September 12, 2009

It's unseemly

The Chicago Tribune reports on the apparent suicide of Christopher Kelly, a Chicago wheeler-dealer recently sentenced to eight years in prison, and under much pressure from Patrick Fitzgerald to testify against Rod Blagojevich (and who knows who else):
After Blagojevich was elected in 2002, both Kelly and fellow fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko became the governor's most trusted advisers. But Blagojevich often made clear that of the two, he was closest with Kelly, who in the administration's early days had a hand in everything from cabinet appointments to gambling issues.

Having lived in Chicago for 18 years, I just think it's unseemly for the United States of America to be represented to the world by a Chicago politician.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Social Contagion Theory

The New York Times has a long article, "Is Happiness Catching?," about the work of Nicholas Christaki and James Fowler on social networks within the venerable Framingham Heart Study that has been running since 1948. The findings aren't terribly astounding: happy people tend to have a lot of happy friends, unhappy people tend to have few and not very happy friends, fat people tend to have fat friends and get fat together at about the same time, smokers tend to hang out with other smokers, and so forth.

Author Clive Thompson seems rather naive at times:
"But how, exactly, could obesity or happiness spread through so many links? Between one immediate peer and another, some contagious behaviors — like smoking — seem pretty commonsensical. If lots of people around you are smoking, there’s going to be peer pressure for you to start, whereas if nobody’s smoking, you’ll be more likely to stop. But the simple peer-pressure explanation doesn’t work as well with happiness or obesity: we don’t often urge people around us to eat more or implore them to be happier."

A lot of the participants in the Framingham study are Italian-Americans, such as the Belliolis profiled in the article's opening paragraphs, and I can assure Clive Thompson that Italian-Americans do often urge people around them to eat more and to be happy. Indeed, eating and happiness is often linked in the Italian-American mind. (Whazzamatta, you don't like your grandmother's canoli? You don't love your own grandma anymore? C'mon, enjoy, enjoy. Be happy!). Similarly, Irish-Americans do often urge the people around them to have a wee nip or three.

This is one reason why parents spend so much money and effort on trying to get their kids into higher social classes with, among much else, healthier habits. For example, when I arrived at Rice University at age 17 way back in 1976, there were only 3 smokers out of the 250 guys in my dorm. Rice students weren't particularly upscale (they tended to be the children of engineers), but they tended to have Mr. Spock-like views on the obvious illogicality of smoking. Not surprisingly, I was never subjected to any peer pressure to start smoking.

Only on the 10th and last page of the article does the author finally get around to considering selection effects on the results, and he could go much farther. Consider weight -- so many of the rituals of friendship revolve around exercising and/or eating, drinking, or taking drugs. Consider two young women who are best friends because they go out frequently to Manhattan dance clubs together and try to lure men into buying them cocaine. If they weren't both slender, they wouldn't have taken up this hobby, and, in turn, this hobby keeps them skinny (until one, or both, goes into rehab).

Consider two male friends who get together most nights to down a six-pack of beer each and watch ESPN. If one of the pair got into triathaloning, they'd probably drift apart.

To my mind, perhaps more interesting than friendship ties are the social influences of kinship ties, which bring together people of different ages, sexes, and personalities. (You can choose your friends, but you can't choose your relatives.) In-law ties are particularly complex and interesting, but understudied. One incomplete but illuminating definition of "class" is "the kind of people your relatives tend to marry."

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

September 10, 2009

Noam Chomsky

In 2005, in a contest conducted by the magazines Foreign Policy and Prospect, readers voted Noam Chomsky the world’s top intellectual. To an American, this can seem surprising, since Chomsky is a distinctly marginalized figure in U.S. mainstream discourse.

He's popular on the left, but these days Chomsky is barely more popular in media-dominant neoliberal and neoconservative circles than is, say, Paul Gottfried. I can recall reading long articles by Chomsky in the LA Times in 1975-76 denouncing the Ford Administration for giving the greenlight to Indonesia to take over the decolonized Portuguese colony of East Timor (which look prescient in retrospect), but it doesn't appear that the LA Times has published anything by Chomsky in the last three years.

Still, a not implausible dual case can be made for Chomsky’s importance:

- As a scientist-philosopher, his work in linguistics going back to the late 1950s in which he attacked the dominant behaviorist assumptions of the time and implied the existence of a human language instinct had a crucial liberating effect on science, marking the return to a more realistic balance between nurture and nature.

- The ascent of America to the status of world's only superpower over the last 20 years just makes Chomsky's relentless critique of American foreign policy that much more relevant. Americans like to think of the U.S. as the plucky underdog, but, these days, we're the overdog.

Moreover, Chomsky’s negative critique of American foreign policy isn't much weighted down by his positive ideology -- which his former colleague Steven Pinker calls a sort of romantic left anarchism, epitomized briefly by the kind of spontaneously forming local workers’ collectives that Orwell saluted in Homage to Catalonia -- which seems too quaint to take seriously as a threatening alternative.

To this, I might add that Chomsky’s functional prose style probably doesn’t lose much in translation. And, of course, his default anti-Americanism is popular with non-Americans and unpopular with Americans.

Chomsky’s perspective on American foreign policy is, roughly, that nothing much has changed over the last century since, say, the Taft Administration. Just as Washington pushed around Latin American banana republics a century ago for the benefit of American business interests, so Washington pushes around the rest of the world today, and for similar reasons.

Chomsky’s standpoint is helpful. After all, if the U.S. found it rational to behave like that in the pre-ideological age of the early 20th Century, why wouldn’t it also behave like that in the post-ideological age of the early 21st Century? We know a lot about how Great Powers traditionally act, so why should all that knowledge be useless today?

At minimum, I would argue (Chomsky, of course, argues much more), the Greatest Power throws its weight around to dissuade Lesser Powers from throwing their weight around. Yet, even that it is seldom admitted in the neolib-neocon-dominated mainstream media. Instead, American muscle-flexing is due to the threat posed by Taliban sexism or whatever.

