September 6, 2008

Brimelow offers Obama some unsolicited advice

On the blog, Peter Brimelow suggests:

Obama and the Democrats can easily break this [Palin] momentum. All Obama has to do is ask John McCain (who, despite appearances, is still the GOP presidential nominee) to pledge, in the spirit of the bipartisanshipthat McCain was going on about Thursday night, that they will both work together for amnesty in the next Congress, regardless of which of them goes to the White House and which of them remains in the U.S. Senate.

McCain would be really stuck. He can’t refuse because (a) he really wants an amnesty and was fanatically committed to the Kennedy-Bush version; (b) he actually believes all this innumerate nonsense about the Hispanic vote.

But he can’t agree because that will utterly dispel the delusions of his desperate base.


Obama could specifically offer McCain an agreement in which they both pledge to work together to pass in 2009 the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act (S. 1033), which was proposed by John McCain.

Obama could say something like,
"The comprehensive immigration reform bill that Senator McCain wrote with Senator Kennedy is not entirely to my taste, but I'm willing to put up with the parts of Senator McCain's amnesty plan that I don't like so that we can be sure something finally gets done. After all, I have to admit that Senator McCain has worked far harder over the last four years to provide amnesty to illegal aliens than I have. Therefore, to break the logjam in Washington, I'll offer to take his word for it that the McCain-Kennedy amnesty bill is the right approach to amnesty. Clearly, Senator McCain is the expert on amnesty, not me. Giving amnesty to illegal aliens undoubtedly means more to him than, to be frank, amnesty means to me, so I'm willing, if he's willing, to pledge to pass his illegal immigrant legalization bill, which -- did I mention? -- he wrote."

If McCain replies that he's no longer for his bill, Obama could say with a puzzled look on his face, "Oh, so you were for it before you were against it? I see ..." and nod his head slowly, while scratching his chin, furrowing his brow and biting his lip in a thoughtful manner. Then, suddenly (and, preferably, with Franklin Roosevelt's Mid-Atlantic accent), "But, aren't we talking about your own bill? If it is a bad bill, why did you propose it? If it is a good bill, why are you against it?"

FDR could have gone on in this disingenuously ingenuous vein for weeks, having a grand old time at his rival's expense while the Republican base's enthusiasm for its nominee collapses, but, somehow, I don't think Obama can bring himself to play dumb, even to get elected President.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

More from the Steveosphere

Speaking of guys named Dave writing in the New York Times, David Frum has a good article in the NYT Magazine on "The Vanishing Republican Voter."

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

September 5, 2008

What is a "community organizer"?

Barack Obama has taken umbrage at Sarah Palin's lack of respect for the sacred profession of community organizer. To help explain what that widely-lauded but little understood job entails, here are excerpts from the classic 1970 work of sociology:

Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers
by Tom Wolfe

Going downtown to mau-mau the bureaucrats got to be the routine practice in San Francisco. The poverty program encouraged you to go in for mau-mauing. They wouldn't have known what to do without it. The bureaucrats at City Hall and in the Office of Economic Opportunity talked "ghetto" all the time, but they didn't know any more about what was going on in the Western Addition, Hunters Point, Potrero Hill, the Mission, Chinatown, or south of Market Street than they did about Zanzibar. They didn't know where to look. They didn't even know who to ask. So what could they do? Well ... they used the Ethnic Catering Service ... right ... They sat back and waited for you to come rolling in with your certified angry militants, your guaranteed frustrated ghetto youth, looking like a bunch of wild men. Then you had your test confrontation. If you were outrageous enough, if you could shake up the bureaucrats so bad that their eyes froze into iceballs and their mouths twisted up into smiles of sheer physical panic, into shit-eating grins, so to speak--then they knew you were the real goods. They knew you were the right studs to give the poverty grants and community organizing jobs to. Otherwise they wouldn't know. ...

It got to be an American custom, like talk shows, Face the Nation, marriage counseling, marathon encounters, or zoning hearings. ...

The poverty office was on the first floor and had a big anteroom; only it's almost bare, nothing in it but a lot of wooden chairs. It looks like a union hall minus the spittoons, or one of those lobbies where they swear in new citizens. It's like they want to impress the poor that they don't have leather-top desks ... All our money goes to you ...

So the young aces from the Mission come trooping in, and they want to see the head man. The word comes out that the No. 1 man is out of town, bu the No. 2 man is coming out to talk to the people.

This man comes out , and he has that sloppy Irish look like Ed McMahon on TV, only with a longer nose. ...

"Have a seat, gentlemen," he says, and he motions toward the wooden chairs.

But he doesn't have to open his mouth. All you have to do is look at him and you get the picture. The man's a lifer. He's stone civil service. He has it all down from the wheatcolor Hush Puppies to the wash'n'dry semi-tab-collar shortsleeves white shirt. Those wheatcolor Hush Puppies must be like some kind of fraternal garb among the civil-service employees, because they all wear them. They cost about $4.99, and the second time you move your toes, the seams split and the tops come away from the soles. But they all wear them. The man's shirt looks like he bought it at the August end-of-summer sale at the White Front. ...

He pulls up one of the wooden chairs and sits down on it. Only he sits down on it backwards, straddling the seat and hooking his arms and his chin over the back of the chair, like the head foreman in the bunkhouse. It's like saying, "We don't stand on ceremony around here. This is a shirtsleeve operation."

"I'm sorry that Mr. Johnson isn't here today," he says, "but he's not in the city. He's back in Washington meeting some important project deadlines. He's very concerned, and he would want to meet with you people if he were here, but right now I know you'll understand that the most important thing he can do for you is to push these projects through in Washington."

The man keeps his arms and his head hung over the back of his chair, but he swings his hands up in the air from time to time to emphasize a point, first one hand and then the other. It looks like he's giving wig-wag signals to the typing pool. The way he hangs himself over the back of the chair--that keeps up the funky shirtsleeve-operation number. And throwing his hands around--that's dynamic ... It says, "We're hacking our way through the red tape just as fast as we can."

"Now I'm here to try to answer any questions I can," he says, "but you have to understand that I'm only speaking as an individual, and so naturally none of my comments are binding, but I'll answer any questions I can, and if I can't answer them, I'll do what I can to get the answers for you."

And then it dawns on you, and you wonder why it took so long for you to realize it. This man is the flak catcher. His job is to catch the flak for the No. 1 man. He's like the professional mourners you can hire in Chinatown. They have certified wailers, professional mourners, in Chinatown, and when your loved one dies, you can hire the professional mourners to wail at the funeral and show what a great loss to the community the departed is. In the same way this lifer is ready to catch whatever flak you're sending up. It doesn't matter what bureau they put him in. It's all the same. Poverty, Japanese imports, valley fever, tomato-crop parity, partial disability, home loans, second-probate accounting, the Interstate 90 detour change order, lockouts, secondary boycotts, G.I. alimony, the Pakistani quota, cinch mites, the Tularemic Loa loa, veterans' dental benefits, workmen's compensation, suspended excise rebates--whatever you're angry about, it doesn't matter, he's there to catch the flak. He's a lifer. ...

One of the Chicanos starts it off by asking the straight question, which is about how many summer jobs the Mission groups are going to get. This is the opening phase, the straight-face phase, in the art of mau-mauing.

"Well," says the Flak Catcher--and he gives it a twist of the head and a fling of the hand and the ingratiating smile--"It's hard for me to answer that the way I'd like to answer it, and the way I know you'd like for me to answer it, because that's precisely what we're working on back in Washington. But I can tell you this. At this point I see no reason why our project allocation should be any less, if all we're looking at is the urban-factor numbers for this area, because that should remain the same. Of course, if there's been any substantial pre-funding, in Washington, for the fixed-asset part of our program, like Head Start or the community health centers, that could alter the picture. But we're very hopeful, and as soon as we have the figures, I can tell you that you people will be the first to know." ...

So one of the bloods says, "Man, why do you sit there shining us with this bureaucratic rhetoric, when you said yourself that ain't nothing you say that means a goddam thing?"

Ba-ram-ba-ram-ba-ram-ba-ram--a bunch of the aces start banging on the floor in unison. It sounds like they have sledge hammers.

"Ha-unnnnh," says the Flak Catcher. It is one of those laughs that starts out as a laugh but ends up like he got hit in the stomach halfway through. It's the first assault on his dignity. So he breaks into his shit-eating grin, which is always phase two. Why do so many bureaucrats, deans, preachers, college presidents, try to smile when the mau-mauing starts? It's fatal, this smiling. When some bad dude is challenging your manhood, your smile just proves that he is right and you are chickenshit--unless you are a bad man yourself with so much heart that you can make that smile say, "Just keep on talking, sucker, because I'm gonna count to ten and then squash you."

"Well," says the Flak Catcher, I can't promise you jobs if the jobs aren't available yet"--and then he looks up as if for the first time he is really focusing on the thirty-five ghetto hot dogs he is now facing, by way of sizing up the threat, now that the shit has started. The blacks and the Chicanos he has no doubt seen before, or people just like them, but then he takes in the Filipinos. There are about eight of them, and they are all wearing the Day-Glo yellow and hot-green sweaters and lemon-colored pants and Italian-style socks. But it's the headgear that does the trick. They've all got on Rap Brown shades and Russian Cossack hats made of frosted-gray Dynel. They look bad.

Then the man takes in the Samoans, and they look worse. There's about ten of them, but they fill up half the room. They've got on Island shirts with designs in streaks and blooms of red, only it's a really raw shade of red, like that red they paint the floor with in the tool and dye works. They're glaring at him out of those big dark wide brown faces. The monsters have tight curly hair, but it grows in long strands, and they comb it back flat, in long curly strands, with a Duke pomade job. They've got huge feet, and they're wearing sandals. The straps on the sandals look like there were made from the reins on the Budweiser draft horses. But what really gets the Flak Catcher, besides the sheer size of the brutes, is their Tiki canes. These are like Polynesian scepters. They're the size of sawed-off pool cues, only they're carved all over in Polynesian Tiki Village designs. When they wrap their fists around these sticks, every knuckle on their hands pops out the size of a walnut. Anything they hear that they like, like the part about the "bureaucratic rhetoric," they bang on the floor in unison with the ends of the Tiki sticks--ba-ram-ba-ram-ba-ram-ba-ram--although some of them press one end of the stick onto the sole of their sandal between their first two toes and raise their foot up and down wih the stick to cushion the blow on the floor. They don't want to scuff up the Tiki cane. ...

Of course, the next day nobody shows up at the poverty office to make sure the sucker makes the telephone call. Some how it always seems to happen that way. Nobody ever follows it up. You can get everything together once, for the demonstration, for the confrontation, to go downtown and mau-mau, for the fun, for the big show, for the beano, for the main event, to see the people bury some gray cat's nuts and make him crawl and whine and sink in his own terrible grin. But nobody ever follows it up. You just sleep it off until somebody tells you there's going to be another big show.

And then later on you think about it and you say, "What really happened that day? Well, another flak catcher lost his manhood, that's what happened." Hmmmmmm ... like maybe the bureaucracy isn't so dumb after all ... All they did was sacrifice one flak catcher and they've got hundreds, thousands ... They've got replaceable parts. They threw this sacrifice to you, and you went away pleased with yourself. And even the Flak Catcher himself wasn't losing much. He wasn't losing his manhood. He gave that up a long time ago, the day he became a lifer ... Just who is fucking over who ... You did your number and he did his number, and they didn't even have to stop the music ... The band played on ... Still--did you see the look on his face? That sucker--

When black people first started using the confrontation tactic, they made a secret discovery. There was an extra dividend to this tactic. There was a creamy dessert. It wasn't just that you registered your protest and showed the white man that you meant business and weakened his resolve to keep up the walls of oppression. It wasn't just that you got poverty money and influence. There was something sweet that happened right there on the spot. You made the white man quake. You brought fear into his face.

Black people began to realize for the first time that the white man, particularly the educated white man, the leadership, had a deep dark Tarzan mumbo jungle voodoo fear of the black man's masculinity. This was a revelation. For two hundred years, wherever black people lived, north or south, mothers had been raising their sons to be meek, to be mild, to check their manhood at the front door in all things that had to do with white people, for fear of incurring the wrath of the Man. The Man was the white man. He was the only man. And now, when you got him up close and growled, this all-powerful superior animal turned out to be terrified. You could read it in his face. He had the same fear in his face as some good-doing boy who has just moved onto the block and is hiding behind his mama and the moving man and the sofa while the bad dudes on the block size him up.

So for the black man mau-mauing was a beautiful trip. It not only stood to bring you certain practical gains like money and power. It also energized your batteries. It recharged your masculinity. You no longer had to play it cool and go in for pseudo-ignorant malingering and put your head into that Ofay Pig Latin catacomb code style of protest. Mau-mauing brought you respect in its cash forms: namely, fear and envy. ...

Brothers from down the hall like Dudley got down to the heart of the poverty program very rapidly. It took them no time at all to see that the poverty program's big projects, like manpower training, in which you would get some job counseling and some training so you would be able to apply for a job in the bank or on the assembly line--everybody with a brain in his head knew that this was the usual bureaucratic shuck. Eventually the government's own statistics bore out the truth of this conclusion. The ghetto youth who completed the manpower training didn't get any more jobs or earn any more money than the people who never took any such training at all. Everybody but the most hopeless lames knew that the only job you wanted out of the poverty program was a job in the program itself. Get on the payroll, that was the idea. Never mind getting some job counseling. You be the job counselor. You be the "neighborhood organizer." As a job counselor or a neighborhood organizer you stood to make six or seven hundred dollars a month, and you were still your own man. Like if you were a "neighborhood organizer," all you had to do was go out and get the names and addresses of people in the ghetto who wanted to relate to the services of the poverty center. That was a very flexible arrangement. You were still on the street, and you got paid for it. You could still run with the same buddies you always ran with. There was nobody looking over your shoulder. ... It was true that middle-class people who happened to live in the target areas got the top jobs, but there was still room for street types.

That was one reason why Summer Jobs was such a big deal. That was what the whole session between the Samoans and the Flak Catcher was over, summer jobs. The jobs themselves were nothing. They were supposed to be for teenagers from poor families. It was an O.E.O. program, and you got $1.35 an hour and ended up as a file clerk or stock-room boy in some federal office or some foundation--hell, they didn't even need one half the people they already had working for them, and so all you learned was how to make work, fake work, and malinger out by the Xerox machine. It is true that you learned those skills from experts in the field, but it was a depressing field to be in.

Nevertheless, there was some fierce ma-mauing that went on over summer jobs, especially in 1969, when the O.E.O. started cutting back funds and the squeeze was on. Half of it was sheer status. There were supposed to be strict impartial guidelines determining who got the summer jobs--but the plain fact was that half the jobs were handed out organization by organization, according to how heavy your organization was. If you could get twenty summer jobs for your organization got five, then you were four times the aces they were .. no lie ... But there were so many groups out mau-mauing, it was hard to make yourself heard over the uproar.

Buy Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers here

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

September 4, 2008

Thanks, Google!

During McCain's convention speech, Google sent lots of inquirers to this seven month old blog posting of mine that answers the question that, apparently, was on a lot of Americans' minds tonight.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Michelle Obama vs. Hillary Clinton

One little remarked point are the similarities in the roles of Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton in the rise to power of their husbands: they were both skilled operatives instrumental in building their husbands' political machines. Obama, for example, placed Michelle in the 1990s in charge of a headhunter's group for social charities in Chicago, allowing her seed hundreds of Barack Obama loyalists throughout Chicago NGOs. Interestingly, Barack has seldom over-praised his wife's contributions the way Bill Clinton did so slavishly. Barack likes to play up Michelle as wife-and mother rather than as political cadre.

Obama's never shown much respect for feminism. His appreciation of his grandmother, a pioneering woman banking executive in Hawaii is rather faint.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer


From my movie review in The American Conservative:

It often seems as if humanity's seven decade struggle with Communism has disappeared down the memory hole. While Nazis in glistening black leather remain our culture's omnipresent exemplars of evil, Communists were apparently too dowdy to bother remembering.

A few filmmakers have begun to dissent, however. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's superb drama about the East German secret police, "The Lives of Others," won the 2006 Best Foreign Film Oscar and ran for a half year in American art houses.

In Warsaw on September 17, 2007, director Andrzej Wajda, recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Oscar, premiered "Katyń," his long-awaited epic about the 1940 Soviet decapitation of the Polish nation in which perished his cavalry officer father. The 82-year-old cinema legend reminisced, "I can’t really talk about him, except to say that he was my ideal and that he died at the age when I needed him the most." The mass murder's cover-up then lasted a half century in Soviet-run Poland: not until 1989 was Wajda free to inscribe the year of his father's death on his tombstone.

A blockbuster in Poland, "Katyń" earned a Best Foreign Film nomination here. It hasn't, though, found an American distributor. Fortunately, you can buy the Polish DVD on eBay for $25. (Look for "English subtitles" and "Region Zero.")

"Katyń" begins September 17, 1939 as Polish civilians flee eastward over a bridge from the invading Germans -- only to collide with countrymen running westward from the Soviets, who, pursuant to August 1939's Hitler-Stalin pact, are now grabbing their share of Poland.

The rest of my review is in the September 8 issue of The American Conservative.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

September 3, 2008

Open comment thread on Palin's speech

I don't have anything to say because I didn't see the speech. I was too preoccupied with studying the psychodemographics of frolf (see below). (I can always catch up with it on Youtube, right?) So, have your say in the Comments.

By the way, the original speechwriter was apparently American Conservative contributor Matthew Scully, so if a few of the lines about Obama sound like they came from somebody familiar with my articles, perhaps they did.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

The Summer of Steve

I had some time to kill in the Pasadena area today, so I went for a walk in the oak forest along the edge of the Arroyo Seco, north of the Rose Bowl and just south of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The park has one of the oldest Frisbee golf courses in the country, with signs next to each tee diagramming each hole (the 18th, for example, is a 187-foot dogleg right between the oaks).

I played this frolf course once in the mid-1970s. It seemed like a simple, mildly fun game. Judging from the guys who were playing today, however, it's no longer a simple game. I've been to three U.S. Open golf tournaments, I've watched Jack Nicklaus try to stare in a 20 foot birdie putt on the back nine Sunday at Medinah to get him in the hunt for one last U.S. Open title at age 50, but I've never seen intensity like these guys playing frolf. I watched one guy take seven or eight practice "swings" before finally just missing a 15 footer. The other three players said nothing, and just began lining up their shots with the same furious concentration.

On the other hand, the only female twosome on the course squealed in delight at each other's good shoots, then instantly resumed their conversation, of which all I overheard was, "Well, I don't care what he thinks, because I know I'm worth it!" It was all straight out of a Dave Barry column on the difference between men and women.

Also, every single player carried a shoulder bag for his multiple frisbees of various sizes (except for one guy who had a golf cart to haul around all his frisbees). All the bags were equipped with a long strap so that the bag hung below the waist and wouldn't interfere with the proper throwing motion. Most players had towels to dust off their frisbees to restore the perfect aerodynamics, although to my disappointment, these appeared to be just normal towels, and not specially designed frisbee golf towels made of some fiber custom fabricated at JPL to be optimal for frisbee-buffing.

There's a line in the Stuff White People Like book to the effect of: "Is there something you like? I mean, is there something you really like? Well, whatever it is, there's a white person who likes it more."

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

UPDATED: "IQ and the Wealth of States"

Thanks for all the comments. I've put the answer below.

Let's play find the fallacy!

An academic at the London School of Economics has published an article called "IQ and the Wealth of States" claiming that the average IQ in, for example, New Jersey is 108.6 and in Iowa is 76.6. He writes:

In order to use the incomplete, truncated data on SAT scores to compute state IQ, however, I make two simplifying assumptions.

1. Students who complete high school are uniformly more intelligent than those who do not.
2. High school seniors who take the SAT are uniformly more intelligent than those who do not.

What idiosyncrasy about American college entrance testing is this Londoner not aware of that led him to come up with such implausible state IQ scores?

(Hint: I didn't choose the states in the examples above randomly.)

UPDATE: The American testing idiosyncrasy is that there are two competing college entrance exams: the SAT, which is devised in Princeton, New Jersey is dominant on the East and West Coasts, while the ACT, which is devised in Iowa City, Iowa (I believe), is dominant in the center of the country. If you are a kid in New Jersey whose dream school is Columbia and whose safety school is Rutgers, you'll take the SAT. If you are a kid in Iowa whose dream school is Northwestern and whose safety school is U. of Iowa, you'll take the ACT.

Thus, the average score for high school students who take the SAT in Iowa is much higher than in New Jersey, but that's because the percentage of high school students who take the SAT in Iowa is much lower than in New Jersey.

Kanazawa attempts to correct for the excessively high average SAT scores in Iowa by assuming that everybody who takes the SAT is "uniformly more intelligent than those who do not." That wouldn't be a terrible assumption if there were only one college entrance exam, but because there are two, and they are regionally based, it's disastrous.

Here's a good faith attempt from 2003 to get around this problem, which comes up with not implausible estimates (both Iowa and NJ do pretty good), although I think somebody could do a better job of combining SAT and ACT scores.

Speaking of vetting ...

How about we all pat ourselves on the back for the great job this country did in vetting the Democratic nominee for President? After all, by the middle of March 2008, when the vast majority of Americans first heard about the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., there were still eight (count 'em, eight!) states that hadn't yet held primaries or caucuses. Sure, 42 primaries / caucuses had been held in ignorance of Barack Obama's actual background, but, hey, 8 out of 50 ain't bad!

By the time the Rev. came back from his cruise and proved six weeks later that in Obama's celebrated "More Perfect Union" oration, Obama had merely been "saying what a politician has to say," thus making Obama so mad he finally did disown Wright, there were still seven states left. And by the time Rev. Wright's much ballyhooed successor, Otis Moss, had proven how leftist he was, causing Obama to disown his church at the very end of May, there were two entire primaries left.

America, you're doing a heck of a job!

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

NYT: Georgia, not Russia, attacked

The Battle of Kursk it wasn't ... The New York Times reports:

Just weeks after Georgia’s military collapsed in panic in the face of the Russian Army, its leaders hope to rebuild and train its armed forces as if another war with Russia is almost inevitable. ...

Georgia’s decision to attack Russian and South Ossetian forces raises questions about the wisdom of further United States investment in the Georgian military, which in any case would further alienate Russia. Not doing so could lead to charges of abandoning Georgia in the face of Russian threats. ...

“Our mission is to protect our country from Russian aggression,” Davit Kezerashvili, Georgia’s 29-year-old defense minister, said in an interview last week when asked what missions the military would be organized to perform. “...

Military rebuilding will take years, which means that long-term decisions about American support to Georgia will fall to the next presidential administration.

Republicans and Democrats alike have signaled strong support for Georgia.

Mr. Saakashvili has cultivated close ties to both the McCain and Obama campaigns. Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee for vice president, visited Mr. Saakashvili last month, as did Cindy McCain, the wife of Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee. Mr. McCain has been a vocal proponent of Mr. Saakashvili’s government, and a strong critic of the Kremlin. ...

Russia’s military, while able to overpower and scare off the inexperienced Georgian Army, went into battle with aging equipment, including scores of tanks designed in the 1960s, and armored vehicles that broke down in large numbers along Georgia’s roads. ...

But as Georgia and the West begin to discuss military collaborations, the conversation is informed by the events of last month, in which the Georgian military scattered under fire. ...

But interviews with Western military officers who have experience working with Georgian military forces, including officers in Georgia, Europe and the United States, suggested that Georgia’s military shortfalls were serious and too difficult to change merely by upgrading equipment.

In the recent war, which was over in days, Georgia’s Army fled ahead of the Russian Army’s advance, turning its back and leaving Georgian civilians in an enemy’s path. Its planes did not fly after the first few hours of contact. Its navy was sunk in the harbor, and its patrol boats were hauled away by Russian trucks on trailers.

The information to date suggests that from the beginning of the war to its end, Georgia, which wants to join NATO, fought the war in a manner that undermined its efforts at presenting itself as a potentially serious military partner or power.

Mr. Saakashvili and his advisers also say that even though he has no tactical military experience, he was at one time personally directing important elements of the battle — giving orders over a cellphone and deciding when to move a brigade from western to central Georgia to face the advancing Russian columns.

In the field, there is evidence from an extensive set of witnesses that within 30 minutes of Mr. Saakashvili’s order, Georgia’s military began pounding civilian sections of the city of Tskhinvali, as well as a Russian peacekeeping base there, with heavy barrages of rocket and artillery fire.

The barrages all but ensured a Russian military response, several diplomats, military officers and witnesses said.

After the Russian columns arrived through the Roki Tunnel, and the battle swung quickly into Russia’s favor, Georgia said its attack had been necessary to stop a Russian attack that already had been under way.

To date, however, there has been no independent evidence, beyond Georgia’s insistence that its version is true, that Russian forces were attacking before the Georgian barrages.

That's a big improvement over so much of the initial reporting in the American that made it sound like Russian takes rolled first over the de facto boundary of 17 years; but the NYT now sounds a little too overconfident in the opposite direction. Russia may have been trying to provoke Georgia into committing the casus belli. I don't know that Putin was trying to provoke Georgia's government of over-networked yuppie goofballs into starting this war, but he might have.

During the battle, one Western military officer said, it had been obvious that Georgia’s logistical preparations were poor and that its units interfered with each other in the field.

This was in part because there was limited communication between ground forces and commanders, but also because there was almost no coordination between police units and military units, which often had overlapping tasks and crowded one another on the roads.

One senior Western military official said that one of the country’s senior generals had fled the battle in an ambulance, leaving soldiers and his duties behind. Georgia’s Defense Ministry strongly denies this.

No one disputes that the army succumbed to chaos and fear, which reached such proportions that the army fled all the way to the capital, abandoning the city of Gori without preparing a serious defense, and before the Russians had reached it in strength. It littered its retreat with discarded ammunition.

C. J. Chivers reported from Tbilisi, and Thom Shanker from Washington. Clifford J. Levy contributed reporting from Moscow.

The key strategic question not mentioned here is whether Georgia intends to build a military oriented toward the offense or the defense.

Hezbollah showed in 2006 that, by spending the $100 million per year it gets from Iran, plus whatever it extorts out of the Lebanese economy, you can dig in and withstand a modern army with airplanes and tanks even when you have none. At least, you can withstand a modern army for about as long as a modern country will put up with waging offensive war. As the Georgians showed, in the 21st Century, people really don't like to fight very much, so the balance is switching from offense to defense. It's not 1940 anymore, so mini-Maginot Lines are coming back into utility.

But you can't conquer the land you want by digging in on the land you already have. At this point, having tried to retake South Ossetia, Georgia finds itself with Russian sitting on land that Georgia controlled up until last month, so it is likely to even more want to go on the offensive to get the Russians out.

What's the solution? I don't know, but, it would be nice if Democratic Georgia had one of those democratic elections we're always hearing about and voted Saakashvili out for starting and instantly losing a war with Russia. Then a new government could start a defensive-oriented strategy, digging in to make it too costly for Russia to go further south, while negotiating to get Russia to pull back to its protectorates, leaving a demilitarized zone behind.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

September 2, 2008

Palin: Affordable Family Formation in action

A couple of writers for Slate get it (almost) about how the Palins are the exemplars of my theory of Affordable Family Formation:
Working-Class Hero: How the Palins' enviable blue-collar lifestyle could help the McCain campaign.
By Adriaan Lanni and Wesley Kelman

But the pregnancy (which could help swing voters identify with Palin) threatens to obscure a seductive and misleading subtext in Palin's biography that may play a key role in the election: the way she embodies the hope of a blue-collar life without economic insecurity.

Actually, the 18-year-old fiance looks quite capable of doing a man's work and earning a man's pay in the Alaskan economy. I have no idea if he, personally, will turn out to be a decent provider, but he's got a strong back in a place where that's worth something.
Palin's background reminded us of an Alaskan we met several years ago. We had just moved to Anchorage for a temporary job in the state court system and struck up an illuminating conversation with a bricklayer while on a hike outside town. He made a surprising amount of money—he had moved to Alaska because its wages were so high. He also had enviable stretches of leisure: He worked long shifts during the short construction season, then spent all fall and winter riding his "snowmachine" (Alaskan for snowmobile), panning for gold—yes, people still do that there—and hunting and fishing. He exuded optimism; his life was good and he knew it, and there was no resentment of yuppies like us.

Palin's family, warts and all, has some of the same features. Husband Todd's two jobs—commercial fisherman and oil production manager on the North Slope—required little formal education and provide ample time off. Yet they pay extremely well. If you include the permanent fund dividend that Alaska distributes to its residents as a way of sharing oil tax revenues, the family made about $100,000 last year, not counting Sarah's $125,000 salary as governor.

Mr. Palin's income alone would put the Palins at about the same level as many well-educated, white-collar workers we knew in Anchorage. It is also enough money to enjoy a quality of life that is, at least to a certain taste, superior to what is enjoyed almost anywhere else, either in cities or in the countryside. Like the bricklayer, the Palins can hunt and fish in a place of legendary abundance. Their hometown may be a dingy Anchorage exurb, but it has cheap, plentiful land bordering a vast and beautiful wilderness, which is crisscrossed by Todd (the "Iron Dog" champion) and the Palin children all winter. (By comparison, in the Northeast many leisure activities are brutally segregated by income: Martha's Vineyard vs. the Poconos, the Jersey Shore vs. the Hamptons.)

This free and easy life is radically different from the desperate existences depicted in Barack Obama's speeches. The main policy thrust of Obama's acceptance speech (and of both Clinton speeches) was that middle-class families, and particularly blue-collar families like the Palins, are in crisis because of stagnant wages, unemployment, foreign competition, and growing inequality. But these problems, which are a statistical fact, seem a world away from the Palin family.

This disjunction between the good life for many Alaskans and the not-so-good life for working-class families elsewhere suggests several strategies for the McCain campaign. Palin certainly has more credibility than McCain to attack Democrats' economic policies. More subtly, Palin embodies a notion that Republicans can create a society like Alaska—where the culture has a heavy working-class influence, state taxes are nonexistent, economic prospects are good for people regardless of formal education, and bricklayers can make the same money as urban lawyers (and have more fun in their spare time).

While Democratic policy tries to help blue-collar workers by making it easier for them to attend college and get office jobs—that is, by encouraging them to cease to be blue-collar—Palin's Alaskan story offers hope from within the blue-collar culture. She validates the goodness of life in rural America because she has embraced a particularly exotic, turbocharged version of this life. Her biography, bound to be emphasized by Republicans, thus makes a powerful appeal to one of the country's most decisive constituencies.

The rub, of course, is that however genuine it may be, Palin's family life may not be possible outside Alaska.

The bottom line is supply of land vs. supply of labor. That's always been America's big advantage, but John McCain, of course, will never get it. Ben Franklin did get it, way back in 1751:

“For People increase in Proportion to the Number of Marriages, and that is greater in Proportion to the Ease and Convenience of supporting a Family. When Families can be easily supported, more Persons marry, and earlier in Life. ... Europe is generally full settled with Husbandmen, Manufacturers, &c. and therefore cannot now much increase in People. … Land being thus plenty in America, and so cheap as that a labouring Man, that understands Husbandry, can in a short Time save Money enough to purchase a Piece of new Land sufficient for a Plantation, whereon he may subsist a Family; such are not afraid to marry… Hence Marriages in America are more general, and more generally early, than in Europe.”

Franklin then pointed out the policy implication of this simple logic: don't flood the country with foreigners. McCain will never, ever figure that out.

Fertility Freakout rolls onward

A female reader calls my attention to a minor article about Bristol Palin's fiance attending the GOP convention on the website of the San Francisco Chronicle, a fairly minor big city newspaper. And yet, in the ten hours that the article has been up on the SF Chronicle's website, it has garnered (let me check the latest) well over 1000 comments. This story isn't some exclusive scoop for the SF Chronicle -- they just took it from the AP feed, so it's reasonable to guess the same scale of reaction is happening nationwide.

My reader adds:

I've never seen anything quite like it. BTW, I get comments w/ my five, but, let me "wear" my baby in a bjorn carrier w/ my four in tow and strangers make scenes...

Offhand, the only political whoop-te-doos that I can recall to compare to this in frenzy were Monica Lewinsky and Anita Hill. Hmmhmhmm, what did they all have in common?

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Tribal Fertility Totem Elicits Strong Emotions

Over at The American Scene, the always sensible Noah Millman returns from the Labor Day Weekend to make some sensible comments about Sarah Palin: e.g., she might have made a better Keynote speaker, like Obama in 2004, than VP candidate. (By the way, though, how often do you think Democrats have kicked themselves since 2004 that they didn't let themselves get carried away at that convention and nominate Obama for Veep by acclamation back then, instead of what's his name, that loser with the hair? John Kerry might be President today.)

But Noah then added this postscript, after he realized that we're in the middle of a full-blown national freak-out over the various Palin Pregnancy stories, true and false, that have obsessed attention since he left for the weekend.

UPDATE: You know, I wrote this post, and made my little points, and then I started working back through some of the comments (not on my posts, actually – I haven’t gotten back that far, and I’m not sure I will). People are seriously losing their minds here, in a way that I’ve never seen before on this site. And not just people who have obviously wandered over here for the first time: regular readers are going off their rockers. I’m really not sure what we all ought to do about this. I wrote a little sermonette but I just deleted it because I can’t imagine anyone who’s gone off their rocker reading it and doing anything but getting angrier. I’m open to suggestions on what to do. Myself, I swear my next post will about Canadian theater.


And here’s the fundamental reason underlying all the rage on one side and amusement on the other over Sarah Palin: it’s all about … female fertility.

Human beings have extremely strong emotions on the topic of fertility. It’s an obsession — look at the celebrity gossip columns these days. The who is sleeping with whom stuff bores people now compared to the pregnancy news. Thus, celebrities auction off rights to pictures of their new babies for millions, even though all newborns look alike. The top breeding stock parents — Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt — were looking to snag something like $6 million for the exclusive rights to the first photos of their twins.

Now, the Breeding Wars have moved into the political arena. Barack Obama launched his Presidential run at the 2004 Democratic convention by devoting the first 380 words of his speech to describing in great detail the two stocks from which he was crossbred. His message is that by uniting in his DNA the two races, he will end the racial conflict that has long plagued this land. (Noah should take a look at Henry VII’s speech ending Shakespeare's “Richard III” for the classic expression of the logic of dynastic merger, in this case between the Lancasters and the Yorks.) Obama left out the part about his mom being 17 when she got pregnant and his father already being married with a kid and another on the way.

Palin has horned in on all that subliminal symbolism with her own. She’s had five kids while shooting caribou (a picture of her and a daughter standing over a huge beast she shot is the LA Times most emailed article of the day even though it's not an article, just a picture) and throwing the crooks out, and now she has a 17-year-old daughter who is pregnant and will marry a handsome hockey player.

The Blue Whites are alarmed and outraged to be reminded that the Red Whites can afford to outbreed them and are outbreeding them. Modern people tell themselves they don't care about stuff like that, but they do, oh, they do.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

September 1, 2008

Why Chicago Is a Politician's Paradise

In my column, I return to Obama's relationships with so many unsavory Chicago characters, which has been so baffling to outsiders. Here's the beginning, but please read the whole thing to understand how Chicago works. You've seen some of it in blog posts before, but I'm finally pulling it all together in a coherent fashion here.

Obama's Kind of Town, Chicago Is …

Did you know that Barack Obama's mentor, now-convicted fixer Tony Rezko, who funneled $250,000 in contributions to Obama from his initial campaign onward, got his start as a big-time Chicago operator back in the early 1980s through … the Nation of Islam?

Also known as the Black Muslims, they are the gentlemen in the bow-ties who preach that, in prehistoric times, the vile Dr. Yacub genetically engineered Europeans to be a race of human wolves.

Fat Tony, of course, is neither Black nor Muslim—he's a white Christian immigrant from a wealthy family in Aleppo, a famous Syrian rug-trading souk.

The Black Muslims are also notoriously anti-Semitic—but not when it came to their friend Tony Rezko, whose partner in Rezmar, the notorious government-subsidized slumlord racket, was Daniel Mahru, who is Jewish.

But that's the kind of town Chicago is—diverse, vibrant, tolerant … as long as you've got clout and are willing to put aside petty differences and play ball with others with clout to mutually exploit the public.

If you want to understand Barack Obama, you have to understand Chicago, the city where he twice chose to make a political career.

Chicago sits at the conjunction of America's two great watersheds, the Mississippi and the Great Lakes, which made it the transportation hub of the nation by the Civil War. Even today, the convenience of direct flights from O'Hare make the Chicago area central to American corporate life. The ample amount of money that can be extracted from businesses before they finally resolve to flee Chicago means that the city has always been a politician's paradise.


My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Little Known Sarah Palin Facts

From the indispensable

Sarah Palin knows the location of DB Cooper’s body because she threw him from the plane.

Sarah Palin can divide by zero.

Global Warming doesn’t kill polar bears. Sarah Palin kills polar bears, with her teeth.

Sarah Palin knows how old the Chinese gymnasts are.

Russia sold Alaska to America because Sarah Palin would not bow to autocracy.

Alaskan wolfpacks give Sara Palin first dibs on their kills.

Sarah Palin will give birth to the man who will lead humanity’s war against the machines.

Sarah Palin drives a Zamboni to work.

Sarah Palin begins every day with a moment of silence for the political enemies buried in her yard.

We'll never know who would win a cage match between Chuck Norris and Sarah Palin because no cage ever constructed can hold her.

The Alaska governor's instant ascent to Frontier Folk Hero explains much of the unhinged rage among Obama supporters. They'd been fantasizing about their genetically nuanced man of the future, their political Tiger Woods, when suddenly they get blindsided by a figure seemingly out of America's buried past, a joyously comic tall tale character in the tradition of Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, Annie Oakley, Mike Fink, and Paul Bunyan.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

August 31, 2008

Sarah Palin Rumors

I haven't checked any out of these shocking rumors being heavily flogged by anti-Palin parties such as Andrew Sullivan and Daily Kos for factuality, I just want to give you my impression of how they'll strike average Americans (especially average American women):

- Palin was already pregnant when she got married two decades ago!

Let's see, you're saying the beauty queen/point guard and the oilfield roughneck/Bering Strait fisherman couldn't keep their hands off each other, got pregnant, got married, had lots more kids, and are together 20 years later? Wow, that's the most appalling thing I ever heard.

- The governor didn't really just have a baby at 44, it's actually her teenage daughter's, but she's raising the baby as her own!

Gee, that never happened before in the history of the world ... except that's how Jack Nicholson, Bobby Darrin (see Kevin Spacey's nice biopic "Beyond the Sea"), Thomas Sowell (in a slightly more complicated version), and a quite a few less famous people were brought up. It lets the inexperienced teen finish her education and find a husband unencumbered by another guy's kid. The girl escapes being a "single mom" while maintaining a close relationship as an "aunt" with her child, as her experienced and better-financed mom oversees raising the kid. I'm not saying it's the only or ideal way to handle such matters, but more than a few people have chosen it as the best solution in a difficult situation. Indeed, it might help get Palin off the hook with the more maternal women who are uncertain about her going on the campaign trail so soon after having a baby.

As I said, I haven't checked into the facts regarding these rumors. I'm all in favor of as many people as possible checking out rumors as soon as possible (in sharp contrast to Barack Obama's 20-year-relationship with Jeremiah Wright, which the media paid almost no attention to until March 13, 2008 when the primaries were largely over). What I am saying is that a lot of Primarily Political People are clueless about how most people think.

Overall, what we can say for sure about Palin is: she Has A Life. In contrast to undersexed Hillary Clinton's cautious, cramped biography, Palin's life story just makes you feel sorry for poor Hillary.

The unanswered question, though, is whether, being a woman, Palin has too much of a life to have mastered her career skills enough. With a male executive with four or five kids, like, say, Mitt Romney, nobody worries about whether his having a life means he can't also rescue the Salt Lake City Olympics. We just assume that he has a wife who takes care of domestic concerns while he focuses on his career. But with a female executive with such a rich home life, can she really have been devoting enough of her attention to public life?

But, of course, while that's a good question, it's also a sexist one. I look forward to Obama and Biden trying to figure out how to handle it.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer