Tag: USA

Steve Sailer and the cheat code to journalism

Posted by – August 21, 2011

Steve Sailer is a cult journalist on the Internet. Not in the sense of “writes about cults”, but “underground hit” – which is a strange thing for a publicity-based professional like a journalist to be. I’ve been reading his stuff for 3-4 years now, and I have to say he ranks right up there with my favourite active journalists. Another really great one is whoever writes under the pseudonym The Last Psychiatrist.

Sailer is generally under the mainstream radar because he writes about some of the most flammable topics out there – eg. race and intelligence and other human biodiversity topics, and mostly doesn’t come down on the side of the angels. He’s what you might call a quantitative journalist, specialising in using sociological and psychometric data to explain large social phenomena. He also writes some pretty good movie reviews and sports journalism (alas, often about boring things like baseball). The cult following appears to be big enough to sustain his work mostly via donations – on his blog where most of his stuff appears, which is free to read, he’ll ask for money a couple of times a year. I can’t think of anyone else who is able to do that with non-fiction contemporary journalism.

While he’s a good enough journalist on his own strength, what really makes Sailer stand out is that he has practically no competition in his chosen subfield. Sailer’s reputation is already so trashed that he doesn’t appear to self-censor much (it also helps that he’s an American – no way could you legally write his stuff in Finland). By that I don’t mean that he’s particularly hateful or mean-spirited about ethnic groups – far from it. Just pretty direct and matter-of-fact about some things that are literally unspeakable in most polite circles. Satoshi Kanazawa is perhaps a fair comparison.

The result is that for some major contemporary questions, Sailer is able to get 80% of the right answer by extremely simple methods, while scores of intelligent, hard-working writers flounder around hopelessly, unable to use ideas about human biodiversity. I’ll give two examples of how this works, one of which is from Sailer, and the other I noticed myself (I’m sure I’m not the first one to notice it).

The Sailer example is about the PISA international student assessment studies. A major point of interest in the US was the poor performance of the US; in Finland a point of interest was Finland’s excellent performance. A great deal has been written about both of these cases, mostly looking at the way public education is organised in these countries. Sailer, who explains much of US sociology by differences in intelligence (he gives 110, 105, 100, 90 and 85 as rough IQ averages for Ashenazi Jews, Southeast Asians, European-descended whites, American Latinos and American blacks respectively (SD = 15)), obviously first looked at the US racial distribution of the PISA results.

Incidentally, this type of analysis is not possible in many other countries, because most countries don’t keep statistics about races or ethnic groups.

Anyway, this is what he came up with:

When broken down by ethnicity, American students did reasonably well compared to the countries from which their ancestors came.

  • Asian Americans outscored every Asian country, and lost out only to the city of Shanghai, China’s financial capital.
  • White Americans students outperformed the national average in every one of the 37 historically white countries tested, except Finland (which is, perhaps not coincidentally, an immigration restrictionist nation where whites make up about 99 percent of the population).
  • Hispanic Americans beat all eight Latin American countries.
  • African Americans would likely have outscored any sub-Saharan country, if any had bothered to compete. The closest thing to a black country out of PISA’s 65 participants is the fairly prosperous oil-refining Caribbean country of Trinidad and Tobago, which is roughly evenly divided between blacks and South Asians. African Americans outscored Trinidadians by 25 points.

Here’s my bar chart of American scores by ethnicity. Interestingly, American Hispanics did significantly better in reading in 2009 than they had done in science in 2006 and in math in 2003.

There are lots of details and caveats, but that’s certainly a pretty big piece of the mystery. The article is currently inaccessible due to a fund-raising drive at the site that published it, but you might able to get a Google cache version here.

The second thing, the one that it occurred to me to look up, is the mystery of violence in America. Michael Moore made a movie about the US statistics in 2002, Bowling for Columbine. In it he searched for reasons for America’s violence – 5.0 homicides per 100,000 people per year by the most recent figures (Finland has 2.5, the UK 1.28, Sweden 0.89). He looked at a lot of factors, settling on a mix with the main element being a culture of fear and isolation among middle-class whites. This cartoon segment has much the the main thesis.

Well, after reading Sailer, you can probably guess what I got an idea to look up. The 2009 numbers from the FBI give (for intentional homicides) 5,286 white offenders, 5,890 black offenders, 245 “other” and 4,339 “unknown”. If we forget about “other” and assume “unknown” is distributed like the knowns, we get 7,338 white and 8,177 black offenders. With population figures of 223,553,265 whites and 38,929,319 blacks (these are 2010 figures, but there’s not much difference), we get offending rates of 3.28 for whites and 21.00 for blacks.

The category “white” in this case includes Latinos, and the result of 3.28 is perhaps a bit higher than you’d expect for a mix of European whites (around 1.5) and a smallish number of people from Mexico, Venezuela, El Salvador, Columbia, Panama, … (15, 49, 71, 63, 24). The black rate of 21 is comparable to many West African countries (Mali 18, Liberia 17, Congo 20 – however, Senegal is at 1.1 (!?)).

These calculations may be confounded by some factors like serial homicides, but as a first approximation, it again appears to give a big part of the picture, one that I can’t recall Michael Moore addressing at all.

It’s not your tax money

Posted by – August 19, 2011

…at least, not the way you think and not mostly.

People often describe public expenses as being paid for by their hard-earned wages which are subject to income tax. Many people know that other taxes are more important (VAT is the biggest revenue source for the Finnish state, and “vice taxes” on alcohol, tobacco, and sweets alone amount to almost a third of earned income tax), but in fact even the deficit is more important than income tax.

The United States and Finland currently share the interesting status of having a larger deficit than their entire revenue from taxing earned income is. So for whatever income tax you pay that goes eg. to pay me to do research in finite-state methods in computational linguistics, more than that is borrowed for the same purpose.

I gave myself a big tax cut this year by moving into home brewing. About 300 € worth of alcohol taxes saved so far (much of that alcohol I gave away), projecting for 500-600 € by the end of the year. Next year will be more like 1000 €, since I only got started this summer.


Posted by – September 26, 2009

I get the impression this is fairly accurate about the US these days (the part about low expectations applies to Helsinki as well, but people here just want to pass, not to be praised). One of the many reasons empires tend to crumble? Branford Marsalis on student attitudes:

Already confessed, don’t need to confess again

Posted by – July 16, 2009

Some wonderful lunatic has done a bunch of the most amazing flash-based websites I’ve ever seen for US churches.

Evangel Cathedral – they’ve got everything. Seriously. When you get bored with the minutes-long flash intro and click through it, check out “ministries” from some smooth porn funk about Jesus. In fact look at pretty much anything, it’s amazing, each section has its own theme tune and voiceover.

Sexy Church of Christ – actually called VTC Ministries. You have to see it to disbelieve it.

Slavery-themed Church for robots from the future

Truth Transformation Ministries – no really, that’s the name. Can’t think of anything funnier to say about that.

Also, also, also.

edit: Are you ready to be catapulted to a new dimension of worship?

The French hijacked metube

Posted by – November 5, 2008

I unwarily clicked on a youtube link that started with fr. and now everything on youtube gets redirected there for me. First it was all in French but thankfully I at least managed to change that. It’s still helpfully offering me the language option at the top of the page. Beware the French youtube!

As for Obama’s predictable win,
Feels good man
I’m glad I don’t have his job, though. The Onion’s take was “Black man given nation’s worst job” and “Nation finally shitty enough to make social progress”. Anti-atheist bigot Elizabeth Dole lost her senate seat. Looks like the new McCarthy, Michelle Bachmann, kept her House seat. Whether Al Franken gets into the senate is still unclear.

Maybe if they stop being dicks at the border now I’ll take a trip there.

Incredible fact of the day

Posted by – March 19, 2008

Which has more cars (in absolute terms) – the United States in 1929 or China today? Well, obviously it has to be… hmm, well, you have to consider… let’s see. Hm. Maybe it’s not so easy. How many hundreds of millions of carless peasants does China have? Then again, did American farmers in 1929 have cars? Then again, I’d bet a lot of regular Wei Lis in China’s cities don’t have cars either. The Ford Motor Company got started in 1903 and brought out the Model T in 1908 – plenty of time to crank out lots of cars by 1929. Still, it has to be China. Surely. No! According to this book (reputedly) it’s the US in 1929. Whodathunkit?

Niggardly Fagerström

Posted by – November 28, 2007

I recently came across someone writing that a book he was reading was “so old that it even uses the word ‘niggardly’ with no apparent shame.” I wondered why that would be a sign of age, and soon came across a Wikipedia page about how controversial the word is. Turns out that although it has absolutely nothing to do with the word “nigger”, a series of misunderstandings have now given it a “dangerous” reputation.

From the article:
On January 15, 1999, David Howard, a white aide to Anthony A. Williams, the black mayor of Washington, D.C., United States, used the word in reference to a budget. This apparently upset one of his black colleagues (identified by Howard as Marshall Brown), who incorrectly interpreted it as a racial slur and lodged a complaint. As a result, on January 25 Howard tendered his resignation, and Williams accepted it. […] another controversy erupted over the use of the word at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. At a February meeting of the Faculty Senate, a junior English major and vice chairwoman of the Black Student Union told the group how a professor teaching Chaucer had used the word […] She said the professor continued to use the word even after she told him that she was offended. “I was in tears, shaking,” she told the faculty. “It’s not up to the rest of the class to decide whether my feelings are valid.” […] In late January or early February 2002, a white fourth-grade teacher in Wilmington, North Carolina was formally reprimanded for teaching the word and told to attend sensitivity training.

Illiteracy has discovered a new way to destroy language.

After first thinking how obviously the word should be defended by all right-thinking people I realised that it’s actually not all that different from “real” racial slurs that used to be non-offensive. Dickens and Conrad used “nigger” with no pejorative intent (above from actual disdain they may have had for blacks – compare “Nazi” about Nazis), but now the word is absolutely impermissible. This kind of negative drift happens to any word that refers to things that most people dislike (“retard”, “homo”, “cripple”), so from time to time the old word is thrown out because it has become dirty and a new one is chosen. This way we can pretend everyone doesn’t actually hate people who are different.

I’ve always considered this practice to be rather pointless but I go along with it anyway, just to be polite (I still use the word “retarded” – another word that often means something else than illiterate people think and causes confusion). But if people now do start to take offense at “niggardly”, what is one to do? If non-pc words have to be discarded just because they have taken on pejorative meanings, why not this one? I don’t see how the extra idiocy damages the basic “no one is allowed to hurt anyone’s feelings” argument.

Due to these musings I’m tempted to reverse my position on political correctness in general, but it’s probably wisest to accept that these things just don’t work logically and I have to take what I can get. In the British-speaking world “niggardly” should be ok for another decade or so – then it’ll probably be time to fight for language like “kill child” when discussing processes (you know, in computers).