Malcolm Gladwell is a whiny little liar

His hapless attempt at CYA isn’t going to convince anyone who isn’t already foolish enough to take the silly man seriously:

It is always a pleasure to be reviewed by someone as accomplished as Stephen Pinker, even if—in his comments on “What the Dog Saw” (Nov. 15)—he is unhappy with my spelling (rightly!) and with the fact that I have not joined him on the lonely ice floe of IQ fundamentalism. But since football has been on my mind these days, I do want to make one small observation about his comments.

In one of my essays, I wrote that the position a quarterback is taken in the college draft is not a reliable indicator of his performance as a professional. That was based on the work of the academic economists David Berri and Rob Simmons, who, in a paper published the Journal of Productivity Analysis, analyze forty years of National Football League data. Their conclusion was that the relation between aggregate quarterback performance and draft position was weak. Further, when they looked at per-play performance—in other words, when they adjusted for the fact that highly drafted quarterbacks are more likely to play more downs—they found that quarterbacks taken in positions 11 through 90 in the draft actually slightly outplay those more highly paid and lauded players taken in the draft’s top ten positions. I found this analysis fascinating. Pinker did not. This quarterback argument, he wrote, “is simply not true.”

I wondered about the basis of Pinker’s conclusion, so I e-mailed him, asking if he could tell me where to find the scientific data that would set me straight. He very graciously wrote me back. He had three sources, he said. The first was Steve Sailer. Sailer, for the uninitiated, is a California blogger with a marketing background who is best known for his belief that black people are intellectually inferior to white people. Sailer’s “proof” of the connection between draft position and performance is, I’m sure Pinker would agree, crude: his key variable is how many times a player has been named to the Pro Bowl.

First, describing an eigenvalue as an “Igon Value” is not a spelling error, it’s strong evidence that you don’t know what the hell you are writing about. It’s like an economist writing about Gross Domestic Prada; the nature of the mistake reveals the full extent of the ignorance. Second, as Steve Sailer points out, Gladwell did not write “that the position a quarterback is taken in the college draft is not a reliable indicator of his performance”, instead he claimed that there was “no connection between where a quarterback was taken in the draft… and how well he played in the pros.” This clearly reveals that Gladwell is not only ignorant of eigenvalues, but of the NFL as well. Yes, JaMarcus Russell sucks, as anyone with half a brain knew he would, but it’s not hard to note that the distribution of the excellent young quarterbacks in the league, from Eli Manning, Phillip Rivers and Ben Rothlisberger to Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco, was not random throughout the draft as it would be if Gladwell’s thesis was correct. When it’s Gladwell vs Football Outsiders, who are you going to believe?

Third, Pro Bowls are a perfectly reasonable measure of NFL excellence, the players’ voting bias towards past performance notwithstanding. More importantly, though, it’s only one of several measures that Sailer has cited, all of which demonstrate Gladwell’s ridiculous assertion to be false. And fourth, Gladwell’s attack on Sailer as a source for Pinker is nothing but a naked genetic fallacy and suffices to show what a scrawny little slimeball he is.

Three RGD reviews

Vox Day’s Return of the Great Depression is an short, ambitious book which attempts to make a case that the mainstream economists are very wrong about where things are headed economically, and more importantly that we are headed towards another depression which will be worse than the first. While technical subject matter by nature it is written in a readable style and peppered personal anecdotes, pop culture references, and some humor…. In all an excellent, if too short of a book, which one would do well to read and decide for oneself which way the economic winds are blowing.
J. Simonsen

Interest in economics appears to be inversely proportional to the strength of the economy. When wealth seems to be expanding–when houses can be bought, flipped, and resold quickly and at great profit, or when IPOs of Internet startups make everyone involved filthy rich–only contrarians and pessimists question the soundness of what is universally regarded as a good thing. But when the boom turns to bust, it becomes imperative to understand where things went wrong…. If Saint Bernanke and his fellow central bankers have actually ended the current recession, government intervention will see a boost of popular support, while the doomsayers, Day among them, will be justly ignored. On the other hand, if Day is correct, the coming depression presents an opportunity to diminish the role central bankers, bureaucrats, and politicians play in the economy. A freer, more prosperous world depends on radical adjustments to the structure of our economic system. Although the picture it paints is rather dark, RGD ultimately provides a useful blueprint for a better economic future.
Eric Jackson

Excellent book on the financial crisis with unique perspectives you are unlikely to find anywhere else. I enjoyed this book for the way it elucidates the major perspectives on the crisis, including Keynesian, monetarist, and Austrian economic theories, the latter being the author’s preference. The book critiques much of the mainstream thinking on the crisis, with a particular emphasis on our favorite Nobel laureate Paul Krugman. I now feel I will be able to read Krugman’s columns with more understanding, but not with any less exasperation!
Heather Veinott

Where is the money?

Here’s something I wish I’d been able to devote some space in RGD. Where is all the stimulus money? Where is the TARP money? Consider the non-defense Federal expenditures plus Federal investments in the most recent GDP report.

3Q08 $344.7 billion
4Q08 $355.4 billion
1Q09 $356.0 billion
2Q09 $362.1 billion
3Q09 $368.4 billion

So, according to the GDP reports, non-defense government spending has increased only $23.7 billion despite the fact that we know $700 billion was spent in the banking and automotive bailouts and at least $336 billion was spent in the Bush and Obama stimuli to date. Where is it? Why does it not show up in the GDP reports as government expenditures or anything else? Even if items such as the automotive bailouts are considered loans, it should have showed up as expenditures by Chrysler and GM. And moreover, the $100 billion in TARP loans to bailed-out corporations that went bankrupt should be written off as an expenditure since they’re never going to be repaid.