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From my new column in Taki’s Magazine:

Raphael’s Plato and Aristotle, from the wall of the Pope’s apartment

I’m sometimes accused of having created a vast secret corpus of sinister ideas that I keep carefully hidden away from the millions of words I’ve published.

I’ve always wondered: When exactly would I have had the time to do this? And do I really seem like the kind of writer who would cunningly keep his best ideas unexpressed, especially when there is a big “Publish” button staring me in the face and all I have to do is click on it?

On the other hand, what about the giants of the past who had the brainpower to pull off something as complicated as this? The political scholar Leo Strauss (1899-1973) and many of his neoconservative acolytes have long argued that greats such as Plato and Aristotle had both inoffensive doctrines for the public and “esoteric” teachings for their inner circles. …

We haven’t heard much about Straussianism lately due to the unfortunate series of events in Iraq that befell the best-laid plans of the sages. But that doesn’t mean that Strauss was necessarily wrong about the ancients. And that has interesting implications for how we should read current works.

As the approaching 20th anniversary of the publication of The Bell Curve reminds us, the best minds of our age have reasons for being less than wholly frank. …

A new book—Philosophy Between the Lines: The Lost History of Esoteric Writing, by Michigan State political scientist Arthur Melzer—vindicates the Straussian view that:

Philosophical esotericism—the practice of communicating one’s unorthodox thoughts “between the lines”—was a common practice until the end of the eighteenth century.

Read the whole thing there.


I don’t know much about being an electrician, but is the babe on the ladder really being pure genius about how to handle high voltage wires?

With the 20th anniversary of the publication of Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray’s The Bell Curve coming up in October, you’re going to be seeing journalistic references to how, of course the concept of IQ has since been thoroughly discredited and nobody cares about IQ anymore and so forth and so on.

But then there’s popular culture, which is more IQ obsessed than ever. My wife channel-surfed past the new CBS show “Scorpion” and remarked to me that the characters gabbed more about their IQ scores than anything else. Now, Grantland has done the hard work of transcribing the opening episode’s dialogue for us:

How Smart Are the Quirky Geniuses of ‘Scorpion’? Let’s Just Ask Them, They Can’t Shut Up About It

SEPTEMBER 23, 2014

Scorpion, the relentlessly publicized new drama that debuted last night on CBS, is a show about a ragtag team of misfit geniuses who solve problems that the Government (played with trademark craggy resolve by Robert Patrick) can’t handle on its feeble-minded own. We know that this ragtag team is composed entirely of misfit geniuses because they remind us of this roughly every five seconds of their 44-minute screen time. Even making allowances for the often-awkward stage-setting of pilot episode exposition, these geniuses do a lot of talking about their brilliance. Did you forget this is a show about geniuses? Don’t worry, they’ll drop that in three more times before the next Big Bang Theory promo.

The Scorpion team — excuse us, </Scorpion>, because if you don’t close the markup tag, their bursting-at-the-seam brains will leak out of your television set and onto your rug — runs the TV-supernerd gamut: There’s the handsome-but-socially-maladjusted leader genius, the overweight-and-awkward-OCD genius, the mechanical-engineer-who-seems-like-the-tough-one genius, and the behavior-reading-hustler-in-a-fedora-and-hoodie-underneath-a-leather-jacket genius. Also: There is a waitress (Kat McPhee) whose average-at-best emotional intelligence makes her the Stephen Hawking of empathy by comparison. She has a genius child whose massive intellect she’s ostensibly ill-equipped to nurture, because how is somebody who’s busy refilling that bottomless coffee cup supposed to realize her Lil Scorp is playing an intense game of crypto-chess with salt shakers and napkin dispensers?

So: Would you like to know more about how smart they are? Of course you would. Let’s run down all the genius-talk from last night’s episode, so you’re better prepared to appreciate the dazzling spectrum of quirky savants you’ll encounter next week. …

“We have a combined IQ of 700 and we can’t even pay our bills.” …

“Even with half my IQ, I wouldn’t be dumb enough to believe you twice.” …

“Walter O’Brien is one of the five smartest people alive.”

“Einstein had a 160 IQ. Mine’s 197.” …

“I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but your son is a genius.” …

“Toby grew up penniless, gambled his way through school. Even then, he got his doctorate at the age of 17.” …

“For all practical purposes, I have no right brain. People with high IQ tend to have low EQ. That’s emotional quotient.” …

“You’re the world’s smartest computer guy.”

It’s almost like people don’t believe what they read in Respectable Journalism, including even the ones who write it.


From the New York Post:

7-Eleven owners admit ‘plantation’ system to boost profits
By Selim Algar September 22, 2014 | 4:31pm

A crew of crooked 7-Eleven franchise owners pleaded guilty to setting up a “plantation” system for illegal alien employees to increase profits at their Slurpee strongholds in Virginia and Long Island, according to the feds.

Five defendants copped to knowingly hiring illegal aliens, siphoning off their earnings and forcing them to live in dingy boarding homes scattered across Suffolk County, according to court papers.

The scheme skimmed a total of $2.6 million that was owed to the workers, court papers state.

Mastermind Farrukh Baig — a Pakistani bigshot who counts former Prime Minister Pervez Musharraf as a pal — faces up to 20 years in prison at his sentencing.

If you can’t trust a friend of Pervez Musharraf, who can you trust?

The exploited staffers served affluent customers at locations including Sag Harbor and Greenport while living in squalor, prosecutors said.

The mostly Pakistani and Filipino workers routinely labored a staggering 100 hours a week behind the counter and were paid just $350 to $500 in cash — about a quarter of what they had earned, according to the feds.

… Baig and his henchmen covered up the scheme by stealing the identities of American citizens — including kids, the deceased and a US Coast Guard cadet — and assigning them to their staffers.

So it’s really about the American Dream. Immigrants like Farrukh Baig built this country and they continue to enrich it with Diversity.


For a long time, libertarians have been arguing that all we have to do to unleash African-American entrepreneurship is deregulate: get rid of zoning laws, occupational licensure, and the like, and blacks will surge into small business. For example, economist Steven Horwitz of Bleeding Heart Libertarians seized upon Ferguson to write in the WSJ:

How libertarians can bridge the political divide over race

What both share is a belief that racial disparities need not be the result of direct person-to-person racism or the failings of minority communities. Rather, it is structural racism at work, and it concerns both libertarians and progressives, and it should concern conservatives….

• When mostly white politicians, often at the behest of mostly white businesspeople, pass occupational licensure and zoning laws that raise the cost of entering occupations or engaging in home-based businesses that are particularly attractive to non-whites, you have structural racism.

I used to sort of believe that, too.

Perhaps that was relevant in the 1950s, but a lot has changed since then as I realized about 1990, when I walked into a new hair products retail shop in Uptown, Chicago that had been opened by the in-laws of the Korean immigrants who owned the dry cleaners we frequented. The dry cleaning lady was very friendly so my wife wanted to buy something to help her in-laws get off the ground. But each and every item for sale in the store was unusable upon white (or Korean) hair. It was all for black hair. These Kims or whomever had come 10,000 miles to sell stuff to housing project blacks. The store was no doubt a lot tidier than if it were owned by African-Americans and probably cheaper, too. But, still …

Owning a black hair products shop seems like it ought to be a way up for the occasional enterprising African-American woman from the hood, who is my fellow citizen. For example, the first African-American millionaire, man or woman, was Madame CJ Walker, who invented the conk. But they can’t compete against upper middle class immigrants from Korea.

From the NYT:

Black Women Find a Growing Business Opportunity: Care for Their Hair


Not much seems unusual about Judian and Kadeian Brown’s storefront in a tidy plaza off Church Avenue in Flatbush, Brooklyn, a neighborhood where every block seems to have its own African hair-braiding salon.

Posters of African-American women with long, sleek hair fill the window. Round jars of shea butter belly up to slender boxes of hair dye on the shelves. Wigs perch on mannequin heads.

What makes Black Girls Divine Beauty Supply and Salon’s visitors do a double-take is the skin color of the proprietors. “I go, ‘Look at all the faces on the boxes,’ ” said Judian Brown, recalling other shopkeepers’ and customers’ surprise when they realize she is not an employee, but the owner. “Who should be owning these stores?”

The Brown sisters’ is one small shop in a multibillion-dollar industry, centered on something that is both a point of pride and a political flash point for black women: their hair. But the Browns are among only a few hundred black owners of the roughly 10,000 stores that sell hair products like relaxers, curl creams, wigs and hair weaves to black women, not just in New York but across the country. The vast majority have Korean-American owners, a phenomenon dating back to the 1970s that has stoked tensions between black consumers and Korean businesspeople over what some black people see as one ethnic group profiting from, yet shutting out, another.

I don’t say this a lot, but in this case, let me say it to the Brown sisters: You Go Girl.


A reader points out that the BBC is trying to get worked up over discrimination against the tattooed:

‘I lost a job because of my tattoos’

Readers have been getting in touch about their experiences of terminated job interviews, losing out on promised promotions and leaving jobs because of their tattoos.

Will World War Tt take off like World War G and World War T did?

Will WWTt be followed by WWPB, in which pit bull owners get revenge on all the golden retriever owners who snubbed them at the dog park?

Maybe, but I don’t think so.

These are all status competitions, and tattoos and pit bulls are pretty sure markers of low status.

So, I don’t think this is going to fly.


A few weeks ago, the New York Times engaged in a Maoist struggle session with its own retrograde elements over use of the adjective “burly” to describe various burly black men. Now it’s “angry black woman.”

The Public Editor’s Journal – Margaret Sullivan

An Article on Shonda Rhimes Rightly Causes a Furor

The article on the television producer Shonda Rhimes hadn’t yet appeared in Sunday’s paper, but the virtual world was ablaze in protest over it on Friday after it was published online.

Written by the longtime TV critic Alessandra Stanley, its first paragraph – with a reference to Ms. Rhimes as an “Angry Black Woman” – struck many readers as completely off-base. Many called it offensive. Some went further, saying it was racist.

Another reference to the actress Viola Davis as “less classically beautiful” than lighter-skinned African American actresses immediately inspired a mocking hashtag. (Ms. Stanley’s article was pegged to a show, starring Ms. Davis, that will debut this week on ABC, “How to Get Away with Murder.”)

One email from Patricia Washington, a longtime Times subscriber, addressed Dean Baquet, the executive editor, with a copy sent to me. She wrote:

I am deeply offended by the story written by Alessandra Stanley about Shonda Rhimes being an angry black woman. At first, I tried to give Ms. Stanley the benefit of the doubt and thought that she was attempting to be irreverent. Then I realized that she was being racist, ignorant, and arrogant. It is interesting that I have never seen any of Ms. Stanley’s stories refer to any white producers of TV or film programs in racist, stereotypical terms. As awful as the story is, she got her facts wrong because Shonda Rhimes is not the executive producer of the new show, “How To Get Away With Murder.”

I am a black woman and a lawyer. I have worked very hard to achieve in my profession and earn respect. I live in a very nice suburban community in Maryland. And yet, none of that makes one bit of difference because a New York Times writer can make whatever offhanded, racist opinions about a successful TV producer who is a black woman she cares to make, and because she has the protection of The New York Times behind her, can publish it. Because Ms. Stanley is a New York Times writer, her story has reached a national audience. Why is Ms. Stanley allowed to characterize Ms. Rhimes as she did and get away it? Why is she allowed to characterize Viola Davis as she did in her story and get away with it?

Ms. Stanley’s story was a backhand to me and it hurts. For the first time, I am considering cancelling my New York Times subscription because this story is much more than disagreeing with the writer’s opinion. This story denigrated every black woman in America, beginning with Shonda Rhimes, that dares to strive to make a respectable life for herself. No matter what we do, as far as Ms. Stanley is concerned, we will always be angry and have potent libidos as we have been perceived from slavery, to Jim Crow, and sadly in September 2014, the 21st century.

Please remove Ms. Stanley from the New York Times. None of us who read your paper should ever be subjected to this.

Of course, Patricia Washington’s pitch-perfect impression of an angry black woman at her angriest could always be the poor old NYT getting trolled by 4chan.

Anyway, here’s Alessandra Stanley’s original article

Wrought in Rhimes’s Image
Viola Davis Plays Shonda Rhimes’s Latest Tough Heroine

Stanley — who isn’t, by the standards of TV critics, stupid — tried to bring a little flair of intelligence to the usual You Go Girl boilerplate. The NYT pays the best so their writers tend to be smarter than the average member of the lumpenintelligentsia. Unfortunately for NYT writers, social media now allows the angrier members of the dimwit masses to more relentlessly sniff out signs of intelligent life at the New York Times and rally the offended.

By the way, I’ve never seen “Scandal” or Shonda Rhimes’ new show with the usually excellent Viola Davis, but I have seen about five minutes of her “Grey’s Anatomy” a half dozen times over the years. Each time it starts out seeming pretty good — hey, there’s what’s her name from “Arliss,” you know, Sandra Oh, who used to be married to Alexander Payne. But I’ve never made it past the five minute mark because it’s dawned on me once again that “Grey’s Anatomy” is aimed at a really low IQ audience: at least 1.5 standard deviations under the intended audience of, say, the very high end drama “The Wire.”

Half the country is below average in intelligence and they deserve shows suitable for their needs. But, it’s kind of embarrassing that, because it was created by a black woman, you aren’t supposed to mention just how dumb “Grey’s Anatomy” is.

I suspect that was Ms. Stanley’s original sin: she’s smart enough to recognize that “Grey’s Anatomy” (and maybe, for all I know, the rest of Shonda Rhimes’ output) is a steaming pile of stupidity. Assigned to promote the latest thing Rhimes has slapped her name on, Stanley tried to come up with something to say in favor of Rhimes without outright lying about how Rhimes makes Nabokov look like a mental midget. But that just angried up all the angry black women out there who could be informed via Twitter that their heroine was being dissed.


As the years go by and the evidence continues to pile up for what we might call the iSteve worldview, a general trend seems to be for public figures to make ever more strident and boneheaded declarations of True Belief in the Dogmas of the Age, whether to protect themselves or to bully their victims.

For example, Jeffrey Goldberg, the American-born former IDF prison guard who is a prominent journalist regarding the Middle East for The Atlantic, is angry about something the head of Human Rights Watch tweeted:

A few days ago, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, tweeted the following statement: “Germans rally against anti-Semitism that flared in Europe in response to Israel’s conduct in Gaza war. Merkel joins.”

That seems pretty unobjectionable. So why is Goldberg up in arms over it?

Anti-Semitism in Europe did not flare “in response to Israel’s conduct in Gaza,” or anywhere else.

How does he know this? He knows from first principles:

It is a universal and immutable rule that the targets of prejudice are not the cause of prejudice. Just as Jews (or Jewish organizations, or the Jewish state) do not cause anti-Semitism to flare, or intensify, or even to exist, neither do black people cause racism, nor gay people homophobia, nor Muslims Islamophobia.

Now, you know and I know and Jeffrey Goldberg knows that he is BSing us. (If Goldberg doesn’t realize he’s being disingenuous, he ought to be humiliated by his public display of ignorance.) Most likely, Goldberg is just laughing at both the silly people who believe his nonsense and at the public-spirited people who open themselves up to hatred and attack by the mob by pointing out the implausibility of his bullying.

A general principle I’ve been enunciating for many years is that stupid principles really don’t benefit stupid people; instead, dopey ideas typically are most exploitable by clever, ruthless guys like Jeffrey Goldberg.


Hugh Eakin writes in the NYT:

Some 40,000 Syrians have arrived in Sweden since the conflict began. And following a decision to offer permanent residency to all Syrians, Sweden is expecting more than 80,000 asylum seekers in 2014, many of them from Syria.

In its largess, Sweden diverges from countries like Britain, the Netherlands and Denmark, which have taken in far fewer Syrian asylum-seekers — generally granting them only temporary residency — and just several hundred United Nations-sponsored refugees each. Even more dramatic is the contrast with Norway.

A far wealthier social democracy than Sweden, Norway spends a greater share of gross domestic product on humanitarian assistance than any other country in the world. It also has the lowest unemployment in Europe and, like Sweden, several decades of experience with immigration.

Yet Norway is not encouraging asylum-seekers. When I recently asked one of the very few Syrians I met in Oslo why he had chosen Norway, he said, “I thought Oslo was in Sweden.” And while the Norwegian government has agreed to resettle 1,000 United Nations-selected Syrian refugees, this summer it rejected 123 of them because of medical conditions deemed too serious for local health services to manage.

This has put Sweden and Norway on opposite sides of an emerging debate: whether advanced welfare states designed for small and homogeneous societies in the mid-20th century are capable of absorbing large numbers of non-European foreigners.

In Sweden, a closely patrolled pro-immigration “consensus” has sustained extraordinarily liberal policies while placing a virtual taboo on questions about the social and economic costs. In Norway, a strong tradition of free speech and efficient administration has produced a hard-nosed approach about which refugees, and how many, to take in.

The Norwegian Foreign Ministry has calculated that because of all the social, health, housing and welfare benefits mandated by the state, supporting a single refugee in Norway costs $125,000 — enough to support some 26 Syrians in Jordan. And the Norwegian press has reported that following an alleged terrorist threat from abroad in July, Norway’s immigration authorities deported asylum seekers who raised security concerns.

Unlike the far-right Sweden Democrats, which have been shunned by other Swedish parties, Norway’s own anti-immigration party, the populist Progress Party, has entered a coalition government and makes its concerns heard. Solveig Horne, the minister of children, equality and social inclusion, and a member of the Progress Party, complains that Norway already has more asylum seekers than it can accommodate. “More and more are allowed to stay in Norway,” she told me in Oslo last month. “But many communities are saying, ‘Wait. We have to be sure we can integrate the people we already have.’ ”

This is just the kind of blunt talk that is strictly avoided in Sweden. Take the comments of the incumbent prime minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, a few weeks before last Sunday’s election. He asked voters to “open their hearts” to Syrian refugees, even though the escalating cost of supporting them would preclude further welfare benefits for Swedes. The comment caused an outcry — not because it seemed to favor refugees over Swedes, but simply for suggesting that refugee policy needed to be considered on economic grounds. …

“Sweden is very puzzling,” said Grete Brochmann, a leading Norwegian immigration scholar. The Swedes, she said, “are extremely liberal toward immigration, but they have a very authoritarian attitude toward debate about it. In Norway the idea is, open discussion is basically good. If there’s hostility, better to get it out.”

That’s not actually a paradox. For example, Ferdinand Marcos was extremely liberal about compensating himself from the public trough, but had a very authoritarian attitude toward debate about it. It’s really not that puzzling when you stop and think about it.

By the way, I’m reminded of prominent Syrian-American Tony Rezko’s boast that he got another 100 Rezkos into the United States after he arrived from Syria in 1971.


NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof’s latest column celebrates pretty pop singer Alicia Keys for fighting for racial justice in Ferguson by having herself Photoshopped wearing nothing but a giant peace sign painted on her pregnant belly:

ALICIA KEYS is a superstar singer who has mostly kept her clothes on and gossip off. So what is she doing in this photo, dressed only in a peace sign?

Her answer has to do with the purpose of life. Last month, as she was sickened by grim news — from the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., to the toll in Gaza and Syria — a friend of hers lobbed a provocative question about the meaning of our existence: Why are you here?

“Nobody had asked me that question before,” Keys recalled. It got her thinking about her mission in life, her legacy. She is one of the world’s best-known singers, but many of her songs have been about love or heartbreak. She has 35 million fans on Facebook and almost 20 million followers on Twitter, but she wasn’t leveraging that audience for some broader purpose.

So she is now starting a We Are Here movement to channel her music and her fans to social justice causes, from stricter gun laws to criminal justice reform, from gay rights to global girls’ education.

“I want to gather an army,” Keys told me. She wants to galvanize that infantry of fans from feeling frustrated about the world to improving it.

Kristof has been writing NYT columns for a long time. Recently, it’s starting to seem like he’s just trawling through old iSteve postings looking for hot-button subjects that he can write something inane about that will generate a lot of comments without getting him in trouble with the Volunteer Auxiliary Thought Police.

Here’s a photo from iSteve back in 2008 of Alicia Keys looking adorable in her Huey Newton leather coat, Eldridge Cleaver shades, and her own AK-47 gold pendant in the shape of the automatic rifle. An Associated Press article noted at the time:

There’s another side to Alicia Keys: conspiracy theorist. The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter tells Blender magazine: “‘Gangsta rap’ was a ploy to convince black people to kill each other. ‘Gangsta rap’ didn’t exist.”

Keys, 27, said she’s read several Black Panther autobiographies and wears a gold AK-47 pendant around her neck “to symbolize strength, power and killing ‘em dead,” according to an interview in the magazine’s May issue, on newsstands Tuesday.

Another of her theories: That the bicoastal feud between slain rappers Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. was fueled “by the government and the media, to stop another great black leader from existing.”

Keys’ AK-47 jewelry came as a surprise to her [white] mother, who is quoted as telling Blender: “She wears what? That doesn’t sound like Alicia.”

And yet, if Alicia Keys were 47-years-old, making the whole “AK-47″ thing even more appropriate, theoretically-speaking, it would somehow be less cute.

Funny how that works.

In the meantime, AK, enjoy it while you’ve still got it.


The New York Times is going all out today to push Climate Action against carbon emissions today, with multiple articles in its most prominent newshole:

Marchers carried a giant sunflower during the People’s Climate March in New York on Sunday.CreditDamon Winter/The New York Times

Steven Greenhouse · @greenhousenyt

This August was the hottest August on record & 2014 could be the hottest year on record. http://t.co/DrDt6HGnGm#climatemarch @thinkprogress

But the ultimate test of the seriousness of global warming activists is whether they campaign against mass immigration.

I wrote in VDARE on August 8, 2010:

The causes of global warning are disputed, but let`s assume for the sake of analysis that human output of “greenhouse gases” does indeed cause global warming. It ought to be close to self-evident that immigration to America increases this country’s—and the world’s—output of those gases.

The logic is very simple: If immigrants from poor countries successfully assimilate to American norms of earning and consuming, they, and their descendents, will emit vastly more carbon than if they stayed home.

According to the UN`s International Energy Agency, residents of America in 2007 put out an average of 19.1 tons of carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas, by fossil fuel combustion—e.g., by driving around, by being warm in winter and cool in summer, and by watching TV.

In contrast, the residents of Mexico each emit 4.1 tons per year. In other words, the typical inhabitant of America churns out 4.6 times as much carbon dioxide as the typical inhabitant of Mexico.

So, if an average Mexican immigrates to the U.S. and fully assimilates to average American patterns of earning and spending, he will emit 4.6 times as much carbon dioxide as if he stayed home in his own country. (Even more important are the impact of his descendents …). …

Of course, it’s also important to remember that not all immigrants come from Mexico. Many Americans don’t realize it, but by Third World standards, Mexicans on average aren’t particularly poor. According to the CIA World Factbook, there are no less that 5,366,204,659 people living in countries with lower average per capita incomes than Mexico.

To put it another way, 79% of world lives in countries poorer than Mexico.

(Of course, the Mexican average is a little skewed by the World Richest Man, Carlos Slim, major creditor of the New York Times, and his fellow oligarchs.)

It’s commonly implied in the MSM that Mexicans immigrate to the U.S. to avoid seeing their children die of starvation. Yet, life expectancy in Mexico (76.3 years) is now essentially as high (97.5 percent) as in the U.S.

No, Mexicans don’t immigrate to America to live longer—they immigrate to live larger: to have a large vehicle, a large house, a large TV, and a large family. All of which equate to large carbon emissions.

… in most other immigrant-exporting countries, the carbon emission immigration multiplier is substantially higher than that of Mexico. For instance, if a normal Dominican immigrates to America and successfully assimilates his carbon emissions would increase 9.7 times. For most Central Americans, the Immigration Multiplier is around 20X. For Haitians, it`s 79.3X.

… When I’ve brought these inconvenient truths up in discussions, on the rare occasions when Save the Worlders respond logically, they sometimes dredge up the response that Mexico will, surely Real Soon Now, emit as much carbon per capita as the U.S.

I don’t see much evidence for that in the UN figures. Mexico’s per capita carbon emissions were estimated to be 18 percent as high as America’s in 1982, and 22 percent as high a quarter of a century later in 2007. At that rate, it would take many generations to close the gap.

Global warming activists haven’t found many other objections to sputter. Their thought processes tend to be restricted to Immigration Good! Carbon Bad! Does not compute… These are HateStats! …

Moreover, the more you think about the impact of Mexican immigration, the worse it is for carbon emissions. Immigration contributes both directly and indirectly to sprawl. Mexican immigration to cities tends to drive Americans, including blacks and American-born Hispanics, to the exurbs to find decent public school districts—at the cost of long commutes for parents. For example, immigration into Los Angeles, with its mild climate, spawned an enormous housing bubble in the hot Inland Empire, where air conditioning costs are high.

As Joel Kotkin has often pointed out, most immigrants in the 21st Century want to spend as little time in the inner city as possible and instead move directly to a suburb or exurb.

Finally, Mexican immigrants tend to have higher birthrates in America than they would have had if they stayed home. In California in 2005, foreign-born Latinas were having babies at a rate of 3.7 children per lifetime versus about 2.4 for women in Mexico and 1.6 for American-born white women in California.

… When the impact of greenhouse gases on global warming is finally brought to the attention of global warming activists, many scoff at the idea that immigration could have any sizable impact on the U.S. population.

But that is simply ignorance. The Pew Research Center reported in 2008:

“If current trends continue, the population of the United States will rise to 438 million in 2050, from 296 million in 2005, and 82% of the increase will be due to immigrants arriving from 2005 to 2050 and their U.S.-born descendants, according to new projections developed by the Pew Research Center.” [Immigration to Play Lead Role In Future U.S. Growth, by Jeffrey Passel and D`Vera Cohn, February 11, 2008]

So, that`s 116 million additional people in America due to immigration from 2005 onward. (Perhaps another 50 or 60 million of that forecasted population of 438 million would be due to immigration from 1965-2004.)

Assuming that these immigrants emit carbon at the American average, the U.S. in 2050 will emit 39 percent more carbon than if an immigration moratorium had been imposed in 2005.

Read the whole thing there.


Screenshot 2014-09-20 19.22.34

Jean Raspail’s 1973 dystopian novel The Camp of the Saints is being played out piecemeal in the Mediterranean this year with enormous numbers of African and Middle Easterners trying to make it to the wealthy north side of the sea.

A new paper in Science fiddles with UN population forecasts to make them more statistically sophisticated and, holy cow, there are a lot of babies in Africa:

World population stabilization unlikely this century

Patrick Gerland et al.
Science, forthcoming

The United Nations recently released population projections based on data until 2012 and a Bayesian probabilistic methodology. Analysis of these data reveals that, contrary to previous literature, world population is unlikely to stop growing this century. There is an 80% probability that world population, now 7.2 billion, will increase to between 9.6 and 12.3 billion in 2100. This uncertainty is much smaller than the range from the traditional UN high and low variants. Much of the increase is expected to happen in Africa, in part due to higher fertility and a recent slowdown in the pace of fertility decline. Also, the ratio of working age people to older people is likely to decline substantially in all countries, even those that currently have young populations.

From Science Daily:

Most of the anticipated growth is in Africa, where population is projected to quadruple from around 1 billion today to 4 billion by the end of the century. The main reason is that birth rates in sub-Saharan Africa have not been going down as fast as had been expected. There is an 80 percent chance that the population in Africa at the end of the century will be between 3.5 billion and 5.1 billion people.

Other regions of the world are projected to see less change. Asia, now 4.4 billion, is projected to peak at around 5 billion people in 2050 and then begin to decline. Populations in North America, Europe, and Latin America and the Caribbean are projected to stay below 1 billion each.

Above I’ve used Google to plot Total Fertility Rates (projected babies per woman per lifetime) for the three most populous countries in Africa. The TFR in Ethiopia has been falling, but is still well above 4. In Nigeria and Congo, its at six.

The concept of Demographic Momentum needs to be understood. Say that tomorrow, the TFR in Nigeria and Congo instantly dropped from 6 to the replacement level of 2. Would the population stabilize immediately? Not for many decades. You see, the women who are having six children today would still wind up having 12 grandchildren, whereas in a country where the TFR has been stable at 2 for a generation, mothers can expect to have four grandchildren eventually.

But in both Nigeria and Congo, there really hasn’t been a trend toward substantially lower TFRs over even the last half century.

Environmental reporter Andrew Revkin writes in the New York Times:

The United Nations and the streets of Manhattan are going into global warming saturation mode, from Sunday’s People’s Climate March through the Tuesday climate change summit convened by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and on through an annual green-energy event called Climate Week.

Largely missed in much of this, as always seems the case with climate change discussions, is the role of population growth in contributing both to rising emissions of greenhouse gases and rising vulnerability to climate hazards in poor places with high fertility rates (think sub-Saharan Africa). …

But family planning, for instance, should absolutely be seen as a climate resilience strategy in poor regions. This is how I put it in 2010:

Africa’s population is projected to double — from one to two billion — by 2050. That means exposure to [deep, implicit] climate hazards will greatly increase in many places even if climate patterns don’t change at all. So family planning, and sanitation and water management, sure sound like vital parts of any push for climate progress.

I’d be happy to shift my view if someone can explain a flaw in my logic.

The flaw in Revkin’s logic is that logic is racist.


Back in 2008, the U.S. bet heavily on Mikheil Saakashvili, hipster president of Georgia, against Vladimir Putin. In the spring of 2008, the U.S. promised Georgia eventual NATO membership despite the objections of NATO members actually in Europe. From July 15-30, 2008, 1,000 American troops engaged in war games in Georgia with Georgia’s army. On the night of August 7-8, 2008, Saakashvili, in imitation of Napoleon and Hitler, started a war with Russia by sending freshly American-trained Georgian army tanks over the internationally patrolled border with the breakaway territory of South Ossetia, only to lose ignominiously in less than a week.

What’s the man America’s Deep State bet on over Putin up to these days? From the NYT:

Exile on North Seventh Street

Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgia’s Ex-President, Plots Return From Williamsburg, Brooklyn


At the Smorgasburg food fair in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Mikheil Saakashvili motored in fluorescent green sneakers among bearded men with tattoos and women in revealing overalls. They lined up for Cheese Pops, Dun-Well Doughnuts and other local delicacies. He ordered a coconut.

“My friend, one of the biggest sheikhs of the United Arab Emirates, gave Georgia 20,000 palm trees,” Mr. Saakashvili, the former president of Georgia, said as he dropped a straw in the machete-opened fruit and emptied its milk with a few deep pulls. “As a personal gift.”

Mr. Saakashvili is in self-imposed exile on North Seventh Street — plotting a triumphant return, even as his steep fall from grace serves as a cautionary tale to the many American government officials who had hoped he would be a model exporter of democracy to former Soviet republics.

Since leaving office last November, this George W. Bush favorite — whose confrontation with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia led to a disastrous war in 2008 — has commandeered his uncle’s apartment in a tower on the Williamsburg waterfront, where he luxuriates in the neighborhood’s time-honored tradition of mysteriously sourced wealth. When not lingering in cafes, riding his bike across the bridge or spending stag evenings with friends on the Wythe Hotel rooftop, Mr. Saakashvili seizes on the Ukrainian conflict and his experience with Mr. Putin’s wrath as a lifeline back to political relevance.

“It’s the end of Putin,” Mr. Saakashvili, 46, said of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, the topic of discussion on Thursday as its president, Petro Poroshenko, met in Washington with President Obama and Congressional leaders. Mr. Saakashvili called Mr. Putin’s actions “very, very similar” to those in Georgia. “I think he walked into trap.”

But Mr. Saakashvili, considerably plumper than when he was in power, argues that the conflict should also mark a reappraisal of his own reputation as a reckless leader whose peaceful Rose Revolution and commitment to reform were eclipsed by years of riding roughshod over opponents, bending the rule of law and provoking Mr. Putin into a war that resulted in the death, displacement and impoverishment of thousands of Georgians. “It should be revisited,” he said.

Mr. Saakashvili said that while he had a “normal life” in Brooklyn, he considered himself a big deal in Eastern Europe, pointing out that on a recent trip to Albania “they shut down traffic for us and our 20-car escort.” …

For now Mr. Saakashvili is writing a memoir, delivering “very well-paid” speeches, helping start up a Washington-based think tank and visiting old boosters like Senator John McCain and Victoria Nuland, the assistant secretary of state. He said he was in the process of changing his tourist status here to a work visa and in the meantime is enjoying the bars and cafes of his adopted homeland. On his roof deck, with sweeping views of Manhattan, he has entertained David H. Petraeus, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and is expecting Nicolas Sarkozy, the former French president, at the end of the month. …

Our Man in Tbilisi (now in Brooklyn)

“I used to look at this place from Manhattan, it was such a pity, it was mafia, a place where hit men dump bodies,” he said, recalling his time in the 1990s as a Columbia University Law School student. Now he sees “a jazzy atmosphere” rife with energy and new construction.

“Williamsburg is part of the democratic transformation,” he said.

Mr. Saakashvili tends to see a lot of things through the lens of democracy building. He calls the fashionable Cafe Mogador “my absolute favorite cafe, because it’s very democratic.” And while he complains about Williamsburg’s high cost of living (“I’m not poor poor, but it really bites”), the champion of free enterprise admires the social mobility of his new neighbors.

“They are hipsters,” he said. “But they are still making tons of money, and they live a pleasant lifestyle and make it in life. They are no longer a marginal part of society.” …

On a more recent weekend, the man the Secret Service once dubbed “the Energizer Bunny” charged out of the food fair and into the Artists & Fleas market, where he pulled Prada sunglasses from his graying sideburns and went straight to a booth selling clocks made from retro hardcover books. “I bought 50 of them and sent them back to my presidential library,” he said. …

The former president usually takes the L train into Manhattan, where he frequents Oda House in the East Village (the owner likes him, the waiter does not) and Pepela, where he orders a 2004 vintage of the dry red Georgian wine Orovela Saperavi and he recently lunched with Bill Clinton.

In his Columbia days, he lived in Astoria, Queens, with his Dutch wife, Sandra Roelofs, who worked at Cheesy Pizza before they found jobs at Manhattan law firms and moved to the Upper West Side. “Queens is like wannabe New York,” Mr. Saakashvili said. “I remember that bitterly. Williamsburg is like New York, not over-the-bridge people.” As he spoke he looked over the Williamsburg Bridge. …

She’s not a stripper, honey, she’s an artist!

In August, Georgian prosecutors charged Mr. Saakashvili with using public money to pay for, among other things, hotel expenses for a personal stylist, hotel and travel for two fashion models, Botox injections and hair removal, the rental of a yacht in Italy and the purchase of artwork by the London artist Meredith Ostrom, who makes imprints on canvases with her naked, painted body. They have also charged him in a violent crackdown on a rally of political protesters in 2007. If convicted, Mr. Saakashvili could serve up to 11 years in prison.

Mr. Saakashvili is also accused of using public money to fly his massage therapist, Dorothy Stein, into Georgia in 2009. Mr. Saakashvili said he received a massage from Ms. Stein on “one occasion only,” but Ms. Stein said she received 2,000 euros to massage him multiple times, including delivering her trademark “bite massage.”


Jan van Eyck was less than 75 when he very creatively created The Arnolfini Portrait in 1434. This worries Ezekiel Emanuel.

Ezekiel Emanuel is the bioethicist of the three Emanuel brothers: another is Rahm, the Mayor of Chicago, and the third is Ari, the Hollywood superagent portrayed by Jeremy Piven on Entourage. (Why we are supposed to take moral advice from a celebrity ethicist whose beloved brothers are notorious examples of amoral ruthlessness never seems to come up …) Ezekiel recently wrote in Vanity Fair about how Rahm was discriminated against as African-American when he spent a lot of time at Foster Beach in Chicago.

Now, the 57-year-old Ezekiel has an article in The Atlantic about how he hopes to die at age 75 because nobody is very creative after 75, which is true.

Of course, not many people are very creative at all at any age, so why they should be terminally depressed that they are less likely to suddenly, say, compose the 21st Century equivalent of the Eroica Symphony or whatever after they hit 75 doesn’t seem all that germane.

However, Dr. Emanuel’s article does have a subtext:

My father illustrates the situation well. About a decade ago, just shy of his 77th birthday, he began having pain in his abdomen. Like every good doctor, he kept denying that it was anything important. But after three weeks with no improvement, he was persuaded to see his physician. He had in fact had a heart attack, which led to a cardiac catheterization and ultimately a bypass. Since then, he has not been the same. Once the prototype of a hyperactive Emanuel, suddenly his walking, his talking, his humor got slower. Today he can swim, read the newspaper, needle his kids on the phone, and still live with my mother in their own house. But everything seems sluggish. Although he didn’t die from the heart attack, no one would say he is living a vibrant life. When he discussed it with me, my father said, “I have slowed down tremendously. That is a fact. I no longer make rounds at the hospital or teach.” Despite this, he also said he was happy.

In other words, when is my dad going to hurry up and die?

When is his Elderly Tourette’s Syndrome going to stop being a potential threat to his sons’ careers by revealing how the Emanuels really think, like in 2008 when the codger crowed after son Rahm was appointed Obama’s Chief of Staff:

“Obviously he will influence the president to be pro-Israel,” he was quoted as saying. “Why wouldn’t he be? What is he, an Arab? He’s not going to clean the floors of the White House.”

On the other hand, the old man, while he’s no longer the driven super-achiever Zionist Irgun paramilitarist race warrior of his younger days, has a wife who would probably miss him were he gone, and at least nine grandchildren. Maybe he’s happier now that the internal fires that drive the Emanuel men to thrust themselves so aggressively into public life are no longer burning quite as hotly in him.


With Scottish secession losing its referendum, it’s time to discuss what Enoch Powell called the West Lothian Question. From my recent Taki’s column:

In 1977, Tam Dalyell, an anti-devolutionist Labour MP from Scotland’s West Lothian, asked what the intensely logical Tory Enoch Powell christened the West Lothian Question:

“For how long will English constituencies and English Honourable members tolerate … at least 119 Honourable Members from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland exercising an important, and probably often decisive, effect on English politics while they themselves have no say in the same matters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?”

The answer so far has been: indefinitely.


Great Theater of Miletus, Turkey: capacity 15,000 to 25,000

In Freakonomics in 2012, superstar economist Daron Acemoglu and his sidekick James A. Robinson used a Q & A with readers to promote their book Why Nations Fail and its all-purpose theory that “extractive institutions” rather than “inclusive institutions” were to blame for anything bad that ever happened anywhere in the history of the world.

Q. I am from Haiti, a country that you guys speak of quite often. I moved here to the States about ten years ago for school. Anyway, I’ve always wondered why countries dominated by blacks have done so terribly (and I am not trying to make us look stupid)? My questions stems from the fact that even within Haiti, the wealthier people are the sons and daughters of ex-pats from Europe or Syria, but in the larger picture, countries heavily dominated by blacks tend to fail. I don’t know many countries in the world where blacks are at the top of the social pyramid; it is concerning. Does it have to do with slavery; more than slavery, education? And how would it be solved in a 30-year plan for example? -Jean-Marc Davis

A. The fact that nearly all countries which are headed by black people are poor is a coincidence.

There is nothing intrinsic about black people that makes such countries poor. Just look at Botswana — it is run by and for black people, but it is one of the great economic success stories of the past 50 years. The same is true of several Caribbean countries, such as the Bahamas. The reasons for this are several-fold. Let’s focus just on Africa. Historically (before European influence), Africa developed extractive institutions for reasons that are not well understood.

For instance, the fact that the construction of centralized states in Africa lagged behind Eurasia is not really understood. This history of extractive institutions then created a terrible vicious circle in the early modern period. First, the slave trade destroyed states and made economic institutions more extractive, and the poverty of Africa then allowed it to be colonized by Europeans. This left a legacy of extractive institutions with which African countries have been struggling since independence. But there is nothing inevitable in this process. Fifty years ago, you would have asked “How come every country run by Asians is poor”?

We don’t ask that because we know that many Asian countries have changed their development paths. They, of course, had advantages Africa did not have, such as a history of centralized states. More broadly, there is nothing inevitable about the fact that the Industrial Revolution happened in Britain and soon after spread to Western Europe and these countries’ superior technologies allowed them to colonize large parts of the world. This was the outcome of a long contingent process of institutional change. This process did not happen in Africa, but that has nothing to do with black people but rather different histories of institutions and different shocks. In the book, we illustrate this by talking about Ethiopia. In 400AD, Ethiopia looked very similar to states in the Mediterranean basin, but then it experienced very different shocks and while these other societies changed, Ethiopia got stuck.

Obviously, this explanation wouldn’t strike anybody better informed and more objective than Daron Acemoglu, the Malcolm Gladwell of MIT, as terribly persuasive. (Of course, I often wonder if implausibility isn’t considered a virtue these days. If the point is to demonstrate your True Faith, then Acemoglu and Robinson’s opening tactical salvo of “The fact that nearly all countries which are headed by black people are poor is a coincidence” isn’t as funny as it would sound to the Man from Mars. If the point is not science but witch-sniffing, then making assertions so lunkheaded they are bound to raise a smile in anybody with an active brain is brilliant, even if it’s simultaneously stupid).

So, rather than critique Acemoglu’s thrashings, let me try to work out a fundamental explanation for why Africa, the home of anatomically modern humans, was long so far behind even other tropical lowlands such as the Yucatan.

I’ve put up a picture above of an immense ruin I visited five years ago, the theater in Miletus in what’s now southwestern Turkey, because there are a lot of ruins in this world. Turkey is full of ancient ruins (as are Mexico, Guatemala, and Peru).

This theater in Turkey is particularly jaw-dropping because it’s not just the usual hillside converted into seating, like in Ephesus or Bodrum/Halicarnassus. You drive through empty, flat farmland and them you come upon this old theater that struck me at the time as, “Not as big as Wrigley Field.” It’s definitely less massive than most current major league baseball stadiums, but I couldn’t say offhand how it compares in size to NBA/NHL arenas like the Staples Center. I’ve seen estimates that it seated 15,000, 18,000, and 25,000. In any case, it’s built on the same pattern as modern outdoor sports facilities, with big tunnels under the stands to help you get to and from your seat without having to walk in front of most spectators who arrived earlier.

There’s an explanation for why this vast ruin is in the middle of an empty field today: back in Ancient Greek times, Miletus used to be a big port city. But the meandering Meander River silted up the harbor, so it’s now five miles inland from the Mediterranean. Miletus was a big league city in world cultural history: it was the home to Thales, whom the two most famous logicians in history, Aristotle and Bertrand Russell, considered the father of philosophy and/or science.

Is this sports and entertainment facility the creation of extractive or inclusive institutions? Well, I suppose you could argue it either way. But the clear lesson is that, in any case, to pay for and erect this grandiose edifice there clearly had to be a lot of institutions and a lot of surplus to extract. Otherwise, you couldn’t pay for this theater, as well as all the philosophers and scientists associated with Miletus (such as, besides Thales, Anaximander and Leucippus).

Why this meandering reminiscence of mine about a random ruin in Turkey? Because sub-Saharan Africa has remarkably few ruins for its immense size.

This fact is not well known. It is so hazy in the contemporary mind that Henry Louis Gates managed to sell PBS on a six episode miniseries about African ruins called The Wonders of Africa without, apparently, anybody in PBS management calling his bluff about the lack of wonders that his camera crew would wind up documenting in one of the most boring documentary series of the 21st Century.

The only book I’ve read that has wrestled seriously with the implications of sub-Saharan Africa’s relative lack of ruins is John Reader’s extraordinary Africa: Biography of a Continent.

Reader’s argument is that the reason there are few ruins is because there was little wealth in sub-Saharan Africa before outside interventions. The Economist’s 1998 review of Reader’s book noted:

Much of Africa’s history is explained by its fragile soils and erratic weather. They make for conservative social and political systems. “The communities which endured were those that directed available energies primarily towards minimising the risk of failure, not maximising returns,” says Mr Reader. This created societies designed for survival, not development; the qualities needed for survival are the opposite of those needed for developing, ie, making experiments and taking risks. Some societies were wealthy, but accumulating wealth was next to impossible; most people bartered and there were few traders.

In fact, there were few people. Whereas the rest of the world tended to butt up against Malthusian limits on the amount of food that the burgeoning population could wrest from the ground, tropical Africa had plenty of land but strikingly few people.

The problem, according to Reader, was that African humans had a hard time outcompeting other living things in Africa, such as diseases (falciparum malaria and sleeping sickness, most notably) and giant beasts (such as elephants).

To put this in Darwinian terms, humanity not only evolved in Africa, but, unfortunately for the humans, co-evolved along with animals and germs, which gave humanity’s rivals a more than fighting chance. When humans arrived in the New World, in contrast, we killed and ate the local elephants (wooly mammoths) in short order because they didn’t understand how dangerous these two-legged creatures with pointy sticks were to them. In Africa, the elephants had seen us coming for millions of years and had time to evolve behavioral defenses against us.

A herd of elephants seems cute to us in America today, but one can eat an entire African village’s crop of food in a day, leaving it starving. So, as Reader notes, humans and elephants in Africa tended to form patchworks of habitation, with humans only living in areas where they could muster enough density of population to drive off the elephants and giraffes and predators.

But too high a density of population, such as in cities, made people sitting ducks for diseases borne by mosquitoes and tsetse flies. The germs in tropical Africa were even worse than the megafauna. Thomas Pakenham’s 1998 review of Reader’s book in the New York Times explains:

Why did Africa south of the Sahara fare so badly in the last three millenniums? Reader explains Africa’s handicaps in terms of disease and climate. He contrasts the happy colonists who ”by leaving the tropical environments of the cradle-land in which humanity had evolved . . . also left behind the many parasites and disease organisms that had evolved in parallel with the human species.” Up to a point, this must be right. In the African Garden of Eden lurked enemies all the more potent because they were invisible: the malaria bug and other lethal organisms. The liberation of Africa from these enemies began with the period of European exploitation and has continued, somewhat haphazardly, as European drugs are exported to Africa.

For example, from Wikipedia:

Plasmodium falciparum is a protozoan parasite, one of the species of Plasmodium that cause malaria in humans. It is transmitted by the female Anopheles mosquito. Malaria caused by this species (also called malignant[1] or falciparum[2] malaria) is the most dangerous form of malaria,[3] with the highest rates of complications and mortality. As of 2006, there were an estimated 247 million human malarial infections (98% in Africa, 70% being 5 years or younger).[4] It is much more prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa than in many other regions of the world; in most African countries, over 75% of cases were due to P. falciparum, whereas in most other countries with malaria transmission, other, less virulent plasmodial species predominate. Almost every malarial death is caused by P. falciparum.[4]

Humans in Africa evolved a brutal defense against this version of malaria, the sickle cell genetic mutation, which provides some protection if you get one copy of the allele, but (without modern medicine) kills you if you inherit two. We wouldn’t have such an inelegant genetic protection if humans in Africa didn’t need it against such a massive killer. (The less vicious vivax malaria has a safer mutation to protect Africans, the Duffy gene.)

So, tropical Africans couldn’t learn to live in dense urban populations, with all the advanced trades made possible by the concentrations of city life. They largely remained small villagers scratching a living from the ground.

Also, in contrast to the rest of the world, where sexual restraint had its Darwinian advantages in avoiding the Malthusian Trap, tropical Africans found it advantageous to procreate as thoughtlessly as an NFL star like Adrian Peterson, Antonio Cromartie, or Travis Henry. Children weren’t likely to starve because their working mothers could grow enough food for them in the thin tropical soil (without fathers needing to do the heavy lifting of plowing, as on continents with better soil).

And the children were probably going to die of random diseases anyway, for which no amount of paternal investment could protect them before modern medicine. (For example, the hypothesis that yellow fever, which originated in Africa, was spread by mosquitoes was first proposed by Cuban doctor Carlos Finlay only as recently as 1881 and proven by American doctors such as Walter Reed and William Gorgas around the turn of the 20th Century.) So, it made more Darwinian sense in tropical Africa for men to procreate with abandon than to parent carefully.

Is Reader’s late 1990s theory of the difference between Africa (and thus Africans) and the rest of world true? It’s similar to Jared Diamond’s theory in the contemporary bestseller Guns, Germs, and Steel, but is far more detailed, plausible, and interesting. Unlike Diamond’s rather airy theory, it has the advantage / disadvantage of explaining much that we see in modern America as well. Reader didn’t really want to draw out the modern implications in the manner of J.P. Rushton, but it’s pretty obvious reading his book that there are connections between prehistoric Africa and inner city black America.

In the decade and a half since Reader published his highly readable Africa: Biography of a Continent, has any economist, evolutionary theorist, or geneticist directly grappled with testing his model?

Not that I’m aware of. Instead, we have goofs like Acemoglu dominating our intellectual life, such as it is. Isn’t it about time to give serious attention to John Reader’s theory?

• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: Africa, Daren Acemoglu 

Ed West mentioned in The Spectator the remarkable failure of the anti-secession celebrities in Scotland to come up with “mystic chords of memory” arguments for keeping together Britain:

Hugo Rifkind had an interesting piece in the Times yesterday on the Scottish referendum arguing that the No campaign, by focussing on economics and pragmatism (where they obviously have the edge), had totally conceded the realm of emotion and attachment. Yet Rifkind, coming south in his twenties to settle in London, had found that England was his home, too, and ends his article explaining why Britain is indeed one country.

The whole No campaign seems devoid of any idea of British patriotism, indeed barely mentions the B-word in its literature, instead approaching the thing like an unhappy spouse weighing up the costs of sticking with it or leaving to end up poorer. If that’s the reason for union, then it’s not one that’s going to keep the marriage going for very long; and indeed opinion polls show a huge gulf between the over-sixties and the rest of the Scottish population, which suggests that whatever the result this month, independence will come eventually.

And in the south many of those advocating the United Kingdom sound remarkably like they could be making the case for the European Union, using arguments for pooling resources to create a social democracy. JK Rowling’s version of British patriotism may have angered some of the SNP’s weirder supporters, but it would leave many Englishmen cold. Likewise with Eddie Izzard or Tony Robinson: the cheerleaders for union are mainly coming from the soft Left, the very people who least empathise with patriotism or understand the things that hold people together – history, mythology and hormones.

Hogwarts in the Highlands

Consider the failure of J.K. Rowling, the leading popular culture light of the Better Together campaign (she grew up in the veddy English Bristol area of western England, but moved to Scotland to be near her sister after her divorce), to appeal to British patriotism, even though her Harry Potter books are a wonderful capstone of what writers of English and Scottish (e.g., Robert Louis Stevenson and J.M. Barrie) ethnicity have jointly given humanity: the world’s finest children’s literature. Rowling strikes me as one of nature’s conservatives who is intellectually hobbled by today’s sterile liberal Nice White Lady political concepts ill-suited to her rich imagination.

Ross Douthat in the NYT offers what his heroine Rowling should have been able to come up with:

The “yes” campaign has made all sorts of implausible promises, to its discredit, but it has also done something well-and-truly creditable: It has appealed, frankly and without embarrassment, to the human element in politics, the mystic chords of memory, the sense of solidarity and shared history and common purpose that makes nations something more than just arbitrary boundaries drawn for the purposes of enlightened political administration, and nationalism something more than just an inconvenient obstacle to such administration, which is the point of view of many European elites today. Whereas the “no” campaign — well, I’ll let Pascal Emmanuel Gobry tell it:

What does nationhood mean? What does it mean to be a people? Is it merely a self-interested bargain between parties, or does it mean something more?

The Yes campaign in Scotland (for independence) has strong answers to these questions. For the Yes campaign, it means something to be a Scot. Scotland has a history and a patrimony worth cherishing, and this means that the Scots should — finally — have their own say on their future.

Meanwhile, the No campaign has been very clear on these questions: Nope; there’s no such thing as a nation. The only reason the Scots should be part of Great Britain is because it’s a good deal for them. The No campaign has been overwhelmingly an affair of carrots and sticks: It has alternated between offering Scots goodies (more money for schools and hospitals!) and scaremongering about the drastic consequences of a split. The No campaign has articulated absolutely no vision of what it means to be British.

As Gobry notes, this is rather remarkable, since three hundred years of shared, sometimes glorious, never boring history should have supplied a powerful nationalistic argument on behalf of union. (Read this piece, from the Scottish writer Alex Massie, explaining his “no” vote, for hints of how argument might have sounded.) But that’s a language that U.K. elites, like their counterparts on the continent, have trouble speaking nowadays, and so that high ground was ceded to Alex Salmond almost from the start … meaning, in turn that whatever pocketbook appeals were made on the union’s behalf, the emotional appeal of secession was (well, almost, judging by the last polls) strong enough to match.

Now emotion alone is a poor reason to make a leap into the political unknown. But the emotional element in nationalism isn’t just atavistic; it points to something more practically and prosaically desirable, which is the possibility of true self-government.


From the NYT:

Women’s Views on N.F.L. Dim in Wake of Domestic Violence Cases

Does this putative wave of female outrage mean that NFL players will no longer have so many children by so many women?

An iSteve reader invented the Cromartie Index in honor of cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who has fathered 12 children by 8 babymamas and has a reputed Wonderlic IQ test score of 12 out of 50 (where 21 is the mean).

(12 kids + 8 babymamas) / 12 Wonderlic questions right = Cromartie Index of 1.67

Another reader pointed out that former running back Travis Henry has 11 children by 10 babymamas with a Wonderlic score of 9 for a Cromartie index of 2.33.

At the other extreme, Pat McInally a retired Bengals Pro Bowl punter and backup wide receiver from Harvard, has two children by one wife and a perfect Wonderlic score of 50 for a Cromartie Index of 0.06:

By the way, McInally, who lives by the beach in Orange County, is now a collector in the manner of the toothless but brilliant Chris Cooper character in Charlie Kaufman’s Adaptation. McInally puts together world class collections (e.g., Winnie the Pooh first editions), eventually gets bored, auctions them off, then starts collecting Ian Fleming memorabilia or Lennon-McCartney manuscripts or something else:

Paul McCartney once took out an injunction to stop him selling the manuscript of Penny Lane. “He ended up paying a good amount of money, but nothing like what it would have made at auction,” McInally laments with a chuckle. “But it’s tough to fight Sir Paul.”


With Scotland in the news, it’s worth recalling that while the political border between Scotland and England is very old and relatively stable, the Scottish nation itself was an odd amalgam of Gaelic-speaking Celtic Highlanders and English-speaking Saxon Lowlanders who were traditionally terrified of the barbaric marauders from the north. The ironies of this heritage were highly amusing to Victorian historian and imperialist Thomas Babington Macaulay, whose father was from the Highlands.

Below is the bravura portrait of the Highlands I’ve quoted before from Macaulay’s 1855 History of England.

It is not easy for a modern Englishman, who can pass in a day from his club in St. James’s Street to his shooting box among the Grampians, and who finds in his shooting box all the comforts and luxuries of his club, to believe that, in the time of his greatgrandfathers, St. James’s Street had as little connection with the Grampians as with the Andes. Yet so it was. In the south of our island scarcely any thing was known about the Celtic part of Scotland; and what was known excited no feeling but contempt and loathing. The crags and the glens, the woods and the waters, were indeed the same that now swarm every autumn with admiring gazers and stretchers. …

Gleneagles in the Highlands, site of next week’s Ryder Cup

Yet none of these sights had power, till a recent period, to attract a single poet or painter from more opulent and more tranquil regions. Indeed, law and police, trade and industry, have done far more than people of romantic dispositions will readily admit, to develope in our minds a sense of the wilder beauties of nature. A traveller must be freed from all apprehension of being murdered or starved before he can be charmed by the bold outlines and rich tints of the hills. He is not likely to be thrown into ecstasies by the abruptness of a precipice from which he is in imminent danger of falling two thousand feet perpendicular; by the boiling waves of a torrent which suddenly whirls away his baggage and forces him to run for his life; by the gloomy grandeur of a pass where he finds a corpse which marauders have just stripped and mangled; or by the screams of those eagles whose next meal may probably be on his own eyes. …


From the NYT:

Lethal Violence in Chimps Occurs Naturally, Study Suggests

Are chimpanzees naturally violent to one another, or has the intrusion of humans into their environment made them aggressive?

Photo courtesy of Jane Goodall

A new study, published Wednesday in Nature, is setting off a new round of debate around this question.

The study’s authors argue that a review of all known cases when chimpanzees or bonobos in Africa killed members of their own species shows that violence is a natural part of chimp behavior and not the result of actions by humans that push chimp aggression to lethal attacks.

The researchers say their analysis supports the idea that warlike violence in chimps is a natural behavior that evolved because it can provide more resources or territory to the killers, at little risk.

Critics say the data shows no such thing, largely because the measures of human impact on chimpanzees are inadequate.

While the study ostensibly is about chimpanzees, it is also the latest salvo in a long and profound argument about the nature of violence in people, as chimpanzees are humans’ closest relatives in the animal world.

In studying chimp violence, “We’re trying to make inferences about human evolution,” said Michael L. Wilson, an anthropologist at the University of Minnesota and a co-author and organizer of the study.

There is no disagreement about whether chimpanzees kill each other, or about some of the claims that Dr. Wilson and his 29 co-authors make.

Males are more likely to kill than females. Killing chimps in other groups is more common than killings within groups. And chimps tend to attack when they have overwhelming odds on their side.

The argument is about why chimps kill. Dr. Wilson and the other authors, who contributed data on killings from groups at their study sites, say the evidence shows no connection between human impact on the chimp sites and the numbers of killings.

He said that the Ngogo group of chimpanzees in Uganda “turned out to be the most violent group of chimpanzees there is,” even though the site was little disturbed by humans. …

Robert Sussman, an anthropologist at Washington University who supports the idea that human impacts put pressure on chimp societies that result in killings, was dismissive of the paper. “It doesn’t establish anything, really,” he said.

“The statistics don’t tell me anything,” he said. Two sites provided most of the data, he said, while the other 20 communities had few killings. The paper also grouped together killings that were observed, inferred and suspected. There were male killings of males, but also killings of females and infants. And, he said, “They haven’t established lack of human interference.”

… Lurking behind the discussion of chimps is a long-running dispute over whether chimp behavior offers insights about human behavior, as well as an even deeper and older philosophical dispute over whether violence and war are natural for human beings.

Obviously, stereotype threat is at fault. Or lack of universal pre-K. Redlining no doubt plays a role. Clearly, the police dressing in military body armor contributes. Whatever it is, we know that chimps have no agency and thus can’t possibly be responsible for their high rate of chimp-on-chimp violence.

Here’s the abstract:

Observations of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and bonobos (Pan paniscus) provide valuable comparative data for understanding the significance of conspecific killing. Two kinds of hypothesis have been proposed. Lethal violence is sometimes concluded to be the result of adaptive strategies, such that killers ultimately gain fitness benefits by increasing their access to resources such as food or mates. Alternatively, it could be a non-adaptive result of human impacts, such as habitat change or food provisioning. To discriminate between these hypotheses we compiled information from 18 chimpanzee communities and 4 bonobo communities studied over five decades. Our data include 152 killings (n = 58 observed, 41 inferred, and 53 suspected killings) by chimpanzees in 15 communities and one suspected killing by bonobos. We found that males were the most frequent attackers (92% of participants) and victims (73%); most killings (66%) involved intercommunity attacks; and attackers greatly outnumbered their victims (median 8:1 ratio). Variation in killing rates was unrelated to measures of human impacts. Our results are compatible with previously proposed adaptive explanations for killing by chimpanzees, whereas the human impact hypothesis is not supported.

I’d recommend my 1999 National Review article on what we can learn about human nature from comparing five Great Apes species, “Chimps and Chumps” for a review of the epistemological issues:

Looking for insight into human nature by studying our closest relatives in the evolutionary tree, our fellow primates, has become a popular intellectual pastime. For guidance on how to live, we increasingly look less to scriptures and more to our cousins with the low foreheads. Now, there are limits to how valuable a role model our furry friends can provide. While no ape would have been so stupid as to have gotten America into our current Banana War with the European Union, none would be smart enough to get us out either. Conversely, those things that all us primates clearly agree upon (e.g., Bananas: Good! Mother Love: Good! Falling out of Tree: Bad!) tend to be unilluminating.

No, what we want apes to tell us are the answers to those fundamental questions about sex and violence that we humans can’t agree upon. What makes this mode of inquiry so popular — yet so fruitless — is that anybody can turn to their favorite primate for support for their favorite lifestyle. Consider sex and family structure. As any upper-middle class American in 1999 can tell you, nature intended us to live in monogamous, egalitarian, affectionate pairs, like Helen Hunt and Paul Reiser on Mad About You. If you doubt it, just ask our fifth closest cousins, those elegant tree-swinging gibbons.

If you’re an NBA star, however, who likes to drop in only every so often on the various mothers of your babies, our fourth closest cousin, the orangutan of Southeast Asia provides all the justification you need..

Each of our three closest relatives is just as useful (if just as inconclusive) an example to somebody. If ayatollahs took up Darwinism, they would find the Koran vindicated by the noble silverback gorilla, who broods in dignified mastery over his harem. …

Similarly, anti-utopian philosophers find their pessimism about human nature vindicated by the thuggish common chimpanzee, whose basic social unit resembles the Hell’s Angels, complete with murderous raids on other troops and frequent gang-bangs.

However, feminists, aging hippies, and queer theorists have recently discovered to their delight that there is a rare second species of chimp, the bonobo or pygmy chimp.


From my Taki’s Magazine column:

The Scottish independence movement inevitably inspires the question of secession in America. As John Derbyshire has pointed out, the United States represents a vast expanse of territory, and people from distant regions increasingly get on each other’s nerves. In an era of free trade zones and military alliances, wouldn’t it be simplest for the U.S. to break up like the SNP wants the U.K. to end?

I don’t think so, however. The big geographic difference between Great Britain and the U.S. is that …

Find out the answer there.

Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

Steve Sailer is a journalist, movie critic for Taki's Magazine, VDARE.com columnist, and founder of the Human Biodiversity discussion group for top scientists and public intellectuals.

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