There is one successful alternative model to the Washington Consensus of globalist capitalism: what might be called "national capitalism," which worked well in East Asia. For that matter, tariff-protected national development worked well a century and more ago both in the Robber Barons' America and in Bismarck's Germany, which Chomsky often points out. To take a random example, here's a 2007 Harvard Crimson article where he sounds like a more politically correct Pat Buchanan:
Asserting that the U.S. had high tariff levels up through the 1950s, Chomsky attacked today’s global economic system for having served to transfer wealth from developing nations to the developed world.

He argued that the West had grown rich by relying on tariffs and industrial policy, and that whatever economic growth the developing world had seen following World War II had resulted from their use of similar protectionist trade policies.

“When these measures were banned during the neoliberal period of the 1970s, growth rates in the developing world decreased dramatically,” Chomsky said.

He said that if African nations want to achieve higher rates of economic growth, they should “look to the East Asian Tigers in the 70s and 80s, who expanded economically by violating the [World Trade Organization] rules.”

Still, Chomsky's can't get too excited about the success of, say, Samsung because of his old-fashioned quasi-Titoist workers' collectivist ideology. He worked on an Israeli kibbutz as a youth (where he was disturbed by the pro-Stalinist sympathies), and he remains, in some ways, The Last Kibbutznik.

In the mid-1980s, the South Korean Hyundai and the Yugoslavian Yugo both went on sale in the U.S. The Hyundai was bad, but not as awful as the Yugo. You'll notice that Hyundai is still around but the not the Yugo (nor Yugoslavia, either). Chomsky's economic theory is the Yugo of ideologies.

Nevertheless, you don't have to be a great fashion designer yourself to point out that the emperor has no clothes.

On the other hand, Chomsky can be rather naive about American power. Although he denies it, he often sounds rather like the tsk-tsking twin brother of advocates of "realist" foreign policy who overly reify Great Powers as if each were a single person playing the game of Risk. This was convenient simplification in, say, the days of Louis XIV ("L'etat, c'est moi"), but it's a misleading way to think about the shambling way foreign policy comes about in contemporary America. In Chomsky's mind, the real power is always "the multinational corporations," even in situations like the Iraq Attaq where the oil companies were unenthusiastic.

In Chomsky's view, for example, the American imperial dog must be wagging the Israeli tail for self-interested economic reasons of state -- any alternatives are too ridiculous to consider. Hence, Chomsky often sounds like Testing 99 / Whiskey / Evil Neocon, credulously repeating neocon talking points about how Israel must be highly useful to America: Israel is America's "cop on the beat" in the Middle East, etc.

You've got to admit that the Israeli tail wagging the American dog would be pretty ridiculous. What's even more ridiculous is the reality that so much of American foreign policy is influenced less by Israelis, who, after all, at least tend to be well-informed and clear-eyed about their own interests, but, as Francis Fukuyama pointed out when Charles Krauthammer accused him of anti-Semitism in 2005, by Israeli wannabes!

Chomsky's views on the evolution of Jewish opinion are insightful:
And you can date the beginning of the enthusiastic support for Israel in the culture pretty well, since 1967. Before 1967, the intellectual community was skeptical about Israel or uninterested in it. That changed.

If you look at Norman Podhoretz's book Making It, a kind of self-advertisement that came out in 1967, there is barely a mention of Israel. ...

That's when you start getting concern about the Holocaust. Before that, when people could have actually done something for Holocaust victims -- say, in the late 1940s -- they didn't do anything. That changed after 1967. Now you have Holocaust museums all over the country. It's the biggest issue, and you have to study it everywhere, mourn it. But not when you could have done something about it.

The Occam's Razor explanation for the change in Jewish-American attitudes in 1967 is that everybody loves a winner. Just as I haven't invested much of my ego in the sad fortunes of the Rice Owls college football team over the years since I graduated from Rice (but I did get interested last year when they went 10-3!), American Jews didn't invest much of their egos in Israel while it was in danger of getting crushed. Once the Jewish State was no longer at risk of defeat, however, Jewish-American egos got tied up in its continued dominance. After 1967, Israel became for many American Jews what the Notre Dame football team had been for American Catholics.

For Chomsky, however, it's always about the military-industrial complex, the oil companies, and class, and not about ethnicity:
There was a lingering concern that the Arabs might want to use the [oil] wealth of the region for their population, not for Western wealth and power, with a little bit raked off for the gangsters that run the countries. That's a major threat.

Okay ...
So, Israel smashed Nasser and destroyed the threat of secular nationalism. ... That's a major threat. Israel finished that, which firmed up the U.S.-Israeli alliance and led to a very quick change.

But, Chomsky's logic doesn't make sense on realpolitik grounds even on a simple post hoc, ergo propter hoc basis: the logical time for a U.S.-Israel alliance against Nasser would have been before Nasser was humiliated, not afterwards. For example, the U.S. and the Soviet Union were close allies when fighting Hitler, then diverged sharply after he was defeated. That's logical. The post-1967 American Jewish love affair with Israel isn't logical, it's emotional.

Now, you could make the argument that in 1969 Richard Nixon conspired with his chief advisors, Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Henry Kissinger, to portray Israel as central to the Cold War to persuade some American Jews to be more pro-American and anti-Soviet, which indeed paid off with the rise of neoconservatism. But that doesn't have much to do with oil companies, so I doubt if Chomsky's much interested in it.

In summary, Chomsky has obvious obsessions that weaken his logic, but he remains a bracing controversialist.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Half-Full v. Half-Empty Movies

As you've probably noticed by now, one of the main ruts in which my thinking runs is the old notion that a glass that's half-full is also half-empty and vice-versa. For example, one of the essays I worked hardest upon, a review of Arthur Jensen's monumental 1998 book The g Factor, was built around that theme.

Similarly, much of movie criticism consists of deciding whether to describe a film as half-full or half-empty. Obviously, a few movies, such as the Lord of the Rings films, simply work on all levels. And a great many others don't much work at all.

The hard ones fall in the middle.

For example, is Caddyshack a juvenile mess of a movie with awful special effects made by a bunch of Hollywood types on prolonged drug binges? Or is it a handful of great lines like "So I got that goin' for me, which is nice"? Is Idiocracy an underbaked dramatic effort or is it a bunch of indelible images and lines?

