Monday, September 30, 2002

Follow-up on women in science.... A few weeks ago when the whole sexism and the blogosphere stuff was being floated, Susanna of bias brought up the study alluded to in the text. I was curious as its result seemed so striking. I asked a friend, who I will call B, to check it out. Here is a summary of what B had to say.... B's text (my emphasis): The article by Stewart Lee is a restatement with a little cheerleading of the "commentary" article in Nature (Wenneras and Wold, Nature, vol 387, p341-343 - sorry it's not available online even for those with online access - I think this is because it's a commentary article). These articles attempt to quantify gender-based discrimination in the awarding of biomedical research funds to post-doctoral candidates in Sweden. Surprise! They find discrimination and conclude that women have to be 2.5 times as productive as average male to obtain the same level of perceived competence. But this is simply absurd. There are a miniscule (relative to the total number funded) number of individuals that are 2.5 more "productive" then the average grad student/post doc - there is just nowhere near that kind of variance in the group. It basically says the bell curves describing the perceived competence of men and women have virtually no overlap. This simply is not true. Their made up model gives made up numbers. It's a problem that has to be modeled because you need some way to map numbers to these ill-defined concepts, like "perceived competence" and "unfair discrimination" and the various factors that contribute to these things. For complex issues, like subtle forms of discrimination, there is no "correct" way to model the system and the modeling just yields the scientific sounding version of the opinion of the authors. The model used by Wenneras and Wold illustrates this. They constructed their model in a plausible and rational way, trying to take into account lots of relevant factors and to quantify things "scientifically." They determined from studies that non-proportional representation in funding stemmed from lower perceived scientific competence of women and modeled this as function of publication productivity. They arbitrarily defined productivity in terms of "impact points", which are a measure of the quantity of publications and reputation of journals they are published in. They arbitrarily gave publications like Nature and Science 10 impact points per article while more specialized publications receive 2-3 impact points per article. They said they took into account a variety of complicated factors: prestige of university/research advisor, priority of research area, first authorship, difference in degrees (there were medical doctors, nurses, and PhDs - 59% of the men and 26% of the women were medical doctors, with a lot of that difference being made up by nurses). But these things are again pretty difficult to quantify, though this was necessary, since they used multi-dimensional linear regression analysis to make all the interdependency of these variables go away. I might also question where the perceived competence should be linear, as the difference in perceived competence between no publications and 1 publication is probably a lot larger then the difference between 10 and 11 publications. And they are basing all of this on a sample size of 114 people, 20 of whom were funded. The breakdown was as follows: women (4/52/8%) and men (16/62/25%) - (funded applicants/total applicants/ percentage). In addition, the authors determined that women start 30 impact points behind men in perceived competence. The authors of the Nature article and the author of the Natural Science Review explicitly state that women are the equivalent of 3 Nature or Science articles or 20-30 journal articles behind men. The article also notes that 3 Science/Nature articles are the number many researchers are happy to get in a career, and I agree with this. So then for the authors elaborate model to hold, in a ~10 years of graduate and post doctoral work a female has to publish 20-30 more papers or publish 3 more Science/Nature articles than men. But 20-30 articles are already on the high end of what anyone does over that time frame. The model implies it is virtually impossible for a women to be perceived as competent as the average man, but women do become professors and do receive funding. In fact the authors note that of for some do get funded.... Razib adds: I'll do my own digging when I have time. All I can say is that the results were so "good" from the perspective of someone trying to show blatant discrimination that I was astounded, and thought it was either some serious data-massaging or my world was going to be rocked. I definately lean toward the position of B, and tend to believe that discrimination levels this high, if they hold up, can be chalked up to the small sample size, and the fact that it was restricted to Sweden (yes, yes, I'm sure Sweden is way more progressive than the United States....).

This is going to be a cakewalk There's nothing more amusing/pathetic than the sight of lefties desperately hoping that the war on Iraq will cause massive casualties. You can see hints of this in this Slate article, which glosses over the fact that Gulf War 1 had only 148 KIAs in its haste to deliver a grim prognosis. People just don't realize how one sided that conflict was. Over 100000 Iraqi soldiers died, to our ~100. That's a 1000 to 1 kill ratio. I wouldn't be surprised if we've boosted that by another order of magnitude in the ten years since. This article in the WaPo gives a recap of the propaganda war during Gulf War 1, but one paragraph in particular is remarkable in showing just how outclassed the Iraqis were in that conflict:

Inside the Iraqi Army, however, something different was happening. Allied leaflets dropped on troop positions in the south conveyed a simple message of hopelessness for the soldiers, who had been relentlessly bombed like they had never experienced. On the first day of Desert Storm, the United States flew more air strikes than Iran flew in ten years of war against Iraq. Soon enough Iraqis started to desert in droves. By the time the ground war that Saddam wanted so badly had kicked off on Feb. 24, 1991, Iraqi soldiers, sans Chapstick, were surrendering to reporters and unmanned reconnaissance drones. Ultimately over 80,000 Iraqis were captured as prisoners of war in just four days.

Now that is domination. Read the rest of it - it's good. A sample:

Writing in the New York Times, columnist Nicholas Kristoff warns that an "invasion of Iraq may not be the cakewalk." American restraint will provide Iraq plenty of places to hide its army, he says. What is more, by hiding in the cities, the United States will be forced to fight the Iraqi way. "The Americans are good at bombing," an Iraqi official tells Kristoff, "but . . . they will have to come to the ground. And then we'll be waiting . . .let's see how the Americans do when they're fighting in our streets." ... Why does anyone buy this nonsense? We have learned a great deal about U.S. military capabilities in the past decade. When U.S. intelligence finds a target worth attacking, the military can attack it with precision weaponry, pretty much regardless of location, and still minimize harm to surrounding civilians. What is more, if the target is indeed a weapon of mass destruction or Saddam himself, the law of war allows for attack even if there is danger to civilians, so long as the civilian harm is not disproportionate to the military gain. Does anyone doubt that President Bush is going to hold back this time?

posted by godlesscapitalist | 9/30/2002 07:57:00 PM | |

Now this is pretty weird... Has anyone else seen this crass attempt to commercialize the deaths of Israelis in the Intifada? Pretty strange, particularly the tone. They might have been able to get away with it if they were sufficiently somber, but this just comes off as bizarre...

posted by godlesscapitalist | 9/30/2002 06:58:00 PM | |

Bottle your blondes, gentlemen.. Blondes are on their way to extinction..
A new study by German researchers claims that people with blonde hair comprise an endangered species that will become extinct by 2202. The problem is that blonde hair -- like blue eyes -- is caused by a recessive gene. In order for a child to have blonde hair, it must have the gene for blond hair on both sides of the family in the grandparents' generation. The decline and fall of the blonde is most likely being caused by bottle blondes who, researchers believe, are more attractive to men than true blondes.
Where is PETA when you need them the most.. and what are those good ol' blonde-loving Arab sheikhs going to do about it, I ask..? A captive blonde breeding program? An artificial insemination program..? Brave New World has nothing on real life! Razib adds: I know about this story. I don't believe it really, but if it is true, I'll be tearing my hair out in lamentation...let's hope that transhumanism doesn't succeed and I don't see that terrible day.... Godless rolls eyes heavenward: The authors of this article don't know the first thing about population genetics. Even if blonde hair was a phenotype that only occurred in a homozygous recessive (a big if), it's not a lethal disease. In fact, it may even convey a reproductive advantage, at least in the US. If the selection pressure against blonds was very strong (e.g. lethal), it'd take a long time for blonds to go "extinct", but in the absence of such selection pressure it's highly unlikely that blonds will disappear any time soon. Note also that if we had random worldwide mating, then we'd eventually attain Hardy-Weinberg equlibrium, in which the frequency of a homozygous recessive selectively neutral trait is constant from generation to generation. In other words, there's a lower limit to how infrequent blonds will be as long as being blond is a neutral or slightly positive trait in terms of reproductive fitness. But we don't have random mating - we have assortative mating. Meaning that like tends to marry like. That's true for height and IQ, and it's true for race. Whites tend to marry whites, which is non-random mating, which tends to boost the frequency of the double recessives if the genes for blond hair are found exclusively in white populations. [1] Bottom line - this article is baloney. [1] This is something of an oversimplification in the US, as southern and eastern Europeans mingle pretty freely with northern Europeans, but in the main the argument holds.

A vast social experiment? This Wired story seriously considers the problems that grotesque spam (you know, the "Zoo Farm Orgies" you sometimes get in your hotmail account) can cause. But on a background note, I've often mentioned to friends how at 25 years old, my experience with pornography was very different in my adolescence than someone even five years younger than me. I was 18 in 1995, when the internet was just getting off the ground and penetration levels were rather low. Today my 10 year old brother is getting "Zoo Farm" e-mails in his yahoo account. Back in the early 90s, we were the last generation of young males who had to search and procure porn via surreptitious means. You know, finding the friend of the friend who had a dad who was a little lax with monitoring his porno tapes. Maybe once in a while someone would make a copy, and the straight vanilla Vivid film would be passed around. In many ways, it was the hunt that created the excitement. Viewing the porn itself was often an ... anti-climax so to speak. Today, the situation is very different. Any kid with an IQ above 70 could find porn. If they don't have home access, they can always go the library (where, judging from the homeless guys and teenagers I see at my local library on the internet terminals crowding the screen, the blocking software is pretty clumsy). In fact, the most depraved sort of pornography finds its way to their personal e-mail box unless they maintain some vigilance. Needless to say, this is a far different situation than past generations. I am curious as to what behavioral differences (if any) sociologists will find in the post-1995 adolescent generation of males. If social conservatives are right, we are on the brink of utter chaos and moral depravity. If Leftist feminists are right, the seeds of violent patriarchy have been sown.

Sunday, September 29, 2002

Global warming, & cooling An interesting article that's being linked all over the net. The implications are obvious-or are they???

Christian Sex Beliefnet has an article on "Christlike Sex."
To have "Christlike" sex, you should: * Pray with your sex partner * Read lascivious passages from the Bible. (Book of Proverbs: "As a loving deer and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times.") * Squeeze in a quickie 45 minutes before Sunday School.
This to me is a symptom of what Christianity in America is becoming, both conservative and liberal-man-centered, not God-centered [1]. Though I'm an atheist, it makes me want to puke. 2,000 years of Christianity, and it's devolving to this level of infantilism? [1] Religious liberals and conservatives babble about different things, but in the end they are still producing a user-friendly product in the service of McChurch. I'm not talking about all Christians and their denominations, but the general pattern is such in my experience and opinion.

Saturday, September 28, 2002

Not paradoxes Sailer has a recent post in which he outlines three paradoxes of the war debate as he sees them.

- The Armchair Warriors say, "Saddam and his mighty war machine are an imminent threat to conquer the Gulf States or even Israel, but his pathetic army would be a pushover if we invaded." The Armchair Worriers say, "Saddam's is far too weak to threaten anybody, but his mighty war machine would do fearsome damage to us if we tried to conquer him." - The Armchair Warriors say Saddam has fearsome chemical and biological weapons and the requisite delivery systems, but we shouldn't have any trouble talking his neighbors into letting us stage our armies on their soil, even though that exposes them to pre-emptive attack. The Armchair Worriers say the opposite. - The Armchair Warriors say that Saddam is a major threat to use his supposed superweapons in unprovoked, out-of-the-blue attacks on other countries, but not to use them to defend his own country from invasion. The Armchair Worriers say the opposite

In turn:
  • No reasonable hawk thinks that Saddam could conquer Israel. He wouldn't get far into Saudi Arabia either without hitting US troops. His army is the strongest in the region after Israel's, but it's a distant second, and he's absolutely no match for US forces. Furthermore, hawks believe that Saddam's aggression will only start up again when he has a credible deterrent against US attack, namely nuclear weapons. His "war machine" is not the issue at all.
  • Saddam's neighbors are between a rock and a hard place, but they're smart enough to go with the eventual winner. They figure that Saddam will have his hands full with the US military, and what free time he has will be spent launching missiles at Israel.
  • The bio and chem weapons are not the real threat, because they don't rapidly cause huge casualties. Chem weapons are decent for battlefield use, but bioweapons are much more of a terror instrument. Furthermore, I'd much rather have him employ chem weapons against trained and prepared soldiers than against civilians. Nukes are the real threat, and Saddam doesn't have them yet. If he did, we wouldn't be having this discussion - there would be no invasion of Iraq if it had nuclear weapons.
That last point is one of the reasons we have to take him out. If Saddam was allowed to acquire a weapon, every two bit dictator would see its magical effects as a deterrent. Every Tom, Dick, and Harry would scramble for a nuke which would let them offset the USA's massive conventional arms advantage. To say the least, such a situation is undesirable. On the other hand, if we do take out Hussein, the incentive structure utterly changes. Suddenly those two bit regimes are faced with a nonproliferation doctrine with teeth - the only kind that works. Dictators understand force, and they'll understand that the US will stomp them if they even think about pursuing nukes... Update: Note: Unlike the realist deterrence model, we don't have to trust the dictators to be rational. For the policy to be a credible deterrent, we must squash dictatorships if they're trying to get nukes, and help them liberalize if they renounce their nuclear ambitions. If they become liberal democracies, they can eventually be trusted with nukes. But until then, the rational ones will be dissuaded by our policy, and the irrational ones will be crushed preemptively. Update 2: Some in the comments section didn't see that I left room for rational dictatorships to hold on to nukes. That's our judgment call - are they rational in the sense that they aren't going to make self-destructive decisions? Meaning, is there a low probability of them actually using the nukes? Yes, yes, it's "imperialist","patronizing", etc., but that's of no concern to me. The question is, is it effective? Well, it's certainly no less effective than what we're doing now. We have only the carrot of abiding by the NPT treaty, and no stick to back up violations. Once they get nukes, we can't intervene unless the urgency is great enough to permit nuclear-scale losses.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 9/28/2002 09:07:00 PM | |

You heard it first It's on. Iraq stupidly got rid of their last chance to prevent battle.

IRAQ promised a war 'with losses that have not been sustained for decades' yesterday when it defiantly rejected the wording of a new hardline UN resolution that both Britain and the United States are confident will be passed this week. In the diplomatic calm before the storm, senior US and UK officials will today report back to London and Washington on their last-minute missions to Moscow and Paris. Their aim was to ensure that when the resolution goes before the UN Security Council, possibly tomorrow or Tuesday, there will be no surprise use of veto power by any of the permanent members. Although the wording of the US-sponsored resolution may go through some changes over the next 48 hours, with security council members fighting for their own agenda, the fact it has been made public points to a new-found confidence in the US and UK camps that they have persuaded the Russians, the French and the Chinese to deal with Iraq their way. The UN yesterday released full details of the proposed resolution, which would give Saddam Hussein only seven days to accept or face military action using 'using all necessary means'. Iraq would also be forced to reveal -- within 30 days -- full details of potential nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Unconditional access must be given to all locations, including Saddam's eight presidential palaces . For those hoping that conflict with Saddam Hussein could be avoided, the picture is not good. All diplomatic indications are that war with Iraq now looks inevitable.

Doesn't that initial quote remind you of the "mother of all battles" line? Well, I guess the debate's over. The hawks win, and Bush wins, because applying pressure got Hussein to crack and blink first. It's also a stay-of-execution for the UN, which will no longer be forced to confront the question of whether it actually wants to enforce its strictures.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 9/28/2002 05:06:00 PM | |

Realists and Iraq The Intellectual Bankruptcy of "Realist Theory" Various commentators have brought up the fact that the political scientists and policy wonks from the "realist" school have expressed opposition to war in Iraq. The New Republic has a description of their positions here, which you may want to peruse before continuing. The sight of cold customers like Brent Scowcroft on the same side of the barricades as the peace activists was bizarre enough to warrant investigation. My curiosity was further piqued by the insistence of one of our contributors on the relevance of realist theory to the invasion of Iraq. She recommended that I investigate the realist school and the theory of "just wars" before jumping to conclusions. [1] I have to say that I'm underwhelmed by what I've found. But before I describe why, I suggest you read John Mearsheimer's short outline of the three major strains of realism. This is a good starting point for understanding the perspective of the realists and their differences with the liberalists, particularly because Mearsheimer himself is one of the architects of the field. (I'm going to assume you've read the essay from this point on.) Political science isn't a "science" in the same way math and physics are. So I went in skeptical that these men had the answer. And I was not disappointed. These guys disagree about fundamental axioms - are states defensive and seek the status quo to fend off anarchy like Waltz says? Are they offensive and seek to use the international system to advance their agenda like Mearsheimer contends? Or are they aggressive actors that seek power without limit like Morgenthau thinks? When you disagree about fundamental axioms, it says much about the state of your discipline. For one thing, it indicates that interventions advocated by "realist theory" are not guaranteed to be successful, because much of their theoretical edifice is built around ex post facto rationalizations of historical events...not the analysis of controlled experiments. They have a few good points, mainly at the expense of naive proponents of liberalism, but the realists - like the randroids - tend to ride their ideological rails into oblivion. In particular, they're overly enamored with the conceit that they're the hard-boiled individuals steady enough to see the world for what it really is rather than what people wish it would be. The fact of the matter is that they are vulnerable to the same affliction that afflicts the liberalists: the refusal to accept facts that induce cognitive dissonance. A non-comprehensive list of these facts:
  • They don't account for non-state actors and seem to think that Al Qaeda et. al. fit into their framework. Of course, they don't, because such actors have little or no stake in the international order, and no territory to defend or expand.
  • They fail to account for the fact that in a nuclear state, small deviations from "rational self interest" can have unacceptable consequences. Take these typical comments from Waltz, who seems to be a fan of gradual, unlimited nuclear weapons proliferation:

    "Waltz published a monograph, The Spread of Nuclear Weapons, his first of many proclamations arguing for the potentially positive effects of nuclear weaponry's gradual spread. He still insists on this reasoning today. "Countries that have nuclear weapons co-exist peacefully," says Waltz, "because each knows the other can do horrendous damage to it." When asked about the fear of rogue leaders possessing nuclear capabilities, Waltz explains, "The characteristics of these people you can't overlook is that they survive. They're ugly; they're nasty; but when it comes to the preservation of their regimes, they are not reckless." And so, they will not provoke disastrous attacks on themselves, Waltz says. "

    Everything depends upon that "not reckless" assumption. Waltz assigns probability zero to a patently self-destructive move, but in the case of (say) someone like Hussein (who has made at least one unbelievably reckless move in his attack on Bush 41) that probability is appreciably nonzero. Waltz's theories are blue sky nonsense, worthy of little more than a dismissive eye roll. Any engineer knows that you don't design a system for the ideal case in which fault probabilities are zero. If you have a network of states with nuclear weapons pointed at each other, and each state has some nonzero probability of irrational action, you will eventually roll the dice and come up snake eyes. Realists don't like to acknowledge this fact , because it shoots irreparable holes in their models. Instead they come up with elaborate rationalizations of past follies to make a two-bit thug sound like Machiavelli himself in terms of diplomatic savvy and "survival ability".
  • Realists fail to account for the fact that different states have different information/interpretations and thus different "rational" decisions in the presence of limited information. For example, the Taliban/Al Qaeda probably thought that the US couldn't be provoked into retaliating because of its history of weak retaliation to terrorist attacks. They simply did not understand how bloody and brutal the West is capable of being when it feels its survival is at stake. Had Mullah Omar had a nuke, he would certainly have given it to bin Laden (the Taliban defense minister), and it would have been used against the United States. A reckless, rash decision by our standards? Assuredly. An impossible outcome? Of course not. Yet the realists would have you believe that the Taliban wouldn't do anything so rash as to precipitate the downfall of their regime. The key distinction lies in the asymmetry of the situation: the Taliban didn't know that their actions would lead to their ruin, but any American could have picked out the analogy to Pearl Harbor and predicted what would happen next. Another example would be the Arab/Muslim states' aggression towards Israel; despite getting their ass handed to them repeatedly in combat, they persist in funding terrorism against Israel, a nuclear state that could turn their countries into glass if sufficiently provoked. I could go on and on, but you get the picture: the assumption that states will not engage in self-destructive behavior is not justified by even a cursory reading of history.
  • Perhaps most damningly for those who style themselves "realists", they fail to account for the heritable cultural and behavioral differences between human groups. An intervention that works in Asia will not work in Africa, because Asians are different from Africans, and this behavioral difference cannot be neglected in international relations. For example, I am thankful beyond words that South Africa voluntarily dismantled its nuclear program, because South Africa is experiencing an exodus of its technically savvy personnel that will eventually result in anarchy comparable to the rest of sub-Saharan Africa (save Botswana). Realists wouldn't acknowledge any difference between the pre- and post-apartheid chances of using nuclear weapons, because they assume the motivations of states to be independent of the dispositions of their citizenry. As another example, "realists" would not grant that a Marshall Plan style intervention is more likely to work in some countries (e.g., Iran) and not in others (e.g., Nigeria) because of the relative abundance of human capital. Indeed, they make a fetish of their determined ignorance of the internal characteristics of regimes.
Those are some of the major holes I could poke in realist theory, but you get the picture. The problem with the realists is that they try to shoehorn everything into their (flawed) axioms - "all states are offensive/defensive" or "all actors are rational", etc. They've won too many easy victories over the largely idiotic liberalists, and so they think they're king of the hill. They're wrong. Justification for Invading Iraq As for why we should invade Iraq, I'm not going to fall into the same "shoehorning" trap of justifying it in terms acceptable to a realist. My theory for invading can be enumerated as follows:
  • No nation currently poses a threat to US conventional forces. [2] Thus, the only contemporary threat that US citizens face from foreign nationals is the threat of terrorism. This threat is real, as evidenced on 9/11. As the security of US citizens is the first priority of the state, the problem of terrorism is the first priority of the Armed Forces.
  • It is impossible for the USA to win a preventative war against terrorism, particularly WMD terrorism. Homeland security is a joke, and our society is too free to impose restrictions on movement. A purely retaliatory strategy will likewise fail, because the first strike may be too costly to be acceptable. [3]
  • Thus, if we wish to prevent further major acts of terrorism, we must take the offensive. In particular, we must preempt groups that mean us harm before their plans come to fruition. We must also enforce a muscular non-proliferation doctrine to ensure that WMDs never get into the hands of terrorist groups or hostile states sympathetic to terrorism. Finally, we must effect cultural change to eliminate the motivations for attacking the United States.
  • Iraq has biological and chemical weapons, and is currently pursuing nuclear weapons. It would already have them had Hussein been rational enough to wait six months before invading Kuwait - see here. It is a known state sponsor of terrorism, possibly against the continental United States [4] and certainly against its allies and citizens abroad. Its ruler has done many things in the past that throw the "survivor" label into question, including his refusal to back down in the face of a credible assault by US Armed Forces in 1991, his ill advised provocation of Iran in 1974, his purely vengeful assassination attempt on a former US president in 1993, and his decision to put limits on "unconditional inspections" in the face of *another* credible assault by US Armed Forces in 2002. In the face of this evidence, it is the height of obstinacy and insistent blindness to claim that Saddam can be "trusted" to do things that will not bring about his downfall. He does not have to be a madman to make consistently self-destructive decisions.
  • There are ancilliary benefits to invading Iraq. Prime among them are oil reserves which will break the back of OPEC and a geopolitical location that will allow us to put massive pressure on SA, Syria, and Iran without actually invading them. I want what John Hawkins wants:

    So if someone walks up to a thug like Bashar Assad in Syria and says, "We have a terrorist group that is seeking our help. Should we help them?" I want Assad to say something like, "A terrorist group? Are you mad? The United States will kill us all! Exterminate them like rats before the United States finds out they're on Syrian soil!" Sanctions, aid, and finger wagging are not going to produce that reaction.

    Furthermore, the invasion of Iraq will send a signal to these regimes: cease your attempts to obtain nuclear weapons or we will destroy you. This is nonproliferation with teeth - the only kind that works.
  • The costs of invading Iraq can be categorized: military, financial, diplomatic, and post-invasion. Military costs will be very low, because Gulf War 1 was prosecuted with only 148 KIAs, Saddam is now weaker, and we're far stronger. Financial costs will be substantial, but not an important obstacle and will be partially recouped from oil sales. Diplomatic costs are nil if we get a Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force, because the vaunted "Arab street" will not arise to defend Saddam. This leaves the costs of the post-invasion occupation force, which will be financially substantial. The main post-invasion military problem is the possiblity of ethnic unrest in the north (the Kurds) and that's also been dealt with.
[1] This essay talks about just war theory, which I haven't covered in detail because it's laughably incompatible with some of the (correct) assumptions of realist theory, particularly the amorality of states. Basically, "just war theory" is a bunch of arbitrary strictures and conditions on when war is justified and what retaliation is proportional. For example, if country A attacks country B, just war theory says that country B is not justified in taking any of country A's land. It should act to restore the status quo that existed before A's aggression, and the claim that only the invasion and pacification of A can ensure B's security is "controversial". It's essentially a recipe for purely retaliatory warfare, one that's not followed by most states and obsolete in an era of increasingly lethal first strikes by clandestinely state-supported individual agents. [2] China might eventually do so, but that's a story for another day. [3] This is one of the reasons why just war theory is not applicable in this case (if it ever was...) [4] Possible involvement in Oklahoma City as well as reports of Mohammed Atta meeting with Iraqi nationals in Prague.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 9/28/2002 08:35:00 AM | |

Friday, September 27, 2002

AIDS in Asia Time has an article on the AIDS pandemic in Asia. It notes that in China it is the ethnic minorities that are suffering the most from the disease. This is troubling, because I suspect that it will give the Han rulers an incentive to not deal with the spread of HIV if they perceive that it will rid them of troublesome nationalities (in Xinjiang, it is the Uighers that are suffering because of communal use of needles).

Red-blooded Red Indian Check out Bad Eagle, run by David Yeagley. A recent sample:
...Ward Connerly got his way. It is a Miss Person contest. (Please refer to my article "An End Of Beauty.") The contest now demonstrates that one woman mustn't be considered more beautiful than another. That special element of womanly beauty must never be considered more important than her ideas or political causes. Down with beauty. We can't help how we look, and if we don't look so good, then that means we must never acknowledge anyone who does. Miss America is now the triumph of diversity, and the elimination of aesthetic hierarchy. In the name of equality, any girl has a chance now.
Someone on Yeagley's message board found his racial attitudes "disturbing", so I had to link to this guy!

The Rise of Asian Superjocks? Uh, OK.... Tom Scocca in Slate rips John Entine's Taboo, which explains how people of African origin dominate many major sports. But Entine doesn't say they dominate all sports, just ones that tend not to require lots of equipment and where raw inborn talent matters most. In particular running sprints or marathons (west and east Africans respectively). Sports like basketball can be seen as extensions of this due to their nature. You see the pattern in the major American sports, basketball, football and baseball. The dominance of blacks declines from basketball to baseball. This makes sense, in football and baseball there is enough specialization so that slow unathletic players abound (quarterbacks, to some extent linemen, catchers, designated hitters and first basemen). Baseball in particular focuses on a lot of skill when there actually is any action (whites are probably better at standing around and spitting in the dirt than blacks). In basketball, only centers and big forwards can afford to be slow, and even then they have to be athletic enough to keep up (along with specialist outside shooters, these positions tend to be the niche of white guys, while blacks dominate hybrid positions at the 2 and 3 where speed and skill are synthesized in an all-around game, from the outside, driving to the basket and in the low post). Also, Scocca's examples are somewhat stretched. There are only a few Chinese players in the NBA. Yao Ming is not even guaranteed to dominate the game, though Scocca feels that it's a forgone conclusion (it sure helps out his case too if he assumes this). Scocca links to the case against Ichiro being as great as he's claimed to be (check his stats, he still has a low OBP at .385-OK, low for how great he's supposed to be at getting on base). But somehow he doesn't address any of the points and simply asserts that Ichiro is the "fastest man in baseball." Did someone do time trials? Then he brings forth golf and Tiger Woods, but though it is obviously a sport, it doesn't seem like pure speed is what would make a golfer stand out, so Entine's point isn't applicable here. Scocca keeps bringing up sports where skill and strength might count for a lot more than speed, and indicates that it disprove's Entine's point. Here is one of Scocca's one-liners that illustrates his style of argument:
Who led the Dallas Cowboys with 172 tackles last year? Linebacker Dat Nguyen, from Vietnam.
Well, yeah, so what? Entine isn't arguing that there won't be any Asian athletes. In fact, I think Entine might have overstretched himself a bit, but his overall position holds valid. Numerically, there are certain sports where speed and reaction time are paramount, where blacks rule the roost. Those like skating where they don't, one can posit reasonable explanations, like the fact that ice skating requires ice and skates, something that most people of African origin don't encounter that often. Even in the United States, a large number of blacks still live in southern states and there aren't exactly that many ponds that freeze over in urban areas in the northern states. In addition, many black families probably don't see ice skates as an investment they'd like to make. Surya Bonaly, who was black and an ice skater, did well, but her strength was raw athleticism. I invite our readers to join the fray on this one. Update: Check out part of this post in the fray from a "biologist."
In any case, the success of black athletes is most likely because of hard work and persistence. If they wanted to be successful biologists and physicists, there probably would be a book explaining that the genetic diversity of Africans makes them smarter -- which is a gem of a circular argument.

