnitude more Americans smoke pot than use cocaine. The absolute numbers may be similar, but the rates of admission into substance abuse programs due to use of the different drugs are not.

Still, the increase in treatment meshes with the secular rise in THC levels (the compound that influences the release of dopamine in the brain during a high) that has characterized US and European pot over the last half-century.

I'm more interested in this:

Interestingly, the study also revealed that half of the participants found it easier to abstain from both substances than it was to stop marijuana or tobacco individually, whereas the remaining half had the opposite response.

As both forms of smoking increase the amount of dopamine that is released in the brain, might substitution inherently be counter-productive for many people who are trying to kick pleasureable 'bad' habits?

It's plausible that the standard 21mg cessation patch, which releases into the user the nicotine equivalent of one pack of smokes over a 24-hour period, may get its hit-or-miss reputation for the same reasons underlying the split found in this study. The patch, and substitution as an aid to giving up other addictive activities more generally, may be more effective than trying to go cold-turkey for most people*. But it might actually further entrench regular use among others.

I wonder how that disparity might be genetically influenced. I suspect that answer will be revealed, among countless other, in the coming years thanks to the revolutionary advances in DNA sequencing that are occuring as we speak.

Marijuana also appears to increase the incidence of periodontal problems:

In a study of more than 900 young adults, researchers found that heavy tokers were 1.6 times more likely to have at least mild periodontal disease, compared to those who had never smoked grass. ...

As a group, their risk of having at least one site with more severe gum disease was triple that of the group who never used the illicit drug, say the researchers, whose work is published in Wednesday's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

This suggests that regular marijuana use shares some consequences of regular tobacco use. That isn't surprising given the similarities in the way both are consumed.

Weed seems to be following a path similar to that of cigarettes before it: Originally thought to be innocuous, but appearing less and less so as time goes on.

*The consensus from what I've read seems to be that patches tend to be about twice as effective as resolving to go 'cold turkey' is, but there's the question of how much more resolve in takes in the first place to actually buy the expensive patches versus simply saying "I quit".



Saturday, February 09, 2008

Obama's supporters mostly women; Blacks will put him in the WH if he gets there

Steve Sailer posted part of a neat (unweighted) table on the Democratic demographics of Super Tuesday's vote. With virtually all of the votes now tallied, we can get at the nationwide (well, of the states that have gone thus far, anyway) numbers by major demographic characteristics for the two Democratic frontrunners.

The numbers aren't flawless. Most unsatisfactory is the lack of exit polling data for most of the caucuses, where Obama has dominated. But these votes only represent about 5%-6% cast thus far for a Democratic candidate. Included in the totals without blemish are the results from the Nevada and New Mexico caucuses (the latter essentially being a primary).

I also included Iowa numbers in the calculations. Because state delegates are officially recorded (rather than actual votes received for each candidate by the participating public), I estimated the total Democratic voter participation by looking at Missouri voter registration numbers and turnout. This probably inflates the total Iowa turnout (and thus Obama's white numbers), since primaries tend to draw more people than caucuses do. On the other hand, the long campaign in Iowa and the hype surrounding its results probably meant Iowa's turnout was higher than would otherwise be expected for a caucus.

The other caucus states are not included. Michigan is also excluded due to the fact that 41% of the vote was 'uncommitted'--essentially a vote for either Obama or Edwards. As the demographics of those two candidates' supporters are disparate, it seems imprudent to hazard guesses as to how the uncommitted vote split between the two.

Following are the 'total' votes (figured by taking a state's exit poll results and comparing the percentages to total votes) cast in the states included by gender, in thousands. Green shows the percentage of the candidate's total base the category represents; Blue shows what percentage of that category each candidate garnered relative to the other candidate.

Hillary's malesHillary's femalesObama's malesObama's females
2,826 (37.6%) (44.8%)4,685 (62.4%) (53.4%)3,483 (46.0%) (55.2%)4,090 (54.0%) (46.6%)

Hillary is the putative woman's candidate. And of course she does enjoy a heavy advantage among women (white women, that is. Black women have overwhelmingly backed Obama in every contest--only a few points less firmly than black men have). But testament to just how much of a harpy's nest the Democratic party has become, the majority of Obama's supporters are also women.

If you're wondering what percentage of the Democratic nominating process voters have been male, the above table suggests 41.8%. Actually, it is a bit higher than that, because the other candidates (Edwards most notably) are not included. I'm going to break each party down demographically (at least by race and gender together) after the state contests are all wrapped up.

The racial breakdown is trickier, because every state but California has at least one category not included in the exit polling data due to lack of a sufficient number of total voters for that category. To arrive at estimate totals, in the states for which exit polling data were not available, I computed an average for each candidate based on data from the states where there were ample data for that category. This was based on vote totals only for Obama and Hillary, so votes garnered by other candidates do not factor into the estimates at all (a good thing).

For example, of black votes received either by Hillary or Obama in states with enough information for exit polling data, Hillary took 16% of the total (and Obama the other 84%). These percentages are then used to come up with estimates for actual black votes in states with insufficient numbers of blacks for exit polling purposes. Say 5% of the voters in a state were black, and the total votes received by Hillary and Obama came to 10,000. To come up with Hillary's estimated number of black votes: 10000*.05*.16 = 80.

National totals (from states with exit polling data) up to and including Super Tuesday, in thousands of votes cast. Again, green shows the percentage of that candidate's total base the category represents; Blue shows what percentage of that category each candidate garnered relative to the other candidate. Asians and 'others' (Native Americans), totalling a few percent of the Democratic total, are not included.

Hillary's WhitesBlacksHispanics
5,165 (73.5%) (57.2%)461 (6.6%) (15.6%) 1,397 (19.9%) (63.8%)

Obama's WhitesBlacksHispanics
3,858 (54.0%) (42.8%)2,489 (34.9%) (84.4%)793 (11.1%) (36.2%)

Blacks made up one-fifth of John Kerry's support in the '04 election. They comprise less than one-fifteenth of Hillary's support in this nomination contest.

While there were more than three white Democratic voters for each black Democratic voter in '04, there are fewer than two full white Obama supporters for each black backer (that easily holds even if liberal estimates regarding turnout and white support for Obama are made for the states lacking exit poll data; additionally, Obama's probable support in Michigan adds around another 90,000 to his black total that is not included above).

Obama has managed to dominate the black vote (almost as overwhelmingly when in competition with his Democratic rivals as Democrats beat Republicans among black voters in general elections) without snapping up the white vote and without becoming the Black Candidate (in most states and in the eyes of whites, anyway).

The putative essentiality of the Hispanic vote gets an inordinate amount of attention, but if Obama pulls the nomination off, the black vote will have been the deciding factor*. Without black voters, Hillary clobbers Obama, 57%-43% (that generously assumes Obama outdid Hillary 2-to-1 among whites in the states without exit polling data). She beats him more soundly than Kerry beat Bush in California.

If Obama becomes the 44th President of the US, it will be fair to say that African Americans put him in the Whitehouse.

That'd be a potentially ironic outcome: Obama spent so much of his adult life struggling to be black enough. Then, after failing a test of that blackness in 2000 and leaving the struggle behind to become a raceless leader (at least publicly), he rides into the most powerful position in the world on the shoulders of black America.

*I realize one vote is one vote, and you might also say "Hillary lost because she only took 57% of the white vote instead of 67%. Tautologically true. But that would clearly render Obama the Black Candidate who went down to a white flurry just as other black leaders like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have in the past. You might also say that if Hillary had won all of the Hispanic vote, she would've gotten the nomination, and so the Hispanic vote was really the deciding factor. Or you might say that if she would've gotten more votes than Obama, she would've had the nomination, and so a lack of votes was the problem. Fine, whatever. My point is that, in the face of opposition from most whites and most Hispanics, black support may be enough to take the nomination and by extension the Presidency. Can't you just ponder this modern demonstration of black empowerment without being so difficult?!

No mutual trust (but at least reciprocity!) in Gaza incursion into Egypt

Why the threat of an Islamic caliphate stretching from West Sahara to Pakistan is overblown:
Many of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who poured across the border into Egypt to buy non-essential goods that Israel has placed an embargo on used counterfeit Israeli money to make their purchases.

Phony Israeli currency has reportedly been printed in Gaza since Israel withdrew from the territory in 2005.

But the Egyptians also failed to play fair, reportedly selling food and other perishable goods to the Palestinians that were past their expiration dates.
That vast section in the middle can't seem to do much right economically save for having strongmen ensure oil flows eastward and westward. Tribalism, maintained in part through high rates of incestuous marriage, gives more than a kernel of truth to the Bedouin proverb:
I against my brother. I and my brother against our cousin. I, my brother and our cousin against the neighbors. All of us against the foreigner.


Huckabee to take Kansas?

I just returned from the Kansas caucus. I'm in the third district, by far the most liberal of the state's four. The geographically diminutive district encompasses two-and-a-half counties, biting in to the only two counties in the entire state that went for Kerry in '04. The third county, Johnson, is not only the state's most affluent, but is also one of the highest per capita income counties in the entire country (without even adjusting for the region's low cost of living). Consequently, it's full of what social conservatives might deride as "blue-blooded Rockefeller Republicans".

Despite this, at least at my location (one of six in the district), Huckabee supporters absolutely dominated, and the crowd's theme was a federal life amendment, to the virtual exclusion of anything else (they did throw a bit in about the FairTax towards the end). A small band of Paul supporters coalesced as well, but we were dwarfed by an order of magnitude by the Huckabee people.

So, with my imprudent Hillary prediction in trouble (the intrade 'market' now has favors Obama 60/40), and the worst possible Presidential matchup having apparently become the most likely to materialize, perhaps there's some redemption possible in predicting that Huckabee 'upsets' and takes the Sunflower token. It may be, however, that his state campaign simply chose to converge on the location that I happened to go to.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Worst-case scenario: Obama and McCain, with a McCain victory

Parapundit's Randall Parker has been speculating on potential Presidential match-ups and outcomes.

His basic argument is that a Hillary defeat of McCain would be a good thing. Republicans would oppose an immigration amnesty and the further opening up of the southern border to illegal Hispanic immigration, since it would be favored by the Democratic White House and both Democratic houses of Congress (although the Dem-controlled House, especially with regards to its newest additions, is not an entirely anti-nationalist body by any stretch). This would allow the GOP to fight for its demographic life by taking up a popular cause, rather than having to choose between either toeing the McCain Whitehouse line in favor of electoral self-immolation or internecine fighting within the Republican ranks.

I'm mixed on a best-case scenario. The major hangup I have with a McCain defeat is what it will mean for the Supreme Court. Justice Stevens will turn 90 during the next President's term. There has only been one other nonagenarian judge in the Court's history, and he (Oliver Wendell Holmes) left within the year of becoming one. Scalia, Ginsburg, and Kennedy are all in their seventies. With Democratic control of both the Senate and the Whitehouse, that could spell a drastic leftward shift in the court, especially if Scalia retires.

But the worst-case scenario doesn't seem as cloudy. Obama versus McCain, with McCain winning, strikes me as the least desirable outcome of all. The GOP's performance among Hispanics would be maximized, possibly eclipsing the 50% mark, as Hispanics otherwise tending to support the Democratic candidate would be unenthusiastic about voting for a black. Many would stay home, and others would 'defect' to McCain and his pal Juan Hernandez. If you think the WSJ bilge over the essentiality of the Hispanic vote as garnered through support for open borders is nauseating now, just wait.

Further, as Obama is less culpable in the Iraq situation (and would certainly attack McCain on the issue of Iraq during the general election campaign) than Hillary is, we'd also get neocon braying about how an interventionist policy that not only maintains but accentuates our troop presence in 130 countries across the globe is an electoral winner and something the US must embrace. And the US would have to suffer embracing as much for at least another four years.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Demographics of Super Tuesday offer few surprises; Asians finally contribute to an exit poll

++Addition2++New Mexico's contest is officially called the "Presidential Preference Caucus" which explains why the AP, WaPo, Wikipedia, and MSNBC all refer to it as such. But the rules are pretty similar to a standard primary. As Hillary and Obama look to be just about splitting the vote at 13 and 12 delegates awarded, respectively, it doesn't much influence the primary-caucus disparity between the two.

++Addition++In the comments, Argent Paladin (what a cool name, btw) points out, among other insights, the enormous disparity between young white voters and older Hispanic voters in California. Among whites between the ages of 18-29, Obama wins 2-to-1 (63%-32%). Among Hispanics 60+, Hillary dominates almost 4-to-1 (78%-20%). The age trend among whites (younger voters more likely to support Obama, older folks to back Clinton) similarly exists among Hispanics, but it is much less pronounced (and is shifted a good 30 points in Hillary's favor).

In the bit on Jews, I overlooked Florida. In that state, Jewish (58%-26%, Clinton) support did pretty closely mirror white support (53%-23%, Clinton), with the former less supportive of the still-running Edwards than whites as a whole were.

---

Super Tuesday didn't bring many startling revelations in terms of demographics. However, I was surprised by how overt the bias in favor of Obama and McCain was on ABC and NPR, the two radio broadcasts I toggled back and forth between on Tuesday evening, though. I could feel Aaron Katersky, who was anchoring the coverage, try to cut off a putatively objective Alex Stone as he lectured California's GOP voters for being too restrictionist! NPR's Michel Norris, meanwhile, sounded almost orgasmic in pointing out that Obama had--as expected--won big in Colorado and Idaho!

Blacks overwhelmingly backed Obama, Hispanics favored Clinton (with the anomaly of Connecticut, where, comprising 6% of the total, they apparently preferred Obama by a narrow margin), and the larger the black share of a state's voting population, the more likely whites in that state were to flock to Clinton. Looking at all the contests that have taken place so far, there has been an inverse correlation of .35 (confidence just a hair outside 90%) between the percentage of a state's voters who are black and the amount of support Obama garners among whites in that state.

That's quite rigorous actually, given that obliterations like Illinois are outliers that attenuate the statistical relationship. Further, the real relationship is likely stronger than that, as I computed the results of all contests thus far (including those before Super Tuesday) as though only Hillary and Obama were running--in reality, most of Edwards' (overwhelmingly white) supporters in the southern states would have gone to Hillary if it had been a two horse race at that point. And I gave all the white undecideds in Michigan to Obama (neither he nor Edwards was on the ballot there), so he looked better among whites in that 23% black state that he would've in reality.

In the eyes of whites, Obama is only the Black Candidate when there are lots of blacks rallying behind him. Previously, I underestimated the extent to which this is the case, and am in peril of looking quite foolish in so firmly asserting Clinton would be the Democratic Presidential nominee. She likely faces four consecutive losses before reaching Virginia on the 12th, a state with a racial composition that has served her quite well thus far (a substantial black minority that nonetheless safely represents less than half of the voting population). If it is still 'deadlocked' by March 3rd, Ohio and Texas should be the final knockout punches for Obama, but the media fawning over his smaller state wins prior to those contests may be too much for her to overcome. For those who challenged my prediction, I'll humiliate myself more ostensibly when the time comes for it.

I still suspect she'll win, but I regret not taking sage advice and being a little more prudent. From this point forward, I'll try to stick to informed speculation rather than making bold assertions where uncertainty still remains.

Anyhow, there are a few notable observations to be made regarding the exit polls.

- The Jewish vote is inconsistent. In New York, Hillary beat Obama 2-to-1 among Jews (65%-33%). In New Jersey, her dominance was nearly identical, at 63%-37%. But in Massachusetts (48%-52%, Obama) and California (47%-49%, Obama), they split the Jewish vote, while in Connecticut Obama turned the tables with a nearly 2-to-1 victory, at 61%-38%.

It doesn't mirror the white vote, either. In NY and NJ, Jews were more supportive of Hillary than whites as a whole were. In Massachusetts, Hillary clobbered Obama among whites but narrowly lost among Jews. In Connecticut, she narrowly won among whites, but was clobbered by Obama among Jews. In California, the race was close among both whites and Jews, but Obama had the edge among Jews and Hillary among whites.

- That gallimaufry collectively referred to as "Asian" is solidly in Hillary's camp. In California, the only state in either party with a sizable enough number of Asian voters to adequately report exit polling data on, Hillary outdid Obama by almost 3-to-1 (71%-25%). In New Jersey, extrapolating from the other racial categories, the best estimate for the Asian vote (which comprised 4% of the Democratic total) suggests 59%-41%, in Hillary's favor. And she took American Samoa by a comfortable 57%-43% (the territory sends three delegates to the party's convention; Hillary gets two).

- McCain did better among whites and especially Asians (two-thirds of Asian Republicans backed him--not particularly surprising as Asians tend to shy away from conspicuously Christian politicians) than he did among Hispanics in California. Huh? Yeah, really. He took 66% of the Asian vote, 42% of the white vote, but only 39% of the Hispanic vote. It won't be much of anything the WSJ op/ed board will have to epicycle away (or ignore) though, as Huckabee and Giuliani took double-digit chunks of that vote as well.

- Steve Sailer mentioned Mitt Romney's strong performance in states holding caucuses. I'm looking forward to my state's run at it this Saturday. Although Paul's the guy I've been canvassing for, my little coalition is going to do all we can to get the various non-McCain factions to go after the McCain supporters. If Romney's crew has enough of a presence, though, I'm breaking for him. There's still a sliver of hope for a brokered convention, after all!

But what about the magi of the caci, Obama? He has been racking up lots of lopsided wins 0n the caucus side, coming out ahead in seven of the nine held up to this point. Tallying up delegates won by Hillary and Obama thus far, in each of the two electoral manifestations:

Primaries: Hillary -- 672 , Obama -- 621
Caucuses: Hillary -- 91, Obama -- 157

Are voters more likely to throw in with the 'oppressed' (white women are not as untouchable as black men are) candidate when others are watching them than they would otherwise be? Or are Obama's grassroot supporters simply more enthusiastic (they are younger, after all) and so show up at higher rates than Hillary's do at caucus time (primaries tend to bring out more voters than caucuses do)?

Uniquely, Texas may provide an answer. It holds a primary directly followed by a caucus that those who participated in the primary are eligible (but not mandated) to take part in. There are delegates to be won both from the primary and the caucus. Will the elderly pass on the caucus portion at greater rates than other age groups?

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Romney rapidly closing gap on McCain in California

The latest polls have Romney and McCain neck-and-neck in California. The state isn't winner-take-all, but would be an enormous boost for the former Governor. Despite the uncertainties he brings, in this case I'd say the devil you don't know is actually better than the one you do (at least it's difficult to see how he could be any worse).

Registered Republicans in the Golden State--vote in the primary today. Make it happen. No less than the obliteration of our national border and a(n attempt to maintain the foundations for) century-long commitment of US troops in the 130 nations we currently have them stationed in is on the line. You have until 8pm.

If not already under fire as an epigone, I'd mentioning standing on some shoulders...


John Savage of BNWW paid your blathering blogger quite a compliment in awarding the same a chain ribbon of excellence. In turn, I must pass the buck and expand it by an order of magnitude. Okay, so eventually every person in the blogosphere might end up being tagged, but in the virtual stomping grounds that is my blogroll, the Lake Woebegone effect is real enough to merit the passing on of the award--that quickly becomes apparent if you start exploring them (Hibernia Girl has already been named and thus I understand I cannot name her; Mensa should post more!).
- Steve Sailer. I wouldn't even know where to start. I'd just be unintentionally damning him with faint praise. The Republican Party's formula for future success, the real story behind the Barack Obama reinvention, the '04 myth regarding Hispanic voting trends, fatal undermining of Levitt's abortion-cut-crime theory, ad infinitum.

- Randall Parker. Calling him a copious reader is an understatement. He sifts through massive amounts of media output, distills it down to the essentials, adds pithy yet substantive commentary, and voila--gives you the highest per-word information output available.

- Al Fin. I'm not sure if he eats or sleeps, as he writes faster than I can read, touching on a range of topics. Most interesting from my perspective are his posts questioning the validity of CAGW. I'm not smart enough to absorb much of what he covers the first time through, but fortunately he has several recurring themes that allow the stuff to at least broach the crust of this thick skull of mine through repetition.

- Dennis Mangan. Every post is worth reading, and he spares unnecessary or repetitive verbiage in his commentary. You'd think I'd be able to pick up a little more on that, but alas...

- Fat Knowledge. He is a fountainhead of interesting facts that are great conversational items. His emphasis is often on how individuals can live more sustainable existences.

- NZ Conservative. He's a paleoconservative from New Zealand. I find his local/regional subjects especially edifying, as I'm particularly ignorant of the Kiwi socio-cultural fabric.

- John S Bolton. His grandiose writing style takes a little getting accustomed to, but rewarding in the philosophical issues alluded to therein. Also, he notices important stuff that might not otherwise be sniffed out.

- Agnostic. His online presence is what I'd picture my own as if my IQ were about 1 standard deviation higher than it is. I share many of his predilections (though not his tone deaf lack of appreciation for great 16-bit music). He's a math whiz, although most of his posts on the site referenced deal with observations as a natural scientist in his study of young homo sapiens.

- Ron Gurhame. I'd be attempting to replicate his discoveries of so much relevant demographic data via the GSS if not for him already doing so. Although it would fit the epigone label for me to poorly parrot what he comes up with, I've avoided the database since he covers it so well.

- Dave in Boca. His tongue is razor sharp with a wit to match, a bit more akin to Ann Coulter than I find optimal in my own megalomaniacal utopian world, but his personal experience as a Middle Eastern VIP is consistently illuminating.

- Ilkka. If I ever spent any time with him in person, he'd get sick of me inquiring as to what he thinks of [whatever is transpiring in front of us] that he'd probably head back to Finland.


Saturday, February 02, 2008

Treehouse of Horror VI; Homer not the only one to enter our realm?

Steve Sailer writes:

I didn't notice the Ned Flanders similarity that several readers have stated they see in him.

He was referring in part to the squirrely persona that emanates from Flanders, not so much in his real word choice or the tone of his voice but in his excessive use of non-word suffixes ("-diddly", "-doodly", etc), which Romney doesn't share. But how dissimilar are they? Steve also writes:
Romney looks like he's, what, 48? But it says on Wikipedia that he'll be 61 in six weeks.

In "Viva Ned Flanders" the putatively forty-something Flanders is revealed to actually be sixty. He's maintained his youthful appearance through "clean-living". Well, Romney doesn't smoke or drink.

Both men have given birthed only sons, a sure sign of God's favor! Both men are faithfully devoted to their wives (the inconvenient Simpsons' episode in reference excepted!) and children. And both men seem too Good to be true.

They even look similar (if only Flanders would ditch the old pushbroom)...