Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Reflections on Final Fantasy X (spoiler warning)

(These are my reflections on Final Fantasy X for PS2. RPGing is a personal hobby, and such exposition enhances the gaming experience for me. But it may not be of interest to many readers, so please disregard this post if that is the case. A special thanks to Michael Clarkson for his input in helping shape what follows).

Illka has succinctly remarked on an endearing attribute of video games that speaks in part to why they're leaving the movie industry in the dust:
The reality [is] that despite selling more than movies, video games still fly under the radar and thus get to operate under very different social rules and constraints than, say, mainstream television shows and movies, especially since video games are pure products of the the engineer and nerd culture that is completely different from, say, the culture born of marketing, social sciences and various "critical studies" that currently dominates Hollywood and print media.
This is not to say that the virtual gaming world is devoid of leftist or progressive themes--Final Fantasy VII took misanthropic environmentalism to the extreme, for example--only that there is far less territory strictly off limits in the gaming world as compared to other popular forms of entertainment.

So it is with the tenth fullscale installation of the Final Fantasy series. How propitious it is for the story to be brought to mind in front of the Presidential election this November. Seymour, the primary antagonist, embodies many of the worst fears of Obama's detractors--leveraging his biracialism for political advantage and maintaining a public veneer diametrically opposed to his history and the actual objectives he strives to fulfill.

Born of a human mother and a Guado father, Seymour's childhood is an emotionally traumatic one. He was neglected by his Big Man father, an important leader of the Guado, who would record a warning ahead of becoming a victim of patricide that his son's corruption was his fault as a failed father. Seymour was abandoned by his mother who became a Fayth (thus removing herself from the world of the living) while he was a kid. Raised by Guado, the half human Seymour spent much of his formative years brooding alone.

Despite this inner turmoil, he showed promise as a gifted speaker and potent magic user. His mother's conversion into a Fayth allowed him to summon Anima, a tortured but powerful aeon and personification of the emotive side of Seymour's soul. (In Jungian psychology, the anima is the female side of a man's unconscious mind, while more generally in psychoanalytical mythology it is the underlying influence on a person's thoughts, behavior, and personality--it's basically interchangeable with the word "psyche").

By harnessing the power of Anima and combining it with his sharp mind and rhetorical prowess, Seymour attracts the notice of Yevon's (the ecumenical 'Church' that is run by four 'high priests', or Maesters--two humans, one Guado, and one Ronso) ruling class. In announcing his selection as Maester, he is billed as a racial healer who, half human and half Guado, will be able to bring the races together and integrate the separatist Guado into the mainstream (and mostly human) Spiran society. Demonstrating his messianic credentials, Seymour calls upon Anima to ward off one of Sin's attacks on Spira much like Isaiah called upon God when Jerusalem was under siege:
King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz cried out in prayer to heaven about this. And the LORD sent an angel, who annihilated all the fighting men and the leaders and officers in the camp of the Assyrian king. So he withdrew to his own land in disgrace. And when he went into the temple of his god, some of his sons cut him down with the sword.
Seymour's ideas of healing differ from conventional conceptions, however. A life of emotional suffering has led him to the Buddhistic conclusion that all life is suffering, and that to end Spira's suffering he must end all life in Spira. To achieve this, he must infiltrate Sin, take the reigns, and obliterate life itself. In his words, "Life is but a passing dream. The death that follows is eternal."

That puts him at odds with another biracial aeon summoner. Yuna's different colored eyes are not a result of heterochromia, they are a manifestation of her half human, half Al Bhed heritage. Like Seymour, she is seen as a prospective savior of Spira. She even walks on water:



While Seymour bolsters John S Bolton's assertion that the mixed-race are not natural bridges but natural dividers, in Yuna's case it's not so clear. Her intentions are clearly noble, but an argument can be made that Seymour's are as well. Initially, she does not stray from the teachings of Yevon. And the teachings of Yevon call for a literal implementation, over and over again, of what Paul explained to be God's intention:

We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
So begins her pilgrimmage to enlist the aid of the Fayth and their aeons in a bid to confront Sin and knock it out of the picture for another several years of calm before the inevitable process repeats itself. Seymour's intention is to insert himself into that pilgrimmage and ultimately become the one she chooses as the final aeon necessary to vanquish (and eventually reinhabit) Sin.

FFX breaks with other titles in the series in the prominent role organized religion plays. That has traditionally been territory Dragon Quest has explored but Final Fantasy has left alone. Understandably so, given DQ's relative popularity in Japan, where the religious landscape is more pluralistic and syncretic than it is in the US.

Unlike DQ, where a more-or-less balanced account of organized religion is offered, FFX goes for the jugular. Yevon is a corrupt institution with teachings it hypocritically does not adhere to (the use of Machina, for example, is forbidden yet at Bevelle--Yevon's Vatican--they are heavily utilized). Its followers are dupes, even if well-intentioned (like Shelinda or poor Wakka) and its leadership is merciless.

For example, in Operation Mi'ihen, the Crusaders and the Al Bhed team up to do battle with Sin. Maesters Seymour and Kinoc, the later who is head of Yevon's warrior monks, are present to oversee the operation, which both know will end badly for Yevon's coalition, a coalition that doesn't actually involve anyone from Yevon on the front lines. That's why they're present--to make sure it's executed, ensuring a staggering loss of life for the Crusaders and the Al Bhed.

The Crusaders are a military order ("Templars" or "Hospitallers" would've been a more appropriate name for them, but would risk being lost on some players relative to the broader name recognition of "Crusaders") born out of a conflict with Yevon. They are devoted to fighting Sin and its spawn. Kinoc's efforts to guarantee their downfall is surreptitiously reminiscient of King Philip IV's destruction of the Templars, whom Philip, like Kinoc, owed much to for their previous military assistance.

Both Kinoc and Philip saw destorying these respective military orders as the best way to erase their debt and free themselves from potential military challenge in the future. Like Philip, who martyred Templar Grand Master Jacques de Molay cried out as he died would soon face him before God, Kinoc was on borrowed time. Both Philip and Kinoc would be dead within the year of running the military orders they were putatively aligned with into the ground.

The Al Bhed are a curious race of Nordic-looking pirates*. They are entirely secular and consequently detested by Yevon, the Guado, and much of the human population. Unsympathetic to Yevon's ludditism, they rely heavily on the machina of the past. As the technological knowledge required to create machina has been lost over the last thousand years, the Al Bhed are only able to drive the car, not understand how or why it works. Their situation brings to mind that of Europe during the Middle Ages, after the collapse of the Roman Empire. Thomas Sowell writes:

Europeans lived for centuries with the presecne of ruins more magnificent than anything they were capable of creating or even restoring. It is hardly surprising that they looked back at the ancients with awe, long before they developed the modern Western tendency to look forward to greater accomplishments in the future than those of the past of the present.

As atheistic separatists, pirates, and kidnappers, equipped with potent mechanical weapons and the willingness to harness technological knowledge to challenge the prevailing stasis, Yevon's desire for the Al Bhed's destruction is easy to understand. In a rebuke of the extreme misanthropic environmentalism of FFVII, the regressive position is not held up adoringly but instead seen as a dire obstacle to be overcome. Maester Mika explains the stasis Yevon is to maintain: "Yevon is embodied by eternal unchanging continuity, summoner... Those who question these truths--they are traitors!"

Kinoc's giddiness in front of the impending failure is hard to miss, and Auron coldly receives his old comrade as it is about to be executed. The more thoughtful and tactful Seymour engages a skeptical Wakka over the operation, arguing that pragmatic concerns must outweigh strict orthodoxy in trying times, and anyway the intentions of the Crusaders and the Al Bhed are both good, so he must 'assist' them.

