Some thoughts about race and sports

These guys are Navajos, not Nazis

The three original Thunderlads- Acilius, LeFalcon, and VThunderlad- have exchanged some emails in recent days in which we’ve been talking about race and sports.  The discussion has gotten on to some pretty interesting questions, I think, about politics, economics, culture, etc.

This started when blog founder VThunderlad sent us a link to a news item about “The All-American Basketball Association,” a proposed professional basketball league that will be restricted to players who were born in the USA to two parents “of the Caucasian race.”  I blogged about that story a few days ago, explaining my suspicions as to what the promoters are really up to.

In response to VThunderlad’s email, LeFalcon mocked the AABA’s promoters’ claim that African-American players had corrupted the NBA:

There actually is something interesting about
the reasons they give for forming the league:
They’re suggesting that African-Americans have corrupted the sport.
How so?

The white players are grounded in “fundamentals”
(= honest, hard-working).
Black players violate these “fundamentals,” supposedly gaining an unfair advantage from doing so.
It seems to be implied that black players, in a seeming paradox, are both superior players
AND intrinsically lazy.

Question:  If opportunism wins the day,
can’t white players similarly “cheat”?

“Both superior players AND intrinsically lazy”- that’s exactly the kind of logical absurdity racism makes it possible for people to accept blithely.  VThunderlad expressed surprise about one point:

“”natural born citizens of TWO (2) Caucasian parents” (they seem to have left out a definition of parents being a man and a woman, as one might expect, but perhaps they don’t mind homo-ball, just negro-ball.”

I responded with the theory I laid out in my “Gametime for Hitler” post.  Then the conversation started to turn away from the sarcastic tone above (“riddim,” “negro-ball,” etc) and toward a more serious discussion of the underlying issues of race and sport.  From LeFalcon:


Left-wing college professors

From yesterday’s New York Times:

First paragraph:

The overwhelmingly liberal tilt of university professors has been explained by everything from outright bias to higher I.Q. scores. Now new research suggests that critics may have been asking the wrong question. Instead of looking at why most professors are liberal, they should ask why so many liberals — and so few conservatives — want to be professors.

Last paragraph:

To Mr. Gross, accusations by conservatives of bias and student brainwashing are self-defeating. “The irony is that the more conservatives complain about academia’s liberalism,” he said, “the more likely it’s going to remain a bastion of liberalism.”

As someone who’s spent the last 25 years on and around US college campuses, what strikes me about the political views of American professors is not their leftward tilt, but their fundamental unseriousness.  Their opinions are consistent only in their conformity to campus fashions.  So if a shop near the school starts selling Fair Trade coffee, it can count on good business from faculty who want to show their support for the rights of coffee growers in Latin America.  Meanwhile, graduate assistants who want to unionize will get a chilly reception from every quarter, and faculty members who express an interest in organizing their colleagues into unions and demanding the right of collective bargaining will invariably be branded as kooks and malcontents.  It’s simply impossible for me to listen to a left-wing rant from a colleague and not translate it into the right-wing rant that same colleague would be delivering in a setting where the fashions were reversed. 

Depressing as this conformism is, I wouldn’t really expect anything different.  The average tenure-track faculty member in the USA puts in something like 70 hours a week working at a job that involves little or no contact with the political system.  In the years between entering grad school and receiving tenure, an American academic walks a tightrope that might at any point send all of that work down the drain and him or her out to start a new career from scratch.  So it would be strange if a large percentage of US professors found time to form and voice their own, possibly unfashionable, political opinions.  Academics are much likelier to collect the reward of their labors if they reliably voice agreement with the prevailing opinions, perhaps vying with each other to be the one who expresses those opinions in the most memorable words. 



“There are about 100 million women less on this earth than there should be. Women who are ‘missing’ since they are aborted, burnt, starved and neglected to death by families who prefer sons to daughters. .  The estimated number of women who are missing are 44 million in China, 39 million in India, 6 million in Pakistan and 3 billion in Bangladesh. This is the single largest genocide in human history.” -Lucinda Marshall, Feminist Peace Network

Feminist Peace Network

“More than 3,800 women and girls have been murdered in Guatemala since the year 2000. What local activists are calling ‘femicide’ is spreading in Guatemala and throughout Latin America. . Guatemala’s femicides are notable for their brutality as well as the impunity that exists for the perpetrators. Countrywide, a mere 1-2% of crimes against life are effectively prosecuted, meaning that someone who commits murder in Guatemala has a 98-99% chance of escaping prosecution and punishment.” -Center for Gender and Refugee Studies

Center for Gender and Refugee Studies

Project Implicit

“Project Implicit blends basic research and educational outreach in a virtual laboratory at which visitors can examine their own hidden biases.”

Take a test.

How many people lived in Rome in the first century BC?

Sulla: He kept the Romans' numbers down

Sulla: Mr Zero Population Growth

During the first century BC, Rome experienced a series of civil wars.  Dynasts like Marius, Sulla, Caesar, Antony, and Octavian led armies that slaughtered foreigners and Romans alike.  Romans responded to these wars by hoarding their wealth.  They hoarded some of this wealth by burying coins.  Not all of the first-century Romans who buried coins had a chance to dig their coins up again.  Some of the coins they buried have come to light only in recent centuries.  Scholars study these newly recovered coins to learn about life in ancient times. 

Historian Walter Scheidel and biologist Peter Turchin have looked at some of these recently uncovered first-century BC hoards of coins in Rome.  Using analytic techniques developed by biologists, Scheidel and Turchin have concluded that the population of Rome in those days was considerably smaller than has often been estimated.  The civil wars evidently took so heavy a toll on the Romans that the city’s population by the end of the first century was not likely more than half of the number some previous historians have estimated.

Feed the Homeless Without Really Trying
U.S. residents throw away about 100 billion pounds of food every year (nearly 3,000 pounds per second), enough to feed 60 million people. At the same time, more than 35 million U.S. residents are hungry or on the edge of hunger.

Sons and World Power

A demographer would have seen it coming

A demographer would have seen it coming

Thanks to 3quarksdaily for linking to The New Left Review on Gunnar Heinsohn’s Söhne und Weltmacht (Sons and World Power.)  Heinsohn notices that when countries have more young men than they know what to do with, they often go to war.  In his book, originally published in 2003, he examines that correlation in depth.  Here is an interview Heinsohn gave to the Danish magazine Sappho in 2007.  The review and the interview are in English, the book is available only in German.

US counties by most common origin of foreign-born residents

Thanks to Steve Sailer (I know, I know, but he posts lots of interesting stuff) for linking to this New York Times feature.

The Nation, 23 March 2009

Photographer Walker Evans collected picture postcards, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art is exhibiting them.  Here’s one:


Evidently Calvin Trillin reads Los Thunderlads.  Here’s the first half of this week’s doggerel:

Republicans had hoped they might rekindle
Their party’s prospects through one Bobby Jindal.
But Jindal proved an easy man to mock
(He’s like the dorky page on 30 Rock).

Below find an excerpt from an article headlined “America is #… 15?” by Dalton Conley.  23-march-2009-nationThe article is about the Human Development Index, or HDI, a statistic that has since 1990 been used to gauge the relative well-being of people in various countries.  The American HDI was released for the first time last year.  As the article puts it, “The score consists of three dimensions: health, as measured by life expectancy at birth; access to knowledge, captured by educational enrollment and attainment; and income, as reflected by median earnings for the working-age population.”  The HDI was first developed by Pakistani economist Mahbub ul Haq to enable humanitarian aid groups and development economists to gauge the relative well-being of people in poor countries.  “With some slight adjustments, the index was retrofitted to work for rich countries,” and the results for the USA are quite disturbing. 


Fewer Americans Identify with Established Religious Groups


An empty church

Today the new American Religious Identification Survey is to be released.  

Below are two newspaper pieces about the survey.  The first article appeared in today’s Washington Post and went out over the AP.  The byline was Michelle Boorstein.  I think the key sentence is “The only group that grew in every U.S. state since the 2001 survey was people saying they had “no” religion; the survey says this group is now 15 percent of the population”:

The percentage of Americans who call themselves Christians has dropped dramatically over the past two decades, and those who do are increasingly identifying themselves without traditional denomination labels, according to a major study of U.S. religion being released today.

The survey of more than 54,000 people conducted between February and November of last year showed that the percentage of Americans identifying as Christians has dropped to 76 percent of the population, down from 86 percent in 1990. Those who do call themselves Christian are more frequently describing themselves as “nondenominational” “evangelical” or “born again,” according to the American Religious Identification Survey.

The survey is conducted by researchers at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., and funded by the Lilly Endowment and the Posen Foundation. Conducted in 1990, 2001 and last year, it is one of the nation’s largest major surveys of religion.

The increase in people labeling themselves in more generic Christian terms corresponds strongly with the decline in people identifying themselves as Protestant, the survey found. People calling themselves mainline Protestants, including Methodists and Lutherans, have dropped to 13 percent of the population, down from 19 percent in 1990. The number of people who describe themselves as generically “Protestant” went from approximately 17 million in 1990 to 5 million.

Meanwhile, the number of people who use nondenominational terms has gone from 194,000 in 1990 to more than 8 million.

“There is now this shift in the non-Catholic population — and maybe among American Christians in general — into a sort of generic, soft evangelicalism,” said Mark Silk, who directs Trinity’s Program on Public Values and helped supervise the survey. 

The survey substantiated several general trends already identified by sociologists: the slipping importance of denomination in America, the growing number of people who say they have “no” religion and the increase in religious minorities including Muslims, Mormons and such movements as Wicca and paganism.

The only group that grew in every U.S. state since the 2001 survey was people saying they had “no” religion; the survey says this group is now 15 percent of the population. Silk said this group is likely responsible for the shrinking percentage of Christians in the United States.