Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Read Stuff, You Should

Happy Birthday to David Krumholtz, 35.

And a little good stuff:

1. John Huber studied electoral systems and ethnic politicization: "[I]n fact PR is associated with lower levels of politicization.   This finding has important implications for constitutional design in divided societies and provides fact-based evidence supporting advocates for PR."

2. Dan Drezner on Richwine.

3. W.W. on Richwine.

4. And Emily Bazelon on the Obama War on Leaks.


  1. The DOJ scandal, in addition to the IRS scandal and the ongoing Benghazi kerfuffle, lays out a pretty good outline for what might galvanize the post-xenophobic, diverse GOP of tomorrow.

    I was recalling a heady time, 8 summers ago, when exasperated liberals declared Republican governance hopelessly incompetent, and swore up and down that, if only we could have an appropriately progressive administration, one that actually cared about government, why everything would naturally operate so much better. So it was and always is with the social utopians.

    Today, though, pretty much all you can say is "Heckuva job, IRS agents", and "heckuva job, Benghazi talking point coordinators", and "heckuva job DOJ" and on and on and on....

    1. Let me get this straight: you are comparing a zealous analysis of non-profit tax applications to Bush's apathy in response to the destruction of a US city, which included the death of 1833 people.

    2. Let me get this straight: you are contrasting incompetent governance from the Obama Administration with that of the Bushies based on associated fatalities?

      You must be even more flummoxed than backyard foundry at the continuing focus on the (apparently) fatality-free Watergate era.

    3. A fair point, although your original comment still has no merit.

    4. CSH, first let me say that I won't take any arguments on the imcompetence of the Bush administration.

      That said, I think it's still too early to pass judgment on the IRS and DOJ issues. The first cries of scandal are always dark and foreboding; let's see how they work out. I remember only too well the firing of Shirley Sherrod the moment an accusation was made, only to discover that the evidence had been falsified, and I would put the defunding of ACORN in the same category. The DOJ business was a response to largely (but not entirely) Republican demands that the leak about the Yemen operation be investigated. The initial reports that came out charged (implied?) that the department hadn't followed its own procedures but had absolutely no basis for making that chaarge, not yet knowing what the department had done. Leaving aside for the moment that the IRS commissioner until last November was a Bush appointee, as well as the fact that 502(c)(4) applications skyrocketed as the IRS payroll got pergressively smaller, I suspect that at least some of the problem there stems from the Supreme Court throwing the relevant laws into dissaray with its Citizens United decision and no one bothering to put the mess back together, or at least certainly not in a timely fashion. But at any rate, let's wait to find out what happened before we pass judgment. You may be right, but I'm sure things will come out that neither of us have guessed at yet.

    5. Actually, I think CSH has a very good point, Purusha. The failures of the Bush administration did indeed motivate the Obama coalition, and the failures of governance in the Obama administration -- which I agree are not at the level of either Bush or Nixon or, for that matter, Clinton, but which are nevertheless clearly failures -- might serve as a rallying point for a future GOP.

      In fact, it is beyond doubt that it will serve as a rallying point for a future GOP, just as it does the present GOP. After all, Carter stills rallies the GOP, and Watergate and Katrina rally Democrats. The question I guess that should be asked, this being the Bernstein blog, is will it motivate them to take policy seriously (i.e. we can do better than that!) or will it motivate them simply to move further from policy in general as a hopeless morass that never does anyone any good? Note, a libertarian, civil rights based policy emphasizing, for instance, strict constraints on the DoJ and the IRS is still a policy, whereas "government is bad" is not a policy.

      If the former, then CSH's post-xenophobic party will be looking distinctly healthier, especially if they grow serious about the political means to achieve it. If the latter, then dysfunction will grow worse. But a diverse GOP with a libertarian bent that is willing to make workable political deals (for instance, we will agree to the funding to implement health care subsidies along with much stricter oversight of the IRS), would not be a bad thing at all.

    6. Scott, I take your points, that this stuff is tricky and there is much yet to know...still, it sounds as though you are characterizing progressive administration competence as (roughly) "We're pretty good when things are easy; when stuff gets difficult, its Katie bar the door".

      Doesn't that - more or less - describe Mike Brown's time at FEMA?

    7. Oh, I should say I also think that Abramowitz probably has the right of how this will play out long term. Given the polarization of the electorate and how we know voters act, none of this is likely to make much difference in the long haul. After all, it was the economy and the war, not really Katrina, that destroyed Bush, and Iran-Contra did not destroy Reagan, nor did Monica bring down Clinton. If it turns out that Obama knew and approved of using the IRS to target the Tea Party, that would be important. But if not, then the only people likely to be swayed over the long term are those that weren't likely to support Obama, or his goals, in any case.

    8. I thought that the problem with "Heckuva job, Brownie" was that Bush said it to the FEMA director who f*cked up. It reinforced the perception that Bush didn't really care about governing, to disastrous results.

      Today Obama fired the IRS director who f*cked up.

      That's a pretty good illustration of how the two incidents are different. Putting aside the fact that the IRS thing is a minor embarrassment, while the Katrina thing killed a bunch of people and destroyed the lives of a couple hundred other people.

    9. That's just Obama "throwing someone under the bus", as the wingers like to say.

  2. Jonathan, would you mind checking the Huber link? I get a 404 error.

  3. I heard a lot of TV pundits this morning express disbelief that Obama wouldn't closely follow the DOJ investigation of A.P. if it involved such an important national security issue. It then struck me that Holder had recused himself because, as someone who knew about the original secret operation that had been leaked, he was among the suspects to be investigated. Well, who else would have known about it? A lot of people in the White House. All White Houses are prolific sources of leaks, most of them "authorized" but some of them not. So if it really was a thorough investigation, the White House staff should have been kept out of it for reasons beyond the normal need to maintain the investigation's independence. As a practical matter, even if Obama himself was not considered a suspect, it would have been difficult to keep him informed without the staff finding out. Or am I missing something?

  4. W.W. does no better or worse than any other prog on this subject. If not for overwhelming emotionalism, everyone could see these contradictions:

    "If scientists are to ferret out even uncomfortable truths, they cannot be made to feel that they will be punished for it. "

    HOWEVER ...

    "Now, I don't think the subject or conclusion of Mr Richwine's dissertation is out of the bounds of reasonable discourse. Yet I think a suspicion of racism is perfectly reasonable."

    BECAUSE ...

    "Grad students can choose from an infinite array of subjects. Why choose this one? Who are especially keen to discover a rational basis for public policy that discriminates along racial lines? Racists, of course. Anyone who chooses this subject, and comes down on the side vindicating racist assumptions, volunteers to bring suspicion upon himself, to expose his work to an extraordinary level of scrutiny."

    Moral of the post: you're allowed to commit heresy, but you will then be disemboweled.

  5. W.W. is simply lying when he claims the following:

    "Were Mr Richwine's dissertation a model of scientific rigour, he might easily enough survive this scrutiny."


    "The current record is Usain Bolt's 9.58 in 2009. Before today, the 10.00 barrier had been officially broken 446 times, 445 of those times by men of West African descent."

    The prog responses to this are the same, a mixture of denials that race is a legitimate category and screams that it's all because of nurture. Maybe 1% of progs will find some way to bend to reality, but only because it shows Africans leading a category.

  6. A couple of things:

    First of all (setting a record for most shameless plugs on someone else's blog), blacks are not inherently: better basketball players, worse calculus students, etc.

    Beyond the reams of research in Colvin's (underrated) book, there is the oft-overlooked fact that the eugenics argument generalizes from examples of expertise. Expertise is - hard. Really really hard. You say that West Africans have something genetically special to run super fast? How do you explain the fact that the overwhelming majority of them, as it happens, don't?

    The appropriate explanation is that there is something cultural that allows West Africans to travel the final few miles from 'really good sprinter' to GOAT. There are lots of really good white sprinters; they don't travel those final few miles. Perhaps they have something better to do, perhaps those West African cultures lack appropriate diversions to displace a young man's pursuit of the sprinter's stratosphere. If that is true (it seems reasonable to me), is that pejorative enough to satisfy the eugenics crowd?

  7. And then Richwine: I didn't read Drezner's column, cause I had to sign up for something and I was too lazy to do that, but I understand that Drezner claimed Richwine's research is crap. Stinking liberal academic, that Drezner. That Richwine's research has been cited nowhere is of little concern - more stinking liberal academics.

    All due respect to our friends Jonathan and Matt and the rest, here's the thing about academics: yes they're liberal, but if there's one thing they love more than their liberal ideology its a big fat juicy cottage industry. Meaning a research area that is controversial enough to get attention (read: big grants) and also generate reams and reams of publications.

    So the fact that Richwine's research struck out universally is not a good sign. Surely, some academics would ignore it, no matter how big the opportunity, out of ideological outrage. But if Richwine's stuff had been worth even a shred of a damn, somebody somewhere would have jumped all over it, out of sheer self-interest.

    Instead: crickets.

  8. So I just looked it up at, and it turns out that of the top 30 all-time NHL scoring leaders from North America, 29 are Canadian. The one American, Mike Modano, is from Livonia, a suburb of Detroit, for all intents and purposes virtually Canada as well.

    More Canadians per capita play hockey than Americans; but the American "capita" is 10X the Canadian. In the Northern US states hockey is a fairly popular sport, surely much greater than 1/30th (in total) as popular as in Canada. The demographic mix of hockey players in the two countries is roughly similar.

    I don't read Sailer much, but I am curious how he would attribute the vastly greater hockey success north of the border. For me, its because even the Americans who play hockey don't do it in quite the same way as the Canadians.

    Could be wrong though. Maybe the French and British and Slavic and German immigrants in Canada had a special hockey gene that their cousins heading to the lower 48 simply lacked.

    1. Here's a graph of W. African runners at different distances:

      And the article from which it was taken, which covers why complex sports like hockey aren't as useful for these kinds of comparisons:

    2. I'd also like to contrast a typical prog explanation of Kenyan running dominance with Sailer's normal output. Starchy mush!

    3. "There are lots of really good white sprinters; they don't travel those final few miles."

      It's not about white vs black. There are no Asians, etc. in that cohort, either. The W. African contingent is a tiny part of the world population.

      More importantly, you're hypothesizing that none of the other sprinters in the world are appropriately competitive. As in, no fast Chinese runner would like to become a lionized and comfortable sports hero by winning a gold medal? Sprinters have one of the easiest training schedules in all of sport and the man who wins the 100 at the Olympics becomes known as "World's Fastest Man," is known of by billions of people, gets his own Wheaties box, and swims in money. The non-W. African portion of the world just decides to give it a pass?

    4. Backyard, for curiosity I checked out your linked Sailer article on Kenyan runners, and I merely wish to note the following: about 3/4 of the way down he includes a paragraph that starts as follows:

      "Still, Bowdoin College anthropologist Scott MacEachern, who has worked in the Great Rift Valley, is unimpressed. "Why do some neighboring populations, especially those in similar environments and practicing even more specialized cattle herding, not produce Olympic champions?"

      Hey, great question! Because Sailer is a *real* scientist, and not some hack ranting in an echo chamber, he deals appropriately with the damning implications of McEachern's question, answering and addressing it at great length....(backslash sarcasm)

      Seriously, backyard, you know your "science" has jumped the shark when your heroes can quote damning hypotheticals from opponents, and just leave them dangling out there like a terrible fart at a cocktail party, and no one cares or even notices. That's not good.

    5. Oh, and, the Chinese:

      1988 Summer Olympics (Seoul, South Korea): 28 total medals

      2008 Summer Olympics (Beijing, China): 100 total medals

      Obviously, a massive and instant genetic transformation allowed the Chinese to win 4X as many Olympic medals over a 20 year period. There couldn't possibly be another explanation.

    6. And one other, from the realm of common sense:

      Sailer would have us believe that this one particular tribe of herdsmen, living in a particular valley of Kenya, "hoarded" a particular genetic mutation that allowed them to be cloaked in glory generation after generation. The neighboring tribes, ostensibly similar - but losers - looked across the valley with jealousy and SOMEHOW - their maidens never sneaked across the valley to get knocked up by the superheroes!!! Or forget about "sneaked", were never even sent by their aspirational families seeking glory of their own.

      It's remarkable that a guy like Sailer, who writes at such length about evolution, doesn't even have the most rudimentary intuitive grasp of how it works.

    7. "Why do some neighboring populations, especially those in similar environments and practicing even more specialized cattle herding, not produce Olympic champions?"

      Sailer made clear that he was reproducing a Just So Story: "Manners THEORIZES that running got into their blood through a Darwinian process."

      People love a story that sounds plausible and fits the observed facts, but it's merely a stab at an explanation. Even if the the story is true, there's no reason to expect humans who exist in somewhat similar environments and in relative isolation from each other to have the same mutations. This should be obvious to you. Mutations are pure accidents. Natural selection can only work with what it has.

      Also, I don't know how well those other tribes have been tested. Maybe they are just as amazing.

    8. "Obviously, a massive and instant genetic transformation allowed the Chinese to win 4X as many Olympic medals over a 20 year period. There couldn't possibly be another explanation."

      Here's what I've observed from arguing about this topic with the unenlightened: once they start to flail, they are about to disengage. You are totally flailing:

      1958-1961. Middling estimates of 30 million starved to death by forced collectivization of farms and other total insanity (like my username.) Zero people like Sailer claim that everything is genetic. They don't believe that N. Koreans are three inches shorter than S. Koreans because of genes. Expect the Chinese to continue to have high medal counts now that there is not a madman like Mao at the helm running the worst Communist dystopia.

    9. Just to recap, backyard, you declared me to be "flailing" in my opposition to eugenics, the final proof of which is provided by -

      - the Chinese, who struggled on a world stage while their culture was shitty, but then they cleaned up their act and were instantly transmogrified into superstars. This, you say, proves your view (eugenics) is right, while mine (culture) is wrong.

      Seriously, man, whatever's comfortable.

    10. "- the Chinese, who struggled on a world stage while their culture was shitty, but then they cleaned up their act and were instantly transmogrified into superstars. This, you say, proves your view (eugenics) is right, while mine (culture) is wrong."

      It's so frustrating that you can't seem to read or understand the most basic elements of a verboten subject. I understand, because heresy is expensive, but ...

      As I wrote before, N. Koreans are much shorter than S. Koreans even though they only split in the 40s, because they live in a commie hell similar to China before a few decades ago. Giant famines make it hard to birth a generation of children robust enough to win medals or the economy to afford specialized training.

      2008 - 1961 = 47

      This is about two generations after a famine that lead to widespread cannibalism. It was about 30 years after some pro-market sanity was introduced:

      I know that you want to pigeon hole me, but I don't claim that environment has no effect. Neither does Sailer. But until genetic engineering or some other medical miracle becomes a factor, no ethnic Chinese will ever win an Olympic medal in the 100 meter. It will be W. Africans down the line, unless you can convince the 3 billion other men to try a little harder.

    11. Whoops! Forgot to add this regarding your use of "superstars":

    12. backyard, I remember a post from Ta-Nehisi Coates a while ago, in response to a bloggy burst of speculation about why black people, historically, didn't make better use of the opportunities available to them. Coates pointed out that his dad (who would have been in scope of the speculation) was kicked out of his family's apartment at age 7, and lived for a time in the back of a Ryder truck. Coates poignantly noted that his father certainly should have made more of the opportunities available to him, but there's something inhibiting about being seven and finding yourself living in the back of a Ryder truck.

      Bringing that vignette back to our conversation, if I understand you correctly, the reason the Chinese underperformed on the world stage was due to the cultural and financial price they paid under Chairman Mao. Many blacks of Coates' father's generation underperformed too, and they also paid a significant cultural and financial price, but unlike their Chinese brethren, black poor perfomance is an artifact of, well, those people just suck.

      Sound about right? Here's a friendly suggestion - you imply that Sailer's discussions are verboten because people sort of know he's right but are afraid to admit it. Actually, as the Chinese v. black America example shows, they're verboten because they're transparently hateful.

    13. You're now telling me a hard-luck anecdote blogged by a guy who denies that race and IQ are even real categories. You've stopped arguing about the topic of racial differences in athletics and you haven't responded to most of the links I've offered. Now you're calling me a meanie. This is the disengagement I predicted.

      But I understand. We've all seen what happens to people who engage in thought crime:

    14. I'm glad that someone has the courage to speak up. Everyone knows these things about different races. Why don't we just go ahead and say what we're all thinking: the Asians are actually artful, and Belgians bemoan beguiling. Caucasians come off as callow, and the Dutch definitely delight. Ethipoians examine excruciatingly while Finnish finagle quite freely. Germans giddily go galavanting, while Hungarians have herpes humongously. Icelanders icily eye intruders, while Jamaicans just enjoy jazz. Kurds kick kookily, and Latvarians light up luminous lanterns. Mexicans mostly make merry, while Nigerians nod off in their nickers. O can't think of an ethnicity that starts with O, but Persians peddle paddleboats. While Russians rock out on rockets, and Scandanavians select sandwiches superbly. Turks tuck toenails in tuna, and Venusians vote voraciously, while Wendigos want watermelons and Xenu invented Scientology. Yetis yawn while Zulus zig-zag zanily.

      Here's some important links that prove me correct:'s_Dream_Land's_Dream_Land

  9. I just read the 100 pages of Benghazi e-mails. The "talking points hysteria" has been shot to shreds. The references to specific groups (al-Qa'ida, Ansar) put in by one CIA office were taken out by another because they said they really didn't know and because the FBI didn't want them prejudicing the investigation. State objected to the references to earlier attacks because they said it made it look like the CIA had been warning them about attacks(!!!). The White House really did just change "Consulate" to "diplomatic post." No, that's not true, they also added an "of" that had been left out. Scandal!

  10. The Richwine article was great, but who is WW? Is this another C. A. Rotwang thing like at Huff Post? I'd have to be killed if told?

    1. Pretty sure it's Will Wilkinson.

    2. Wesley Willis?


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