Yevon never finds redemption. It falls to pieces as the story unfolds. Maester Kelk, a Ronso, shows signs of genuine concern over Seymour's murder of his father Jyscal, but it is not long after that point that he is rubbed out by Seymour, just as Seymour knocked off Kinoc. Maester Mika turns out to have been an unsent for some time. By definition, the unsent are those who've not accepted death and grow increasingly resentful of the living in their zombie state, caught in limbo between the world of Spira and the Farplane, where the souls of the dead find eternal rest**. Whether or not he understands that Yevon is perpetuating the spiral of destruction that has continued to wreck Spira for a millenia isn't discernible, but as he comes to further resent the people of Spira he cannot possibly have their best interests at heart.

Yet despite the designation of the unsent as those who've not yet accepted their deaths and must therefore be forcibly sent by a summoner lest they wander the world aimlessly, Auron is the most purpose-driven character in the game. Having experienced the cruel Sin cycle firsthand, he ensured Yuna would be safe by placing her under the protection of Kimahri before dying. As an unsent he then 'travelled' to Zanarkand during its antiquity to bring Tidus to Spira, joined Yuna's party (with Tidus in train), and steadfastly kept the party on the road to Zanarkand with the modest goal of destroying Yunalesca, Jecht, and finally Yu Yevon himself, thus overturning the whole structure the Sin cycle rested upon and in the process ridding Spira of its need for Yevon.

It might be unfair to Kimahri to designate Auron as the game's most determined. The Ronso are a primitive race with a warrior culture respecting little other than physical strength. Their's is a closed society. Consequently, Kimahri's shameful banishment from the tribe after refusing to submit to Biron after losing to him in a fight is accentuated by his subsequent devotion to Yuna. Yet it is from this devotion to her that he draws the strength needed to topple Biron in their rematch. This warrior ethos stifles his communication with Tidus, who finds asking questions gets him the same treatment Ibn Fadlan frequently received when he queried the Norsemen--the silent shaking of the head and a cold shoulder.

But Kimahri's devotion is undivided. He challenges Tidus early on to ensure that he is worthy of guarding her, and only opens up to Tidus after Operation Mi'ihen, when Tidus' commitment to Yuna has become clear. Although as a Ronso he is naturally distrustful of the Al Bhed, on the way to Guadsalom he makes it clear that he trusts Rikku as an individual, as he has seen her devotion to Yuna firsthand. Following the escape from Via Purifico (literally "the road to purification"), Kimahri doesn't hesitate for a moment to fatally hold up Seymour so the others are able to escape. Against the advice of Auron, who doesn't have Seymour on his radar screen, the rest of the party returns to save Kimahri.

Kimahri is similar to Steiner from FFIX. His unrelenting devotion makes him appear naive. But in a world where everyone's motivations are as pure as his are, that naivete no longer serves as a weakness. He is only susceptible because of the evil of others.

He also illustrates how the Japanese like to deal with underachieving minority groups (think the Native American Red XIII from FFVII). His dress, his name, his voice***, and his weaponry all strongly suggest that he is sub-Saharan****, but he's not black--he's blue. And he's not human, he's an anthropomorphic lion!

Wakka and Lulu are supporting acts. The affable (he is a Pacific Islander) Wakka brings refreshing warmth to a story that is in its first couple of hours cold and vertiginous:



He instantly strikes up a friendship with Tidus that is more natural than any other that develops between any of the characters. As is revealed later, this is enhanced by Tidus' resemblance of Wakka's late brother and Lulu's fiance, Chappu. Wakka's not the sharpest tool in the shed, but he's pragmatic. In crossing over submerged Al Bhed ruins built against the advice of Yevon on the Shoopuf, he asks a rhetorical question of relevance to Americans: "Good lesson. Why build a city over a river, ya?"

Both Lulu and Wakka serve as plot dumps, in addition to voicing the views and concerns of the general population. They are active adherents to Yevon's teachings, which they (Wakka especially) reflexively defend.

Rikku adds some spice to the equation. She is the most superfluous character, as the story isn't dependent upon her at all--Cid could've offered assistance to Yuna without the aid of an intermediary. He is the summoner's uncle, after all.

Spira's story is one with an overarching theme of sacrifice coarsing throughout. The Sin cycle is founded upon a steady stream of self-immolating summoners. The moloch is never permanently sated. According to the teachings, Sin always returns as a reincarnation of a guardian of the very summoner who subjugated it years before, all due to the misdeeds of the Spiran population.

Yuna is to play the sacrificial lamb, just as her father did a decade prior. For this her popularity is almost universal. Finding her in the field, the Spiran scholar Machean greets her, in an allusion to the famous meeting between David Livingstone and Henry Morton Stanley, by saying, "Lady Yuna, I presume?" Following in her father's footsteps, she determines at a young age that her life will be forfeited for the benefit, however temporary, of the Spiran people. When Tidus challenges her on this after the first battle with Belgemine on the Mi'ihen Highroad, Yuna responds that defeating Sin is something she must do because "a time when people can sleep safely is worth anything, no matter how short it is."

Yuna's willingness--eagerness, really--to sacrifice herself to (temporarily) defeat Sin might appear to reveal her as the moral apotheosis, all the more so to one living in the midst of the navel-gazing facebook generation. She's Christ in a religion that has more than one of them. But to read it this way is mistaken. Yuna is taking an easy moral path. She's been in cruise control since deciding to make the pilgrimage as a child. Her life means little to her. So then is her sacrifice, separate its real-world consequences, of little moral consideration. To the contrary, to those--Rikku, Cid, and Tidus--for whom Yuna's life is of greater importance than it is to Yuna herself, her self-sacrifice is an act of tragically misguided good intent or even of selfishness.

Tidus is perhaps the one who is able to tip the scales to dissuade Yuna from continuing the Sin cycle. The Al Bhed attempt to save summoners--against the summoners' own wishes--from themselves, but Yuna's guardians keep it from happening to her. Rikku knows her cousin faces certain death by following uncertain teachings, but with the support of Auron, Lulu, Wakka, and Kimahri, in addition to her own convictions, Yuna doesn't budge. Tidus, an enthusiastic supporter of Yuna's pilgrimage to defeat Sin, only finds out much later that part of that pilgrimage involves Yuna's death. Upon this revelation, he immediately switches sides and conspires with Rikku to find a way to avoid Yuna's death at the final summoning.

Little comes to fruition from their conspiring, but Tidus' protestations clearly way heavily on Yuna, as the intimate scene at Lake Macalania illustrates^:



It is the confrontation with Yunalesca that pushes Yuna over the edge. In the face of Yuna's self-immolation, Yunalesca makes it clear that the Yevon teachings are bunk when Wakka and Lulu challenge her. The somber ceremony, in which Yuna is to choose one of her guardians to become the final aeon, gets contentious and then downright belligerent. Yunalesca will not be aiding in the final aeon creation, for this summoner and her guardians have now come for blood. Auron, who'd been guiding the process towards this outcome from the story's opening in Zanarkand 1,000 years prior^^, exhibits an uncharacteristic burst of animation as the battle begins that was only characteristic of him before he died. He has been living (heh) as a zombie in Spira for a decade in anticipation of this moment:



After exposing the falsity of Yevon's teachings, defeating Yunalesca, breaking into Sin, and putting Jecht to rest, Yuna makes the ultimate sacrifice. To destroy Yu Yevon and thus end the Sin cycle forever, she vanquishes her loyal aeons who've been indispensable in the all that has transpired. She does this knowing it is also the death knell^^^ of both Auron and Tidus. And she must live on with this sorrow to try and piece back together a very broken Spira. Calling it quits in the meeting with Yunalesca would've been a much easier out.

As Yuna shows the failings a reckless disregard for one's own existence brings, Tidus demonstrates the more apparent failings of being wrapped up in one's self. As he makes his way through Spira, he is initially concerned with little other than finding a way back home. He is haunted by his father, who displayed the same overarching desire to get back to the Zanarkand of the past. But as Tidus witnesses the mass sending at Kilika, he is drawn in by Spira's suffering. The love he develops for Yuna manifests itself as a tireless search for a way to prevent the pilgrimage from ending in her death. In between Mt. Gagazet and Zanarkand, the Fayth make it clear in a dream that while Yuna may live through the showdown with Yu Yevon, Tidus will not. In either victory or defeat, he will cease to exist. Yuna suspects he is hiding something, but as she hid her impending doom from him for so long, he withholds his from her.

Drawn against his will into a wrecked foreign world, Tidus ends up paying the ultimate price for its betterment. FFX portrays religion in a very unflattering light. Unlike the more nuanced approach of Dragon Quest VIII, there is nothing redemptive or inspiring about it. The 'hope' Yevon's teachings inspire is clearly a false one that does not address any spiritual need whatsoever--it only serves to assuage the people's fears that they'll be annihilated by Sin today instead of tomorrow. Yunalesca puts it succinctly when she says, "Death is the final liberation... It is better for you to die in hope than to live in despair."

Tidus' ordeal is truly Christlike. He is thrust into a world that ranges from indifference to dislike of him, has it revealed to him that he must give his own life to redeem the place, and does so against his wishes but with the understanding that it is not his will to be done, but something greater than himself at work. In this, he steps out of his father's shadow. Jecht gave himself up so Spira might have ten short years of peace. Tidus did so to give it an everlasting peace.

Final Fantasy X does not close with its participants living happily ever after. In many ways the ending is deeply unsatisfying. The protagonist disappears from Spira as abruptly as he entered it. The bonds he formed with the people of that world are torn away, and we're left with the heartbroken love of his life facing a devastated Spira that is left in tatters, without a unifying body (previously Yevon) to bring together the hostile races. Our protective instinct kicks in and we want to be there to put the pieces back together. There is some comfort in knowing Kimahri, Lulu, Wakka, and Rikku are still there, but it's far from complete.

Unpalatable as it may taste, it's an ingenius metaphor for speaking directly to us, the rpgers. A great game gets the player wrapped up in its universe, allowing him to suspend his disbelief and become engrossed. The characters are more than virtual avatars, they are real people. Yet like so much else, the magic is fleeting. FFX does more than just let us experience painful disengagement as players in the real world, it injects that pain into the story itself. Thus we are hit by it twice--in the traditional way as game players always are, and also vicariously through the characters themselves. Instead of fading into the credits as we see everyone living happily ever after, the people we've spent fifty hours with say their goodbyes to us directly. As the name of the track implies, someday the dream must end.

* There is some reason to entertain the idea that the Al Bhed are an allusion to the Islamic Golden Age (basically the first few centuries after its birth, when it inherited 'pagan' Arab and Persian mathematics and astronomy before, as Toby Huff argues, it brought advances in them to a halt), juxtaposed to Europe's 'Dark Ages', between the fall of the Roman Empire and the beginning of the Renaissance in Italy, as represented by Yevon. Perhaps, but the rapid expansion of Islam had a transformative effect on the Middle East and Persia as it spread, yet the only thing Islamic about the Al Bhed appears to be their name (they're all blond, and Rin sounds Swedish).

** The amount of space devoted to the metaphysical aspects of FF games are something I tend to minimize. I find them overly fantastic and rarely flushed out well enough to make much sense of. They strike me as unnecessarily distracting and usually disappointing.

*** John DiMaggio (voice of Bender from Futurama), who is white, does his voice (as well as Wakka's), but in character he sounds like James Earl Jones doing Mufasa from The Lion King.

**** The Mt. Gagazet musical track has a melancholy Amerindian edge to it, however.

^ In addition to the bemusing Al Bhed, Tidus has European complexion and features, but conspicuously 'Asian' hair. We have no reason to doubt Jecht's paternity, but maybe his wife's utter dependence on him is her way of atoning for past infidelity (or maybe she's just a bad mother, like Linda from Brave New World). Father and son bear little resemblance to one another. Jecht has dark hair and dark eyes (to Tidus' blond hair and blue eyes), and with his gruff voice that accompanies a gruff personality, could be a cariacture of white rednecks. When confronted about his drinking problem, he quips, "I can stop anytime I want. But why do today what you can leave for tomorrow?" As Sowell writes in Black Rednecks and White Liberals:

The cultural values and social patterns prevalent among Southern whites included an aversion to work, proneness to violence, neglect of education, sexual promiscuity, improvidence, drunkenness, lack of entrepreneuriship, reckless searches for excitement...
Finally there's Oaka, the travelling Scotish merchant from the 19th Century, who must've warped in from Poland.

^^ That Auron keeps this to himself throughout the pilgrimage until the last moment deserves a spot on a tabulation opposite Peter's Evil Overlord list. He presumes as long as he is there to guide the party, their ignorance is inconsequential. Not only is does this cause unnecessary emotional hardship for everyone else, one can't help but wonder how Yunalesca would've ever been challenged if Auron were to give up the ghost somewhere along the way. When accosted by Rikku for this, he unsatisfyingly responds "If I had told you the truth, would that really have stopped you from coming?" Sir Auron, that's a hypothetical question, not a rhetorical one!

^^^ Okay, Auron will be sent to the farplane (I guess), and Tidus will end up in an infinitely large body of water, swimming around alone. They might as well be dead. As mentioned previously, the metaphysical stuff annoys me.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Obama's authenticity and when to wash your hands

Occasionally I'm struck, as most people are from time to time, by a thought I perceive to be commonplace that turns out to be a novelty to many of the people I bring it up to. A few of those:

- Barack Obama really is an authentic African-American, something the blackest black guys like rapper 50 Cent, bred in Queens who has survived multiple bullet wounds, can't boast. Obama's father was an African and his mother was an American!

- Isn't it a better hygienic practice for men to wash their hands before urinating rather than doing so afterwards (I do both, although the latter is primarily to maintain a clean (heh) image)? It only takes a few minutes in a public area for hands to come into contact with all sorts of nastiness. The genitals, in contrast, come into contact with little other than (presumably) clean boxers or briefs.

- Bill Ayers' infamous "I don't regret setting bombs" and "I don't want to discount the possibility [of making the same decisions if I could travel back in time]" comments were published in the NYT on September 11, 2001. Why don't anti-Obama groups explicitly point this out? No, it wouldn't be fair to insinuate that his remarks about his memoirs were made in response to the towers coming down, but how would leftist media outlets respond to that insinuation? Would they risk focusing greater attention to Ayers and the Obama connection? How would Obama be able to respond to it? Dirty, but potentially harder hitting than the "Obama is a Muslim" tactic.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Non-whites more influenced by Obama's blackness than whites are; Half think whites have too much political influence

The AP-Yahoo poll reporting Obama's putative troubles* with white Democrats is revealing not so much in what it presents but in what it omits. The message bandied about in the media goes like this:
Deep-seated racial misgivings could cost Barack Obama the White House if the election is close, according to an AP-Yahoo News poll that found one-third of white Democrats harbor negative views toward blacks — many calling them "lazy," violent" or responsible for their own troubles.
As Inductivist remarks, these descriptions are presumably in comparison to other groups, and consequently can be seen as showing the percentage of whites who are actually paying attention to what their lying eyes are telling them.

Rhetoric aside, white uncertainty over a black President (who has a history of promoting black interests at the expense of whites that extends back decades) might cost Obama the election. In multiracial societies, people tend to vote less for policy positions and ideas on governance and more in solidarity with the candidate most representative of themselves. In the words of Lee Kuan Yew:

In multiracial societies, you don't vote in accordance with your economic interests and social interests, you vote in accordance with race and religion.
As the NAM population continues to grow, quality-of-life concerns, wealth transfers, and other special privileges like affirmative action preferences will continue to be felt by a greater number of whites and with ever-increasing acuteness. The Democratic party will continue to become less white, while the Republican party's white composition holds steady at about 90%.

But what interests me is the information gathered from the survey that AP-Yahoo intentionally withholds. The responses of whites are presented, in addition to responses of "all respondents". Of course, AP-Yahoo could've also easily reported the responses of various non-white groups (Hispanics, blacks, other, and 2+ races). There's plenty of 'precedence' for it. Blacks were more likely to vote based on racial considerations than whites were during the Democratic primaries, and Obama's staggering domination over McCain among blacks shows blacks are undoubtedly more likely to be "steered" by their racial views than whites are. Inexplicably, AP-Yahoo did not breakdown non-white responses, however.

Instead, we have to work backwards and are only able to get responses for the 31% of respondents who are not white, rather than looking at Hispanics and blacks as separate groups.

Ten percent of whites report being less likely to vote for Obama because he is black (7% of non-whites share that view, see pg18 of pdf). In contrast, 16% of non-whites (and 6% of whites) are more likely to vote for him for the same reason**. So non-whites are 60% more likely to be influenced favorably by Obama's blackness than whites are to be influenced unfavorably by it. More generally, non-whites are 43% more likely to be influenced by Obama's race (23% of non-whites surveyed said they were influenced one way or the other by Obama's blackness) than whites (16% of whites surveyed) are.

Only one-third of the non-white population surveyed is actually black, so assuming non-black minorities share the same sentiments as whites with regards to Obama's blackness suggests 49% of blacks are more likely to vote for Obama because he's black while only 1% are less likely to vote for him for the same reason.

So in yet another way we see it verified that blacks are more 'racist' than whites are, and suggested that other non-whites are also more 'racist' than whites are. Although it's never reported in the major media, that's nothing new to members of the Steveosphere. Where the AP-Yahoo poll really could've provided insight is in asking the same questions about whites, Hispanics, Asians, etc that it asked about blacks, and then broke the results down by race. Why has there not been a query of the public on how McCain's whiteness influences voters? I suspect I know, but would certainly like empirical verification or refutation, particularly to see if a greater percentage of white voters are less likely to vote for a white candidate because of his whiteness than are less likely to vote for a black candidate because of his blackness. Unfortunately, this poll doesn't provide that, either.

The poll does reveal that half of non-whites resent what they see as undue white influence in politics (p19 of the pdf). Forty-seven percent of non-whites assert whites have "too much influence" when it comes to politics**. Only 5% say whites have too little influence. Whites, in contrast, are more likely to feel blacks have too little influence (24%) than too much influence (16%). I have a feeling demographic changes are driving average time preference in the US higher, but if things continue as they're proceeding now, patience is all non-whites need to realize the reduction in white influence half of them desire.

Finally, 38% of whites (and 28% of non-whites**) said they agreed at least partially with the statement that "it's really just a matter of some people not trying hard enough; if blacks would just try harder, they would be as well off as whites".

Yahoo calls this a "latent prejudice" among whites. How flattering. But what other potential answers are available for why blacks fare more poorly than whites? I see two: 1) Blacks have lower average IQs than whites do, and differences in outcomes largely reflect this, not some ubiquitious but invisible structural conspiracy (my position), or 2) Whites, who are inherently racist, are oppressively holding blacks down.

These respondents thus went with the least 'racist' response they had at their disposal. Their downfall was refusing to simply answer in the negative, since the question was yes/no rather than multiple choice.

* Putative, because the poll gauged how participants responded to various adjectives describing blacks, not how these perceptions are said to factor into their Presidential voting decisions. White America is very individualistic, especially when it comes to race. I'd feel more secure living in just about any neighborhood that is 90% white than one that is 90% black, but there are more than a couple black friends I'd ask to housesit for me before I'd ask several whites I know to do so. I'm hardly unusual in that regard.

** The percentage for non-whites is figured algebraically and consequently might vary from its true value a couple of percentage points in either direction, depending on rounding of the "white" and "all respondents" numbers by the pollsters, who present everything in whole percentages.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Two and two might not make five, but 20% and 20% now average to 50%

One way for schools to create the perception of equitability in achievement is to make tests progressively easier year-over-year. Last year the smarts averaged 90 and the dulls averaged 50. This year, the test's difficulty has decreased so markedly that the smarts now average a perfect 100 and the dulls a 90. Voila, we've cut the achievement gap to a fourth of its previous size! Pittsburgh is employing a similar stratagem:
Pittsburgh Public Schools officials say they want to give struggling children a chance, but the district is raising eyebrows with a policy that sets 50 percent as the minimum score a student can receive for assignments, tests and other work. ...

While some districts use "F" as a failing grade, the city uses an "E."

"The 'E' is to be recorded no lower than a 50 percent, regardless of the actual percent earned. For example, if the student earns a 20 percent on a class assignment, the grade is recorded as a 50 percent," said the memo from Jerri Lippert, the district's executive director of curriculum, instruction and professional development, and Mary VanHorn, a PFT vice president.
This method is even worse than softening the tests. Instead of lying to the dulls by telling them they're smart, this embraces dullness as being just a couple paces from smartness.

The lettering system is silly:
A student receives an "A" for scores ranging from 100 percent to 90 percent, a "B" for scores ranging from 89 percent to 80 percent, a "C" for scores ranging from 79 percent to 70 percent, a "D" for scores ranging from 69 percent to 60 percent and an "E" for scores ranging from 59 percent to the cutoff, 50 percent.
Seems E should come before F, no?

I remember on rare occasions receiving an "E" for some non-academic measure, like displaying a positive attitude. The E stood for "excellent". I'm glad the grading scale hadn't yet been turned on its head in the nineties!

White and black, x and y

From an LAT article Steve recently commented on:
For many, algebra has become a civil rights issue.
Heaven help us.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Arizona's birth 'dearth' evidence of illegals fleeing the state?

Last year, Arizona passed a set of enforcement laws known as the Legal Arizona Workers Act. Before the laws came into effect and ahead of legal challenges to their constitutionality, there was anecdotal evidence that tens or hundreds of illegal immigrants were leaving the state on a daily basis. The "massive deportations" argument was shown to be a strawman. Most illegal immigrants will leave of their own volition when laws are passed requiring them to do so or risk facing forcible action. Make it more difficult for illegal settlers to live in a place illegally, and they are less likely to live there.

Commenter JBS points out that total births in Arizona from January to August in 2008 have declined from the same time period in 2007 by 2.9%:

Prelimary birth data out of Arizona indicates there may have been a drop in the number of births to illegal alien Hispanics when Arizona's crackdown on illegals began in 2007 and just now having an effect in 2008.

Comparing January-August of 2007 to January-August 2008, there has been a 2.9% dip in the absolute number of total births in Arizona in 2008 - the first time there has been an absolute drop in the number of births in Arizona since at least 1996 (Warning, these numbers for 2008 might be subject to change, but I thought a 2.9% drop in overall births was big enough not to be statistical noise).
The Arizona Department of Health Services has comparable data going back to 1996. Of special interest are the numbers for '06, '07, and '08.

The birth totals are reported by county. There is no 'smoking gun' association between the percentage of a county's population that is foreign-born and the year-over-year change in total births, even when population growth from previous years* is controlled for. The weighted correlation between the change in total births from '07 to '08 is an almost non-existent .03, without any statistical significance. Similarly, there is no meaningful relationship between the percentage of a county's population that is Hispanic and birthing changes.

I am not sure how much this tells us one way or the other. Maricopa county, home to more than 60% of Arionza's population, did show a larger year-over-year absolute decrease in births (4.3%) than the state as a whole (2.9%) did. Nearly one-third of the county's residents are Hispanic and nearly 15% are foreign-born.

Is there more angst among illegals on Joe Arpaio's turf? Most counties showed a very marginal decrease in births, and five of the 15 actually saw an increase. The decrease in Maricopa is what brings the entire state's total down from the same eight month period the year before. Pinal county, between Phoenix and Tucson, experienced the greatest year-over-year increase in births (10.6%). I'm too unfamiliar with Arizona to offer any insight, but maybe some readers will be able to.

* Growth rates are based on Census population figures from '00 to '06.

Pioneering Georgia school district not just another oppressive WASP operation

During a heartfelt discussion on a long walk with my dad right after the RNC, we got into Sarah Palin's branding. Not overly familiar with her at the time, I mostly threw up what I'd read at Half Sigma. My dad likes her for a variety of reasons, among them the image of the wilderness babe who kills her own food.

That's an attribute that has a generational appeal, or more appropriately, Palin as a babe has specific generational (and gender) appeal. Guys like my dad are taken by it, but I doubt she does much for guys my age. No doubt there's some degree of athleticism required to field dress a moose, but it's not the right kind of athleticism.

I digress. From the banter, my dad pointed me to an article from his Time subscription that included a feature on Palin. I found this first:
9 Georgia
Schools Earn an F
The Clayton County, Ga., school system became the first in the U.S. in almost 40 years to lose its accreditation, six months after a regional agency demanded that the Atlanta-area district reform its dysfunctional school board. Many colleges require a diploma from an accredited high school, leaving 50,000 Clayton County students in limbo unless the district turns itself around by next fall.
Surely the county is home to Stetson-wearing, bible-thumping bigoted white Evangelicals who believe dinosaurs roamed the earth 4,000 years ago!

Maybe that's the thought that comes to the minds of some leftists, but I'm sure frequenters of the Steveosphere are as incredulous as I would be in the face of that assertion. So, inspired by the Inductivist, I decided to take a look at the county's Census data. Since the accreditation loss was caused primarily by the school board (although it got in trouble in part over misrepresenting records on attendance), I decided to take a look there as well [I wrote this a week ago--since then, more board members have been removed]. Suffice it to say I wasn't surprised.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

IQ and voter turnout

++Addition++Half Sigma weighs in, pointing out that voting is largely not a self-interested action, but a fulfilling of civic responsibility. This is especially true at the Presidential level, with roughly half the country living in electorally-safe states. Relatedly, he shows that more intelligent people are more likely to attend church services than less intelligent people are, even though the smarter folks are less likely to profess religious beliefs, the point being that smarter people are more responsible and committed than less intelligent people are. The consequences of this are wide-ranging, similar to what we see in the relationship between livability and intelligence--smarter places are better places to be, no matter how it's looked at (with the glaring exception of lots of kids running around, if that's considered better than just a few of them).

---

The hunt for some socially desirable attribute that correlates inversely with average IQ continues. Electoral participation didn't strike me as a particularly promising candidate, but one entrusted with such an important task must leave no stone unturned, and so I continue to kick the rocks.

Using a great data table on '04 turnout numbers from GMU Professor Michael McDonald, the percentage of the voting-eligible population by state is correlated with its estimated average IQ. McDonald eschews two flawed methods of gauging turnout that I came across when looking for a reliable data source.

Several sites simply report actual votes cast as a percentage of the voting-age population within a state. In the case of felons or the mentally incapacitated, that's not too problematic--their numbers proxy well for the size of the double-digit IQ population, and they are distributed across the country roughly accordingly. But it is flawed because it doesn't account for the presence of non-citizens. In a state like California, where more than one-fourth of the population is foreign-born, the state is artificially dropped near the very bottom in terms of voter turnout, which tells us little about the relationship between intelligence and how likely people who are able to vote actually are to vote.

Others look at the percentage of registered voters who go to the polls. But states are slow to adjust those numbers when people move or register to vote elsewhere, which is why some states show more than 100% of the voting-age population being registered to vote! Voter fraud, anyone?

McDonald gets around these problems by coming up with the size of each state's voter-eligible population. He pulls the foreign-born, the incarcerated, the mentally ill (contingent upon law, as the rules vary from state to state), and half of those on parole (an estimate arrived at through reports from the Department of Justice) from a state's total 18 and over population, then compares that figure to actual votes cast for the highest office in contention on the ballot.

Crunching the numbers confirms the expected. Voter turnout as a percentage of the voter-eligible population and average IQ correlate at a statistically significant .65 (p<.000001) at the state level. Average IQ alone thus 'explains' 42% of a state's voter turnout. That is a strong relationship for the social sciences. Put in another way, it suggests that for every one point increase a state's average IQ, voter turnout should increase by nearly 4%. This brings to mind the words of Fredo Arias-King, adviser to former Mexican President Vicente Fox:
Several [Democratic legislators] tended to see Latin American immigrants and even Latino constituents as both more dependent on and accepting of active government programs and the political class guaranteeing those programs, a point they emphasized more than the voting per se. Moreover, they saw Latinos as more loyal and "dependable" in supporting a patron-client system and in building reliable patronage networks to circumvent the exigencies of political life as devised by the Founding Fathers and expected daily by the average American.
Last year, Pew reported that voter-eligible Hispanics are less likely than other Americans to cast ballots:
Hispanics who are eligible to vote are less likely to register and less likely to cast a vote than either whites or blacks.

About 54% of Hispanics who were eligible to vote [thus illegal immigrants do not factor into ineptness] registered in November 2006. Among whites and blacks, the figure was 71% and 61%, respectively.
The '08 Democratic primaries brought record turnouts in several states across the country. But the race was competitive longer than any Democratic contest has been in several decades.

As Hispanics come to account for one-third of the total US population, which the Census now estimates will happen before mid-century, the country's average IQ will decline from an estimated 97 or 98 today to between 93 and 95, similar to that of contemporary Argentina or Romania. So there will be two forces working against high voter turnout--a less intelligent, less civically-minded public, and a larger Hispanic population more resigned to a prodigious, corrupt government. The linear equation created from the simple regression presented above suggests that nationally voter-eligible turnout will fall from 61% today to just under half (49%) by 2050.

An uninformed, apathetic public doesn't bode well for the future of the United States, which will simultaneously be beset with a rapidly growing elderly population (the number of people 85 and older is projected to increase by more than 300% over the next four decades). As the ratio of dependents to workers continues to grow, those who do vote will increasingly find themselves on the receiving end of entitlement programs and will thus be reluctant to vote against the expanding governmental leviathan that feeds them by eating up the productive assets of the proportionally shrinking productive classes.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

If only Republicans voted in GOP primaries and delegates were awarded proportionally, Romney would've been nominee

In the comments thread of a previous post on the electoral demographics of Presidential elections since 1980, a commenter wondered:
To what extent did the structure of the Republican primaries contribute to Romney's final standing in the election? (Romney was my favorite candidate and yours too it seems).
The structure probably kept Romney from winning the nomination. When he dropped out of the race after coming up short on Super Tuesday (February 5), delegate counts showed McCain with a seemingly insurmountable lead. He had 695 delegates, Romney had 293, Huckabee 183, and Paul 16. Winner-take-all states were killers for Romney. California, the most lucrative contest to take place while Romney was still running, was the most painful--McCain took 42% of the vote but 93% (158) of the 170 delegates. Romney garnered 35% of the vote but earned a paltry 7% (12) of the delegates.

The commenter also asked what Republicans might do to ensure their party's nominee actually represents their preferences. If delegates had been assigned proportionally and only Republicans were allowed to vote, on the day Romney conceded at CPAC he would've been in the lead with 502 delegates, followed by McCain with 475, Huckabee with 294, and Paul with 74*. In this scenario, when Huckabee eventually dropped out, most of his votes would've went to Romney. To think that if Republicans were actually able to choose their nominee based on Republican voter preference, McCain's career would've forever peaked months ago. How sad.

But making that setup a reality is a long row to hoe. Even closed primaries do not keep people who will end up voting for the opposing party in the general election from influencing the contest, since party affiliation has no influence on what can be done on election day. Every Republican exit poll, including closed contests, reveal voters who report to be independent and also voters who report their party affiliation to be Democratic (my count above only includes the votes of those who reported their party affiliation to be Republican).