In theory, a fair-minded critic would give equal measure to both a film's full and empty elements, but that's really boring and increasingly unnecessary. There's not much point any more in the traditional review that laboriously lists the elements of the movie that the critic like and disliked and then sums up an overall rating. You can get a better overview of how good a film is by looking at the average scores on an aggregator site like Rotten Tomatoes or IMDB that give you the wisdom of crowds. (You just have to keep in mind the biases of the various crowds, whether underemployed ex-English majors on Rotten Tomatoes or bachelor fanboys on IMDB.)

Therefore, one of my usual approaches is to pick one perspective or the other and try to make a coherent argument why the film is half-full (while mentioning its flaws in passing) or why it's half-empty (while briefly admitting its virtues).

My general prejudice is to view over-achieving films made by underdogs through the glass-is-half-full lens and underachieving ones made by overdogs through the half-empty lens. Thus, recent Quentin Tarantino films tend to annoy me because Tarantino long ago demonstrated his enormous talent, and elaborate meta-explanations about why it's cool that he's wasting his powers making ingenious crud bore me. It's not that I'm not intellectually sophisticated enough to understand the rationalizations. I just don't care.

Still, there's an irreducibly arbitrary element. Consider the two main Best Picture contenders from a couple of years ago: No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood. A few minutes of viewing will reveal that they are both made by superior filmmakers.

Both movies, however, are uneven. Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem are great in No Country, but Tommy Lee Jones is incomprehensible. I guess that makes the glass two-thirds full, and, indeed, I was an enthusiast for this film, but actually more because it quietly solved a long-standing problem: how to make a movie that conveys the pleasures of a first-person shooter video game. Instead of making the action more frenetic, slow it down so that the viewer can think along with the characters.

Daniel Day-Lewis is amazing in Blood, as is the cinematography, but what the hell is the movie about? Why does this competent, self-disciplined entrepreneur suddenly turn into a violent lunatic around the wan preacher?

The more I researched the story behind There Will Be Blood, the more frustrated I became with the movie. The movie is inspired by the first half of Upton Sinclair's novel about oilman Edward Doheny, Oil, but Paul Thomas Anderson didn't finish the book, so he didn't seem to be aware that Doheny became involved in the great the scandal of age, Teapot Dome. And after Sinclair published his book, Doheny's story climaxed with the still unsolved murder-suicide in LA's biggest mansion involving the oilman's son and his secretary, presumably over testifying in the oilman's Teapot Done trial. This case an its cover-up inspired the subsequent career of a failing LA oil company executive named Raymond Chandler. The more I learned, the more my review turned into an argument that There Will Be Blood is half-empty .

Now, Paul Thomas Anderson is an artist and artists tend tget their inspiration from idiosyncratic sources, and thus, presumably, fail to get inspiration from what should have obvious sources. Perhaps, if he'd tried to use the tremendously dramatic real-life events, his artistry would have dried up. Still, as memorable as Blood is, it struck me as underachieving. Clearly, though, that's a personal judgment. My hope is that was a more interesting perspective than most other reviewers came up with.

Similarly, I tend to write reviews about movies that are at least partly misunderstood. For example, Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds is universally seen as a Jewish revenge fantasy, which, in part, it is, just as District 9 is described as an "apartheid allegory." There is some truth in both conventional interpretations, but it's clear from interviews with the filmmakers that much is being missed. As Neill Blomkamp has explained repeatedly to uncomprehending interviewers, District 9 is at least equally a post-apartheid parable. Similarly, the Jews butchering Nazis theme didn't much inspire Tarantino's intelligence, which is obvious from how underdeveloped those limited parts of the movie are, while what really fascinated Tarantino was the multiform idea of being in show business under the Third Reich. For example, what would it be like if instead of having to rely on Harvey Weinstein to scrape together money for your movies, you could persuade Hitler to provide you with the full resources of his totalitarian empire?

Perhaps it's just as well that most people don't pick up on Tarantino's fascination with Goebbels, but, still, it's not exactly subtle.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

September 9, 2009

Mike Judge's "Extract"

In my Wednesday Taki's Magazine column, I consider the latest from Mike Judge of King of the Hill, Office Space, and Idiocracy notoriety.

Read it there and comment about it below.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

September 8, 2009

Francis Galton's "Hereditary Genius"

I'm rereading Francis Galton's 1869 book Hereditary Genius, which argues for the heritability of ability (he wrote in 1892 that he should have named it Hereditary Ability). From a glass-half-full perspective, it's certainly impressive. The novelty of so much of the reasoning in it is extraordinary.

I read it a decade ago from a glass is half empty perspective and found it unconvincing. But, of course, Galton couldn't have been wholly convincing back in 1869: Galton had to dream up most of the conceptual tools (such as twin studies and the correlation coefficient) he needed to prove his insight, which he proceeded to do over the second half of his long and remarkably productive life.

In Hereditary Genius, Galton's basic methodology is to come up with lists of eminent people and determine how many prominent relatives they have. Galton was a great believer in the accuracy of long-term reputation.

Strikingly, he prefers to use other people's lists of eminent men that were created for other purposes so that his biases won't interfere with who makes the list. For example, among statesmen, he is aware of how far men can be propelled by inheritance, luck, and so forth, so he restricts his list to two sources: Prime Ministers (on the ground that you had to have something on the ball to make it all the way to very highest post) and a book written by one of Galton's heroes, Henry Brougham: Sketches of the Statesmen of the time of George III.

Galton cites Brougham, the brilliant Whig politician who largely pushed through the Reform Act of 1832 and the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833, as the exemplar of the man of parts so talented that he would achieve great renown under any circumstances.

Ironically, Brougham is even more overlooked today than Galton. In contrast, Galton's other hero, his own half-cousin Charles Darwin, is now titanically famous. And yet, at least to me, Darwin and Galton, the grandsons of the polymath Erasmus Darwin, appear to be very similar in talents and accomplishments. Darwin, the older of the pair, had the single best idea, but Galton, who was healthier and more energetic, may have had more good ideas (e.g., besides the basic concept of a science of human differences, he invented the concept of regression toward the mean, the basic math of correlation, the weather map, the silent dog whistle, and the system for classifying fingerprints).

Neither Darwin nor Galton radiated an air of being a supreme genius. Both seemed more like enormously curious and resourceful wealthy English amateurs with lots of time on their hands, to the sciences what Lord Peter Wimsey is to fictional crime solving. If Darwin and Galton hadn't been born into a rich family of Whig views and a scientific bent, would they have become so eminent?

The concept of the control group hadn't been dreamed up by 1869 (I don't believe), but Galton cleverly self-analyzes his sample by showing that the likelihood of a relative becoming eminent himself is proportional to the genealogical distance: sons or brothers or fathers of eminent men are more likely to be eminent than nephews, while nephews are more likely to be eminent than cousins or great-nephews.

Galton is aware of the nature-nurture conundrum (he coined the term "nature v. nurture"), so he suggests looking at the careers of favorite nephews of Italian popes. In recent centuries, after the end of the great Renaissance families, the Church became less aristocratic, and popes tended to be the most impressive figure of less distinguished families. How did their favorite nephews do? Not as well as sons do in non-celibate professions, he asserts.

Galton offers other interesting if not wholly convincing arguments for heredity of ability. He wrote in 1869:
Another argument to prove, that the hindrances of English social life, are not effectual in repressing high ability is, that the number of eminent men in England, is as great as in other countries where fewer hindrances exist. Culture is far more widely spread in America, than with us, and the education of their middle and lower classes far more advanced; but, for all that, America most certainly does not beat us in first-class works of literature, philosophy, or art. The higher kind of books, even of the most modern date, read in America, are principally the work of Englishmen. The Americans have an immense amount of the newspaper-article-writer, or of the member-of-congress stamp of ability; but the number of their really eminent authors is more limited even than with us. I argue that, if the hindrances to the rise of genius, were removed from English society as completely as they have been removed from that of America, we should not become materially richer in highly eminent men.

I certainly found that true when forced to study the early classics of American Literature in high school. Before Huckleberry Finn, what from American lit is really worth reading: Bartleby the Scrivener? The Tell-Tale Heart? The best I could say for Thoreau's Walden was that its prose style wasn't quite as soporific as Emerson's Self-Reliance. Most of the early classics appear to be classics mostly out of New Englandish self-regard. New Englanders started most of the colleges, so they got to decide what should be taught in the colleges.

The most prodigious intellectual effort of early American letters, Ben Franklin's 1751 essay Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind, which, as Malthus admitted in his second edition, foreshadowed him by a half century, is almost unknown today.

Galton's book remains full of great data nerd stuff, such as this digression on an issue that comes up in assessing the talent of military commanders:
There is a singular and curious condition of success in the army and navy, quite independent of ability, that deserves a few words. In order that a young man may fight his way to the top of his profession, he must survive many battles. But it so happens that men of equal ability are not equally likely to escape shot free. Before explaining why, let me remark that the danger of being shot in battle is considerable. No less than seven of the thirty-two commanders mentioned in my appendix, or between one-quarter and one-fifth of them, perished in that way; they are Charles XII., Gustavus Adolphus, Sir Henry Lawrence, Sir John Moore, Nelson, Tromp, and Turenne. (I may add, while talking of these things, though it does not bear on my argument, that four others were murdered, viz. Caesar, Coligny, Philip II. of Macedon, and William the Silent; and that two committed suicide, viz. Lord Clive and Hannibal. In short, 40 per cent. of the whole number died by violent deaths.)

There is a principle of natural selection in an enemy's bullets which
bears more heavily against large than against small men. Large men are more likely to be hit. I calculate that the chance of a man being accidentally shot is as the square root of the product of his height multiplied into his weight;¹ that where a man of 16 stone in weight, and 6 feet 2.5 inches high, will escape from chance shots for two years, a man of 8 stone in weight and 5 feet 6 inches high, would escape for three. But the total proportion of the risk run by the large man, is, I believe, considerably greater. He is conspicuous from his size, and is therefore more likely to be recognised and made the object of a special aim. It is also in human nature, that the shooter should pick out the largest man, just as he would pick out the largest bird in a covey, or antelope in a herd.

This is really an important consideration. Had [Admiral] Nelson [killed at Trafalgar in 1805] been a large man, instead of a mere feather-weight, the probability is that he would not have survived so long.

In short, to have survived is an essential condition to becoming a famed commander; yet persons equally endowed with military gifts—such as the requisite form of high intellectual and moral ability and of constitutional vigour—are by no means equally qualified to escape shot free. The enemy's bullets are least dangerous to the smallest men, and therefore small men are more likely to achieve high fame as commanders than their equally gifted contemporaries whose physical frames are larger.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer


The New York Times has an article, A Beach Shared by a Tight-Knit Clan, and slide show celebrating the serene beachfront Neponsit neighborhood in Queens, which is in Queens kind of like the Green Zone is in Baghdad. The beach is supposedly public, but there's a big chainlink fence on the sand separating it from Jacob Riis Beach, where there's public parking. No parking is allowed on the neighborhood streets during beach season, so to go to the beach you pretty much have to know somebody who lives there who will let you park in his driveway:
According to census data, the population is about 2,000; 95 percent are white, 2 percent Asian, 2 percent Hispanic, and fewer than 1 percent black or multiracial.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

September 7, 2009

My new column on Paul Gottfried

I review intellectual historian Paul Gottfried's memoir Encounters: My Life with Nixon, Marcuse, and Other Friends and Teachers:

The Property and Freedom Society conference, hosted annually in lovely Bodrum, Turkey, by Austrian School economist Hans-Hermann Hoppe, is an eye-opening experience in urbanity for provincial Americans like myself. For the benefit of monoglot Anglophones, the speeches are all in English, but many of the Continental speakers, such as economist Jorg Guido Hülsmann, are more suavely articulate in their second, third, or fourth languages than I am in my one and only.

Fortunately, the presence in Bodrum of Paul E. Gottfried—the distinguished intellectual historian, contributor, and coiner of the term "paleoconservative"—demonstrated that not all Americans are as unsophisticated as I am.

Each time I passed Dr. Gottfried in the gleaming lobby of the Hotel Karia Princess, he seemed to be carrying on a lively conversation in a different language. He was even rumored to have started acquiring some Turkish, a non-Indo-European language from the Asian steppe whose mere placenames (e.g., the nearby resort of Göltürkbükü) baffled me with their unfamiliarity.

Gottfried’s energetic erudition reminded me of the international man of mystery who saves the day in Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop, "Mr. Baldwin", who plays world-class ping-pong while keeping up all the while "a bright, bantering conversation in demotic Greek" and "singing snatches of lugubrious Baltic music" in Swedish.

Gottfried’s new memoir, Encounters: My Life with Nixon, Marcuse, and Other Friends and Teachers, provides an ideal introduction to the works of this scholar, who is perhaps the most acute "political genealogist" of our time.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

LAT: "Obama is fast losing white voters' support"

From the LA Times:
Obama is fast losing white voters' support

His approval ratings with the crucial bloc have plunged since April. Strategists say the healthcare debate is largely to blame, but that's not the only reason.

By Peter Wallsten

After a summer of healthcare battles and sliding approval ratings for President Obama, the White House is facing a troubling new trend: The voters losing faith in the president are the ones he had worked hardest to attract.

New surveys show steep declines in Obama's approval ratings among whites -- including Democrats and independents -- who were crucial elements of the diverse coalition that helped elect the country's first black president.

Among white Democrats, Obama’s job approval rating has dropped 11 points since his 100-days mark in April, according to surveys by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. It has dropped by 9 points among white independents and whites over 50, and by 12 points among white women -- all groups that will be targeted by both parties in next year's midterm elections.

"While Obama has a lock on African Americans, his support among white voters seems to be almost in a free fall," said veteran Republican pollster Neil Newhouse.

Strategists in both parties blame Obama's decline on growing discontent with his policy agenda, particularly after a month of often-rowdy debate over his proposed healthcare overhaul, in which some conservatives accused him of socialism. Obama's ratings seem likely to rise again if he wins passage of healthcare legislation this fall.

But the drop in support among whites also comes as some conservatives have stoked controversies that have the potential to further erode Obama's standing among centrists -- including some controversies that resulted from White House stumbles.

One such episode came to a head Sunday when Van Jones, Obama’s green jobs czar, resigned after a week of criticism over past inflammatory statements and for signing onto conspiracy theories questioning whether the U.S. government played a role in the Sept. 11 attacks. A White House official acknowledged Sunday that Jones had been vetted less rigorously than other officials. ...

Pew first identified a slippage in white support immediately after a news conference in July, when Obama surprised many by saying that a white police officer had acted "stupidly" in arresting a black Harvard professor.

Still unclear is whether Obama's slide in the polls is due solely to his policies, or questions about his personal background or allegiances.

During the presidential campaign last fall, the nation's economic meltdown swamped any attempts by Republicans to portray Obama as having radical associations with figures such as his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.

Which Republicans? Certainly not John McCain, the losing candidate.
... One black congressman, Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.), was quoted last week alleging that opposition to Obama's healthcare policies was "a bias, a prejudice, an emotional feeling."

Democratic pollster David Beattie conducted a survey last month in one competitive congressional district that found that more than a quarter of independents believed Obama had not proven his natural-born status. The same sentiment was expressed by nearly 6 in 10 Republican women -- a group that Beattie said would be important for a Democratic victory.

He declined to name the district because the polling was private, but said that such questions about Obama's background seemed to be a "proxy" for voters' growing unease with Obama's ambitious agenda, which has included a potential push to create a government-sponsored health insurance plan.

"We're having an economic culture war," Beattie said.

The basic question in all politics is: "Whose side are you on?" McCain and the media worked together to keep this profound question about Obama off the table during the election, but it inevitably re-emerges when complicated and expensive legislation like health is on the table. Is Obama pushing this 1,000 page bill for your benefit or somebody else's benefit? Whose side is he on?

The various conspiracy theories about Obama are attempts by thoroughly cowed people to raise questions about Obama without mentioning the fundamental one: Does he see his life's work as A Story of Race and Inheritance?

As I wrote last year in

Many wild rumors have circulated about Barack Obama, such as

And finally, the most popular and yet most self-evidently implausible rumor of all, assiduously promoted by Obama’s media handler David Axelrod:

  • that Obama refuses to be defined by his race, that he transcends race, that he’s not interested in race, blah blah.

What do all these assertions have in common?

First, they betray a lack of awareness of the facts of Obama’s life.

Second, they tend to reflect the widespread desire among whites of all political stripes to not think about race anymore, and to imagine that Obama doesn’t either.

In truth, the big secret about Obama is that there’s no secret: as Obama explains at vast length in his memoir, what he himself calls his “racial obsessions” have dominated his life.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Rove and Bush

Matt Latimer, a former Bush speechwriter, in the Washington Post:

Yet Bush's advisers, particularly Karl Rove, exerted enormous pressure on him to go out every day to talk about anything -- even if no one was listening. Each year, for example, we were asked to produce three entirely separate statements to commemorate St. Patrick's Day. And we crafted remarks for so many Hispanic-themed ceremonies that the president finally stood up in the Oval Office and told his speechwriters, "No más."

The Hispanic-themed comments were an outgrowth of the administration's all-out push for comprehensive immigration reform. As the president's proposal became more controversial, Rove -- on one of his over-caffeinated days -- persuaded Bush to give speech after speech, each time hoping that somehow they'd find the magic words to turn things around. Bush, who when given a moment to collect his thoughts could be a persuasive speaker, was talking so often that his words on the subject lost their presidential heft. Critics noted that his message seemed muddied and his arguments contradictory or confusing.

Well, when you are trying to put a giant swindle over on American voters, the best you can hope for is that your message comes across as muddied, contradictory, and confusing.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

"Is Your Baby Racist?"

Newsweek runs the most unintentionally funny article of the year on its cover:
See Baby Discriminate
Kids as young as 6 months judge others based on skin color. What's a parent to do?

It's by San Francisco novelist Po Bronson and his wife Ashley Merryman, both terminally SWPL. It's a chapter from their self-help book Nurture Shock, and it explains how to more scientifically indoctrinate your children in the conventional wisdom so they don't slip up and inadvertently say something politically incorrect about race, thus exposing them, and you, to who knows what consequences.

I'm sure parents in Stalin's Soviet Union had similar worries. Bronson and Merryman would no doubt have done land office business peddling advice to kulak parents about how to talk about class so their little ones don't slip up.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

September 6, 2009

How Krugman got it wrong

Paul Krugman has a long article in the NYT Magazine entitled "How Did the Economists Get It So Wrong?" which demonstrates quite nicely, by all the topics it avoids mentioning, how the economists got it so wrong.

