October 31, 2008

Somebody gets it

The latest screwy email rumor is that Barack Obama Jr. isn't really the son of Barack Obama Sr., he's actually the son of the elderly Communist poet Frank Marshall Davis!


Obama Jr. is clearly part East African.

Just look at him.

Obama Sr. was quite likely the only East African in Honolulu in November 1960.

Therefore, Barack Obama Jr. is the son of Barack Obama Sr.

More generally, try to notice the common denominator in the various Obama Origin rumors:

- He's a secret Muslim!

- His father was 7/8ths Arab!

- His real father was a member of the Communist Party USA!

- A white terrorist wrote his autobiography for him!

Notice a pattern?

We've reached a point in 2008 in when political correctness has so suffused the mental atmosphere that even people making up rumors are convinced that Obama's Secret doesn't have anything to do with him being half black. No, it's really about Muslims or Arabs or Communists or Weathermen, but it can't possibly have anything to do with (horrors!) race. We've all evolved so far beyond that trivial details like that!

But with Obama, it really is all about "a story of race and inheritance."

If anybody actually wants to understand who Obama really is read ... my ... book.

Here is an email from a reader who has read it.

Read your book all the way through this evening: can't sleep tonight ...as a result. Congratulations on its completion. I hope it will be purchased and referenced. I donated again. In return, I'll open up and rant a bit.

IMHO, although you address Rev. Wright in some detail, I still think you underestimate his influence on Sen. Obama's politics. I agree that the Senator is likely to be agnostic, wrapping the cloak of religiosity around himself only as needed to insulate himself against criticism of insincerity: he certainly doesn't appear to have the religious gene, either phenotypically or by judging his paternal or maternal DNA. He is too bright to take Islam, especially the Black Muslim stuff, seriously. However, his personal and political philosophy appear to be compatible with the teachings of Christianity: alms for the poor (at least certain groups of them), a rejection of materialism (at least for others; he also appears to be comfortable with the belief that some animals are more equal than others), and a need for a meaning and community based on a shared value system and unspecified higher good. Unfortunately for you and me, and as you point out, the main values in his system are being black and poor.

This is where the black liberation theology comes in. If you strip away the religiosity and view it as simply a political position - it is the appropriate function of the state to impose Christian virtues on the citizens of the state, whether it be alms (forcible redistribution of wealth), pacifism, a call for personal responsibility, health care as a natural right (as a physician I have somewhat different views on this), glorification of the poor and rejection of materialism (in the form of antipathy towards capitalism), all tending toward special privileges for Africans - it comes much closer to defining his political philosophy than Socialism.

He doesn't seem that interested in economics or proletariats: he is all about emotions. He wins converts like any evangelist, by first empathizing with, then amplifying, their frustrations and fears, then promising them salvation if they embrace his message, although this part could be as much from Alinsky as from Wright. The liberation theology part justifies the compulsion, by the force of the state, to serve their interests. From Trinity and Rev Wright then, and again as you and others point out, all he does is substitute more politically conventional and less inflammatory terms for the subjects and objects of the sermon: the structure of the argument, the rhetorical style, the romantic and religious promise of it all remain intact and create his Messianic image. So call it black liberation politics.

My points are that belief, or at least an acceptance of, black liberation theology as taught by Wright 1) explains his political positions quite well, better than a belief in Marxism, 2) explains just why he sat in that pew all of that time, and 3) is antithetical to a belief in the American idea of limited government as expressed in the Bill of Rights (as confirmed by his recently discovered radio comments).

All of the other people and needs in Sen. Obama's life come together in Wright as well: his father's blackness and will to power without the character flaws, his mother's rejection of traditional American ideals, his earlier and concurrent influences, his own need to be approved, his need to express himself, and his need to prove to himself (and Michelle) his blackness. Compare the power and rhythm of his current speeches, heavily influenced by Wright, with the plodding and complex prose style that you slogged through and that he still reverts to verbally when caught off guard. He really did rip off the Rev.: I almost feel sorry for the guy.

What this suggests about a President Barack Obama and his administration does not reassure me in the least. I hope your dispassionate take proves more correct than mine.

Or maybe he is just another crooked Chicago politician with an odd history. That fits the data pretty well, too.

I don't know either. But I do think it shames our Republic that a candidate can spend 20 months running for President without being seriously examined on his "deepest committments" just because they're all tangled up in his race.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

You can take a break from proofreading my book now

I want to thank everybody who has helped me proofread my book. I'm incorporating your hundreds of suggestions right now, and we'll be putting up a much-improved version either later today or on Monday. We'll see how it goes in terms of timing.

So, no need to submit any more comments or emails with corrections right now because we'll have a new version out fairly soon.

Then you can tell me what's wrong with that version! When that's up, we'll try a more organized fashion where we have a comment thread for each chapter, as Blue just suggested.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

It's David Axelrod's Reality Show ...

and we're just living in it.

From the NYT:

Following the Script: Obama, McCain and ‘The West Wing’

When Eli Attie, a writer for “The West Wing,” prepared to plot some episodes about a young Democratic congressman’s unlikely presidential bid, he picked up the phone and called David Axelrod.

Mr. Attie, a former speechwriter for Vice President Al Gore, and Mr. Axelrod, a political consultant, had crossed campaign trails before. “I just called him and said, ‘Tell me about Barack Obama,’ ” Mr. Attie said.

Days after Mr. Obama, then an Illinois state senator, delivered an address to the 2004 Democratic National Convention, the two men held several long conversations about his refusal to be defined by his race and his aspirations to bridge the partisan divide. Mr. Axelrod was then working on Mr. Obama’s campaign for the United States Senate; he is now Mr. Obama’a chief strategist.

Four years later, the writers of “The West Wing” are watching in amazement as the election plays out. The parallels between the final two seasons of the series (it ended its run on NBC in May 2006) and the current political season are unmistakable.

Italics are mine.

Isn't it remarkable that 20 months into the Obama campaign, the New York Times doesn't pay any attention to the candidate's own 460 pages about "a boy's search for his father, and through that search a workable meaning for his life as a black American;" and how he realized "I can embrace my black brothers and sisters, whether in this country or in Africa, and affirm a common destiny ..." and instead prints as fact the talking points of his hired gun spinmeister: "his refusal to be defined by his race and his aspirations to bridge the partisan divide"?

The man wrote an entire book defining himself by race. He subtitled it "A Story of Race and Inheritance" so you'd get the point. And it sold millions of copies. But who cares, because we've got David Axelrod to set us straight.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


There have been numerous calls for inclusion of an Obama family tree in my new book, America's Half-Blood Prince: Barack Obama's Story of Race and Inheritance.

Does anybody know of a website that generates polygamous family trees? This co-wife thing (e.g., Obama's Kenyan "Granny," who is not his blood relation but is actually one of his grandfather's other wives) is a little confusing to diagram.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

What's Obama's SAT score secret?

One of the oddities of Presidential races is that so little actual information about the candidates is generated by the press. Reporters seem to envision their role not as digging up facts, but as rather like that of theater critics. Their job is to evaluate how well the campaigns mount their little fantasies, and that's about it.

One of the things the press fails to do is to get together and demand facts. For example, consider the candidates' health. The leading news-gathering institutions should pool their money and make it a tradition to offer to pay for each candidate to visit during the dog days of summer the Mayo Clinic for a full check-up to be then published.

Similarly, the press should push to make it traditional to release academic records and test scores. Otherwise, we're at the mercy of campaign spin and conventional wisdom. In 2004, we heard all the time about how bright Kerry was, but then it turned out the year after that we learned he had an even lower GPA than Bush at Yale two years earlier, taking similar courses.

I suspect McCain isn't the kind of guy to remember what he got on the SAT 55 years ago. But Obama is exactly the kind of guy to remember what he got. (Joe ''I think I have a much higher I.Q. than you do" Biden is the kind of guy who has been trying to forget his SAT scores for 50 years. Anybody want to guess who would score higher if they took a test today, unadjusted for age: Biden or Palin?)

Now, here's my guess about how Obama did on the verbal half of the SAT and on the LSAT:

He aced them.

I bet that's Obama's SAT score secret: standardized testing, that politically incorrect bogeyman, worked perfectly for him.

Some kind of entrance exam got him into Punahou prep school from Nowheresville in Indonesia, then a high verbal SAT score propelled this dope-smoking Hawaiian slacker with mediocre grades first to Occidental, then to Columbia. The LSAT took him to Harvard Law, where he finally buckled down and earned grades in line with his scores. (I have no guess as to how he did on the SAT Math test -- members of his family were good at math, so he might be too. He just seldom talks numbers. As one commenters say, Perhaps he is good with numbers and he knows his budget numbers don't add up.)

Sure, affirmative action helped make up for his nothing-special grades in high school and undergrad college, but test scores are what showed the world his potential. That's what got him in to the cool schools' affirmative action slots ahead of the hardworking true African-American kids with 1050 SAT scores who were valedictorians of their all-black high schools.
Of course, he can't come out and say that, in own his experience, standardized testing is reasonably accurate and that all this Bell Curve stuff makes sense. Think of what poor Michelle, who is still publicly tormented by her mediocre test scores, would do to him!

That would explain why, amidst all of Obama's petty racial complaints in Dreams from My Father (like the white girl who mentioned to him that she liked Stevie Wonder), there's none of the conventional complaints about standardized testing being how The Man is keeping blacks down.

A reader writes:
There can be almost no doubt that Obama earned exceptionally high standardized test scores. Obama graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School – i.e., top 10% of his class. Unlike in college, there is no way to coast through law school taking gut classes. As an HLS grad, I don’t know anyone who earned magna who isn’t an exceptionally bright guy. My guess is that Obama got something in the neighborhood of a 175 on the LSAT – which I would I guess is roughly like scoring above 1500 in the old days before the mid-90s recentering. For someone officially categorized as “African American,” this makes him about as rare as a unicorn.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

October 30, 2008

Infrastructure blowout

This week, everybody who is anybody has started demanding a huge increase in government infrastructure spending to prevent the country from falling into recession.

Doesn't anybody have any idea how long it takes these days to get started on major infrastructure projects? I'm familiar with golf courses in California, which are pretty small potatoes, and yet they take 8 to 15 years of environmental and other hearings before any dirt gets turned.

Is the Democratic Congress really going to suspend the Environmental Protection Act and all the rest of the environmental impedimentia?

I do know of one current infrastructure project, however, that the government is currently piddling along on, doing a half-assed job, that it would make perfect sense to triple in size and go immediately to three shifts U.S.S. Yorktown-style: the Border Fence.

By the way, would it be too much to ask that jobs on these FDR-style public works projects be open only to American citizens?

We spent the first 8 years of this decade having foreign nationals build the exurbs of Las Vegas -- how's that working out for us lately?

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

The Introduction to my book: "America's Half-Blood Prince: Barack Obama's Story of Race and Inheritance"

We've posted online my entire 264 page book, America's Half-Blood Prince: Barack Obama's Story of Race and Inheritance. You'll be able soon to order a paperback copy for $29.95, but in the meantime, you can start reading it online here:

To give you a taste, here's the first chapter. (The killer chapter, though, is the second, which tells why Obama's mother indoctrinated him in the dreams from his father.)

1. Introduction

I am new enough on the national political scene that I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views. As such, I am bound to disappoint some, if not all, of them. Which perhaps indicates a second, more intimate theme to this book–namely, how I, or anybody in public office, can avoid the pitfalls of fame, the hunger to please, the fear of loss, and thereby retain that kernel of truth, that singular voice within each of us that reminds us of our deepest commitments.

Barack Obama
The Audacity of Hope, 2006

The fundamental irony of Sen. Barack Obama’s Presidential candidacy is that no nominee in living memory has been so misunderstood by the press and public, and yet no other candidate has ever written so intimately or eloquently (or, to be frank, endlessly) about his “deepest commitments.”

While journalists have swarmed to Alaska with admirable alacrity to ferret out every detail of Sarah Palin‘s energetic life, the media have drawn a curtain of admiring incomprehension in front of Obama’s own exquisitely written autobiography, Dreams from My Father. Because few have taken the trouble to appreciate Obama on his own terms, the politician functions as our national blank slate upon which we sketch out our social fantasies.

Although many have supported Obama in 2008 because he seems to them better than the alternatives, he has also famously electrified throngs of voters. Yet, the reasons for their enthusiasm are often contradictory.

For example, many Americans, whether for Obama, McCain, or None of the Above, appreciate the patriotic, anti-racialist sentiment in the most famous sentence of Obama’s keynote address to the 2004 Democratic Convention: “There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America—there’s the United States of America.”

Yet, Obama’s white enthusiasts are often excited by the candidate’s race, and for diverse motivations. More than a few white people, for instance, wish to demonstrate their moral and cultural superiority over more backward members of their own race. As Christian Lander’s popular website Stuff White People Like acerbically documents, white people strive endlessly for prestige relative to other whites, scanning constantly for methods to claw their way to the top of the heap. In this status struggle, nonwhites seldom register on white people’s radar screens as rivals. Instead, white people see minorities more as useful props in the eternal scuffle to gain the upper hand over other whites. High on Lander’s list of stuff white people like is:

#8 Barack Obama
Because white people are afraid that if they don’t like him that they will be called racist.

As one of Hillary Clinton’s advisers explained to The Guardian:

If you have a social need, you’re with Hillary. If you want Obama to be your imaginary hip black friend and you’re young and you have no social needs, then he’s cool.

Other white Obama devotees have very different rationales in mind. Some are eager to put white guilt behind them, assuming that Obama’s election will prove there is no more need for affirmative action. Stuart Taylor Jr. exulted in The Atlantic in an article called “The Great Black-White Hope:”

The ascent of Obama is the best hope for focusing the attention of black Americans on the opportunities that await them instead of on the oppression of their ancestors.

And some white Obamaniacs wish to enthrone the princely Obama to serve as a more suitable exemplar for young African-Americans than the gangsta rappers they presently idolize. (Don't be so black. Act more Ba-rack!) Jonathan Alter rhapsodized in Newsweek:

[Obama’s] most exciting potential for moral leadership could be in the African-American community. Remember the 1998 movie Bulworth, where Warren Beatty … tells astonished black Democrats that it’s time for them to “put down the chicken and the malt liquor…”

That the candidate is black offers the country a potential advantage: it makes his intellectual facility and verbal adeptness more acceptable to the bulk of voters, many of whom found Al Gore and his 1355 SAT score too inhumanly cerebral to trust. If Obama, a superb prose stylist, were white, he’d be written off as an effete intellectual. But white voters are hungry for a well-educated role model for blacks. And blacks hope that his wife Michelle and his long membership in Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr.’s Trinity United Church of Christ are evidence that he is, as Michelle says, keeping it real.

Whatever their reasons, conscious or unconscious, white Obama zealots are prone to assume that Obama is the Tiger Woods of politics: as the postracial product of a happy mixed race family, he must be the anti-Jesse Jackson. His election will enable America to put all that tiresome tumult over ethnicity behind us.

Since 2004, Obama has himself stoked the popular hope among whites that his admixture of black and white genes means that “trying to promote mutual understanding” is “in my DNA,” as he asserted at the April 29, 2008 press conference in which he finally disowned his longtime pastor.

Obama’s 2004 keynote address tapped into an omnipresent theme in our popular culture, which is currently dominated by fantasy and science fiction epics largely about orphans predestined by their unique heredity and/or upbringing to save the world, such as Harry Potter, Star Wars, Superman, Terminator, Lord of the Rings, and Batman.

Likewise, in politics, a fascination with breeding is both very old (going back to the days of hereditary monarchy) and very contemporary. The main qualifications for the Presidency of the current Chief Executive, Mr. Bush, and the Democratic runner-up in 2008, Mrs. Clinton, consist of being, respectively, the scion and consort of ex-Presidents.

More subtly, Obama launched himself on the national stage at the 2004 convention by devoting the first 380 words of his speech to detailing the two stocks, black and white, from which he was crossbred. He implied that, like the mutual heir to a dynastic merger of yore—think of England’s King Henry VIII, offspring of the Lancaster-York marriage that ended the War of the Roses—he is the one we’ve been waiting for to end the War of the Races.

In Richard III, Shakespeare concludes his cycle of history plays with the victorious Lancastrian Richmond (Henry Tudor, now to become King Henry VII) proclaiming his dynastic marriage to Elizabeth of York:

We will unite the white rose and the red …
All this divided York and Lancaster,
Divided in their dire division,
O, now, let Richmond and Elizabeth,
The true succeeders of each royal house,
By God’s fair ordinance conjoin together!
And let their heirs—God, if Thy will be so—
Enrich the time to come with smooth-faced peace,
With smiling plenty and fair prosperous days!

Correspondingly, America’s half-blood prince reassures us that, as the son of what he called his parents' “improbable love,” he will unite the white race and the black.

In contrast, many African Americans, after an initial period of uncertainty about a man sequestered throughout his childhood thousands of miles from any black community, have come to view Obama as their racial champion. They hope he will do in the White House what he tried to accomplish in his earlier careers on the left margin of Chicago‘s one-party Democratic political system as a community organizer, discrimination lawyer, foundation grant dispenser, and inner city politician: namely (to put it crassly), to get money for blacks from whites. That Senator and Mrs. Obama donated $53,770 to Rev. Wright‘s church as recently as 2005 through 2007 suggests that this hope is not wholly delusionary.

Nonetheless, judging by his predominantly white campaign staff, the circumspect Obama would likely field an Administration in which minority appointees would not hold all that much more power than in the Bush Administration of Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, and Albert Gonzales.

Which one is the real Barack Obama? How can we decipher The Obama Code? What is the Rosebud that reveals the inner Obama?

The overarching thesis of my book is extremely simple: that there’s no secret about Obama’s big secret. He spelled out exactly what he considers the central mandates of his existence in the subtitle of his graceful 1995 memoir Dreams from My Father. To Obama, his autobiography is most definitely not a postracial parable. Instead, it is A Story of Race and Inheritance.

The then 33-year-old Obama who wrote Dreams from My Father is obsessed with ethnicity and ancestry, as he relentlessly documents across nearly each of the book’s 460 pages. For 150,000 words, nothing diverts Obama from the subject of his racial identity.

What is the precise concern about race and inheritance that galvanizes Obama’s innermost emotions?

Once again, it’s not exactly a mystery.

Obama’s 1995 memoir reveals a genetically biracial young man raised by his white relatives who incessantly interrogates himself with the same question that the 139,000 mostly turgid articles and web postings catalogued by Google have asked about him: Is he black enough?

In particular, is Obama black enough to fulfill the dreams from his father and become a leader of the black race? Or will his half-blood nature and nonblack nurture leave him forever outside the racial community he treasures?

Doubts over whether he is black enough have tormented Obama since his youth. His psychological trauma helps make him a more captivating personality to contemplate than, say, his vanquished rival for the Democratic nomination, Bill Richardson, the New Mexico governor. Richardson‘s unusual life story (raised among the elite of Mexico City, the descendent of one WASP and three Mexican grandparents) would seem at least as relevant to contemporary American politics as Obama’s famously exotic background. Yet, nobody paid Richardson any attention. That’s partly because Americans evidently find Hispanics less interesting than blacks, even though Latinos now significantly outnumber African Americans—and partly because Richardson is a hack, while Obama is something more refined and intriguing.

Despite Obama’s aesthetic talents, his actual politics aren't terribly innovative. As conservative literary critic Shelby Steele, who is also the son of a black father and white mother, points out in A Bound Man, “For Obama, liberalism is blackness.” To be black enough is tied up in Obama’s mind with being left enough. As someone brought up by whites far from the black mainstream, Obama lacks the freedom to be politically unorthodox enjoyed by men of such iconic blackness as boxing promoter Don King, or funk singer James Brown and basketball giant Wilt Chamberlain, both of whom endorsed Richard Nixon in 1972.

(Why Obama being “black enough” would be in the interest of the 7/8ths of the electorate that isn't black has never been answered. That’s hardly surprising, because the press has barely even thought to ask why Obama’s 460 pages about his feelings of race loyalty might concern any nonblack. It’s a question that wouldn't occur to the typical 21st Century reporter. That’s the kind of thing that just isn't written about in polite society.)

Remarkably, much of Obama’s campaign image—the transcender of race, the redeemed Christian, the bipartisan moderate, etc.—is debunked in Obama’s own 1995 memoir. Obama’s potential Achilles heel has always been that he has such a gift for self-expression combined with so much introspective self-absorption that he can't help revealing himself to the few who invest the effort to read carefully his polished and subtle (but fussy and enervating) prose.

For example, Obama has spent millions in 2008 to advertise his mother’s race in order to ingratiate himself to whites. Obama supporter Matthew Yglesias blogged that one of the candidate’s June 2008 TV spots laden with pictures of the white side of his family should have been entitled “My Mom’s White! And I‘m from America!” Yet, Obama boasted in the Introduction to Dreams (p. xv) that he had “ceased to advertise my mother’s race at the age of twelve or thirteen, when I began to suspect that by doing so I was ingratiating myself to whites.”

Similarly, around Obama’s 27th birthday in 1988, between his three years as a racial activist in Chicago and his three years at Harvard Law School, he traveled to his father’s Kenya for the first time. On his way to Africa, he spent three weeks touring Europe. But his racial resentments made his European vacation a nightmare. He found sightseeing amidst the beautiful ancestral monuments of the white race to be wounding to his racial team pride:

And by the end of the first week or so, I realized that I‘d made a mistake. It wasn’t that Europe wasn’t beautiful; everything was just as I‘d imagined it. It just wasn’t mine. [pp. 301-302]

Obama in Europe was like a Boston Red Sox fan in Yankee Stadium in New York. Sure, the House that Ruth Built was magnificently large and echoing with glorious baseball history, but that just makes it more hateful to a Red Sox rooter. In Europe,

I felt as if I were living out someone else’s romance; the incompleteness of my own history stood between me and the sites I saw like a hard pane of glass. I began to suspect that my European stop was just one more means of delay, one more attempt to avoid coming to terms with the Old Man. Stripped of language, stripped of work and routine—stripped even of the racial obsessions to which I‘d become so accustomed and which I had taken (perversely) as a sign of my own maturation—I had been forced to look inside myself and had found only a great emptiness there. [pp. 301-302]

On the other hand, Obama may be home free, because it can take a lot of effort to follow his Story of Race and Inheritance.

The main happy ending in Dreams, for instance, occurs in Kenya when a friend of his father points out to him that even Kenyan culture isn’t purely authentically black African (the tea they love to drink was introduced by the British, and so forth). That even Africans aren’t wholly black by culture means to Obama, that, despite his background, he can be black enough to be a leader of the black race. He summarizes this revelation in his memoir’s brief but almost impenetrable Introduction.

So far, I‘ve minimized the number of lengthy quotes from Dreams from My Father because large dollops of Obama’s calculatedly perplexing prose can be daunting and disconcerting to the unprepared reader. Obama, who was already planning his Chicago political career when he published Dreams, eschews any sentence that could be turned into a soundbite. He has little desire to assist those readers and voters with merely normal attention spans grasp who he feels he is.

In his Introduction, Obama uncoils two serpentine sentences of importance. The first explains what his book is about, while the second reveals a primary lesson learned.

At some point, then, in spite of a stubborn desire to protect myself from scrutiny, in spite of the periodic impulse to abandon the entire project, what has found its way onto these pages is a record of a personal, interior journey—a boy’s search for his father, and through that search a workable meaning for his life as a black American. [p. xvi]

Okay, that sentence wasn't too hard to follow: Obama, like one of those questing orphan-heroes elucidated by Joseph Campbell (the professor of comparative mythology who influenced George Lucas’s Star Wars), goes on a semi-metaphorical journey in which he learns how to be “a black American.” Not, bear in mind, “a postracial American” or “a mixed race American” or “a black and white American” or just “an American American.” He wasn't looking for “a workable meaning” for any of the identities that a citizen whose knowledge of Obama doesn't go back farther than the reinvented image debuted during his first statewide campaign in 2004 might assume. No, Obama’s accomplishment was becoming “a black American.”

Next, after some literary pedantry about whether or not Dreams could be considered an autobiography, Obama delivers this doozy of a sentence in which he unveils, wedged between dashes and obscured by lawyerly stipulations, something crucial he’s discovered about himself:

I can’t even hold up my experience as being somehow representative of the black American experience (“After all, you don’t come from an underprivileged background,” a Manhattan publisher helpfully points out to me); indeed, learning to accept that particular truth—that I can embrace my black brothers and sisters, whether in this country or in Africa, and affirm a common destiny without pretending to speak to, or for, all our various struggles—is part of what this book’s about. [p. xvi]

That’s the kind of sentence that Sister Elizabeth, my 8th grade English grammar teacher, would force kids who shot spitballs in class to diagram on the blackboard.

Let’s unpack it slowly. Obama says that “part of what this book’s about” is “learning to accept that particular truth.” And what’s that truth? That, even though his life is not at all “representative of the black American experience,” he still “can embrace my black brothers and sisters, whether in this country or in Africa.”

What then does he want to do with his racial brethren and sistren in America and Africa? “Affirm a common destiny.” And what does our Nietzsche-reading Man of Destiny mean by that? That’s where Sister Elizabeth can't help us anymore. With Sen. Obama leading in the polls as I write this in mid-October 2008, it looks like we'll just have to wait and see.

Obama’s most primal emotions are stirred by race and inheritance, as this overwrought paragraph from Dreams’ Introduction about how the “tragedy” of his life is also the tragedy of us all illustrates:

Privately, they guess at my troubled heart, I suppose—the mixed blood, the divided soul, the ghostly image of the tragic mulatto trapped between two worlds. And if I were to explain that no, the tragedy is not mine, or at least not mine alone, it is yours, sons and daughters of Plymouth Rock and Ellis Island, it is yours, children of Africa, it is the tragedy of both my wife’s six-year-old cousin and his white first grade classmates, so that you need not guess at what troubles me, it’s on the nightly news for all to see, and that if we could acknowledge at least that much then the tragic cycle begins to break down…well, I suspect that I sound incurably naive, wedded to lost hopes, like those Communists who peddle their newspapers on the fringes of various college towns. [p. xv]

Of course, it is possible that since Obama published Dreams while preparing to run for the State Senate in 1996, he has transformed himself ideologically and shed his racialism.

After all, he suffered a soul-crushing rejection by black voters in his early 2000 primary challenge against Rep. Bobby Rush (who had been trounced by Mayor Richard M. Daley in 1999). In emulation of Obama’s hero, the late Harold Washington, the first black mayor of Washington, who had progressed from the Illinois state senate to the U.S. House to the mayor’s office, Obama tried to wrestle the Democratic nomination from the aging Rush, a former Black Panther, in a district that was 65 percent black.

Rush scoffed at Obama in the Chicago Reader, “He went to Harvard and became an educated fool. …Barack is a person who read about the civil-rights protests and thinks he knows all about it.” The third candidate in that race, state senator Donne Trotter, laughed, “Barack is viewed in part to be the white man in blackface in our community.”

Obama carried the white minority, but the Panther thumped the Professor among blacks. Overall, Obama lost 61 percent to 30 percent.

Obama reacted to this racial rejection with “denial, anger, bargaining, despair,” as he described his long post-defeat grief in The Audacity of Hope. Obama apparently realized then that he would never have quite the right pedigree to appeal more to black voters than other black politicians do. (Moreover, Obama’s dream of using a House seat as a stepping stone to reclaiming for the black race Harold Washington‘s old post as mayor of Chicago seemed increasingly implausible for a second reason. It was becoming evident that local voters considered Richie Daley to be the trueborn rightful heir to his famous father’s throne of Mayor-for-Life.)

Eventually, Obama snapped out of his depression. He seems to have decided that even if he weren’t black enough to best Bobby Rush in the hearts of black voters, he is white enough to be the black candidate whom white voters love to like. In 2001, Obama gerrymandered his South Side state senate district to make it, as Ryan Lizza wrote in The New Yorker, “wealthier, whiter, more Jewish, less blue-collar, and better educated,” snaking it all the way up from his base in Hyde Park to include the affluent whites of Chicago‘s North Side Gold Coast.

So, maybe Obama has changed what he called in Audacity his “deepest commitments.”

Or maybe he’s just learned to keep quiet about them …

In his 2004 Preface to the reissue of Dreams, the older Obama denies that he has gained much wisdom in subsequent years:

I cannot honestly say, however, that the voice in this book is not mine—that I would tell the story much differently today than I did ten years ago, even if certain passages have proven to be inconvenient politically, the grist for pundit commentary and opposition research. [p. ix]

Perhaps one of the hundreds of journalists who have followed Obama around for the last two years should have asked the Presidential candidate about the gaping discrepancy in worldview between his two books. When there’s a dispute between a man and his memoir, shouldn’t the burden of proof be on the man who wants to become the most powerful in the world?

Why hasn't Dreams proven “inconvenient politically?” Why have so few in public life noticed that Dreams from My Father is (as it says right there in the subtitle) A Story of Race and Inheritance?

Besides the sheer intricacy of the prose style, racial condescension plays a major role in the conventional misinterpretations of Dreams. Middle-aged white liberals in the media tend to assume that being an authentic black male is a terrible burden for which nobody would aspire. Yet, around the world, hundreds of millions of young hip-hop and basketball fans struggle to reach African-American levels of coolness.

In 2000, without much insight into the real George W. Bush, America elected a pig in a poke to be President. How has that worked out for us? Putting partisan divisions aside, wouldn’t it seem like a good idea, on general principles, to try to understand clearly what a Presidential nominee has written about his innermost identity?

Obama spent the first four decades of his life trying to prove to blacks that he’s black enough. If the public were finally to become well-enough informed about Obama’s own autobiography to compel him to spend the four or eight years of his Presidency trying to prove to the nation as a whole that his “deepest commitments” are to his country rather than to his race, America would be better off.

This book serves as a reader’s guide to Obama’s Dreams from My Father. The would-be President has written a long, luxuriant, and almost incomprehensible book, so I have penned a (relatively) short and brusque book that explains who Obama thinks he is. I mostly follow his life as it unfolds in Dreams, up through his marriage to Michelle in 1992. I especially emphasize the little-understood but critical four years he spent in Indonesia from age six to ten, during which his white mother, for surprising reasons of her own, set about systematically inculcating in him the racial grievances, insecurities, and ambitions that make up the pages of Dreams.

I had once thought of tracking Obama all the way to the present, but I finally realized that book would wind up even longer than Dreams. Like Zeno’s arrow, it would never arrive at its destination. I respect Obama’s 2006 bestseller The Audacity of Hope as an above-average example of the traditional testing-the-waters campaign book. The test-marketed themes he ran by his strategist David Axelrod and dozens of others in the draft stage of the unaudacious Audacity, however, don't hold my attention the way his lonelier first book does.

You may be wondering by what authority I presume to challenge the Presidential candidate. Yet, this isn’t a debate between Barack Obama and some guy named Steve. Fundamentally, this book consists of a debate between Obama and Obama’s own autobiography. I’m emceeing that debate.

In what follows, I‘ve included big slabs of Obama’s prose for two reasons. First, if I just summarized what he wrote in my own words, you wouldn't believe me. You'd think I was making it up.

Second, I enjoy Obama’s writing style. As a professional writer, I envy the sonorous flow of his prose and his eye for novelistic details. I can't write that mellifluously.

Of course, I don't want to, either. By personality, I‘m a reductionist, constantly trying to state complex truths as bluntly as possible. Dreams, in contrast, is allusive, elusive, and inconclusive. Together, between my predilection for Occam’s Razor and Obama’s for Occam’s Butterknife, we make a pretty good team at explaining who Obama is.

(I justify borrowing thousands of words of Obama’s copyrighted prose under the legal doctrine of “fair use.” If he doesn't like it, he can sue me. Just make sure to spell my name right—it’s “Sailer,” with an “e,” not an “o.” I do urge you to buy your own copy of Dreams from My Father to read along with this book, so you can see if I‘m leading you astray. It’s quite lovely in its own self-absorbed artiste way.)

Moreover, both Obama and I have written for many years on the knotty questions of race and ethnicity, of nature and nurture. Most people just think and talk about them, whereas Obama and I have written about them at vast length. Nevertheless, as Obama’s rise, jet-propelled by his race and inheritance, in four years from the Illinois legislature to the threshold of the White House suggests, everybody, deep down, is engrossed by these matters.

I spent many years in the market research industry, to which I was attracted because I have a certain knack for pattern recognition. During a sick leave for chemotherapy in the 1990s, I realized that I wanted to spend the rest of my life, however long that might be, as a writer. Looking around for a market niche to specialize in, I noticed that among topics of great importance, the weakest journalism, in terms of quality of evidence and logic, was found in discussions of race. I set out to become the most intellectually sophisticated writer in that field. (I soon learned, however, why there is so little competition at writing honestly about race: it doesn't pay.)

My approach is that of an empirical realist. I suspect that that by this point in our lives, Obama and I wouldn't disagree much on the facts about race. We would likely differ on what to do about them. Unlike Obama, I advocate colorblind government policies. Of course, ever since he left community organizing in the slums of Chicago for Harvard Law School, Obama’s solution to his failing to solve racial challenges he has set himself has been to get himself promoted.

I don't spend much time banging the drum for my political philosophy because factual matters are so much more engaging, but in case you are wondering, I advocate what I call “citizenism“ as a functional, yet idealistic, alternative to the special-interest abuses of multiculturalism.

Citizenism calls upon Americans to favor the well-being, even at some cost to ourselves, of our current fellow citizens over that of foreigners and internal factions. Among American citizens, it calls for individuals to be treated equally by the state, no matter what their race.

The citizenist sees little need for politically correct browbeating. Today’s omnipresent demand to lie about social realities in the name of “celebrating diversity” becomes ethically irrelevant under citizenism, where the duty toward patriotic solidarity means that the old saying “he’s a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch” turns into a moral precept.

As I finish my portrait of the politician as a young artist, it’s a few weeks before the election and the financial markets are tottering, likely ensuring Obama’s election. John McCain doesn't seem to have noticed that the Grand Strategy of the Bush Administration—Invade the World, Invite the World, In Hock to the World (or as blogger Daniel Larison put it, “Imperialism, Immigration, and Insolvency")—has driven us into the ditch.

In the event that Obama manages to lose the 2008 election, rendering this book less immediately relevant, I can console my bank account with the knowledge that Obama will be younger on Election Day in 2032, six elections from now, than McCain is in 2008. So, I suspect this book will remain electorally pertinent. Moreover, if Obama somehow loses in 2008, we will hear forever that white racism was the reason, so it would be helpful to have a handy record of Obama’s own feelings on race.

This is not a book about who to vote for in 2008. In case you are wondering, in 2004, I couldn't bring myself to vote for either George W. Bush or John Kerry, so I wrote in the name of my friend Ward Connerly, the campaigner against racial preferences.

In any event, the significance of Obama extends far beyond politics. Win or lose, Obama’s life will continue to illuminate much about modern America.

Nonetheless, the question remains. Would he make a good President?

There is still one secret about Obama. We know how cautious and capacious his head is. Those of us who have read him faithfully know how fervent and unreasoning his heart can be. What we don't know is which will win: head or heart.

Obama may not know that yet, either.

Fortunately, politics never ends. Much to the disappointment of Obama cultists, January 20, 2009 would not mark Day One of the Year Zero. Obama’s inauguration honeymoon would merely provide a brief lull before mundane struggles begin over seeming minutia such as appointments to federal agencies, maneuvers in which Obama’s more racial and radical impulses can be tied up … if enough of the public understands his story of race and inheritance.

You can find my whole 264-page book at:

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

October 29, 2008

BIG NEWS: You can now read online my new book -- "America's Half-Blood Prince: Barack Obama's Story of Race and Inheritance"

John Derbyshire blurbs:

Steve Sailer gives us the real Barack Obama, who turns out to be very very different -- and much more INTERESTING -- than the bland healer/uniter image stitched together out of whole cloth this past six years by Obama's packager, David Axelrod. Making heavy use of Obama's own writings, which he admires for their literary artistry, Sailer gives the deepest insights I have yet seen into Obama's lifelong obsession with "race and inheritance," and rounds off this brilliant character portrait with speculations on how Obama's personality might play out in the Presidency.

You can find my whole 264-page book at:


I'd like to ask my readers to help me out with publicizing this book by submitting this posting to DIGG and all those other sites that I don't know much about. Also, please email this to your friends and post links to it on websites.

It's a beta version, so we'll need to fix a few things, like the san serif typeface. But, it's a full-length, groundbreaking analysis of the Presidential candidate's 1995 autobiography and of his actual life. The posted version still has a lot of typos in it (I was up all night locating them), but we're working on it and hope to have a much cleaner version up by Monday.

The View Online option lets you start reading immediately. (If, in the unlikely event that you don't have the ability to read PDF files, you can download Adobe Reader for free from Adobe here.)

The PDF version is 1.9 megabytes. The Zipped version of the PDF is 1.35 megabytes.

I had not realized Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman is this stupid

From exchanging emails with him, I've known for a decade that Paul Krugman was an egomaniacal jerk, but he was always described as being intelligent. Yet, here are parts of a 1998 column he wrote in Slate that is just jaw-droppingly dumb. This is the kind of thinking that kept us from having the medium strong recession we deserved in 2001 after the Tech Bubble, instead, postponing it until a recession/depression of Biblical proportions arrives now.

While you are reading Krugman's theorizing denouncing the the Austrian business cycle theory that malinvestment causes recessions, think about Las Vegas.

Sin City had the biggest boom of the decade and now the biggest bust with, by far, the highest foreclosure rates. Why? Because it's next to California. The median homeowner in California saw his home equity rising by, say, $60,000 per year in the middle of the decade. A lot of those Californians took out home equity loans, gassed up their new cars, and headed to Vegas to spend some of that $60,000 in additional wealth. (My barber used to go five or ten times per year to Vegas.)

So, businesses built more gigantic casinos in Las Vegas, which employed lots of construction workers and then service workers to work inside the casinos. In turn, they built tons of homes outside Vegas for, depending on the price range, all the new construction and service workers, or all the people trying to get away from living next to the new construction and service workers. Meanwhile, the price of existing homes was going through the roof in Las Vegas, so the local homeowners were all spending money like they were Californians, too. And, in turn, they built tons of retail and other stuff, like, say, water parks, to service all those new residents and their kids.

All of sudden, people in California wake up to the fact that they aren't as rich as they thought they were. In fact, they are much poorer because they've already spent much of the pseudo-wealth they thought they had garnered in the middle of the decade. They can't cash out on their houses, so they are suddenly looking at 28 years of writing big monthly checks to pay for all those trips to Las Vegas.

What's the first thing you can cut out of the household budget? Well, the single most obvious luxury to eliminate is those goddam trips to Las Vegas.

Thus, news stories like this one from today on Channel 8 in Las Vegas:

Wall Street Crushing Las Vegas Strip

There are more signs of just how much the Las Vegas Strip is hurting in this economic downturn. One of the valley's biggest casino companies, Boyd Gaming, saw a huge drop in profits, down 73-percent in the third quarter.

The company has also announced the delay of its signature resort, Echelon, will be much longer than anyone expected. The construction site will sit quiet until at least January of 2010.

The jobs are gone and the equipment will be parked longer than first thought.

After the Stardust saw its last roll of the dice in a spectacular demolition, from the ashes would rise Echelon, a multibillion dollar mega resort. But for now, all bets are off.

"It is unlikely that we will resume construction in 2009. Nonetheless, we remain committed to having a meaningful presence on the Las Vegas Strip," said Boyd Gaming President and CEO Keith Smith.

Boyd Gaming announced in its third quarter earnings conference call. Echelon will remain a shell of steel through 2009. Construction will be halted while executives consider a list of options.
Here's what the $4.75 billion Echelon project looked like when work was suspended last August.

Think about things from Boyd Gaming's point of view: So, you bought the Stardust, a tired but no doubt still profitable casino, blew it up, and poured vast amounts of money into building a superstructure for the multibillion dollar Echelon. Except now, there are no more gamblers coming from California. So, it won't pay to finish it for years. Except, while it's sitting unfinished, you are still losing all the cost of capital you've invested in it so far.

Keep that in mind while you are reading the new Nobel Laureate's explanation of why the Austrian theory is all wrong (via Zoho).

The Hangover Theory
Are recessions the inevitable payback for good times?
By Paul Krugman
Posted Friday, Dec. 4, 1998, at 3:30 AM ET

A few weeks ago, a journalist devoted a substantial part of a profile of yours truly to my failure to pay due attention to the "Austrian theory" of the business cycle—a theory that I regard as being about as worthy of serious study as the phlogiston theory of fire. Oh well. But the incident set me thinking—not so much about that particular theory as about the general worldview behind it. Call it the overinvestment theory of recessions, or "liquidationism," or just call it the "hangover theory." It is the idea that slumps are the price we pay for booms, that the suffering the economy experiences during a recession is a necessary punishment for the excesses of the previous expansion.

The hangover theory is perversely seductive—not because it offers an easy way out, but because it doesn't. It turns the wiggles on our charts into a morality play, a tale of hubris and downfall. And it offers adherents the special pleasure of dispensing painful advice with a clear conscience, secure in the belief that they are not heartless but merely practicing tough love.

Powerful as these seductions may be, they must be resisted—for the hangover theory is disastrously wrongheaded. Recessions are not necessary consequences of booms. They can and should be fought, not with austerity but with liberality—with policies that encourage people to spend more, not less. Nor is this merely an academic argument: The hangover theory can do real harm. Liquidationist views played an important role in the spread of the Great Depression—with Austrian theorists such as Friedrich von Hayek and Joseph Schumpeter strenuously arguing, in the very depths of that depression, against any attempt to restore "sham" prosperity by expanding credit and the money supply. And these same views are doing their bit to inhibit recovery in the world's depressed economies at this very moment.

The problem in the Great Depression was the sharp contraction of the money supply due to bank runs, which is why we now have FDIC insurance.

The many variants of the hangover theory all go something like this: In the beginning, an investment boom gets out of hand. Maybe excessive money creation or reckless bank lending drives it, maybe it is simply a matter of irrational exuberance on the part of entrepreneurs. Whatever the reason, all that investment leads to the creation of too much capacity—of factories that cannot find markets, of office buildings that cannot find tenants. Since construction projects take time to complete, however, the boom can proceed for a while before its unsoundness becomes apparent. Eventually, however, reality strikes—investors go bust and investment spending collapses. The result is a slump whose depth is in proportion to the previous excesses. Moreover, that slump is part of the necessary healing process: The excess capacity gets worked off, prices and wages fall from their excessive boom levels, and only then is the economy ready to recover.

Except for that last bit about the virtues of recessions, this is not a bad story about investment cycles. Anyone who has watched the ups and downs of, say, Boston's real estate market over the past 20 years can tell you that episodes in which overoptimism and overbuilding are followed by a bleary-eyed morning after are very much a part of real life. But let's ask a seemingly silly question: Why should the ups and downs of investment demand lead to ups and downs in the economy as a whole?

It depends upon how big the bubbles are. Consider an almost forgotten bubble -- the 1983 Initial Public Offering NASDAQ bubble for new technology-related firms. The marketing research firm where I worked, which was the first marketing research company to sell data from those now-ubiquitous laser scanners in supermarket checkout counters, was supposed to go public in March 1983 at $16 per share. At the last moment, the investment bankers realized that a mania was developing for IPOs, so they kicked the offering price to $23. The stock closed the first day of trading at $43. Woo-hoo! My $2000 investment had gone up to almost $4000 in one day! I bought everybody expensive drinks that night.

By 1984-1985, our stock was back down to its opening $23 per share, and yet that was a much better performance than the great majority of IPOs that came out in 1983, many of which had by then been demoted to the penny stock exchange. Yet, the IPO Bubble of 1983 didn't cause an economy-wide recession because it was too small, in sharp contrast to the California-centric Housing Bubble of this decade, which was huge.

Don't say that it's obvious—although investment cycles clearly are associated with economywide recessions and recoveries in practice, a theory is supposed to explain observed correlations, not just assume them. And in fact the key to the Keynesian revolution in economic thought—a revolution that made hangover theory in general and Austrian theory in particular as obsolete as epicycles—was John Maynard Keynes' realization that the crucial question was not why investment demand sometimes declines, but why such declines cause the whole economy to slump.

Yes, but, you'll notice that this here recession isn't being caused just by investment spending going down. It's also being caused by consumer spending going down. Why? Because consumers just woke up to the fact that they aren't as rich as they thought they were. So, no more trips to Vegas, so no more investment in $4.75 billion Vegas casinos. The Keynesian distinction between consumption and investment is largely irrelevant in explaining this collapse.

Here's the problem: As a matter of simple arithmetic, total spending in the economy is necessarily equal to total income (every sale is also a purchase, and vice versa). So if people decide to spend less on investment goods, doesn't that mean that they must be deciding to spend more on consumption goods—implying that an investment slump should always be accompanied by a corresponding consumption boom? And if so why should there be a rise in unemployment?

Krugman is so proud of his little abstract tautology.

No, what's happening now is fundamentally driven by a wealth effect. Yes, we currently have a liquidity crisis and an insolvency crisis. The government throwing money at the liquidity crisis might well help, and there's some possibility of it helping the insolvency crisis.

But there's no way no how the government wasting money will help the fundamental problem: the wealth crisis. That's only going to be dealt with by years of hard work.

People now realize they aren't as wealthy as they thought they were. Something like one-tenth of the national wealth was made up of ridiculous valuations of homes. That's gone. It ain't coming back for decades. Another, harder to estimate, fraction of the national wealth was made up of ridiculous valuations of financial instruments based on the ridiculous valuations of the homes. That's gone, too.

They are gone because they never really existed in the first place. They were just mass delusions that 500 sq. ft. homes in Compton were worth $340,000, or that complicated mortgage-backed securities and credit derivatives based on the expectation that the guy who got the $340,000 mortgage on that one-bedroom house in Compton was pretty damn likely to pay it all off, were worth what Moody's said they were worth.

Both consumption and investment spending up through the first half of 2007 were driven by estimates of how much we could afford based on our wealth that we now know were ludicrous. Economic activity will therefore contract to the level appropriate for our smaller level of wealth.

Most modern hangover theorists probably don't even realize this is a problem for their story. Nor did those supposedly deep Austrian theorists answer the riddle. The best that von Hayek or Schumpeter could come up with was the vague suggestion that unemployment was a frictional problem created as the economy transferred workers from a bloated investment goods sector back to the production of consumer goods. (Hence their opposition to any attempt to increase demand: This would leave "part of the work of depression undone," since mass unemployment was part of the process of "adapting the structure of production.") But in that case, why doesn't the investment boom—which presumably requires a transfer of workers in the opposite direction—also generate mass unemployment? And anyway, this story bears little resemblance to what actually happens in a recession, when every industry—not just the investment sector—normally contracts.

As is so often the case in economics (or for that matter in any intellectual endeavor), the explanation of how recessions can happen, though arrived at only after an epic intellectual journey, turns out to be extremely simple. A recession happens when, for whatever reason, a large part of the private sector tries to increase its cash reserves at the same time. Yet, for all its simplicity, the insight that a slump is about an excess demand for money makes nonsense of the whole hangover theory. For if the problem is that collectively people want to hold more money than there is in circulation, why not simply increase the supply of money? You may tell me that it's not that simple, that during the previous boom businessmen made bad investments and banks made bad loans. Well, fine. Junk the bad investments and write off the bad loans. Why should this require that perfectly good productive capacity be left idle?

I'm surprised Krugman didn't also win the Nobel in Medicine, because his advice is equally applicable to physiology:

A death happens when, for whatever reason, a heart stops beating. Yet, for all its simplicity, the insight that a death is about a heart no longer beating makes nonsense of the whole disease / trauma theory. For if the problem is that the heart isn't beating, why not simply increase the supply of heartbeats? You may tell me that it's not that simple, that the patient has died of bubonic plague or from falling off a cliff. Well, fine. Junk the bad heart and write off the bad organs. Why should this require that perfectly good productive capacity be left idle?

Look, the hulk of the Echelon on the Strip isn't perfectly good productive capacity. It is, at present, perfectly no good productive capacity. It's worse than nothing because the owner has to keep paying the interest on the loans he took out for the money he's already spent on it. He has calculated, however, that it's somewhat less ruinous to let it sit idle than to finish the monstrosity for the Californians who won't be coming again for years. So, the owner of the Echelon isn't going to be spending as much on either consumption or investment as he had been planning to.

The hangover theory, then, turns out to be intellectually incoherent; nobody has managed to explain why bad investments in the past require the unemployment of good workers in the present.

But the newly unemployed of Las Vegas aren't good workers in the post-Bubble economy. They are construction workers, croupiers, waiters, touts, whores, and other professions that we won't have much use for for a number of years. Hopefully, some of them will develop new, more valuable skills, but that will take years. And when you actually check the numbers on the newcomers to Las Vegas, you don't get a warm feeling that many of these folks are going to turn into solar energy technology inventors or whatever anytime soon. If we're lucky, a lot of them will go home to Mexico, where it's much cheaper to be poor than in America. If we're not lucky ...

Yet the theory has powerful emotional appeal. Usually that appeal is strongest for conservatives, who can't stand the thought that positive action by governments (let alone—horrors!—printing money) can ever be a good idea. Some libertarians extol the Austrian theory, not because they have really thought that theory through, but because they feel the need for some prestigious alternative to the perceived statist implications of Keynesianism. And some people probably are attracted to Austrianism because they imagine that it devalues the intellectual pretensions of economics professors.
Well, we can't have that!

Unfortunately, due to advice like Krugman's, we didn't have much of a recession in 2001-2002 due to inflating the money supply, both by the Fed and by easing up on mortgage lending rules, so now we are paying the price in spades.

The Tech Bubble was stupid, but at least pouring huge amounts of money into Cisco Systems had a certain surface plausibility. Cisco actually made something (either switches or routers, I can't remember which, despite reading dozens of articles in 1996-2000 but how the world could never get enough switches and/or routers). In contrast, building oversized homes outside of Las Vegas for the mortgage brokers who sold their old homes to the new blackjack dealers who got hired by the new casinos to fleece the Californians with home equity loans on their houses that were going to rise in price to infinity never ever made any sense.

Now, anti-Krugmaniac realist economics has a very valuable policy implication, which is: "frictional problems" are incredibly painful. So, don't waste money in the first place. More specifically, the spending of a population is based on its wealth. In the long run, its wealth is mostly a function of its human capital (i.e., the population's ability to earn money). So, don't debauch the average human capital of your population.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

October 28, 2008

Notice how the GOP gets denounced for racism even when they absolutely won't mention anything touching race?

Let’s be honest here: All the hate over the topic of race is on the left.

The obvious fact is that the GOP is totally terrified of being accused of being racist. McCain categorically denounced the mention of Rev. Wright in GOP ads back in April. Wright’s name wasn’t mentioned at the GOP convention or in any of the debates. That’s why he’s ranting on about William Ayers, whose connections to Obama are much more tangential than Obama’s connections to Wright. (Indeed, Sen. Obama gave over $53,000 to Wright’s church in 2005-2007 according to Obama’s tax returns.) But, Ayers is white, so he’s okay to attack, but Wright is black, so he’s off-limits.

Of course, the GOP isn’t getting any credit for their restraint. They are still being denounced as racists.

In fact, this anti-anti-black mindset even extends into the emails from the fever swamps. Consider the popular one that claims that Obama isn't black, that he's 8/16th white, 7/16th Arab, and only 1/16th African. Obviously, if you take one look at a picture of his father, you can see that's not true. (He might have a tiny bit of ancestry from an Arab slave trader that his African ancestors sold black slaves to, but it sure isn't 7/16th.) Obama calls his father "black as pitch" and refers to his father's tribe as "as ink-black Luo."

Or consider all the emails about Obama being a Muslim.

Now, the truth is that Obama has had far more sympathetic contacts with Muslims than most Americans. But his sympathy for Muslims has had zero to do with their religion and everything to do with their being, in his mind, anti-European white. As he admits in Dreams from My Father, he tended to get Muslim and Black Muslim (whom he liked a lot) mixed up in his mind.

For example, here's what Obama wrote at age 33 about his visit around his 28th birthday to Kenya, where he learns from his step-grandmother, to his horror, that his Muslim grandfather Onyango Obama had worked as a servant for British colonists:

I knew that, as I had been listening to the story of our grandfather’s youth, I, too, had felt betrayed. My image of Onyango, faint as it was, had always been of an autocratic man-a cruel man, perhaps. But I had also imagined him an independent man, a man of his people, opposed to white rule. There was no real basis for this image, I now realized -- only the letter he had written to Gramps saying that he didn’t want his son marrying white. That, and his Muslim faith, which in my mind had become linked with the Nation of Islam back in the States. What Granny had told us scrambled that image completely, causing ugly words to flash across my mind. Uncle Tom. Collaborator. House n*****.

With Obama, it's always "a story of race and inheritance." That's what it's all about. That's where his leftwing ideology comes from. But the GOP can't mention race, so they haven't been able to explain to the public that Obama, according to his own autobiography, isn't the man David Axelrod has been selling you.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

The future of conservatism after McCain: Green Eyeshades

Everybody is talking about what will happen after McCain loses.

It seems pretty obvious that there's a huge empty niche open for somebody to come along and embody a very old type of conservatism: Green Eyeshade Conservatism. Sharp Pencil Conservatism.

Picture a suspicious, flinty old bastard who adds up all the numbers twice and makes sure nobody is pulling a fast one with other people's money. He doesn't care whether the folks playing fast and loose call themselves "government," "private enterprise," "NGO," or some monstrous hybrid.

It's not been a popular role lately, so I don't know who would be ready to step into it. (Maybe California state senator Tom McClintock if he could get himself elected to statewide office in 2010? But that's a big if.)

The picture above is of Golden Age Hollywood's favorite Green Eyeshade skinflint, character actor Charles Lane, who played bookkeepers, IRS agents, accountants, Mr. Potter's rent collector in "It's a Wonderful Life," and other killjoys in 344 films and TV shows in a career lasting from 1931 to 1995. He died in 2007 at age 102. (He was the cousin of Mickey Kaus's grandmother.)

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

October 27, 2008

How much of the Bubble was blown?

We have three related but somewhat distinct economic problems right now.

1. The first is a liquidity problem. Lenders are reluctant to lend money because they aren't sure who will be solvent tomorrow, so they may never see their money again.

2. The second is a solvency problem. Lenders should be reluctant to lend money because more than a few of their customers actually are or soon will be insolvent.

3. Finally, even after the first two problems are dealt with, there will remain the wealth problem. We aren't actually as wealthy as we thought we were 18 months ago. A significant fraction of our supposed wealth consisted of overleveraged homes and, in turn, financial instruments overleveraged on top of the overleveraged housing assets.

An important empirical question is how much of the pseudo-wealth that came into theoretical existence during the Bubble has already been consumed? This has implications for forecasting upcoming business activity.

For example, I never thought the increase in valuation of my house was real. For family reasons, I was in no position to sell it and move some place cheaper. And I always figured the bubble would burst eventually. So, I didn't spend the increase in home equity as if it were real money. For example, from 2001 through 2008, I can only recall paying for hotels or motels for 16 nights of family vacation, or an average of two per year. (I went tent camping about the same amount.)

So, I can't radically reduce my expenditures on hotels due to the Crash, because I wasn't spending much on them during the Bubble. If everybody had behaved like me, the oncoming crash in the vacation industry would be a lot less severe because the industry would never have expanded so much.

On the other hand, I suspect that my frugality in this regard was anomalous for Californians over this period. A lot of people took a lot of vacations with money that they thought they had, but didn't really, paying for them with home equity loans or putting them on their credit cards, expecting to be bailed out by the ever-rising value of their homes.

Granted, some expenditures really are investments. For example, two months ago I bought a second computer screen, a 24 inch giant, to work in tandem with the fast laptop I bought back in February. Together, they have greatly increased my productivity. (Where is the tangible evidence of that increased productivity, you might ask? Be patient. You'll see...)

But vacations are at the opposite pole of consumption v. investment -- they're gone.

Looking at all the shiny blinged-out cars on the road, my general impression is that, here in California at least, a sizable fraction of that now vanished theoretical housing and stock increase in wealth got spent on consumption. And that has dire implications for the size of the economic downturn.

Has anybody estimated how much of the Bubble wealth got spent?

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Defaulting Latinos are voting for Obama

The LA Times walks around a Latino neighborhood in Las Vegas and finds growing support for Obama among the multitudinous "homeowners" who have defaulted on their mortgages and are awaiting foreclosure.

This helps explain a minor puzzle of recent history. As you'll recall, the 2004 exit poll initially reported that Bush had won 44% of the Hispanic vote. I pointed out how implausible this was from real world voting totals, and the exit poll people eventually admitted they'd messed up their methodology and the real number was around 40%.

But even 40% is pretty high for a Republican Presidential candidates. So, how did Bush and Rove get up around 40%?

Bush and Rove bought Latino votes in 2004 with Other People's Money. Bush's Housing Bubble was, more than anything else, a Hispanic Housing Bubble, with total mortgage dollars for Hispanic homebuyers going up an incredible 691% from 1999 to 2006. And all that cash flowing for home loans and home equity loans, whether to Hispanics or others, paid for a lot of Hispanic construction and home improvement workers.

Now, the firehose of money has been turned off because the reserves have been pumped dry, and Hispanics are flooding back to their natural home in the Democratic Party.


I don't endorse political candidates, but The American Conservative asked me and 20 others what we thought of the election. I replied:

Both major party candidates have campaigned against partisan bickering. And yet we are paying a high price for Washington’s bipartisan consensus. Perhaps the least controversial set of programs in all of Washington—the manifold government efforts under both the Clinton and Bush administrations to relax mortgage credit standards to increase minority and low-income home ownership—has turned out among the most disastrous.

America has been driven into the ditch by Washington’s grand strategy—Invade the World, Invite the World, and In Hock to the World or, as Daniel Larison put it, “Imperialism, Immigration, and Insolvency”.

Obama is probably somewhat better than McCain on imperialism. It would be hard to be worse. They’re comparably terrible on immigration. And Obama is likely worse on insolvency. He wrote in his 460-page autobiography, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, about his lifelong efforts to become a leader in his “people’s struggle,” which he assumes, to put it crassly but clearly, is to extract money for his race. Thus, Obama has been in bed for decades with ACORN, the radical Left outfit that makes its living shaking down the mortgage industry. Obama sued Citibank during his antidiscrimination lawyer career to get them to lower their standards for handing out mortgages to blacks.

Therefore, I intend to do in 2008 what I did during the Bush-Kerry whoop-tee-doo: write in the name of a public figure who is actually trying to solve a major, long-term problem, my friend Ward Connerly. Just as Social Security can’t afford too many retirees per worker, America won’t be able to afford its affirmative-action system when the racial ratio of minority beneficiaries per white benefactor reaches excessive levels. As America becomes majority minority (by 2042, by latest Census projection), the cost of affirmative action will become crippling. By helping get government racial preferences banned by voter initiative in California, Washington, and Michigan, Ward has made the future a little less grim.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

"Synecdoche, New York"

I reviewed the hugely ambitious new movie by Charlie Kaufman ("Being John Malkovich," "Adaptation," and "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"), who is kind of Woody Allen, Tom Stoppard, and Jorge Luis Borges rolled into one, in the latest American Conservative. They've given it another one of their clever titles: "All the Stage Is a World." I don't usually post on iSteve.com my bottom-line opinion of the movies I review (for that, you can buy the magazine), but in this case it might be important:

Kaufman intended that the densely-packed “Synecdoche“ could only be fully appreciated after multiple viewings, but the first screening can be grueling. My wife loved it, but several people walked out. ...