If their nomination is already decided, this is especially easy (it's what Rush Limbaugh was encouraging his listeners to do in what he dubbed "Operation Chaos"). Setting the registration deadline several weeks or months ahead of the primary helps prevent this, though.

The only way to eliminate independent and crossover influences would be for both parties to agree to simultaneously hold all state primaries and caucuses on the same day, in one super Super Tuesday. Presumably the putatively unaffiliated would vote for the side they were already leaning towards, essentially relegating them to moderate Republican/Democratic status for an election cycle.

* Only those who reported their party affiliation as "Republican" in exit polls were counted, and delegates were assigned as if those voters were the only ones casting votes in the contest at hand.

For the states without exit polling data, I simply went with the caucus results, assigning delegates proportionally. Inexplicably, no exit polling data for Delaware is available, although it appears that media outlets like CNN and MSNBC had expected there to be. Here, too, I assigned delegates proportionally based on total votes. In both cases, this is almost certainly to Romney's disadvantage, as he consistently performed better among Republicans than among independents (McCain and Paul did the opposite).

The delegate totals add up to more than media estimates at the time did, because of rules about certain delegates being assigned at the convention or otherwise uncommitted due to party rules. I presumed all delegates would be allocated based solely on a state's primary or caucus contest.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The average Republican fares better than the average red state does

In the comments of Half Sigma's post mentioning my previous post that was in part a response to an earlier post of his (tracking?), Mr. Mercy takes issue with one of HS' assertions:
"Higher educational attainment definitely leads to voting Democratic."

That's simply not true. State level analysis always gets this backwards. Why use such a crude proxy that lumps millions of people together, when you have the GSS?

As you step through each additional level of educational attainment the proportion of Republicans increases UNTIL you get to graduate degrees.

Overall Republicans have more years of formal education than Democrats.
That appears to have barely been the case in the 2000 Presidential election but wasn't quite true in 2004. The electorate is much more evenly split educationally than a state-level comparison might be presumed to suggest. I took for granted the assumption that looking at a state as an individual entity gives different results than looking at individuals within a state.

Maybe I shouldn't have. It is a point that needs to be known. The blackest states (Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, South Carolina, and Georgia comprise the five darkest) consistently vote Republican, even though blacks overwhelmingly vote Democratic*. More obviously, the wealthier a person is, the more likely he is to vote Republican, but the wealthier a state is, the more likely it is to vote Democratic**. A less pronounced but similar phenomenon is seen with educational attainment.

Why these 'paradoxes'? It's personal speculation, but in part because the increased presence of the less educated, less intelligent, and less white (or Asian) in Mississippi means voting for policies that benefit them at your own expense is less of an abstract moral exercise and more of a real world sacrifice than it is in say, Vermont, where leftist quasi-socialism doesn't have anywhere near the same pathological consequences as it would down South.

If the same educational attainment index used in the previous post (taking the percentage of the population that has a bachelor's-plus, subtracting the high school dropout percentage from it, and multiplying by 100) is employed for voters in the 2000 and 2004 Presidential elections, Bush gets a 36.6 in '00 and a 36.3 in '04. Gore gets a 34.2 in '00 and Kerry gets a 38.5 in '04. The educational attainment of the candidate's respective electorates is almost indistinguishable.

Recall also that Colorado topped the list of states with a 19.6. The voting electorate is substantially better educated than the country at large is. While nearly 20% of the public lacks a high school education, only 4% of those who voted in the '04 Presidential election did. While about 25% of the public has a bachelor's degree or better, 42% of those who voted in '04 did. The middling bloc, with a high school diploma but no bachelor's degree, represented 54% of the '04 vote, in line with the 56% of the population it represents.

* Presumably when blacks approach comprising half of a state's population, this tendency will abruptly evaporate (think DC), but the closest blacks come to comprising the majority of any single state is Mississippi, at 37.1%. There is no statistically significant relationship between how black a state is and its propensity to vote for Bush in '04 if all states are included, although the weak correlation is positive, because so many states have a negligible black population (lily-white North Dakota voting heavily for Bush and lily-white Vermont voting strongly for Kerry attenuates the black effect). If only states where blacks comprise 10% or more of the population are included, however, there is a correlation of .42 (p=.07)--the blacker the state, the more likely it is to vote Republican.

This trend was clearly visible in the Democratic Presidential primaries--the fewer blacks a state had, the better Obama performed among white voters. In states like the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, where blacks comprised a majority of voters, he did poorly among whites, but it didn't matter as the black vote alone carried him. It was in states like Tennessee, New Jersey, and Michigan, where the electorate included more than a token black population that nonetheless was clearly in the minority where Obama fared most poorly.

** The GDP per capita by state correlates inversely with Bush's share of the vote at a strong .70 (p=0). That does not include any attempt to adjust for cost of living differences, which would weaken the relationship, but it clearly exists in a real sense.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Thoughts on educational attainment and voting patterns at the state level

++Addition++Razib notes we're just looking at statewide averages, not specific locales within states. The same analysis could be done on the city or county level as well, as the Census data are there. Half Sigma also responds, pointing out that even considering the high school dropout rate, blue states are still clearly more educated on average than red states are.

---

Based in part on her spending five years to graduate with a journalism degree from a state university and her marrying a man without a degree at all, Half Sigma estimates that Sarah Palin's IQ is in the 110-115 range. He refutes the argument that lacking a college education is a special attribute of the Alaskan frontier:
I just checked the 2000 U.S. Census, and discovered that 24.6% of Alaskans 25 or older have at least a Bachelor’s degree. This is in comparison to 24.4% for the country as a whole.

This contradicts a group of comments left here telling me that in Alaska people don’t go to college because of all the high paying blue collar work, and that I can’t judge Alaska by mainland U.S. standards. These comments turned out to be wrong. Educational attainment in Alaska is nearly identical to the rest of the United States.
It'd be interesting to see a state-level analysis of the average income gap between college graduates and the rest of the population (if anyone is aware of this having been done, please make it known in the comments). As the median income in Alaska is among the highest in the country, this might provide those commenters a little more ammo. The more lucrative it is to go to work right out of high school relative to spending four years in a university, the more enterprising the person choosing to forgo college will be. Conversely, the kids who go to a university for a non-technical degree in these states are probably more likely to be unmotivated and directionless, seeing college as a party without parents extending for four years, than are students who go to school in places where the degree premium is higher.

HS goes on to make this assertion:
Virginia, 29.5%, is the most highly educated red state (voted Republican in last four presidential elections). For this reason, it’s the red state most likely to flip to a blue state.
Virginia may become a Democratic state like Maryland is. But to presume it is vigorously tied to the percentage of the population with a bachelor's or better is tenuous at best. Utah, the most pro-Bush in '04, is the second-best educated red state. It would literally require a 50 state-plus-DC landslide for Utah to become blue for an election cycle. Kansas, the third-best educated red state, would hold out for almost as long as Utah would.

As flushed out a bit below, I'm more inclined to think that Virginia's lack of educational parity (as measured by the percentage of the population that has a high school education but not a bachelor's) is a better explanation as to why the state may lose its red credentials. The five most educationally unequal states, measured in this way, are California, Massachusetts, New York, Virginia, and New Jersey. Virginia is in solidly blue company.

Considering only the bachelor-plus percentage of the population isn't the optimal way to determine the best-educated state, and not because it makes blue states look especially good or the sparsely populated northern central states look especially bad. It presumes the left side of the educational spectrum is identical across states.

That's not the case. As shown in one of this blog's first posts, red states have greater educational (and to a lesser extent economic) parity than blue states do. Red state educational attainment is like female intelligence--its distribution is narrower than that of blue states (and male intelligence). The majority of the population (56%) with at least a high school diploma but not a bachelor's degree are more likely to be found in red states than they are in blue states. The correlation between the percentage of a state's population that falls in this category and Bush's share of the vote in '04 is .65 (p=0).

The percentage of a state's population with a bachelor's-plus does not correlate nearly as strongly with estimated IQ scores based on NAEP data (.46) as the percentage of a state's population with less than a high school education (.72) does. The prolish behavior HS detests might be better indicated by the less than high school percentage than by the bachelor-plus number, depending on where the cutoff is*. Both measures include similar proportions of the population (19.6% of the population over 25 years of age has less than a high school diploma, while 24.4% has a bachelor's-plus).

Taking the bachelor-plus percentage by state, subtracting the less than high school education percentage from it, and multiplying by 100 for ease of viewing, creates a simple educational attainment index by state that more fully accounts for not just the right side of a state's educational distribution, but the entire thing:

1. Colorado -- 19.6
2. Massachusetts -- 18.0
3. New Hampshire -- 16.1
4. Vermont -- 15.8
5. Connecticut -- 15.4
6. Minnesota -- 15.3
7. Maryland -- 15.2
8. Washington -- 14.8
9. Utah -- 13.8
10. Alaska -- 13.0
11. New Jersey -- 11.9
12. Kansas -- 11.8
13. Montana -- 11.6
14. Virginia -- 11.0
15. Hawaii -- 10.8
16. Nebraska -- 10.3
17. Oregon -- 10.2
18. Wyoming -- 9.8
19. Maine -- 8.3
20. Delaware -- 7.6
21. Illinois -- 7.5
21. Wisconsin -- 7.5
23. Iowa -- 7.3
24. New York -- 6.5
25. Idaho -- 6.4
26. South Dakota -- 6.1
27. North Dakota -- 5.9
28. Michigan -- 5.2
29. Arizona -- 4.5
30. Pennsylvania -- 4.3
31. Ohio -- 4.1
32. Rhode Island -- 3.6
33. California -- 3.4
34. Missouri -- 2.9
34. Georgia -- 2.9
36. New Mexico -- 2.4
37. Florida -- 2.2
38. Indiana -- 1.5
39. Oklahoma -- 0.9
40. North Carolina -- 0.6
41. Texas -- (1.1)
41. Nevada -- (1.1)
43. South Carolina -- (3.3)
44. Tennessee -- (4.5)
45. Alabama -- (5.7)
46. Louisiana -- (6.5)
47. Arkansas -- (8.0)
48. Kentucky -- (8.8)
49. West Virginia -- (10.0)
50. Mississippi -- (10.2)

Utah comes out on top among solidly red states, followed closely by Alaska. While the relationship between a state's estimated average IQ and its electoral preferences is weak and well outside statistical significance (r=.12, p=.41), states where people spend more time in academic institutions are moderately more likely to vote Democratic (r=.33, p=.02) than people from other places are.

I suspect people attending college who receive little benefit from it but who are otherwise capable of being productive and prosperous (in the 100-110 IQ range) is a bad thing for Republicans. They'll rack up debt without having obtained the attributes to easily pay it off, while unnecessarily delaying wealth accumulation and family formation, in the process becoming more likely to vote Democratic than they otherwise would have been. The trend toward aptitudinal mediocrity in college probably isn't politically favorable for Republicans, either.

Tangentially, in the discussion thread on HS' post, Razib challenged another commenter:
"College education is a proxy for whites."

did someone look into this? (here or inductivist?) or are you just talking out of your ass?
He then took a quick glance at degree rates and demographics by state and concluded the latter. He's correct. In fact, to the extent that a very marginal relationship exists, it is an inverse one. There is no statistically significant relationship (r=.12, p=.40) between the percentage of a state that is non-Hispanic white and its bachelor-plus percentage.

However, there is a moderately inverse correlation of .39 (p=.005) between the white population percentage and the percentage of the population that has not graduated from high school. Whiter whites in Massachusetts go to college. The wrong kind of whites in West Virginia do not. But both at least graduate from high school. Hispanics and especially blacks are the ones who often don't make it that far.

The data, via Swivel, are here.

* HS' seems to demand upper-middle class company rather than just wanting to avoid the underclass, so that might not be correct. It could be even better to look at the percentage of the population having attained a graduate or doctoral degree for his purposes.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Racial voter profiles by party from 1980 to 2008

Randall Parker recently posted his thoughts on the Democratic white upper class (who I now tend to refer to as "whiterpeople") and how their influence on the party is trending. He thinks it has been getting stronger over time. I'm not really confident enough to cede or dispute that assertion. What I am able to do is show how the white percentage of the Democratic party's voter coaltion has been steadily shrinking for nearly three decades now, at a rate twice that of the Republican party's white shrinkage:

Democrat %WhiteBlackHisp.AsianOther
198077.120.22.700
198471.822.34.90.50.5
198874.019.44.61.01.0
199272.618.66.90.71.2
199673.217.27.40.91.3
200069.418.48.92.21.1
200466.220.38.92.32.3
200668.916.510.32.32.0
200867.518.010.72.11.7

Republican %WhiteBlackHisp.AsianOther
198095.82.71.400
198495.81.51.70.50.5
198894.32.01.71.01.0
199291.12.73.41.51.3
199692.82.92.61.20.5
200090.51.95.11.70.8
200488.02.46.31.71.6
200689.02.25.31.61.9
200890.62.04.81.31.3

Hispanic voter growth, following population growth, has increased in both parties at similar rates (by 400% since '80 for Democrats and 350% for Republicans). That's bad for the GOP, which cannot hope to catch up with the Democrats by going slower than they are. Even if the growth rates were identical, the trend would bode terribly for Republicans. If we both double our holdings, but you held twice as much as I did before the doubling, the absolute difference between our holdings just doubled--in your favor!

The black vote as a percentage of both parties' total representation has remained pretty steady, at about an order of magnitude more substantial on the Democratic side.

Demographic changes have attenuated white dominance in the GOP as well, but the rate of reduction has been about half that of contracting white representation among Democratic voters. Democrats are (as a proportion of the total) losing whites faster than Republicans are, even though whites already favor Republicans. Keeping the country as Euro-descended as possible seems an obvious even though politically incorrect strategy for continued GOP competitiveness.

The other option is to go the McCain route. He spoke to three major Hispanic interest groups in July alone, and has thrown himself on the mercy of the NAACP, even as national polls show him carrying 1% to 2% of the black vote. He's refused to make an issue of Obama's racialist past, but has had no qualms decrying the 'biogtry' of restrictionists. The RNC evinced no concern about immigration at all.

From this vantage point, other than picking a VP to steal the spotlight from Obama, it seems as though he's doing everything possible to play to Obama's strengths and his own weaknesses (even admitting that he was until very recently a computer illiterate).

A few remarks on the tables above: All data are from the Presidential exit polls of their respective years with the exception of '06, which comes from a national sample of people voting in elections to the House of Representatives. The only adjustment I made was for the '04 Hispanic vote, 44% of which is shown to have gone for Bush in the national exit polling even though polling at the state level showed that to be an overstated absurdity (as John S Bolton identified and Steve Sailer refuted). I lowered Bush's Hispanic share from 44% to 40% and increased Kerry's from 53% to 57%.

The Asian and Other numbers are imprecise. In '88, whites, blacks, and Hispanics comprised 98% of the vote, so I assumed that Asians represented 1% of the total and that their votes went the same way as the national vote went. I did the same for Others as well. In '84, the Asian and Other vote combined for only 1% total, according to exit polls, so I split it evenly and again mirrored the national vote. In '80, exit polling data showed that 100% of the vote came from whites, blacks, and Hispanics. That wasn't actually the case, but their representations were too small to factor in. In '00, Asians jumped from 1% of the voting population as estimated by exit polling to 2%, and in '04 Others did the same, which is the reason for the relatively large increases for each between those respective years and the election cycle preceding them.

Friday, September 05, 2008

RNC evinces no support for immigration restriction

Wow, how the Republican National Convention speaker lineup ever evinced the paucity of support that exists for immigration restriction among the GOP's favored national leadership. A brief review of the major speakers, as highlighted by the GOP's convention website, follows.

Day 1: Cindy McCain and Laura Bush, wives of the last decade's two most powerful men on the open borders side of the party. Florida Governor Charlie Crist, an amnesty proponent who often refers to his immigrant grandfather in prefacing his positions on immigration, also spoke, as did Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour. Barbour helped defeat amendments to the convention's party platform that would've denied birthright citizenship to the children of illegal aliens and would've excluded illegal immigrants from the 2010 Census. So did Texas Governor Rick Perry, an open borders proponent who has opposed construction of a barrier along the US-Mexico border and backed McCain ahead of "Super Tuesday". Alabama Governor Bob Riley was the only speaker who has serious restrictionism in his history. Bob who? Right.

Day 2: Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman opened, who AfBI gives a C-, a mark worse than the new Democratic crop elected in '06 earns collectively. An innocuous video of a schoolage girl reading an essay about pledging allegiance to the flag tells of how taking the pledge puts her next to those at Ellis Island and those marching alongside MLK follows. The current open borders President and first lady then speak successively. Folksy Fred Thompson, who was strong on border enforcement but not much else, also spoke, and the night was closed out by Joe Lieberman, who has voted against virtually every kind of restrictionist or enforcement legislation he's ever seen.

Day 3: A couple of female CEOs kick the night off. Meg Whitman of EBay talks about fighting to the top as a woman and Carly Fiorina, formerly of HP, gives a generic support speech. Immigration isn't mentioned at all (come to think of it, was it mentioned by a single speaker at any point during the entire convention? I've skimmed through speech transcripts and haven't seen anything besides the student's mention of Ellis Island, the speech by Rosario Marin on Day 4, and the bit McCain himself closed the convention with).

Michael Steele, who made opposition to amnesty part of his failed '06 Senatorial campaign hasn't actually been in a position of power to demonstrate his actual stance, but his support for affirmative action isn't promising. Mitt Romney, who by default became the restrictionists' best hope in the primaries by attacking McCain on the amnesty he pushed with Ted Kennedy, apparently has left all of that behind him. He gave an intellectually rousing polemic, but was mute on immigration. Following him were Huckabee, who believes it is an American duty to take care of helpless immigrants, and Giuliani, who fought during his tenure as mayor to ensure NYC remained a sanctuary city. Sarah Palin closed out the night with veritable silence on immigration, suggesting she's adopting McCain's stance.

Day 4: Nevada Senator John Ensign, who has a soft spot for political asylum and economic 'refugees', but has otherwise not generally been hostile to the restrictionist side, opened. Not a peep on immigration, though. Robert Duval narrated a video continuing the "Country First" theme (not to be confused with the old America First, which was of course irredeemably isolationist and racist for celebrating pretty much the same thing, with a fatal added emphasis on non-interventionism). Then went Utah Governor John Huntsman, who either admirably or prudently failed to endorse open borders champion Chris Cannon in Utah's 3rd district Republican primary last June, in which an outspent and unknown restrictionist named Jason Chaffetz defeated the six-term Congressman.

After the RNC President spoke, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee was up, a rare restrictionist (only the second of the entire convention) who previously came out against both Bush's and the McCain-Kennedy amnesties. She did the feminist thing though. Again, nothing on immigration was offered. Next came former US Treasury Secretary Rosario Marin, now working for the Schwarzenegger administration, who greeted the crowd with a buenas noches and closed with gracias. Really promising.

A (token?) black guy named Joe Watkins came next, apparently a representative of the Red Cross. Mel Martinez, amnesty point man from Florida, came after, praising McCain's support for interventionism the world over. Painfully, Pawlenty, who was the restrictionists' only real hope for VP, spoke not as McCain's running mate but as the governor of Minnesota. Former Senator Bill Frist, who was a disaster on immigration during his time in the Senate, followed.

Then came Senator Sam Brownback, who is outdone in his open borders enthusiasm only by the Republican Presidential nominee himself (he co-sponsored the McCain-Kennedy amnesty). He was polling at a dismal 3% during the Republican primaries--why he was given a primary speaking spot on the last day of the convention is up to the reader to decide, I suppose.

Mary Fallin, another bright spot, spoke next. She didn't focus, as I would've predicted, on being the first woman elected to Congress in Oklahoma for nearly a century. Impressive. Instead, more on the ubiquitous threat of 'terrorism'. Okay, not so much. Lindsey Graham, who faces a reelection challenge from a Democratic running far to his right on immigration and was a vociferous supporter of the McCain-Kennedy amnesty, went next. Tom Ridge went in front of the McCains--the Tom Ridge, who, as Homeland Security Secretary, publicly supported legalizing the "8 to 12 million" illegal immigrants residing in the US, back in 2003--just a couple of years after 9/11.

Would McCain mention immigration at all? Well, here are virtually the only words uttered regarding the issue from any speaker during the entire convention (excepting Marin, who celebrated her Mexican heritage and spoke in Spanish*):
We believe everyone has something to contribute and deserves the opportunity to reach their God-given potential from the boy whose descendents arrived on the Mayflower to the Latina daughter of migrant workers. We’re all God’s children and we’re all Americans.
Four--Riley, Pawlenty, Blackburn, and Fallin--of more than thirty speakers can possibly be considered restrictionists, even though most of the electorate is. And not one of them chose (or was permitted) to say anything about immigration, not even an innocuous platitude along the lines of "We need to secure our borders before we do anything else".

Vote for Baldwin or Barr.

* It was made apparent that English isn't her first language when she celebrated herself for being "the first immigrant of America". Really, that's what she said (see 1:30 into the video). She was supposed to say something along the lines of being the first immigrant to be Treasurer of the United States of America, but she just focused on the important part.

Palin kind of looks like Lulu from Final Fantasy X








Thursday, September 04, 2008

Romney's family less prolish than Palin's

Half Sigma has taken some grief for his explosion of posts about 'tabloid' stories on the Palin family. I'd just like a brief summation once everything has been sorted out, since she may become one of the most powerful women in the world in a few months, but people have to do that sorting, and it's nice to know a mind as sharp as HS' is on it. Reiterating themes from his blog, he pithily explained why it should come as no surprise that he doesn't like the Palin choice:
I don’t know why people are surprised about my take on this subject. My blog has always been against unmarried teenage pregnancy, against low class behavior, against women being given special special consideration (there’s no way a man this inexperienced would ever have been selected), and against the Evangelical Christian influence on the Republican party.
The alleged prolish behaviors of the family brings into focus what in retrospect seems obvious to me about my natural affinity for Romney* over the other candidates in both parties--he both epitomizes upper-middle class values and has been quite fertile (he has five successful sons). There are few celebrities able to simultaneously manage both.

Sarah Palin has been fertile, but the perception I'm getting from HS is that she is a better looking version of Roseanne Conner. McCain, with an irascible streak and a divorce in his background, is in the same boat (although by marrying up he's now an adopted blueblood). Obama's family is a whiter one, despite being black--Barack and Michelle had a couple of daughters in their mid- to late-thirties. Joe Biden lost his wife and a child in a car accident, remarried, and now has three surviving kids. Not too shabby. Amazingly though, after serving in the Senate for 35 consecutive years, he may be worth less than I am.

Romney represents an American ideal that creates success instead of merely seeming to transfer it or leverage it by pointing to the suffering he has endured. His speech, my favorite of the convention (I've only read transcripts, not watched video, so I'm not referring to delivery, just text), shows why he embodies what is strived for in Steve Sailer's Affordable Family Formation strategy--unfortunately, he's a rich Mormon, so it wouldn't work out.

* As a 'celebrity' politician, not as a legislator or an executive.