Monday, June 29, 2009

Ricci wins

A reason to celebrate:
The Supreme Court ruled Monday that a group of white firefighters in Connecticut were unfairly denied promotions because of their race, reversing a decision endorsed by high court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.
It was something of a mantra aimed at those on the disaffected right during Bush's 2004 re-election campaign that while he may have disappointed with regards to illegal immigration, unrestrained spending, promises of a humble foreign policy, ad nauseum, his upcoming, long-lasting contribution to the composition of the Supreme Court necessitated their support for the 43rd President.

As today's ruling makes me prouder than any other handed down during my adult lifetime, it's difficult not to feel as though the argument had merit. But a GOP-controlled Senate, not a Republican President, has been the sure thing in the Ricci ruling. The following table shows which party held the White House and which controlled Congress during the confirmation of the nine current Justices (technically eight now, I suppose):

JusticeStart datePresidencySenateFavored Ricci?
StevensDec '75RepublicanDemocraticNo
SouterOct '90RepublicanDemocraticNo
GinsburgAug '93DemocraticDemocraticNo
BreyerAug '94DemocraticDemocraticNo
ScaliaSep '86RepublicanRepublicanYes
KennedyFeb '88RepublicanDemocraticYes
ThomasOct '91RepublicanDemocraticYes
RobertsSep '05RepublicanRepublicanYes
AlitoJan '06RepublicanRepublicanYes

Not surprisingly, current Democratic dominance of both the Executive and Legislative branches produced a nominee and likely future Justice who sided against Ricci.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Jack Cashill marshalls more evidence of an Ayers-Obama collaboration on "Dreams"

Jack Cashill has not abandoned his dogged diligence in digging up suggestive evidence that Bill Ayers played a significant role in President Obama's 1995 book, Dreams from my Father. His suspicions have been corroborated by a couple of other investigative journalists. A sampling of the newest discoveries:
Rather astonishingly, as Mr. West points out, at least six of the characters in Dreams have the same names as characters in Ayers' books: Malik, Freddy, Tim, Coretta, Marcus, and "the old man." ...

In one instance, Obama reflects on his own first days as a ten year-old at his Hawaiian prep school, a transition complicated by the presence of "Coretta," the only other black student in the class.

When the other students accuse Obama of having a girlfriend, Obama shoves Coretta and insists that she leave him alone. Although "his act of betrayal" buys him a reprieve from the other students, Obama understands that he "had been tested and found wanting."

Ayers relates a parallel story in Parent. He tells of a useful reading assignment from the 1992 book, The Kind of Light That Shines on Texas, by black author Reginald McKnight. The passage in question deals with the travails of Clint, the first black student in a newly integrated school, who repudiates Marvin, the only other black boy in the school. Upon reflection, Clint thinks, "I was ashamed. Ashamed for not defending Marvin and ashamed that Marvin even existed." ...

Both authors link Indonesia with Vietnam. In each case, clueless officials - plural -- with the "State Department" try to explain how the march of communism through "Indochina" will specifically imperil "Indonesia." The Ayers account, however, at least sounds vaguely real. The Obama account sounds like an Ayers' memory imposed on Obama's mother. She allegedly discussed these geo-political strategy sessions in Indonesia with her pre-teen son. ...

Ayers is fixated with faces, especially eyes. He writes of "sparkling" eyes, "shining" eyes, "laughing" eyes, "twinkling" eyes, eyes "like ice," and people who are "wide-eyed" and "dark-eyed."

As it happens, Obama is also fixated with faces, especially eyes. He also writes of "sparkling" eyes, "shining" eyes, "laughing" eyes, "twinkling" eyes, and uses the phrases "wide-eyed" and "dark-eyed." Obama adds "smoldering eyes," "smoldering" being a word that he and Ayers inject repeatedly. Obama also uses the highly distinctive phrase "like ice," in his case to describe the glinting of the stars.
Taking inspiration from another man and actually allowing him to ghostwrite for you are two very distinct things. Refuting the possiblity that only the former occured and definitively showing that the latter took place are going to be Jack and company's biggest challenges. Two of the three Ayers' books they use as primary sources of comparison were written after Dreams was published, including Fugitive Days, the work that shows the most striking similarities with Obama's putative autobiographical account. Pointing out that Audacity of Hope is sophomoric and cliched in comparison to Dreams is not enough to prove Ayers wrote Obama's first book.

Piling on Sanford the non-restrictionist

The biggest reason I was never able to share Jack Hunter's enthusiasm for Governor Sanford has been his poor legislative history on immigration (from a restrictionist's point of view)--Americans for Better Immigration, an outfit of NumbersUSA that issues grade cards for House and Senate members, assigns him an underwhelming 'D+' for his six years as a Congressional representative out of South Carolina. Nationwide, Republicans average a 'B', Democrats a 'D'.

Since his pillorying, it has been revealed that he has known his mistress for eight years, and it is not implausible to assume that he may have had other "exotic" Latin American love interests in the past. Might a personal affection for Latina women influence his position on immigration into the US? Perhaps one of those previous hookups is an ardent supporter of open migration for Latin Americans wanting to head northward?

Speculating on personal motivations of people I know little about does not mesh with the spirit of empirical inquiry I strive to stick to, but it does serve as a thought experiment in how immoral actions can conceivably force stewards into compromising their fidelity to those for whom they are putatively acting in the best interests of.

Apology for hypocrisy, but not amnesty for hypocrites

Defending hypocrisy is nothing novel. But a previous post on the (favorable) shift in America's moral evaluation of extramarital sex, even if it is not matched in deed, got me thinking about it a little more deeply.

Bruce G. Charlton, who is a wellspring of ideas he is frustratingly hesistant (in the opinion of this amateur who is accountable to no one!) to 'go public' with, recently wrote in an email exchange:

Libertarians and secularists have gotten things completely wrong about hypocrisy. Honesty is vital, but hypocrisy about bad things one does is much better than bragging, rationalizing and propagandizing in favour of bad things.

I try to minimize the amount of space devoted here to abstract philosophical discussions of morality, culture, aesthetics, and the like because I'm not smart enough or strong enough a writer to pull them off. I stick to empirical data like a gaper sticks to the beaten trail. Bushwacking is better left to more skillful trekkers. But even the clumsy and cautious feel compelled to step off the path and approach a dell for a better look now and then.

To consider hypocrisy as detestable (or even more so) as rationalization of a pathological behavior is to work toward the ushering in of that behavior if it carries with it even the slightest temptation. If it is tempting, some who oppose the behavior will fall to it and then be attacked for so doing, while those who deny there is anything wrong with the behavior are left unmolested, to wallow in their own crapulence.

The easier stand, not just behaviorally but also morally, is to accept it as being legitimate.
We see this periodically in the US with Republican officials who engage in behavior that is deemed immoral by the mainstream political conservative establishment. Sticking with Orson Scott Card's treatment of the subject of homosexuality and the Mormon Church (sent by BGC to spur me), consider Larry Craig and Mark Foley, two recent high-profile figures to have gone through this. Had Craig been a vociferous proponent of homosexuality, he would not have been pilloried by the national media. Pedastry as morally acceptable is still a minority position even among libertines, but had Foley been an exponent of it, his sufferance it would have been reduced.

That this reduction in shame and punishment for controversial and arguably pathological behavior can be brought about simply by voicing support for, or at least not opposition to, the acts in the first place is inherently destructive to any moral structuring in which the behaviors are deemed harmful. It becomes easier to withhold judgement from or even praise the behavior if it is tempting, even if one has no doubt that it is pathological, as a way of lessening the consequences of engaging in it in the first place.

Consequently, one must subdue individual interest for the well being of the larger society if he is to publicly condemn the behavior. It is difficult enough to do the right thing when you're told it is the right thing to do, let alone when the crowd is shouting at you to go ahead and give in. Weakness is not synonymous with moral failure. Those who recognize the latter while still being consumed by the former should not be taken as living illustrations of the invalidity of the judgement in question just because they are unable to consistently put it into practice.

By preaching the inherent value of individual liberty of action--what might be termed hedonism or "libertinism"--elite opinion makers undercut opposition to individual pathological behaviors.

Yet for very practical reasons, those in positions of stewardship--namely leaders and managers, political and otherwise--need to suffer by losing those positions when acting immorally*, especially when hypocrisy is involved, because knowledge of these immoral actions by others compromises the fidelity of the steward to those he works on behalf of. It is not difficult to imagine how Mark Sanford or Silvio Berlusconi could be subjected to blackmail by third parties aware of their private failings who have objectives at odds with those of South Carolinians or Italians as a whole.

* Here defined as engaging in behaviors that have pathological consequences when practiced in larger society (ie, cheating on income taxes, surreptitious extramarital affairs, lying to constituents, etc).

Friday, June 26, 2009

Pew reports high ratings hold as Obama's approval advantage cut in half in five months

Pointing out political bias in major media sources is old hat. When the subjective slant tilts in Barack Obama's favor, reading up on it creates a feeling of novelty comparable to what discovering your great grandfather's homburg from a time before the bombing of Pearl Harbor does.

To ensure that readers remain saturated with examples of that bias, I turn attention to a recent release from Pew Research entitled "Obama's High Ratings Hold Despite Some Policy Concerns".

What does the survey data actually reveal? From February to June of this year, Obama has dropped from a 4 to 1 approval advantage (64% approve, 17% disapprove) to a 2 to 1 advantage (61% approve, 30% disapprove).

On foreign policy, his 3 to 1 advantage (52% approve, 17% disapprove) in February has fallen to a less than a 2 to 1 advantage today (57% approve, 31% disapprove).

Public perception of his handling of the economy has suffered the most. In February, he had more than a 2 to 1 advantage (56% approve, 24% disapprove)--now it is approaching parity (52% approve, 40% disapprove).

The President has to be given credit for those impressive numbers in the face of 10% unemployment, increasing commodity prices, a DJIA stuck in the low 8000s, the tenuous uncertainty of what will happen next in Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and North Korea, etc. But there is little doubt that Pew would have come up with a less flattering title if a rightist were in the White House.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

In Africa, men want more children than women do?

In the discussion thread of a recent Parapundit post, commenter Dragon Horse argues high sub-Sahara African fertility is the result of men wanting large broods:
The main problem, as outlined by in Potts and Hayden (2009) "Sex and War" is access to affordable birth control. Most African women express a desire to control family size, it is the men who do not.

Potts and Hayden's argument is also "Freedom" but not the libertarian kind. Pretty much, they found that the less free a woman is in society, the more a male controlled societal (or religious) structure control their fertility the higher the birth rate tends to be. In societies where women have a higher education level, more legal rights, more say inside their marriage, etc, they have less children.
Having not read the book, I cannot respond to what the authors write. It is not clear that the second sentence excerpted above is asserted by the authors or if Dragon Horse is pulling it from somewhere else.

I am able to see whether or not the World Values Survey lends credence to the claim that African men want more children than African women do, however. A question probing for participants' ideal number of children was not asked in the most recent "fifth wave" survey, so responses are from the fourth wave, spanning 1999-2002. The following table shows the average number of children desired, by gender, for sub-Sahara African countries surveyed by the WVS:

Ideal childrenMenWomen
by countryMeanMedianMeanMedian
Nigeria4.544.6 4
South Africa2.922.82

Not much in the way of support for the claim. Differences in the perceived ideal rate of children exist between countries, and, at least in the US, by educational attainment among residents of that country. Gender does not predict fertility in sub-Sahara Africa (or anywhere else to any significant degree, for that matter).

The second point Dragon Horse makes is valid. Specifically, the gender gap in education is a strong predictor of national fertility rates. As measured by the World Economic Forum's 2007 report entitled "The Global Gender Gap", the correlation between fertility and educational parity is an inverse .75 (p=0), far stronger than it is among the other measures of gender equality, including economic participation and opportunity (.22), political empowerment (.22), and health and survival (.01).

Monday, June 22, 2009

Paul Craig Roberts suggests Europeans do not believe US gov't account of 9/11

Writes Paul Craig Roberts, who knows the official 9/11 account to be false but whose omniscience unfortunately does not extend to what actually transpired:
No one abroad believes the US government’s story. Europeans have produced
documentary films that laugh at the official explanation.
George Noory scoffs at a lot of official explanations, a response that is not terribly unusual for those of Middle Eastern descent. So what? Most Europeans do not find the narrative of 19 Muslims hijacking four planes to be as risible as Roberts would have his readers believe they do.

In September of last year,, a left-leaning organization affiliated with the University of Maryland, released what appears to be the most expansive international survey of opinion on the attacks to date. Those surveyed were asked to volunteer, without offered responses, who they believed to be behind the attacks:

In all of the European nations surveyed except for Ukraine, absolute majorities answered with al Qaeda, bin Laden, or Islamic extremists. If the "don't know" responses are excluded, majorities in Indonesia and every non-Muslim country save Mexico feel this way. In contrast, by a 3 to 1 margin, Eygptians and Jordanians think Israel was behind the attacks rather than al Qaeda, bin Laden, or Islamic extremists. Outside the Muslim world, the US government's story is seen as the most credible on offer.

When making such serious charges, sloppiness is a killer. Roberts would better serve the skeptical cause if he were not so messy (and he'd better serve VDare readers if he actually wrote about immigration).

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Racialism among whites

The previous post showing more evidence that non-whites are more racialist than whites are led me to wonder how racialism varies among those of European descent. The following table shows the percentage of people, by ancestry, who included race or ethnicity as one of the three most important methods of self-identification from a list of ten possible descriptors:

HeritageRace importantN*
Eastern European^^10.2%49

Because the question was only asked in 2004, sample sizes are not as optimally large. The French figure should be seen as suggestive at best. Yet the results have face validity.

The Irish percentage is a little lower than expected. Those of Irish descent are unique among whites in that they have their own ethnic holiday (never mind that St. Patrick was actually British) and benefit from mild, if light-hearted, cultural encouragement in the celebration of that heritage (ie, "Kiss me, I'm Irish" or Riverdance). Like Italians, the disdain their Catholicism brought in the 19th and first half of the 20th Century doesn't hurt, either.

Germans, despite their ancestral homeland's oh-so-atrocious relatively recent history, were forced to suffer the humiliation of anglicizing their surnames during the Great Wars and dropping their purely Teutonic tongues to integrate with broader American society, so in the oppression pecking order, they're a notch above the English.

Those of British ancestry, without claim to historic oppression--Roman legions and the Danegeld are negated by the slave trade the Empire waited all the way until 1833 to thoroughly outlaw--are left to wallow in the crapulence of massive achievement, and are consequently the least likely to think of themselves in racial or ethnic terms. Americans of Scandanavian descent are not far behind.

Despite Sacha Baron Cohen's best efforts, Eastern Europeans in the US are not completely embarrassed by their heritage. Wait, come to think of it, the question was only asked in '04, before Borat or Bruno came into existence and Ali G was just beginning his ascent to household name recognition. Perhaps those anti-Semites have been brought to heel in the interim!

Unsurprisingly, Italians are the most cognizant of their ethnic heritage. Among the European waves, they were impoverished latecomers. Further, they tend to be more easily physically distinguishable from other whites than those of English, French, or German descent are. Still, even this most ethnically conscious European group is far less racialist than are blacks, Hispanics, or Asians in the US.

GSS variables used: SOCID1, SOCID2, SOCID3, ETHNIC

* Respondent sizes vary slightly in some cases for each degree inquired about (most important, second most important, third most important). Those listed in the table represent the smallest number of responses from the three parallel questions.
** British includes those of English, Scottish, and Welsh descent.
^ Scandanavian includes those of Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, and Finnish descent.
^^ Eastern European includes those of Czeckoslavakian, Hungarian, Polish, Romanian, and Russian descent.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Racialist non-whites and non-racialist whites

To assert that whites don't think in racial terms and non-whites do is hardly novel in the Steveosphere, but the narrative that holds white racism to be ubiquitous and oppressive relies on the assumption that whites are racially conscious.

There is little evidence for this assumption. The GSS asked respondents to choose the three most important ways they self-identify from a list of ten descriptors. One of these was by racial or ethnic background. The graph shows the percentages by race of those who included this among the top three most important methods of self-identification:

The sample sizes for Hispanics (37) and Asians (44)* are small, but the pattern is clear. Only one out of ten whites included this among their top three. Among non-whites, about four out of ten did.

Since minorities are by definition not in the majority, it is expected that a distinguishing attribute will be deemed more important by the minority than it will be by the majority. The option combines race and ethnicity, though. When whites are broken down by ethnic group, only those of German descent constitute a larger American population than blacks do. But it's not just race that whites ignore. They don't think in ethnic terms, either.

As the percentage of the population that is white continues to shrink, white racial self-awareness will increase. This question set was only posed in 2004, so it's not possible to gauge the change in self-identification over time, but just looking at different age generations bears this out. By age range, the percentage of whites who include race or ethnicity among the top three ways they identify themselves:

18-29: 17.2%
30-44: 9.9%
45-64: 8.8%
65+: 5.3%

A colorblind society is a society in which everyone is the same color. Diversity leads to more racialism. Those who relentlessly promote it should be asked to explain why they support increasing the amount of racialism in society.

GSS variables used: RACECEN1(1), SOCID1, SOCID2, SOCID3, AGE(18-29)(30-44)(45-64)(65-89)

* Hispanic also includes "some other race", as it is a method of racial identification used almost exclusively (97% of the time) by Hispanics. The Asian category includes Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, and "other Asian".

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Pious: We'll keep the virgins and still raise you half a kid

Randall and Razib both recently posted on a study out of UCSF that found, among unmarried people aged 25-45, church attendees are several times more likely to be virgins than non-attendees are:

Men and women who attended church at least once a week were respectively 5 and
3.9 times more likely to be virgins than those who attended church less often.
Randall sees this as suggesting that the propensity to attend church is being selected against. That butts up against the fact that church attendance is a predictor of higher rather than of lower fertility. From the turn of the century to today, the mean number of children among those aged 25-45, by frequency of church attendance (N = 6,207):

Less than once a year1.34
Several times a year1.56
2-3 times a month1.84
Nearly every week1.94
More than once a week1.90

Obviously unmarried virgins are not buoying the fecundity of the religiously active, and unmarried churchgoers are more likely to be virgins than unmarried pre-game football votaries are. Yet this doesn't translate into lower average fertility among those who sit in the pews than among those who do not, because bachelors and bachelorettes comprise a larger percentage of the pagan population than they do the pious. The following table shows the percentage of those aged 25-45 who are married, by frequency of church attendance:

Less than once a year49.3%
Several times a year57.7%
2-3 times a month60.7%
Nearly every week64.6%
More than once a week74.0%

Most non-attenders are unmarried, while those free of marital vows constitute only one in four regular worshippers. Marrital status is a strong predictor of fertility. Continuing with the same age cohort (25-45) over the same period of time (2000-2008), unmarried people average a paltry 1.15 children compared to 1.91 for married folks.

It is these married folks who do the procreating, and, relative to the unmarried, they're a lot more likely to reserve Sunday mornings for their transcedent God than they are to reserve Saturday nights for their transgressive gods. The relatively high incidence of virginity among unmarried weekly churchgoers aged 25-45 does weigh down the total fertility of the pious, but the demographic is a featherweight--it constitutes just 9.5% of all weekly attendees aged 18 and older and only 2.4% of the total adult population. The 68% of regular churchgoers who are married (and 75% among those aged 25-45*) more than make up for the barrenness of their virgin co-congregates.

The GSS confirms that unmarried weekly attendees are more likely to be virgins than those who attend less frequently are. However, even among the unmarried, churchgoers outdo those who steer clear of houses of worship. Though unmarried people inside a church are more likely to be innocent than those outside its walls, the chaste constitute a minority of the unmarried population in both cases. And those unmarried churchgoers who do get busy pick up the baby-making slack of those who abstain--and then some. Among the unmarried aged 25-45, the average number of children of those who attend church on at least a weekly basis is 1.29. For those attending less frequently than that, it is 1.12.

Parenthetically, it shouldn't be surprising that among the unmarried, regular church attendees are more than four times as likely to be virgins than is the rest of the unmarried population. In remaining chaste, they're merely adhering to the tenets of their religions, just as their fellow married worshippers are in being fruitful and multiplying. Also, keep in mind that those who are holding out for a marriage they will eventually avail themselves of are faring better in the Darwinian struggle than are those who've shown a coven of women the sheets they sleep on. The most fecund people are those who have only shared themselves with one other person.

No children out of wedlock, lots of children once ensconsced in it. Sounds like an ameliorative prescription for a sick civilization to me. I'm encouraged to know people who strive to realize this ideal are outbreeding those who have no use for it.

GSS variables used: YEAR(2000-2008), MARITAL(1)(2-5), ATTEND(0-6)(7-8), SEXFREQ, CHILDS, AGE(18-89)(25-45)

* Due to the death of a spouse, the likelihood of being married is lower among all adults than among those aged 25-45. Of all adults regularly attending church, 8% are widowed. Together with those who are married, this constitutes 76% of the total weekly church-attending population.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Radio Derb, and black as a better predictor of Democrat than liberal

++Addition++Radio Derb transcripts are accessible here.


Because I am a laggard who relatively recently began to finally equip myself with podcasts wherever I go, instead of relying on radio, I am only this week discovering John Derbyshire's weekly half-hour broadcast entitled "Radio Derb", a middlebrow commentary on the events of the previous seven days with a sardonic witiness that feels like a mix of Tom Wolfe, Rush Limbaugh, and Ted Danson's Becker character, delivered in a euphonious British accent (euphonious, of course, because it is British).

Anyway, shameless self-promotion is better made late than not at all. The installment for the week of April 10 includes the Derb discussing (starts at about 18:30) a previous post concerning per capita federal welfare spending by state. He closes the segment with a silly riff on the word "epigone":
The blogger who calls himself Audacious Epigone dug through some government statistics and came up with a list of states by per capita federal welfare spending. Top of the list: District of Columbia, with almost 300 dollars per capita. Wonder if that includes all the salaries and benefits of the Congresscritters. Why not — they should count as welfare cases, shouldn't they? It's not like any of them have marketable skills. Bottom of the list was New Hampshire, with only 53 federal dollars per capita. Now I'll listen a bit more respectfully to Mark Steyn when he talks about what rugged individualists they are up there in the Granite State … though I'm still going to remind him that the state went for Obama in November. My own state, New York, is number 2, with 218 federal dollars per capita, followed by California with 173. Number 6 is Vermont, which is a bit of a mystery. How come Vermont gets 146 dollars in welfare per capita from the feds when New Hampshire gets by on 53? Is this related to the fact that Vermont's just legalized homosexual weddings? Bit of a mystery. Well, thanks for that, Audacious Epigone.

What is an epigone, though? It's one of those words I can never remember. Hang on, let me look it up … "an imitative follower, an inferior imitator." Hm, right. But why don't we pronounce the "e" at the end, like we do with "epitome"? Shouldn't we say "ep-i-gon-e," or "ep-i-tom"? Who knows? I guess there are some doors man was
never meant to open.

In hearing this, I am embarrassed that I've yet to give an explanation for the choice of the pseudonym. Like many others here, after reading Steve Sailer for awhile, I recognized him to be one of the most perspicacious and underappreciated intellectuals in the modern world and hoped that in taking a quantitative, empirical approach to issues involving human biodiversity, I might be able to add in some small way to the popular understanding of things as they actually are. It would surely involve making some controversial assertions (from which Randall Parker, another major inspiration, never shied away)--hence the audacity--and, to the pleasure of Socrates, I was fully aware that I couldn't even see Steve's shadow, let alone stand in it--hence the epigone.

Tearing myself away from the mirror, the Derb later asserts that blacks are anchored further to the left than is any other major sub-group in the US. He doesn't specifically mention liberals among the groups out-flanked by blacks, but he could have. Indeed, blacks were more likely to vote for Obama last November than self-described liberals were, 95% to 89%. Yes, but a black man ran for the Presidency. It was a unique result due to tribalistic loyalty, right? No--the story was the same in '04. Kerry won 88% of the black vote compared to 85% of the vote among liberals. In 2000, 90% of voting blacks backed Gore, while only 80% of liberals did.

The GSS confirms that blacks--liberal, conservative, and otherwise--are more reliable Democratic stalwarts than are liberals. Covering the same time period, 76.5% of blacks self-identify as Democrats, while 68.4% of liberals do. Even conservative blacks, 71.9% of whom are Dems, are more politically antagonistic toward the GOP than liberals are.

GSS variables used: PARTYID, POLVIEWS(1-3)(5-7), RACECEN1(2), YEAR(2000-2008)

Friday, June 12, 2009

The older married couples are, the less frequently they have sex

In a post on the putative problem of sexless marriages, Half Sigma asserts the seemingly obvious:
I believe that it is not uncommon for marriages to become sexless as people grow older, because sex drive declines with age and also other medical problems occur with older age. So while it’s normal for some couples to continue to have sex as they get older, it’s just as normal for other couples to stop having sex, but the Oprah-society has decreed that the couples who have stopped having sex are not normal and have some big Problem that can only be fixed by psychological counseling. This Oprahfication leads to more divorces and erodes family values.
He seems to have dumped the empirical approach to questions in favor of a semi-rapid fire sounding off on human biodiversity-related current events. Far be it from me to criticize him for the transition, since he has an apparent knack for his new avocation.

Instead, I'll just confirm what is already hinted at in the NYT article that spurred his post. As married couples age, they in fact do have less sex than they did when they were younger. The graph shows frequency of sex*, by age range, among those who are married:

Unsurprisingly, the older couples are, the less frequently they have sex. With the exception of a relatively sharp decline going into the mid-twenties, the decrease is remarkably steady.

Specifically addressing Half Sigma's belief that it is not unusual for sexless marriages to occur as couples age, the following graph shows, again by age range, the percentage of married people who abstain completely:

His assertion is contingent upon what is considered "not uncommon", but until couples reach their late-fifties, fewer than one in ten marriages are sexless. Prior to the mid-forties, virtually all married couples are sexually intimate. Married men in their forties and early-fifties average once per week--certainly higher than guys who are still trying to swing at that age. For this reason, from a carnal perspective, marriage is an attractive proposition for middle-aged men.

Although the article relays information from the GSS to determine the average number of times a married couple has sex in a year, the question of how common sexless marriage has been over time is left unanswered. The GSS only allows us to go back two decades, not two centuries, but a relatively short duration is still preferrable to shoulder shrugs. The following table shows, by age range, the percentage of sexless marriages for the period of 1989-1993 and 2002-2008, representing the earliest and latest date range in which the question regarding frequency has been asked:

Age89-9302-08Sexless inc (dec)

Each age range has an average sample size of 232, lower on the youthful end of the spectrum and higher on the wizened side. The differences appear to mostly be random fluctuations, with one age range showing a drop over the last 15 years and the range just above or below it showing a roughly corresponding increase.

Looked at more holistically, during the 1989-1993 period, 7.0% of marriages were sexless. The mean age of those who were married during this time was 46.5. From 2002-2008, 7.9% of marriages were sexless and the average age was 48.3. So the marginal increase in the percentage of sexless marriages looks like it is accounted for by the greying of the US population that has occured over the last couple of decades.

GSS variables used: SEXFREQ, MARITAL(1), YEAR(1989-1993)(2004-2008), AGE([range])

* There are seven response categories for the GSS item, which inquires about annual levels of sexual activity. To figure numerical means, I calculate an annual total as follows: Not at all = 0, once or twice = 1.5, once a month = 12, 2-3 times a month = 30, weekly = 52, 2-3 times per week = 130, 4+ per week = 260. For weekly averages, which are easier to digest, the resulting figures are simply divided by 52.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

If gaming is good, is prostitution even better?

++Addition++Roissy does favor legalizing prostitution. That makes sense.


Recently, Roissy interestingly (but not surprisingly, given his trade) asserted that the best solution to the civilizational entropy resulting from what he calls the four sirens of the apocalypse (easily accessible contraceptives, no-fault divorce, female economic independence, and feminist-inspired laws) is as much fuck-and-chuck as guys are able to pull off:

No, the solution is to give the New Girl Order *exactly* what it wants: Game, and an army of cads that practice it. Force feed the beast until it is choking on its own gluttony.

From this position, why not petition for legalizing prostitution*? Searching the site, I couldn't find anything where the issue is directly confronted, other than this post in which Roissy relays the exploits of a couple of friends who've paid for services in the past. In rendering the more 'alpha' of the two as not being pathetic for engaging a prostitute, he doesn't indicate hostility toward the idea.

It seems morally preferable to merely trying to increase gaming skills, as fewer women would be fooled in the process. The PUA approach is probably less popular than outright prostitution, especially among women. In 1996, the GSS asked 1,399 respondents if there is anything inherently wrong with the latter. A substantial minority (42.3%) of women said there was nothing wrong with it, while men were evenly split, with 49.9% calling it wrong and 50.1% saying it is not wrong. Although hardly scientific, it seems that virtually all women commenters who are active in Roissy's comment threads at least claim to oppose the PUA approach he advocates, including even the most 'degenerate' feminists like blogger FeministX. It doesn't have the backing of more than 4 in 10 women, anyway.

The argument against prostitution while still favoring pumping-and-dumping might originate from the desire to keep women from disproportionate gain. The PUA is essentially trying to pick up a prostitute (and I use that term in a morally-neutral way) for the lowest expenditure possible. He's tapping his own mental acuity, using his own free time, spending his own money on favorable image creation and in engaging in whatever social activity is his current playing field, etc for the purpose, but those resources aren't being transferred directly to the woman like they are in outright prostitution. But for more dollars going directly from the guy to the girl and less of everything else, the desired outcome could still be realized.

While almost all attractive women are viewed as potential targets for PUAs, the evidence that lots of guys are nailing lots of girls isn't there. With the goal of stuffing the beast until it dies from its own corpulence, if legalizing prostitution is enough for more marginal men to fornicate, why not? It already transpires in the hours after a strip club closes, but why limit it to explicitly tawdry places like gentleman's clubs? Why not easily facilitate it at a mainstream bar or dance club? If nothing else, it creates another potential avenue for the fuck-and-chucker to take.

The objection that most women don't want to be prostitutes, even among those who favor its legalization, is partially addressed in that most women don't want to be a notch in another pump-and-dumper's belt each weekend, either. But for enough in return (whether it's fun, excitement, status, money, or whatever), it happens. And accepting a favor (money) in return for another favor (sex) in the context of social enjoyment rather than as a necessary and substantial source of regular income would allow for a meaningful distinction between the 'professional' jezebel and Samantha Jones extracting one more thing from the players in the field to be made.

GSS variables used: SELLSEX, SEX

* Personally, I favor the localist's position on prostitution (not in my city for the same reason I want my property taxes to be high and usually vote to raise them, but do in your community what your community wants to do) and think the PUA phenomenon is real but overblown. Engaging in it with no intention of procreation is one of many forms of entertainment I don't take pleasure in because it strikes me as a squandering of time and resources (not to mention cheating is something I simply would never do).

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Gauging attractiveness by age via sexual activity

++Addition++Agnostic posted something similar back in January, but due to my apparent gayness, the following adds to it by injecting gender into the relationship between sexual activity and age.


There are several different ways to estimate at what age physical attractiveness peaks among men and women. For my part, looking at Maxim's Hottest 100 list of 2008 shows an average age of 27.6 years. That's probably too far to the wizened end, since building up celebrity credentials at such a high level tends to require a little time after initially being discovered. Agnostic looked at the age of porn actors and found an average of 22.8 years. Because there is an artificial floor at 18 (despite the existence of hot 16 and 17 year-olds), even that is probably a little on the high side, although not by much.

The GSS provides more suggestive evidence backing up Agnostic's finding. The following graph shows the average number of sexual partners in the last year for unmarried respondents*. Female responses (pink) are scaled so that they are comparable to male responses (blue)**. For ease of presentation, age ranges represent early-ies, mid-ies, and late-ies (click for higher resolution):

Women are at the peak in their early twenties. The absolute highest point is reached at age 23, which catches some of 22 as well, since the question inquires about activity over the last 12 months. They decline slowly but steadily from their mid-twenties to their early-forties and then tank as they stare down menopause.

Men top out a few years later, in their mid-twenties. The high point for men in their mid-twenties isn't as far above men at other ages as the corresponding high point for women in their early-twenties is relative to women of other ages. It comes as no surprise, then, to see that men degrade more slowly than women do after their respective peaks.

A smile of the sweetest flower, now wilted, soiled, and soured. Agnostic has commissioned a poster appropriate for the subject at hand:

GSS variables used: PARTNERS, SEX(1)(2), AGE, MARITAL(2-5)

* I am using the number of partners over the last year as a proxy for physical attractiveness (as well as libido, to which it is related). People who are married are filtered out so that only those playing the field are counted. It's obviously not a perfect approach--when it comes to quantifying physical attractiveness, that always seems elusive. On the individual level, it's not worth much. In aggregate, however, it seems like a good measure. It certainly has face validity.

The y-value is not exactly the mean number of reported partners for men, as response categories enter into ranges from five and up. Participants who have had five or more partners in the last year comprise less than 4% of the total.

** Men consistently report having more sexual partners than women do, despite the mathematical impossibility this presents (homosexuality cannot plausibly explain the entire gap).

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Trends in public opinion on seven major social issues

At the Inductivist, Jewish Atheist illustrates the view many self-described progressives have of social conservatives who hold traditional moral views:
Look, conservatives are always a dying breed, "standing athwart history, yelling stop." One generation or two ago, opposition to segregation was trending down and conservatives were upset. Today, most publicly say that segregation was horrible but laws against gay marriages are great. Next generation, conservatives will be all about gay marriage but opposed to some other thing that they'll lose on.
The analogy doesn't really work, as the issue of same-sex marriage is fundamentally a definitional question--homosexuals are and always have been allowed to marry the same people heterosexuals marry. Identical legal restrictions apply to everyone. That is not the case with legalized segregation, where whites are permitted to use one designated drinking fountain while blacks use a different one.

For the comparison to work, segregation would have to have meant one fountain dispensing Jagermeister that everybody, black and white, could drink from, while hidden away from view was another fountain pouring forth Hennessy from which no one was allowed to drink.

It is also infinitely frustrating to leftists (although few will admit as much) that those putatively suffering the most from past segregation in the US are the most hostile to granting marriages to same-sex couples. Considering responses from 2000-2008, only 22.6% of blacks favor doing so, compared to 34.3% of Hispanics, 36.9% of whites, and 41.9% of Asians.

Enough digression from the purpose of this post. Those who reflexively defend traditional morality are, in the face of change, by definition going to be the ones yelling "stop" most of the time. As Michael Blowhard explains (albeit in a discussion of architecture), that is probably the preferred default position:
Tradition: Practices based in experience that almost always succeed.
Deviation should only arise when the evidence is unequivocally compelling.

Are progressive causes overcoming the moribund opposition of social conservatives in the US? Razib has stated, correctly I think, that same-sex marriage is a battle traditionalists are going to lose. While conservative opposition to it has actually strengthened slightly over the last several years, self-described moderates and liberals are moving in support of it four times as rapidly as conservatives are moving against it.

The GSS allows for positions on five major social issues--abortion, capital punishment, drug legalization, wealth redistribution, and school prayer--to be tracked from the seventies to the present. Affirmative action is first asked about in 1994. Respondents were queried on same-sex marriage in 1988, but a 16-year hiatus followed, presumably because Americans at the time were overwhelmingly opposed to it to the extent that it seemed silly to divert energy away from other survey items for something so lopsided. The following graph shows the percentage of those who either "agree" or "strongly agree" that homosexuals should have the right to marry one another.

Shifting opinions on same-sex marriage is the big victory those on the social left are able to claim.

A similar but quieter trend is evident on the question of drug legalization, for which support bottomed out during the height of crack epidemic and has since slowly but steadily risen. There is reason to suspect it may now be plateauing in the near future, however. The highest level of support for legalization is currently found among those in their late twenties. Looking only at responses from 2004 to 2008, 50.3% of those aged 26-30 favor legalization. Their younger siblings are far less enthusiastic. Among those aged 18-25, only 33.7% want to legalize marijuana use (the question is dichotomous, thus 66.3% are opposed). Their dopey baby boomer parents are more permissive than they are--of those aged 43-58, 40.2% support legalization.

Perceptions on other hot-buttons do not follow JA's trajectory. Support for abortion rights is flat and may have topped out despite longstanding legal sanction. A recent Gallup poll showed for the first time since the polling organization began tracking the question in 1995 that a majority of Americans self-describe as "pro-life".

Like support for drug legalization, opposition to the death penalty hit a nadir during the crack epidemic of the mid-eighties to early-nineties and has since returned to the level it hovered around during the seventies, but it is a minority view and will probably suffer again if the pattern of lessening violent crime reverses sometime in the future.

Affirmative action, when described as giving special preference to minorities at the expense of whites, has never been popular and this shows no signs of changing in the near future (although the long-term demographic transition the US is currently experiencing could effect it down the road, as NAMs are far more supportive of it than whites are). This explains why US Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor tried to smother the Ricci case to death without anyone noticing, rather than vociferously proclaiming the city of New Haven to be in the right, as she believes it to be.

The subsequent graph is based on a seven-point scale for responses, with a 1 representing the highest level of support for the government reducing income differences and a 7 representing the lowest level of support for it. The percentage of respondents who answered with a 1, 2, or 3 are shown.

Support for government wealth redistribution has essentially remained unchanged from where it was three decades ago. It dipped a little in the year of Reagan's election to the presidency and also during the Gingrich-led Republican insurgency of 1994, but in both cases subseqeuntly crept back up to the 50% mark it centers upon.

Support for the banning of sanctioned prayer in public schools, a legal reality since the 1963 US Supreme Court ruling in favor of Schempp, has treaded water for the last 25 years. The court's majority opinion has always been a minority opinion among the American public, although it should be noted that there is probably some confusion among respondents when the question is posed. It asks whether or not schools should lead prayer, not if prayer should be permitted among students acting on their own. If fleshed out in this way, support for banning it would likely be higher. That said, the primary purpose here is to look at trends over time, and there is nothing that indicates current respondents are less clear on what is being asked than their counterparts in the past were.

Friday, June 05, 2009

How hard should parents try if their efforts are futile?

Blogger OneSTDV brings up a question I have yet to find a satisfying answer to (and so am eagerly soliciting thoughts from readers):

While I believe HBD is of immense importance for policy, it may sometimes be negative stimulus in family life. Do we really want our parents to not try their hardest because they have faith genetics will just take care of it? I think being cognizant of genetics can make some parents lazy or have a defeatist attitude.
Previously, it was shown that those who believe personality is primarily determined by experience are on average of modestly higher intelligence than those who hold that personality is largely genetically determined. As the breadth and scope of free will continues to be hemmed in, is a move toward greater determinism harmful? A study released early last year out of the University of Minnesota found evidence that priming participants toward greater acceptance of fatalism increased the likelihood that they would cheat on a self-administered math test. My codons made me do it!

Conceptually, it's easy to see the problem of maintaining a fatalistic outlook. I could go get a start on next week's case load or go mow the lawn. But I think I'd rather go flip on the PS2 and eat peanuts. Let's see what I end up doing... oh, looks like it's game time. That's what I was destined to do--it's not like I'm culpable for being slothful.

The problem with that facile line of thinking is that it assumes complete determinism and the total absence of conscious free will, when in reality the deterministic influences--genetic, epigentic, cultural, or whatever--are probably probablistic, not absolute. Since the deterministic contribution to a decision is by definition not freely chosen, it does little good for a person to dwell on it. Better for me to assume that it is up to me to bring to bear (or at least think I am bringing to bear, despite being influenced by my time preference and energy level) the full weight of my reason, rationality, and morality to the decision of what to do on a lazy friday afternoon in order to arrive at the most optimal decision.

I see similarities with Pascal's Wager. The free-willer is better off than the determinist to the extent that he is correct and no worse off in being wrong, while the determinist doesn't benefit any in being correct (it's not like he or the free-willer had a choice in the matter, after all!) but misses out majorly if he's off the mark.

In this, I am only considering an individual's actions at the individual level. The evaluation of deterministic thinking is not nearly so simple. There are confounding externalities like how policies on criminality are constructed or how the educational system is structured where an over emphasis on free will can be disastrous. And when evaluating someone else, it's disadvantageous to presume everyone has a perfectly free will and so act under the assumption that until learning more about a person, nothing can be assumed about him. Stereotypes exist because they are accurate more often than not.

The question, then, concerns whether or not it is better to err on the side of conscious free will at an individual level.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Importance of genes made a little clearer by children

Given that the Big 5 personality traits are 50% hereditable, it is discouraging to find that three in four people believe experience, rather than genes, is the primary determinant of a person's personality. That acknowledged, the naturist majority's dominance is not of equal strength across the board. Women are more inclined than men are to place importance on genes. One likely reason for this is that women pay more attention to children than men do.

Breaking down the question on personality by fertility lends credence to this assertion. The first kid forces parents to come to the realization that the way little Hayden turns out is not something they have complete control over (if much at all). Subsequent children show, through countless contrasts with their other siblings, that from the same nest very different rugrats scurry forth. The following table shows how fertility influences perceptions in this area. The percentage of women who believe genes play a primary role in determining personality by number of children (N = 1222):


While it's easier to hold quixotic notions of human nature in youth than it is after decades of staring reality in the face, this is not merely the result of younger people tending to put more emphasis on environmental factors than old codgers do (although that would still make sense in this 'theoretical framework', since younger girls are less likely to have had children than their mother's friends are). The same pattern holds across age groups. Among women between the ages of 18 and 35, 16.8% of those with no children emphasize genes, 18.4% with one child do, and 25.0% of those with two or more kids do.

Because men are less selective of their mates than women are, it's not surprising they are also less attuned to genetic influences on personality than women. Further, men rightly feel they have more individual influence over their objective desirability in the eyes of the opposite sex than women do. But fathering causes men to be more perceptive of innate differences in people as well. The percentage of men who believe genes play a primary role in determining personality by number of children (N = 1074):


GSS variables used: GENEEXPS, GENDER(1)(2), CHILDS(0)(1)(2-8), AGE(18-35)