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Screenshot 2015-10-27 20.06.18

It’s widely believed that racial gaps in test scores are just class gaps. And, if that’s not true, then it’s assumed that race is fading away in importance relative to class. But an important study shows that in multiracial California, race is becoming more influential in recent years.

October 2015
Saul Geiser
Center for Studies in Higher Education
University of California, Berkeley

This paper presents new and surprising findings on the relationship between race and SAT scores. The findings are based on the population of California residents who applied for admission to the University of California from 1994 through 2011, a sample of over 1.1 million students. The UC data show that socioeconomic background factors – family income, parental education, and race/ethnicity – account for a large and growing share of the variance in students’ SAT scores over the past twenty years. More than a third of the variance in SAT scores can now be predicted by factors known at students’ birth, up from a quarter of the variance in 1994. Of those factors, moreover, race has become the strongest predictor. Rather than declining in salience, race and ethnicity are now more important than either family income or parental education in accounting for test score differences. It must be cautioned that these findings are preliminary, and more research is needed to determine whether the California data reflect a broader national trend. But if these findings are representative, they have important implications for the ongoing debate over both affirmative action and standardized testing in college admissions.

… The regression results show a marked increase since 1994 in the proportion of variance in SAT scores that can be predicted from socioeconomic background factors largely determined at students’ birth. After falling slightly from 25% to 21% between 1994 and 1998, the proportion of explained variance increased each year thereafter, growing to 35% by 2011, the last year for which the author has obtained data. Remarkably, more than a third of the variance in SAT scores among UC applicants can now be predicted by family income, education, and race/ethnicity. This result contrasts sharply with that for high school GPA: Socioeconomic background factors accounted for only 7% of the variance in HSGPA in 1994 and 8% in 2011. …

Nevertheless, even without being able to observe those intermediating experiences directly, regression analysis enables one to assess the relative importance of different socioeconomic factors in predicting test performance. Figure 2 provides standardized regression coefficients, or “beta weights,” for predicting SAT scores conditional on family income, parents’ education, and race/ethnicity. The coefficients show the predictive weight of each factor after controlling for the effects of the other two, thereby providing a measure of the unique contribution of each factor to the prediction.

Screenshot 2015-10-27 20.09.47

In 1994, at the beginning of the period covered in this analysis, parental education was the strongest of the three socioeconomic predictors of test performance. (The standardized regression coefficient of 0.27 in that year means that, for each one standard deviation increase in parental education, SAT scores increased by 0.27 of a standard deviation, when income and underrepresented minority status were held constant.) The predictive weight for parental education has remained about the same since then. The weight for family income has shown a small but steady increase from 0.13 in 1998 to 0.18 in 2011. But the most important change has been the growing salience of race/ethnicity. By 2011, the predictive weight for underrepresented minority status, 0.29, was greater than that for either family income or parental education. When the regression results for the UC sample are pooled across applicant cohorts, race/ethnicity is the strongest predictor of SAT scores over the last four years.

A key implication of this finding is that racial and ethnic group differences in SAT scores are not simply reducible to differences in family income and parental education. At least for the UC sample, there remains a large and growing residual effect of race/ethnicity after those factors are taken into account.

Screenshot 2015-10-27 20.14.46

As shown in Figure 8, the test score gap in California is greatest between black and white SAT takers but has oscillated up and down and shows no consistent trend since 1998. If one were to draw inferences about racial and ethnic differences from the black-white gap alone, one might conclude that there has been little change in this respect.

But that conclusion would be wrong. For all other racial/ethnic comparisons, test score gaps between underrepresented minority and other students have been growing. The Black-Asian, Latino-White, and Latino-Asian test score gaps have increased almost every year since 1998.

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Let’s count the word choices in this huge New York Times feature article:

California Drought Tests History of Endless Growth
The state’s history as a frontier of prosperity and glamour faces an uncertain future as the fourth year of severe shortages prompts Gov. Jerry Brown to mandate a 25 percent reduction in non-agricultural water use.


LOS ANGELES — For more than a century, California has been the state where people flocked for a better life — 164,000 square miles of mountains, farmland and coastline, shimmering with ambition and dreams, money and beauty. It was the cutting-edge symbol of possibility: Hollywood, Silicon Valley, aerospace, agriculture and vineyards.

But now a punishing drought — and the unprecedented measures the state announced last week to compel people to reduce water consumption — is forcing a reconsideration of whether the aspiration of untrammeled growth that has for so long been this state’s driving engine has run against the limits of nature.

The 25 percent cut in water consumption ordered by Gov. Jerry Brown raises fundamental questions about what life in California will be like in the years ahead, and even whether this state faces the prospect of people leaving for wetter climates — assuming, as Mr. Brown and other state leaders do, that this marks a permanent change in the climate, rather than a particularly severe cyclical drought. …

To find out what is to blame for this state of affairs, I hit CTRL-F and looked up how often various words are used in this article:

Lawns – 9 usages

Development / Developers – 7

Golf – 3

Turf – 2

Showers – 2

Gardens – 1

Swimming pool – 1

Burbling fountains – 1

Immigration / Immigrants – 0

Of course, in reality, agriculture uses up 80% of the water in California, including wasting it on absurd monsoon crops like rice. So maybe the 80/20 rule suggests agriculture should be where the bulk of cutbacks should come from. But hiring unskilled illegal aliens to do stoop laborer has traditionally been a major engine of California’s demographic transformation, so Californians must take shorter and fewer showers to ensure that landowners can still haul in enough middle school dropouts from south of the border to ensure that California’s NAEP test scores stay low in future generations.

From the NYT

But never mind all that, the real villains remain Ozzie with his lawn and Harriet with her garden. Of course, non-Hispanic whites in California are down from 15.9 million in 1980 to 15.1 million and 39.0% of the population in 2013, but the liability of white golfers is where attention should be focused. Nonwhites tripled from 7.8 million in 1980 to 23.7 million today, but they are Good so their growth can’t have anything to do with the water shortage. Don’t you understand Science?

• Tags: California, Immigration, NAEP 
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Long time readers know I’ve been interested in the question of school test scores in the two biggest states, California and Texas. In the federal National Assessment of Educational Progress scores, Texas routinely beats California across all racial groups. But the NAEP is low stakes to students, which makes it easier for state officials to manipulate results at the margins.

However, looking at an unverified table of high-stakes SAT and ACT college admission average test scores for 2014, white, Hispanic, and black California high schoolers outscore their counterparts in Texas (using a weighted average of SAT and ACT scores). But Texas’s Asians outscore California’s Asians.

All 350,655 1,016 295,583 973 43
AmInd 1,814 982 1,501 992 (9)
Asian 66,385 1,108 18,569 1,126 (18)
Black 20,667 888 37,615 854 33
Hispanic 131,723 905 113,395 891 14
Other 28,357 1,065 12,961 1,003 61
White 101,709 1,113 111,542 1,069 44

Both states are moderately majority SAT: in California, SAT takers outnumber ACT takers 2.1 to 1, and in Texas 1.5 to 1. This appears to be putting everything on the traditional 400 to 1600 scale, rather than the 600 to 2400 scale of the last decade, but that is being phased out soon. The mean was rescaled in 1995 to, ideally, be 1000 with a standard deviation of 200, although both have drifted since then.

So, California’s overall average is 97 points, or a little under a half of a standard deviation below it’s white average, while Texas’s overall average is 96 points below it’s white average.

I’m not going to put too much credence in these numbers: even if the data are valid (which I haven’t checked), my weighted average methodology is crude. On the other hand, the results don’t seem too implausible.

I mostly want to put some numbers out there to provoke somebody interested in this long-running problem of how to synthesize SAT and ACT scores reliably to try to come up with a more sophisticated general model.

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The feds’ National Assessment of Educational Progress has a table of 4th and 8th grade vocabulary and reading comprehension scores by state. Sample size issues are of concern for smaller states which tend to bounce around, but we can state with a high degree of statistical confidence that the future of the state of California, the traditional State of the Future, looks dumb. Out of the 50 states, the Golden State ranks 48th, 47th, 48th, and 49th on various measures. Here’s the bottom six of 52 in the four different tests:

In contrast, Massachusetts is 1st, 1st, 1st, and 1st, while the District of Columbia was 52nd, 52nd, 52nd, and 52nd (in case you are wondering why D.C. is the 52nd state, Department of Defense schools rank 2nd, 5th, 2nd, 6th). Obviously, the problem is all those Republicans in California and D.C. If only D.C. would develop enlightened political opinions like Massachusetts, its test scores would soar.

Perhaps more relevantly, Texas is 37th, 36th, 37th, and 36th. Texas always beats California on the NAEP. Has anybody studied this to make sure this is not just a test artifact (e.g., Texas cares about the NAEP and California doesn’t)? If it isn’t, why the consistent difference? Texas is pretty bad, but it’s not as bad as California, and beggars can’t be choosers, so somebody ought to be investigating why Texas beats California.

One obvious objection is that the future isn’t as bad as it looks because Hispanics, as new immigrants, are just being held back by the inevitable biases of testing skills in English.

Indeed, this effect does exist, but how big is it? Here’s national 8th grade vocabulary. The first number is score at the 10th percentile, then 25th, 50th, 75th and 90th.

Let’s first compare whites and Asians. At the 10th percentile, Asians lag whites by 8 points. Presumably, a fair number of these Asian 8th graders just got off the plane from China, so their English vocabulary is limited. At the 25th percentile, the White-Asian gap is down to 5 points. At the median, it’s 3, at the 75th percentile it’s 0, and at the 90th percentile, Asians are out in the lead by a point.
Now, compare Hispanics to blacks, most of whom grow up speaking English, but as we all know from hundreds of articles, African-Americans grow up in conditions that would drive a Trappist Monk crazy for lack of speech. In black homes, nobody every talks, watches TV, or listens to rap music. So, black scores on language are bad, with unfortunate long-term consequences.
At the 10th percentile, where many of the Hispanics are newcomers, blacks lead by 2 points. At the 25th percentile, however, Hispanics are out in front by 1 point, by 2 at the median, 3 at the 75 percentile, and 4 at the 90th.
So, clearly, Hispanics who have all the advantages are, on average, a little smarter than blacks who have all the advantages. In other words, if immigration were shut off for a generation or two, Mexicans would appear, on average, perceptibly more on the ball academically than blacks. Indeed, that was my perception back in the 1970s in L.A., where the Chicanos had mostly been a stable population since WWII.
But, nationally, Hispanics only pick up 6 points on blacks going from the 10th to the 90th percentiles, while Asians pick up 9 points on whites, who are, to be frank, a lot more competition.
Being a little smarter than blacks is, well, good. Or, you could say with equal justice, less bad. On the other hand, Hispanics at the 90th percentile among Hispanics, typically those with all the advantages, are simply not playing in the same league as Asians and whites with all the advantages. They’re down there beating out blacks for third place, not being nationally competitive. There’s not a lot of high end in the Hispanic population.
However you look at it, it’s still not very encouraging considering that our leadership kind of bet the country on Hispanics.
(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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From my new column in Taki’s Magazine:

The struggles of even the best-connected California celebrities to nail down every last one of the permits they need to build on their own property helps demonstrate why differences in topography drive Californians toward voting for environmentalist Democrats and Texans toward pro-business Republicans. … 

In Southern California, U2 guitarist The Edge (born David Evans) has been battling for a half-dozen years to build five mansions on his 156 acres of ridgeline overlooking Malibu’s Surfrider Beach, an average of one home per 31 acres. His well-heeled neighbors have gone to war to prevent him from taking such liberties with their view. 

California and Texas are the two largest states in the Electoral College, so it’s worth considering the bedrock reasons they vote the way they do. Having lived in both California and Texas, my guess is that their divergent politics are shaped by the shape of their land.

Read the whole thing there.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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In the new July-August Atlantic, Benjamin Schwarz reviews the latest volume of Kevin Starr’s history of California: Golden Dreams: California in the Age of Abundance: 1950-1963. It makes me nostalgic for what once was. Schwarz is a half-decade younger than me and, I would guess from this, had a similar San Fernando Valley upbringing:

It was a magnificent run. From the end of the Second World War to the mid-1960s, California consolidated its position as an economic and technological colossus and emerged as the country’s dominant political, social, and cultural trendsetter. … In 1959, wages paid in Los Angeles’s working-class and solidly middle-class San Fernando Valley alone were higher than the total wages of 18 states.

It was a sweet, vivacious time: California’s children, swarming on all those new playgrounds, seemed healthier, happier, taller, and — thanks to that brilliantly clean sunshine — were blonder and more tan than kids in the rest of the country. For better and mostly for worse, it’s a time irretrievably lost. …

Starr consistently returns to his leitmotif: the California dream. By this he means something quite specific — and prosaic. California, as he’s argued in earlier volumes, promised “the highest possible life for the middle classes.” It wasn’t a paradise for world-beaters; rather, it offered “a better place for ordinary people.” That place always meant “an improved and more affordable domestic life”: a small but stylish and airy house marked by a fluidity of indoor and outdoor space … and a lush backyard — the stage, that is, for “family life in a sunny climate.” It also meant some public goods: decent roads, plentiful facilities for outdoor recreation, and the libraries and schools that helped produce the Los Angeles “common man” who, as that jaundiced easterner James M. Cain described him in 1933,” addresses you in easy grammar, completes his sentences, shows familiarity with good manners, and in addition gives you a pleasant smile.”

Until the Second World War, California had proffered this Good Life only to people already in the middle class — the small proprietors, farmers, and professionals, largely transplanted midwesterners … But the war and the decades-long boom that followed extended the California dream to a previously unimaginable number of Americans of modest means. Here Starr records how that dream possessed the national imagination … and how the Golden State — fleetingly, as it turns out — accomodated Americans’ “conviction that California was the best place in the nation to seek and attain a better life.” …

This dolce vita was, as Starr makes clear, a democratic one: the ranch houses with their sliding glass doors and orange trees in the backyard might have been more sprawling in La Canada and Orinda than they were in the working-class suburbs of Lakewood and Hayward, but family and social life in nearly all of them centered on the patio, the barbecue, and the swimming pool. The beaches were publicly owned and hence available to all — as were such glorious parks as Yosemite, Chico’s Bidwell, the East Bay’s Tilden, and San Diego’s Balboa. Golf and tennis, year-round California pursuits, had once been limited to the upper class, but thanks to proliferating publicly supported courses and courts (thousands of public tennis courts had already been built in L.A. in the 1930s), they became fully middle-class. This shared outdoor-oriented, informal California way of life democratized — some would say homogenized — a society made up of people of varying attainments and income levels. These people were overwhelmingly white and native-born, and their common culture revolved around nurturing and (publicly educating) their children. Until the 1980s, a California preppy was all but oxymoronic. True, the comprehensive high schools had commercial, vocational, and college-prep tracks (good grades in the last guaranteed admission to Berkeley or UCLA — times have definitely changed). But, as Starr concludes from his survey of yearbooks and other school records, “there remained a common experience, especially in athletics, and a mutual respect among young people heading in different directions.”

To a Californian today, much of what Starr chronicles is unrecognizable. (Astonishing fact: Ricky Nelson and the character he played in that quintessential idealization of suburbia, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, attended Hollywood High, a school that is now 75% Hispanic and that The New York Times accurately described in 2003 as a “typically overcrowded, vandalism-prone urban campuse.”) Granted, a version of the California Good Life can still be had — by those Starr calls the “fiercely competitive.” That’s just the heartbreak: most of us are merely ordinary. For nearly a century, California offered ordinary people better lives than they could lead perhaps anywhere else in the world. Today, reflecting our intensely stratified, increasingly mobile society, California affords the Good Life only to the most gifted and ambitious, regardless of their background. That’s a deeply undemocratic betrayal of California’s dream …

Basically, that was my quite lovely childhood in the San Fernando Valley 1958-1980: ping-pong on the screened-in porch, swimming, backyard barbecues at my relatives’ houses, Yosemite, long hours at the library two blocks away, tennis at the park three blocks away, golf on municipal courses, and UCLA (for my MBA). The only minor differences from the picture Starr and Schwarz paint are that I went to Catholic grade school and high school, and away to Rice for college.

If you want to understand where I’m coming from politically, this is a good start.

That reminds me: Bill James once wrote a book about the politics of getting elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame. He wound up focusing on two statistically marginal members of the HoF: shortstop Phil Rizzuto of the New York Yankees and pitcher Don Drysdale of the Los Angeles Dodgers. James concluded that Rizzuto is in the Hall of Fame because New York in the late 1940s and early 1950s was seen as a magical place, the newly undisputed capital of the world.

I think the same argument could be made about Drysdale. LA in the early 1960s was something special, and the huge fame of Drysdale, a 6’6″ blond surfer born in the San Fernando Valley in 1936, was because he was the exemplar of this national notion that life in Los Angeles was better. (One of Drysdale’s teammates at Van Nuy High School in the 1950s was Robert Redford.)

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: California, LA 
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California’s top political columnist, Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee, writes:

Memo to Californians from everyone else in the world: You folks out there in sunshine land caused this historic global recession, and it’s time for you to mend your ways.

Farfetched? Not really.

A very good case can be made that California‘s developers, mortgage lenders and house-hungry but income- deficient residents, with state and local officials as enablers, created an unsustainable housing bubble. And when that bubble burst, leaving holders of mortgage bundles – many of them overseas banks – with little more than toilet paper, it created a banking crisis that spread to virtually every other segment of the global economy.

No, it was not confined to California. It happened in a few other high-growth states such as Florida, Arizona and Nevada. But nine of the 10 top issuers of subprime and no-documentation mortgages were headquartered in California, and the state has been ground zero for the collapse of those mortgages as adjustable interest rates “reset” upward, having recorded more than a half-million foreclosures and other symbols of distress.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: California, Real Estate 
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George Will writes:

California is exporting talent while importing Mexico’s poverty. The latter is not California’s fault; the former is.

But the rest of his column doesn’t acheive that level of insight.

I think there could be a case made that a high level of Mexican immigration is only manageable under a Texas Republican-style system of low government spending, low taxes, and low environmental regulation. But there are a couple of problems with that. It assumes a Texas-size supply of habitable land so that land prices don’t go through the roof and there will be enough resource extraction jobs, which California really doesn’t have even before all the environmental regulations that the beauty of California inspires. And it assumes that there will be enough Republican voters to keep voting against the new poor people’s urge to vote for tax and spend programs. And how much longer will Texas have that?

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: California 
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An almost-forgotten incident in American economic history was the pyramid scheme that swept Southern California during the stagflation of May 1980. Yet, now that we know that about 2/3rds of the Housing Bubble of 2000-2007 took place just in California, it’s worth reviewing incidents from California’s long history of financial manias.

I missed out on the late May 1980 climax of LA’s Pyramid Fever because I got back to LA on May 16, 1980 after graduating from Rice, then left on May 20 for Europe. I recall reading about the early days in the local newspaper with amazement.

When I got home a couple of months later, nobody ever spoke of it again.

The difference between a pyramid scheme and a Ponzi scheme is mostly that the machinations of the pyramid scheme are out in the open. Time Magazine’s June 16, 1980 issue describes the mechanics of the Great LA pyramid scheme:

For $1,000 each, 32 newcomers buy slots on the bottom row of a pyramid-shaped roster. Each new player pays half of his $1,000 to the person at the pinnacle, who ends up with $16,000. The new player also pays his remaining $500 to the person directly above him on the next tier, which contains 16 people. Since each person on that tier gets paid by two of the newcomers, he ends up with $1,000, thus recouping his original investment. As more people buy in, the players move up the chart. In time, theoretically, each person reaches the top—and $16,000.

The scheme caught on as only a California hustle can. Pawnshops did a booming business, as players hocked stereos to raise the initial fee. Most players, however, were middle-class suburbanites out to fight inflation. Everyone seemed to know someone who had indeed won $16,000. There were runs on local banks for $50 and $100 bills to be used in the night’s gaming. Dentists reported patients, even with mouths full of cotton, soliciting them to join the club. Games were held in unlikely hideaways, including Hollywood sound studios, chartered buses and the Grand Salon of the Queen Mary at anchorage in Long Beach.

The wild thing about this 1980 outburst was that it was the most blatant pyramid scheme imaginable, combining the usual pyramid scheme mechanics with a New Age cult of the Power of the Pyramid.

Back in Gov. Jerry Brown’s California, “pyramid power” was a popular New Age concept. (Although there’s never anything new about New Age in California — the lovely coastal mountain village of Ojai has been a New Age center since the 1800s.) In 1977 I went to a fashionable Westwood hair styling salon where for a few bucks extra you could get your hair cut in a special chair under a pyramid dangling from the ceiling. The pyramidal aura was supposed to help you avoid Bad Hair Days or something. (I declined. But, now that I think about it, I did have a lot of BHDs …)

In May 1980, a vast multi-level cash exchange craze developed in California that explicitly invoked the mystique of pyramids. Every night there were hundreds of house parties hosted by people who had gotten in earlier on this multi-level scam (perhaps the night before). My vague recollection from newspaper reports is that you’d go over to a higher-up’s house and sit with him under his pyramid while you gave him cash in return for your very own kit for building a pyramid out of wire and fabric. The Ancient Egyptian emanations from his pyramid would ensure that you’d get even more cash back from the suckers you’d recruit to buy your pyramid kits from you while sitting under your pyramid.

Perhaps I don’t have the details right, but pyramid imagery was central to the experience, which made this Pyramid Power pyramid scheme hard to debunk. It was already pre-debunked. Anti-fraud authorities would go on the local TV news to denounce the pyramid schemes as “pyramid schemes,” which just served as good advertising. “Well, duh, of course it’s a pyramid scheme,” participants would laugh. “How do you think those Egyptian pharaohs got so rich that they could afford those giant pyramids? Through tapping the secret energy of Pyramid Power!”

Here are summaries of articles from the Los Angeles Herald Examiner from May 21 to June 1, 1980:

“Get-rich-quick ‘chains’ multiplying too fast to stop.” May 21, p. A3.
[California pyramid schemes. Participants a "cross-section". Los Angeles: hundreds of calls a day asking about legality; at least 100 clubs (c. 30 persons each). Parties busted. Alameda County High school pyramid: ounce of marijuana to buy in, pay-off a pound.

“Pyramids: ‘Brother can you spare a dime,’ 1980-style.” May 22, p. A1+.
About 40,000 attend “pyramid parties” in Los Angeles last night (est. 150 to 400 parties). Accounts of arrests. Most common ante $1000, win $16,000. Studio employee: “Studio people are talking about nothing else.” … Some brought to meetings blindfolded. “I never saw anything like it in all my experience as a bunco detective, completely beyond the scope of my imagination.” P. A15: “A pyramid winner tells how she won her money.” Elizabeth Kyger, free-lance writer, 24, tells of splitting $16,000. “I’ve made great business contacts because of this.” Says Ventura freeway westbound jammed in evenings because of pyramid parties.

“Mood of pyramid participants turning ugly.” May 24, p. A5.
Two accounts of anger at Burbank pyramid party site. Out-of-towners now predominate. State Attorney General’s office investigating possible links to organized crime. P. A1+ “Ante goes up to $5,000″ Celebrity attendants to day-time pyramid party attempt to deceive or intimidate reporter upon leaving. Photo (p. 1): Policeman holds up “Pyramid Power” T-shirt confiscated in a raid. Letter “A” of “PYRAMID” forms pyramid

“500 rally at Griffith Park to promote money scheme.” May 27, p. 1+.
Sign at rally: “Business Concept Power Happening.” Attendants defend scheme, claim winnings, exchange pyramid gossip (meeting with 237 buys, a $100,000 ante game). Ventura county brings felony conspiracy charges. Lawyers address crowd – urge no guilty pleas. Petition circulated to DA. Citizen’s Individual Rights and Collective Legal Expression (CIRCLE) distributes fliers criticizing police and media. Photo: Bearded man in pyramid power T-shirt, $ sign between the two words.

“I really feel like a sucker.” June 1, p. 1.
Young printer’s account of collapse of pyramid. Printed 300 pyramid charts. Went in with 3 others at $250 each. Meeting at 8 PM sharp, door locked, a letter was read asking law enforcement and tax collection personnel to admit role. Another person explains pyramid and asks for buy-ins. Last meeting: only people who had lost were present, talk of violence.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: California 
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Yes, that’s what it looked like Monday. Granted, I wasn’t sitting on my yacht at the marina, but that’s the same general view I had from my minivan on the Santa Monica freeway.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: California 
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From the NYT:

California — already in danger of running out of money — reported that its December unemployment rate hit 9.3 percent, up from 8.4 percent in November and waaay up from 5.9 percent in December 2007.

The state shed 78,200 jobs in December, excluding farm workers as the economy is getting hammered by the recession. If California were an independent nation, its Gross Domestic Product would place it among the world’s top 10 countries.

California has one of the nation’s highest foreclosure rates. It is now tied with Louisiana for the nation’s lowest credit-rating. Moody’s has warned it may cut the state’s debt rating, making much-needed loans harder to get and more expensive.

At the same time, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has been chiding his legislature to plug the state’s massive budget shortfalls, projected to be $15 billion this year and $25 billion next year.

This whole bet-the-country-on-diversity experiment is being prototyped in California, which is about four decades ahead of the rest of the country demographically. How’s it working out?

By the way, keep in mind that it’s been 15 years since a very destructive earthquake in California. (By my count, the big destructive ones were in 1906, 1932, 1971, 1989, and 1994.) So, it’s not as if California is overdue … yet. But there will be another Big One. And there are a lot more buildings in California to fall down than in the past, although they are more sturdily built now than in the past. (My house is, I hope, at the other extreme — so flimsily built that the main danger in an earthquake is getting conked by a falling 2″x4″.)

The point is that eventually there will be a trillion dollar earthquake in California that the whole country will have to pay for. Maybe if Obama’s lucky, it will happen soon so he can double his stimulus plan!

And, by another way, that’s one more reason construction in California is slower and more expensive than in Texas: more earthquake safety regulations and costs.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: California 
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Every year in California, we get to vote on about a dozen initiatives, most of which we voters are completely clueless about. I’m not talking about the much publicized gay marriage one — everybody is entitled to an opinion on that. It’s all the bond issues. Shall we issue $10 billion in bonds for a supertrain from LA to SF? How about $7 billion to removes asbestos from LA schools? (I think they both passed. I’m too depressed to look them up.)

Sure, why not? They’re bonds, right, not taxes? So we won’t have to pay them. I guess, theoretically, we’re supposed to pay them sometime, but no doubt we’ll just flip the state to a greater fool before that happens.

Obviously, the initiative system is broken. The state is completely broke, with a predicted illegal shortfall of $25 billion next year in the state budget. Yet voters are continuing to take on debt with no idea how it will be paid. This is the state that sank the world economy. We’re too childish to have that kind of spending power.

The way to fix it is to put a dollar limit on spending mandates for initiatives, such as $100 million, say. Then you could still have initiatives about important issues such as racial preferences or redistricting, but big ticket items would have to be hashed out as part of the budget process by the legislature.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: California 
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Judging from this poll of 60,000 Americans conducted by Travel & Leisure of visitors’ and residents’ attitudes toward 25 American cities to find “America’s Favorite City,” Los Angeles has to be America’s Least Favorite City.

Consider the subsets of the “People” category. Seattle came in first in “Most Intelligent People,” while Los Angeles came in dead last, worse than Las Vegas, Miami, or San Antonio (perhaps 100-year-old Jacques Barzun raises San Antonio single-handedly?)

Charleston was first in “Most Friendly,” while LA was last again.

LA — surly and stupid, like the cast of “Idiocracy.”

LA scored near the top only in “Luxury boutiques,” “Shoe-shopping,” and “Jewelry-shopping.” LA is so hated it only came in sixth in “Weather,” behind (besides San Diego and Honolulu) Miami and Charleston (ever hear of this thing called “Summer”?) and 7,000 foot Santa Fe (ever hear of this thing called “not Summer”?).

The only consolation Angelenos can take is that year by year, the rest of the country becomes more like LA (but with lousier weather):

We’re the future, your future.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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Why did the housing bubble reach the most ridiculous heights in California? Here are several theories and I’d like to hear your ideas:

1. Californians are too lazy and/or stupid to do some arithmetic before signing gigantic contracts for many hundreds of thousands of dollars. (As a native-born Californian, I’d have to say that this sounds plausible to me.)

2. Immigration raises demand for housing and drives down wages, while stressing out public goods like schools and freeways.

3. Momentum — Housing prices had been rising in California most years since 1975, so they just had to continue. They had to.

4. Lack of land — California! is essentially the Mediterranean climate zone, a strip 500 miles long and about 20 miles wide, running from the beach to the first line of mountains in Southern California and the first valley in from the foggy beach north of Santa Cruz. The rest of California is either beautiful but too vertical to be habitable, or is Odessa (TX) West, but with lousier high school football teams. Lots of people bought houses in Bakersfield figuring they had to go up up up because … they’re in California! No, they’re in Bakersfield. If you saw “There Will Be Blood,” you’ll see the sharp difference between the miserable oil town near Bakersfield and the exquisite coast where Daniel Day-Lewis’s pipeline winds up. The oil town was actually filmed in West Texas, but it looks a lot like the Central Valley anyway.

5. Zoning / Environmentalism (which are pretty much the same thing in California) — The land everybody wants is controlled by the California Coastal Commission, so much of it, especially the prime turf between Santa Barbara and Hearst Castle, is unoccupied except by cows.

6. What’s your theory?

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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In the California primary, Hillary won big among Latinos in California by running as a tax and spend Democrat, while Obama ran as a pro-illegal immigrant. The LA Times article says:

The Obama campaign, by contrast, aired Spanish-language radio ads promoting his support for issuing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. That was a “classic Northeastern assumption” that licenses were the primary concern of Latinos, according to Harry Pachon, president of the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute at USC.

“It’s not. I think he would have had much more traction on issues like education, or the loss of jobs . . . issues that resonate with Latino homeowners,” Pachon said.

Yes, Obama is from the Midwest not the Northeast, but in California, everything beyond Las Vegas is considered “back East.”

The thing that people back East like Obama are always forgetting is that illegal immigrants aren’t supposed to vote. Granted, a few do vote illegally, but most wouldn’t vote even if it was legal. They have more than enough drama in their private lives.

Hispanics who can vote mostly don’t really care much about illegal immigrants. They might want legal immigration expanded so they can sponsor more close relatives, but illegals are a pain in the neck — some third cousin shows up and wants to sleep on your couch for a year until he gets settled.

But most politicians and journalists don’t know that because the “experts” they talk to about Hispanics — such as Hispanic political consultants — all want more illegal immigrants because it makes them seem more important. They want to be the “voice” of not 45 million people but, of 90 million or 180 million. Think how much business they would get then!

On the other hand, maybe all this dissection of the California voting is premature. Do we even really know who won the California primaries? I noticed this rather disturbing paragraph in the Thursday morning LA Times article:

“Stephen Weir, head of the state association of elections officials, estimated Wednesday that up to 2 million ballots remained uncounted. An additional 450,000 provisional ballots, filed when there is a dispute at a polling place, were also uncounted, according to Weir, the clerk-recorder of Contra Costa County. Elections officials have until March 4 to complete their tally, on which rests the division of party delegates.”

Up to two million uncounted votes?

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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The weather conditions out here in LA are identical to those of exactly four years ago: a drought year and hot winds off the desert. So, the whole place is on fire once more. The end is nigh, which tends to make a lot of people, many of them Southern Californians, rather pleased. Here’s a quote from my UPI article from October 30, 2003 on “Los Angeles and the Apocalyptic Imagination:”

According to journalist Mike Davis, who became L.A.’s favorite prophet of calamity with his foreboding local bestseller “Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster,” Southern California is widely seen as “the doom capital of the universe.”

He wrote in 1998, “The destruction of Los Angeles has been the central theme or dominating image in more than a hundred and fifty novels, short stories, and films.” Davis counts 49 fictional local nuclear attacks, 28 earthquakes, six floods, and 10 hordes of invading creatures that have helped brand “the City of Angels as a theme park for Armageddon.”

Davis himself can’t resist trumpeting such alarming but trivial threats to residents as tornados, man-eating coyotes, and killer bees. [More]

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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by State, 1960 –
You probably remember the notorious “Democratic
states have higher IQs
” hoax from last May. Well, here, thanks
to Prof. Henry Harpending of the U. of Utah anthropology dept., might be
the closest thing to a national sample of IQ scores ever: the Project
Talent database of 366,000 9th-12th grade students. Unfortunately, it is
44 years years old. Nonetheless, it correlates reasonably with 2003 NAEP
8th grade achievement test scores (here
are the 2003 scores). As you can see, in this list of kids’ IQs back in
the mid-1960s, of the top 10 smartest states, in 2000, Bush and Gore
each won five. So, we’re back to my original conclusion: red states and
blue states are similar in average IQ, as are, on average, Republican
and Democratic voters.

caveats: These IQ scores are set with the national mean of the 366,000
high school students equal to 100 and the standard deviation set to 15.
But, keep in mind that we are only beginning to explore this huge
database, so take everything with a grain of salt.


New Hampshire










New Jersey

New York




North Dakota

















New Mexico






Rhode Island












West Virginia






North Carolina








weren’t adequate sample sizes from Alaska, Washington DC, and South
Carolina, and I excluded South Dakota because the result was too
different from North Dakota. (I think something might be confused about
both South Carolina and South Dakota — I’ll try to find out more.)

also looked at whites only data (unfortunately, the majority of
participants doesn’t have a race recorded) with the smartest whites
(which I suspect is all that white liberals care about — feeling
smarter than white conservatives) were (in descending order):
Connecticut, Montana, Nevada (I bet that’s not true anymore!), Idaho,
Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire,
New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Virginia. The dumbest whites were in
(in descending order): Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina,
Arkansas, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Kentucky. All of these states
voted for Bush in 2000. I suspect, however, that air conditioning and
the abolition of the caste system have some good for the test scores of
whites in the south, especially in North Carolina. Here,
for purposes of comparison, is the 2003 NAEP public school achievement
tests for white 8th graders.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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future looks dumberer —
Looking at the
NAEP scores for public school 8th graders by state (see below),
it struck me that California is a going to be, on average, a much dumber
state in the future than it is now. I always thought of it as a pretty
smart state, what with Silicon Valley, Cal Tech, and aerospace. Even
Hollywood attracts a lot of smart cookies. In the past, these smarts
were spread pretty broadly through the general populace in California.

California’s 2003 NAEP scores for public schools 8th graders are awful:
44th out of 50 states in Math (behind states like Tennessee and Nevada,
a state where the study of probability is the only socially sanctioned
intellectual pursuit) and 49th in Reading (well behind Mississippi).
If California is the pacesetter state, with its 25 year head start on
absorbing immigrants, then the future looks dumber for all of us.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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It’s time for another election in California! Aren’t you excited?

Nobody here in California is, either. Last October’s spasm of civic-mindedness, in which we rose up and threw out Gov. Gray Davis and replaced him with Arnold Schwarzenegger, has largely exhaustedCalifornians’ never-impressive attention span for state and local politics.

Almost nobody has noticed that something interesting might be happening in Tuesday’s Republican Senatorial primary.

Californians normally find Presidential politics more glamorous. Among California Democrats, John F. Kerry appears to have a big lead overJohn Edwards. Among Californians in general, George W. Bush is in free fall. In January’s Field Poll, he led John F. Kerry by nine points, but by late February, he trailed Kerry by twelve.

Despite widespread hopes among stand-up comedians that the movie muscleman’s term as governor would provide a bottomless well of killer material, so far Arnold has proven to be a reassuring but snooze-inducing centrist. He’s addressing the state’s financial disaster in whatis becoming the standard Republican fashion. Rather than significantly cutting spending or raising taxes, he wants voters to approve on Tuesday his plan to borrow billions.

Politically, this is an attractive way to bail out California, since many voters expect that they personally will bail out of California well before the Schwarzenegger bonds come fully due.

On immigration, the single most crucial issue for California’s future, Arnold fulfilled his popular campaign promise to repeal the driverlicenses for illegal aliens bill. But, with no election coming up until 2006, he has lately been looking for a way to sell out his conservative base by giving licenses back to illegals—if he can do it without voters muchnoticing.

Arnold’s one entertainingly Arnoldian (i.e., hyperambitious) moment came when he recently called for a Constitutional amendment opening the Presidency to immigrants, such as, oh, let’s pick a crazy example out of left field, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

So far, there has been no response from his office to rumors that President Schwarzenegger would then agitate for further reforms allowing agnostics to become Pope and Earthlings to become Galactic Overlord.

What is interesting, however, is Tuesday’s Republican race for the right to run against Barbara Boxer, the less respected of California’s two bookend Democratic Senators. (The other is the slightly less liberal Dianne Feinstein). By running against President Bush’s politically-suicidal open borders plan, former state assemblyman Howard Kaloogian is making a late surge from out of nowheresville (3 percent support in last month’s Field Poll) in his long-shot bid to overtake former California secretary of state Bill Jones, who enjoysSchwarzenegger’s endorsement.

Jones isn’t a bad fellow. He probably holds sensible views on illegal immigration within the privacy of his own head. But his perception that he can’t afford to offend the pro-illegal immigration Bushite party Establishment has left him sounding emasculated.

The L.A. Times reports:

“Jones opposes driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants, but rarely broaches the topic unless asked about it. He has declined to take a stand on Bush’s immigration proposal, calling it just a ‘framework’ for reforms and sticking to a general statement against ‘amnesty’ forundocumented workers.” ["State GOP Haunted by Ghost of Prop. 187“, by Michael Finnegan, February 21, 2004]

Now that’s leadership!

In the latest L.A. Times poll, Kaloogian has pulled into second place, with 12 percent, ahead of suburban mayor Toni Casey and former Huntington Park city councilwoman, and Mexican immigrant, Rosario Marin (8 percent).

George F. Will declares Marin’s candidacy “mesmerizing” in a new column that even by Will’s recent standards is embarrassing. Will, once a master stylist, actually begins his endorsement of Marin with this worn-out pseudo-profundity: “Chaos theory suggests that thebeating of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil can set in motion effects that include, in time, a tornado in Topeka.”

Marin is viewed as a strong contender by Establishment Republicans because she is a woman, an immigrant, and because, if you squint closely enough, you’ll see her signature on some of the dollar bills in your wallet. (Marin was a beneficiary of the obscure tradition going back to the Truman Administration of giving the quasi-honorary position of Treasurer of the United States to semi-random nice middle-aged ladies.)

The energetic Kaloogian helped launch the Recall Davis movement last year and then organized the protests against The Reagans, the TV movie that depicted the former President from a puzzlingly gay-centric viewpoint. Kaloogian has picked up the backing of State Sen. Tom McClintock, who acquitted himself well in last fall’s gubernatorial election debates and came in third with 13 percent of the vote.

Kaloogian’s campaign seemed to finally kick into gear when Rep. Tom Tancredo, head of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus, flew in to endorse Kaloogian at a raucous state Republican convention that sounds like it was a lot more fun than you’d normally expect. The L.A.Times reported:

“Hundreds of GOP loyalists booed the president at a rally where U.S. Senate hopeful Howard Kaloogian and hisallies denounced Bush’s plan to give temporary legalstatus to undocumented workers. ‘Enough is enough!’ the crowd shouted. ‘Enough is enough!’ A Kaloogiansupporter, Republican Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado,told the crowd he knew a gynecologist who surveyedpatients about the plan and found it rated ‘right belowgenital herpes.’”[February 22, 2004, Rifts Show at State GOP Event, By Michael Finnegan]

The ridiculous earliness of Tuesday’s primary, three months before California’s traditional primary date in June and a full eight monthsbefore the general election, means that Kaloogian probably doesn’t have time to close the gap. Still, the Field Poll found that 41 percent of likely Republican voters were undecided, so the race remains predictable.

What was predictable, however, was that the L.A. Times would weigh in with another innumerate analysis based on the conventional wisdomthat a Hispanic vote counts more than any other person’s vote. Staff reporter Michael Finnegan wrote in “State GOP Haunted by Ghost of Prop. 187:”

“A growing dispute among California Republicans overillegal immigration threatens to undercut the party’sstruggle to recover from the devastating Latino backlashagainst its support for Proposition 187, the landmark1994 ballot measure… The racially charged campaign forthe ballot measure stained the party’s image amongLatinos and turned Gov. Pete Wilson into a symbol ofdivisiveness.”

Let’s go through this again (yawn): In reality, Prop. 187 united a sizable majority of California voters. It carried almost 60 percent ofthe electorate, and endorsing it enabled Wilson to come back from a 20 point deficit to a 15 point victory.

Reporters have a reputation for cynicism. But the truth is that they aren’t skeptical enough, as this theme paragraph in Finnegan’s article:

“Mike Madrid, a Republican consultant who specializes incampaign appeals to Latinos, said candidates stressingtough stands on immigration risked reviving a ‘mean-spirited’ image that had harmed the party for years—even if the GOP stand was in line with that of most voters.”

Finnegan is so credulous that he bases his point of view on what he’s told by a political consultant—a mercenary whose career is based on his Spanish surname!

Again, here’s what actually happened. After 1994′s triumphs, the GOP Establishment, terrified of being labeled “divisive” by the likes of the L.A. Times, ran away from its best vote-winning theme.

During an era when conservative activists like Ward Connerly and Ron Unz pushed through successful initiatives against illegal immigration, affirmative action, bilingual education, and “gay marriage,” the California GOP ran away from opposition to multiculturalism andnominated inoffensive lapdog losers like Dan Lungren, Matt Fong, Tom Campbell, and Bill Simon Jr. (remember any of them?).

The Republicans, however, lucked out last year. The Democrats,foolishly believing what the L.A. Times had been telling them for years, decided to play … the illegal alien card!

Of course, illegal immigrants can’t vote, and they aren’t very popular with voters.

Davis, who had sensibly rejected drivers’ licenses for illegals earlier, signed the bill in the fall, sealing his fate. Because the conservative McClintock was sapping votes from Schwarzenegger in the balloting to replace Davis, Bustamante only needed a little over 40 percent of thevote to be elected Governor of California. But instead, he campaigned as if he was running for El Gobernador de Mexifornia and earned a pathetic 31 percent.

Final thought: to help restore democracy in America and to get better elected officials, we need to rid our nation of these new winterprimaries. The general public simply isn’t paying adequate attention this early in the year. So issues and candidates simply don’t get the attention they require.

The major party bosses no doubt think this is a clever way to keep control. But it simply makes inevitable the rise of third, splinter parties as continued mass immigration brings the American political system under impossible seismic strain.

[Steve Sailer [email him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and

movie critic for The American Conservative. His website features his daily blog.]

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Ideology • Tags: California, VDare Archives 
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Did Arnold Schwarzenegger win the California governorship because he captured three out of every ten Latino votes, as much post-election chatter has implied?

Of course not. Republicans performed strongly in the California recall because they did what Republicans must always do to win: earn lots of votes from that enormous but apparently unmentionable bloc—whites.

From 1992 through 2003, Republicans lost ten of twelve major elections in California. Paradoxically, this 2-10 record in contests forgovernor, senator, and president is often attributed to the GOP’s last successful effort before the recall: Pete Wilson’s campaign against illegal immigration in 1994, which allegedly unleashed the sleeping Hispanic giant blah blah. But, needless to say, this cliché can’t explain why the GOP candidates in California got skunked 0-3 in 1992 – two years earlier.

The exit polls for these California elections reveal the real explanation. The ten GOP losers in these contests all failed to win a majority of the non-Hispanic white vote. [VDARE.COM note: Stanley Womack of Resisting Defamation complains that "non-Hispanic white" is a put-down, but we feel obliged to use it—at least occasionally— to indicate the specific category so termed by the Census Bureau.] The two GOPvictories, however, did involve a majority of the white vote.

Wilson won 61% in 1994. The two Republican candidates in 2003 seized 67 percent. (I’m lumping Tom McClintock’s 14 percent with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 53 percent because McClintock ran to the right of Schwarzenegger. Alternatively, in a one on one matchup with Cruz Bustamante, Arnold won 66 percent of the white vote vs.Bustamante’s 34 percent.)

In the last seven elections, the gap between whites and Latinos voting Republican has been quite steady: 22-28 percentage points. This year,67 percent of white voted for the two Republicans vs. 41 percent of Hispanics (by the most optimistic count). That’s a perfectly normal 26 percentage-point gap.

Conclusion: no extra Latino leaning won it for the GOP this year. The White vote is what produces GOP victories—hence what VDARE.COM calls (despite my modest disclaimers) the “Sailer Strategy” for GOP success.

Since GOP campaign strategists seem to have trouble understanding this point, I’ve drawn them a picture:

(Click on graphic to enlarge)

The table above shows that in the two GOP wins, marked in red,Republican-voting whites comprised almost half of all the votes cast in the entire state. (Californians vote relatively heavily for minor parties, so 48 percent of all ballots is usually more than enough to win.)

In the ten losses, however, marked in blue, Republican voting whites never exceeded 40 percent of all the votes cast, and often came nowhere close.

In comparison to this overwhelming factor, trivial fluctuations in GOP popularity among minorities were simply insignificant.

(Note that this table captures two effects: Democrats winning more white votes, and whites just staying home in disgust.)

The bottom line: the conventional wisdom that California Hispanic voters currently hold a veto over attempts to cut down on immigration is just an innumerate myth. (Further, a healthy minority ofLatino citizens don’t like illegal immigration anyway, as Cruz Bustamante’s hapless strategy of running for governor of Mexifornia demonstrated.)

Memo to Karl Rove: Assuming you don’t do the perp walk out of the White House over the Valerie Plame outing, you’re going to need an issue for your boy to run on next year. Iraq won it for you in 2002. But that’s not looking like a real vote-grabber in 2004. Your amnesty idea (in the form of drivers’ licenses for illegal immigrants) proved a disaster at the ballot box in California this month.

If you really are the genius your press clippings say you are, you’llfigure out it’s time to reverse field.

Or, as Jesse Jackson might put it:

“GET THE WHITES RIGHT, CALIFORNIA [and the U.S. too, for thatmatter] IS BRIGHT!”

[Sources: I used the LA Times exit polls for 1994-2003 because they offer continuity and consistency. Links:

2003, 2002, 2000, 1998, 1996, 1994. I couldn't find the LA Times' 1992 poll, so I used the one from the now defunct VNS consortium. Links: 1992 Presidential, 1992 Senatorial.]

[Steve Sailer [email him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and

movie critic for The American Conservative. His website features his daily blog.]

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Ideology • Tags: California, VDare Archives 
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Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

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

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