Krugman's article is basically a nostalgia fest, with Krugman arguing for Keynes over Friedman, East Coast economics departments over Great Lakes economics departments. Big whoop ... It's like baseball fans arguing over Mickey Mantle vs. Ty Cobb as a centerfielder on your all-time all-star team.

I'm sorry, but this is the 21st Century, and the critical problems we face are the ones that economists have tried hard to ignore.

Krugman, for example, totally ignores inconvenient realities, such as the bipartisan push by politicians for more mortgage lending to minorities, which played such a huge role in the mortgage meltdown that launched the recession.

Similarly, immigration is never mentioned. As I blogged on August 26, 2005:
Amusingly, the extremely low interest rates that are propping up the economy today are causing a boom in home construction in the exurbs (i.e., creating more of the exurban sprawl that Krugman derides). While the home construction boom is doing nothing to help us compete better economically with the Chinese, it is sucking in more illegal immigrants to work in construction. In turn, the rapidly rising populations of unassimilated Hispanic immigrants is triggering more white flight out to the exurbs and raising demand for new McMansions. [What I wasn't aware of in 2005 was how much of the lending was going to minorities.]

You might think that this process would interest economist Krugman, but you'd be wrong. Since 2001, Krugman has barely mentioned immigration at all, despite writing 100 columns per year for the New York Times. The problem he faces is that he and his bete noire George W. Bush hold almost identical, visceral, non-rational views on the goodness of immigration, so Krugman is just not going to mention the entire subject.

You might think this merely reflects Krugman's personal idiosyncrasies, yet it's also representative of how almost the entire economics profession in the U.S. has been AWOL on this enormous issue, one with obvious and profound economic implications. Economists have largely ignored immigration in recent years, and when they do discuss it, often spew self-evident nonsense that they would flunk an Econ 101 student for writing on a test on any other subject.

Meanwhile, even when it comes to conventional economics, Krugman still doesn't get the Austrian theory of how malinvestment causes recessions. He's outraged that an opposing economist says:
“We should have a recession. People who spend their lives pounding nails in Nevada need something else to do.”

Personally, I think this is crazy. Why should it take mass unemployment across the whole nation to get carpenters to move out of Nevada?

I explained at length last October why all the giant unfinished casinos in Las Vegas inevitably cause unemployment. Krugman wrote in 1998:
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 responded:
Look, the hulk of the Echelon [casino] 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....

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 ...

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 ... 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 -- Steve Sailer

Do statheads tend to be betting men?

When I was a freshman in college, a high school friend whose dad was one of the top bookies in LA gave me a free subscription to his dad's football betting newsletter, the Gold Sheet, which I see has now been in business for 50 years, so it's time-tested. It's modus operandi is to barter inside information on injuries and the like, so these guys aren't just selling their opinions.

Each week, I'd look through the Gold Sheet's predictions for college football games looking for ones I disagreed with. I'd pick one to five games per week where I thought the Gold Sheet was wrong on its point spread prediction. I believe my cumulative record for the year was 19-7 against the Gold Sheet's point spread predictions (not against the Las Vegas line, by the way).

I recount that because that's the last time I took an active interest in gambling. And, keep in mind, that I didn't actually bet any money. I just kept track to see how I would do if I had bet against the Gold Sheet's line.

Since then, despite being a classic stathead, I can recall buying two one dollar lottery tickets (when the jackpot was over $100,000,000, because it's fun to think about what you'd do with, what, $2.5 million per year pretax for 20 years -- in contrast, when the jackpot's only $1,000,000 it's depressing to think about what you'd with an extra $30k per year, because you quickly realize that you really need an extra $30k per year just to stay afloat, so why spend a buck to be remind of that?).

In other words, I'm not at all interested in gambling. Learning probability just taught the lesson that the odds are rigged against you, so why play?

On the other hand, the late stathead journalist Dan Seligman, who probably was about as similar to me in general turn of mind as anybody, was a devoted gambler. (Here's his 1997 article about his weekly poker game, straight out of a Billy Wilder movie, that had been a fixture in Manhattan business and journalism circles since 1954.)

So, here's the question: does being a stathead tend to make you more or less likely to be a gambler?

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

What's the Matter with Rhode Island?

It's not a very important state, but I notice that Rhode Island, in the heart of southern New England, seems to be slowly drifting toward the bottom of state-by-state statistics, turning into the West Virginia of Blue State America. And yet, unlike the Mountain State, the Ocean State has seemingly favorable topography: flat land, a remarkable number of miles of coastline per square mile (that's why Robber Barons built their "cottages" in Rhode Island), and weather, that while bad, is less bad than Massachusetts'. Culturally, Rhode Island has an Ivy League university and four centuries of architecture.

Is it just that everybody ambitious in Rhode Island heads to New York or Boston? Or is something else going on?

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Obama as Ralph Ellison's "Rinehart"

A reader points out an amusing literary precedent for our protean President: When experiencing doubts about his identity while at Punahou Prep, Obama read Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man. Toward the climax of that African-American classic, the nameless narrator, who has been beset with identity problems of his own, puts on dark sunglasses and ventures onto the streets of Harlem. In this disguise, he is repeatedly accosted by passers-by who think he is, apparently, some local character named Rinehart. This Rinehart, a man for all seasons, is evidently a pimp, a preacher, a numbers-runner, whatever works best for whomever he's dealing with at the moment. In his opaque lenses, people see whomever they hope to see. He is the one they've been waiting for.

The narrator experiences a revelation that might remind you a little of a recent political campaign's basic strategy:
Still, could he be all of them: Rine the runner and Rine the gambler and Rine the briber and Rine the lover and Rinehart the Reverend? Could he himself be both rind and heart? What is real anyway? But how could I doubt it? He was a broad man, a man of parts who got around. Rinehart the rounder. It was true as I was true. His world was possibility and he knew it. He was years ahead of me and I was a fool. I must have been crazy and blind. The world in which we lived was without boundaries. A vast seething, hot world of fluidity, and Rine the rascal was at home. Perhaps only Rine the rascal was at home in it. It was unbelievable, but perhaps only the unbelievable could be believed. Perhaps the truth was always a lie. ...

In the South everyone knew you, but coming North was a jump into the unknown. How many days could you walk the streets of the big city without encountering anyone who knew you, and how many nights? You could actually make yourself anew. The notion was frightening, for now the world seemed to flow before my eyes. All boundaries down, freedom was not only the recognition of necessity, it was the recognition of possibility. And sitting there trembling I caught a brief glimpse of the possibilities posed by Rinehart's multiple personalities and turned away. It was too vast and confusing to contemplate. Then I looked at the polished lenses of the glasses and laughed. I had been trying simply to turn them into a disguise but they had become a political instrument instead; for if Rinehart could use them in his work, no doubt I could use them in mine.

For another Ellisoncentric view of Obama, see David Samuels' brilliant article "Invisible Man" in the October 22, 2008 issue of The New Republic. It doesn't seem to be online anymore, but, fortunately, it's still cached by Google.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Does Liar Loan = Tax Evader?

The Liar’s Loan? study by economists Wei Jiang, Ashlyn Aiko Nelson, and Edward Vytlacil of over 700,000 mortgages issued during the Housing Bubble by an unnamed financial institution focusing on the "low documentation" mortgages brought in by independent brokers (now that's a trustworthy-sounding combination) raises questions about exactly what kind of borrower wants to pay higher interest rates in return for hiding facts about themselves.

Although this mortgage bank handed out fewer subprime loans than the national average, it still rode the Housing Bubble hard:
First, the bank experienced a rapid increase in loan production during the mortgage boom, followed by a sharp decline during the housing bust; new loan originations increased from about 20,000 in the first half of 2004 to a peak of over 154,000 in the second half of 2006, followed by precipitous decline starting in the second half of 2007.

It's specialty was low-doc loans:
Finally, the low-documentation loans represent just 20% of loans in the McDash database, but represent 70% of our sample. The difference is due to the lender’s specialization in low-documentation loans.

Like the lab rat that keeps hitting the button that dispenses more cocaine, the financial institution kept hitting the Low Doc / Broker channel harder and harder:
Figure 2 also shows that the rapid expansion in loan production was driven almost exclusively by increased loan originations through the broker channel, and expansion of low-documentation loans through the broker channel in particular. Broker-originated loans represented 73% of all loan originations in the first half of 2004, increasing to 94% by the second half of 2006; while broker low-doc loans accounted for 39% of originations in early 2004, they comprised 75% of loan originations by late 2006.

The creditworthiness of the four different channels is exactly what you'd expect:
The median duration times (in months) reported at the bottom of Table 3 reveal that a loan originated with full documentation by the bank has a median life of 25 years (300 months) before delinquency; the same median lifetime drops steeply to 8.4 years for Bank/Low-Doc loans, and to 7.9 years for Broker/Full-Doc loans. Finally, the median life is a mere 4.6 years for Broker/Low-Doc loans.

Not surprisingly, by 2009 the cumulative delinquency rates for 2007 loans were about 2.5X higher than for early 2004 loans.

So, what exactly was the business strategy behind pursuing the low documenation Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell borrower?

A 2006 MSN tried to put a good spin low-doc mortgages, it but it still comes out sounding sleazy:
No-doc mortgages let you pay for privacy

If your income doesn't come from a paycheck or you don't want to reveal all to some lender, you can still get a home loan, but you'll pay more. Here's how.


Most homebuyers work for a steady paycheck and are willing to divulge details of their finances in exchange for the best available mortgage loan.

But a lot of buyers don't draw a steady paycheck from a boss. They own businesses, make commissions, live off investments, get their income in cash or live a life of crime. Others don't want to give up their financial privacy. Limited-documentation mortgages are available for these people. ...

Ethical mortgage brokers and lenders generally try to talk customers out of getting low-doc and no-doc loans because they cost more.

Hmmhmmm ...
There are three main types of low-doc/no-doc mortgages.
  • Stated-income mortgages tend to be for people who work but don't draw regular wages or salary from an employer. That includes self-employed people or those who make a living off commissions or tips.

  • No-ratio loans are often the right call for wealthy people with complex financial lives, retirees who live off investments and people whose lives are in flux because of divorce, recent death of a spouse, or career change.

  • No-doc or NINA (no income/no asset verification) mortgages are for creditworthy people who want maximum privacy and can afford to pay for it.
Stated-income mortgages

Someone who gets a stated-income mortgage must disclose annual earnings, usually for the last two years and sometimes more. Instead of backing up the income statement with pay stubs and W2 forms, the borrower might have to show tax returns, bank statements and even profit-and-loss statements.

The borrower must list assets and debts. That's why the term "low documentation" isn't always accurate.

Stated-income mortgages are for people who make the money they say they make, but that amount doesn't show up on the bottom line of their income taxes, says Hugh McLaughlin, president and CEO of KMC Mortgage Services Inc., a lender and broker in Naples, Fla.

"They work for cash. They might be cleaning people or people who work in restaurants," McLaughlin says. "It is also good for self-employed borrowers who actually make gross sufficient amounts of income, but write off a lot on their taxes. They have the capacity to pay the loan back, but what they file with the IRS doesn't reflect their real income." ...
No-ratio mortgages

With these mortgages, the borrower doesn't declare income. No pay stubs, no W2s, no tax returns. Think of it as the "don't ask, don't tell" mortgage: The lender doesn't ask how much the borrower earns, and the borrower doesn't tell. ...

But the borrower does list assets -- money in the bank, stocks and bonds, real estate, ownership stakes in businesses.

"The purpose of the no-ratio program is to provide expedited processing for creditworthy borrowers," Pawsat says. "It's not intended as a means to qualify marginal borrowers."

Someone who owns 10 car dealerships might apply for a no-ratio mortgage because a conventional loan could require submitting personal and corporate tax returns and a year-to-date profit-and-loss statement for all the dealerships. ...

He says these loans also are for people "who say, 'I don't want to tell my whole life story to someone, so I want to pay a premium rate not to do that.'" ...

No-income/no-asset verification mortgages

These loans, sometimes known as NINAs, need the least documentation. In some cases the borrower provides his or her name, Social Security number, the amount of the down payment and the address of the property being bought. That's it. The lender gets a credit report and a property appraisal.

The line gets fuzzy between no-ratio and NINA mortgages, McLaughlin says. A lot depends upon the borrower's credit score. The better the score, the less documentation the lender will demand. In many cases, the lender will want to know what the buyer does for a living, and for how long. Lenders feel more comfortable with a borrower who has been doing the same job for at least two years.

In any case, an excellent credit score is required. These mortgages are for people who never, ever fail to pay bills on time. Actually, they're for people who employ assistants to pay the bills on time.

They're meant for people who zealously guard their privacy -- the movie star who doesn't want someone in the loan office selling copies of her tax return to The National Enquirer, the mobster who doesn't want to leave a paper trail.

In summary, these loans were invented for well-to-do tax evaders.

Yet, classy criminals, the kind who will lie to the IRS but not to the bank, the honor-among-thieves crowd, are fairly thin on the ground. If you go looking for liars to lend money to, you're likely to find ones who will lie to you, too.

One thing that would be worth exploring is how the interaction of illegal immigration and the Housing Bubble helped make liar loans so plausible sounding. Lots of who employed illegal immigrants, such as building contractors, were making lots of money during the Bubble, but doing much of it on a cash basis. Their employees wanted to be paid in cash, so that gave them an excuse to demand cash, too. Moreover, they tended to be speculators in housing, so if, like most of the financial community, you assume that we need ever more housing for our ever growing population which leads to ever increasing land prices, then they were good bets.

Of course, lots of people who implied they were making a lot in the untaxed market weren't.

You know, it's just hard to tell.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Is Obama being mau-maued in Afghanistan?

Tom Wolfe's classic study of War on Poverty handouts to "community organizers" in inner city San Francisco pointed out that most of the demonstrations and confrontations were largely staged to get money out of the government:

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. ... That was one reason why Summer Jobs was such a big deal. ... 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 and somebody else got five, then you were four times the aces they were ...

Reading the Afghanistan War website of Michael Yon, an ex-Green Beret who has been an embedded reporter in Iraq and Afghanistan, for some reason got me thinking about Mau-Mau the Flak Catchers. Especially the parts where people who are likely Taliban-affiliated show up at the British Army base where Yon is embedded and demand medical care for a wound no doubt suffered fighting the Brits or show up demanding compensation for their house that got blown up because guys were shooting at the Brits from it.

For a lot of the Pashtuns, no matter what side they nominally are on, the war seems to be not just about killing people and breaking things (which, being Pashtuns, they consider good clean fun), but, also, it's a living. If the war ever ends, will the rest of the world continue to funnel money and weapons into Afghanistan? Will they then have to get, like, jobs?

Moreover, consider the lessons the Afghans likely drew from the Iraq "Surge." Here in the U.S., the received lesson is that adding 15% more soldiers made all the difference, but what actually made the difference was what I'd been advocating all along: bribe the Sunni rebels to stop fighting us and start fighting the foreign fundamentalists.

If you are an Afghan, you probably figure that the same logic will play out in Afghanistan as in Iraq: the more problems you cause the Americans now, the more they will bribe you to switch sides, the same as the more you intimidated federal poverty bureaucrats in 1969, the biggerthe bribe they paid you.

Does Obama grasp that? This is one case where his pre-Presidential career experience ought to equip him to understand what's going on.

Yon's perspective is different. He implies that American soldiers didn't like the Iraqis, but at least they were civilized, in the sense that they mostly lived in houses that were designed with the expectation of some degree of law and order in Iraq. In contrast, while American and British troops tend to like the Afghans more on a personal level, they're basically uncivilized. Everybody in Afghanistan who can afford it builds his family a mud fort to call home, a mini-Alamo, because the expectationis that normal life in Afghanistan is Hobbesian.

For some reason, though, this doesn't discourage Yon:

We must face reality: Our reasons for continuing are not the reasons we came for. We are fighting a different war now than the one that began in 2001. Today's war is about social re-engineering. Given the horrible history of Afghanistan, and the fact that we already are here, the cause is worthy and worthwhile. ... Today, the war is still worth fighting, yet the goal to reengineer one of the most backward, violent places on Earth, will require a century before a reasonable person can call Afghanistan "a developing nation." The war will not take that long - but the effort will.

Well, as Sam Goldwyn would say, include me out.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Why did Van Jones get into "green jobs?"

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

"A Mugging on Lake Street"

Continuing my recent Chicago nostalgia-fest, here's an article from Chicago Magazine by liberal investigative reporter John Conroy, whose career has been dedicated to exposing the use of torture by Chicago area cops on black suspects. In "A Mugging on Lake Street," however, the muggee was Conroy. While riding his bike westbound on Lake Street under the El tracks through the West Side of Chicago (which my in-laws were driven out of by violence in 1970) to his home in Oak Park, he was knocked unconscious by a 16 year old black kid. No robbery, no apparent motive other than racial hatred.

Not long after, I was talking about the incident with my neighbor and fellow journalist Alex Kotlowitz, interpreter of racial maladies in There Are No Children Here and The Other Side of the River. I mentioned the coincidence of hearing the same thing from two such different sources. “I don’t think there is any question that it had to do with race,” Kotlowitz said. (Our initial conversation was over the fence, and I recently asked him to reconstruct his perception.) “There is some surmising here, but what other explanation is there for it? It is not like they had some animosity toward bikers.”

But he found the notion of a hate crime problematic. It presumes, he said, that the assailant acted out of racism, which by Kotlowitz’s definition requires a belief that one’s race is superior to another’s. “In this instance, I don’t think he felt superior. I think probably he felt diminished in some way and that was part of the lashing out.”

Modern liberal thought consists largely of dressing "Who? Whom?" up in sophisticated-sounding verbiage.

Speaking of the Lake Street El, my paternal grandfather used to ride the Lake Street Elevated Line everyday from his home in Oak Park, which native son Ernest Hemingway famously called a town of "broad lawns and narrow minds." Despite Hemingway's put-down, Oak Park produced perhaps the two most celebrated American artistic geniuses of the first half of the 20th Century in Hemingway, and Frank Lloyd Wright, who developed his Prairie Style while living there from age 22. Wright designed about a dozen houses within a block of my grandfather's (non-Wright) place.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer