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Genetics Might Tell Us About Elizabeth Warren's Native American Ancestry

440px-Elizabeth_Warren--Official_113th_Congressional_Portrait-- There have been some media “explainers” about how genetics can’t speak to Elizabeth Warren’s Native American heritage. This is a complicated issue, and not all the assertions in the media pieces I’ve seen are wrong, but a lot of the details are very confused or wrong. In sum, this is very bad journalism from people who don’t know where to start, and had no idea they were relaying confusions or falsehoods. (I’m being generous here in assuming they didn’t know that they were repeating falsehoods)

The point of this post isn’t to get too involved in the political points. Or even to argue that Elizabeth Warren should take a genetic test (I don’t think she should unless she wants to for other reasons besides the political sideshow, but that’s my personal opinion). Rather, I think that genetics is being distorted for the sake of political points and demerits. That is not optimal. Normally I don’t do much “fisking” type posts, but this is necessary at this point.

Let’s start with The Washington Post, Sorry, Scott Brown: A DNA test can’t tell us if Elizabeth Warren has Native American roots.

First, the title is false. If a few percent of Elizabeth Warren’s ancestry was derived from people whose ancestors lived in the New Word before 1492, then it would be visible on a PCA with Europeans and Native Americans. She’d be shifted a bit toward Native Americans.

Second, the journalist at The Washington Post interviews someone with serious credentials to serve as a primary source:

Nanibaa’ Garrison is a bioethicist and assistant professor of pediatrics at Seattle Children’s Hospital. A Native American, she earned a PhD in the Department of Genetics at Stanford, with a dissertation focused on ancestry.

She certainly has done genetic research, but I’m not sure that she can speak to modern genomic inference, which has advanced a lot in the past ten years.

Next:

That’s because determinations of ancestry are based on “ancestry-informative markers” — genetic flags that offer probabilities of the likelihood of certain ancestries. Most of those markers, AIMs, are “based on global populations that are outside of the U.S.,” she said, “primarily people of European descent, people of Asian descent and people of African descent.

Those three populations are not enough to determine how much Native American ancestry a person has.

AIMs were popular in the 2000s. Basically they are usually less than 100 markers with very high between-population differences in frequency between your populations of interest. But today most people would not use AIMs unless cost is a major issue (e.g., I’ve seen that AIMs are still used sometimes in work from developing nations because they can’t afford SNP-chips). So all the talk about AIMs is totally irrelevant to the question at hand.

Today you can download data sets with hundreds of thousands, and in the case of the 1000 Genomes data, millions of markers. These are still ascertained for polymorphisms; variants. But they’re really not AIMs in the classical sense as they are not targeted to a narrow set of populations, but look for variation across most human groups.

Also, panels are not restricted to three populations. You can get plenty of indigenous American samples from various public panels, as well as looking in the 1000 Genome Peruvian data set. The focus on three populations is again an artifact of 2005, probably due to the HapMap era (CEU, YRI, CHB+JPT, if you know what I mean).

Then:

Warren’s understanding of her heritage was that she was part Cherokee, perhaps as little as 1/32nd based on outside sleuthing. (Brown dismissed that claim specifically on this week’s call.) The odds of identifying a particular tribal identity are essentially zero, according to Garrison, but such a small percentage of Native American blood would also make identification much harder, even if the necessary AIMs existed.

Again, AIMs are irrelevant. This is like explaining that Netflix won’t work because of 56K modem download speeds. Most people don’t use 56K modems anymore. The 1/32 fraction may be an issue, but not because ~3% is not detectable. It is. A few years ago I stumbled onto the fact that geneticist Dan MacArthur is ~2% South Asian. He checked, and his brother is in the same range, while his father is about double. It turns out that he had an ancestor who was an officer in the British army in India….

The bigger problem here is that as you proceed back generations you are less and less likely to have genetic segments from any given ancestor. So if you had an ancestor 200 years ago who was Native American, even if they were 100% Native American, you may not have any genetic segments from that individual.

So, the article says:

Even a test that was fine-tuned to pick out Native American identity might not find any on Warren’s genes, because the requisite markers simply may not have made the cut over multiple generations.

This is correct. But, you probably do have segments from someone five generations back. There’s about 5-10% chance that five generations back you wouldn’t inherit any segments from an ancestor at that remove. The expert consulted by The Washington Post states:

“It would be impossible to go back that far,” Garrison said. “One-32nd is low enough that, even if she does have Native American ancestry, just by chance the genes that show up on these AIM panels might not necessarily be passed down, even if she might have other genetic variants that are highly prevalent among Native Americans. It’s all just by chance, what you inherit from your parents.”

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As I said, AIMs are irrelevant. Today you would use dense SNP-chip panels or even whole genome sequencing. But even with AIMs if you had 100 well distributed throughout the genome it would be quite possible to detect divergent ancestry from the rest of the genome. It is not “impossible” as asserted. The source is just incorrect.

Next:

“There’s a confidence interval that’s associated with [the results],” Garrison said. “That confidence interval can be very wide, especially when you’re talking about such low ancestral contribution.” So maybe Warren gets the results back and it says that she’s Native American — but that it can only be determined with 20 percent confidence. Scott Brown might not be convinced.

This is only an issue with AIMs. You can get results of 3% back pretty robustly. And it would show up on PCA too.

Then there are weird tangents, which I think exist to make the author look like they’ve “done their research” and reassure the lay audience:

Huntington disease, for example, can be spotted in DNA — but the test wouldn’t tell you when the disease might develop, which doesn’t do you much good if you’re worried about a four-year window. “There are so many different environmental factors or dietary factors and other health behaviors that would feed into whether or not a disease might develop and what time in their life it would develop,” Garrison said, making that sort of prediction impossible. (For now, at least.)

I’m not a medical geneticist, but I think the example of Huntington’s is kind of strange to put here (perhaps because people know about it?). It’s really well genetically characterized. From the link provided in the article:

As the altered HTT gene is passed from one generation to the next, the size of the CAG trinucleotide repeat often increases in size. A larger number of repeats is usually associated with an earlier onset of signs and symptoms. This phenomenon is called anticipation. People with the adult-onset form of Huntington disease typically have 40 to 50 CAG repeats in the HTT gene, while people with the juvenile form of the disorder tend to have more than 60 CAG repeats.

Individuals who have 27 to 35 CAG repeats in the HTT gene do not develop Huntington disease, but they are at risk of having children who will develop the disorder. As the gene is passed from parent to child, the size of the CAG trinucleotide repeat may lengthen into the range associated with Huntington disease (36 repeats or more).

Warren is old enough that she is unlikely to have 60 repeats or more. But Huntington’s is one of those diseases where we have a good sense of age of onset because it’s triplet repeat length is proportional to age of onset.

Next we have an article in Slate, A DNA Test Won’t Explain Elizabeth Warren’s Ancestry. First:

But here’s the thing: DNA testing cannot definitively prove whether a person is Cherokee. Or a member of any community, at least not reliably. To assume it can is to assume that there’s something inherently different in the genetic makeup of tribal members and that this thing is universal within that community. That’s not true.

Strawman. We’re always talking probabilities. Then:

The problem is that DNA snippets, or markers, are inconsistent. Sometimes they are passed on and sometimes they are not, and whether they are or aren’t is random. Sure, a large percentage of Native Americans may share certain genetic markers. But many Native Americans may lack the same marker, and many non–Native Americans may carry it by coincidence.

I don’t have a good sense of what the author is trying to get at, though I think there’s something underlying all this verbiage. The issue that allele frequencies are not (usually) disjoint across populations is well known. That’s why modern SNP-chip panels use hundreds of thousands of markers. Much of the Slate article is engaging a strawman when it comes to genetics because it acts as if we’d actually rely on a few markers, though perhaps not in the public’s perceptions of how these things work. In the latter case, the author could simply put in this sentence: “genetic tests to detect ancestry usually rely on hundreds of thousands of markers today, not only a few….”

This lack of specifics crops up over and over:

So when a DNA test comes back saying you are 28 percent Finnish, all it’s really saying is that of the DNA analyzed (most companies don’t analyze all of your DNA), 28 percent of it was most similar to that of a completely Finnish person. In the end, these comparisons are a fun but ultimately unreliable way to think about the possibilities of whom your ancestors might have been, rather than definitive proof of your ethnic background.

There’s a link in the piece that takes you to a 2007 piece on how DTC tests aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. 2007 is ages in genomics. So ignore that. Second, the selection of Finnish is unfortunate for the author, as Finns are actually one of the more genetically distinctive European populations out there because of a small effective population size. So, for example, one of my friends has a grandfather whose parents were from Finland. 23andMe says she is 19% Finnish. It’s simply wrong that it’s “unreliable.” With segment matching it’s quite reliable if you get a positive hit assuming you set the genetic distance threshold high enough. Also, depending on how you delimit “ethnic background” it can be quite definitive. Samples from Northern Europe never show much evidence of African ancestry. A minority of white Americans do. That’s not a coincidence.

As in The Washington Post the author of Slate piece has an authority who lays down the truth as they see it:

“Scientists who don’t know better claim that when more Natives are sampled they’ll have better data bases, i.e. more Native markers,” said Kim TallBear, professor of Native studies at the University of Alberta in a 47-tweet takedown of Brown’s remarks about Warren. “[Geneticists] think that with more markers, and greater historical-genetic resolution they’ll be able to pinpoint tribe-specific markers.” But this does not account for the fact that people are continuously moving and reproducing with other, diverse people. They mix their genetic code with other communities (as they always have, going back to the dawn of our species). If anything our DNA is getting more muddled, not more clear.

Can you read a paper like The genetic structure of the world’s first farmers, and believe this? Geneticists who work in historical population genomics are quite familiar with the ideas of migration and gene flow. More data is clarifying, just as it science should be.

The first authority cited in The Washington Post did some legitimate science at some point, though a bit outside of the core area of expertise she was being consulted on, and her knowledge definitely seems out of date (the constant talk about AIMs is a good tell here). Kim TallBear’s publications are quite different….

The author of the Slate piece ends:

Another issue is limited and inconsistent data. Ancestry.com, for example, divides the world up into 26 genetic regions and uses just 115 samples to create the representative of each region—a very small sample size. And different companies place different weight on these samples, which come from burial grounds, modern isolated communities, and academically published data, like the Human Genome Diversity Project. For the consumer, this means if you don’t like your heritage results, try a different company. You’ll get a completely different breakdown.

Whether there’s any harm in people basing their identity on faulty reasoning is unclear, but the success of these commercial endeavors proves that at the very least, consumers find it kind of fun. Genetic testing is basically just a low-cost way to get a blurry picture of whom your ancestors might have been related to.

First, the author needs to issue a correction. I immediately knew Ancestry.com didn’t use 115 samples; that’s just too low. Fifteen seconds of Google shows me that they have a sample size of 3,000. No idea where 115 samples comes out of, and I don’t care. He’s wrong. Slate should correct this. [see addendum; I may have misunderstood or been too harsh here, but a different point them crops up....]

Second, it’s misleading to say the picture is “blurry.” No, arguably it’s overly precise, and misleads people. Many of these ancestry inferences are quite precise and robust. They don’t vary between replicates that much even though they have a stochastic parameter. But, model based clustering gives results conditioned on a model. The results themselves them are sensitive to the parameters you’re putting into the model. The different regions from different DTC companies and sample sets are these different conditions.

This isn’t mysterious or difficult to understand. If you want to separate your individuals into Africans and non-Africans all the non-Africans will go into one cluster. This is robust, precise, and highly reproducible. In fact, a non-African individual will never be clustered with Africans with normal SNP-chip densities. At least not in the thousands of iterations I’ve personally run and inspected. Similarly, as you separate populations further you’ll see reasonable and comprehensible divisions.

The problems crop up when you begin to slice and dice very close genetic groups, where there isn’t much between-population difference. This is what happens in Northern Europe, and this is where most of the DTC firms’ client base is from. So this causes problems, and often difficult to interpret results. Moderate changes in parameters then can produce divergent results because the question we’re trying to get at is really hard to resolve with the data on hand, less than one million SNPs.

There are ways to resolve this. And that has to do with more data. In particular, whole genome sequencing at high coverage can pick up very rare alleles, which are highly informative of more recent genealogical history, and so divide up even Northern Europeans in a way that is more comprehensible and historically accurate.

But really the problem isn’t with the data. We have very dense SNP-chip markers now. The problem isn’t with the methods. We have genotype and haplotype-based methods which can make pretty strong inferences, especially at the intercontinental level (e.g., a friend who is 1/4 Japanese genealogically comes out to be 24% Japanese genomically; the rest is European). The problem is that the public, including journalists, aren’t always clear what the results are telling them. Sometimes the DTC companies themselves may be at fault because of their unclear communication. And to be frank, the Henry Louis Gates Jr. in my opinion has often sown a lot of confusion as well with his television show, informative as it may be.

500px-JohnRossCLooping back to Elizabeth Warren, the biggest issue with her maybe not having any indigenous ancestry combined with a Cherokee ancestor five generations back is that the Cherokee nation in the 19th century was already genetically mixed. The great chief John Ross was 1/8th Cherokee by blood quantum. That is, 1/8th of his ancestors were present in the New World in 1492. So a simple reason for why Elizabeth Warren might be Cherokee, but without indigenous ancestry, is that her Cherokee ancestor may not have had much indigenous ancestry. It’s not because genetics can’t pick up indigenous ancestry, genetics can. It’s just that this is a case were social and cultural history and definitions are important.

To be honest this post is a bit trivial. But lots of people read The Washington Post and Slate. As I just explained above there is a simple reason why Elizabeth Warren could come out 100% European in her ancestry, and, be of Cherokee descent. Instead of explaining this, the media has decided to look for people who claim that genetics just can’t answer this question. In the process they garble, mislead, and repeat falsehoods (the sample size for Ancestry.com is obviously wrong to anyone who is familiar with that field, but the journalist is not familiar, so it passed their smell test since they had no grounds for discernment).

This post exists only so that at least there is someone out there correcting the record.

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Note: I am a consultant for Gene By Gene and was a developer for their MyOrigins tool. This is one reason I know a lot about DTC genetic companies. But it also means I have a conflict of interest, as I think DTC genomics is useful with the proper caveats.

Addendum: A reader:

This seems, um, contrivedly obtuse. 115 samples per region times 26 regions is a total sample size of 2990, which seems reasonably close to 3000. Going the other way, 3000 / 26 is 115.4, so that will be where the claim of “115 per region” came from. There was no claim of “115 total”; the piece says that the representative of each region is constructed from 115 samples.

It’s true that 115 is an average figure and that’s not made clear in the article, but I’m not sure how comforting I should find it that the representative of “Polynesia” is actually constructed from 18 samples rather than 115.

A fair, but inadvertently ignorant, point. Sample sizes of ~20 are actually quite sufficient to generate reference populations. It partially depends on how diverse the populations are you are trying to use as a reference.

 
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  1. First, the author needs to issue a correction. I immediately knew Ancestry.com didn’t use 115 samples; that’s just too low. Fifteen seconds of Google shows me that they have a sample size of 3,000.

    RE: Ancestry.com,

    I’ve got a friend who’s trying to decide between using 23andMe and Ancestry.com. He’s leaning towards Ancestry.com (it’s significantly cheaper). In terms of accuracy in determining ancestry, how do they compare?

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  2. We live in an age where a biological male is considered a female if they wish to be.
    Anyone can be Natv if they so desire. Blood quatum and hypodescent worship is really just a hold over from the apartheid racial caste system anyway. If you are going to use genetics/race, then Warren really isn’t Natv. If you are talking socially, she still isn’t.

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  3. I have to say I’ve never understood why Elizabeth Warren has been singled out in this whole discussion. Semi-mythical Cherokee ancestry is a common folkway throughout portions of the South, both among whites and blacks. Johnny Cash famously believed he was partially Cherokee until he became famous enough that someone did his full genealogy and found no evidence, which he was hugely disappointed about. Considering he released an entire album in 1964 dedicated to the plight of Native Americans, his mythical Cherokee identity was far more important to his self-conception than it appears to have been for Elizabeth Warren.

    I know Razib is aware of this, but I have heard that while Native Americans in the U.S. will not consent to collective genetic sampling, individuals with Native American ancestry do of course enroll on consumer genomic sites like 23andme. Purportedly many Cherokee – not even mythical ones, but those who are registered tribe members – actually don’t have detectable levels of Native American ancestry.

    On the other hand, despite having no myths in my family of Native American ancestry, 23andme finds I have a very small amount (0.1%) of Native American ancestry – basically a small chunk on chromosome 2. I’d just chalk it up as nothing, but I share it with my mother, but not my maternal grandmother, meaning it must have come from my maternal grandfather. This is interesting because his grandmother’s family was basically the only branch of my ancestry which appears to have been in the U.S. since before the Revolutionary War. Hence it’s actually plausible it’s something more than mere noise, though of course it’s so far removed that there’s not even a trace of family legend.

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    • Replies: @adze
    Because its blood worship. The reason why there are white looking people in Natv communities and Rez is not because they had a blood test and the Tribe decided to let them in. They were either born there, raised there, married into, accepted socially as part of the Natv community. Not because of some archaic primitive blood system not designed to make artist communities inside the US.
    Blood worship was forced upon many of the Nations. Its not like John Ross had to have a blood test to determine his eligibilty.
    , @granesperanzablanco
    I believe she is singled out because there is at least a suggestion she benefited (or at least tried to) from purported mystery NA ancestry.

    On the social construct discussion I have visible NA ancestry. It is suggested on 23andme it is up to 15%. But I'm pretty much just white with some Tejano Mexican heritage.
    , @Clyde

    I have to say I’ve never understood why Elizabeth Warren has been singled out in this whole discussion. Semi-mythical Cherokee ancestry is a common folkway throughout portions of the South, both among whites and blacks. Johnny Cash famously believed he was partially Cherokee until he became famous enough that someone did his full genealogy and found no evidence, which he was hugely disappointed about.
     
    --Johnny Cash sure looked part Indian and so does Neil Young.
    --Gene Clark of the Byrds was part Indian
    --Elizabeth Warren claim of minority status via her being part Indian helped her score appointments first at Penn State and then to the top of the legal pyramid, Harvard. Thus the scruity
    -- An Indian tribe in Oklahoma did offer her a free genetics test when she ran for the US Senate. She refused to take it. In my book she is a scammer.
    -- https://www.babble.com/entertainment/21-celebrities-you-didnt-know-were-native-american/
    , @Peter Johnson
    She received a tenured full-professor position at Harvard Law School (a high-paying, extremely prestigious role) against a potential applicant pool of thousands of highly-qualified legal scholars, based in large part on her contribution to HLS diversity as a Native American. If her claim to such ancestry was fraudulent, she owes many other HLS faculty applicants and potential applicants a contrite apology. Also, HLS bragged about their Native American hire and the improvement in their diversity statistics, and so perhaps this also hurt (potentially) other Affirmative Action hires at HLS, at least indirectly.
  4. “there is a simple reason why Elizabeth Warren could come out 100% European in her ancestry, and, be of Cherokee descent. ”

    Only if she was socially a part of the community, which she was and is not (which was the way before blood worship). Trying to say you can use blood genetics that says she is not Natv to prove she is by the same blood quatum worship standard, is not logical.
    Using an example of John Ross as 1/8th (again that nasty blood quantum false worship), when socially he was already a part of the tribal community and was not even an issue at that time, is not a reason or defense on why Warren could be Cherokee. Its a bad argument.

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  5. @Karl Zimmerman
    I have to say I've never understood why Elizabeth Warren has been singled out in this whole discussion. Semi-mythical Cherokee ancestry is a common folkway throughout portions of the South, both among whites and blacks. Johnny Cash famously believed he was partially Cherokee until he became famous enough that someone did his full genealogy and found no evidence, which he was hugely disappointed about. Considering he released an entire album in 1964 dedicated to the plight of Native Americans, his mythical Cherokee identity was far more important to his self-conception than it appears to have been for Elizabeth Warren.

    I know Razib is aware of this, but I have heard that while Native Americans in the U.S. will not consent to collective genetic sampling, individuals with Native American ancestry do of course enroll on consumer genomic sites like 23andme. Purportedly many Cherokee - not even mythical ones, but those who are registered tribe members - actually don't have detectable levels of Native American ancestry.

    On the other hand, despite having no myths in my family of Native American ancestry, 23andme finds I have a very small amount (0.1%) of Native American ancestry - basically a small chunk on chromosome 2. I'd just chalk it up as nothing, but I share it with my mother, but not my maternal grandmother, meaning it must have come from my maternal grandfather. This is interesting because his grandmother's family was basically the only branch of my ancestry which appears to have been in the U.S. since before the Revolutionary War. Hence it's actually plausible it's something more than mere noise, though of course it's so far removed that there's not even a trace of family legend.

    Because its blood worship. The reason why there are white looking people in Natv communities and Rez is not because they had a blood test and the Tribe decided to let them in. They were either born there, raised there, married into, accepted socially as part of the Natv community. Not because of some archaic primitive blood system not designed to make artist communities inside the US.
    Blood worship was forced upon many of the Nations. Its not like John Ross had to have a blood test to determine his eligibilty.

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    • Replies: @Anonymous
    Even in some of my own family this is a contentious issue. For any apartheid system to function properly you have got to get people to believe in it (in this instance false race blood worship). People have been indoctrinated and actually believe it. They honestly believe that because you have magic blood this makes you Natv.
    The Natv community is full of indoctrinated blood people too (even though early on Natvs in the mid Atlantic before encampment were labeled "Mulatto" if they were born from one white Euro and one Natv.
    Same with many in the Black community who still believe one drop of negro blood means your a black person.
    I am so so tired of all this.
  6. Anonymous says:     Show CommentNext New Comment
    @adze
    Because its blood worship. The reason why there are white looking people in Natv communities and Rez is not because they had a blood test and the Tribe decided to let them in. They were either born there, raised there, married into, accepted socially as part of the Natv community. Not because of some archaic primitive blood system not designed to make artist communities inside the US.
    Blood worship was forced upon many of the Nations. Its not like John Ross had to have a blood test to determine his eligibilty.

    Even in some of my own family this is a contentious issue. For any apartheid system to function properly you have got to get people to believe in it (in this instance false race blood worship). People have been indoctrinated and actually believe it. They honestly believe that because you have magic blood this makes you Natv.
    The Natv community is full of indoctrinated blood people too (even though early on Natvs in the mid Atlantic before encampment were labeled “Mulatto” if they were born from one white Euro and one Natv.
    Same with many in the Black community who still believe one drop of negro blood means your a black person.
    I am so so tired of all this.

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    • Replies: @adze
    I know I am long winded..:)
    But look at it this way.
    You might remember Susie Guillory Phipps, the white woman in LA who sued the State because of a primitive archaic blood one drop rule said she was Black when she went to apply for a passport.
    It would be almost like saying she is a member of an African Tribe, because generations ago, a family member determined by blood centuries later came from this particular tribe (Aside from the fact Africa is a different continent), this means she is African/ tribal. When she is really a white woman, who grew up thinking she was a white woman, treated as a white woman in LA her whole life.
  7. First, the author needs to issue a correction. I immediately knew Ancestry.com didn’t use 115 samples; that’s just too low. Fifteen seconds of Google shows me that they have a sample size of 3,000. No idea where 115 samples comes out of, and I don’t care. He’s wrong. Slate should correct this.

    This seems, um, contrivedly obtuse. 115 samples per region times 26 regions is a total sample size of 2990, which seems reasonably close to 3000. Going the other way, 3000 / 26 is 115.4, so that will be where the claim of “115 per region” came from. There was no claim of “115 total”; the piece says that the representative of each region is constructed from 115 samples.

    It’s true that 115 is an average figure and that’s not made clear in the article, but I’m not sure how comforting I should find it that the representative of “Polynesia” is actually constructed from 18 samples rather than 115.

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  8. @Anonymous
    Even in some of my own family this is a contentious issue. For any apartheid system to function properly you have got to get people to believe in it (in this instance false race blood worship). People have been indoctrinated and actually believe it. They honestly believe that because you have magic blood this makes you Natv.
    The Natv community is full of indoctrinated blood people too (even though early on Natvs in the mid Atlantic before encampment were labeled "Mulatto" if they were born from one white Euro and one Natv.
    Same with many in the Black community who still believe one drop of negro blood means your a black person.
    I am so so tired of all this.

    I know I am long winded..:)
    But look at it this way.
    You might remember Susie Guillory Phipps, the white woman in LA who sued the State because of a primitive archaic blood one drop rule said she was Black when she went to apply for a passport.
    It would be almost like saying she is a member of an African Tribe, because generations ago, a family member determined by blood centuries later came from this particular tribe (Aside from the fact Africa is a different continent), this means she is African/ tribal. When she is really a white woman, who grew up thinking she was a white woman, treated as a white woman in LA her whole life.

    Read More
  9. @Karl Zimmerman
    I have to say I've never understood why Elizabeth Warren has been singled out in this whole discussion. Semi-mythical Cherokee ancestry is a common folkway throughout portions of the South, both among whites and blacks. Johnny Cash famously believed he was partially Cherokee until he became famous enough that someone did his full genealogy and found no evidence, which he was hugely disappointed about. Considering he released an entire album in 1964 dedicated to the plight of Native Americans, his mythical Cherokee identity was far more important to his self-conception than it appears to have been for Elizabeth Warren.

    I know Razib is aware of this, but I have heard that while Native Americans in the U.S. will not consent to collective genetic sampling, individuals with Native American ancestry do of course enroll on consumer genomic sites like 23andme. Purportedly many Cherokee - not even mythical ones, but those who are registered tribe members - actually don't have detectable levels of Native American ancestry.

    On the other hand, despite having no myths in my family of Native American ancestry, 23andme finds I have a very small amount (0.1%) of Native American ancestry - basically a small chunk on chromosome 2. I'd just chalk it up as nothing, but I share it with my mother, but not my maternal grandmother, meaning it must have come from my maternal grandfather. This is interesting because his grandmother's family was basically the only branch of my ancestry which appears to have been in the U.S. since before the Revolutionary War. Hence it's actually plausible it's something more than mere noise, though of course it's so far removed that there's not even a trace of family legend.

    I believe she is singled out because there is at least a suggestion she benefited (or at least tried to) from purported mystery NA ancestry.

    On the social construct discussion I have visible NA ancestry. It is suggested on 23andme it is up to 15%. But I’m pretty much just white with some Tejano Mexican heritage.

    Read More
  10. Elizabeth Warren is not Cherokee, never was. She is whiter than Queen Elizabeth. She lied about being an Indian to get a job.

    Lizzie wanted a job as a law prof at Harvard Law School. Her problem is that her JD is from Rutgers. Rutgers is ranked 92nd out of the 200 law schools. In ordinary circumstances, Harvard will trash can a resume from a Rutgers grad. According to Wikipedia: “As of 2011, she was the only tenured law professor at Harvard who had attended law school at an American public university.” Rutgers, like I said is 92nd. Berkley, Michigan, and Virginia are tied for 8th (84 places ahead of Rutgers) and none of their grads has a job at Harvard.

    I would guess that Lizzie started the Indian scam long before she got a job at Harvard. She was on the faculty at Texas (#15), Michigan(#8), and Pennsylvania(#7) before she worked at Harvard. I doubt that any of those schools would touch a Rutgers grad either

    Harvard will not hire a Rutgers grad without an extraordinary circumstance like race quotas. Being a Federal Court of Appeals Judge, or writing the leading academic treatise on some large area of the law would also work. Warren’s only shot was to be an Indian (she was even less plausible as a Black or a Mexican), so she did it, and got away with it. She is not the only one in Academia who pulled that stunt. Remember War Churchill.

    Harvard will never confess. They are embarrassed that they got flimflammed so easily. It would seem to be ordinary due diligence to check with the tribe when a potential hire is claiming tribal affiliation, but they didn’t. My guess would be that PC prevents them from asking or checking. There have been a number of other recent prominent racial misrepresenters, such as Shaun King of Black Lives Matter and Rachel Dolezal of the NAACP.

    I just want to add, that I am not saying that Rutgers grads are in anyway inferior to graduates of higher ranked schools. They are not. Law school attendance has about zip to do with intellectual ability. Law schools are really caught up with snobbery and rankings. always have been. They have to, they just trade schools with intellectual pretensions.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    that is the last comment like this, focusing on the political details/ you can have this conversation elsewhere.

    rather, my point is to focus on the genetics since that's not talked about with any level of understanding in the mainstream press (the above two articles show that).
    , @Clyde
    Excellent summary of Elizabeth Warrens serial scamming based on her Native American claims. Her nick name in Massachusetts in Fauxcahontas.
    , @Historian

    Her problem is that her JD is from Rutgers. Rutgers is ranked 92nd out of the 200 law schools. In ordinary circumstances, Harvard will trash can a resume from a Rutgers grad.
     

    She was on the faculty at Texas (#15), Michigan(#8), and Pennsylvania(#7) before she worked at Harvard.
     
    Elizabeth Warren began her academic career in 1978 at the University of Houston (#50), her undergrad institution. She then worked her way up the rankings. It's not like Harvard hired her in 1978.

    The 1970s were not "ordinary circumstances" for a Rutgers grad, provided that the young lawyer was female, specialized in social issues, and came from the Newark campus. Elizabeth Warren just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

    That's because Ruth Bader Ginsburg was female, specialized in social issues, and had been on the faculty at Rutgers-Newark. She became the General Counsel for the ACLU in 1973 and took 6 cases to the Supreme Court between 1973 and 1978 -- winning all 6.

    The University of Houston saw a chance to play Moneyball with one of its own alumna. The University of Texas then used its reputation to acquire one of Houston's rising stars. And they were right, weren't they? She became famous, didn't she? Now the country is full of UH and UT grads saying that they took a class with Elizabeth Warren.
    , @Curle
    I've found an incredibly strong correlation between law school attendance and intellectual ability.
    , @robinea
    I had a strange experience 30 years ago as a post-doc looking to be hired as a non-tenured faculty at a medical school: The research director looked at me long and hard (I look somewhat like Elizabeth Warren - meaning WASP), "Don't you have something in you? Some ancestry to give you a 'leg up' (in the research grant application process)…?"

    I joked that 3 1/2 centuries since my European ancestors washed up on North American shores I might well have some Native antecedents.

    "Great!", he crowed, "We'll put that down." I politely walked out of that phony 'academic' garbage can and into private practice.

    I realized that some academic centers want to be 'flimflammed' so they can rely on your loyal dishonesty to keep the game going. A principled answer was a non-starter in that interview.
  11. @Walter Sobchak
    Elizabeth Warren is not Cherokee, never was. She is whiter than Queen Elizabeth. She lied about being an Indian to get a job.

    Lizzie wanted a job as a law prof at Harvard Law School. Her problem is that her JD is from Rutgers. Rutgers is ranked 92nd out of the 200 law schools. In ordinary circumstances, Harvard will trash can a resume from a Rutgers grad. According to Wikipedia: "As of 2011, she was the only tenured law professor at Harvard who had attended law school at an American public university." Rutgers, like I said is 92nd. Berkley, Michigan, and Virginia are tied for 8th (84 places ahead of Rutgers) and none of their grads has a job at Harvard.

    I would guess that Lizzie started the Indian scam long before she got a job at Harvard. She was on the faculty at Texas (#15), Michigan(#8), and Pennsylvania(#7) before she worked at Harvard. I doubt that any of those schools would touch a Rutgers grad either

    Harvard will not hire a Rutgers grad without an extraordinary circumstance like race quotas. Being a Federal Court of Appeals Judge, or writing the leading academic treatise on some large area of the law would also work. Warren's only shot was to be an Indian (she was even less plausible as a Black or a Mexican), so she did it, and got away with it. She is not the only one in Academia who pulled that stunt. Remember War Churchill.

    Harvard will never confess. They are embarrassed that they got flimflammed so easily. It would seem to be ordinary due diligence to check with the tribe when a potential hire is claiming tribal affiliation, but they didn't. My guess would be that PC prevents them from asking or checking. There have been a number of other recent prominent racial misrepresenters, such as Shaun King of Black Lives Matter and Rachel Dolezal of the NAACP.

    I just want to add, that I am not saying that Rutgers grads are in anyway inferior to graduates of higher ranked schools. They are not. Law school attendance has about zip to do with intellectual ability. Law schools are really caught up with snobbery and rankings. always have been. They have to, they just trade schools with intellectual pretensions.

    that is the last comment like this, focusing on the political details/ you can have this conversation elsewhere.

    rather, my point is to focus on the genetics since that’s not talked about with any level of understanding in the mainstream press (the above two articles show that).

    Read More
  12. Razib – Have you attempted to contact the authors or editors of these pieces?

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    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    i tweeted at the WashPo guy. he ignored me. also tweeted at Slate. no response.
  13. @O'really
    Razib - Have you attempted to contact the authors or editors of these pieces?

    i tweeted at the WashPo guy. he ignored me. also tweeted at Slate. no response.

    Read More
  14. @Razib Khan
    that is the last comment like this, focusing on the political details/ you can have this conversation elsewhere.

    rather, my point is to focus on the genetics since that's not talked about with any level of understanding in the mainstream press (the above two articles show that).

    sorry.

    Read More
  15. I ran a test on my mom through FamilyTreeDNA. I processed the results on gedmatch and got Native American components of 0.7% on GedrosiaDNA K14, 0.64% on Dodecad World 9, and 0.52% on Eurogenes V2 K15. All of them showed a particularly high signature of 3-8% on chromosome 14. Eurogenes K36 also showed a 6.4% AmerIndian on that chromosome but a 0% total. MDLP K13 Ultimate calculated that my mom had zero Native American DNA and saw nothing on chromosome 14.

    What conclusions should I draw from all this? Given the small totals and dissenting opinion from MDLP, I was inclined to chock it up to noise like the tiny South Asian, Siberian, and Sub-Saharan components that occasionally pop up in her results. But the Native American component is bigger than those and makes me wonder if there’s something to it.

    Thus I can sympathize with the “more muddled” comment from that one article. Unless you’re a professional in the field, it’s difficult feel confident in any conclusions drawn from these tiny components. Try as I might, I don’t fully understand the math behind admixture. Each test attempts some documentation, but it’s not detailed enough to give me the insight I desire. I’m sure that experts will articulate these things better in coming years. In the meantime, expect more articles like the ones you cite.

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  16. You make a great point but the ‘one drop’ was a function of the pre 1970 era of apartheid in USA. Now even those who were defined by it, it still remains a sine qua non of ‘blackness’. Keep in mind that this is a USA modus operandi as it has made the nation as it is today.

    Elizabeth Warren is no different from the many who claim native ancestry but happen to own the casinos but the default colour isn’t brown, it is “white”. If a “black person” made that same remark, s/he would be laughed off the res! As a matter of fact, there were black members of one Seminole tribe, and they were kicked out because they were getting too many of the benefits when compared to the real Mccoy, the blooded natives who saw their legacy being taken over by the “whites”, of course, they had the grandmother or grandfather whose name was on the secret scroll! Obviously Ms Warren has far more European genes per her phenotype and that is exactly how the rule of thumb works. What you look like in physical descriptive, is the crux of ethnic affiliation in USA

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  17. anon says:     Show CommentNext New Comment

    Should I not just believe my own eyes and common sense? She is clearly a white woman.

    In Canada you get a lot of this, ‘reverse passing’ because of the many government benefits given to ‘natives’.

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  18. @Karl Zimmerman
    I have to say I've never understood why Elizabeth Warren has been singled out in this whole discussion. Semi-mythical Cherokee ancestry is a common folkway throughout portions of the South, both among whites and blacks. Johnny Cash famously believed he was partially Cherokee until he became famous enough that someone did his full genealogy and found no evidence, which he was hugely disappointed about. Considering he released an entire album in 1964 dedicated to the plight of Native Americans, his mythical Cherokee identity was far more important to his self-conception than it appears to have been for Elizabeth Warren.

    I know Razib is aware of this, but I have heard that while Native Americans in the U.S. will not consent to collective genetic sampling, individuals with Native American ancestry do of course enroll on consumer genomic sites like 23andme. Purportedly many Cherokee - not even mythical ones, but those who are registered tribe members - actually don't have detectable levels of Native American ancestry.

    On the other hand, despite having no myths in my family of Native American ancestry, 23andme finds I have a very small amount (0.1%) of Native American ancestry - basically a small chunk on chromosome 2. I'd just chalk it up as nothing, but I share it with my mother, but not my maternal grandmother, meaning it must have come from my maternal grandfather. This is interesting because his grandmother's family was basically the only branch of my ancestry which appears to have been in the U.S. since before the Revolutionary War. Hence it's actually plausible it's something more than mere noise, though of course it's so far removed that there's not even a trace of family legend.

    I have to say I’ve never understood why Elizabeth Warren has been singled out in this whole discussion. Semi-mythical Cherokee ancestry is a common folkway throughout portions of the South, both among whites and blacks. Johnny Cash famously believed he was partially Cherokee until he became famous enough that someone did his full genealogy and found no evidence, which he was hugely disappointed about.

    –Johnny Cash sure looked part Indian and so does Neil Young.
    –Gene Clark of the Byrds was part Indian
    –Elizabeth Warren claim of minority status via her being part Indian helped her score appointments first at Penn State and then to the top of the legal pyramid, Harvard. Thus the scruity
    – An Indian tribe in Oklahoma did offer her a free genetics test when she ran for the US Senate. She refused to take it. In my book she is a scammer.
    https://www.babble.com/entertainment/21-celebrities-you-didnt-know-were-native-american/

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  19. @Walter Sobchak
    Elizabeth Warren is not Cherokee, never was. She is whiter than Queen Elizabeth. She lied about being an Indian to get a job.

    Lizzie wanted a job as a law prof at Harvard Law School. Her problem is that her JD is from Rutgers. Rutgers is ranked 92nd out of the 200 law schools. In ordinary circumstances, Harvard will trash can a resume from a Rutgers grad. According to Wikipedia: "As of 2011, she was the only tenured law professor at Harvard who had attended law school at an American public university." Rutgers, like I said is 92nd. Berkley, Michigan, and Virginia are tied for 8th (84 places ahead of Rutgers) and none of their grads has a job at Harvard.

    I would guess that Lizzie started the Indian scam long before she got a job at Harvard. She was on the faculty at Texas (#15), Michigan(#8), and Pennsylvania(#7) before she worked at Harvard. I doubt that any of those schools would touch a Rutgers grad either

    Harvard will not hire a Rutgers grad without an extraordinary circumstance like race quotas. Being a Federal Court of Appeals Judge, or writing the leading academic treatise on some large area of the law would also work. Warren's only shot was to be an Indian (she was even less plausible as a Black or a Mexican), so she did it, and got away with it. She is not the only one in Academia who pulled that stunt. Remember War Churchill.

    Harvard will never confess. They are embarrassed that they got flimflammed so easily. It would seem to be ordinary due diligence to check with the tribe when a potential hire is claiming tribal affiliation, but they didn't. My guess would be that PC prevents them from asking or checking. There have been a number of other recent prominent racial misrepresenters, such as Shaun King of Black Lives Matter and Rachel Dolezal of the NAACP.

    I just want to add, that I am not saying that Rutgers grads are in anyway inferior to graduates of higher ranked schools. They are not. Law school attendance has about zip to do with intellectual ability. Law schools are really caught up with snobbery and rankings. always have been. They have to, they just trade schools with intellectual pretensions.

    Excellent summary of Elizabeth Warrens serial scamming based on her Native American claims. Her nick name in Massachusetts in Fauxcahontas.

    Read More
  20. Leftist conservative [AKA "corporate slave wandering down fluorescent hallway"] says:     Show CommentNext New Comment

    you did not answer the main question: if a person with a small percentage of cherokee heritage (say, 3%) goes to 23andme (or wherever) and gets tested, what is the probability that cherokee heritage will be detected?

    Read More
    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    1) don't hector me on what i did or didn't answer, i won't publish comments with that tone in the future.

    2) 3% native american ancestry against a european genetic background is 100% detectable

    , @Rick
    You won't be able to say that it is 'Cherokee' ancestry.

    But, even at 0.1-0.5%, the false positive rate will be much higher than the false negative rate. If it is real, it will be detected. If it is detected, it is probably real. The false positives probably come from having some reference samples with small amounts of non-Native American ancestry.

    If she also had one of her children genotyped, then the phased sequence information would be much better to identify very small regions.

    As an example, my brother had a single 0.1% African ancestry segment detected on his 23andme test. He thought it was noise. But I have 0.3% overlapping his segment. My father has 0.5% overlapping both of our segments. My father's sister has 1.2% in two segments, one of which is the same as my father's segment.

    I have found distant cousins through 23andme, GEDmatch and Ancestry which have the same segments. Our common ancestors lived in the Carolinas in the 1700s. I have checked the individual SNPs, and several of them are extremely rare in non-Africans.

    My own children have inherited this segment from me, which means that they still have detectable African ancestry after at least 10 generations.

    The Native Americans actually have quite distinct haplotypes, due to a long period of isolation. This makes finding Native American ancestry pretty reliable.
  21. @Leftist conservative
    you did not answer the main question: if a person with a small percentage of cherokee heritage (say, 3%) goes to 23andme (or wherever) and gets tested, what is the probability that cherokee heritage will be detected?

    1) don’t hector me on what i did or didn’t answer, i won’t publish comments with that tone in the future.

    2) 3% native american ancestry against a european genetic background is 100% detectable

    Read More
    • Replies: @Leftist conservative
    well, I wasn't intending to hector you. Just trying to be brief. And truthful.
    , @Michelle
    If you had more recent Native American or other ancestry would it be likely to be distributed amongst more than one chromosome? Sometimes that 3% is located on only one chromosome. Like my eastern European DNA. It is very far back and only on one chromosome. Ditto for my Spanish and Portuguese DNA which still shows up, but I am pretty sure, came from Queen Isabella of Spain and her mother as those are my most recent relatives with that ethnic makeup. Also, my Greek DNA which you told me some time ago came from the Byzantine era. All very, very distant but still measurable. Also, most of my Danish DNA, I have relatives in the Viking staging areas, seems to come by way of the British as I have no recent Scandinavian relatives, other than my father's father who was a Finn.

    Many of the Black and White relatives I have been matched with through 23andme and GEDmatch, are related to the Plantagenets and various Norman Warriors and quite a few are related to Elizabeth I, through Ann Boleyn's grandmother, but all of my relatives would rather be related to one Native-American (Cherokee Princess) who did nothing but walk around in the woods all day, than they would to the real Queen of England.

    On YouTube there are a lot of videos posted by Black and White people who insist they are Native-American, despite testing results that prove they are African and European, or just European. There is a cult devoted to the idea that "White" genetic testing companies are in a conspiracy to hide Native-American DNA from its rightful owners. Strangely enough, Native-American DNA shows up as distinct in most Latinos, Jessica Alba, for example, just not in Whites and Blacks! What strange phenomenon could cause that?? Snoop Dogg showed quite a bit too. If you've got it, you've got it.
  22. @Leftist conservative
    you did not answer the main question: if a person with a small percentage of cherokee heritage (say, 3%) goes to 23andme (or wherever) and gets tested, what is the probability that cherokee heritage will be detected?

    You won’t be able to say that it is ‘Cherokee’ ancestry.

    But, even at 0.1-0.5%, the false positive rate will be much higher than the false negative rate. If it is real, it will be detected. If it is detected, it is probably real. The false positives probably come from having some reference samples with small amounts of non-Native American ancestry.

    If she also had one of her children genotyped, then the phased sequence information would be much better to identify very small regions.

    As an example, my brother had a single 0.1% African ancestry segment detected on his 23andme test. He thought it was noise. But I have 0.3% overlapping his segment. My father has 0.5% overlapping both of our segments. My father’s sister has 1.2% in two segments, one of which is the same as my father’s segment.

    I have found distant cousins through 23andme, GEDmatch and Ancestry which have the same segments. Our common ancestors lived in the Carolinas in the 1700s. I have checked the individual SNPs, and several of them are extremely rare in non-Africans.

    My own children have inherited this segment from me, which means that they still have detectable African ancestry after at least 10 generations.

    The Native Americans actually have quite distinct haplotypes, due to a long period of isolation. This makes finding Native American ancestry pretty reliable.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Leftist conservative

    You won’t be able to say that it is ‘Cherokee’ ancestry.
     
    lol
  23. Had my DNA analyzed recently and it came up 3% Native American and 97% Irish\Western Europe with trace Caucusus, Jewish, Iberian, and an inexplicable West African Mali. Census and historical data indicates my 3rd-great grandmother was Yaqui Indian. My grandmother spoke Yaqui and Spanish.

    My son says I am the whitest guy he knows whenever I wax about my Native American heritage. Would be ludicrous to claim this on any “diversity” data gathering for an employer especially since I lived in New Mexico for 30 years and had numerous actual Native American coworkers.

    Not to brag, but this being July 4, my paternal 3rd g-grandfather fought in the Revolution under George Rogers Clark, and was friends with Clark’s brother William, who later headed the Lewis and Clark expedition. After the Revolution my ancestor was given lands in northern Kentucky and helped Clark during his initial descent down the Ohio river. My ancestor’s cousin also later served as an Indian agent under William Clark.

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  24. Leftist conservative [AKA "corporate slave wandering down fluorescent hallway"] says: • Website     Show CommentNext New Comment
    @Rick
    You won't be able to say that it is 'Cherokee' ancestry.

    But, even at 0.1-0.5%, the false positive rate will be much higher than the false negative rate. If it is real, it will be detected. If it is detected, it is probably real. The false positives probably come from having some reference samples with small amounts of non-Native American ancestry.

    If she also had one of her children genotyped, then the phased sequence information would be much better to identify very small regions.

    As an example, my brother had a single 0.1% African ancestry segment detected on his 23andme test. He thought it was noise. But I have 0.3% overlapping his segment. My father has 0.5% overlapping both of our segments. My father's sister has 1.2% in two segments, one of which is the same as my father's segment.

    I have found distant cousins through 23andme, GEDmatch and Ancestry which have the same segments. Our common ancestors lived in the Carolinas in the 1700s. I have checked the individual SNPs, and several of them are extremely rare in non-Africans.

    My own children have inherited this segment from me, which means that they still have detectable African ancestry after at least 10 generations.

    The Native Americans actually have quite distinct haplotypes, due to a long period of isolation. This makes finding Native American ancestry pretty reliable.

    You won’t be able to say that it is ‘Cherokee’ ancestry.

    lol

    Read More
  25. Leftist conservative [AKA "corporate slave wandering down fluorescent hallway"] says: • Website     Show CommentNext New Comment
    @Razib Khan
    1) don't hector me on what i did or didn't answer, i won't publish comments with that tone in the future.

    2) 3% native american ancestry against a european genetic background is 100% detectable

    well, I wasn’t intending to hector you. Just trying to be brief. And truthful.

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  26. Razib, over the past year or so you’ve made great strides in adapting your writing style to a lay-oriented blog.

    The main problem here seems to me to be that people don’t understand probability. They think it’s some kind of logical backdoor that can be used to deflect any argument. If there’s a 10% chance of something they like being true, they demand that we proceed as if it is true, but if there’s a 10% chance of something they don’t like being true, then they demand we proceed as if it is not true.

    In Warren’s case, everyone agrees that she has no cultural connection t0 any NA tribe and that her claim rests on a sort of decontextualized fact: this family legend of a distant Cherokee ancestor. Well, decontextualized facts are the province of science, so she should welcome the chance to test this fact she has relied on. But of course this is not the style of argumentation that is used in politics.

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  27. @Walter Sobchak
    Elizabeth Warren is not Cherokee, never was. She is whiter than Queen Elizabeth. She lied about being an Indian to get a job.

    Lizzie wanted a job as a law prof at Harvard Law School. Her problem is that her JD is from Rutgers. Rutgers is ranked 92nd out of the 200 law schools. In ordinary circumstances, Harvard will trash can a resume from a Rutgers grad. According to Wikipedia: "As of 2011, she was the only tenured law professor at Harvard who had attended law school at an American public university." Rutgers, like I said is 92nd. Berkley, Michigan, and Virginia are tied for 8th (84 places ahead of Rutgers) and none of their grads has a job at Harvard.

    I would guess that Lizzie started the Indian scam long before she got a job at Harvard. She was on the faculty at Texas (#15), Michigan(#8), and Pennsylvania(#7) before she worked at Harvard. I doubt that any of those schools would touch a Rutgers grad either

    Harvard will not hire a Rutgers grad without an extraordinary circumstance like race quotas. Being a Federal Court of Appeals Judge, or writing the leading academic treatise on some large area of the law would also work. Warren's only shot was to be an Indian (she was even less plausible as a Black or a Mexican), so she did it, and got away with it. She is not the only one in Academia who pulled that stunt. Remember War Churchill.

    Harvard will never confess. They are embarrassed that they got flimflammed so easily. It would seem to be ordinary due diligence to check with the tribe when a potential hire is claiming tribal affiliation, but they didn't. My guess would be that PC prevents them from asking or checking. There have been a number of other recent prominent racial misrepresenters, such as Shaun King of Black Lives Matter and Rachel Dolezal of the NAACP.

    I just want to add, that I am not saying that Rutgers grads are in anyway inferior to graduates of higher ranked schools. They are not. Law school attendance has about zip to do with intellectual ability. Law schools are really caught up with snobbery and rankings. always have been. They have to, they just trade schools with intellectual pretensions.

    Her problem is that her JD is from Rutgers. Rutgers is ranked 92nd out of the 200 law schools. In ordinary circumstances, Harvard will trash can a resume from a Rutgers grad.

    She was on the faculty at Texas (#15), Michigan(#8), and Pennsylvania(#7) before she worked at Harvard.

    Elizabeth Warren began her academic career in 1978 at the University of Houston (#50), her undergrad institution. She then worked her way up the rankings. It’s not like Harvard hired her in 1978.

    The 1970s were not “ordinary circumstances” for a Rutgers grad, provided that the young lawyer was female, specialized in social issues, and came from the Newark campus. Elizabeth Warren just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

    That’s because Ruth Bader Ginsburg was female, specialized in social issues, and had been on the faculty at Rutgers-Newark. She became the General Counsel for the ACLU in 1973 and took 6 cases to the Supreme Court between 1973 and 1978 — winning all 6.

    The University of Houston saw a chance to play Moneyball with one of its own alumna. The University of Texas then used its reputation to acquire one of Houston’s rising stars. And they were right, weren’t they? She became famous, didn’t she? Now the country is full of UH and UT grads saying that they took a class with Elizabeth Warren.

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    • Replies: @Jacobite
    "with one of its own alumna"

    That should be "alumnae."
    , @artichoke
    Nonsense. You have no idea how focused academia generally, and law in particular, is focused on prestige. One might have a career like that in physics. Not in law.

    Unless ... you discover your native American heritage while toiling away at UH and that allows you entree to the Bigtime. Heck her research pretty much sucks too.
  28. Leftist conservative [AKA "corporate slave wandering down fluorescent hallway"] says: • Website     Show CommentNext New Comment

    I believe warren is part indian…I am part indian, myself, but I have seen a photo of my indian ancestor…from the late 1800s…my paternal grandmother’s family was living in north texas at the time…the lady in question was comanche indian…and she looked it…you can see that indian ancestry in my grandmother, but not in me…my father’s father also seemed to have some indian blood.

    So I believe warren…

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  29. @Karl Zimmerman
    I have to say I've never understood why Elizabeth Warren has been singled out in this whole discussion. Semi-mythical Cherokee ancestry is a common folkway throughout portions of the South, both among whites and blacks. Johnny Cash famously believed he was partially Cherokee until he became famous enough that someone did his full genealogy and found no evidence, which he was hugely disappointed about. Considering he released an entire album in 1964 dedicated to the plight of Native Americans, his mythical Cherokee identity was far more important to his self-conception than it appears to have been for Elizabeth Warren.

    I know Razib is aware of this, but I have heard that while Native Americans in the U.S. will not consent to collective genetic sampling, individuals with Native American ancestry do of course enroll on consumer genomic sites like 23andme. Purportedly many Cherokee - not even mythical ones, but those who are registered tribe members - actually don't have detectable levels of Native American ancestry.

    On the other hand, despite having no myths in my family of Native American ancestry, 23andme finds I have a very small amount (0.1%) of Native American ancestry - basically a small chunk on chromosome 2. I'd just chalk it up as nothing, but I share it with my mother, but not my maternal grandmother, meaning it must have come from my maternal grandfather. This is interesting because his grandmother's family was basically the only branch of my ancestry which appears to have been in the U.S. since before the Revolutionary War. Hence it's actually plausible it's something more than mere noise, though of course it's so far removed that there's not even a trace of family legend.

    She received a tenured full-professor position at Harvard Law School (a high-paying, extremely prestigious role) against a potential applicant pool of thousands of highly-qualified legal scholars, based in large part on her contribution to HLS diversity as a Native American. If her claim to such ancestry was fraudulent, she owes many other HLS faculty applicants and potential applicants a contrite apology. Also, HLS bragged about their Native American hire and the improvement in their diversity statistics, and so perhaps this also hurt (potentially) other Affirmative Action hires at HLS, at least indirectly.

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    • Replies: @gcochran
    The worst thing is that she's not fully on board with crushing the average Joe's bones to make plutocrat bread - unlike the leadership of both parties.
  30. @Razib Khan
    1) don't hector me on what i did or didn't answer, i won't publish comments with that tone in the future.

    2) 3% native american ancestry against a european genetic background is 100% detectable

    If you had more recent Native American or other ancestry would it be likely to be distributed amongst more than one chromosome? Sometimes that 3% is located on only one chromosome. Like my eastern European DNA. It is very far back and only on one chromosome. Ditto for my Spanish and Portuguese DNA which still shows up, but I am pretty sure, came from Queen Isabella of Spain and her mother as those are my most recent relatives with that ethnic makeup. Also, my Greek DNA which you told me some time ago came from the Byzantine era. All very, very distant but still measurable. Also, most of my Danish DNA, I have relatives in the Viking staging areas, seems to come by way of the British as I have no recent Scandinavian relatives, other than my father’s father who was a Finn.

    Many of the Black and White relatives I have been matched with through 23andme and GEDmatch, are related to the Plantagenets and various Norman Warriors and quite a few are related to Elizabeth I, through Ann Boleyn’s grandmother, but all of my relatives would rather be related to one Native-American (Cherokee Princess) who did nothing but walk around in the woods all day, than they would to the real Queen of England.

    On YouTube there are a lot of videos posted by Black and White people who insist they are Native-American, despite testing results that prove they are African and European, or just European. There is a cult devoted to the idea that “White” genetic testing companies are in a conspiracy to hide Native-American DNA from its rightful owners. Strangely enough, Native-American DNA shows up as distinct in most Latinos, Jessica Alba, for example, just not in Whites and Blacks! What strange phenomenon could cause that?? Snoop Dogg showed quite a bit too. If you’ve got it, you’ve got it.

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  31. It looks like the author of the Post article was specifically trying to track down Native American bioscientists to interview, as though they would somehow be more authoritative on the science of genetically testing Warren because they’re Native American. So since the population of Native Americans is so small, and those with the required expertise are of course a much smaller subset to select from, they wind up with scientists that are not really great authorities on the subject.

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    • Replies: @Anonymous
    Exactly. Affirmative action journalism. They should have just contacted David Reich.
  32. @Peter Johnson
    She received a tenured full-professor position at Harvard Law School (a high-paying, extremely prestigious role) against a potential applicant pool of thousands of highly-qualified legal scholars, based in large part on her contribution to HLS diversity as a Native American. If her claim to such ancestry was fraudulent, she owes many other HLS faculty applicants and potential applicants a contrite apology. Also, HLS bragged about their Native American hire and the improvement in their diversity statistics, and so perhaps this also hurt (potentially) other Affirmative Action hires at HLS, at least indirectly.

    The worst thing is that she’s not fully on board with crushing the average Joe’s bones to make plutocrat bread – unlike the leadership of both parties.

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    • Replies: @Leftist conservative

    The worst thing is that she’s not fully on board with crushing the average Joe’s bones to make plutocrat bread – unlike the leadership of both parties.

     

    nice line...but what about trump?
  33. As you say, genetic testing may or may not be able to tell us about Warren’s claims of Cherokee ancestry. However, there is a simple, officially used method for determining whether someone is a Cherokee- ancestry in the Dawes roll. It would certainly be to her benefit to prove it, silence the disputers and redeem her image. The fact that Warren either hasn’t sought or can’t get formal recognition this way, and the fact that the media ignores it, tells us plenty about whether she has Cherokee ancestry at least to any meaningful extent (and knows it).

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  34. Leftist conservative [AKA "corporate slave wandering down fluorescent hallway"] says: • Website     Show CommentNext New Comment
    @gcochran
    The worst thing is that she's not fully on board with crushing the average Joe's bones to make plutocrat bread - unlike the leadership of both parties.

    The worst thing is that she’s not fully on board with crushing the average Joe’s bones to make plutocrat bread – unlike the leadership of both parties.

    nice line…but what about trump?

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  35. @Walter Sobchak
    Elizabeth Warren is not Cherokee, never was. She is whiter than Queen Elizabeth. She lied about being an Indian to get a job.

    Lizzie wanted a job as a law prof at Harvard Law School. Her problem is that her JD is from Rutgers. Rutgers is ranked 92nd out of the 200 law schools. In ordinary circumstances, Harvard will trash can a resume from a Rutgers grad. According to Wikipedia: "As of 2011, she was the only tenured law professor at Harvard who had attended law school at an American public university." Rutgers, like I said is 92nd. Berkley, Michigan, and Virginia are tied for 8th (84 places ahead of Rutgers) and none of their grads has a job at Harvard.

    I would guess that Lizzie started the Indian scam long before she got a job at Harvard. She was on the faculty at Texas (#15), Michigan(#8), and Pennsylvania(#7) before she worked at Harvard. I doubt that any of those schools would touch a Rutgers grad either

    Harvard will not hire a Rutgers grad without an extraordinary circumstance like race quotas. Being a Federal Court of Appeals Judge, or writing the leading academic treatise on some large area of the law would also work. Warren's only shot was to be an Indian (she was even less plausible as a Black or a Mexican), so she did it, and got away with it. She is not the only one in Academia who pulled that stunt. Remember War Churchill.

    Harvard will never confess. They are embarrassed that they got flimflammed so easily. It would seem to be ordinary due diligence to check with the tribe when a potential hire is claiming tribal affiliation, but they didn't. My guess would be that PC prevents them from asking or checking. There have been a number of other recent prominent racial misrepresenters, such as Shaun King of Black Lives Matter and Rachel Dolezal of the NAACP.

    I just want to add, that I am not saying that Rutgers grads are in anyway inferior to graduates of higher ranked schools. They are not. Law school attendance has about zip to do with intellectual ability. Law schools are really caught up with snobbery and rankings. always have been. They have to, they just trade schools with intellectual pretensions.

    I’ve found an incredibly strong correlation between law school attendance and intellectual ability.

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    • Replies: @Walter Sobchak

    I’ve found an incredibly strong correlation between law school attendance and intellectual ability.
     
    positive or negative?
  36. All I can add to this is that I personally know someone whose great-to-the-fifth grandfather was John Ross; when you account for the full family tree, my acquaintance should be about 3/32ths Cherokee; and a recent DNA profile through one of the popular services came back approximately 7% Native American, all the rest Northern European and English/Scottish/Irish. FWIW…

    Also, as somebody else mentioned, the Dawes rolls are the definitive legal source of Cherokee heritage. If you can show direct descent from somebody on the rolls, you can get official tribal membership. Ms. Warren clearly does not meet that criteria, else that would have been trotted out by now.

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  37. Anonymous says:     Show CommentNext New Comment
    @Grandpa Jack
    It looks like the author of the Post article was specifically trying to track down Native American bioscientists to interview, as though they would somehow be more authoritative on the science of genetically testing Warren because they're Native American. So since the population of Native Americans is so small, and those with the required expertise are of course a much smaller subset to select from, they wind up with scientists that are not really great authorities on the subject.

    Exactly. Affirmative action journalism. They should have just contacted David Reich.

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  38. Jessica Alba showing native American ancestry is a reality due to the process of mestizaje, which is the product of rape between the conqueror (Spaniard) and the native inhabitants of the Americas so it isn”t a stretch. The Spaniards initially did not bring women to the Americas so that DNA is a reflection of a past and present reality.

    It is not strange that, depending on location, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Mexico, etc that Aztec, Maya, Quechua, will present itself accordingly. Hybrid vigour is a reality based on environment access to a ‘decent’ standard of social and intellectual access. Take a look at Raquel Welch!
    Some people have to hide their name to get the acknowledgement but Raquel Tejada will have to work harder, sight unseen!

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  39. It’s tough not to view the discussion in political light as all the “professional” published pieces appear to be guided first by politics. And those are the pros.
    Granting them ignorance until proven ignoble is “the right thing to do”, but one doesn’t see them frequently act in kind.

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    • Replies: @Leftist conservative
    what is really interesting is that in the recent the media has been looking at these results and saying that these genetic tests show that there was not much racial mixing between whites and nonwhites...and now, now that racial mixing might be made a political issue, the WaPo comes out with this article saying that the tests probably won't show small amounts of amerind dna in whites, and as khan points out, that is wrong...The media never wanted to admit that there was much amerind dna in whites, anyway...
  40. Leftist conservative [AKA "corporate slave wandering down fluorescent hallway"] says: • Website     Show CommentNext New Comment
    @Handleman
    It's tough not to view the discussion in political light as all the "professional" published pieces appear to be guided first by politics. And those are the pros.
    Granting them ignorance until proven ignoble is "the right thing to do", but one doesn't see them frequently act in kind.

    what is really interesting is that in the recent the media has been looking at these results and saying that these genetic tests show that there was not much racial mixing between whites and nonwhites…and now, now that racial mixing might be made a political issue, the WaPo comes out with this article saying that the tests probably won’t show small amounts of amerind dna in whites, and as khan points out, that is wrong…The media never wanted to admit that there was much amerind dna in whites, anyway…

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  41. Rather, I think that genetics is being distorted for the sake of political points and demerits.

    Have you written specifically about the intersection of genetics and politics or genetics and ideology? Can you provide a link?

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  42. @jack shindo
    Jessica Alba showing native American ancestry is a reality due to the process of mestizaje, which is the product of rape between the conqueror (Spaniard) and the native inhabitants of the Americas so it isn''t a stretch. The Spaniards initially did not bring women to the Americas so that DNA is a reflection of a past and present reality.

    It is not strange that, depending on location, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Mexico, etc that Aztec, Maya, Quechua, will present itself accordingly. Hybrid vigour is a reality based on environment access to a 'decent' standard of social and intellectual access. Take a look at Raquel Welch!
    Some people have to hide their name to get the acknowledgement but Raquel Tejada will have to work harder, sight unseen!

    Sarcasm! Straight over your head. Whoosh!!!

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  43. @Historian

    Her problem is that her JD is from Rutgers. Rutgers is ranked 92nd out of the 200 law schools. In ordinary circumstances, Harvard will trash can a resume from a Rutgers grad.
     

    She was on the faculty at Texas (#15), Michigan(#8), and Pennsylvania(#7) before she worked at Harvard.
     
    Elizabeth Warren began her academic career in 1978 at the University of Houston (#50), her undergrad institution. She then worked her way up the rankings. It's not like Harvard hired her in 1978.

    The 1970s were not "ordinary circumstances" for a Rutgers grad, provided that the young lawyer was female, specialized in social issues, and came from the Newark campus. Elizabeth Warren just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

    That's because Ruth Bader Ginsburg was female, specialized in social issues, and had been on the faculty at Rutgers-Newark. She became the General Counsel for the ACLU in 1973 and took 6 cases to the Supreme Court between 1973 and 1978 -- winning all 6.

    The University of Houston saw a chance to play Moneyball with one of its own alumna. The University of Texas then used its reputation to acquire one of Houston's rising stars. And they were right, weren't they? She became famous, didn't she? Now the country is full of UH and UT grads saying that they took a class with Elizabeth Warren.

    “with one of its own alumna”

    That should be “alumnae.”

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  44. @Curle
    I've found an incredibly strong correlation between law school attendance and intellectual ability.

    I’ve found an incredibly strong correlation between law school attendance and intellectual ability.

    positive or negative?

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  45. […] [EDIT (7/6/2016): Razib Khan discusses the same issue here.] […]

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  46. @Historian

    Her problem is that her JD is from Rutgers. Rutgers is ranked 92nd out of the 200 law schools. In ordinary circumstances, Harvard will trash can a resume from a Rutgers grad.
     

    She was on the faculty at Texas (#15), Michigan(#8), and Pennsylvania(#7) before she worked at Harvard.
     
    Elizabeth Warren began her academic career in 1978 at the University of Houston (#50), her undergrad institution. She then worked her way up the rankings. It's not like Harvard hired her in 1978.

    The 1970s were not "ordinary circumstances" for a Rutgers grad, provided that the young lawyer was female, specialized in social issues, and came from the Newark campus. Elizabeth Warren just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

    That's because Ruth Bader Ginsburg was female, specialized in social issues, and had been on the faculty at Rutgers-Newark. She became the General Counsel for the ACLU in 1973 and took 6 cases to the Supreme Court between 1973 and 1978 -- winning all 6.

    The University of Houston saw a chance to play Moneyball with one of its own alumna. The University of Texas then used its reputation to acquire one of Houston's rising stars. And they were right, weren't they? She became famous, didn't she? Now the country is full of UH and UT grads saying that they took a class with Elizabeth Warren.

    Nonsense. You have no idea how focused academia generally, and law in particular, is focused on prestige. One might have a career like that in physics. Not in law.

    Unless … you discover your native American heritage while toiling away at UH and that allows you entree to the Bigtime. Heck her research pretty much sucks too.

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    • Replies: @Historian

    Nonsense. You have no idea how focused academia generally, and law in particular, is focused on prestige. One might have a career like that in physics. Not in law.

     

    You're applying 2016 logic to a career that began in 1978. The doors were just slamming shut at that time. Elizabeth Warren was basically the last person to squeeze through the doors before they closed.

    You can see this credentialism take hold everywhere. For example, it used to be common for Supreme Court Justices to come from a public law school background. The last one, John Paul Stevens, was nominated in 1975.

    Or just look at where the professors at the University of Houston went to law school! Compare the older faculty to the newer faculty. You can see the credentialism ramp up.
  47. Just to add to your point Dan MacArthur point Razib, I did one of ancestry.com’s autosomal DNA tests about a year ago, and when I plugged my results into Gedmatch, my best match was 97% North Dutch and 3% Tabassaran / Chechen. For my mother’s test, that 3% doubled to 6%, and for my grandfather it doubled again to 12%. Going back into my grandfather’s family tree, we found a question mark 3 generations back – his paternal grandfather’s father. So the 3% Chechen component was really.

    The genetic difference between Chechnya and western/central Europe are so great that they pushed all my Germanic, Celtic and Slavic ancestry into a single “North Dutch” component, leaving the Chechen 3% to stick out like a sore thumb.

    So yah, a genetic test can pick out a 1/32 component quite easily if its sufficiently different from the other 31/32.

    But Huntington’s is one of those diseases where we have a good sense of age of onset because it’s triplet repeat length is proportional to age of onset.

    I believe there’s still a fair amount of variance in it though (based on a friend’s family’s experience).

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  48. @Walter Sobchak
    Elizabeth Warren is not Cherokee, never was. She is whiter than Queen Elizabeth. She lied about being an Indian to get a job.

    Lizzie wanted a job as a law prof at Harvard Law School. Her problem is that her JD is from Rutgers. Rutgers is ranked 92nd out of the 200 law schools. In ordinary circumstances, Harvard will trash can a resume from a Rutgers grad. According to Wikipedia: "As of 2011, she was the only tenured law professor at Harvard who had attended law school at an American public university." Rutgers, like I said is 92nd. Berkley, Michigan, and Virginia are tied for 8th (84 places ahead of Rutgers) and none of their grads has a job at Harvard.

    I would guess that Lizzie started the Indian scam long before she got a job at Harvard. She was on the faculty at Texas (#15), Michigan(#8), and Pennsylvania(#7) before she worked at Harvard. I doubt that any of those schools would touch a Rutgers grad either

    Harvard will not hire a Rutgers grad without an extraordinary circumstance like race quotas. Being a Federal Court of Appeals Judge, or writing the leading academic treatise on some large area of the law would also work. Warren's only shot was to be an Indian (she was even less plausible as a Black or a Mexican), so she did it, and got away with it. She is not the only one in Academia who pulled that stunt. Remember War Churchill.

    Harvard will never confess. They are embarrassed that they got flimflammed so easily. It would seem to be ordinary due diligence to check with the tribe when a potential hire is claiming tribal affiliation, but they didn't. My guess would be that PC prevents them from asking or checking. There have been a number of other recent prominent racial misrepresenters, such as Shaun King of Black Lives Matter and Rachel Dolezal of the NAACP.

    I just want to add, that I am not saying that Rutgers grads are in anyway inferior to graduates of higher ranked schools. They are not. Law school attendance has about zip to do with intellectual ability. Law schools are really caught up with snobbery and rankings. always have been. They have to, they just trade schools with intellectual pretensions.

    I had a strange experience 30 years ago as a post-doc looking to be hired as a non-tenured faculty at a medical school: The research director looked at me long and hard (I look somewhat like Elizabeth Warren – meaning WASP), “Don’t you have something in you? Some ancestry to give you a ‘leg up’ (in the research grant application process)…?”

    I joked that 3 1/2 centuries since my European ancestors washed up on North American shores I might well have some Native antecedents.

    “Great!”, he crowed, “We’ll put that down.” I politely walked out of that phony ‘academic’ garbage can and into private practice.

    I realized that some academic centers want to be ‘flimflammed’ so they can rely on your loyal dishonesty to keep the game going. A principled answer was a non-starter in that interview.

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  49. @artichoke
    Nonsense. You have no idea how focused academia generally, and law in particular, is focused on prestige. One might have a career like that in physics. Not in law.

    Unless ... you discover your native American heritage while toiling away at UH and that allows you entree to the Bigtime. Heck her research pretty much sucks too.

    Nonsense. You have no idea how focused academia generally, and law in particular, is focused on prestige. One might have a career like that in physics. Not in law.

    You’re applying 2016 logic to a career that began in 1978. The doors were just slamming shut at that time. Elizabeth Warren was basically the last person to squeeze through the doors before they closed.

    You can see this credentialism take hold everywhere. For example, it used to be common for Supreme Court Justices to come from a public law school background. The last one, John Paul Stevens, was nominated in 1975.

    Or just look at where the professors at the University of Houston went to law school! Compare the older faculty to the newer faculty. You can see the credentialism ramp up.

    Read More
  50. Well that article was one of the more honest assessments about genealogical DNA testing I have read. I have my MyOrigins results and I will admit they actually match with all my ancestors arriving to the, what would become the United States, between 1609 – 1759 and all from the British Isles if I’m going to believe the list of surnames in my family tree that I’ve collected.

    The MyOrigins results are pretty accurate, based on that I was taught in college about Scandinavian invasions and the even older PIE expansion into the British Isles except that I was told by my maternal grandmother that her maternal grandmother was part Indian and my maternal grandfather said that his mother was part Shawnee (and I only recently discovered that she was born in Indiana if I’ve found the right person).

    And I’ve since found other lines in my written tree besides my maternal grandparents that do have supposed Amerindian ancestry. In fact, someone comments above about his Amerindian ancestry on chromosome 2 and I can make a good guess what historical couple that commenter inherits that autosomal DNA from because I only discovered that I have that autosomal DNA on chromosome 2 in the past week. I also found out recently that male descendants of that surname I inherit that autosomal DNA from on chromosome 2 have tested their Y-DNA and they have several types of Amerindian Q Y-DNA.

    So those finding by me makes my 4% Finnish and Northern Siberian MyOrigins results wrong and too high. Although I do have mtDNA that has to originate back to Finland and I have reason to believe it came during the time of the New Sweden from Forest Finns, the 4% result MyOrigins is giving me must be partly the set of my Amerindian ancestry that was completely left off of my results.

    That doesn’t bother me as I am enjoying trying to figure out which surnames that Amerindian ancestry is being inherited from and Blevins / Madden / Goodman /Bolin / Shepherd /Stanton surnames that have claims of Amerindian ancestry that I need to investigate.

    Maybe someday I will figure out what surname the really small amount of sub-saharan DNA comes from too. That’s so small it must only be one surname.

    Contrary to some commenters here claim, what I’m doing is not blood worship, but simple factual statement of the truth of the past of my ancestry. As it turns out this has opened up learning about all sorts of people’s cultures that were never in the spotlight of our history books and the spotlight of leadership, although I’ll admit not every discovery has been pleasant, I am surprised at the almost uniform mundane humbleness of all those people’s lives in contrast to the focus of the history lessons they burn our ears with.

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