My advice is to lower your expectations, then go see it.

What's it about? A lot of stuff ... In brief:

Caden Cotard [an unhealthy Schenectady regional theatre director played by Philip Seymour Hoffman] wins one of those obnoxious MacArthur Genius Grants. He decides to unleash his creative powers on a vast theatre project that will tell “the brutal truth” about, well, everything. In his bid for artistic immortality, he rents a cavernous warehouse in New York City, employs countless carpenters to build mockups of New York streets inside it, and hires a cast of thousands to live out their lives under his artistic direction. (Apparently, MacArthur grants have gone up several orders of magnitude in value.) Rehearsals go on for decades without reaching Opening Night. As the cast ages, they hire younger actors to play themselves playing their roles.

A “synecdoche,” which rhymes with Caden’s hometown of Schenectady, is a figure of speech in which the part stands for the whole (“threads” for clothes) or the whole for a part (“the law” for cops). Kaufman genially explains that if his movie is a hit, “then people will be able to pronounce it and everyone will be able to know the word ‘synecdoche’-- which is a good word to know.”

In “Synecdoche,” Kaufman indulges and satirizes both his aspirations and his failure to keep in mind the artistic value of abstraction and reduction. The film recalls Borges’s one-paragraph parable On Exactitude in Science:

In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City ... In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, … delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars…

Manolah Dargis also cited this Borges story in her NYT review, so the "Synechoche"-Exactitude analogy is pretty obvious.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

$2.7 billion federal nature-nurture study to start

The NYT reports:
21-Year Study of Children Set to Begin

After nearly a decade of planning, researchers will begin recruiting pregnant women in January for an ambitious nationwide study that will follow more than 100,000 children from before birth until age 21.

The goal of the federally financed project, the National Children’s Study, is to gain a better understanding of the effects of a wide array of factors on children’s health.

“What we are doing is bold and needs to be bold in order to answer some pressing questions,” said the study’s director, Dr. Peter C. Scheidt, a pediatrician on the staff of the child-health division of the National Institutes of Health.

Investigators hope to find explanations for the rising rates of premature births, childhood obesity, cancer, autism, endocrine disorders and behavioral problems. To that end, they will examine factors like genetics and child rearing, geography, exposure to chemicals, nutrition, and pollution.

I was told at a scientific conference last spring that they'll collect DNA samples from the children, mothers, and fathers (which could cause the usual trouble).

Hopefully, they'll keep this going at least another decade, to age 31, although the ideal would be to run indefinitely, for generations. The last I checked, the 1979 National Longitudinal Study of Youth, whose 1990 results featured prominently in The Bell Curve, is still going, providing IQ test results on the children of the 15-23 year old women who took the military's AFQT IQ test back in 1980.

The big news is that, unless the Francis Collins-types sabotage the methodology to prevent full DNA collection and/or eliminate IQ tests, our culture's current intellectual orthodoxy about no child left behind and the soft bigotry of low expectations yada yada, is doomed, scientifically speaking. The clock is ticking...

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Obama's 2001 "redistribution of wealth" radio interview

Here are the key passages from Obama's 2001 radio interview. It's the usual with Obama -- you have to read it very closely to see where he's coming from (i.e., deep left field). I've tried to clean up the spelling and punctuation from FoxNews' awful attempt at a transcript:

“I mean if you look at the victories and failures of the civil rights movement and its litigation strategy and the court I think where it succeeded was to vest formal rights in previously dispossessed peoples so that I would not have the right to vote would now be able to sit at lunch counter and as long as I could pay for it would be ok. But the supreme court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth and sort of basic issues of political and economic justice in this society and to that extent as radical as people try to characterize the warren court, it wasn’t that radical. It didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the constitution, at least as it has been interpreted and the warren court interpreted it generally in the same way that the constitution is a document of negative liberties-- says what the states can’t do to you, says what the federal gov’t can’t do to you but it doesn’t say what the federal government or state government must do on your behalf, and that hasn’t shifted; and I think one of the tragedies of the civil rights movement was that the civil rights movement became so court-focused, I think there was a tendency to lose track of the political and organizing activities on the ground that are able to bring about the coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change and in some ways we still suffer from that.” …

So, Obama is saying that it was a tragedy that the civil rights movement focused too much on winning individual rights and equal opportunity for blacks through the courts and not enough on building “coalitions of power” to achieve “redistributive change.”

This interview shows Obama the law professor and politician saying that to bring redistribution of wealth to blacks, it’s less effective to be, say, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court than it is to be, say, President of the United States.

Obama’s statement seems perfectly plausible: he’s spent years studying and teaching Constitutional law and he has concluded that his goal, redistribution of wealth to his race, is more likely to be achieved through politics than through the judiciary.

The subtle point is that Obama sees redistribution as a continuation of the civil rights movement — i.e., it’s for blacks.

"You know, maybe I am showing my bias here as a legislator as well as a law professor, but you know I am not optimistic about bringing about major redistributive change through the courts. You know, the institution just isn't structured that way. Just look at very rare examples where during the desegregation era the court was willing to, for example, order, you know, changes that cost money to local school district and the court was very uncomfortable with it."

This is presumably a reference to Kansas City, where a judge ordered a billion dollars extra spending on heavily black schools. Not surprisingly, it didn’t do much for test scores.

"It was hard to manage. It was hard to figure out. You start getting into all sorts of separation of powers issues. You know, in terms of the court monitoring or engaging in a process that is essentially is administrative and take a lot of time, the court is not very good at it and politically it is hard to legitimize opinions from the court in that regard. So I think that -- although you can craft theoretical justifications for it legally, you know I think any three of us sitting here could come up with a rationale for bringing about economic change through the courts -- I think that as a practical matter that our institutions are just poorly equipped to do it. …"

So, Obama is saying that he is for “bringing about economic change through the courts” in theory, in practice the courts don’t have the administrative staff and power to do it. Instead, Obama’s goal of “redistribution of wealth” should be achieved through the legislative and executive branches.
"Typically, the court can be more or less generous in interpreting actions and initiatives taken, but in terms of funding of abortions and Medicare and Medicaid, the court it not initiating those funding streams. Essentially, what the court is saying is at some point this is a legitimate prohibition or this is not, and I think those are very important battles that need to be fought and I think they have a redistributive aspect to them."

I’m not exactly sure what this means.

In summary, a close reading of “Dreams from My Father” shows that achieving political power to bring about redistribution of wealth from whites to blacks was the main goal of Obama’s life up at least through the book’s writing in 1995.

This interview extends that up through 2001, the year after his soul-crushing defeat in the 2000 Democrat primary for House, where he was rejected by black voters for not being black enough.

Keep in mind that Obama has never been all that big on just cutting checks for poor people. He much prefers to spend money through his political base, social service workers, letting them keep much of the increased spending.

This explains, by the way, why Obama never bothered to publish any legal scholarship, even though he had the same post at the U. of Chicago Law School, “Senior Lecturer,” as Richard Posner. He didn’t see the point: litigation just wasn’t going to be as effective at getting “redistributive change” as would be “coalitions of power.”

As a practical matter, however, he understands that to take money from whites and give it to blacks, which is what he cares about, his dreams from his father, he’ll need to assemble broad “coalitions of power.” He can’t just hand out money on a blacks-only basis. He’s got to cut all sorts of people in on the deal.

The problem with that is that his goal then becomes vastly more expensive. The U.S. can more or less afford to subsidize the descendants of slaves as a form of reparations. What we can’t afford to do is cut everybody else in on the deal in order to make it politically palatable.

We’ve seen that with the broad bipartisan consensus for more minority homeownership that caused the mortgage meltdown. Bush’s denunciations of down payments as the chief barrier to adding 5.5 million new minority homeowners would have been less disastrous if only he’d said: “No down payments for blacks. Everybody else still has to put money down.” But, you can’t be that obvious about it. So, huge amounts of money flowed to non-blacks (especially to Hispanics), and here we are. Bush helped increase the amount of mortgage money for home purchase going to Hispanics 693% from 1999 to 2006, with disastrous consequences for the economy. Mortgage money to blacks went up 397%, 218% for more prudent Asians, and about 100% for whites.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer