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October 25, 2003

West and the Rest

Discussion between Jared Diamond & Victor Davis Hanson about why the West beat the Rest (you need Real Player to listen to the audio file). From Plato to Nato by David Gress is a great book about the West that I recommend to all who find the above interview interesting.

Related reading: Guns, Germs and Steel (Jared Diamond), Carnage and Culture (Victor Davis Hanson), The Wealth and Poverty of Nations (David Landes) and Thomas Sowell's trilogy, Race and Culture, Migrations and Cultures and Conquests and Cultures.

Posted by razib at 09:21 PM | | TrackBack

Bad atheists, bad!

Speech communication professor: Darwin fish symbols on cars are an act of ‘ritual aggression’.

“In several respects, displaying the Darwin fish is the symbolic equivalent of capturing and desecrating an enemy’s flag, an act of ritual aggression,” says Tom Lessl, an associate professor of speech communication at UGA who studies the rhetoric of science. “The Darwin symbol’s obvious emulation of a religious symbol gives it unique power to express ridicule in a vivid and symbolically pointed fashion.”

No Dr. Lessl, this is desecration:

Su-jin Kim, a Christian, breaks into Wonmyong Sonwon (Zen Center) in Cheju Island, decapitates 750 granite Buddha statues and destroys a gilt bronze Buddha triad, gold-plated jade Buddha and many other Buddhist items. He is caught by people at the temple while breaking windows of the living quarters. Kim confesses at the police that he destroyed Buddha statues in order to convert the temple to a church.

This is desecration:

Bamiyan Buddha (remnants)

This is desecration:

Via Chris Mooney.

Posted by razib at 06:00 PM | | TrackBack

October 24, 2003

Magic & Machine guns

This article relates to the discussion in my last post on Africa:

To glimpse the depth of magical thinking, of spiritual vision, that lies beneath the cannibalism, I arranged for a display of spiritual power. In khaki slacks, a neatly pressed white dress shirt and a gaucho-style hat made of ''witch material,'' Vita Kitambala, a Mayi-Mayi military general and traditional priest, demonstrated his capacity to deflect bullets. The strength he claimed was not due to cannibalism, as far as I know. He would not reveal the rituals or substances that allowed him, according to his troops (who ranged in age from 8 to adulthood), to make his soldiers fly or to make himself invisible. He would agree only to give evidence of his ability. So, one morning, he directed one of his soldiers to set a green flip-flop on the patchy grass of his Mayi-Mayi garrison. Amid the rectangular huts, another gunman shook a black jerrycan. With AK-47's and grenade launchers, a great crowd of troops had gathered in the sun, amused but not terribly excited. Water from the jerrycan was splashed onto the flip-flop -- the same sanctified water, blessed secretly by the general, that the soldiers had often splashed on themselves.

What would the warriors and druids of Queen Boudicca have done with access to cellphones and modern weapons? This article kind of reminded me of the counter-factual novel Island in the Sea of Time by S.M. Stirling, which involved the transport of the island of Nantucket to the world of 1200 BCE. In India, people might be refactoring your old code-base, but there is still an odd human sacrifice or two. Recently Deutschland has been gripped by the account of occult cannibalism (with similarities to the Congolese kind), and of course, the local wiccans here in Imbler also practice magick, though the white kind (so they say).

Posted by razib at 09:00 PM | | TrackBack

Genetic history

Genetics as history:

...Professor Petersen's Y chromosome showed a very rare result - it seems his paternal ancestors came from North Africa about 5000 years ago and worked their way up into Norway. They were then part of the Viking incursions into Britain.

Posted by razib at 05:42 PM | | TrackBack

Not black?

Black guy discovers he's not black, via genetic testing. Like the German guy who finds out he's part Asian, I think part of the problem is that people look at this sort of science as deterministic (A -> B) instead of statistical (90% of the time A -> B , 10% A->C). See godless' elaboration in the post about the "German Asian" man.

via Dienekes.

Posted by razib at 01:47 PM | | TrackBack

October 23, 2003

My Jewish "problem"-and ours

First, I am paraphrasing Norman Podhoretz's famous essay My Negro Problem-And Ours, though this post will bear only a flimsy resemblance to that. I titled it for the attention, I admit it....

Due to time constraints, I won't be able to blog much in the near future (measured in a few weeks). I thought that I'd post something that was controversial (in the best tradition of this blog) as a temporary kiss-off to readers. But first, I'd like to point you all to Google News Alerts. Since I don't have time to do much web browsing these days, this service has come in really handy (I actually only have a "genetics" search, since I assume CNN can give me an OK headline list).

OK, on to Jews. My thoughts were obviously triggered a bit by this whole Easterbrook affair. My friend Steve Sailer has some cogent things to say as usual, though I might not agree in the details. Unlike Steve I take a young man's more laissez faire attitude toward depictions of violence, sex, etc. That being said, the big thing about the Easterbrook controversy was that he said things about Jews related to money in a really stupid way (from the perspective of public relations).

As I've stated on the blog, I was pretty shocked that he was saying this. I was more dumbfounded than outraged. I mean, he was writing this on a blog run on the site of a magazine owned by three wealthy Jews. Now that's chutzpah (did I get the context right?). Easterbrook has apologized and some of his critics feel bad that he got fired and so forth. You've probably done more reading on the topic than I have if you clicked "Continue reading...." So all I can offer you are my opinions and a few ideas and thoughts that have come to fruition after being stimulated by the back & forth generated by Easterbrook's comments.

So, are Jews greedy? I don't really know. Depends on how you define greedy. Some people define rich people as greedy, and since Jews are richer than gentiles on average (in the United States), they are greedier than the average gentile. etc. etc. etc. I think this is the root behind a lot of Leftist "anti-Semitism." If Jews were poor & oppressed like in the day of the Czar, the liberals of the world would bleed for them, but as it is, Jewish scholars like Norman Cantor can relish the fact that Jews are 25% of America's super-wealthy families in books like The Sacred Chain.

The above statement kind of makes me uneasy. I don't like that I wrote it. And that makes me uneasy. I think everything above is factual to the best of my knowledge, most Left-of-Center people who have expressed anti-Semitism to me never referred to racial or religious issues, but tended to couch it in terms of winners vs. losers (and of course, they root for losers). Jews are wealthy & educated compared to the gentile population (look at the American Jewish Identity Survey if you want to double-check my assertions that will pepper this blog). An interesting and related point is that most religious conservatives that are uneasy about the Jewish influence on American life (think Easterbrook^(Robert Bork)) care less about Jews than the fact that they are liberal and often promote progressive causes. Remember a few years ago when it came out that Billy Graham had made a few statements about Jews and pornography and their negative influence on this country? Of course he got shat on, and had to pretend like he didn't know what he was thinking of at time. Of course, many Jews supported free speech and the like, not because they were Jews, but because they were liberals. Additionally, Jews do seem to have a hand in porn ( NOT WORK SAFE ), so to speak, out of proportion to their numbers in the general population. These are the sort of things that Billy Graham was probably threading together, and the intersection was toxic in hindsight (for Graham). Some thoughts are not worth having....

I review this small list of unmentionables because this is a blog that stumbled over and into unmentionables all the time. We attack God regulary, even though over 95% of Americans, and probably 90% of the world's population, believes in Him or one of his kooky variants (we devote special attention to Allah-Deity-of-Peace). We regularly break a taboo of American culture and state baldly that genetic differences between racial groups may have non-trivial behavorial consequences. We say things about black Americans that would induce many to turn my brown ass red with a beating from hell. Some of the things we say make me wince. But do I think we speak falsely? No. Do I think we might be wrong? Yeah, sure. Do I think we might be right? Yeah, sure. The crime is in uttering the unmentionable(s)....

That being said, there is one topic that I've avoided. The reason are posts like this that have had to have threads heavily moderated and comments deleted because of the vitriol spewed. I don't feel comfortable speaking of the Jewish people in a way that I might speak of blacks, Chinese, Hispanics, etc. Though I am pretty indifferent to talk about the utilitarian value of Latinos to the American republic, I tend to get very uncomfortable when the issue starts to focus on Jews. Unlike godless I won't come to an unqualified defense of the Chosen People, rather, I run away from the controversy.

Perhaps one of the reasons is this: I am a Jew. By this, I mean I share many of the traits (streotypically) of Jews, I am bookish, argumentantive, often analytic in my thinking though it might lead to pedanticism, and yes, obscuranticism. The values that I prize most highly, sharpness of intellect, curiousity, mastery of word and symbol, and so forth, the Jewish people excell in in spades. A common phrase is, "but is it good for the Jews?" It might be re-termed "but is it good for me?" On some level, I suspect that if it's good for the Jews, it must be good for me, as a socially libertarian individual of Asiatic provenance.

In the Jews, I see me. And yet on the other hand, I don't. I am Right-leaning (unlike most Jews), and I do admire the Way of the Wasp. I have little sympathy or empathy for Arab or Israeli, and I do believe that the original individualism promoted by Judaically top-heavy organizations like the ACLU is now turning to eat its own tail, the liberal polity engulfing itself in an act of auto-cannibalism. In a personal exchange of emails with other young South Asians, I even expressed dismay at a "Jewish model" for the development of the ethnos that I am a member of by blood and birth. My reasoning is that I do not wish to see myself identified as a member of a group by the general society, affiliated to a rough set of values, positions and dogmas promulgated by "community leaders," who act as putative channels and intercessors with "mainstream" culture. I want the brown to melt into the milk, I want desi (South Asia) culture to envelope itself into the broadly liberal tradition of this country, whether than be that of the bobos (my preference), or a more traditionally minded American social cluster. The path toward ethnic self-awareness and identification is fraught with unasked for responsibilities and duties in exchange for the protection conferred by the group, while the path of individual self-definition is rich in the possibilities for failure and personal humilation, though it frees you up to dictate to the world who you are.

Back to the Jews. With 50% intermarriage rates many Jews seem to be disappearing into the general population. I cheer this on. The dissolution of the Jewish people is a sad event for those who identify as such, but it is part of the genesis of the bobo class, which is partially Jeurasian. This is not a new phenomenon-the original Sephardic Jewish residents of the United States have largely disappeared into the gentile masses. Within 100 years of his rise, the great German Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn had no Jewish descendents! Though an Orthodox Jew himself, Mendelssohn initiated the revival of secular learning among the Jewry in Europe. This great potion was a poison for the religiously traditionalist Jews of Germany, for out of their ashes emerged the Reform movement, which continues today in the United States as the legacy of German Jewish immigrants in the 19th century to this country. Germany was in the 19th century a place of relative opportunity for Jews, especially those who Christianized, at least nominally, as they were the women who ran the intellectual salons and raised sons who became serious players in all the professions open to them (and in England, Prime Ministers!). Some of the more extreme German Jewish reformers took to calling themselves "Germans of the Mosaic Faith" (those that could not abandon their Judaism). Many more joined the confessionless, those who did not subscribe themselves to any of the dominant religious traditions of the land, but swam unhindered and unaided in a sea of their own self-reflections, part of the bohemian folk who serve as one of the antecedants for the bobos.

By the early part of the 20th century, intermarriage and conversion was diluting the German Jewish community to the point where it might have become extinct by the 21st century. Of course, history intervened, the Holocaust.

The German experiment failed. Jews were still Jews. Rounded up, butchered like animals, treated with a barbarity that defies description. Some of the groups that were targeted, Communists, Gypsies and homosexuals were marginal social deviants, but Jews were are important part of German cultural life. That they could be treated like the beasts of the field certainly changed the perspective of many Jews it seems. The shtetls of Eastern Europe that held the majority of the traditionalist, often hasidic, Jewish communities became charnel houses. The two traditions in Mitteleuropa, to became part and parcel of the gentile society, or turn from it and form your own community that lives apart within a gentile society, failed.

The inadequecies of these traditions when faced with atavistic anti-Semitism has led to the maturation of the view that rejects the traditional Jewish perspective that accommodates the dictates and demands of gentile society, tolerating its petty injustices and more serious pogroms knowing that they were God's Chosen People. But this new strand of thought, neither integrationist nor segregationist (often oppositional in public though in private quietly integreationist), did not want to just live in gentile society on that society's terms, it sought to change that society to a more just form (usually this to the good in my opinion-ergo, equality between sexes, races, etc. before the law).

The most paranoid tendencies can be displayed in this article by Paula Frederickson in The New Republic on Mel Gibson's The Passion. The article is for subscribers only, but I did the 2 week trial and read it when it was fresh, and it ends with a prediction that The Passion will incite violence against Jews the world over. The problem I have with Frederickson's assertion is that the parts of the world where people are stupid enough to riot over a film and kill people in this day and age simply don't have enough Jews to engage in a pogrom. The movie might induce Muslims and Hindus to kill each other in India (who needs an excuse?), but I doubt that the French will turn on their Jewish neighbors.

Yes, it can be argued that the French turned on their neighbors in the 1940s. And 60 years ago 6 million Jews were killed under the aegis of a great European civilization. But let us shift to the United States, there will be no pogrom. Mild anti-Semitism is a fact of life. Mild anti-anything will exist, because difference sows discord, not everyone will like you. I am not worried about an anti-Jewish pogrom and having to witness to my ignorance because I suspect I will have been killed by an angry mob because of a race war in America by that time. I don't believe that anti-Jewish violence will ever occur in this country on a large organized scale sans race war, in which case, I'm smack-dab in the middle of enemey territory, and I can't change uniforms....

I'm not worried. The Holocaust will never happen again because of the Holocaust-Jews no longer live in a constant state of deference to the powers to be or wish to part of the mainstream-they are part of the powers to be, they are part of the mainstream-and they would not go meekly to the gas chambers any longer. I have read that many of the European Jews simply did not believe that Hitler was going to go as far as he did-the secularists because their European civilization was too holy to engage in such despicable acts, the religious because they had suffered and lived to tell the tale many a day and they assumed that their G-d would remain with them.

Jewish paranoia is not special. We know Arabs are paranoid. We know that Maxine Waters thinks that the CIA is pumping crack cocaine into black communities. We know about the militia men. But those of us that fancy ourselves semi-educated, we can't imagine that many Jewish leaders are seized by self-interested paranoia, they speak good English, went to the correct schools and make their case in the language of Locke and Mill. When we at GNXP make comments about the black community's tendency toward criminality we expect some flack. When we discuss the influx of Latinos into this country as imposing negative economic externalities (e.g. by necessitating more in tax expenditures than remitting in receipts), we are disputed but not smeared. But what if we spoke about Jews in such a fashion? What if we mis-spoke? Well...I don't know how many people in the blogosphere are Jewish, but the offense might extend farther than a straggling comment here and there in dead threads. There are many smart and eloquent Jewish bloggers out there that might take offense, that might attack us. Many of these smart and eloquent Jewish bloggers are bloggers first, Jewish second (in my mind Jewish nth), we like their stuff, we might be friends with them, they are "our kind of people." And so the double standard.

How can we diffuse the conflation between ethnic insult and factual critique? Perhpaps we should be more latitudinarian in our critiques. We have spoken of rational discrimination by cab drivers of young black men because they are playing the acturial game. Let me tell you another tale-I know a small gift shop owner that explicitly tells her clerks to give the cold shoulder to older Jewish ladies (however they identify them). The reasoning is that many of these ladies complain about the product after some usage, and this just costs too much money because the resale value is diminished (especially for faddish products). Instead of changing the return policy the owner of the shop practices discrimination, anti-Semitism. I have to say I was appalled when I heard this. But I'd seen it happen in the shop as well, though I can't assert I had a large enough data sample to make an independent judge of the issue (the one sales girl I queried on this topic tended to agree with the shop owner about these "problem customers"). I don't have many young black male friends who wear Fubu or Starter jackets. I do though have Jewish friends. Discrimination against Jews hits closer to home. This is something I have begun to think about more, and has made me more hesitant about posting on racial issues.

As far as my view of Jews goes, I'm for them as individuals, but against them as a group. This is simply an elaboration of my general view: let small ethnic groups in the United States melt into their appropriate socioeconomic niche on an individual level. I want the ex-Jews to come into the ranks of the bobos, lose their Semitic distinctiveness, and become part of a different peculiar tribe defined by process rather than substance, method rather than ends. Bobos are the end product. Educated WASPs the substrate. Educated inviduals of liberal inclinations (wine & cheese liberal to metrocon) are welcome to join. Jews, as smart and liberally inclined people, are a big target group, and since the Buddhists in the United States seem to be Judaifying, I see no reason that bobos can't take a piece of the action while the getting is good. Imagine a world where none of Alan Derschowitz's great-grandchildren are Jewish. That was a joke, not an anti-Semitic crack, seriously.

But logic, reason, math, science, the humanities, the treasures of Western thought, rationalism, skepticism and empiricism, in the minds of some these are time bombs. They wear away centuries of ethnic identification, religious transcendence, faith, certainty, local attachments. 25% of American Jews are atheists, their relationship to Adonai tenuous at best, they are ripe souls to be harvested and debited from the Jewish people. There are others, but Jews are target #1 which their high IQs and quick wits. In a way, I am an anti-Semite, as I wish the Jewish people a thousand small deaths as their genome gets sliced and spliced with that of Koreans, Scots, English, Italians, Brazilians, etc. I hope for a day with 2,000 years of oral law will pass by the wayside, where perfunctory days of awe in memory of a bygone age and a people lost will have no meaning, where the New Man will walk into the sunlight, take his place among the congress of peoples, and make a space for himself.

I never said I wasn't insane....

Godless comments:

First, though I'm definitely sympathetic to the Jews, I wouldn't call myself an "unqualified defender" of Jewry. On issues like Jonathan Pollard, the positions of many Jews are outright treasonous.

I do think the topic is controversial, but we aren't ones to shy away from controversy. It's worth reading this old post - that's where I lay out my thoughts on "da Jews". It's important to proceed from quantitative facts here (e.g. statistics on education, income, and voting patterns), because impressions alone are imprecise and won't convince skeptics. So - read that link, and then come back.

Now - what do I think about Razib's comments? Well, in no particular order:

  1. I do think that intermarriage is the key to assimilation, and I am mildly favorable towards intermarriage (though it is, of course, an issue of personal choice). The resultant "mutts" have allegiance to the USA rather than foreign powers. I think Razib phrased this in an intentionally provocative way, but it's no different in spirit from the Bulworth quote about "f****** till we're all the same color". That said, I don't think Israeli Jews are going to have high intermarriage rates in the near future.

  2. Concerning Jews being "greedy"...well, it's difficult to measure greed objectively. If "rich" means "greedy", then various Asian and European ethnic groups are also greedy. If "greedy" means some sort of state of mind (and does not correlate 1:1 with being rich), then we'd require some sort of fMRI to provide an objective look at the biochemistry of thought and feeling.

    The recent discovery that magnetic resonance imaging can be used to map changes in brain hemodynamics that correspond to mental operations extends traditional anatomical imaging to include maps of human brain function. The ability to observe both the structures and also which structures participate in specific functions is due to a new technique called functional magnetic resonance imaging, fMRI, and provides high resolution, noninvasive reports of neural activity detected by a blood oxygen level dependent signal

    It's possible that thoughts and feelings about economic matters could differ by ethnic group, as a higher order phenomenon resulting from different neurological chemistry. Such experiments would have to be well controlled, but they could be performed in principle (e.g. with thousands of genetically identical clones to correct for environmental noise).

  3. The "social justice" trend among Jews predates the Holocaust. Jews were disproportionately Communists, both in the US and Russia. The whole "social justice" phenomenon is, in my opinion, the root of a lot of right-wing anti-Semitism. It's not well known, but in addition to their role in the US Communist party, Jews were involved (along with WEB Dubois) in the 1909 foundation of the NAACP and were also key to the creation of MALDEF. The "Brown" in Brown vs. Board of Education was Esther Brown, a Jewish woman. And so on - most of the major civil rights initiatives had substantial Jewish intellectual and activist firepower behind them.

    There is an interesting contrast with the other successful "alien" group in America at that time, the Japanese Americans. While both groups did quite well for themselves financially (even before the Civil Rights Act, Asians had higher mean incomes than whites - I can find the source if curious), the Japanese did not participate in attempts to "remake" the society at anywhere near the frequency the Jews did.

    This is for a number of reasons, but prime among them is the fact that many/most Ashkenazi Jews are not easily distinguishable from other European ethnic groups, while the Japanese clearly are. Thus, the leaders of these civil rights movements were seen as "ingroup" (white) rather than "outgroup" (non-Christian), which increased their credibility.

    It should be noted that such movements - roughly, socialism & communism inspired - were not entirely Jewish, but disproportionately Jewish. It's an oversimplification to attribute them entirely to Jews; the mix of influences was a global phenomenon. China and East Asia picked up and ran with Communism, Stalin purged the Jews, Bismarck invented the welfare state, and nonviolent resistance came to America by way of India.

  4. A question arises at this point: was this remaking of society a good thing? And independent of whether it was, was it pursued for idealistic or selfish reasons? These are complex questions, but let me give some brief answers (which I will elaborate upon later).

    In the interests of full disclosure, I probably wouldn't be a US citizen without the Immigration Reform Act and other civil rights-era legislation. Just as it would be strange for an Italian American to express sympathy for the 1860's Know Nothing party, I have little affection for the Bull Connor-types who would have kept my family out of the US.

    That said, I think that the outcome of the civil rights era is for the most part good, but mainly because the US can afford it . As I will post at length (see the post by 'realistic' for details), South Africa could not afford civil rights. They have traded apartheid for anarchy, and with the rate at which the educated elite are fleeing the country, the collapse into a Zimbabwe-like hell is not far off.

    Lastly, as for the idealistic vs. self-interested issue in the civil rights era...well, I think there was probably a little of both. I do believe that many progressive Jews believe what they're preaching. After all, large numbers of left-wing Jews protest against Israel, support racial preferences and wealth redistribution, and vitriolically denounce Jewish intermarriage restrictions as racist. Yet there is certainly a component of self-interest as well. The end of state-sanctioned discrimination and the parallel institution of the meritocracy was certainly beneficial to American Jewry.

Anyway, the topic is a complex one, and much less cut and dried than (say) crime or academics. With reference to crime & academics one can simply point to the FBI Uniform Crime Reports, Interpol, the SAT, or the TIMSS. But the discussion of the achievements and political effects of Jews in the US is not quite as amenable to quantification (though one can of course cite IQs, voting patterns, and so on).

Posted by razib at 03:34 PM | | TrackBack

Of note

It seems this blogger (3 children) might be homeless soon. Do what you can if inclined....

Posted by razib at 02:42 PM | | TrackBack

No modernity please!

A few years ago 60 Minutes profiled the Kingdom of Bhutan's policy of keeping a high wall between it and the rest of the world. In keeping with this Bhutan regulates tourism and extracts a high price from those who wish to visit. Take a look at health conditions in this "authentic" Buddhist nation. Because of its "go slow" approach to modern amenities the Land of the Thunder Dragon can still be termed a "living eden".

But all is not well in paradise. Attached is an article on the plight of refugees expelled from Bhutan. My general point-the destruction wrought by modernity on organically developed indigenous cultures is quite often a good thing.

In limbo
Oct 23rd 2003
From The Economist print edition

Is there a solution in sight for the Bhutanese refugees?

Just another forgotten cause

MANGALA SHARMA is among the lucky ones, considering. Although her family had been living in the small kingdom of Bhutan for generations, she fled her native country in 1992, fearing for her life, and spent the next eight years in a refugee camp in Nepal. She has now found political asylum in the United States. But her grandmother, who had never left her village before being walked into exile, died in the camp still dreaming of going back. Most of her family is still stranded in Nepal, together with another 100,000 refugees, largely forgotten by the rest of the world for the past 13 years. And this week's agreement between the Nepalese and Bhutanese governments—following a decade of bilateral negotiations—is unlikely to reassure them.

The refugees are of ethnic Nepali origin, some of whom have been in southern Bhutan for generations. Others migrated in the 1960s, attracted by the prospect of a better life (Bhutan has sound economic policies and one of South Asia's highest GDPs per head). In the late 1980s, the government, worried by what it considered a dilution of Bhutanese traditions, tightened citizenship rules and launched a cultural offensive. Southerners had to produce obscure documentation—such as land-tax receipts from 1958—to retain their nationality and were forced to wear traditional northern Bhutanese dress. Those who protested against the brutal census were jailed. Expulsion orders were issued to some, while others were harassed out of Bhutan.

Today, an estimated one in seven Bhutanese is a refugee. More than 100,000 people are languishing in camps in Nepal, while another 20,000 are thought to be in India. Two years ago, the Nepalese and Bhutanese authorities agreed on a joint screening system to determine who would eventually be allowed to go back. So far, only 12,000 refugees or so have been processed, and fewer than 3% of them are considered bona fide Bhutanese who were forced to leave. Those deemed to have left of their own accord will have to re-apply for Bhutanese citizenship or, if they choose to stay, may become Nepalese. Refugees categorised as “criminals”—reportedly including some children—will go through Bhutanese courts, while those considered non-Bhutanese will not be allowed to return. The first returnees are supposed to go by February. Refugee and human-rights groups are incensed by what they consider a thoroughly flawed verification process.

Refugees insist they want to go back to Bhutan. But they want to go back to their own land and houses, and with some assurance of safety. They would like the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), together with that of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, to be involved. “We're not asking for the sky,” says Ratan Gazmere of the Association of Human Rights Activists, based in Nepal.

These conditions are unlikely to be met, however. A study conducted by the Habitat International Coalition in 2001 found that the Bhutanese government had been resettling northerners on the refugees' property. According to the study, some of the land has been given to army and police officers or their relatives. The UN refugee agency has been left out of the bilateral talks and the verification process. It is running the refugee camps in Nepal, but is not allowed in Bhutan.

Shock therapy

At the end of September, a frustrated Ruud Lubbers, the head of UNHCR, announced that since the agency cannot monitor the return of refugees, it would not promote repatriation but help refugees settle in Nepal or in other countries, while gradually phasing out its direct involvement in the camps. This announcement shocked the refugees, and the policy change has been criticised by humanitarian and human rights organisations. A UNHCR spokesman says it was meant as a wake-up call. Repatriation, he adds, is the preferred option, but not if refugees cannot be guaranteed to return in dignity and safety.

Refugees have been repeatedly calling for the outside world to do more. Earlier this month, several refugee and human-rights organisations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, urged donors to put pressure on Bhutan. But the key probably lies with India, whose attitude they describe as “unhelpful”. Besides overseeing Bhutan's foreign policy and supporting its army, India is the kingdom's largest financial benefactor.

Posted by razib at 02:38 PM | | TrackBack

October 22, 2003

SAT bias?

SAT biased against blacks?

Godless comments:

This article has some pretty sloppy passages, including:

For the high school class of 2002 the average score for a non-Hispanic white student on the 1600-point test was 1060. The average score for a black student was 857, or 203 points lower. (For Asians the average was 1070, and for Hispanics it was slightly over 900.) The gap between blacks and whites on the test is sixteen points greater today than it was in 1992. If minority students are at a disadvantage in taking the SAT, their choice of colleges will be significantly limited...

Asians are minorities too, and they have higher mean scores than whites. Rather than referring to "minorities", a more precise term would be blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans. Here's another careless bit:

He cited research showing minority students doing better than non-Hispanic whites on harder math items, which he attributed to the fact that those items used more textbook-like language and "more abstract concepts learned strictly in the classroom." Minority students scored worse on the easier math items, just as they did on easier verbal items, because commoner words were used in those questions.

This last one is particularly sloppy, as it should refer to members of racial groups with matched overall scores . Clearly, blacks & Hispanics in general are not doing better than Asians or non-Hispanic whites on hard questions; only when you normalize for score (e.g. selecting mixed race cohorts with scores of 1200 overall) are DIF results even observed. Furthemore, though DIF is indeed the gold-standard for ascertaining test bias, the DIF results reported are tiny and of doubtful statistical significance:

It should be noted from the outset that virtually all these DIF item effects are typically small. For example, White students may get 84 percent correct on some easy items, while African Americans get a slightly lower number, say 82 percent, correct for the same item. Conversely, for some particular hard items, White students may get 30 percent correct whereas African Americans might get a slightly higher score, say 31 percent correct. What is unusual about these effects is their highly patterned nature; that is, many easy items show a small but persistent effect of African Americans' underperformance, while many hard items show their overperformance...

Furthemore, the hype for the "revised SAT" adding hundreds of points to minority scores is unwarranted. If you weight some questions more than others, without adjusting for the fact that the probability of a correct guess on a five-answer multiple choice test is 20% on every question , you will get outliers like this one:

Freedle found one African-American student (Freedle's data gave no names) whose verbal R-SAT score was 600 although his or her original verbal SAT score was only 290. "This student's gain score is 310 points-an astonishingly large reassessment of his/her scholastic skills..."

And in fact that is part of the critique:

When Drew Gitomer read the Review article, he felt not only that Freedle's conclusion was wrong but that his analysis was nonsense. It was based on snippets of old data and seemed to put great weight on correct answers that could be explained as random guesses.

Bottom line: attacking the SAT with this kind of Gouldian statistical tomfoolery is killing the messenger. If blacks and Hispanics were really being shortchanged by an inaccurate test, they would be showing it by doing well in engineering and other mathematical fields despite low SAT scores. By and large, however, they are underperforming in those fields relative to Asians and non-Hispanic whites. This pattern holds internationally. If these tests were not getting at some underlying truth, we would see semiconductor fabs opening up in Latin America rather than Taiwan, and software production moving to Nigeria rather than India.

Update 2:

Here's more from the College Board's website:

Let us look briefly at the data for the so-called SAT-R Section that Freedle recommends. On the difficult items that are included in the SAT-R, African-American candidates receive an average score of 22 percent out of a perfect score of 100 percent. Since there are five answer options for each question, 22 percent is only slightly above what would be expected from random guessing, namely 20 percent. White candidates do somewhat better, achieving an average score of 31 percent. The results indicate that this test is too hard for either group and would be a frustrating experience for most students. There are simply too many questions that are geared to those with a much higher level of knowledge and skill than is required of college freshmen. Extending Freedle's argument, we could substantially reduce all group differences if the test were made significantly more difficult so that all examinees would have to guess the answers to nearly all of the questions. We could then predict that each subgroup would have an average of 20 percent of their answers correct, based on chance.


In brief, Freedle's suggestions boils down to capitalizing on chance performance. This kind of performance may represent either random guesses, or unconnected bits of knowledge that are not sufficiently organized to be of any use in college studies. With random guessing, some students will receive large windfalls, but some will have equally bad luck, and none will earn reliable scores. If students who responded randomly took the test again, their performance would be inconsistent with their earlier performance and would also be unrelated to performance in college.

Posted by razib at 08:33 PM | | TrackBack

October 21, 2003

Mother Tongue Forever!

Foreign rule & cultural domination characterize the histories of Finland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. And yet all four nations have preserved an independent linguistic identity apart from their rulers and rivals. Finland's literary tradition did not mature until the Kalevala was composed in the 19th century. After a long period of Polish high cultural domination Lithuanian literature emerged from its centuries long slumber in the 19th century as well (it was during this period that both came under Russian rule). As for the Estonians and Latvians, the benign neglect of Teutonic Knights, Swedes, Poles, Lithuanians and Russians (if the last can be ever said as such), prevented their linguistic dissolution.

The persistence of these languages among the common-folk is amazing to me because the commanding heights of politics, military, church and literature were the domain of alien peoples for centuries. And yet with the expansion of literacy and the dissemination of nationalistic ideas in the 19th century these "peasant languages" took their places besides the speeches of rule.

So how did the elite transmission of Indo-European (if it was elite transmission) occur in ancient Europe? Swedes and their ilk brought the Finns their god, the power of their swords, the writ of their king, the written word and much more. And yet after 650 years of rule, in 1800 the Finns still spoke Finnish and were a distinct people. Things that make you say hhhhmmmm....

Posted by razib at 02:12 AM | | TrackBack

Brown tiger

This article about India's economic progress is the most e-mailed over at The New York Times website right now. India has a mean IQ of about 80. It is, broadly speaking, a very under-developed nation. It will be interesting to see if the mean IQ increases in value as the educational qualifications begin to be driven upward by the increased societal affluence (Flynn Effect).

Posted by razib at 12:24 AM | | TrackBack

Taller ~ Richer ?

I'm sure you've all read this article about talller people making more $$$ (big surprise!), but check out this interesting commentary from Future Pundit. He switches back & forth between the height (important) and IQ (more important) variables and compares & contrasts.

Posted by razib at 12:14 AM | | TrackBack

October 20, 2003

Very smart Friend

I knew Lisa Kudrow majored in biology at Vassar, but I didn't know she wanted to do research in evolutionary psychology. Listen to a full interview with her, she's intelligent & delightful.

Posted by razib at 09:30 PM | | TrackBack

Howard Dean...John Winthrop???

Two articles that try to put Howard Dean in a socio-historical context: Is Howard Dean a modern Puritan? and Shock of the Old. It seems that to many New England is an exotic and peculiar place that needs illumination.

Posted by razib at 03:00 PM | | TrackBack

Immigration Reform 2004?

Derb over at NRO posits a thought experiment, an immigration reform candidate throws a monkey wrench into the 2004 election. Pat Buchanan ran in 2000 on a platform that was more generally nationalistic and socially conservative than pure immigration reform and won .42% of the votes. Most Americans are ambivalent about free trade (leaning to mildly negative in my reading)-but we'll continue to have free trade, no matter lukewarm public opinion. You can see the same pattern with immigration.

My point is that I don't expect a populist revolt to spark reform on this issue. The majority might oppose open borders, but a motivated minority dictates policy, change must come from above. Is the United States just a legal framework for capitalist transactions between consenting adults? Or does it represent something more? I come not to offer answers but to pose questions....

Posted by razib at 06:21 AM | | TrackBack

October 19, 2003

Bolivia-the past & the future

The Los Angeles Times has an in depth report on the goings on in Bolivia. The basic events reflect what was depicted in Amy Chua's World on Fire, a market disadvantaged majority (the indigeous Aymara of Bolivia) revolting against the push toward globalization spear-headed by the market dominant minority (whites). The article regales us with details that sketch out the revolution going on among the indigenous people who are generating an alternative polity based around their communitarian traditions. But these people need to do more than just look to the past as their model, they need to reformulate their traditions to suit the modern world. These tensions have surfaced many times in Latin America, the conflict between communal land-holdings and liberal conceptions of individual right to property loomed large in late 19th century Mexico, and the same issue seems to be coming to the fore. Whatever response the indigenous community made 100 years ago, it has not resolved the issues. One specific item that encapsulates the problem is a musing by one activist that perhaps they should abandon Christianity and return to their original religions. But of course they can't just return to their original religions, which were predicated on a historical context that no longer exists, and often included unsavory practices like human sacrifice. Certainly Catholic Christianity as practiced in Spain is perhaps an uncomfortable fit for the Aymara, but if they are to discard that religion, their new faith has be congenial with the modern world that they seem inclined to join, though on their terms.

Posted by razib at 01:06 AM | | TrackBack