Thanks Joanne! Joanne Jacobs mentioned my snide little comment about teachers and Jay-Walking earlier this month in her column over at I've added her to the blogroll (my heading), she's a good compliment to Number 2 Pencil. I will add two stories from 6th grade. When my teacher graded me down because she said I was "wrong" to contend that many of the settlers of Virginia came looking for gold, I accepted it. I didn't think I was wrong, but I realized I should have just gone with what was in the Social Studies book. But sometimes she would go over the line. For instance, one day the class was talking about how it gets cold in winter because ... the earth is farther from the sun in winter. I was a bit confused as to what they were talking about, and realized their misunderstanding after pay attention to the theories being thrown back and forth. I raised my hand and volunteered that the axial tilt of the earth is the primary reason for seasons, and this explains why the southern hemisphere has winter during our summer. The teacher seemed irritated and dismissed me by saying that was "part of the reason." The second incident in 6th grade was when the teacher from the other 6th grade class (I was in the "Academically Talented" class, which meant there were minimal standards) switched with my own teacher for the last two hours of every Friday. We liked her because she was a lot less strict. One day, we were going through the science section of the day, and she asked us what a "Deciduous Forest" was. My friend Ryan Hancox answered correctly. To most everyone's total shock, she said that Ryan was wrong, that a "Deciduous Forest" was a "flat treeless plain." I, being the most obnoxious member of the class, pointed out that by definition, a treeless plain is not a forest, and so therefore, well, you get it, right? She was livid, and simply repeated, that the correct answer was "C, a flat treeless plain." I wasn't going to push it at this point, but I realized that the woman just didn't want to admit she was wrong. In any case, I'm sure everyone can volunteer these sort of stories. But it's stuff like this, and not just Jay-Walking that really makes me not think too highly of teachers (things changed to some extent by High School, but even then you had Social Studies teachers explaining to kids how Sicily is in Spain!). Godless adds: Many (most?) high school teachers are moronic idealists. Usually their charges are just as ignorant as they are, so no one is the wiser. It's just another illustration of Hayek and Von Mises in action. The government monopoly on education causes substandard goods to be allocated to those who don't really need them.

I haven't been posting much... Because I've been spending my time debating the more reasonable of the antiwar guys. Check out the comments section if you're interested.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 9/27/2002 10:24:00 AM | |

A free and armed populace? A Newsweek story on the conflict in Kashmir:
Haseena, 17, is the oldest. She says soldiers marched away with her 21-year-old brother and her 19-year-old sister. “We told them we weren’t registered to vote here, and anyway, they couldn’t force us,” she says. “But they wouldn’t listen.” Asked why local people didn’t want to vote, she averts her dark eyes. A small boy pipes up: “If they vote during the day, the militants will come at night and chop our heads.”
I have an easy solution to prevent citizens from being intimidated by the militants-the Indian army should pass out automatic rifles to families in rural areas of the Vale. After all, if the people want to be part of India, they have nothing to fear.

Open up the debate The new paleo-con magazine The American Conservative is off the presses now. I'm going to check it out-might be a nice change from National Review or The Weekly Standard. Though Buchanan's anti-immigration & isolationist views are out of vogue on the mainstream Right, I suspect they tap into populist yearnings that just don't make into elite circles (many Christians conservatives I've known personally are much more hostile to free-trade and immigration than the editors of NR or TWS). It will be nice especially to have a glossy that is not dominated by neo-cons so that it can have a more liberated discussion of the immigration issue and America's cultural tenor.

Thursday, September 26, 2002

Calling all Portland area geeks.... Perl Meet-ups says that Portland is the #1 Perl city! Also, check out the PDX user groups page. I haven't been able to go the mongers & meet-ups much because of work-but someday soon [yes-I know this is off topic for the blog, but pass the word to your geeky friends in Portland and I won't be posting weird stuff like this much]

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

The Bachelor II Just watched the premier for The Bachelor on ABC. 1) The Bachelor they picked seems kind of like a goon. He has a feigned southern accent because he "wanted to stand out." They talk about how he's a successful businessmen, but he's the VP of the family bank. This is nepotistic success, the other guys seemed like they made it on their own. I guess they liked him for his "All American" sincerity, but from the clips they showed it looks like this guy used the show as an excuse to go on some major panty dropping expeditions. 2) The Bachelorettes. I'm making predictions already (in part informed by the clips you see of future episodes). Of the finalists, 3 will be blonde, and one will be brunette. If any of the non-white ones make it beyond round 1, it will be the Asian girl, this guy seems like a meat & potatoes big-boob-loving frat boy. Final Four: Suzanne will be the brunette, she's from California and a stewardess, so that'll be his exotic token. Kyla, a young blonde woman from Salt Lake. Good looking and probably the "conservative one" (she'll only let him tongue her). Christi, the spelling of the name is endearing (if she was ugly, it would be annoying you know), and she's got piercing blue eyes. Again, she's young. She's also in the financial sector, so he'll use that as an excuse as to why he's "making a connection" with her. Erin, she's a blonde from Texas. Texans do well on these catty shows. And since they both have southern accents, that's a good reason for him to keep her around, she'll make him feel less special. I think getting the evil-looking narcissist from California to be the bachelor would have been better. It would almost be like a social science experiment than, you take the reducto ad absurdum archetype of the egoistical male and throw him in a pond of desperate women. Like a piranha in a goldfish bowl. The meat-head bachelor they picked looks a bit like one of the untermensch that the narcissist would have devoured for breakfast. I'm really interested in seeing how The Bachelorette will do. It's going to be Kristin from the first show, and she's pretty hot, but she's never had an orgasm during sex. She's going to have to choose from 25 guys. Kind of sounds similar to the plot-line of a hard-core gangbang flick.... Outraged postscript: What the hell is the brown chick doing on this show?!?!?! It makes our women look like whores. Someone should ostracize her family. Aren't brown guys good enough for her!!! Some Patel or Kumar should step forward and bite the bullet and salvage our racial pride.

Bush really is an idiot... Whenever I see something like this, I'm reminded that Bush really is an idiot. Or at least hopelessly inarticulate. You really have to see it to believe's a clip from the Daily show that (about a minute in) includes Bush's mangling of "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me". It's a good thing that Cheney and Rumsfeld are smart enough to push the buttons.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 9/25/2002 07:23:00 PM | |

The Dark Lord athwart his black throne-or not.... Have a day off for change. As I read the previously mentioned article on Islamists in the New Yorker, I began to reaffirm that these were people that would pull the world back from modernity, and barring that smash it like the one washed away by God, save Noah and his Ark. But they do not for battle nefarious reasons, a black-hearted inclination to destroy the lives of others. These are people that believe in a real God, who demands obedience. Perhaps in their own salvation, their paradise, there is an incentive, but they also believe that those who stray from the One Truth Path are going to hell in any case. Just like the Communists or Fascists before them, the leaders of the Islamist movement are strivers and achievers, at heart utopians. Perhaps in the soul-deadening moral relativism of the post-modern West isn't so bad a thing in comparison. What would have the inquisitors done with bombs and machine guns after all? Perhaps the with the passing of belief, and the attenuation of fanaticism, the West has discovered a peace that ancient man never knew.... Godless comments: I used to think that religion was the source of most of the world's woes. But atheists are no better, as the mass murders of the "godless communists" demonstrated. Ideological fervor is the real enemy.

The final peace.... From a long New Yorker article on Ayman al-Zawahiri.
"We believe in the principle of establishing Sharia, even if this means the death of all mankind," one of the Group's leaders later explained.

Steve Sailer reviews Biology at Work: Rethinking Sexual Equality Steve Sailer has a very informative book review over at UPI. Some excerpts:
Instead, Browne argues that many of the current sex differences in job choice and pay stem from biological differences between the sexes in cerebral skills, personality, and physical strength. For instance, he reports, "In the top 10 percent of mechanical reasoning ability, males outnumber females by approximately 8 to 1." In contrast, women generally outperform men in some important verbal skills. Yet, men still outnumber women among the very best talkers and writers, or in just about any other capability, Browne contends. He claims that this is due to greater variability among males. As any woman could tell you, there are more stupid men than stupid women; but there are also more male than female geniuses. Moreover, males, it appears, are more likely to obsess over mastering subjects that are irrelevant to their personal lives. For example, "The ratio of males to females among those scoring over 700 on the European History College Board test has ranged, over the years, from 4 to 1 to 6 to 1." Thus, Browne suggests, men are likely to hold most of the most specialized and demanding jobs in just about any field.
Personal observation: When it comes to computers, one problem that short-changes women is that they simply don't play with them. This is the primary reason that they lag I believe. I've known of plenty of women that could use applications very well, and squeeze all that they need out of its functionality for a given task. But, I rarely saw them start it up and just play with options and settings and then go into something totally unrelated. This is connected to an interview I remember on NPR a few years back bemoaning the lack of women in tech. Many of the female engineers complained that technology is not shown to be practical to women. They asserted, rather proudly, that women will use something when it has a useful role in their lives. I think everyone can agree that this is somewhat shorted sighted. With this reasoning, everyone would have gotten "CISCO CERTIFIED" 3 years back, rather than taking a more abstract class on the basics of Object-Oriented programming.

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

Strange case of spousal abuse This story from ESPN mentions 80s girl Tawny Kitaen and her attack of her professional baseball player husband Chuck Finley (and he's not a shortstop, he's a tall lanky pitcher).
Kitaen, who appeared in the feature film ''Bachelor Party'' and the television movie ''California Girls,'' was accused of attacking her husband April 1 as the two were returning home from dinner. Police said they saw cuts and scrapes on Finley's body. Kitaen pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor count of spousal abuse and was ordered to undergo a year of counseling, avoid contact with her husband and make a $500 donation to a battered-women's shelter.

Miss America The Salon article.... Brains 1, Barbie 0 The inside story of how a Harvard law student beat out her more bodacious sisters for the Miss America crown. - - - - - - - - - - - - By Jake Tapper Sept. 25, 2002 | ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Miss America 2003 is humoring me. She doesn't know she's Miss America 2003 yet, and neither do I. That has yet to be decided. Right now it's the Thursday before the Saturday when she's awarded the tiara, and as of this moment she's merely Miss Illinois, Erika Harold, a nice young woman whom I've glommed onto because her brief biographical sketch -- she'll begin matriculation at Harvard Law School in a year -- makes her seem like an antidote to the vacuous bims I've been told are surrounding me. Harold is polished. Incredibly polished. And never is heard a disparaging word from her mouth. It's the second time I've spoken with her, and since she's obviously bright and seems maybe interesting, I'm trying to get her to open up a bit about matters other than her compelling stories of being a victim of some clearly traumatic high school bullying. I begin with what I think will naturally arouse some ire. A number of people associated with the pageant are annoyed with Olivia Barker, a USA Today reporter who's spending a few days as a contestant. "She demonstrated a total lack of respect for the contestants, the judges and organization officials," one in-the-know pageant source gripes. "I guess because none of us ever met her at Starbucks on the Upper West Side." (The subsequent story makes Barker even less popular.) Miss USA Today's group of contestants -- for preliminaries, the 51 contestants are divided into three groups -- did swimsuit tonight, but she wasn't there. "Isn't that convenient?" I joke to Harold. "She said she had a deadline," Harold explains sweetly. "She writes for USA Today," I say. "Her stories are like 30 words long." Harold laughs, but defends the journalist again. "She said she works 40 hours a week and is past her prime and doesn't have time to work out," Harold says. "She's right next to me during the opening number. She's really bright. I liked her a lot." I'm getting more exasperated. I mean, everybody I've spoken to hates Miss USA Today. But these young women are politicians, or at least extremely politic. (They're even officially called "state representatives.") "Do you like everybody?" I ask Harold. She laughs again. "Is every contestant here a wonderful person?" "I think every contestant has some sort of wonderful attribute or they wouldn't be here," Harold says sincerely. When I first saw the contestants at Wednesday's preliminary competitions, I was amazed at how young they look. On TV they look 35 and act 40. Harold, too -- so, so mature. Not the kind of young beauty I'm used to, at any rate. "How old are you?" I ask her. "I'm 22 years old." "Twenty-two! Has anyone ever said to you that you're too polished?" I ask. "You're like a CEO!" "Well, thank you," she smiles. "That's a compliment coming from a reporter!" - - - - - - - - - - - - In my four days at the Miss America pageant, I learn that Harold is hardly the only state representative who's this professional. While there were anticipated moments of high camp and high kitsch in my backstage peek at the festivities, the experience was much different than I thought it would be. Sure, some contestants were airheads, but more of the young women seemed born of the ambitious executive track rather than the weird JonBenet pageant-from-cradle pool. Many are as polished as your average member of Congress. Getting to know this organization -- which provides more college scholarship money for American women than any other, and is dependent upon a corps of 40,000 volunteers -- causes a complex overhaul of the feminist dogma one is fed from the 1970s. Such reconsideration doesn't come without serious rest stops regarding matters like, say, that swimsuit contest. But behind the veneer of Miss America 2003 is a struggle for legitimacy, and Erika Harold, a smart, involved young woman of African-American, white and Native American descent, embodies the claims that Miss America Pageant officials have made for years: The contest is about scholarship, not boobies; and success is based upon the impressive articulation of a platform, not the ability to make men pant. Ornate but flawed, bold but awkward, feminist but sexist -- Miss America is America, a place where women are valued for more than their curves, but their curves are worth something, too. The somewhat controversial selection of Harold was an attempt by the judges to underline that point. Because the future attorney, while perfectly lovely, is hardly a Venus DeMilo-esque stunner like many of her hottie competitors. She wasn't a contender in the swimsuit competition, or evening gown, or even talent. (She performed an aria from Bizet's "Carmen," revealing decent vocal skills but modest range.) But, in a twist never before accomplished in a Miss America pageant, Harold won by blowing away the seven Miss America judges with her intelligence, quickness, presence and genuineness in her closed-door interview. Harold's score shot to the top after the confab, and everyone else was playing catch-up from that moment on. "This selection validates an opportunity for young women who never would have considered entering this competition," says judge Evan S. Dobelle -- the president of the University of Hawaii and the White House chief of protocol during the Carter administration -- when it's all done. "By picking a multiracial, Phi Beta Kappa, Harvard Law School woman who's articulate and personable and was selected, in my opinion, because she was the smartest -- that is antithetical to the perception historically of the pageant." Sunday morning, women all across America -- including, at least in my world, feminist, liberal Democratic women -- whispered cattily to their friends about Erika Harold, wondering how on earth she won. And within the stands of the Boardwalk Convention Hall, just yards from the chilly Atlantic Ocean, it wasn’t just the friends and family of the 50 runners-up who appeared stunned. But it's really quite a natural selection. After being browbeat by feminists and media elites for years, the pageant created a method of scoring that paved the way for a winner who isn't necessarily the average frat boy's choice for a roll in the hay, but who may very well end up his boss. And that woman is Erika Harold. You start with 51 women, many of whom are bright, a majority of whom are talented, and most of whom are attractive. (Though a few, notably, are not attractive at all, which says volumes about the scoring on the state level as well.) It's Tuesday, the start of the preliminaries, and time to winnow the herd down to 15 by Thursday night. The judges start looking for glitches. From the very beginning of the alphabet -- "Hi, I'm Scarlotte Deupree, looking forward to a career in nonprofit management" -- the judges look savagely for things to dislike. They have to. There is no room for sweetness here. They are looking for a reasonably attractive woman with brains, some talent, a deep commitment to some sort of issue, and the ability to think on her feet. Someone to represent the organization well -- which is why raven-haired Rebekah Revels, the deposed Miss North Carolina whose lame-ass ex-boyfriend threatened her with topless photos -- didn't stand a chance even if a judge had reinstated her. It wasn't so much a matter of the photos -- though no one wants a return to the Vanessa Williams era. It was more that Revels changed her story about whether the topless shot was consensual. And then, from the perspective of pageant officials, l’affaire d’Revels had some questionable timing issues. After resigning preemptively in July, she waited until August -- until a time closer to the pageant that would guarantee more press attention -- before taking action to reclaim her Tarheel State tiara. And her restraining order against her ex, blocking him from showing anyone the photographs, came late too, at least as far as the national Miss America organization is concerned. In the pressroom, contestants autograph an immense map of the United States with their circley, effusive John Hancocks, and Revels signed North Carolina. "The Forget Me Not Campaign," she wrote. "God Bless You All." Pageant officials quietly condemned the act as classless and inconsiderate to the actual Miss North Carolina, a bubbly blond beauty with the Dickensian name of Misty Clymer. (Judges are of course admonished to ignore any media coverage of contestants, but the Revels flap was unavoidable anywhere in the U.S., much less the Jersey shore, what with Revels and Clymer jointly appearing on "Good Morning, America" days before the pageant, Begin-and-Sadat style.) The 51 official state reps are regarded much more highly than Revels, but it's judging time, time to find things to dis. A few decisions seem fairly obvious. Miss Montana's talent is a rather sparse session of Tai Kwan Do, complete with nunchucks. Miss Imbler -- whose platform features the widely disputed claim that abortion causes breast cancer -- sports a white bathing suit that leaves little, gynecologically speaking, to the imagination. Miss Virginia trips. Miss Indiana trips. In addition to the private grilling they get from the judges, each night's evening gown contestant gets two questions from the host of the prelims, New York City ABC reporter Rebecca Rankin. Miss Nebraska fumbles on a question about how she deals with the fact that her father is a well-known local anchorman. "Wow, um, hi!" she says in the middle of it. The very next contestant, Miss New Mexico, catches herself referring to "the most new" treatment for Alzheimer's disease, her platform. She quickly corrects herself, but by then it's probably too late. She's 22, and she talks like a 22-year-old, and that's not what the judges are looking for. Especially since these questions have all been asked before, in the private interview. The accompanying music is an insufferable loop of some unrecognizable "slow jams" tune; "There's nobody better for me," the soprano wails. No one has any idea why they're playing this song until Saturday night, when it turns out to be a ditty from the new album of ABC-TV star Wayne Brady, the pageant's host. Miss Idaho is asked about stereotypes of her state, and she argues that most citizens of the Gem State are not white supremacists. "That's kind of a red mark on our white uniforms, so to speak," she says in an unfortunate metaphor. In the dark of the Atlantic City Convention Hall, if you listen closely, you can hear seven judges mentally cross off the name Misty Taylor. My ears prick up when Miss Tennessee actually takes a stand. Asked by Rankin if Britney Spears is a good role model, Valli Kugler says no. "She's a fabulous performer," she says, "but as far as being a good role model, I don't think so." She disparages Spears for her suggestive dance moves and for dressing "very scandalously." The next night, Kugler will parade onstage in a bikini. Rankin asks Miss Florida, whose platform is environmental conservation, how she reconciles "the need for low-income housing with the need for preservation." "I'm sorry?" Miss Florida says. "What was that again?" Ouch. Rankin repeats the question. "I'm not really understanding the question," Miss Florida says. Oof. Painful. Rankin explains it and Florida takes it and runs with it adequately, but by then the damage has been done, and Miss Florida's Miss America chances have gone the way of the butterfly ballot. You have to be able to think on your feet. - - - - - - - - - - - - During the week, each contestant is subjected to a 12-minute interview, preceded and concluded with a 40-second opportunity to share her thoughts. Swimsuit competition is only 10 percent of a contestant's total score; ditto evening gown. But the judges' sense of the contestants, much of it gleaned from the interview, is reflected in the preliminary "composite" score they'll assign Thursday night -- which will amount to 40 percent of a candidate's total score. Obviously, the interview is key. Women are asked to name the first African-American on the Supreme Court, female senators other than Hillary Clinton, their favorite newspaper, their favorite columnist. This is where women who could easily be the next Miss A get eliminated, women who seem not that bright, women who seem phony, women who seem to be in it for the wrong reasons. On Thursday night, Harold is awarded the interview award for her group. She looks stunned. I ask her about it. "People always say, 'How did you feel coming out of the interview?' and I felt like I shared who I was but it's so subjective, you have no idea," she says. "Sometimes when they call your name you wonder if they actually just called your name. It's just a surreal moment because you work for a moment like that and to actually have it come through on a stage like that is just incredible." I ask her if one has to receive one of these preliminary awards in order to make that first cut. "Oh, no," she says. "No awards guarantee you a spot in the finals. It's cumulative points. Someone could win no preliminary awards but actually be the highest scoring person. You just have to hope that you have enough points to make it on the final night." But unbeknownst to Harold, her interview was so staggeringly impressive to the judges it will end up putting her over the top, ahead of tough competitors like Camille Lewis, Miss Maryland, with her virtuoso violin performance and mesmerizing good looks (4th runner-up); or Scarlotte Deupree, Miss Alabama, with her classy Southern charm, victory in the current events and trivia quiz, and popularity with her fellow colleagues (1st runner-up). Pageant officials have complained for years that the media is too dismissive of the pageant's generosity in scholarships, that elitists sneer about the contest's exploitation of women but never seem to laud the fact that the eventual winner is almost never the best-looking in the bunch. But if the media weren't listening, this independent batch of pageant judges sure were. On Wednesday night, in a typical preliminary evening, Miss America 2002, the beloved Katie Harman, comes out and, after telling us that she's "looking very, very forward" to returning to Portland State University for her junior year, paid for by the $75,000 in scholarship funds she garnered the year before, she breaks into a medley of patriotic songs: "America the Beautiful" into "Yankee Doodle Dandy" into "This Land Is Your Land" into "God Bless America." Harman has a real hammy, Vegas-y delivery that, again, makes her seem at least a generation older than a coed. With that, the night is over. All the preliminary scholarship awards have been given to each of the three groups' winners in each of five categories: swimsuit, evening gown, talent, interview, and onstage knowledge and awareness. The judges now have an idea of whom they like, whom they think could be one of the final 15. They retreat to a private room at the Trump Taj Mahal with a black lacquer desk surrounded by Ernst & Young auditors and two women from ABC-TV standards and practices. They review their scores, and pick the 36 women who will open the show by announcing their name and dreams and desires -- only to have their Miss America chances summarily dismissed. The unlucky 36 will then retreat backstage where they'll stuff their faces with pizza and donuts and be grilled by former "Entertainment Tonight" reporter Julie Moran about their disappointment. They'll also get to vote on which of the five finalists they would prefer to see win -- and their votes will count for 10 percent of the total score. - - - - - - - - - - - - "Show us your shoes!" It's Friday evening and men, women and children yell this catchphrase as the contestants drive down the boardwalk in the annual Miss America Parade. Each contestant then lifts her leg in the air, revealing an ornate shoe-apparatus of some sort. Miss Massachusetts has lighthouses on hers; Miss California sports little surfer figurines. Nowhere do they yell the shoe entreaty with more verve and actual shoe-lust than at the intersection of the Boardwalk and New York Avenue, below a couple of billowing rainbow banners in what used to be Atlantic City's gay mecca. Four drag queens -- not "To Wong Foo" drag queens, more like "Mrs. Doubtfire" drag queens -- stand cheering, surrounded by other trim, presumably gay men. "Show us your shoes!" they yell. "That's how it got started -- the queens," says Gary Lee Boas, a photographer who has been coming to the pageant for 30 years, professionally snapping shots of the contestants for the last 13. "Now everybody yells it and nobody knows where it came from." The official Miss America program refers obliquely to this phenomenon on a page about the parade. "Show us your shoes," it says, "began with a group of spectators in the early 1970s. Each year, they would watch the parade while dressed up like Miss America, but they could not see what type of shoes the contestants were wearing under their long gowns. And so, to the amusement of all the Boardwalk spectators, they shouted, 'Show us your shoes!' Joining in the fun, the contestants simply raised their feet to show that they were indeed wearing no shoes at all or simply a pair of bedroom slippers." However pussyfooted around they may be in the program, gays are a huge part of the pageant -- not only as hairstylists, costumers and choreographers, but as a loyal band of fans. "Sometimes there are more queens in the audience than onstage," Boas jokes. And every Sunday following the pageant, local gay bar Studio Six holds its "Miss'd America" pageant, which Miss America 1998 -- the stellar Kate Shindle, whose controversial AIDS awareness platform included condom distribution and needle exchange -- even attended. "There were 10 gay bars on this street" when the pageant started, says Doug Lambert, 41, who, as Chlamydia Liverpool, was Miss'd America 2001. Why is Miss America so big in the gay community? "Well, why not?" asks another drag queen, Mortimer, Miss'd America 1995. "Glamour, shoes, gowns and big hair!" "Plus it's for a good cause," lisps Ms. Dareena Ho, a contestant in this year's Miss'd America pageant. - - - - - - - - - - - - Across Pacific Avenue, yards away from the Boardwalk Convention Hall where the crown will be awarded, stands the grim strip joint Bare Exposure. Back in the 1970s, when feminists would picket the pageant on the Boardwalk, the contestants would literally be sandwiched between scolding Ellen Jamesians and down-and-dirty Atlantic City strippers rolling their eyes at the goody-goodies competing for the crown. Is this not where America often finds itself, leading the world in both Puritanism and pornography? Ask a feminist why she disapproves of the pageant and she'll ask why the leading scholarship program for women requires contestants to strip down to bikinis and shake their booties for a bunch of judges. It's a valid question -- even if the pageant now refers to the category as "lifestyle and fitness in swimsuit," and judges contestants on confidence, poise and muscle tone. But just as fair a question is: Are women judged according to their looks only within Atlantic City's city limits? Are attractive people in general not born with a leg up? Would Bill Clinton have been elected if he looked like Paul Tsongas? Would George W. Bush have won if he resembled Steve Forbes? Pageant officials once gave the American people the opportunity to eliminate the swimsuit competition in 1995, and almost 1 million viewers phoned the two 900 numbers available for registering their votes. Seventy-nine percent voted to keep the swimsuits. One pageant official whispers to me that they would be glad to be rid of the swimsuit bit, but then ratings would take a dive, and then networks wouldn't pay for the telecast, and then the contest -- and scholarship money -- would vanish. Thing is, for all the hoopla, the contest is a rather unsexy affair. After the initial shock of seeing the 51 in white gowns, parading to the platform at the start of the prelims, it was like showing up at the best sorority formal I'd ever been to -- I got bored kind of quickly. Bathing suits, shmathing suits, the sexiest moment for me actually came when Miss Maryland strutted around the stage while demonstrating her brilliance with a violin, which I guess is kind of the point. Chopping down the pageant tree and inspecting its rings reveals much about the nation -- and not merely in the technical landmarks of first live radio broadcast (1925), first live television broadcast (1954) and first color TV broadcast (1966). Just as the first Miss America, Margaret Gorman in 1921, resembled the American ideal at the time -- silent screen star Mary Pickford -- so have contestants and winners come to reflect, and sometimes preview, what mainstream America accepts. The first black woman to enter was Iowa's Cheryl Adrienne Browne in 1970; six years later Delaware's Deborah Lipford was the first African-American to make it to the top 10, and in 1984 Vanessa Williams won the crown. The first Asian-American to enter, Hawaii's Yun Tau Zane, came in 1948, just three years after Japanese internment camps were shut down. It took until 2001 for an Asian-American, Angela Perez Baraquio, also from the Aloha State, to win. A Native American, Oklahoma's Norma Smallwood, won in 1926. The first Jew, Bess Myerson, won in 1945 -- the same year that scholarship money was first offered. In 1995, Heather Whitestone of Alabama, who is deaf, became the first disabled woman to win. Three years later, Nicole Johnson of Virginia -- a diabetic -- became the first woman with a life-threatening illness to win. Latinas like this year's Miss Nevada, Teresa Benitez, have been nominated before but have yet to gain a crown. How many Jews are in Bush's Cabinet? How many Asians star on prime-time TV? How many African-Americans are in the Senate? How many high-profile films has deaf actress Marlee Matlin starred in since "Children of a Lesser God"? This year's entrants included six African-Americans, one Eskimo, one Hawaiian, one Native American and one Indian. Ten of the contestants grew up in public housing; six come from single-parent homes; three read the Bible every day. Platforms weren't required until 1990, when Debbye Turner won with "Motivating Youth to Excellence," but politics have long been part of the contest. In 1944, Kentucky's Venus Ramey, Miss District of Columbia, worked with the House and Senate to get full voting rights for the citizens of D.C. -- a cause so ahead of its time it still hasn't happened 58 years later. This year, Benitez declares herself to be the future senator from Nevada, so naturally, smartass that I am, I interview her to see if she knows what she's talking about. She does. She embarrasses me for being such a skeptic. At 17, she co-founded a group that lobbies for low-income women, and she has personally registered 1,500 voters. She cites Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., the assistant majority leader, as one of her role models. I interviewed Reid, I say. He told me that President Bush lied to Nevada voters about his secret support to ship nuclear waste to the state's Yucca Mountain facility. I ask her if she agrees. In her answer she shows more spine than half the Democrats on Capitol Hill. >"He did on this," Benitez, 24, says. "He said he would not allow Yucca Mountain to happen and he did a complete 180 and pushed through Yucca Mountain legislation and supported it. I felt very betrayed by the president when he did that." She considers the pageant a "dry run" for her eventual state Senate run, she says. "The premises are exactly the same. You have a limited amount of time and resources to convince a panel of judges that you are the person who is best able to represent that community. You're running on a platform. There are an amazing amount of parallels between the two." Most contestants aren't so outspoken, but then again, neither are most politicians. But plenty of Miss A's have raised some hell. In the throes of the Roe vs. Wade decisions, Miss America 1974, Colorado's Rebecca King, proclaimed herself pro-choice. This was King's second shocker -- she had already committed pageant blasphemy by saying that she entered the pageant for the scholarship money. Nowadays, scholarship money is everyone's motivation. Many of these girls have tried for the crown before and lost, only to return a year or two or three later to make it to the Boardwalk -- and money for school. Benitez lost her state competition as Miss Sparks in 1997, Miss Silver State in 1998, Miss Reno in 1999, and Miss University of Nevada-Reno in 2001 before finally landing the state crown this year. To hear her tell it, the trip hasn't been so bad. "All in all, I've already funded my entire undergraduate degree," Benitez says, adding it all up to approximately $15,000. She'll add thousands to this kitty throughout the week in various awards, culminating in an additional $25,000 for her showing as 3rd runner-up. Similarly, Miss America-to-be Erika Harold walks me through all the Miss Illinois contests she has lost. As Miss Champagne-Urbana in 1998, she was trounced in the state competition. "I had a terrible dress on," she laughs. "I wasn't as familiar with the system as I should have been and I had this terrible royal blue monstrosity." She won Miss East-Central Illinois in 1999, but lost the state contest; was Miss Kishwaukee Valley in 2000 but lost the state contest; was Miss Land of Lincoln, representing the Springfield area, in 2002, and finally got the nod. Harold says she got interested because of the scholarship money: Her mom told her she would need to help provide for her college education, and with the pageant providing more than $40 million in scholarships and cash assistance to young women this past year alone, Harold says that's when she started exploring the option. Her mom remembers it a little differently. "When she was about 12 or 13, she started saying 'I'd like to be Miss America,'" Donna Tanner Harold tells me two nights later, just minutes before the pageant begins. "She was just interested in it." Are women like Harold, our new Miss America, shamed away from admitting that they want to be Miss America because they desire the accompanying glamour and fame? Most definitely. I ask Harold what she would say to her future sisters at Harvard Law School, who will no doubt look askew at her tiara, sash and bikini walk. "I would stress the issue of empowerment," Harold says. "Participating in the Miss America contest has given me the equipment and skills" to make a difference. "Not to mention the scholarship assistance," she adds. There's a defensiveness, a backed-into-a-corner anger, that pageant participants and defenders seem to feel. It is palpable as they list Miss A achievements: Nicole Johnson, Miss America 1999, raised tens of millions to combat diabetes; Kate Shindle, Miss American 1998, did similar fundraising to fight AIDS and was refreshingly opinionated -- she also said that President Clinton should resign if he lied under oath. Miss Americas aren't serious women? Tell that to Miss America 1964, Donna Axum Whitworth, a judge this year who sits on the board of the Kennedy Center and is a delight -- one who has aged maybe a year since winning the crown. Miss Americas aren't tough? Aren't smart? Go ahead -- tell that to Whitworth. I dare you. One day after this year's Miss America Pageant the TV people performed their annual act of self-love with the Emmy broadcast -- and all they do is shovel crap into our living rooms, lowering our national I.Q. They certainly don't dole out $40 million in scholarship money to young women. Why, therefore, are pageant officials and participants constantly being asked if they're relevant? Why do they need to defend themselves? One of the main reasons for this awkward dynamic is the nonprofit Miss America organization itself. Run almost entirely by volunteers, the spirit is marvelous -- but you get what you pay for. And the paid staff -- particularly the CEOs -- have been even more wanting. In fact, the parents of Katie Harman -- Glen and Darla Harman -- complained about how poorly the organization is run in an angry eight-page letter on Feb. 3 of this year. "Katie is your Miss America and I can't tell you how many times she is 'in trouble' for things that are not her fault," Darla Harman wrote to the Miss America board of directors. Katie was being billed for items related to her pageant duties -- 26 clothing alterations, $2,248 for her post-victory party at the Taj. Moreover, each Miss America makes her salary for the year in speaking fees, which can top $100,000, but during Harman's "year of service," as it's called, the organization wasn't coming through, said Katie's mom. Harman, ever the loyal soldier, denied reports that she was "unhappy as Miss America and that I have been 'mistreated' by the Miss America organization. These statements are not true; they do not represent my feelings and were attributed to me without my knowledge or consent." But it appears that the organization was indeed being poorly run. In an odd development, Darla Harman's letter was released to the press by former casino executive Robert Renneisen, then the Miss America Pageant's CEO, who had to resign in March when he lost the confidence of the board, for, among other reasons, his threat to move the pageant out of Atlantic City if the city didn't cough up an additional $1 million. This was heresy: The contest was founded to bring tourism to Atlantic City after Labor Day weekend, a goal made evident by the lame infomercial the pageant runs every year featuring contestants eating salt water taffy, playing in the surf, and having fun on the Steel Pier. On the video, the women sing the city's praises; in reality, the place is a rundown and decaying shack whose unofficial city slogan could be encapulated in the pawnbroker's blunt solicitation: "cash for gold." The interim CEO, George Bauer, made a shaky debut with his support for a controversial decision to lend the pageant's copyright to a slot machine, a move that so angered past crown winners that several boycotted this year's event. (The pageant has historically steered clear of gambling, at one point even banning contestants from entering casinos, even though they often stayed in the hotels connected to them.) The contest's connection to Atlantic City is ultimately its strength and its weakness. The unabashed idealism, the appealing naiveté of contestants armed with plans for how to save the world, mirrors the rundown city's hope to save itself. The pageant is a mom and pop operation at heart, and it's horrible to imagine a coven of California suits preparing the "Fear Factor," "Celebrity Death Match," "Temptation Island" version of the pageant, were they allowed to get their hands on it. But it is the organization's small-town perspective that mutes the pageant's potential and keeps Miss A on the B list. Many pageant volunteers long for the days when Miss America was demure, and quiet, and known mainly for her beauty; they have not evolved as the pageant has attempted to break free of that stereotype, adding the platform, grading on more than looks, requiring community service. - - - - - - - - - - - - The pageant -- the main event -- is over in a split second. Stars either on their way up, like Brady, or down, like last year's emcee, Tony Danza, host the festivities, gushing about how wonderful the girls are, even though they haven't spent any time with them at all, save for brief rehearsals. They're the phoniest part of the entire affair, except, quite possibly, for one or two pairs of bosoms. All 51 state representatives come out, then 36 leave in the blink of an eye. The final 15 are winnowed to 10 after the swimsuit competition, 10 go down to five after evening gown. In the talent segment, Miss Nevada does an earnest but cringe-worthy interpretation of Matthew Shephard's father's trial testimony -- innocent in its conception, brave in its subject matter (considering who's watching the show), but ultimately kind of trite. Miss Alabama has a lovely voice, singing a golden oldie from "Footloose" -- "Holding Out for a Hero" -- but she moves her body like a girl who hasn't yet had sex. The last five also take a "Jeopardy"-esque multiple-choice quiz revealing that Misses Maryland and Oklahoma are, triviawise, tonight's weakest links. Miss Alabama wins the quiz show, as well as the support of the 46 also-rans backstage. Harold still gets the coveted tiara, indicating how far ahead she must have been before the night even began. Once Harold has taken her crown, and the friends and family of the other 50 have left town as fast as they could, the judges celebrate with the pageant board in a Taj suite. But the merriment, joking and pats on the back are interrupted by the entreaties of judge James M. Jones, a former aide to Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and the founding executive vice president of the Vaccine Fund, a Gates-funded group that works to immunize children against preventable diseases. "You have got to support Erika," James urges the small crowd. "You have got to provide her with support." James reminds them that the judges understood their mandate and selected Harold even though they knew it would ruffle the feathers of those hoping for a more traditional queen. Another judge, Tammy Haddad, a highly respected TV producer, stands and urges the pageant board of directors and staff to "tell their story," to get the word out. People don't realize the sheer volume of young women who enter the competitions to get scholarship money, the hours and hours of community service they put in before foot one lands on the Boardwalk, how the organization is run by volunteers. She gets the other six judges to sign off on an Op-Ed she wants to submit to a newspaper defending the program and urging the Miss America organization to move ahead. Erika Harold is the future of the pageant, Haddad says, and the pageant needs to use her to tell its own story better. But the night ends more in hugs than lectures. The dignified pageant judge Gwendolyn C. Baker, a civil rights activist and former national executive director of the YWCA, admits to having started the process as a skeptic and at 70, she says, she no longer changes her mind about much. She still refuses to call the young women "ladies," since "I'm a feminist," but swimsuit be damned, the educational opportunities extended to contestants, and the devotion of the volunteers, has shaken her up. The speech is sweet, and cornball, and kind of naive, and also, in a way, rather sophisticated. It was the perfect way to end the week. Down at the Miss America press conference, Erika Harold is handling questions deftly, introducing the crowd to her parents, smiling and thanking everyone. Judge Axum Whitworth, a former Miss Arkansas who was crowned six years before an African-American won a state contest, doesn't have to be there but she watches from a respectable distance, seemingly proud of the choice. Photographs are taken. The bouquet is held. And then a chaperone guides her off the dais. Harold walks by me. "Congratulations," I say. She says, "Thank you," with rote politeness, and then does a double take since we've spoken twice -- before her life changed forever. And then she's whisked into a limousine and driven to her future. - - - - - - - - - - - - About the writer Jake Tapper is national correspondent for Salon. He is also a reporter with VH1 News.

Saddam is not rational There are people who seem convinced that Saddam is a calculating dictator who can be deterred. They argue that Saddam should be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons, because he understands the massive US retaliation that would accompany a use of WMD on American citizens. How then do they explain Saddam's failed assassination of former President Bush in 1993? It's well documented that the attempt on Bush's life was authorized by Saddam. Had the plan succeeded, Saddam would have had the cost of his life and his regime. Even Clinton would not have stuck with cruise missiles after the murder of a US president. In other words - Saddam did something to hurt the US out of spite. If successful, the action would have led to his destruction , but this obviously didn't enter into his calculations. How then can you be sure that he wouldn't use a WMD on the United States, perhaps through a proxy?

posted by godlesscapitalist | 9/24/2002 04:57:00 PM | |

Grinding away.. the thin ice
There's a developing story in Gujarat (yes, the same communal, civil-strife-torn Gujarat we heard so much about this summer). Armed terrorists have apparently killed 23 pilgrims, and injured at least 40 others at a large Hindu temple complex. They may be holed up in there with another 150 to 200 more worshippers.
Twenty-three people were killed and another 40 injured in a deadly attack by terrorists on the Akshardham temple complex here on Tuesday evening, Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani said. The killed included 13 men, six women and four children.
This is bad news. Gird yourself for another round of revenge killings, folks. The subcontinent is still on fire.

Monday, September 23, 2002

The good and the bad Report Finds Minority Ranks Rise Sharply on Campuses says the NY Times. Read the article though. Graduation rates for Asians, whites, Latinos and blacks & Native Americans: 66%, 59%, 46% and 38%. You can infer from that what you may (also, the gender gap is growing, more and more women are going to college).

Roger Scruton and The West and the Rest This excerpt from Roger Scruton's new book The West and the Rest in today's NRO. I like it in particular for this line:
...The Islamist, like the Russian nihilist, is an exile in this world; and when he succeeds in obtaining power over his fellow human beings, it is in order to punish them for being human.

Reality check This article from Beliefnet is really good. Read it.

Very cogent Outstanding takedown by a Slate poster of the people who want to investigate only some of the "root causes". It's in response to Michael Kinsley's piece on evil, but you should be able to pick up the argument from here alone:

I would have had no disagreement with Michael Kinsley had he confined himself to pointing out that describing terrorists, or Saddam Hussein, or anyone else as "evil" does not by itself suffice as a justification for American policy. Along the lines of protecting American lives and defending American interests are plenty of good reasons for specific policies without getting into questions of human nature. But this isn't intellectual-sounding enough for Kinsley, and moreover would require him to advance some positive ideas instead of the ineffectual carping he has gotten used to. He offers instead two entirely bogus examples of the things conservatives cannot talk about, these being "subjective" and "objective" root causes of terrorism. Discussing the first of these leads to the supposedly forbidden field of psychology, except that by this Kinsley plainly has in mind only therapeutic psychology -- the idea behind this being that if we only understand terrorists motives we can find some peaceful and sympathetic means to persuade them to stop being terrorists. So, too, "objective" root causes for Kinsley boil down to things America can be blamed for. Suppose we actually discuss these things in their broadest context. Say, for example, we consider among subjective root causes the idea that young Saudi or Egyptian males raised to put a low value on the lives of non-Muslims and to see killing themselves as religiously significant as long as they also kill someone else are rather more likely than other people to want to fly planes into buildings. Or, what about the idea that Western economies and to a lesser extent Western popular culture dominate a modern world in which Arab Muslims find it difficult to fit either their religion or their political habits, and some of them choose to indulge hatred against Westerners and especially Americans rather than accept responsibility for their own shortcomings. You won't find too many conservatives unwilling to discuss either of these possibilities, though a few philistines like William Bennett may insist that murdering large numbers of people is just wrong and evil and incompatible with civilization as understood by anyone (what a killjoy that guy is). For Mike Kinsley and perhaps a few other people, though discussing these ideas is beyond the pale -- it smacks of insensitivity, even racism, as well as the unsophistication of blaming terrorism mostly on the terrorists. I would find this less odd if I thought Kinsley's opinion of extreme Islamism or the more backward elements of Arab Muslim culture was any higher than William Bennett's. It almost certainly is not. It may not be as high. Whatever it is, he may not speak it aloud as long as there are domestic conservatives to accuse of philistinism, unsophistication and -- most damningly -- of not being very nice.

Really, this is the main point. Warbloggers (not all of whom are conservative) are interested in the root causes of terrorism. The difference between them and the doves is that the warbloggers think that some of the root causes can be ameliorated only by the use of force.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 9/23/2002 02:08:00 PM | |

Sunday, September 22, 2002

"My brother" I have my problems with Islam. It is the faith of my birth-though never to be honest, of my conviction. On the other hand, I must admit that the egalitarianism and focus on justice that Islam preaches is not all feigned. In some ways, that is its problem, its intense moralizing can make the believer feel as if they are can commit no sin so long as they do in the name of God and the service of Islam (Muslims do not accept original sin). Here is an article, again from the Washington Post, on the spread of Islam among Tutsis in Rwanda.
Since the genocide, Rwandans have converted to Islam in huge numbers. Muslims now make up 14 percent of the 8.2 million people here in Africa's most Catholic nation, twice as many as before the killings began. Many converts say they chose Islam because of the role that some Catholic and Protestant leaders played in the genocide. Human rights groups have documented several incidents in which Christian clerics allowed Tutsis to seek refuge in churches, then surrendered them to Hutu death squads, as well as instances of Hutu priests and ministers encouraging their congregations to kill Tutsis. Today some churches serve as memorials to the many people slaughtered among their pews. Four clergymen are facing genocide charges at the U.N.-created International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and last year in Belgium, the former colonial power, two Rwandan nuns were convicted of murder for their roles in the massacre of 7,000 Tutsis who sought protection at a Benedictine convent. In contrast, many Muslim leaders and families are being honored for protecting and hiding those who were fleeing. Some say Muslims did this because of the religion's strong dictates against murder, though Christian doctrine proscribes it as well. Others say Muslims, always considered an ostracized minority, were not swept up in the Hutus' campaign of bloodshed and were unafraid of supporting a cause they felt was honorable.
During festivals like Eid-al-Fatir, my family would go mosque, and my father would refer to everyone as brother and sister. He's not a particularly effusive person, but on those days, I heard sincerity in his voice.

Living in la-la land I don't get the Arabs. Here are excerpts from a Washington Post article on resignation toward the US invasion of Iraq:
Mohammed Saeed Tayyeb, a liberal Saudi lawyer who hosts gatherings of Saudi intellectuals and who appears regularly on television talk shows, said in a telephone interview from Jiddah that there was a lot of frustration over the looming conflict. "There is no way around riding the American train. We don't really know who the driver is, nor where he is taking us or at which station he is planning to stop or whether he plans to return. Yet if we stand by on the pavement, we are told we will sit alone and another train may crash right into us. There is a feeling among Saudis of having no choice," Tayyeb said. "We feel that this American friend, whose political projects we did not hesitate to finance has dragged us into a war, made us build bases we barely use and sold us planes and weapons we don't know how to operate. We bought all of that, but it did not do us any good," he added.
Does anyone else feel this is bizarre??? The Saudis are not passive partners. They knew very well that they were in trouble when Saddam took Kuwait, we didn't have to convince them to let us set-up bases. They don't buy weapons to just satisfy the US arms industry (though that might be part of it). As far as the part about political projects-we know what projects the Saudis have been financing, and we know what jihads their citizens have been engaging in, don't we? This feigned passivity is disgusting.
A big uncertainty for the Arab world is the role of Israel. If the Jewish state were to enter a war with Iraq, it could galvanize Arab states against the United States. "This would be hard to swallow," said Ansari, the Islamic law expert in Qatar.
What exactly would the Arab world do? Fight Israel and the United States? Between a rock and a hard place my friend.

From pole to pole.... Thomas Friedman says that 9/11 did not kill globalization. I tend to agree.
That truth is most striking in Bangalore, India's Silicon Valley, where hundreds of thousands of young Indians, most from lower-middle-class families, suddenly have social mobility, motor scooters and apartments after going to technical colleges and joining the Indian software and engineering firms providing back-room support and research for the world's biggest firms - thanks to globalization. Bangalore officials say each tech job produces 6.5 support jobs, in construction and services.
Compare the most and least globalized parts of India, and you will see that those connected to the rest of the world do better (the deep south and the Hindi heartland can be thought of as two antipodes on this scale). Certainly India is still a grotesquely poor country, but anti-globalists need to understand that development happens in steps, not in a giant leap willed by good intentions or central planning. In the end, India and China will be the engines of globalization. The question is now not if the world will be interconnected, but when. The anti-globalist movement needs to reorient itself to address problems that globalization brings, such as the synchronization in business cycles that that results in world-wide recessions, rather than opposing the inevitable march of history. Addendum: I don't want to come off as someone who waxes with glee about the spread of multinational companies. I want to clarify that I think globalization's value is the utilization of talent all across the world-the freeing of individuals from rules and restrictions. India's federal system is good because individual states can compete and experiment with different models (socialist West Bengal and Kerala, free-market Karnataka, etc). Multinationals can always extract what they want out of governments, the two are simply the left hand and the right of the bureaucratic class. "Protections" for native industries and classes invariably work to entrench local elites, the withdrawal of protections rips away the security of these elites, and allows them to flourish, or be displaced by others (the lower middle-class programmers mentioned above) who can work in the global marketplace.

Sunday Afternoons.... Doing some coding and watching some games on TV at the same time. The Twins commercial for Coors Light is on a lot, and I wonder, how is it that there are so many brilliant men, but commercials like this are what sells goods to us? Then I remember, though men are smarter, we're also dumber. Godless clarifies just so someone won't take this out of context: Razib doesn't mean that men are smarter than women on average. Jensen says there's no discernible difference between the *average* intelligence (meaning psychometric g ) of males and females, and provides copious documentation. Razib probably meant that the higher male variance means that the smartest males are the smartest humans, and the dumbest males are the dumbest humans. Razib clarifies: Yeah, that's what I meant.

Hesiod...oh, Hesiod... Remember Hesiod? The astonishingly naive guy who thought Saddam was "for real this time"? When last we met, I pointed out that Iraq had tried to weasel out of the "unconditional" part of weapons inspections by indicating that there would be limits after all. Hesiod's response was marvelous in its willful self-delusion:

Have the inspectors been prevented from going anywhere yet? Write me back when there's an issue. --Hesiod

Of course, the official statement from Iraq was only a formality. The presidential palaces are again off limits to the weapons inspectors:

Iraq reversed course Saturday and said it would not abide by any new U.N. resolution allowing weapons inspectors access to key presidential compounds.

Now, this is a pretty clear cut indication that Iraq - again - is not willing to play ball with the UN. Hesiod in his own words spelled out what this result means:

Iraqi officials were telling CNN and others, off the record, that they were going to allow the inspectors to go anywhere they wanted. Steven is correct that we have to wait and see. Skepticism about Saddam is healthy and prudent. Cynicism, given the circumstances and the stakes, is overkill. We should hold Saddam to his statements and push. If he fails to live up to them, then we have grounds for an attack. I think he'll do what he says because he has no other choice in the matter. Steven doesn't. He thinks Saddam is an irrational nutcase. We'l see who's right in a couple weeks, won't we?

Well, Hesiod? What about it? Do you have any integrity at all - will you admit your mistake? When faced with an error as clear cut as this one, you need to admit that you were utterly and totally wrong, and that Den Beste and the warbloggers were right. Otherwise, I think it'd only be right for people to throw these words back in your face the next time you feel like opining on Iraq...kinda of like the way we call Phil Shropshire a wannabe terrorist...

posted by godlesscapitalist | 9/22/2002 01:17:00 PM | |

Saturday, September 21, 2002

God, country and family (part IV) Part I Part II Part III Would you put your nation before your family? Would you put your nation before your God? Before your race? These are questions that people need to ask. Questions such as this lurk under the surface of all outward expressions of patriotism [1]. What really matters? As I have said before, I feel that Christianity is not especially congenial to undiluted nationalism. This to me explains why Germany, the apotheosis of nationalism in our age, seemed on the verge of strangling the Christian faith during the ascendancy of Nazism [2]. But why is it that many (most?) American Christians are on the front lines defending this country and expressing unvarnished pride in America? The answer seems to be that the United States of America plays a special role in conservative American Christianity. These are the people that would assert that we are a Christian nation, not just a nation of Christians [3]. The Puritan idea of the "city set upon the hill" that serves as a beacon for the sea of heathens continues down into our present day [4]. Many Christians believe that the United States is a part of God's plan, a fulfillment of the divine promise. Mormonism seems to make this explicit, setting the location of the impending Second Coming in the heart of the United States, Independence, Missouri. In this way, there is no tension between being a good Christian and being a good American, because to be a patriotic American is simply following God's plan, for we are God's country. Or are we? Let us be honest and say that that is not so for all Americans. In particular, I am speaking of two religious minorities that are getting much press recently, especially their contentious relationship with each other, Jews and Muslims. These are people who share a common theological root with Christianity, but neither have the numerical preponderance in this nation that Christians do, so this is most certainly not a nation of Jews or Muslims. Stephen Steinlight, in the article I have referred to recently on Jewish attitudes toward immigration has stated that Jews have had a dual loyalty, and that in fact some might feel Israel is closer to their heart than the United States. This has not been too onerous a balance for the past 30 years, because the United States and Israel have always had such a close relationship that what was good for the United States and what was good for Israel has been the same [5]. So goes the thinking, especially in Jewish neoconservative circles where a rugged patriotism toward the United States is wedded without apology to a muscular support for Israel. But what if in the future (or now) the two are not so closely related, what if what is good for Israel is not good for the United States or vice versa? What would Jews do? This sort of question has been asked in the past by anti-Semites bent on casting aspersions toward the Jewish community [6]. The irony is that in the past (as in before 1967) the Jewish community's attitude in the Diaspora toward Israel was decidedly ambivalent, and the elite opinion sometimes hostile [7]. Today, the Jewish community tends to be pro-Israel, from cautiously so on the moderate Left toward aggressively so on the Right. But these sort of accusations would not fly well today, as they are beyond the pale of discourse. Being who I am, I have asked friends of mine who are Jews if they had to make a decision with two choices, Israel or the United States, which prospers and which suffers, what would you pick [8]? Generally there is much hesitation, and sometimes anger that I would even ask such a question. I simply responded that though I consider myself a tepid patriot at best, I would have no hesitation, no qualms of declaring what nation is at the center of my patriotism. All my loyalties when it comes to country or kin are situated firmly on the soil of the United States (I will qualify that it is the idea of America, and not the polity itself, that draws me). In the end, the more secular ones seemed to pick the United States, with some anguish, while those with any religious feeling tended to pick Israel, again with anguish [9]. Now, understand that many of the people who I have asked this question of have family in Israel, so ties of blood are crucial, not just ideology or faith. I myself am somewhat devoid of conventional familial affinities, so again, I do not struggle with such a choice. I suspect that this was a source of the great amount of hesitation from those who were secular and in the end chose the United States. The ones that chose Israel did so for an obvious reason, Israel they believe is part of their religious tradition, for all the initial skepticism that religious Jews had toward a secular socialist state. Israel is a manifestation of God's covenant with the Jewish people, and God takes priority over any national feelings that religious Jews have imbibed over the past one or two centuries in this nation. I believe that if put in a similar situation, the Christian would also pick the City of God, rather than the United States [10]. This tension that lurks within the monotheistic religions is often hidden, but the proper context would flush it out. Roughly put, tribe trumps nation and God is Lord, the ultimate loyalty. In the past year, many Muslims have been asked whether they would fight fellow Muslims. Many have said no, they wouldn't, and people have questioned their patriotism. And yet, one must understand that these Muslims believe that they are committing a sin if they go to fight those of their own faith. Certainly, this is a reflection of the discomfort that many isolationists initially had with fighting Germany, a Teutonic nation like the United States, and allying with Asiatic Russia (I know Russians are European, but many still felt that they were too long under the Tartar Yoke to not absorb some habits and blood from their rulers). Muslims are citizens of the United States, but they are also part of their religious nation, the Ummah. Similarly, Catholics are members of their transnational Church, while Jews have a connection to Israel and the Diaspora. These loyalties are not just in addition to their patriotism toward the United States, but sometimes they are more basic, more primal. They don't manifest themselves, or even impinge on the thoughts of most individuals, unless a choice must be made. In the case of American Christians fighting against Nazis, it must be remembered that many had listened to Bonhoeffer and knew the nature of the beast. They were fighting a demon that had been birthed within the heart of Christendom, ready to consume it from the inside out. During World War I, the Kaiserreich had been demonized, and Germans were termed "Huns," an explicit reference toward pagan barbarism and a defense of Christendom. The sort of tension that I have spoken of does not always bend or break toward religious or racial feeling. German Catholic soldiers from the Rhine and southern Germany fought against the Austrians and French with aplomb under the leadership of Protestant Prussia. Shiite foot soldiers fought against the Iranians under the leader of the Sunni Arab elite during the Iran-Iraq war [11]. Most of the Japanese were impeccably loyal during World War II. And so forth. And yet certainly many conflicts today can be tied to minorities within nations that have ties to the outside, and precious little loyalty to their own country. The Catholics of Northern Ireland, the Arabs of Israel, the Muslims of Kashmir in India. Nationhood is a multifaceted idea. It is comes at the intersection between God, faith and family. History, personal and national, also come into play. Very few people satisfy every criteria that defines the nation. We are a predominantly Protestant nation, a predominantly white nation and a liberal nation [12]. The different aspects of our nationhood have been emphasized to varying degrees historically. For instance, American Protestantism has a much lower profile than it did in the 19th century when Papist conspiracies seemed to abound in the imagination of every American politician that was faced the rising German and Irish Catholic masses teeming on the shores. The white identity is also on the wane in this country. The fact that the immigration laws until 1965 severely limited immigration from the vast majority of the world, and worked to favor the ethnic proportions of the nation in 1924 (therefore, favoring north and west Europe), made it clear that this was a nation with an ethnic sense of itself. I believe today that liberalism, the commitment to individualism and human dignity, is the cornerstone of the republic. We are becoming to some extent a proposition nation, because liberalism is something that can be acquired, unlike race. On the other hand, Protestantism is also something that can be acquired, and many (most?) non-Protestant immigrant groups remain tied to their ancestral faith. This does not make them less American, as the Protestant-Catholic-Jew paradigm has been ascendant since the 1950s (now Protestant-Catholic-Jew-Muslim). But it hints that liberalism can be rejected by new immigrants. Without liberalism what would be left, aside from basic legal conventions, to denote who an American is? In sum, I think that nationhood can be viewed through the analogy of a Venn Diagram. Language, history, race, religion and family, these are a few of the many factors that contribute to patriotism. The problem to focus on is when all of these factors are shifted from the national norm. Muslims for instance often do not share religion, race, family and quite often political philosophy with Americans [13]. This is in contrast to older immigrant groups like Jews, who have an attachment to liberalism, and now often share family with many Protestant white Americans. Other immigrant groups, like Chinese and Hindu South Asians also are most likely more amenable to assimilation because they don't have as strong an ideological tie to illiberal politics based on religion [14]. My point though is we need to be careful of absolutes. There are disloyal white Protestants who have no sentiment for liberalism, and loyal American Muslims that have divorced their religion from illiberal politics [15]. On the other hand, it is not a prescription for a Pollyanna view of assimilability of people into our nation. We need to be aware of discordant cultural baggage that immigrants bring with them.

[1] My opinion of course. [2] Not to beat a dead horse, but note Martin Bormann's memo elaborating on the coming cleansing of the German nation of Christianity. [3] I am not just playing on words here. Our nation has always been predominantly Christian. But, the early nation was not filled will churchgoers simply because of the scattered rural nature of settlements. The early presidents were religious latitudinarians, whose Christian bona fides can be disputed with vigor. I would argue we are a nation of Christians, not a Christian nation. Others can make the reverse case. [4] Read up on the hilarious propaganda during the Spanish-American War to Christianize the Catholic Filipinos! [5] This is a contentious issue. I believe one can make the case that our Israeli connection contributed to some of the animus felt toward the United States, and I am of the camp that it is a secondary factor, or more appropriately a catalyst for an independently developing hostility. [6] Of course, most of the accusations of Jewish disloyalty had less to do with Israel than Communism. Of course, this was not universal on the Right. The John Birch Society tended to avoid Jew-baiting, while McCarthy was a famous philo-Semite, Roy Cohn being his prominent Jewish aid. [7] Especially true of the prominent British Jewry and their elite. Of course, that has all changed, but that is the work of history and the ebb of time. [8] This is a contrived question, and some have told me it's not fair to ask. But life isn't fair, and certainly, some conservatives had mooted the occupation and overthrow of Saudi Arabia, which distresses many Muslims, despite what they might think of the House of Saud. What would American Muslims do in this case? Their religion clearly predisposes them toward viewing non-Muslim incursions into Arabia negatively, and yet it is not out of the realm of possibility that American troops might in the near future become involved in hostilities in the Gulf and its environs. But this time, directed towards Saudi Arabia. It is therefore fair to ask all people where their loyalties are in my opinion, even if only a few are tested. Chinese immigrants will have to face this question sometime in the next generation I believe. [9] I am well aware of the anti-Zionist contingent on fringe of the ultra-Orthodox movement. I don't really know many ultra-Orthodox so I don't know if they'd pick the United States without hesitation. [10] The conservative Christian I believe feels that the United States is in a way the City of God. This explains to me their belief that one can not be an atheist and a patriot. [11] More realistically, they feared the whip more than their God. [12] Liberal in the broad, not narrow sense. [13] The problem being that Islam proscribes illiberal politics in its most common modern interpretation. [14] Hindu South Asians come from a moderately liberal political situation themselves. Many of the Chinese are Taiwanese or older immigrant groups that fled Manchu autocracy. On the other hand, we should be careful of the mainlanders that are attached to the ancient ideal of the Middle Kingdom. On an aside, Latino immigrants are often from a rather politically illiberal tradition, based on patronage and power politics. Many southern and eastern European Americans also came from these traditions, and it took decades to break the machines that arose with their arrival in large American cities. I think the current situation in California bodes ill for the future of multi-ethnic America. [15] German American Bund in World War II were still tied to the mother country despite their whiteness and often their Protestantism.

Taking logic to the foothills of absurdity This story from MSNBC mentions the parthenogenetic ("virgin") births of some female sharks. I've known that parthenogenesis is found in some groups of vertebrates (ectothermic or cold blooded-so no mammals or birds). But let's take this further. Assume that Jesus will return, via a virgin birth. The way parthenogenesis works, only females can be born of it (remember, no Y chromosome involved). Stopping short of the god-of-the-gaps that can subvert nature by fiat, might the original Christ have been female? Could the second coming be so?

The Mandela cult Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

The Mandela cult My fellow Oz blogger Paul Wright is a braver man than me. He has a post aptly titled This will get me in trouble which pours cold water on Nelson Mandela's bona fides as elder statesman. While I would dispute his characterisation of an apartheid state as one possessing 'rule of law' (perhaps because as a Hayekian I tend to read more into the idea than what it seems to literally imply) I do agree with at least this part of his assessment:

It’s an awkward question to ask but can someone tell me why Nelson Mandela gets such a good press? It’s rare to see him referred to as anything but “statesman”, often with the “elder” tossed in. But seriously, what has he done to rank him as someone qualified to comment on world affairs? The world press waits one every word he speaks, like he is actually acquainted with the problem. Meantime his own people are dying like flies, due in no small part to the bizarre scientific beliefs of his hand-picked successor, Tabo Mbeki. Mandela refuses to condemn the policies, an attitude we would be unlikely to accept from our own politicians. The ANC remains close ties How does spending umpteen years in jail in South Africa, then five years of a medium-sized African nation, promote you to World Leader?

Friday, September 20, 2002

After school coaching and the 'politically correct' race debate The Sydney Morning Herald, which may be described as Australia's standard broadsheet for the 'right thinking' liberal-left (replete with outdated reprints from The Guardian and the New York Times) has a story today on the futility of after school coaching. Gene Expression readers who share Godless's obsession with genetic limits on IQ may find this of interest. What is also of interest is the 'cultural' angle towards the end of the article which is selectively quoted below:

A study of more than 1700 girls at MLC Burwood girls' school found that the high school students who had no out-of-school coaching did better at end-of-year exams than those coached for specific subjects. The coaching made no difference for students in years 7, 11 or 12, said Professor Dianna Kenny, of the University of Sydney, and was simply wasting young lives and lots of money. Of those coached, some did 30 hours a week, with an average of 3.3. It is the first major study of the effects of coaching colleges on entry to selective schools and comes as the Eduction Minister, John Watkins, is considering regulation of the booming industry. Professor Kenny said yesterday that the effect of coaching in many cases could be likened to occupational stress on workers forced to do overtime ... The study involved all the students from years 4 to 12 and asked parents and students to fill in questionnaires about individual coaching histories. Sixty-five per cent had received out-of-school coaching, either privately or at a college, and in some cases students had been receiving out-of-school coaching for six years. Fifty-three per cent had a main language other than English, with 40 per cent of these students speaking an Asian language.

I don't necessarily doubt the veracity of the research or at least its implication that there are limits to coaching. What I am more interested in is the media treatment and spin on the issue. This story is interesting on many levels and provokes mixed responses from me. I certainly agree that school should be about more than striving for good exam results and that the current approach to tertiary education in Australia which rations access according to performance in a final high school exam creates an imbalance in incentives. However there would be coaching even if such problems were resolved. It is important to understand that this story follows quite closely a recent ruckus that has erupted among the 'right thinking' liberal-left types in Sydney over the influence of Australians of Asian descent on the schooling culture as this older piece (April 2002) demonstrates:

Shhh. We are tiptoeing ever so delicately here around the secret debate about selective high schools. That debate is about the extremely high percentage of students of Asian background attending the best government schools. But very few people want to say so publicly for fear of being declared racist. Just look at the reaction to the Herald story last Saturday that a group of influential former students from Sydney Boys' High were pushing for changes in government policy to allow some limited preference to boys whose brothers, fathers or grandfathers attended the school. All the predictable protests about nepotism and racism poured forth. A committee of old boys is an easy target, particularly when the old boys' magazine notes that the current Year 7 is "90 per Asian which has a flow-on effect on the school's traditional sports". The committee says the issue is really about the need to bolster the tradition of parental involvement and volunteer activities in the school. But it's hard to argue against the idea that academic success should be celebrated solely on its merits, no matter anyone's family connections or ethnic background ... These days, students of Asian background predominate - partly because of their increased numbers but largely because of their record of academic excellence and strong cultural emphasis on study ... Such academic achievement can only be applauded, particularly given the impetus clever kids give to any society. It is also of clear benefit for children - and the country - to have a truly multicultural mix at school. But it does raise tricky questions about balance. The immediate one is the weight given to maths and science in the selective test as opposed to English and what used to be known as the humanities. Is this appropriate and does a multiple-choice test discriminate against valuable skills of communication and general knowledge? ... Then there's the even more sensitive balance of ethnic background. The common perception is that students of Asian background as a group tend to participate less in non-academic activities and that their parents - as a cultural preference - are often less involved in the various volunteer activities of the school. Is it racist to question this or consider trying to change it? Does it matter anyway? Let's have the debate - without the name calling.

I suggest that these two articles taken together reveal the mix of contradictory attitudes among 'right thinking' liberal-left readers and journalists of the Herald 1) Generalisations about Asians which would be condemned as gross generalisations if made about other ethnic minorities are treated with a sophisticated and tolerant blase-ness. But of course Asians, as 'model minorities' (perhaps even too willing to adapt to the status quo rather than moaning about oppression) do not meet this test of PC sensitivity. Just contrast this with the mildest generalisations about Arab-Muslim cultural practices in Australia today (or in the US for that matter). 2) The distaste for 'competition' and the pursuit of excellence is expressed in a dislike for after school tuition even though in this case it involves citing a study which implicitly endorses the idea that genetics can trump enviroinment in determining intelligence, an idea usually regarded as heresy among left-liberals. Really, if coaching is so bad, can't we say the same thing about after school study that is self-motivated? What exactly is being endorsed here? Perhaps in some cases coaching may still be useful because the parent worries that children won't be sufficiently self-motivating. Perhaps even if there are limits on enhancing scholastic abilities, coaching can help uncover diamonds in the rough, under achieving gifted children. If the propensity of Asian parent to engage coaching activities encourages or 'forces' other parents to do the same, then what exactly is wrong with this? 3) It should be noted that the government that funded the anti-coaching study is in the process of downgrading selective schools. Note too the reference to those poor students finding themselves out of their depth if through coaching they ended up in selective schools with naturally bright children. 4) The distaste for elitism, the aspirational class and rigorous academic standards finds expression ironically in an almost anti-intellectual attitude towards swots. Note the imputation that selective schools are bad because they create pressures for competition that have adverse effects similar to that induced in poor hapless overworked employees under the capitalist system. Update from Godless: I forwarded the April article to Jason some time ago, because I thought it illustrated an important principle: no population is "above" jealousy for a population with higher mean IQ. I plan on treating this in more detail if/when I ever get around to replying to refuting_rm on Kevin MacDonald's work, but the upshot is that whites of European ancestry will be just as ready to play the racial spoils game when their ox is getting noticeably gored. They can afford to be magnanimous to blacks and Hispanics, who generally won't compete with them academically. However, the tables are turned when dealing with North Asians (as above),Ashkenazi Jews, or some South Asians. At that point, the backbiting and recriminations start, and whites begin to sound just like blacks when they blame the academically dominant group for its "undeserved" rewards, its slavish attention to duty over "extracurriculars", etcetera. That's not to assign blame...I just find it darkly humorous. After all, it's easy to preach meritocracy when your group is going to come out on top... Update from Jason: I should point out of course that I have agreed to disagree with Godless on the issue of whether recorded IQ differences between the races have any biological basis at all - Godless assures me that the matter will be settled in 5 years or less. I am sceptical given the statistical intricacies of attributing x% of such differences to genetic markers that may happen to correlate to particular ethnic groups as well as having a straightforward enough relationship to enhancing of mental processing that can then be shown to manifest itself in IQ; and y% to non-genetic factors. I'd be terribly interested in seeing how one can ever arrive at a convincing demonstration of these things. So I do believe these differences in scholastic performance are cultural and will probably even out over time - ironically one reason for this may well be the transmission of more scholastically oriented memes into the non-Western population precisely because of this pressure cooker environment created by aspirational Asian parents.

Babe of the day Just watched Law & Order: SVU. Found out that the ADA-played by Stephanie March-majored in Latin at Northwestern. Calidus!.

Men are the weaker sex-are some races weaker also? Lew Rockwell reads The Telegraph so I don't have to! Here is an interesting piece on a study that indicates why males don't live as long:
It used be thought that men died sooner than women because of fast living, violence and reckless behavior. Today, however, scientists say this is not the whole story. Studies lead them to conclude that men are weaker. They are debilitated by the male sex hormone testosterone and, to make matters worse, men, who tend to be larger than women, are encumbered by their size. In humans and other mammals, the mortality rate in males is higher than in females from puberty onwards. In the journal Science, Sarah Moore and Dr Ken Wilson, of Stirling University, report that one reason is that men are more susceptible to infections - from bacteria and viruses to fleas, worms and mites.
Interesting. What races have higher testosterone levels? What races are bigger? Here's another interesting article. Some quotes:
Compared to Caucasian males, men of African descent are more likely to carry a genetic mutation that helps them efficiently process the male hormone testosterone, Bunker said. That results in the growth of strong bones but, in combination with a virus called human herpesvirus 8, also seems to heighten the men's risk of prostate cancer. That's not to say that the men's diet and lifestyle don't contribute to their high prostate cancer rates, said Robert Ferrell, a Pitt professor of human genetics. "But so far," he added, "we haven't been able to identify any obvious environmental explanation." East Indians, the other major population group on Tobago, don't share the same high risk of prostate cancer.
Our friend Joseph L. Graves, the evolutionary biologist, shows up again as racial idiotarianism starts to sprout like weeds:
Genetically speaking, nothing differentiates one race from another. All humans share the same set of genes. There is no African gene, no Caucasian gene, no Asian gene. .... Even the most obvious distinguishing factor -- skin color -- can vary enormously within a race, said Joseph L. Graves Jr., an evolutionary biologist at Arizona State University West in Phoenix. And the dark skin of a sub-Saharan African is not unlike the dark skin of a Caucasoid in India, added Graves, author of a 2001 book, "The Emperor's New Clothes: Biological Theories of Race at the Millennium." That's why most scientists say race is a social construct, not a biological one. In other words, social rules determine what races are and what they mean. .... But Graves said biomedical researchers need to take greater care in analyzing this data. In his book, he questions whether the prostate cancer polymorphism is truly the indicator that some researchers have suggested. That particular polymorphism can vary in length -- men with long versions are thought to be at increased risk for the cancer. The definition of long and short is arbitrary. Depending on what cutoff is used, he said, the frequency of the long form isn't necessarily much greater in black Americans than it is in whites. On the other hand, Graves is persuaded that differences in the frequency of another mutation -- the CCR5 gene -- might help explain why there are more people of European as compared to African descent who are resistant to the AIDS virus. The CCR5 mutation increases the resistance to infection by the human immunodeficiency virus and is much more common in people of European descent.
Graves can wave his hands all he wants, in his heart of hearts, he knows we're right. Read the article and make up your own mind, there's a lot of ink spread to argue that race doesn't matter, but the facts presented are not in agreement with that rhetorical position.

Stupid does as stupid's taught Diane of Letter From Gotham tells me this story: They ask a bunch of Americans to divide some fractions-as in 12/15 by 20/52 or something. None of them get it right, except two immigrants. One was a black woman from the West Indies. The other a Polish street sweeper. The interviewer asks how they knew the answer. They were like: "I went to school."

By popular demand.... From Salon, as duende requested.... For Noelle Bush, a different kind of justice In Florida, drug offenders face hard time -- unless you have money or connections. - - - - - - - - - - - - By Michelle Goldberg Sept. 20, 2002 | It's no secret that rich and poor drug offenders face vastly different kinds of justice. Just as moneyed criminals get Johnnie Cochran while the indigent make do with underpaid public defenders, so are well-heeled substance abusers more likely to end up in posh rehab clinics than in the prisons where poor addicts are warehoused. Sure, there are exceptions -- actor Robert Downey Jr. and baseball star Daryl Strawberry spring to mind -- but they're not the norm. The norm looks more like Noelle Bush, who, despite several drug violations, has so far served only three days in jail. As most of the country knows by now, the daughter of Florida governor Jeb Bush and niece of President George W. Bush was found with crack inside her shoe in the Center for Drug Free Living in Orlando, where she was sent in January after being arrested for trying to buy Xanax with a forged prescription. It was not the first time she's been busted while in rehab -- her three-day jail term in July came after she was caught with a bag of prescription pills that didn't belong to her. Drug-reform advocates certainly don't claim that Noelle Bush has been treated too leniently -- even three days in jail is too harsh, they argue. But, they say, the punishment is even more severe for people without her money or connections. "The question is whether she's being treated in a unique way," says Bruce Bullington, the editor of the Journal of Drug Issues and an associate professor of criminology at Florida State University in Tallahassee. "I think she is." Her fellow patients seem to agree. As the Orlando Sentinel reports, Noelle Bush was reported to the police by a woman who said she was a Center for Drug Free Living client incensed by what she felt was the preferential treatment given the governor's daughter. "One of the women here was caught buying crack cocaine tonight," the caller said in her Sept. 9 conversation with a 911 dispatcher. "And a lot of the women are upset because she's been caught about five times. And we want something done because our children are here, and they just keep letting it slip under the counter and carpet ... They said, you know, because it's basically Noelle Bush ... She does this all the time and she gets out of it because she's the governor's daughter." According to the New York Daily News, one Center for Drug Free Living staffer heeded a supervisor's advice and tore up her written statement about finding the drugs rather than show it to the police. Without the statement, the police didn't have probable cause to arrest Bush. Four employees have been subpoenaed after refusing to cooperate with police, citing the center's privacy policies. Bullington says the employees would be in the right if they provided the same measure of protection to all their clients. Whether they do is hard for outsiders to determine, he says, because individual clinics have a "tremendous amount of latitude" in creating their policies. "If this is something they do for all their guests, then it's perfect," Bullington says. "The vast majority of people who go into treatment fail very quickly, and fail multiple times." But the system isn't designed with that in mind, he says. "Anyone else who they found with a rock of cocaine, they would turn it over to the police ... And the courts will say there's no second chances, or one second chance." Drug-reform advocates are trying hard to create a greater separation between treatment and the criminal justice system so that the police don't get involved in the lapses that most recovering addicts experience. Unfortunately, Bullington says, by allocating more resources to cops and corrections than to treatment and by filling top positions with law-and-order conservatives, Noelle's father is working against the broad application of the kinds of policies that have protected his daughter. "Again, the issue is not that she should be punished more but that other people should be given the same kind of break," Bullington says. "If a normal person was building up a history like that of Noelle Bush, she would be looking at jail time now," says Sydney P. Smith, a defense attorney who spent seven years as a public defender in Dade County. "It's a discretionary call, but if they actually found drugs in someone's room, I think many clinics would report it because it's a crime." A crime that gets many people locked up. Jim McDonough, director of the Florida Office of Drug Control, says there are currently 93 people in state prisons for marijuana possession. According to the Florida Department of Corrections, 20,000 people in fiscal year 2000 were convicted of felony drug possession in the state. A third of them went to jail, and 1,775 served more than a year. Smith mentions one of his clients, a legal immigrant from Nicaragua, who spent six months in jail and was then deported for committing crimes almost exactly like those allegedly committed by Noelle Bush. Such discrepancies are the reason that Smith, who chairs the Florida Campaign for New Drug Policies, is leading the campaign to pass an initiative called the Right to Treatment and Rehabilitation for Nonviolent Drug Offenses, which will likely go before the Florida electorate in 2004. Advocates tried to get it on the ballot this year, but the Florida Supreme Court, which had to approve the measure, took six months to make a decision, and that left advocates too little time to collect the necessary signatures. Modeled on California's Proposition 36, which passed in 2000, the initiative would amend Florida's constitution to mandate that nonviolent first- and second-time drug offenders be either sent to rehabilitation programs or let go. It would also take the likelihood of relapses into account by giving addicts multiple chances at treatment. In effect, it would force the state to treat all defendants the way it's treated Noelle Bush. But led by Gov. Bush, opposition to the measure is fierce. "I can assure you that unless we have a change in leadership in the governor's office and the attorney general's office, prosecutors and law enforcement will mount a very active campaign against the passage of this," says Jerry Blair, president of the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association. When talking about his daughter, the governor is the model of empathy. "The road to recovery is a difficult and long journey for those afflicted with addiction," he said on Sept. 10. But he took a very different tone in August 2001, when arguing against the Right to Treatment initiative. "To suggest that there should be no penalties for continued drug use," he said, "is to stick our head in the sand." To be fair, it's not just the Bush team that is opposing the measure. Many in the rehab community are against it as well, arguing that the threat of jail is necessary to make addicts stick with their program. While drug-law reformers insist that addiction treatment should be removed from the criminal realm altogether, Bruce Hayden, the president of Spectrum Programs, a group of four rehab clinics, says that the threat of jail is "absolutely" necessary. "For the most part the criminal justice system and treatment system work very well together," he says. But how well they work together has a lot to do with how much money defendants have. While first-offense possession of crack in Florida carries a maximum five-year prison sentence (15 years for heroin), most nonviolent defendants can opt for Florida's system of drug courts, designed to divert nonviolent addicts into treatment programs rather than prison. That's what Noelle Bush did. People who complete the treatment emerge with a clean criminal record. It sounds like a great system, and in many ways it is. It's certainly far better than New York's, where mandatory minimum sentences send people away for decades. Randy Credico, a drug reform activist who heads the New York-based William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice, cites the case of a Long Island addict currently serving 12.5 to 25 years for a second-offense crack possession. But there are two problems with Florida's system. McDonough concedes that there aren't enough drug courts to handle everyone eligible for them -- only half who would opt for drug court get in. And those offenders who want treatment instead of prison often have to find their own rehab center -- and a way to pay for it. There are state-subsidized places within the various clinics, but there's a long waiting list for these, so some defendants go to jail for lack of treatment options. The problem has been exacerbated by recent budget cuts, which, according to a January article in the St. Petersburg Times, eliminated more than 600 subsidized beds -- a third of the total. (McDonough says he thinks the article exaggerated the loss of beds.) Those who don't go to treatment don't get their records cleared, Smith says, so if they're arrested again they can be charged as habitual offenders, which carries a doubled prison sentence. "A lot of my clients have to suffer jail because they can't afford the kind of program that a prosecutor would find acceptable," says Smith. "If I've got a client with an unlimited budget, I can find a program for him that is probably going to satisfy everyone." Furthermore, he says, "programs that are designed for paying customers tend to be more accommodating," as Noelle Bush's has been. Smith says that the referendum would put the onus on the state, rather than the defendant, to find a treatment bed for everyone who qualifies for one. Opponents of the Right to Treatment initiative don't really dispute the fact that the system favors people with money. Asked whether the current system discriminates against the poor, Blair says: "In terms of drug treatment, well, it probably discriminates to the extent that the state does not furnish adequate drug treatment programs. It discriminates in the sense that a wealthier defendant might be given the option to voluntarily enter a drug treatment program at his or her own expense in order to avoid the consequences of a criminal offense, and that same drug treatment alternative might not always be available to indigent defendants." Hayden agrees. "I would like to think that money should not determine whether you go to jail or not," he says. "But it does. Are we talking fair? I think we're talking reality." At least, reality Bush style

Unconditional means... This is what "unconditional" means to Hussein:

United Nations, 20 September 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Iraq has repeated its pledge to allow unconditional weapons inspections but also signaled there may be limits to the scope of any new United Nations monitoring mission looking for weapons of mass destruction.

Of course, we knew this already. Only gullible fellows like Hesiod thought that Saddam was "for real" this time. From the same post, Hesiod said: "We should hold Saddam to his statements and push. If he fails to live up to them, then we have grounds for an attack." Email Hesiod and ask him if he's willing to publicly eat crow and acknowledge that we have grounds for an attack.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 9/20/2002 12:07:00 PM | |

Thursday, September 19, 2002

Was I kept too clean? I developed asthma after I came to the United States. This article rehashes the idea that excessive hygiene is causing the increase in asthma rates. I'm not too convinced though, seems like it's more correlation than causation.

Oh God! A survey on American congregations just came out. Larry Witham comments:
Utah, with its large Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints membership, for the second decade running had the highest rate of church affiliation at 74.7 percent. The District of Columbia is close behind with 73 percent. By comparison, adherence in Imbler is 31 percent, and it is 33 percent in Washington.
No big surprise, the Pacific Northwest is God's country, but for some reason people don't reciprocate [1]. Utah and D.C. though are very different regions, no? I grew up with Mormons in eastern Imbler, nice people. But one of my roommates was being offered $100,000 straight out of college to take a job in Salt Lake City a few years ago (this isn't San Francisco, the $100,000 would have gone real far!) because so few techies wanted to move their (so he told me-I know he was not a genius programmer or anything, he was good at what he did, but his skill set at the time was a bit narrow). [1] Not that there aren't evangelicals and Christians around, atheists and agnostics simply aren't that unusual. My governor doesn't specify his religious affiliation, if any, for instance. No big deal. And just because one of out five people are not religous, it doesn't mean that society is collapsing and there is no morality, like in D.C. for instance.

Star-trek inventions Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Star Trek Inventions Joe Katzman says Star-Trek (and sci-fi in general) is responsible for the creative genesis of more cool inventions than it's given credit for.. First there was anti-gravity, then there was warp drive (well, ok, not yet an invention, but getting serious attention). Now there's reports of transparent aluminum, which lets in 50% of the light striking the surface, yet three-times stronger than an equivalent thickness of steel! More like translucent aluminum, if you ask me. But it's eerie how closely this mirrors the script from ST-IV, where a grinning Scotty explains the properties of transparent aluminum to a bemused plant engineer! Joe left out medical tricorders, possibly the single most ubiquitous device on ST, except perhaps for phasors... As it turns out, we are much closer to having a whole range of non-invasive diagnostic instrumentation than we think...

Judge for yourself Do Europeans look different than white Americans? Are American girls better looking? Go check out the S.I. Swimsuit page and tell us what you think....

Jay-Walking Just watched Jay-Walking on the Jay Leno Show. Three teachers were asked some basic history facts. They didn't know (this is what I remember them not remembering): -Who gave the Gettysburg address? (didn't know) -Who was Paul Revere warning the Americans about? (the Confederates) -Who did the Confederates fight? (either the north or the south-she also thought the Confederates won!) This a paraphrase of a dialogue: Jay: Who came first, the Pilgrims or Columbus? Teacher: You tell me (snide tone) Jay: Columbus? Teacher: You're wrong, the Pilgrims (haughty tone) [Jay smirks] Jay: When did the first Thanksgiving occur? Teacher: 1400s (at least she's consistently wrong) Anyhow, the teachers were all pretty embarrassing. Not saying all teachers are like this, but I'm sure you've all had awkward moments with teachers back in high school or grade school that didn't know what they were talking about. Once you get to college and see who enrolls in the Education program, you understand why.... Update: Tony comes to the defense of teachers. Here's a suggestion, fire 1/3 of teachers and increase the pay for the rest. Of course, you'll have a generation of crappy overpaid teachers, but new teachers will be smarter since they'll be attracted to the higher pay.

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

To coin a phrase After reading SDB's latest, I see that he's searching for a word:

I am having a difficult time coming up with a pithy term for our enemy. It's hard. It isn't really greater Arabia. It certainly isn't Islam. Islamic fundamentalism is a symptom of it, not the core. Arab nationalism and imperialism is also a symptom of it, not the core. Each of those can and does exist without the other, but they're both expressions of the real enemy we face, something deeper than that. ... David Mercer suggests the term Imperialist Islam. I don't know; it still doesn't seem right, because a lot of those within the collective enemy are not imperialistic.

If not "Imperial Islam" about ImperiaIslam ? Has a nice ring to it ;)

posted by godlesscapitalist | 9/18/2002 08:03:00 PM | |

Crime and Punishment Rachel Lucas is angry that the defense attorneys for convicted child rapist David Westerfield knew that he was guilty before the trial started, yet attempted to get him off the hook anyway by smearing the parents of the victim. We know that the defense knew of Westerfield's guilt beforehand both because of the closing defense statement (in which Westerfield was said to be "a good man except for one three day weekend of terror") and because the defense attempted to negotiate a plea bargain in which Westerfield would lead the police to Danielle's body . Obviously, had Westerfield been wrongfully released, it would be a travesty of justice. We should realize that the public's interest is in seeing justice served, not in defending a patently guilty criminal or convicting a falsely accused innocent. Thus, why not pass symmetric laws: 1) If the defense knows of evidence that proves the defendant's guilt, the defense must report said evidence to the judge and the prosecution under penalty of perjury and disbarment. 2) If the prosecution knows of evidence that exonerates the defendant, the prosecution must report said evidence to the judge and the defense under penalty of perjury and disbarment. Perhaps Professors Reynolds and Volokh can remark on the practicality/constitutionality of these laws, but at first glance I can't see anything inappropriate about them. In both cases justice will be served.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 9/18/2002 07:27:00 PM | |

Rall hits a new low Ted Rall manages to go three paragraphs without ranting about a stolen election, and he actually says stuff I agree with :

Consider Afghanistan. As of mid-June U.S. forces in Operation Enduring Freedom had only lost 30 soldiers--16 of whom died in helicopter and other accidents. Casualties were also amazingly low during the first Gulf War--only 148 troops were killed in combat. In both conflicts enemy were astronomical by comparison. At least 10,000 Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters died in Afghanistan. We killed between 100,000 and 400,000 Iraqi troops in the Gulf War. This 600-to-1 death differential is explained by one word: bombs. The advent of mass bombing, during World War II, revolutionized warfare. Production plants and other industrial targets hundreds of miles behind enemy lines suddenly became vulnerable to attack. But the primary purpose of bombing was to "demoralize" the enemy by targeting civilians and combatants alike. The more bombs you drop, the fewer soldiers you lose. The 1975 fall of Saigon ended our century-long military winning streak, yet even this failed undertaking proved the efficacy of bombing: just over 58,000 American troops died in Vietnam, 47,000 in combat. Compare this appalling-enough figure to conservative estimates of soldiers lost by our opponents: at least 1.1 million. Additionally U.S. forces killed some 2 to 3 million Vietnamese civilians. Although the U.S. deployed 3.1 million men in Vietnam, 98 percent came home alive. Bombs--8 million tons of them, four times as many as used during all of World War II--made the difference.

Of course, he then goes on to advocate banning bombing ...with perhaps the most ridiculous argument I've ever heard from an antiwar writer:

Ultimately, bombs make war too easy. Leaders are less likely to engage in military aggression if going to war will cost the lives of their own people. The risk of large-scale loss is a big political gamble. By their nature, bombs make "enemy" lives cheap and "your" lives expensive. We see this phenomenon as Americans discuss attacking Iraq; sure, we're willing to kill thousands of Iraqis, but only if we lose very few Americans in the process. It's all too cold and painless. Of course nations should use every available tool to protect the safety of their military personnel when they send them into battle. But bombs, like land mines and mustard gas, shouldn't be counted among the available tools.

Yes, that's right - you read it correctly. Ted Rall is willing to sacrifice the lives of American soldiers because he doesn't like the efficiency of the American war machine. Rall doesn't like the fact that our advanced technology means we can fight clean conventional wars, with minimum damage to American soldiers, because such wars will encourage "imperialism". [1]The fact that our advanced technology means we can surgically kill enemy combatants and minimize civilian casualties goes unremarked, though Rall has whinged about imprecise bombing before. The fact that the other side is unlikely to unilaterally disarm likewise goes unnoticed. It's actually refreshing to see such a naked statement of the left wing "leveling" instinct. Any inequality must be unjust, even the military advantage that American troops have over Iraqi troops. Perhaps Rall will soon begin agitation for the reinstatement of the draft, on the grounds that it too would force Americans to think twice about preemptive strikes lest they pay a blood price. [1] Such a charge was far more understandable during the Cold War, when America actually did use military force to control the destiny of foreign lands in its battle against the USSR. However, in the post Cold War era, America's exercise of military power has largely been on the side of humanitarian interests and anti-terrorism missions. You can quibble about the US's motives, but you can't mount a serious defence of the regimes that the US has been bombing post 1991. In other words - we've only been hitting the bad guys.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 9/18/2002 06:14:00 AM | |

War...Now...Hurry... Very amusing.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 9/18/2002 05:49:00 AM | |

Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Joining fragmented ecosystems Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Joining fragmented ecosystems Wildlife corridoors benefit fragmented ecosystems, according to this large-scale study.
The researchers also tested the effect corridors had on seed dispersal by birds. After marking thousands of seeds in the central patch with a sticky powder visible under florescent light, the scientists analyzed bird droppings containing ingested seeds to track the animals' travels. According to the report, nearly 20 percent more florescent fecal samples were collected in connected patches than in isolated ones, indicating that the corridors facilitate the birds' movement.
In other words, follow the trail of shit, and soon you will find the elephant (an old, wise and utterly meaningless Masai saying, I think!) This brings to my mind something deer hunters have been doing for a while. Knowing that deer, like humans, are lazy and will use man-made corridoors and paths readily, hunter-conservationists who manage hunting properties have been known to create trails connecting previously fragmented agricultural lands and forests. The result, a boom in whitetail deer populations that in most states, even liberal bag limits and extended hunting seasons have not been able to manage. This is also why whitetails thrive in suburban America. To whitetail deer, a suburban subdivision is essentially a collection of well-connected (and tasty) gardens. Backyards connect to each other, and well-kept trails connect to conservatories and nearby agricultural land or public forests. This ease of egress provides whitetails with the unparalleled opportunity to broaden their range into previously inaccessible habitats. There is a whole world of mystery that lives in an almost parallel universe to ours, and to which we pay little or no attention. Most times, our only interaction with this world is the trail of roadkill we leave behind on our way to work. Pity, that...

On interracial marriage (or relations) Steve Sailer has an article up on this issue. In particular, check out this paragraph:
It's at least arguable that the mixing of various European nationalities that has been going on in America for generations, especially since the immigration cutoff of 1924, has been more important than the much more limited mixing of different continental-scale races that began a few decades ago. When you peer closely enough, white Americans just don't look that much like Europeans anymore, apparently due to genetic blending among white Americans.
So true! A few years ago, I remember the supermodel Vendala telling Conan O'Brien how diverse Americans were physically. She complained that all women in Sweden looked like her (to which Conan quipped that he had an urge to move to Sweden!).

Ruthless... Gweilodiaries references this hilarious Post article on Clinton's neverending search for interns:

Interns help with research, letter writing, planning meetings and execution, the logistics of Clinton's appearances and administrative tasks. Although the young people are expected to work 20 to 40 hours a week for no pay, the jobs have already been snapped up. A woman who answered the phone at the Clinton's office said, "I believe those positions have been filled."

The reporter has a sense of humor...took me a second to pick up the double entendre...

posted by godlesscapitalist | 9/17/2002 05:27:00 AM | |

Half Baked Analysis Superficial analysis at

While the Karzai government is a vast improvement over its Taliban predecessors and communist stooges running the country two decades ago, it has only a tenuous grip on power. It lacks control over the Afghan countryside and has only a minimal hold over its own capital. Indeed, Russian observers have noted that the United States is at roughly the same stage where they were in 1981, supporting a weak central government, faced with a bubbling opposition. A coalition is now building, made up of Taliban remnants, Al Qaeda fighters, and extremist Pashtuns attached to the former warlord and radical Islamist Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. In a pointed reference to the war against the Soviets, they have entitled themselves ''the Sons of the Mujahideen,'' and are adapting many of the same tactics that eventually wore down the Red Army.

There's one huge point that these guys are missing: there is no equivalent of the US supplying the Mujahideen with Stinger missiles and intelligence. The original Mujahideen would *never* have beaten the Soviets without US assistance, and neither will these Sons...

posted by godlesscapitalist | 9/17/2002 02:12:00 AM | |

Monday, September 16, 2002

I said it first! Steven Pinker "rips off" my Galileo analogy in the NY Times...

"It's conceivable that if you say anything is innate, people will say you are racist, but the climate has changed,"... Despite his confidence, Dr. Pinker is explicitly trying to set off an avalanche. He compares the overthrow of the blank slate view to another scientific revolution with fraught moral consequences, that of Galileo's rejection of the church's ideas about astronomy. "We are now living, I think, through a similar transition," he writes, because the blank slate, like the medieval church's tidy hierarchy of the cosmos, is "a doctrine that is widely embraced as a rationale for meaning and morality and that is under assault from the sciences of the day."

Ah well - blank slate, axiom of difference really. I'm happy as it is that the tide is turning in the media, as discoveries in genetics are rolling back the lies of the radical egalitarians. Unlike the rest of the Times' science reporters, Nick Wade definitely knows the score on human biodiversity and is working to get the truth out.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 9/16/2002 11:55:00 PM | |

Why Jews drink, but don't get drunk (OK, grain of salt) Steve Sailer pointed me to this article about Jewish resistance to alcoholism. Here's an excerpt:
The mutation, called ADH2*2, is involved in the way the body breaks down alcohol in the bloodstream. Scientists are unsure exactly how it protects against alcoholism, but it is thought to increase levels of the toxic chemical acetaldehyde - a by-product of alcohol metabolism. At high levels, acetaldehyde causes headaches, nausea and flushing. Almost all white Europeans lack the ADH2*2 variation and so produce less of the by-product. Thus drinking tends to be more pleasurable, increasing the risks of alcoholism.
Of course, one can figure out why those of us interested in race differences might have an interest in genes like this...but wait, many behaviors are too complex to find any causal link to gene a, b, c, d.... Well, at least now.

A clarification of my position A friend brought to my attention that one of our links might have a link to an unsavory site. The site in question that I linked to has some good information. I expect our readers to be able to distinguish wheat from chaff. In the end, we are all a world wide web and connected somehow. A lot of people link to us courageously even though they might not agree with much of what we say-especially when it comes to race. We believe that we moot hard truths that need to be aired sooner than later, but we understand that we are in a minority position. Those who disagree with our position but link to us in the spirit of dialogue and free inquiry deserve our thanks. So to all of you out there, from me to you, thanks! You know who you are. Back to the initial point though, obviously I can't go through every link and check it for stuff beyond the pale of discourse down to the last page. I personally find violence beyond the pale of discourse and wouldn't link to any site advocating it. Also, I don't really like to spread bogus misinformation. But obviously other sites can link to who they may, and their opinions of any given site might be different. The area that we often veer into, race differences, is often filled with emotion, and yes, hatred. We want to stick our necks out and speak a bit more rationally about these issues. On the other hand, there are sites with political agendas that we might disagree with that do present some ideas that have merit on their own. The Nazis believed in the importance of genetics. And so do we. I've already spoken at length why we aren't Nazis, just as Left-liberals aren't Communists. Similarly, just because we share points of intersection with other sites, especially when it comes to factual issues that are generally not aired in mainstream avenues due to "political correctness," does not imply we endorse their whole program or who they may associate with. In the end, we are responsible for our acquaintances, but not our acquaintances' acquaintances. And of course, I think Joel is far more likely to be hunted down and shot in the back by someone paid by the RIAA and MPAA. May the angel of the lord watch your back my brother....

Libel and bloggers Check it out.

Paleocon Takedown There's a nice takedown of Pat Buchanan's latest by Chris Johnson at Midwest Conservative Journal. I have to say that I expected more sympathy for the paleocon position from America's heartland (just as I expect more sympathy for the neocon position from the coasts), but Johnson plays against type. A sample:

Now look to Iran. With Americans occupying Iraq, Iran is completely surrounded: Americans and Turks to the west, U.S. power in the Gulf and Arabian Sea to the south, in Afghanistan to the east and in the old Soviet republics to the north. U.S. warplanes will be positioned to interdict any flights to Lebanon to support Hezbollah. So what's the downside? Hezbollah kills innocent people, Pat. I would think anything that hurts them is a good thing. Iraq is the key to the Middle East. As long as we occupy Iraq, we are the hegemonic power in the region. And after we occupy it, a window of opportunity will open – to attack Syria and Iran before they acquire weapons of mass destruction. Fine with me. I'm of the opinion that two states who don't like us and who quite openly support terrorism shouldn't have weapons of mass destruction at all. But if you're OK with Iran having nukes or chemical weapons... No wonder Ariel Sharon and his Amen Corner are exhilarated. They see America's war on Iraq as killing off one enemy and giving Israel freedom to deal summarily with two more: Hezbollah and the Palestinians. Two jumps ahead of us, the Israelis are already talking up the need for us to deal with Libya, as well. Took you long enough to work them in. Again, Pat, I can't for the life of me see a downside here. Israel seems to be close to neutralizing Hamas and other such Palestinian murderers well before we've even begun with Iraq. If our enterprise helps them take out Hezbollah, so much the better.

This whole exchange reminds me of one thing I really can't understand about the paleocons - the sympathy for the Arab world. Buchanan, for example, shows a bizarre concern for the welfare of Hezbollah and a curious tranquility on the question of a nuclear-powered Saddam Hussein. Many of the paleocons at AntiWar have displayed similar attitudes. I have some honest questions for the paleocons: Why do you think that dictatorships can be trusted with nuclear weapons? Why do you think an alliance with the Arab/Muslim world as it currently stands is in our long term interests? Do you really think that Israel is less of an ally than Saudi Arabia or Syria?

posted by godlesscapitalist | 9/16/2002 03:32:00 AM | |

Sunday, September 15, 2002

Some new links.... I just added Racial Myths and Refuting Racial Myths as well as Future Pundit last week. The last site has some links to the author's other blogs-I especially recommend Techie Pundit, but I don't know if most of our readers would enjoy rants against Java as much as I would (I like Java by the way, but I'm open minded). The first two sites get into the minutiae of race classification that became rather unpopular by the 1960s. I am a bit worn out by debates on whether "Catherine Zeta-Jones is a Paleo-Atlantid or a Med/Nordic mix." One of the background assumptions that is made seems to be that pure races mixed with each other to produce sub-races [1]. This draws on C. S. Coon's proto-multiregionalist ideas that individual human races (I believe he counted five) entered sapience at different times and locales. This methodology seems too simple, and the more humble and fuzzy style of talking about lineages and haplotypes (with Refuting Racial Myths does plenty of-but this doesn't come up on his message board too much) seems to be more reflective of our present state of knowledge. Also, though I think a case can be made that major racial groupings like Caucasoids and Negroids (whites and blacks) have been relatively isolated from each other because of the Sahara, but separating different white racial groups like Nordics, Alpines and Mediterraneans in my opinion is often an exercise in storytelling or creative writing. There are some populations like the Basques or Sardinians that are special and a people set apart, but it seems most Europeans are so mixed, and the clines are so smoothly graded, that these classifications are artificial abstractions. In any case, check out the sites though. Just don't cross any of the message board members that take the questions of Catherine Zeta-Jones' racial heritage seriously (personally, I just think she's hot). So I have two questions for you-what race is Catherine? And why is this image at

[1] The two race sites have a dispute over whether southern Europeans or northern Europeans are "racially mixed," especially non-European mixture. Racial Myths has a somewhat counter-intuitive position that northern Europeans are just as racially mixed as southern Europeans. Looking at a map of Europe, this seems peculiar. Pulsing population movements out of the north of Africa or the Levant would almost certainly wash over southern Europe first, and dissipate over the Alps as native populations picked up the new technologies as culture finally out-ran genetics. But certainly there were movements in the north as well, Britain was settled by Celts, Romans, who brought Sarmatian mercenaries and citizen soldiers from every corner of the empire, and later the Germans came over the waters....

Balkan Sectarianism Stephen Schwartz, a convert to Sufi Islam, documents the tensions between the relatively liberal Islam dominant in the south Slav and Albanian lands and the incursion of more conservative Arab forms after the recent wars. Here is a representative sample:
Yet the United States has not acknowledged the goodwill it did create in the Balkans. As it looks forward to the next stages in the "war on terror," it would do well to make the most of the solidarity shown by Balkan Muslims generally, and Albanians in particular. The answer to Usama bin Ladin is not the kind of Islam practiced in the Arab world, with its strong streak of intolerance for difference. It is certainly not a version of Wahhabism as exported by Saudi Arabia-a doctrine that is infected with the germ of terrorist extremism. It is the sort of tolerant Islam that is practiced in the Balkans, and whose practitioners today feel themselves closer to the United States than to their benighted Arab "brethren." This is an asset the United States would do well to nurture and employ. In the post–September 11 world, you never know when you might need a few good Muslims.
Now, first I'd like to say that I have reservations toward the intervention in Kosovo, and had them at the time. But the apathy that Schwartz asserts characterizes Arabs and their attitude toward persecution of Muslims by their Christian neighbors, and contrasts with the concern of the Turks or Iranians, to me is illustrative of the intense parochialism of the Arab world. I've noted how it seems the Arab world didn't seem much concerned with the massacres in Gujarat of thousands of Muslims. Now here comes this article about the Arab apathy (and Schwartz's narrative makes clear there was even some sympathy or support for Serbs from some Arab regimes) toward European Muslims. It seems from my vantage point as a non-Arab ex-Muslim, who's patrilineal line has been Muslim 600 years, Arabs look to non-Arab Muslims only as foot-soldiers in their own wars and causes [1]. But when it comes to other groups, they have the attitudes and contempt of their ancestors toward the malwalis, the converted or client peoples [2]. Fundamentalists want to recreate the Caliphate, that is what Osama wants to do, and Saddam Hussein styles himself a latter day Caliph. Do other Muslims remember the history of the Caliphate? The Umayyad dynasty, that ruled from circa 650-750 was characterized by an strict ethnic hierarchy. The Muslim Arabs on top, the malwalis in the middle, and the dhimmis (subject non-Muslim peoples) at the bottom. The Abassid revolt and dynasty has been often interpreted as the victory of the malwalis against what some Islamic historians termed "The Arab Kingdom" (The Umayyads). But though the Abassids adopted many of the modes and methods of the Persian state, it was still an Arab polity ruling over a vast non-Arab populace [3]. Today in the oil-rich Arab states many non-Arab Muslims do the day to day work of a productive society [4]. These workers are not citizens, and are viewed with contempt by their Arab Muslim brothers. Arabs are born to be princes of Islam. Non-Arab Muslims should never forget that, but they nevertheless do. I remember hearing that Osama was telling Mullah Omar that the latter might be the new Caliph, but I think we all know that the Arab masses would not follow an illiterate Pathan [5]. Osama himself was to be the Caliph, over Arab, malwali and dhimmi. [1] I would give even odds that this is made up, but nevertheless, my grandfather was the head of the local ulema and was one of the men who you hear about memorizing the Koran. [2] Most "Arabs" are of course the descendents of malwalis, but then most Muslim fundamentalists in South Asia that heap scorn on Hindus are the descendents of Hindus (as I am). [3] The Abassid period was the time of Arabization of the Aramaic, Syriac and Coptic speaking regions that are now the core of Araby. [4] Of course, they are not looked with as much scorn as the Christian Filipinos who have even less value in their eyes. A Saudi once told me that Bangladeshis were at least clean, unlike the Filipinos. [5] A Punjabi once told me that if Arabic was the language of heaven, Pathan was no doubt the language of hell.

Elections in Kashmir Kashmir shows that human beings-and international relations-have little to do with rational self-interest. The Indian army squats in a valley that is 95% Muslim while militants periodically infiltrate the predominantly Hindu region of Jammu and kill people. India rigs elections and militants threaten people that don't cooperate. This story from The New York Times highlights the plight of the Kashmiris. My personal solution for Kashmir has been that India unilaterally quit the valley and defend Hindu Jammu and Buddhist Ladakh from elevated strong points. These are regions that want to stay with India in any case. Pakistan would probably role in, but I suspect the Kashmiris of the Vale of Srinigar would prefer the boot of the Pakistani autocracy to the uncircumcised rule of India. Of course, when I've mooted this position publicly in forums, both Pakistanis and Kashmiris have descended upon me, and found a point to agree upon, that what I'm proposing is something that is totally idiotic. Oh well. Here is a excerpt:
Even as separatist leaders have quietly begun to concede that independence is an impossible goal, weary Kashmiris, who feel battered by both sides, say that is all they want. "We want freedom, freedom, not India, not Pakistan," said Abdul Ghani Mir, a resident of Mr. Sofi's Handwara constituency.
Who cares what the people want in the game of princes and presidents.

Let this be the age of Hard Liberalism Catallaxy Files points me to this excellent article by Pamela Boone defending the kind of liberalism I believe I espouse. Here is the culmination....
Last October in Britain's Guardian newspaper, columnist Polly Toynbee castigated the "limp liberals" who fail to protect their most profound values. Hard liberals, she said, hold basic human rights to be non-negotiable and worth fighting for. They do not respect the culture of others when it comes to breaching human rights - or women's rights, which are the same thing. Limp liberals, she said, are always on the side of peace because it is more morally comfortable.

Archaeology and genetics A reader sent me this fascinating release on the convergence of archaeology and genetics. It gets me to thinking-after 1800 intellectual disciplines began to fragment and specialize (natural philosophy became physics, chemistry and biology for instance). Today, we're still fragmented and highly specialized, but some disciplines are seizing upon the methods of another to gain insight into their fields (paleoanthropology and molecular biology are earlier variants of this).

Far away in in darkest Africa in 1994 From a New York Times Magazine article some excerpts....
Rose told me that until early July, when the genocide ended, she was led by Interahamwe to witness atrocity after atrocity. She said that even though the Interahamwe's overarching objective was to kill, the men seemed particularly obsessed by what they did to women's bodies. ''I saw them rape two girls with spears then burn their pubic hair,'' she said. ''Then they took me to another spot where a lady was giving birth. The baby was halfway out. They speared it.'' All the while, Rose repeatedly heard the soldiers say, ''We are doing what was ordered by Pauline Nyiramasuhuko.'' .... ''The intention in Rwanda was an abstraction: to kill without killing,'' said Arbia, the tribunal prosecutor. She described the case of a 45-year-old Rwandan woman who was raped by her 12-year-old son -- with Interahamwe holding a hatchet to his throat -- in front of her husband, while their five other young children were forced to hold open her thighs. ''The offense against an individual woman becomes an offense against the family,'' Arbia said, ''which becomes an offense against the country, and so, by deduction, against humanity.''

token white guy Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

token white guy OK, I'm back. I've spent most of the last month moving from Seattle to SoCal, getting settled in, procuring internet access, studying math, and so on. What I've discovered is that it's nearly impossible [for me] to blog unless I read a couple of hours worth of news every day. And recently I simply haven't had the time to read much news. I'm hoping that will change starting now. -- My love for evolutionary psychology really started when I read Steve Pinker's How the Mind Works, and ever since I've been a big fan. The NYT magazine has a brief interview with Pinker regarding his new book, The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature:
If biological processes are all, then it's hardly outrageous to claim that individuals are predisposed to having greater or lesser intelligence. Do you worry about becoming co-opted by the ''Bell Curve''-oisie? I think that would be a big leap. Rather than constructing a bomb, I hope the book is about how to defuse it. The explosiveness comes from a fear that certain empirical possibilities open the door to social and political evils. That's not the case. We can have an honest science of human nature without a Pandora's box of negative consequences. Anyone who's read the book can't attack it by saying, ''If we accept what you're saying about human nature, then all hell will break loose.'' The point of the book is that all hell won't break loose.
It's unclear (especially based on the preceding quote) whether Pinker's support for a "human nature" extends to support for human biodiversity. I guess I'll have to read the book to find out.

Saturday, September 14, 2002

Gulf War 2 Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Gulf War 2 A quick roundup of the important Iraq news today. USA Today has some cheering poll results:

Two-thirds of Americans say they support using military force against Iraq, says a new poll, even though most people think taking that step will cause serious problems among other Arabs. The Newsweek poll released Saturday suggests that President Bush has bolstered support for that approach and for his own performance in office with recent speeches about his plans in Iraq. Bush's job approval was at 70%, up from 61% in late August in this poll.

Even though I'm not a Bush partisan by any means, I give Bush a lot of credit for the brilliant piece of Judo he pulled on Thursday. Those poll numbers are high because Bush did something intelligent, not because someone attacked us, and I have to give credit where credit is due. Bush continued striking the right note when he clarified the US's position on UN approval here:

"The UN will either be able to function as a peacekeeping body as we head into the 21st century, or it will be irrelevant. And that's what we're about to find out," Bush said Saturday. He added: "Make no mistake about it. If we have to deal with the problem, we'll deal with it."

It seems that the US probably won't have to go it alone, though, as the UN has recognized that it's irrelevant if it can't enforce it's own resolutions:

The prize of winning full United Nations backing for swift military action against Saddam Hussein's Iraq is almost within the grasp of Tony Blair and George W Bush. Seventy-two hours of unrelenting diplomatic pressure since the US president's address to the UN general assembly last Thursday has resulted in almost unprecedented fast-track unanimity within the 15-nation Security Council. With the Iraqi regime showing no sign of allowing unconditional access to weapons inspectors regardless of the hardline language expected in a new Security Council resolution, the prospect is now war: war in the same country and against the same dictator that Bush's father, also the US president, engaged in back in 1990. The uncertainty on Tuesday, when Blair addressed the TUC in Blackpool, has all but disappeared with the UN appearing to fall behind the Bush-Blair policy of giving Saddam no way out this time.

What I find funniest about this whole thing is that a lot of the guys who condemned Bush for unilateralism are either strangely silent now or else contorting themselves into knots to somehow condemn their former friend, the UN. Their gyrations are irrelevant in any's time for Gulf War 2. Looks like Derbyshire will have to eat his words...

posted by godlesscapitalist | 9/14/2002 05:57:00 PM | |

Friday, September 13, 2002

Where hath the token gone? Our token-white-guy on the blog will be back soon. He promised. In addition, Kazaa and Morpheus face grevious danger.... Where have you gone, Joel Grus?

The Sparrow Hawk speaks Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

The Sparrow Hawk speaks I'm much more comfortable speaking about the past than the present. The present is complicated, and people actually care about it. People don't psychoanalyze me to death over my perspective on why the Roman Republic fell. This post from WJ Phillips intrigues me:
Razib- I sense in much of your and your colleagues' more intemperate and Manichaean pronouncements a feeling that you have to overcompensate (110% American!) because you or your family burned their boats to become US citizens. The phenomenon of the marginal person becoming superpatriotic is all too familiar: Hitler the Austrian as echt Deutsch, Stalin the Georgian lauding all things Russian, even De Valera the Spanish American emerging as an Irish chieftain. I'm not suggesting you are about to seize power and rule as a totalitarian dictator, but please don't keep flogging this "We are right, they are evil maniacs/primitive wackos" line. It doesn't sit well with the moral claim of Americanism to be distinguished from other nations by its magnanimity (in the literal sense of the word), and it doesn't impress the rest of us on the right-hand shore of Western Civ. Like it or not, a degree of what is grandly called moral equivalence- what we in poor old decadent socialistic Blighty call seeing things from the other fellow's point of view- is essential even on the pragmatic grounds of knowing thine enemy
Did you read the article that I posted from Salon? Again, let me ask, did you read the article!?!?!?! This is from Salon, not the National Review! I never said America was paradise. Hell no! But compared to what is depicted in the media out there-which might be an American conspiracy against the Arabs, yes true.... A little personal history. Until 9/11 I was a mild isolationist. Until the age of 21, I had a Green Card and only applied for citizenship because my father threatened to not pay my tuition that term. I am not a militarist. I abhor a militaristic society, because it is generally a threat to liberty. It is liberty that I love above all principles. It is within the context of liberty that free inquiry and dialogue can occur. Western civilization is now a social conversation. Islamic civilization is a social edict, get it? I'm not a patriot, I'm a libertariot. America and liberty just happen to go together compared to the sorry alternatives out there (yeah, I'm looking to the right-hand side of the West). Let me be on the record on this question: though I'm sad about all the injustice in the world, I would let them be if America could stay the proud and free republic it is (was?). I'm not a Derbyshirean pessimist about European democracies, but they and other European-derived nations too often say things like "We respect free speech, but we don't worship it." Fuck that. Liberty, a means to an end, or the end? I am not a big believer in the naive pronouncements of the "proposition nation." But here on the left-hand side of Western civilization, it is plausible to be colored and say that one is American. Is it plausible to say that one is colored and German or French? I wish it were, but it seems like those on the right-hand side, even the British, still hew strongly to blood. For all our religious conservatism, which I'm not a big fan of, we have no established church. We might think the Scientologists are weird wacks, but we don't suppress them as a cult. We might have political correctness, but we're less schizophrenic than the Europeans, with their tears for black Americans on death row and love for interracial marriage, but surprising right-wing nationalistic political feeling. We don't sue Yahoo for selling Nazi related stuff - what the hell do we have to do with Nazis anyway? We didn't spawn them, we didn't collaborate, and we didn't appease them. Look, I'll stop dumping on Europe. I have relatives in England and Germany. They're successful professionals generally. But I get the impression they'll never feel English or German. My dad is a card-carrying Democrat because of his general socialist political beliefs-he's still right-wing on moral issues. He's active in his homeowners association and one of my mom's best friend's in a black woman named "LeShande." It could just be them, perhaps their fellow citizens love them more than other colored people from foreign shores, I don't know. But I have been to Bangladesh (visited after I left), and I'm hell as glad I live in this country. I like America the way it is (anything could be better of course) and I don't want it to change to accommodate the teeming masses of the Third World. Liberty. Sexual and political freedom. Religious diversity. The right to bear arms. The right to hate your government but love your country. So many things that I take for granted. So many things that I didn't think about when I was an isolationist. But 9/11 changed that. I have an uncle, he's got a goat-beard and he's a scary fucking Muslim fundamentalist. He's a nuisance to most of my family, bitching at the women to cover-up and berating their husbands for letting them walk around by themselves. We're not an island anymore, and yeah, I'd take up arms to keep people like my uncle from getting a toe-hold in this new world. Islamic theocracies, Latin American oligarchies and Asian despotisms could rot for all I care, while their best and the brightest could come to the United States and flourish. But now I feel that we can't be a splendid island in the midst of the barbarity. We have to take it to them. I thought I'd left that crap behind, but now it's flying across the ocean and crashing into buildings. Stuff like the Salon article makes me sad. I mean, what planet do these people live on? I even see it in my own family (who are not Arabs, but Muslims). They sometimes see American conspiracy in anything that smacks of danger to the Islamic world. I don't know. Where does it come from? It's a Judeo-American conspiracy, yeah, computer chips in Muslim brains that make them hate America, so it's not their fault. All I know is that I don't want us to become like the European countries that have insidious fundamentalist infections lurking in their midsts. If I do have a daughter, I sure as hell don't want her to have ward off the glare of some flat-faced slattern in a burqua because she thinks my daughter is "loose" [1]. I sure as hell don't want one of my sons being attracted to some Islamo-Fascist cult and getting it into his head that his sister is dishonoring the family. What America is, what the West is, is special. The Rights of Man. The Rights of Woman. The Right to Believe. The Right to be free to be. Would you pick up a gun for that? Come on. Be honest. Look at yourself, hell if you're wearing a grimy t-shirt and have a pony-tail, how many fatwas have you already broken? I'll be straight. I don't give a damn about Arab democracies or Pakistani politics. I care about America. What we believe, we believe is best for our country. And yes, I'm sorry, but I think this country is the last best hope for liberty. That's my foundational belief, my axiom, my faith. You can disagree, but you know where I stand, you know where the vitriol comes from. I come from a land with little liberty, now that I've won it - by the grace of God, by my father's brains or by sheer dumb luck - I'm not going to watch to slide into the vast ocean of despotic human history. I was an isolationist...I thought the rest of the world could go to hell, but we'd float to safety on life-boat of liberty. I was stupid. I was wrong. Any of you have the guts to admit the same of yourselves? No, you're way more thoughtful and well-read no doubt. Yeah. P.S. Being raised between two cultures and seeing bizarro Islam and how it makes you bend your will toward some code of laws thought up by bedouins shooting the shit in some tent in the middle of no-where, I might have some idea of what terror awaits us if we relax our guard a little better than most. Also, I don't think thoughtful doves are evil. We all have contributions to make, and some of the extreme hawks are getting way too carried away. I don't want to save the world, just a preserve a piece of this world for liberty's sons and daughters. If my rhetoric or sentiment seems a bit overwrought, it's not out of hate but out of fear for what we might lose, love for the freedoms I have. Oh, and for those who are curious toward my leanings, I took the "Revolution" tests over the past week. Five times I was:

What revolution are You?
Made by altern_active
And once the:

What revolution are You?
Made by altern_active
[1] I will also threaten to beat the shit out of any young man who wants to touch my daughter, but I'll only threaten. That's the American way. In the end, she's free to make her own decisions, even if it does give her old man a heart attack. Godless adds: If Razib's motivations are born of a fiery passion for liberty, mine are born of a coldly calculating interest in wealth and knowledge. Unlike Razib, I was not an isolationist before 9/11. But I was not much of a patriot. My interests were in science, and I felt that my work could (in principle) be done anywhere. I imagined mathematics and science to be eternal and abstract, free of national boundaries and the petty quibbles of man. America was the best place in the world to pursue my work, but I had no particular passion for the country or the flag. All that changed when I realized that people were willing to kill me simply because I was an American citizen. It was something of a rude shock for me to realize that my work did not happen in a vaccum; yes, I could move to Singapore or Europe or India to pursue my research, but would another nation be ready to defend the liberties I take for granted? Would another nation defend my right to think, to learn, to listen, and to create? I think not. Europe's core is rotten - it is being eaten from within. Russia is yet weak, Japan is tottering on the brink of financial ruin, and in any case neither country has much of a record of defending liberal democracy. America is the world's only hope against the barbarism of radical Islam and the ruthlessness of an ascendant China, and if America falls, so too does science as I know it.

It's on Aziz says what I (and everyone else) predicted he would say.

Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz on Friday rejected the unconditional return of U.N. arms inspectors as demanded by Washington, saying the move would not avert U.S. military designs on Baghdad. "We do not accept President Bush's conditions," Aziz told the Dubai-based Arab satellite television station MBC in an interview being shown at 1500 GMT, footage of which was seen in advance by Reuters. "The return of inspectors without conditions will not solve the problem...we have had a bad experience with them. Is it clever to repeat an experience that failed and did not prevent aggression?"

That was quick.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 9/13/2002 08:57:00 PM | |

A consistent formulation of morality Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

A consistent formulation of morality Ben Shapiro's latest column is absolute idiocy. It's the kind of stuff that reminds me that I'm not "right wing" and never will be as long as that means getting in the same ideological bed as the fundamentalists. A representative passage:

America has divided into two factions: those who fight evil and those who do not believe in evil. The dividing line is religion. Those who believe in a Judeo-Christian God know the difference between good and evil because they know the value of human life. They know that an element of man is divine and that man has a purpose in the universe. They know that man has free will to choose between good and evil. And because they know the value of life, they know the evil of those who take it for non-defensive purposes.

Others have beaten little Shapiro into the ground, but I wanted to deal with the fundamental question he raises: "Is it possible for atheists to have a consistent sense of morality?". I think the answer is yes. Do I think that morals and ethics exist in some absolute sense, as if we could measure 15 units of "good" as we can 15 kilograms? No. But "morals and ethics" are a useful shorthand for "societal conventions that are to some degree universal and have their roots in biology and game theory". In that sense, as a pragmatist, it's foolish to insist that moral or ethical considerations should never come into play when formulating policy or dealing with people. The cultural and biological apparatus of religiously inspired morality is a way to allow positive-sum communities to emerge and succeed. A biological propensity for religious belief probably encouraged people to stick to laws even when other people weren't watching.[1] In ancient times this likely meant that religiously predisposed communities were at an advantage vs. non-religiously predisposed communities because the latter were less likely to obey laws and rules without enforcement. At some point in the last thousand years or so, strong religious belief became a disadvantage in that it hampered scientific progress, and the pendulum swung back towards secular societies more rapidly than natural selection has accomodated. [2] In other words, morality is a real thing that is best described in terms of the contract structure of positive sum games. One need not believe in superstition to believe that this structure is useful for civilization. [1] Other things contributed to this as well; for example, the feeling of guilt (independent of one's belief in god) is likely a way of chemically enforcing contracts. [2] Galileo and Darwin are not the only examples; fundamentalists generally oppose the onslaught of technology.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 9/13/2002 07:04:00 PM | |

Zero Point... Capital Influx usually prides herself on being a hard nosed realist. Unfortunately, the content of the article she cites doesn't really bear much resemblance to reality. The Atlantic Monthly has an interview with the author, Nick Cook, who believes that the government is using antigravity technology and "zero point energy" in classified research labs:

Hutchison is interesting, He's not a trained scientist. He's not an academic. He's just one of these guys who has an intuitive feel for electricity in particular, and other aspects of physics. He puts bits of machinery together. He tunes them. He adapts them. And from those pieces of machinery he's able to transmute metals—steel into lead, or lead into steel. But he doesn't understand how he's doing it. He feels intuitively that he's pulling these effects from the zero-point field. Now, normally to transmute a metal, you need about the same amount of energy as you get out of a low-yield nuclear weapon. And Hutchison's doing that from his wall socket. Those transmutations were documented by a Pentagon team. Now, I tend to sit up and listen when Pentagon evaluation experts are themselves paying attention to things like that. If somebody like Hutchison can do transmutations on a shoestring, that clearly is of concern—particularly as he doesn't fully understand how he's producing these very curious results. And I don't think anyone else does either. People are beginning to postulate that from the zero-point field—if we can call it a field—you could eventually get truly awesome weapons. People were saying similar kinds of things about fission in the late 1930s, and look where that got us.

Now, Instapundit cited this thing sometime ago, but I was too lazy to talk about it then. Instantman took a lot of heat for posting it, and rightly so. When I read this article, I started guffawing after about a page. In my opinion, this Cook guy is a smart fellow who has been misled by his lack of scientific knowledge. He's not able to evaluate the claims he's given with math and physics, so he's vulnerable to an enthusiastic crank. [1] I doubt he even knows what the zero point energy is... If you read the article, Cook's whole theory about "secret Nazi antigravity technology" is pretty ridiculous. There have been huge efforts by academics to explain the theory of gravitation; Podkletnov's stuff is being investigated by NASA, and can't be dismissed outright, but no one has yet been able to reproduce it. As for Hutchison, I googled for him extensively and could find no Pentagon study. I did, however, find priceless gobbledygook from Hutchison's site, such as gems like these:

... the nature of heat may not be completely understood. This has far-reaching implications for thermodynamics, which hinges entirely on the presumption of such knowledge. It should be noted that the entirety of thermodynamics is represented by the infrared portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, which is insignificant in a context of 0 Hz to infinite Hz.

What the hell does that mean? Is he trying to say that we only understand the heating effects of electromagnetic radiation at infrared frequencies? That's not true...ever use a microwave? The references to "Secret Nazi tech" and John Hutchison make it seem as if Cook has tapped into the mysterious source of "zero point credibility". [1] His plight is reminiscent of otherwise intelligent individuals who don't have the genetics or biology to understand that the "axiom of equality" is bunk.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 9/13/2002 06:24:00 PM | |

Atta's roommate and Puffy Combs...separated at birth? LGF reports that Mohammed Atta's roommate has been captured. There's quite a ridiculous photo of him at Yahoo News: Does anyone else think he looks like Puffy? That hanging lip is what does it...

posted by godlesscapitalist | 9/13/2002 05:16:00 PM | |

Why the US will never abandon Afghanistan Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Why the US will never abandon Afghanistan A lot of people think that the US is looking to pull out of Afghanistan as soon as possible, and that we won't have the staying power to stick around. They dismiss pledges of aid as short term contributions that the US will eventually tire of. These people need to look at a map: See that nation next to the upper right finger of Afghanistan? That's China. There's no way the US will give up a base right next door to the only power that might present a serious threat to the US military in the years to come. That's why we'll be in for the long haul in Afghanistan. Update: See also this excellent piece on China's development as a superpower. The following passage is of particular importance:

Given current trends, China could emerge, by 2015, as a formidable power, one that might be labeled a multidimensional regional competitor. Such a China could credibly:

  • exercise sea denial with respect to the seas contiguous to China
  • contest aerospace superiority in a sustained way in areas contiguous to China's borders
  • threaten U.S. operating locations in East Asia with a variety of long-range strike assets
  • challenge U.S. information dominance
  • pose a strategic nuclear threat to the United States.

Obviously, an airbase next door could only help in combating China's air superiority. India would likely cooperate with us against a militaristic China, but better to hedge our bets.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 9/13/2002 03:26:00 PM | |

A matter of rarity Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

A matter of rarity Yglesias is peeved that people aren't proud enough of America's art:

Eighty-one percent say they are "very proud" of America's armed forces (compared with 47 percent in 1996); 69 percent are very proud of America's scientific and technological achievements; 46 percent will go so far as to proclaim themselves very proud of American literature and art. Why are only 46 percent very proud of our literature and art? We've got some damn good literature and the art's just fine, thank you very much. Who's got better literature and art? Is it just that no one's ever been exposed to any American literature?

All the commenters to this post are missing one thing: people respect that which is rare. NO ONE can hang with America's military might. Ergo, 81% feel proud of it. Very few nations have anything approaching America's scientific might. Thus 69% support it (though that is a bit low IMO). But any dude with an easel or a pen can compete with America's literary and artistic "might". Barriers to entry are low, and art - unlike bombs or equations - has subjective rather than objective value. Thus only 46% are proud of it.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 9/13/2002 02:54:00 PM | |

Alterman has a sense of humor Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Alterman has a sense of humor (!) Score two for Alterman this week. I commented favorably on his takedown of Ann Coulter before. Now a reader writes in with a whiny accusation of sexism, and Eric dismisses her viciously:

Warren Zevon is “taking it like a man?” Sexism aside, I can’t believe you really said that. The phrase “taking it like a man” implies that to respond in any other way (i.e. with depression or despair) is wimpy. What right does anyone have to judge anyone else’s response to a cancer diagnosis — especially someone who’s never been there? Eric replies: Thanks babe, I know you’re only saying this because you took it like a man, too. Who loves you? And speaking of people who think I’m a sexist…..

Maybe Instapundit spoke too soon - though I disagree with Alterman on a lot of things, maybe he is a Vodkapundit of the left.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 9/13/2002 01:12:00 PM | |

A Memorial? Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

A Memorial? Diane E. comes out against rebuilding the towers. She's changed her mind and wants a memorial in their place instead:

I was wrong. Don’t build offices on that space. Build a beautiful memorial park. I’m not a designer or an architect, but I have a few pointers. Make it a place of light and color, of greenery and flowers, and of peace. And most importantly--of sacred remembrance and commemoration. There's a place for commerce, and it is not there...Words cannot express, really cannot express, the feelings that I have for the kind of person who thinks that any sane human being will go to work in a building with an anti-aircraft battery on its roof.

Well, I also think the "anti-aircraft battery" stuff is ridiculous. That's a Maginot line for the 21st century. There's no way the terrorists would try a suicide hijacking again, and even if they did, why would a plane shot down over downtown Manhattan be much safer than one crashed into the World Trade Center? That said, I do think the World Trade Center should be rebuilt, with a memorial floor or something similar. And I do think that people will go back to work in those buildings, and in fairly short order. The demand for office space in downtown NY is immense, even after the WTC incident, and while the same companies may not move back in, others will take their place. I know it's a cliche, but if the WTC is not rebuilt, NY will have suffered permanent economic damage...and the terrorists will have won.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 9/13/2002 12:54:00 PM | |

Funny how far Charles has come Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Funny how far Charles has come I recently had a very intense discussion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and during it I realized that my views were dramatically different than they were before the 9/11 attacks. In this respect I think I'm much like Charles Johnson, the proprietor of Little Green Footballs. I recently found this interesting post from an impossibly distant time (9/1/2001) that seems to capture just how far Charles and I have moved politically on the topic of Israel. In Charles' words:

I don't like to write about the Middle East. I don't even like to think about it. It's a dismaying quagmire of blind religious hatred and irrational Dark Ages thinking on all sides , impervious to logic or reason, perhaps the greatest imponderable stupidity in humankind's history. I give a slight moral advantage to the Israelis because at least they aren't exporting terrorism and the slaughter of innocents, as many of the Islamic countries in the area routinely do. They'll probably all kill themselves one day in a nuclear confrontation. (How's that for optimism?) I just hope they don't take the rest of the world down with them. This article in the New York Times is the latest example of the terminal sickness that afflicts the whole region: Palestinians Give U.N. Racism Talks a Mixed Message.

For any regular LGF reader, this quote is simply amazing. All of Charles' posts concern the Middle East nowadays - whether he "likes" writing about it or not, his focus is indisputable. Unlike the 2001 August Charles, the 2002 September Charles certainly wouldn't say that "irrational Dark Ages thinking" existed on all sides (at least to the same extent), as that would falsely imply that civilized, democratic Israel was in anyway comparable to the Saudi, Syrian, Iraqi, Egyptian, or Palestinian thugocracies. Finally, he wouldn't be able to hear talk of Israel's "slight" moral advantage without choking on his salad. It's kind of funny and sad at the same time when I think back to my pre 9/11 days. I, like Charles, gave a "slight" advantage to the Israelis, mainly because the idiotic section of the campus left was for the Palestinians. But for the most part I didn't know or care much about the conflict. All that changed around March or April, when the Intifada heated up. Had it not been for blogs, I might not have seen through the blatant anti-Israel bias of the New York Times or Reuters. When I realized the extent of the misrepresentation that Israel was subject to, and the ridiculous double standard by which Israel is condemned for self defense but Hussein or Assad or Arafat can get away with executing innocent civilians...well, let's just say my position started to shift rightwards. And I think the same happened for Charles.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 9/13/2002 01:37:00 AM | |

Thursday, September 12, 2002

They want to screw us either way Here is a story from Salon (Premium, I cut & pasted for our readership's enjoyment).... Damned if we do, damned if we don't Even in moderate Arab states like Egypt, anti-Americanism burns so hot that the U.S. can do no right. - - - - - - - - - - - - By Ferry Biedermann Sept. 13, 2002 | CAIRO, Egypt -- The American University in Cairo, a green oasis in this dusty metropolis, is probably the last bastion of pro-American sentiment in Egypt. Only here, in the shade of a palm tree or in the long corridors of the old buildings, can one find Egyptians who still unreservedly defend the U.S.'s war on terrorism or support a possible strike against Iraq. Even in the McDonald's across the road, the moderately well-off professionals who can afford to eat there denounce U.S. policie towards their country and the region over a hamburger and a cup of coke. "The Americans just want the whole world to do as they say, they don't want to listen to anybody. They say to hell with all Arabs -- if we want to attack Iraq, we will attack Iraq," says Mohammed Fuad, a young computer engineer who is enjoying his lunchtime hamburger together with his fiancée, Njarmeen Othman, an English teacher. Under her headscarf she nods vigorously at her boyfriend's words. "The Americans make so much noise about the people killed in New York and Washington, but people get killed in violence everywhere," says Othman. "They are the same as the Israelis: Palestinians get killed all the time, but when an Israeli dies it's a disaster, as if their lives are worth more than those of other people." Sooner or later in every discussion about how Egyptians feel about the U.S., the Israeli-Palestinian conflict comes up. American bias towards Israel is perceived to have grown dramatically after the Sept. 11 attacks: Egyptians cite the Bush administration's almost unqualified support for Israel's hard-line policy toward the Palestinians and its plans to invade Iraq, which many see as being driven by Israeli concerns. Yet the Palestinian issue is by no means the only, or even always the first and the most important thing, that people mention. The Egyptian rancor against the U.S. is deep and has many causes -- some of them understandable, some of them self-contradictory. If the reaction of the Arab street, and the fate of the ruling regimes in America's two key allies in the Middle East, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are key elements in America's decision whether to invade Iraq, the deep anti-Americanism in Egypt cannot be ignored. One year after the attacks, sympathy for the United States is hard to find in Egypt. Americans are not seen as victims but as aggressors. Throughout Egyptian society a deep-seated feeling prevails that the U.S. has unjustly blamed the Arab and Muslim world for the attacks, which many Egyptians don't think were carried out by Arabs or Muslims at all, and that certainly Egypt, as a loyal ally of the U.S., does not deserve America's hostility. The government and its supporters are offended by the new wind of distrust and unilateralism in the Middle East blowing out of Washington. Senior advisors complain that their access to senior U.S. officials has been curtailed in the post-Sept. 11 climate. On the other hand, critics of the government of President Hosni Mubarak, and democracy- and human-rights activists feel that the Bush administration has given the regime the green light to crack down even harder on its opponents and that civil liberties are being made secondary to Egypt's acquiescence in the "war on terror." Sept. 11 and the American response to it clearly exacerbated tensions between the two nations. But on closer examination, most of the Egyptian complaints about the U.S. predate the attacks: they involve longstanding antagonisms over culture, religion, economics and power, and the complexities and contradictions of a relationship between allies who came together in a vanished Cold War era and whose goals and interests do not always coincide. People like Fuad and Othman may still eat their hamburgers at McDonald's, but others wrecked a nearby outlet and a Kentucky Fried Chicken during riots last year. "We think most of the money from this restaurant goes to local people, otherwise we wouldn't eat here," says Fuad. They are not averse to American cultural products such as movies and music, but don't want their values to be affected by these consumer choices -- and fear that if the U.S. has its way, they will be. There exists a strong conviction in Egypt and the wider Arab world that the U.S. is out for world hegemony. "They are using the 11th of September to do what they always wanted to do," says Othman. Hussein Amin, chairman of the department of mass communication at the AUC, holds rare unreservedly pro-American views. "It is incredible how people don't look at what is best for Egypt but let themselves be influenced by extremist propaganda," says Amin. Intellectuals and moderate forces in the country have for too long ignored the growing anti-American feelings, he says, making it essential that that discussion now be joined. "After the 11th of September many subjects that used to be kind of taboo have come up for discussion. For example, people often ask me why the U.S. is anti-Muslim and I try to explain that that isn't so." Amin, who went to college in the U.S., now hosts a weekly program on Egypt's satellite station, Nile-TV, in which he tries to "bridge the gap" between Americans and Arabs. Amin seems to be the exception, though. Even among the intellectuals whom he considers still pro-Western, anti-Americanism is flaring up. "The United States hasn't learned anything from the attacks on Washington and New York. U.S. policies under Bush have only become blunter," says Mohammed Salmawi, author, playwright and editor of the weekly French version of the pro-government Al-Ahram newspaper. His curriculum vitae bristles with honorary titles that Western institutions have bestowed on him, but his cultural sympathy does not extend to the "arrogant" Americans, whom he regards as having only themselves to blame for the Sept. 11 attacks. "The lesson that the U.S. should have learned is that it is responsible for a lot of the injustice in the world," he says. Instead, he sees the list of American misdeeds growing: the increased bias toward Israel, the "massacres" in Afghanistan and the threat to attack Iraq, among others. The United States is so unpopular right now, says Salmawi, that it's not surprising that even the Egyptian government is starting to distance itself from the Bush administration, particularly where the possibility of an attack on Iraq is concerned. "The United States is looking at every issue in the Middle East through the prism of terrorism now," says Abdel Monem Said, director of the Al Ahram Center for Strategic Studies in Cairo. "This has affected the close strategic relationship that used to exist between the U.S. and Egypt and Saudi Arabia." Monem Said, who has close ties to the government, has the impression that the U.S. administration is considerably less willing to take Egypt's point of view into serious consideration after Sept. 11 -- despite the fact that Egypt has more than a decade of experience in fighting its own Muslim fundamentalists. Some within the Egyptian government resent U.S. positions, taking an "I told you so" attitude: They are quick to recall that both the U.S. and the Europeans were unwilling to act against Egyptian fundamentalists who had sought asylum abroad. Although some of the people whose extradition had been demanded by the authorities have now been handed over, the Americans do not really want to cooperate with the Arab countries, Monem Said says. "There are certain problems with the American attitude after Sept. 11. There was no self-evaluation, no saying, 'Well, we were wrong, we need to look at this as a common threat and we have to face this together.' Instead there was finger-pointing -- 'your societies are to blame, your culture is to blame.'" Monem Said warns of the dangers of the U.S. creating an atmosphere in which Arabs and Muslims are seen as the enemy. Many Egyptians and other Arabs firmly believe that America has already accepted this view. In this suspicious, even paranoid climate, no matter what America does, it only reinforces the belief in the Arab world that Washington is attacking it. The U.S. is facing a classic "damned if you do, damned if you don't" scenario in Egypt and other Arab countries: Siding with the government makes the Americans unpopular with the people: "Why should we like somebody who helps our government oppress us?" says one human rights activist who wants to remain anonymous. But intervening is seen by most people, not only government officials and activists, as pernicious meddling in Egypt's internal affairs. On human rights, many Egyptians accuse Washington of being more tolerant toward abuses perpetrated by friendly regimes because of the war on terror. But when the U.S. does take a stand, many of those same people accuse it of using human rights to curry favor with the Arab masses to clear the way for some anti-Arab, anti-Muslim scheme. This is what happened in the recent case of the prominent pro-democracy activist Saed Eddin Ibrahim. Human rights groups were initially appalled when Washington took no action when Ibrahim, who holds a U.S. passport, was convicted to seven years in jail in July for "damaging the image of the country abroad." Ibrahim is a sociology professor at AUC and heads the Center for Democracy and Democratization. He had previously been sentenced to seven years, on charges that included accepting money for his center from foreign sources, but that sentence was overturned and a retrial was ordered after an international outcry. The result remained the same, though. After the trial, human rights activists condemned the inaction of the U.S. administration, charging the Americans with trying to stay on friendly terms with the regime because of the war against terror. Just a few weeks later, the State Department did announce it was taking steps against Egypt over the case. The administration said that it would not consider new aid to Egypt on top of the approximately $2 billion a year, mostly in military support, that it already gets. Surprisingly, not only the government but also the human rights groups who had called for action criticized the U.S. "This looks too much like the U.S. wants to make the point that it really does care about human rights and democracy, ahead of an attack on Iraq," says Hafez Abu Saeda, secretary general of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR). His organization thinks that using aid to apply pressure in the case of one man is not the right way to go about it. "If it were used consistently and long-term for furthering democracy and human rights, then I do think that aid can be used," says Abu Saeda. He warns that using aid as a stick at a time when the economy is not doing well will antagonize the Egyptian people, adding, "the aid is meant for them, not for the government." Government officials such as Mustafa Al Feqi, who heads the Foreign Relations Committee in parliament, take an oddly similar line. "How can a state like the United States, which is a superpower, revise its policy towards a strategic ally such as Egypt because of an individual?" says Al Feqi. He darkly intimates that U.S. interests in the region may be harmed by the measure. "Aid should not be used like this. The Americans need Egypt a lot also. It's a two-way street, it's not only one-sided. Egypt has played a vital role in protecting American interests in the region." The aversion to outside interference is one of the strongest elements that unify disparate groups in Egyptian society, from Muslim fundamentalists to left-wing activists. The cultural dimension to the current antagonism between the U.S. and the Arab world is not just a Western invention: Many people just yearn for the outside world to go away and leave Egypt alone. Montasser Zayat is a lawyer for many of the Islamists whom the government is prosecuting even more vigorously than before Sept. 11. This week alone, a military tribunal sentenced 51 alleged fundamentalists to long prison terms. Zayat is also an unofficial spokesman for the Gama'a Al-Islamiya, a formerly violent fundamentalist movement that has now expressed regret for the victims of its violent campaign in the 1980s and '90s. Zayat also condemns the Sept. 11 attacks as un-Islamic, but is nevertheless vehemently opposed to what he sees as American cultural imperialism. "The U.S. feels now that it is the leader of the world and it is trying to impose globalization everywhere. By doing that, it is not only crossing geographical borders but it is also crossing cultural barriers. It is trying to impose a unified system, regardless of anyone's cultural rules," says Zayat. Zayat's view of America is not that of a hostile zealot: He visited the States in the 1990s and was impressed by the freedom the people enjoyed and the respect with which he was treated. "I slept better in the U.S. because I felt safer there than here," he says, alluding to the fact that he himself could easily be arrested by the Egyptian government. Yet he is adamant that Egypt not adopt the American way of life, which he is convinced the U.S. is trying to impose on the rest of the world. Incredibly, Zayat says that the Americans are now more hated in Egypt than the English, who occupied the country for many years, ever were. The way in which Zayat expresses himself is oddly similar to the arguments of left-wing activists such as Aida Seif Al-Dawla. She is a co-founder of the Nadim Center for Victims of Torture and a professor of psychiatry at Ein Shams University. Seif Al-Dawla holds deeply anti-Israeli and anti-American views. During a demonstration last month against a visit by Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, she was hit in the face by the police, she says. Street demonstrations are now virtually banned in Cairo. She blames the 11th of September for the deterioration in the human rights situation in Egypt. "I think for the regime in Egypt and other countries in the region, it meant a green light to violate every human right we had fought for so many years. I think the principles of human rights have suffered most thanks to the so-called war on terrorism." Seif Al-Dawla has a stark view of the world. She thinks Egypt should keep outside influences out. She is opposed to globalization and market-oriented capitalism. She will accept money for her center from Western donors but only when no conditions are attached to the money. She is convinced that the West, including the Europeans, regards the Arabs as the enemy. "For everybody, we have been framed as the dangerous Other. The differences are in how to deal with this dangerous Other." Like many other people in the Arab world, Seif Al-Dawla does not accept that Arabs or Muslims were to blame for the 11th of September attacks. Even if bin Laden did it, he was probably paid by the Americans themselves, she maintains. Such views are distressingly common. No one I spoke to said openly that they thought the Israelis were responsible, although false stories still circulate about the Jews who supposedly were warned and didn't come to work in the World Trade Center. Some people said they didn't believe that Muslims could have done such an evil thing. Others said that even if Muslims and Arabs did it, they were extremists belonging to a tiny minority that didn't represent any wider trend in Muslim societies. Unfortunately, some of the same people also spouted blatant anti-American nonsense. Al-Dawla sounds eerily like the fundamentalist Zayat when she talks about the reasons she thinks are behind the U.S. actions. "I think the 11th of September was a pretext for the U.S. to exercise its control over the world, not only through economic policies but also through military power." The deep distrust of the West is not confined to fundamentalists and left-wing activists. Average, non-political Egyptians, such as the McDonald's-eating Njarmeen Othman, also feel under attack from Western culture and ideas. "It makes it more complicated than before. I think we want to have simple lives, we don't want these complications at all. Different point of views, different influences, different ideas, it causes a partition among some people, in our society especially." Anti-Americanism in the Middle East has grown in the year since Sept. 11, but it is only partly because of U.S. actions since then. Taking a more even-handed approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, rebuilding Afghanistan, and not going to war against Iraq will no doubt allay some of that antagonism. But issues that involve the U.S.-Egypt relationship directly, namely strategic American support for the Mubarak regime, which has raised internal discontent by its economic mismanagement, by refusing to allow any Islamic political challenges and its abysmal human rights record, will be much harder to resolve. And addressing the still larger issues raised by Western military, political and cultural domination, which many Egyptians fear threaten their entire society and way of life, will be hardest of all. Razib's postscript: I just started a new job today, and one of the office workers thought I was an Arab terrorist or something trying to break into their foundry and blow it up. I feel a bit of the anti-Arab prejudice every now and then. Not a big deal, but I'm aware enough to be careful of making it an "us" vs. "them" issue, but shit, are these people WACK or what? Either they are, or we are. How can we not have a "clash of civilizations" with such bizarro views? Arabs come close to being the caricatures that they are portrayed as by their detractors.

Give his speechwriter a raise... Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Give his speechwriter a raise... I didn't see Bush's speech to the UN, so I can't comment on delivery. But in terms of was a brilliant flanking maneuver. Bush could have said, in essence: "Screw impotent multilateralism. We're right and you're wrong." That's the sentiment of many in the blogosphere (including myself), but it would have been tactically unsound. We would have raised the hackles of every delegate and cemented the image of the US as a berserk cowboy nation. Instead he hoisted the Tranzis on their own petard. By appealing to their love for international law, he pointed out that the UN itself would be discredited if Iraq was given a pass.

In 1991, Iraq promised U.N. inspectors immediate and unrestricted access to verify Iraq's commitment to rid itself of weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles. Iraq broke this promise, spending seven years deceiving, evading and harassing U.N. inspectors before ceasing cooperation entirely. Just months after the 1991 cease-fire, the Security Council twice renewed its demand that the Iraqi regime cooperate fully with inspectors, ''condemning'' Iraq's ''serious violations'' of its obligations. The Security Council again renewed that demand in 1994 and twice more in 1996, ''deploring'' Iraq's ''clear violations'' of its obligations. The Security Council renewed its demand three more times in 1997, citing ''flagrant violations'' and three more times in 1998, calling Iraq's behavior ''totally unacceptable.'' And in 1999, the demand was renewed yet again.

Bush had to make one sacrifice, but I doubt it will be a major one. He had to give Hussein one last chance:

My nation will work with the U.N. Security Council on a new resolution to meet our common challenge. If Iraq's regime defies us again, the world must move deliberately and decisively to hold Iraq to account. The purposes of the United States should not be doubted. The Security Council resolutions will be enforced -- the just demands of peace and security will be met -- or action will be unavoidable. And a regime that has lost its legitimacy will also lose its power.

I have no doubt that Hussein will squander his last chance...after which we shall cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war...

posted by godlesscapitalist | 9/12/2002 02:26:00 PM | |

Race is a social construct-at least for some people.... David in the comments for my post about Mandela below noted that the esteemed elder statesmen talked about the black vs. white dynamic in the Middle East, as in the black Arabs vs. the white Jews. He found this rather bizarre, and I can understand that, as I've met a fair number of Arabs with brown hair and green or hazel eyes (generally Lebanese or Syrian). Mandela specifically notes that the US has had a problem with the black Secretary Generals of the UN-Koffi Anan and Boutros Boutros-Ghali. Here is what the Coptic Egyptian looks like: See, he's the black one on the right [1]! There's a German white guy in the photo to show you the contrast. Godless interjects: Check out this picture as well. Guess which one is Boutros? Back to Razib: On my previous blog, I noted the peculiarities of ascribing absolute blackness to people that were of obvious mixed-race. For instance, here is a quote from Miss America 1994:
KIMBERLY AIKEN COCKERHAM, Miss America 1994: I remember watching the pageant, and I don't know that I had watched it before and I remember her singing. I remember her performance. I remember her being crowned, I remember thinking wow, she looks like me.
Take a look here....
On the left Kim, in the middle Vanessa and on the right some random Miss America winner that is "white." Who does Vanessa look more like? Probably Kim, but not that much more like Kim than the random white winner. Vanessa, and to a lesser extent Kim are both mixed-race. The average black American is ~ 20% white, and both these women, like many prominent African Americans are more like 50% white. Because of the idea that anyone with black blood is black, women like Williams or Halle Berry can have the best of both worlds, doing good for their race (the black race), but trading on the fact that they look closer to the European American ideal of beauty than more African looking women. Racism and color prejudice among black Americans is an ugly secret. I lived next to a dark-skinned guy from Mississippi once, and he told me as a kid that some of the light-skinned upper-middle class blacks in his town would call him "skillet blonde" and "field nigger." They took pride in their light-brown skins, curly rather than kinky hair, and more European features. Of course, I'm sure these kids could have easily received "black" scholarships if they wanted to. Mandela's statements reflect a Manichaean division of the world between white and non-white, oppressor and oppressed, that simply doesn't reflect reality anymore. The irony is that Left-wing identity politics and small-town ignorance converge, as both groups often downplay differences between "people of color." I know of this from personal experience, since in eastern Imbler people would often refer to me as "colored" or "black" because of my dark skin [2]. My best friend was 1/4 Lebanese, and though he was totally white looking, with green eyes and blonde hair he was self-conscious of being "colored", while his darker sister was called "the nigger girl" in grade school constantly. There was even a Chinese girl that one of my friends referred to as "black." Things like this might not seem like a big deal, but before we can deal with our differences, we need to be clear and rigorous as can be as to what they are. Obscuring the issues only put off the eventual reckonings.... On a more amusing note-the most accurate racial slurs that have been directed toward me are "sand nigger" and "camel jockey." Interestingly, I was born in a nation that gets about 80 inches of rain a year and is subject to flooding, so something like "paddy nigger" or "elephant jockey" would have been more appropriate. Also, to show that it's not only white people that are a bit confused sometimes, a Latino checkout clerk at my local supermarket, who tends to be at the express station which I use every other day, pulled me aside and told me this: "I've been seeing this Indian or Pakistani name over and over again on our Club Card's, and I was wondering if you could tell me how to pronounce it?" She wrote out the name. It was Nguyen. I told her how to pronounce it. [1] Of course, there are black Egyptians. Anwar Sadat's mother was a Nubian for instance. Ghali happens to not be one of them though. [2] Americans often confuse South Asians and people of African ancestry. Pretty understandable since both groups have dark skin, South Asians being the next darkest population to Africans among the major groups of humanity. The physicist S. Chandrasekhar (He was a Tamil, and I refuse to spell out their ridiculously long names!) and the poet Rabindrinath Tagore both experienced racial prejudice in the early 20th century. Tagore refused to ever return to the United States while Chandraekhar had difficulties socializing in public with his colleagues, as when they went to a baseball game and an usher yelled at him, "Hey blackie, get in the colored section!"

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

The enemy These are the kinds of people we're dealing with. They're going to get what's coming to them.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 9/11/2002 07:28:00 PM | |

This is what old age does to Great Ones.... Newsweek has an interview with Nelson Mandela. It kind of disturbed me. Check out some of my excerpts....
If you look at those matters, you will come to the conclusion that the attitude of the United States of America is a threat to world peace. Because what [America] is saying is that if you are afraid of a veto in the Security Council, you can go outside and take action and violate the sovereignty of other countries. That is the message they are sending to the world. That must be condemned in the strongest terms. And you will notice that France, Germany, Russia, China are against this decision.
1) The world is at peace as thousands die. Tutsis in Rwanda died when the world was at peace. Serbs, Croats and Muslims died in Bosnia when the world was at peace. Dissidents are jailed and executed in China while the world is at peace. Don't speak to me of peace-the peace of nations is a different thing than the peace of peoples or the peace of humanity. 2) What was the rest of the world doing when it imposed sanctions on South Africa? What was the rest of the world doing to the sovereign state of South Africa forcing its government to release those considered criminals in the eyes of their courts? Where was the ideal of the sovereignty of other countries then? 3) Germany, should we listen to a country that liquidated the most productive portion of its country in an orgy of violence and malice? Russia, was Stalin's great terror so much less cruel? What about the soft authoritarianism that Russia engages in now? And China, oh yes, the Chinese with their lack of respect for popular sovereignty or individual rights, with their executed poisoners for organs and population control. And France. Between the bloody orgy of the Jacobin Terror and the later bigoted trial of Dreyfus what have the French to teach us about Enlightenment now? No one is an angel. Saddam is a craven monster. And the United Nations is that, nations, not peoples. The Iraqi people have no representation in that body, nor do the Chinese people or a host of others. Shut your mouth Mr. Mandela. Other people yearn to breathe free, if American geopolitics-with all its sometimes duplicitous talk of freedom and democracy driven by lust for oil and "stability"-is the means to that end, live with it and applaud. There are no angels.

Why I hope bloggers never make $$$ Here is why I think blogging should always be for the love of the game.... If x amount of blogging is proportional to y amount of revenue, the bloggers will have an incentive to keep blogging more (and yes, blog well at that). Eventually, the blogger might be able to quit their day job and just blog. Soon, they'll be tracking down stories and publicizing their more thoughtful essays for wider linkage and distribution (as now they have a monetary incentive). They'll also be aware of what topics will catch the most eyeballs. Sound familiar? For-profit bloggers will become journalists. In fact, the one profit-making blog I know of, is by a journalist, and quite often strongly derivative of his print content. That is called convergence, but it's something I hope most bloggers stay away from, because the beauty of blogging is that it allows one to get a different perspective from the journalistic zeitgeist. Bloggers should have day jobs, then they can talk about something instead of always mining others for information and ideas. Let's not become columnists. I for one am going to keep posting obscure pieces about pygmies and pagans until they disconnect my internet account or someone shut's the universe down.

Neanderthal discovery MSNBC is reporting (via Reuters) that the remains of a Neanderthal family might have been found in Germany. I've touched on the Out-of-Africa vs. Multiregionalism controversy before. The former explaination seems more plausible to me, but I will admit some of it is professional bias, as I know something about molecular biology and almost nothing more than the lay person about functional morphology (practioners of the former tend to support Out-of-Africa, the latter multiregionalism). Neanderthals are probably the most decisive morphological piece of evidence favoring Out-of-Africa. One thing that caught my attention though:
“There are differences between us and the Neanderthals. They could have contributed to our genetic pool about 30,000 years ago. But that is not clear,” Weniger said. “The Neanderthals were actually quite small, about 5 foot, 4 inches. But it’s true that they had enormous muscles and big bones.”
Well, many modern human populations are actually that size. Perhaps the quotation is out of context, but one should be careful about using these qualitative terms "small" or "large" when the human range is so varied. On a similar note, I knew a girl that looked somewhat like a Neanderthal (and she was actually attractive, believe it or not). She was very promiscuous.

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Osmana didn't do it The LA Times has a report on how Muslims don't think Osama masterminded 9/11:
Amr Waked, 30, an economist and financial analyst who graduated from the American University in Cairo, recalled that more than half the Americans who voted in the 2000 presidential election chose someone other than Bush. "In my opinion, one of those 50% did it," he said. "No one in the world gained anything from this but the Israelis."
OK-I don't normally talk like this-but they really don't get us....

Instability in Iran? Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Instability in Iran? Iranian students are calling for Pro-American demonstrations.

Now, with the first anniversary of 9/11 tragedy upon us, as SMCCDI expresses its sympathy to the families of the victims and survivors of that ungodly event, and the honorable nation of America; it invites all free spirited Iranians to honor the memory of the victims of that day by gathering and lighting a candle in front of the main entrance of the Tehran university and major public squares in Tehran, and the main squares in other cities and townships, from 6:00 PM till 9:00 PM, on Wednesday 11 September. Also, from all those Iranians who feel they share the sorrow and pain of the American nation, it is requested that they turn off all their light on that same night from 10:30 PM till 11:30 PM in a silent, but much telling gesture of sympathy and solidarity with the bereaved nation of America. Without a doubt, in this age of high-resolution satellite cameras, your message of sympathy will reach the Americans loud and clear!

Elizabeth, there's still time to change your mind... (link via Instapundit)

posted by godlesscapitalist | 9/10/2002 07:10:00 PM | |

Indians, Eugenics and the delicate art of creating a superior race of Tam-Brahms to rule the universe Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Indians, Eugenics and the delicate art of creating a superior race of Tam-Brahms to rule the universe While mindlessly googling for the day, waiting for the coffee to drip through a stubborn percolator, I found a site guaranteed to provide endless "fisking" pleasure.. ladies and gentlemen, meet the folks at - An Asian-Indian website dedicated to improving the lives of Asian-Indians world-wide via Eugenics and creating an Asian-Indian Nationalist Eugenic state, preferably India itself My questions, and many mirthful ones bubble up immediately are thus..
  1. What the bloody heck is an Asian-Indian Nationalist Eugenic state? As opposed to an American-Indian, or a British-Indian, or a West Indies-Indian.. ?
  2. Of course, they would prefer to be in India.. that shows they have no imagination whatsoever.. for a bunch of folks calling themselves Transtopian Singularists (one of their discussion boards led me there, I swear this is real), they appear to be stuck in the subcontinent. If you really want to create a successful Indian Eugenist empire, I would start with the UK or the US. Better gene pool (the smarter Indians usually leave India), the ability to tap into the neverending desire for a middle class for more upward mobility, and what do you get..? A floating Diaspora of Transhumanist Transtopian Singularist Gaia-Indians..
  3. I also glanced at one of their sister sites Prometheism.Net. An extreme libertarian voluntary eugenics-based approach to life. Reminded me immediately of Khan Noonien Singh, and almost portends an eugenics war as inevitable. An excessive devotion to spirituality, and being able to achieve godhood through eugenics, as if that some how makes everything better. Just trying to get to God, fellas, nothing to see here.. move along.. I do want some of the same things they want. Consciously directed evolution, for one. The ability of memes to forcefully direct gene evolution in ways not possible before. The part about achieving godhood is a little silly, and discredits serious human clonign discussions. Makes me wonder whether these folks understand the implications of what they propose, and the absurdity of some of their positions.
  4. I have to wonder at the same time.. did the eugenics programs of the Nazis start out the same way..? A bunch of very positive mission statements (relative to the political climate), that the atavistical tribal instincts in all humans then proceeded to take down the horrific path we all know so well?
And people make fun of Tranzis.. poor buggers have nothing on these people. Godless adds: I don't think the Nazis were too sensitive to the "voluntary" part, which is the key distinction between modern genetic engineering and coercive eugenics.

Osama may be dead! Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Osama may be dead! This report needs to get major play in the media by tomorrow. How awesome that this news (if true) came out right before 9/11 - it's the perfect segue to Hussein. All those complainers (Rall, Clinton, etc.) who recommended focusing on Osama rather than Saddam may suddenly have had the carpet pulled out from under them. Here's the key graf:

A SLIP of the tongue by one of Osama bin Laden's top henchmen seems to have betrayed al-Qaeda's most potent secret: its charismatic leader is dead. The blunder was made by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who has confessed to being the operational mastermind behind the September 11 attacks. He made his mistake while disclosing many of the secrets behind the atrocities, which were plotted in Kandahar, the religious extremist Taleban movement's Afghan spiritual home.

The interview was with an Al-Jazeera reporter fluent in Arabic, which makes it more likely that this report is true. In a previous article, the Times made the slip of the tongue explicit: evidently bin Laden was referred to in the past tense, followed by some signal (a look of alarm on the speaker's face?) that indicated to the Al-Jazeera interviewer that bin Laden was dead. Even if this isn't true, this is the kind of meme that could bring Al Qaeda to its knees. I suggest you spread it. (Link via Right Wing News)

posted by godlesscapitalist | 9/10/2002 08:12:00 AM | |

Sunday, September 08, 2002

Knowledge is power.... Check out this website about the Andaman Islands. It's a treasure trove if you're into anthropology. I know the basics of the story ahead of time, but the details engrossed me. Then again, I'm a sucker for obscure peoples.... Thanks to Steve Sailer, admitted philo-pygmy, for the link. Update: Steve interviews the guy that runs the above website. I do have one moral qualm and confusion: the natives of the Andamans have no protection from many diseases, so they are deleteriously effected by contact with the outside world. On the other hand, are we going to consciously isolate a group of human beings from the great march of history? I say this because I'm of two minds-I love indigenous culture, and bemoan the loss of ancient traditions (the lost of European paganism to Christianity for instance). But some traditions are rather filthy and brutal (like human sacrifice or suttee). And I am a bit sad that the children of the isolated Andaman tribe will never get to explore the world of books. I wouldn't have liked it if westerners wanted me to maintain my "authentic" culture unsullied by European modes of thought and so prevented me from learning English or wearing slacks and a shirt.

"The Arab East" trilogy.... Check out part III of Zach Latif's "Arab East" trilogy. He comes down on the hawkish side, buttressed by a subtle and deep knowledge of the area. I'm a little less sanguine about cutting so many of the major powers in the region at their knees by removing the oil rich gulf and ceding it to a Shia dominated Arab polity. But I suspect the reality will be far less grandiose in any case....

The Russian AIDS crisis? This LA Times piece mulls the coming spread of HIV in Russia. Here is an interesting excerpt:
But Vadim Pokrovsky, director of Russia's federal AIDS center, argues that the recent drop-off makes the situation no less alarming. "Last year, about 88,000 new cases were registered. In the first six months of this year, we registered about 26,000 new cases-which may seem to some analysts as a slowdown," he said. "But the number of new cases in which the virus was transmitted heterosexually rose to 7% compared with 4.3% last year, which demonstrates the epidemic is spreading over the majority sector of the population. "And thus it begins to develop according to the African scenario, where the majority of the HIV patients contracted it heterosexually." In Pokrovsky's view, if just half of the HIV-infected population spreads the virus to one sexual partner per year-which he considers conservative based on the African experience-Russia could have as many as 5 million HIV cases by 2010 and will have suffered 500,000 AIDS deaths.
This is an application of the axiom of equality-or more properly in this case, the axiom of similarity (I'm patenting the second one Godless!). It doesn't take into account cultural differences, and surely not the reality of human biodiversity. To use the African template is going to lead one down the wrong path. You could read The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS-which applies mostly to the developed world, and especially the United States. Russia is a different case, but a second world country like Thailand, which also has a flourishing sex industry, is probably a better model. The Thai rate of infection of 2% is not something to be gleeful about, but it is a far cry from the contemporaneous explosions in southern Africa (on the order of 20-30% rates). In the United States the epidemic is still concentrated among certain groups. The idea that everyone is a target tends to prevent proper allocation of resources [1]. Africa's situation is different: AIDS is killing the best and the brightest, and it is tearing the heart of out of societies. On the other hand, AIDS tends to effect the socially marginal in the developed world: homosexuals, drug users, and (some) ethnic minorities. The chasm between the two situations needs to be acknowledged. Southern Africa has outpaced regions like Thailand in recent years despite a later initiation of the epidemic in the region. Why? Well-I'll let you draw your own conclusions.... [1] Opportunity is probably one key reason that gay men are so prone to being infected (in addition to anal sex of course). If straight men could have so many partners, I suspect they would "slip up" a lot more frequently... Godless adds: You will never see an AIDS epidemic in China or Japan or Russia that comes anywhere close to the figures in sub-Saharan Africa. Any news article that tries to sell you this line will usually do so by citing a derivative or a second derivative rather than an absolute value (e.g. "the rate of increase in new AIDS cases is 100% greater than it was last year!"). AIDS is a problem in sub-Saharan Africa because sub-Saharan Africans have more sexual partners than people in other countries. See here for some stats; more upon request.

Scott Ritter Debunked Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Scott Ritter Debunked Check out this Weekly Standard piece for a brutal takedown of the bizarre 180 degree turn of Scott Ritter, the (bribed?) ex-arms inspector. Here's an excerpt:

Among the former arms inspectors, Ritter is unique in his benign views of the Iraqi threat. Butler has referred to this as "Ritter's crap." Iraqi leaders, needless to say, are thrilled with what the Washington Post's Colum Lynch called Ritter's "bizarre turnaround." They now "seem to view their erstwhile enemy as an asset in the propaganda war against the United States." But don't take the Post's word for it. On Iraq's official a few words of token criticism of the former weapons inspector, there is a tribute to Ritter, in a rather fractured translation from the original Arabic. "The admittance of Scott Ritter and his enthusiastic in calling for the lifting of the unfair embargo and to halt the continuous bleeding of Iraqi people is a conscience scream." Then there is an appeal to other former U.N. inspectors to follow in his footsteps. "The truth veiled by the American poisoned propaganda . . . sooner or later the truth will shine. . . . He who will not participate in revealing the truth and support Iraq will regret in the future. He who says the truth, as Scott Ritter did, will be happy, conscientious, and proud to be one of the honest people who participated in revealing the truth. Those who will be so, we will admire and greet." The part about admiring and greeting is literal. Ritter was welcomed back to Baghdad in July 2000, with the blessing of Saddam Hussein. The reason for his trip? To produce a documentary film, "In Shifting Sands," that would chronicle the weapons-inspection process and, he says, "de-demonize" Iraq. The 90-minute film, which he says he is close to selling to a broadcast outlet, was produced with the approval of the Iraqi government and features interviews with numerous high-level Iraqi officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz. U.S. intelligence officials and arms control advocates say Ritter has been played--perhaps unwittingly--by Saddam Hussein. "If you're Scott Ritter," says one arms expert, "the former 'cowboy' weapons inspector, kicked out by Saddam Hussein, you're not going to get back into Iraq unless Saddam Hussein invites you and wants you there."

It's required reading for anyone who thinks Ritter has any credibility whatsoever.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 9/08/2002 02:40:00 PM | |

The face of liberal Islam? This article from Time is about a wealthy Pakistani girl from a westernized family. She and her family have quite a bit of rage against America for killing Afghans. Interesting. Do they have this sort of rage against their own government for propping up the Taliban which perpetrated massacres against the Hazaras? Rage can be so selective-the key is not the killing, unfortunately the deaths of others simply become a way to hammer home your own resentments. When their deaths don't serve your particular point, you ignore them, out of sight, out of mind [1]. Here is a sad excerpt:
As the students talk, it becomes clear that nearly everyone in the group has a relative or friend who crossed into Afghanistan to help the Taliban fight the Americans. Their accounts shatter the impression, widely held in the U.S., that it was only ill-educated fanatics who propped up the regime. Though many Taliban fighters were like that, among the recruits were also droves of Pakistanis who knew America firsthand, wore American jeans, listened to American rap music and had American friends—but nonetheless saw Afghanistan as Islam's battleground against the dark forces. One student says she knows an M.I.T. graduate who signed up with the Taliban. "Last I heard, he was in the trenches around Mazar-i-Sharif," the student says. "That was many months back. His family is worried sick."
[1] This is similar to black rage at white cops killing blacks, but the general apathy and acceptance of black on black crime.

Sweden vs. America Instapundit has a nice summation of whether Sweden or America has a higher standard of living. One thing I must object to though (this from one of the articles quoted by one of Instapundit's correspondents):
-If Sweden had been an American state, we would have been the poorest one, together with Hispanics and Blacks, and there would have been a debate about the "Swedish Problem"
Well-actually Sweden would probably have to cut back on its tax-rates immediately or risk the loss of its productive population that would relocate to states where their remuneration would be greater. Also, many would move to take advantage of the largesse of state programs that Sweden would dole out (I had a friend who's dad worked for Imbler's welfare department, and he said people would often call from the south asking on what the benefits were like).

Saturday, September 07, 2002

Ban whitey! Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Ban whitey! Rachel Lucas has a nice rant about the group that wants to "abolish" the white race. This sentiment is pretty common among white liberals, and it all leaves me dismayed. I like diversity, and though mixed-race girls of European and black and European and Asian ancestry are cute enough, what would the world do without freckle-faced red-heads? I've only dated one red-head, but I can still dream, can't I? But in any case, I really thought it was going too far for me to object to this moronic movement-let a white person stand up for their own race for once. Godless adds: Rachel Lucas is a closeminded individual. Here's a sample:

Here's a suggestion for everybody: If you don't like me or my rants, just keep your trap shut. I don't care. I don't want to hear from you. You are a waste of my time. I want to hear from the people who AGREE with me. That's right. I want only praise and support.

Not the kind of site I would endorse. She's just as bad as WarBloggerWatch. Godless recants: Seems like Ms. Lucas is more reasonable than the above quotation would indicate. She says:

I was really tired of being insulted. NOT being disagreed with, but INSULTED. And I had a really bad week, and I just simply wrote a "rant". That's why I call them "rants" and not "articles", "news pieces", or "this is what YOU should think." My site is just something I do for fun and I got really pissed off that one day, and I ranted. If you read through more of my site, the last thing you would call me is closeminded. I'm an agnostic, pro-choice, pro-immigration, open-to-debate libertarian/republican. I have a feedback form asking people to tell me if they don't like my site and why. And I write back to every single person who fills out that form or e-mails me, and if they disagree with me, I don't tell them to ram it. I've even posted counter-rants to some of my rants in the past when I turned out to be wrong. See here for an example.

So since the above quote was not representative of Rachel's site, I retract my criticism.

Don't usually agree with Alterman Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

I don't usually agree with Alterman But this takedown of the hypocritical Ann Coulter is hilarious. A sample line:

Is looking like an anorexic Farrah Fawcett and wearing skirts so short they lack the dignity and reserve of Monica Lewinsky's thong enough to insure the embrace of the national entertainment state no matter what you say, just so long as your murderous bile is directed at "liberals"?

Ooooh....that's gotta hurt. But Coulter really does deserve the abuse, as "Slander" has been factchecked to infinity and beyond and found horribly wanting. Coulter is just as much of an embarassment to the right as Michael Moore is an embarassment to the left.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 9/07/2002 03:57:00 PM | |

Like predicting the weather Compare this stream-of-consciousness bullshit from Chris Mortensen on who'll be in the Super Bowl to the more clinical and specific game-breakdown by Ron Jaworski and Sean Salisbury of the Rams and the Broncos tomorrow. Football commentary is like climate, listen when they're predicting for tomorrow but ignore their long-term projections. I'm not saying Mortensen isn't entertaining, but like lit crit, stock market predictions and the like, just another form of story-telling (by the way, he picked the Packers to beat the Steelers, when was the last time Mort picked an AFC team to win it all? The Steel Curtain days I think). We need people to act like experts. Nature abhors a vacuum, right?

Always hungry.... Found this article about Prader-Willi syndrome where people have a hard time controlling their eating habits. Check out this snippet:
Prader-Willi could prove a guide to this uncertain terrain because its origins are so specific. Unlike most genetic diseases, the syndrome is rarely inherited. Instead, it is caused by a random accident during egg, sperm, or embryonic formation that either deletes or muffles dozens of genes along a stretch of chromosome 15. Ten of the genes, when disrupted, have been linked to the characteristics of Prader-Willi. In addition to ravenous appetites, Prader-Willi patients have weak muscles, slow metabolisms, small hands, feet, and genitals, and a distinctive triangular mouth. They are often short and very fair, and they tend to have significant learning disabilities. Compulsive behaviors—skin picking, repetitive questioning, and a need to collect and rearrange objects—are common. They can also be very stubborn. (Melissa, luckily, has milder symptoms than most.) Many also have remarkably good memories, and some have an unusual talent with jigsaw puzzles.
As the article makes clear-this syndrome is not inherited. But, it makes a case for causation between a finite number of genes and behavioral trends. In narrow circumstances, ascribing behavior to genes is fine (usually with diseases). Ascribing "normal" behavior to genes seems to be more controversial.

Adult stem cells not so promising? You think National Review is going to report that adult stem cells might not be as promising an alternative to fetal stem cells? Don't bet on it. A non-subscription summary from Scientific American. Check the results from Google News.

Race does not exist-fair and balanced! One of the posters on the comment boards linked to this article from Fox News explaining how race has been disproved. Here are some gems:
"Possibly only six genes determine the color of a person’s skin," Graves, a professor of evolutionary biology and African-American Studies at Arizona University, said in the Times interview. Six genes, out of the 30,000 to 40,000 genes that make us human, determine race.
As Steve Sailer has pointed out before-race != skin color (!= equals "not equal"). Otherwise, light skinned Asians (Japanese) would be the same race as dark skinned whites (Greeks), and dark skinned Amerindians (Quechua) would be the same race as dark skinned Caucasoids (North Indians). Any moron that says race = skin color is basically an ugly American that looks at the idea through the narrow context of their own particular nation's history-where race does = skin color because there were only two major races (the natives had the grace to die off) that could be defined by their coloration. If race was just skin color, black people wouldn't talk about "good hair" and "knappy hair" or "good features". White kids wouldn't ignorantly ask to touch a black person's hair, because after all, the only difference between the two groups is their skin color, we all know that! And I wouldn't have people telling me that I'm just a "white person that's been burned dark by the sun" [1]. I feel stupid just typing this out, but I know many Americans who have this sort of simplistic view of the world. I don't know what's going to happen when the Latino population starts getting big enough that they demand that Americans differentiate between their subdivisions, Mestizo and Indian, and Americans start scratching their heads and wonder at how they could tell the difference between the brown folk since they all look the same. But enough of that, look at this moronic quote:
Graves and Venter hope their research will prevent doctors from considering race when making diagnoses. But, as the Times points out, old habits die hard. The current Surgeon General, Dr. David Satcher, continues to divert millions of dollars toward eliminating health disparities among the "races" by 2010. Black medical associations continue to fund research into black-only pharmaceuticals for "black-only" ailments.
Where does Venter get off making such an asinine comment? He's not part of a racial minority, so he doesn't have to stress out about organ shortages. Small-minded asshole. Satcher probably cares because he knows the downsides of assuming everyone is the same. If 70% of the population is white, and you assume that everyone is the same, can't we guess which group will be the basis of studies that lead to diagnoses? Remember, race doesn't exist, you can generalize from a large enough sample to the whole population. Yeah Venter, laugh your way to the bank while innocent minorities die of badly prescribed medicine because "race doesn't exist" so you have some political cover [2]. Well meaning liberals and conservatives need to stop peddling these shallow ideas. And come on, in your heart, you know they're wrong!. Godless adds: And in your head, you know they're wrong too. Need to get up that FAQ. Till then, here's more science on why race exists and has biological meaning. Razib's postscript: Here some stuff about the evolutionary biologist above from some minority organization. Also an excerpt:
In addition, he is interested in the history and philosophy of science as it relates to the biology of race and racism in western society. He belives that there are still significant academic and popular views of race that are mired in the biological determinism of the 19th century and the application of proper scientific method and philosophy, along with quantitative genetics reveals the underlying racist ideology of these programs.
He did do work in drosophila though, so he's got real creds in evolutionary biology-just not in human evolution. [1] As I explain to everyone, white people are just brown people that don't get enough sun. Though you might be curious to know that my mother is rather light-skinned for a South Asian, and when I was a kid I had a cool Sicilian barber and when my mom would wait in in the lobby for my hair to get cut sometimes one of his older clients would speak to her in Italian because they thought she might be one of his many female relatives. [2] OK, CELERA failed as a pure genomics play and now they're going into more traditional pharmaceuticals and Venter is gone. Good riddance.

Friday, September 06, 2002

Laudatory praise for SJ Gould The American Prospect contrasts Stephen Jay Gould with the reductionists of evolution (Dawkins, Pinker, Dennet, etc.):
Gould's science and literary style owed more to art and artists than to algorithms. His opponents' approach to art, on the other hand, is, as a rule, so doggedly reductionist as to sow doubts about their whole enterprise. It is painful, for example, to read Wilson, so often a superb writer himself, as he attempts to squeeze every artistic motif known to man into a few universals consistent with a genetic approach to human culture. Gould was concerned that human culture and history not be boiled down to code. There were times one felt that what offended him most about his foes was not the particulars of their argument but the relentless monism driving it. He called Pinker, Dennett, Dawkins, et al. hyperselectionists, pan-adaptionists and, when truly annoyed, out and out Darwinian fundamentalists. But sometimes he simply called them hedgehogs. The hedgehog, according to one of his favorite parables, knows only one thing and is determined to explain everything with it. Gould identified with the fox, which is a pluralist; Darwin was a fox, he said, and nature is, too.
I still don't get non-reductionist approaches to science. Exactly how do you understand something without breaking it down?

Starvation for the sake of the cause A except from an article on Zambia refusing GMO food:
Zambia, where 2.4 million people face starvation, has refused offers of GM foods, and environmental groups at the Earth Summit in Johannesburg have warned against their use.
If these people get GMO food the activists and paranoid government officials (no doubt well fed both) contend there might be future side effects. But, they seem to neglect that many of these people don't have much of a prospect of having a future right now.... Facts be damned....

Thursday, September 05, 2002

Sparrow Hawk, I I have to admit I'm a reluctant hawk, and will label myself the "Sparrow Hawk." Before 9/11 I was a regular reader of, but no longer. I still believe that our first inclination as American's should be toward isolationism, for we are the splendid republic and the affairs of the Old World tent to taint the soul. But we were attacked, so those arguments have no appeal for me right now. But ultimately, what makes me amenable to the invasion of Iraq is simply that the same arguments against the Afghan bombing are being trotted out. I listened closely the last time, and was a bit worried. 1) Arab street 2) Weaken our "allies" 3) Mission Creep Of course, Iraq will likely be a bigger undertaking. It seems after the events of today that number 3 still has some validity. But I want to vomit over number 1 & 2. The Arab street can go to hell. If Christian evangelicals are right, they already are (OK, so am I). 1,000 Muslims died in Gujarat in a few weeks-and the Muslim world seemed strangely silent. But there was outrage at American bombing of Afghanistan. In case they didn't pay attention after the fact-the Afghans were cheering in the streets after their liberation from the Arab-radical backed Taliban! Frankly the Arab street didn't give a flying fuck about their fellow Muslim brethren to the east, as they usually don't, unless they're looking for recruits in their jihad against a technically and dare I say morally superior civilization to their west and north [1]. The Arab street supposedly hates America for supporting Israel-well, let's be honest about this, if we didn't support Israel the little Jewish state would no longer have a leash and could pretty well set the terms of debate if it was freed from Western moral constraints. To hell with the Arab street, all we need are Israel and Turkey, these two countries could conquer the Arab world from the Atlantic to the Indian oceans if they had the will. And our "allies." All I need to do is put the quotes there and you can deduce what I was about to say. So I guess I'm aboard for this foreign adventure, but rest assured that I will voice some caution and moderation to temper godless' exuberance. No doubt Joel will weigh in that the Iraq invasion will unfetter intellectual property in that distant land.... [1] When I was kid, one of the most irritating moments during religious services for me was listening to some invited Arab speaker haranguing all of us non-Arabs for not knowing Arabic. This is a mosque that was at least half South Asian, with maybe a quarter at most being Arabs. He spoke perfect English, but he wanted to give his sermon in Arabic, so all the non-Arabic speakers had to wear headsets and listen to a translator. This annoyed the speaker greatly and he let us know about it afterward in the Queen's English. The dude needed to be told that it was the doctors from Pakistan, India and Bangladesh who didn't know Arabic who donated most of the money to build the nice shiny mosque.

I have a lot of respect for the Israelis. Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

I have a lot of respect for the Israelis. When you read about the Mossad, you realize that US counterterrorism is an expensive joke. See this article by a US Marine Officer on the Israeli retaliation for the 1972 Munich Olympics Massacre and tell me if you agree. And make sure to check out this site for a blogburst of information and commentary on the massacre and the birth of modern terrorism. Razib adds: I followed the links. I read the article about the hit-teams that the Mossad sent to Europe, it read like a spy novel. Really good. One thing that concerns me about Americans though is our language skills (note that all the Mossad agents had second and third language skills). Just read this article in Business Week about how monolingualism is hurting Americans in the marketplace. To make hits on our enemies, we obviously need people that will physically blend in, and that's harder to do since most Americans don't much look like Arabs, Indians or Southeast Asians (the areas that Islamic terrorists are most likely to hide in). But even then, most of us that do look something like the "natives" can't speak the native languages worth a shit (I came to the United States when I was 4, and speak Bengali with my family, but I talk like an 8 year old). In addition, even if we can speak the native languages, we're quite frequently illiterate in the local script (from what I know, mostly). For instance, Americans who are mostly likely to speak good Arabic and read it too (and quite often, you need to speak the dialect of the area) are probably the least likely to get security clearance and frankly probably have the least motivation to stick their necks out in harms ways (the "Avner" group that got the job done had two out of five dead after two years). All in all, kind of stressful to think about.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 9/05/2002 03:01:00 PM | |

Michael Oren is right. Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Michael Oren is right. You know, I don't like the Saudi government. But I guess I hadn't thought of it this way:

Why would the president entertain the leaders of the country that supplied most of the perpetrators of and the funding for the murder of 3,000 Americans?

It's true that assigning collective responsibility to the Saudis for the actions of some of its citizens is something of a jump. But they have couched their response to September 11 in a chorus of "buts". We should not be cutting them any slack. We should not be taking no for an answer when they refuse to let us use the bases we built to protect them from Hussein in 1991. They should meet us on our terms, and beg for mercy. They are lucky we let them live.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 9/05/2002 11:05:00 AM | |

Libertarians are the funny ones.... Charles Murtaugh takes issue with the idea that humor is conservative. Well, I don't know. Conservatives can make fun of ugly women, but liberals can take jabs at pedophile priests. See we libertarians, we can make fun of them all, so we're two times as funny! But please, not jokes about private property, that's sacred....

Male gaze is a load of crap Christina Hoff Sommers has a good piece up on the Left-wing slant in academia. An excerpt:
The young woman who had invited me to the campus had told me that there was very little intellectual diversity at Haverford and that she hoped my talk would spark some debate. In fact, she and many in the audience were quietly delighted by the exchanges. But two very angry students accused her of having provided "a forum for hate speech."
The pathetic thing is that most liberals think this kind of behavior is total bullshit, but don't have to the balls to say it. I understand that most "right-thinking" people will find my racial opinions outside of the pale of acceptability. I even understand someone saying that affirmative action is necessary to redress historical grievances. OK, I get all of that. But why the hell don't you open your mouths when some pudgy mustachioed feminazi silences discourse by declaring all that she disagrees with is "hate speech"?!?!?! I've gotten on liberals for not being hard enough on idiotic Third World beliefs and holding non-whites to lower moral standards, but I think it all starts back in the first year Woman's Studies class when a gaggle of bizarro butches takes over the class and turns it into a navel-gazing exercise centered on their own crappy self-esteem. So liberals, get off our cases for a second, and notice what those to the Left of you are doing to your movement and this country. Understand that there is a great chasm between you and them. You believe in a regulated market, they don't believe in a market. You believe in equality for women, they believe womyn are just a social construction. You believe in freedom of speech, they believe that certain speech is not speech but violence. Oh, and if you follow the "beliefs" link, you're rewarded with the story of the return of the "monkey man." Seriously. Update: If you haven't, read the "monkey man" article, read it! Also, if you're a male person of color, and a bizarro pudge-face with more facial hair than you exclaims their anger at your assertion of patriarchy in their womyn's space, just tell them this: I feel that your western hegemonic value systems denigrate who I am and perpetuates the system of exploitation initiated by colonialism and perfected in modern capitalism. Look wounded and defiant. Usually in my experience pudge-faces are stupid enough to back off. If you're smart enough you might even be able to seduce their femme she-slave and turn her to heterosexuality and freedom from bondage.

Wednesday, September 04, 2002

Rich and young and - not white? Check out the 40 richest under 40 list over at Fortune. I counted three South Asians, three East Asians, four blacks, one Latino and one person of mixed-race on the list (that person was Tiger Woods). That leaves about the other 70% as white, about what they form in the general population. Small data sample, but it seems that where there's a will there's a way. idiot... Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit idiot... Michael Ledeen says exactly the wrong thing at the wrong time. When people are trying hard enough to convince the public to attack Iraq alone, it's stupid to mention other places as future targets. But Ledeen has done exactly that in his idiotic piece in the Journal, which is sure to get a lot of attention as the "real reason" that the neocons want to go to war:

By all indications, the discussion will be about using our irresistible military might against a single country in order to bring down its leader. We should instead be talking about using all our political, moral and military genius to support a vast democratic revolution to liberate all the peoples of the Middle East from tyranny. That is our real mission, the essence of the war in which we are engaged, and the proper subject of our national debate.

I am not unsympathetic to the idea of crushing terrorist regimes before they become our problem. But the public hates Hussein and (to a lesser extent) Saudi Arabia. Iran and Syria aren't on the average Joe's radar, and it will be difficult to muster public support in the absence of a terrorist attack. Now, if we manage to defeat Iraq with less than 100 casualties, then we might consider taking on some of the others. It won't be difficult to defeat them militarily, especially with Israel on our side. The hard part will be reforming the societies afterwards. Colonialism is a difficult game to play when the world's watching you, and you can't play it by the rules of civilized nations. The question is: will we need to invade the other countries after we take Iraq? I think one object lesson will be enough to cause a good deal of change, such as a possible regime change in Iran. In any case, that's a decision we need to make after we take Iraq - not now. All this talk of "democracy" is part of the selective idealism of the extreme right, which mirrors the Stalinist left in only calling for democracy in states that don't pass ideological muster. You'll never hear Ledeen criticize Pinochet for being insufficiently democratic...

posted by godlesscapitalist | 9/04/2002 11:45:00 AM | |

Gene Expression Watch? Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Gene Expression Watch? Overcounter thinks he can carve out a niche in the blogosphere by becoming "Gene Expression Watch". He is of course welcome to try. I welcome constructive criticism, but Mr. McCrory's latest salvo is not constructive. In response to my post on testosterone's effects on behavior, he says:

Still, that doesn't change the fact that gc promised us that there is "substantial biological evidence that criminality is partly influenced by genetic factors." We are still waiting for that evidence, since what he has given us is evidence that "aggressive behaviour and other feelings of hostility" are related to "testosterone levels." The two are not the same. Here's some advise, gc. Learn to operationalize your concepts like good scientists do, so we can avoid these annoying little confusions.

I was a bit piqued by his implication that I didn't know what I was talking about, so I sent him the following email:

Dear Jeff, If you want me to engage in a conversation with you, I would prefer that you refrain from personal insults or implications that we're bad scientists/hateful racists/etc. If you have an open mind and are willing to listen, I don't mind talking to you. If you're going to act like Atrios, whose criticism consists of assertions, e.g "Well, actually, no. Not really. In fact - not at all. Not even close.", then there's no point in having a discussion. Compare the comments in these two posts and tell me if you find us unreasonable. Basically, I think comments like "Learn to operationalize your concepts like good scientists do, so we can avoid these annoying little confusions" or insinuations that we are "zog-hating loonies" are unwarranted. Ok. Now on to your specific contention - that the biochemistry of testosterone tells us nothing about genetics. The connection between biochemistry and genetics is pretty obvious to a biologist, but I don't mind spelling it out. I do, however, mind being called a "bad scientist" because I don't give a disquisition on how genes exert their effects in every email. I don't know how much you know about biology, biochemistry or genetics. But let me give you a really quick overview of what's relevant here:

  • Some segments of DNA (not necessarily contiguous) are genes.
  • Some genes contain the information for protein synthesis.
  • Some proteins are enzymes, molecules that catalyze chemical reactions.
  • Many compounds essential to life can only be produced through the action of these enzymes.
Now, compounds like testosterone are important information carrying molecules with copy numbers under tight genetic regulation. Testosterone is part of a subclass of molecules known as "steroid hormones", which are information carrying molecules synthesized from a cholesterol backbone. The different steps in the synthesis process are mediated by enzymes, and the information to produce these enzymes comes from genes. If you damage or delete genes that make enzymes involved in testosterone synthesis, you get phenotypic irregularities because the synthesis cannot be completed. Here's a quick schematic of the testosterone synthesis pathway: cholesterol -> pregnenolone -> progesterone -> 17-alpha-hydroxyprogesterone -> androstenedione -> testosterone Each arrow here represents a chemical reaction that only takes place in the presence of an enzyme. These reactions can be shortcircuited, sped up, or slowed if you alter the section of DNA that produces the enzyme that controls the conversion. Two quick examples: 1) 3-beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase deficiency This alteration of DNA means that the pregnenolone -> progesterone conversion is stopped. This genetic disease is accompanied by salt excretion in the urine and early death. 2) 17-alpha-hydroxylase deficiency This alteration of DNA means that the progesterone -> 17-alpha-hydroxyprogesterone conversion is stopped. This genetic disease prevents the synthesis of sex hormones (e.g. testosterone) and leads indirectly to hypertension. The afflicted patient is phenotypically female but unable to mature. The above were two examples of alterations in genes that eliminated the function of the corresponding enzyme and shortcircuited the testosterone synthesis pathway, causing substantial phenotypic consequences. Genetic alterations do not need to be major to have major effects- often they are due to single base pair alterations (copying errors) in the parental sperm & egg. Now, not all DNA is composed of genes that code for proteins. Some DNA is composed of *control elements* that determine the time that a gene is turned on and the quantity of protein that is made. These control elements read in information from the cell and determine when to turn genes on. Combinations of these control elements form genetic circuits - one of the hottest research areas right now in biology. Generally speaking, the control structure of even a simple genetic circuit is quite complicated, but there are some universal properties. For one thing, information carrying molecules like testosterone are always under feedback control; the levels of testosterone themself are fed back to the DNA control elements, which use them to determine whether more testosterone synthesis enzymes should be produced. The reason for this is that information carrying molecules can wreak a lot of havoc if there's too much or too little. [1] There's usually a tight time-space interval in which these molecules are supposed to exert their effects. Ok, so what's the point? The point is that the *levels of testosterone* (meaning copy number of testosterone molecules along with time & place of synthesis) are under tight genetic control. When you combine this with the behavioral effects of testosterone, it's clear to the geneticist that behavior itself is genetically controlled. If you want, I can go into oodles of detail on the genetic control of testosterone levels, but I'll mainly be pointing you to references. The upshot is this: biochemistry and genetics are tightly related , and it is not at all unwarranted for me to claim that testosterone levels are genetically controlled.

[1] Many other things are under feedback control, but major information carriers are typically subject to the most complex and tight regulation. Addendum: I just noticed that Atrios made a little remark that Overcounter saw fit to post:

[Debating GC is] like playing chess with a 4 year old who isn't actually aware of the rules and is armed with 700 extra pieces.

Of course, Atrios' quip is more revealing than he imagines. I'm not constrained by his PC rules, and I have a comparative surfeit of knowledge...

posted by godlesscapitalist | 9/04/2002 03:57:00 AM | |

God, country and family (part III) Church and state. The two words evoke the image of a clash of values, culture wars and reams of dead-tree of apologia and advocacy. What role does God have in the United States in its self-perception as a nation? Many Christians would assert that this is a Christian, or at the least a Judeo-Christian, nation. Others would point to the heterodox views of many of the founders and the starkly godless nature of the Constitution to argue that though we are a nation informed and sustained by our religious views, they have little place in the public square. What role does God have in the building of and conception of nationhood on a more universal level? The United States is a difficult specimen to clarify this relationship because of our relative plurality of Gods and nations-or at least their definitions. Let us start from the most extreme case I can think of. I won't bring up Saudi Arabia or any of the other wretched "theocracies" that dot the Middle East [1]. To me, Israel is an example of a nation who's existence is predicated and intertwined with a certain God. It is because of the covenant with the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob that the Jewish people have form as one nation. Their conception of themselves, the Hebrew folk, is directly related to their relationship to their God-if God had not spoken to Abraham no doubt the Hebrews would have been another obscure Semitic tribe long in the mists of time (I don't believe in their God, but I believe in the power of the idea). The more sacred appellations for God have strong connotations of kingship and the legal framework of the Jewish religion is evidence of that, for the divine commandments, the ten prominent and the six-hundred thirteen less well known ones, come from God Himself. Though minorities-Arabs, Christian and Muslim as well as odd groups like Armenians or the Druze-are tolerated, they are most certainly not part of the mainstream of the national culture [2]. The Jews in fact perpetuate an ancient religious tradition, that of the tribal God. The original Jews might have been polytheistic, or at the least henotheistic by the Davidic Empire. But with the Pharisaic religious revolution during the Roman domination and the later incubation within Christendom and the Dar-al-Islam Jews have added concepts to their religious beliefs that make them more similar to their universalistic daughter religions [3]. But its core still remains tribal (nationalistic), so to convert to Judaism can be a rather arduous task compared to the simple profession of faith in Islam or the baptism of Christianity [4]. After conversion one becomes part of the Jewish people. This is a different in degree if not kind than Muslim or Christian brotherhood. In addition, Jews maintain ancient familial lineages such as the Kohanim and Levites from their tribal past, and both these groups are expected to resume their roles when the Temple is rebuilt. Other people are termed the goyim, the nations. But Jews are only a small, if influential, group of people. There are though other examples of religions with nationalistic overtones. The Hinduvata movement in India makes a overt appeal to the "Hindu nation"-which includes those who have converted to other religions [5]. It is often said that Hinduism is a "way of life" rather than a religion. But acceptance of karma and the divine nature of the Vedas tends to united Hindus, of whatever religious or philosophical inclination [6]. Though India is a militantly secular republic, there is no doubt that the piety of the overwhelming mass of its people is reflected in its outlook. Though India has had several Muslim presidents (including the current one), this is a ceremonial role. Its Prime Ministers have all been Hindu, and in fact there is some question as whether Sonia Gandhi is fit to lead the Congress Party because she is by origin a foreigner and by religion a Roman Catholic [7]. The Hindu nationalists become positively apoplectic at the prospect of a non-Hindu becoming Prime Minister, and I suspect that this will always block Sonia Gandhi from true power, though she likely doesn't relish such a position in any case and is but preparing the way for her daughter Priyanka [8]. To Hindu nationalists, to be Indian is to be Hindu, and to be Hindu is to be Indian (therefore, the term Non-Resident Indian, or NRI, that is often applied to the Diaspora in Britain and the United States) [8.5]. On the other hand, let us look at Islam, in many ways the antithesis of Hinduism [9]. As Malcolm X saw firsthand during his pilgrimage to Mecca Muslims come in every shade (there is a tradition of Native American Islam!). Even the dominant ethnos in Islam, the Arabs, are multi-racial. It is true that an Islamic nation, the Ummah, which theoretically should be governed by a Caliph, exists to bridge the babble of nationalities. But this unification of diverse peoples in actual execution resembled the polyglot years of the high Roman Empire rather than a unitary state. One of the great clashes in the Middle East was between Arab nationalists, Christian and Muslim, against Islamists. The latter are of the mind that the Arabs have no nation other than Islam. In fact, the idea of Christian Arabs is something of a new development. Though there were Christian Arab dynasties on the periphery of the ancient Levant (the Ghassanids and Lakhimids), the dominant Christian culture was Syriac, Aramaic, Coptic and Greek speaking. The liturgies and ecclesiastical loyalties of Christian Arabs even today are toward these older traditions, and not to their Arab present [10]. Before Islam, the Arabs of the desert had little identity, the affinal people of Yemen looked toward the seas and the ancient cultivated civilizations of India, Persia and Byzantium for their influences and not toward their distant desert relations. But now Arabic is Islam's holy language and Allah is an Arabic and Muslim word for God [11]. The cloying influence of Islam and its Arabic ancestry can be illustrated by the case of Iran [12]. Here the ancient Persian culture, which as Ferdowsi lamented was conquered by dirty primitives, still retains elements of its pre-Islamic past. The Persian language is Indo-European. But the script is now in Arabic, with many loan-words. The Islamic clerisy of Iran recently attempted to suppress the celebration of the Persian New Year (No Ruz) as un-Islamic. In addition the splendid ruins of Persepolis are in decline and most of the visitors are Parsis from India and the Zoroastrian Diaspora. Ironically, the Shia identity of modern Iran was shaped by Turkomans from Azerbaijan, not Farsi speakers. The Pahlavis were the first Persian ruling dynasty in some 1,000 years! In the Dar-al-Islam we have the seeds for a great nation, but the irony is that the failure of the Islamic nations might very well be that they lay in the no-man's land between their own indigenous non-Islamic histories and the ideal of an unattainable pan-Islamic Caliphate. But let us get back to more familiar environs. It is in the West that modern nationalism was defined. And it is the West that other civilizations look toward to pattern their evolution on [13]. England and most of the nations of Scandinavia have established churches. The Germanic countries have a special status given to historic religious traditions [14]. Russia also gives place of priority to its main faith, Russian Orthodoxy, and Catholicism, Judaism and Buddhism, are also recognized as valid and indigenous faiths [15]. The nations of the Mediterranean, Spain, Italy and Greece, are tied closely to their dominant religious tradition. Though in many of these cases there is no coercion and religious persecution of minorities, it is understood that to be Castilian, one is Catholic, or to be Greek one is Orthodox. In some of the northern European countries, like England for instance, the established church is a minority presence, so to be English does not mean to be Anglican (Tony Blair's wife is a Catholic and Margaret Thatcher was from a Methodist background). And yet a general Christian identity is accepted as the norm. Peculiarities start to crop up in countries like the Netherlands where as much as 40% of the population is non-affiliated, in other words, post-Christian (the popular term is "nothing"). It seems that unless one becomes an active member of another religious tradition, post-Christianity does not entail expulsion from the circle of European culture. This is reminiscent of the situation in 19th century Germany where Jews who were secular, in other words "confessionless," were accepted as Jews and tolerated, while those who converted to the Christian faith were ostracized or not considered Jews. It still seems appropriate to speak of the West as Christendom, for even though a large minority of Westerners are no longer Christian, that is still the religious tradition that most impacts their everyday life, for if they aren't Christian, it is likely their parents, brothers or sisters are going to be Christian. But there wasn't always an identity between the West and Christendom. In the year 600, at the end of the papacy of Gregory the Great who more than any other early pontiff shaped the Western church, most of the lands of Christendom were outside the West. Egypt, north Africa from the Atlantic to the edges of Araby, Anatolia and Mesopotamia were still part of Christendom [16]. England (for Celtic Britannia was gone) was pagan, as was Germany. The only land outside of the outer limits of the old European Roman Empire that was Christian was Ireland, and only semi-Christian at this point. Christianity was receding in regions like the Balkans where Turkic Avars and their Slavic confederates were swarming over fields that had once been cultivated by Roman Christians. The vast bulk of Christians in this era would have been non-European. But by 700 the old Christian heartland along the southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean were quickly disappearing from the view of history. Though their populace would be Christian for centuries they were cut off from the developments that were occurring in European Christendom. By 750 Islam had ceased its expansion after swallowing all the non-European lands of Christendom less Anatolia. Spain and Sicily were being added to the Muslim lands, but Charles Martel, "The Hammer", stopped the Muslims in France and Leo the Syrian turned back the last Muslim siege of Constantinople. Boniface was converting the Germans and Britain and Ireland had been decisively won for Christianity [17]. The first missions to the Slavic people had been initiated. Christendom and Europe were fast become one and the same as paganism receded in the north and the Christian religion slowly suffocated in the south. But within the context of Christendom, the seeds of nation-states began to form. The old Roman notion of a citizen was replaced by the idea of the subject (of both king and church). In most of non-Roman Europe Christianization was concomitant with the rise of centralized monarchies [18]. It was the old aristocracy that resisted the tide of Christianity. Saxon warlords like Widukind must have connected the attacks of Charlemagne and his edict that the nobles accept either baptism or death with their own loss of independence and power (Widukind eventually did become a Christian according to many sources, indicating that his initial resistance was political). One church under one king seemed to be the precedent. Later the warlords of Norway resisted the efforts of Olaf Trygvason as did the chaotic Swedish tribes to their own Olaf. It seems no coincidence that the rise of the modern states of Norway, Sweden and Denmark seem to follow their Christianization. The Christian clergy imparted an element of Romanitas to people that would otherwise have been outside of the purview of the Empire, because the Empire was no longer and its traditions were dying even in the homelands. And yet it seems strange to me in some ways that nations coalesced out of tribe as they Christianized. How ironic that as the Scandinavians and other Germanic peoples abandoned their tribal gods for a universal divinity they came together as peoples dictated by geography and language. What place does Christianity truly have for nations in its paradigm? Certainly the church exists as a transnational institution that realizes the idea of Christian brotherhood, irrespective of color or tongue. But Christianity also exists at the other extreme, the personal relationship of a savior with the individual [19]. So to me it seems peculiar that Christianity should be associated somehow with the formation of nationhood. I have argued before that Christianity is an expansion of the circle of citizenship, a culmination of the classical evolution from the narrow polis and the more expansive res publica. Christianity, as a universalistic religion, transcended political boundaries, as the great Christian Diaspora, within and without the Roman Empire, partook of a common experience. In a way the medieval church was the equivalent of the United Nations, meddling in the affairs of kings and only existing at their sufferance-playing a dangerous game of balancing the powers. In addition, the long standing enmity between state and Christianity that arose from the time of Nero and down to Diocletian 250 years later impacted it even after the Christianization of the state. By the end of the 4th century the Christian Emperors had jettisoned pagan religious titles such as pontifus maximus and taken a more explicitly temporal role. Theodosius the Great allowed himself to be humbled by the churchmen Ambrose for his brutal slaughter of the inhabitants of Thessalonika [20]. This sort of confrontation, to the church's advantage, was recapitulated at Canossa nearly a thousand years later. The church's moderating influence on national feeling prompted Machiavelli to wonder if a pagan religious culture would not have been more conducive to republicanism [21]. Quite obviously pagan religious traditions were often more easily subordinated to political considerations as often the temporal and sacral offices were conjoined. Caesar spoke with the voice of the gods, in part because he was one of them [22]. Worship of the Emperor was a less a religious than a patriotic act. But one would have to be a fool to assert that the High Middle Ages was a day of nation-states. National cultures were developing under the aegis of king and church, but it took the expansion of literacy with the printing press and Protestantism to truly allow the expression of nationhood. The Reformation shattered the consensus of the European order. The Roman church no longer had any say in the political workings of a great swath of Europe, and its influence was often diminished in the Catholic regions of Europe on the temporal level simply because it had fewer patrons. The translation of the Bible into vernaculars had a galvanizing effect on what were before a loose collection of feudal holdings. The Angevin empire of Henry II stretched from the Pyrenees to Hadrian's Wall. The collection of French, Breton, Norman and Anglo-Saxon nobles and commoners that formed that state had little common feeling. But later the Tudor and Stuart dynasties of the 16th and 17th centuries in England showed the strength of nationalism wedded to religious feeling. The marriage of Queen Elizabeth to Phillip of Spain was simply impossible because of the religious differences, while Stuart legitimacy was undermined by their pathetic dependence on Catholic French support [23]. By the end of the century the British were bold enough to overthrow the Stuart succession and put in place a Protestant Dutchman married to the niece of the Stuart monarch (and later they installed a German in the palace). The Treaty of Westphalia traditionally marks the beginning of a new diplomatic order. Religious toleration became the norm in much of Europe [24]. This process continued, with starts and stops until the modern era. But with the increase in toleration, dissent, and even secularism, began to spread. National feeling began to percolate more widely in society, beyond the lettered and landed classes. And with this new national feeling, ancient and non-Christian religious feelings were rising. I don't want to overemphasize these trends, as most of Europe remained firmly Christian until the 1960s, but reactionary spirituality was growing [25]. Movements like Romuva (Lithuania) and Ariosophy (Germanic sun worship) began to germinate and blossom in the 19th century, firmly in the camp of nationalism. While German Christianity (not to be confused with the Protestant Confessing Church that remained true to Apostolic Christianity, rather Germany Christianity was a racialized religion similar to Christian Identity) was a failure and viewed with suspicion by the Nazi party. Pagan religious beliefs elicited less remark, though Himmler seemed to be the only one in a high position that had much enthusiasm for it. Interestingly, Himmler detested Charlemagne and called him "Charles the Frank." It seems that much of the SS officer corps had become de-Christianized by the initiation of World War II, though the German population as a whole still adhered to their old churches (95% were either Protestant or Catholic, with a tiny minority that were "God Believers," the term for the new paganism). It seems today that the more extreme elements of nationalism-racialism-have given up on Christianity. Though John Paul II is considered a conservative on some issues, he has been the exemplar of an international and globalist Pope. He has diminished the European nature of Roman Catholicism by his aggressive outreach to Africa and Latin America. The next Pope might very well be a Nigerian. The Nazis were most certainly going to do away with Christianity and replace it with a volk-centered paganism [26]. The right-wing nationalist attack exists outside the context of Nazism in the form of proto-Fascist Julius Evola, and later on in the writings and teachings of Alain de Benoist and the French radical conservative movement. Nationalism degenerates into the most vulgar of racism through the prism of the Church of the Creator, which vilifies "Jewish Christianity." American Renaissance, the thinking man's white nationalist publication in the United States had a special on Christianity several years ago. It seems that half of the subscribers were Christian, but the other half were not. This is far greater proportion of non-Christians than the general population, and indicates to me that 100-proof nationalism tends to have an aversion to a universalistic religion like Christianity. But the trend also seems against tribal or ethnic religions. Even practitioners of these faiths don't expect to become majoritarian anytime soon. Steve McNallen, one of the major forces behind Norse neo-Paganism, Asatru, asserts that they exist as a witness to the ancient traditions of their forbears and help connect whites to their pre-Christian northern European past. But it seems for any near term future, whites in the United States will remain firmly Christian, and remain part of a worldwide community that is becoming blacker and browner by the moment. Certainly today most Americans understand that Christianity is no longer just the white man's religion. I have read that many of the younger white racialists are turning away from Christian Identity-which itself is a radicalized form of Christianity that has little in common with the mainstream. I do not believe that modern Christianity offers nationalism much hope. The liberal variety is explicitly anti-nationalistic (and on this subject I believe that the Roman Catholic Church is firmly in the camp of the liberals, though there are right-wing nationalistic Catholics in places like Poland, they are often disavowed by the more 'respectable' elements of the hierarchy). Like science, national feeling has been cleaved from the Christian religion, in the latter's case because Christianity is the religion of one of three humans, and expresses so many interests and traditions. In some ways Christianity is going back to its ancient anti-nationalistic roots. The nationalistic churches, the established Lutheran and Anglican traditions of northern Europe, or the Russian Orthodox church, don't seem to be handling the changes well. The attendance rate for the northern European Protestant denominations is abysmal (Sweden finally disestablished in 2000 because it was a farce). There is no doubt a reason that the Russian church is so hostile to Protestant missionaries. The conservative Christian sentiment that shows such strength in the United States certainly has its element of patriotism, but has thankfully discarded the crude racism of years past [27]. In fact, the growth of Protestant evangelicals in Latin America and fundamentalist Christianity in Africa makes the right-wing Christians in the United States far more likely to have sponsored churches in the Third World rather than having contempt for colored folk. Mainline denominations like Methodism has been stagnating throughout much of Africa while African and fundamentalist churches have been eating into their membership and charismatics have been winning over the remaining pagans. The linkages between the Christian Right and the Christian international are far stronger than they were a few generations ago (think Christians in the Sudan or China). Nations are created by a complex intersection of factors. I believe that the religious glue is weakening, and what remains is far more diffuse and universalistic than it was in the past. The individual faith of believers remains, and the worldwide structure of churches also is strong, but the old hometown church attended by generations is now just a memory. As I have stated before in my debates on evolution, religion and God are withdrawing from the world of sense and reason toward the inner world of faith and feeling. Nationalism and nationhood I believe are part of the outer world, and the paradoxically particularist (individualistic) and universalistic tendencies in most modern religions mitigates excessive religious attachment to a nation, which exists on the intermediate level. [1] I use quotes because sometimes I question whether the term "theocracy" is appropriate in the Middle Eastern (generally Gulf) context, the incestuous relationship between cleric and king tends to resemble the Middle Ages more than anything else. [2] Yes, I know that Arabs in Israel have more freedom than in neighboring countries and that a recent Miss Israel was Arab. But by the "mainstream" I mean the political and military culture of Israel that sets it off from the Diaspora, where professional and economic achievement tend to set the tone for the Jewish nation. Remember, no Israeli government will accept an Arab party into its coalition, because a large portion of the electorate considers only a Jewish majority legitimate. [3] The role of Zoroastrianism is injecting concepts like the devil, hell and heaven is well attested to. I also don't reject the ancient contributions of Hellenists like Philo, though that tradition has been held in some disrepute until the rise of the Reform tradition in Germany in the 19th century. The influences of Christianity and Islam are more straightforward, Jews from Morocco and Yemen for instance still consider polygamy within the bounds of their tradition while European Jews reject it. [4] I don't know if circumcision is mandatory for adult converts to Islam, but I believe it is in most Jewish sects, though I've heard some Reform temples don't require it. Russian Jews for instance have been obligated to make a trip to the hospital when they arrive in Israel for this very reason. [5] Exactly what a Muslim of Hindu ancestry must do to placate the Hindu nationalists is beyond me. I do know that a movement to reconvert these people is taking place, and is the source of much tension between the minority communities and the newly minted missionaries. [6] Note that Hinduism is much more diverse in terms of its religious philosophy than Christianity or Islam. For instance, though most Hindus are monistic, there is a dualist school. In addition, though Hinduism is generally a theistic religion, there are atheistic variants. [7] There is some dispute as to Sonia Gandhi's Roman Catholicism, though she seems to be at least a cultural Catholic-reasonable in the light of her Italian origins. Her children seem to have been raised as Hindus, likely in case either wanted a political career. Sonia's dead husband, Rajiv Gandhi was by blood half Parsi, but his father had converted to Hinduism. [8] Priyanka's husband is half-white as well, and was raised as a Catholic by his mother. He converted to Hinduism, again likely to ward off any stumbling blocks to Priyanka's political career. She needs to pluck her eyebrows too in my opinion, she certainly didn't inherit her mother's delicate looks or her father's gentle mien but rather Indira's more hawkish features. [8.5] A Hindu nationalist would have been a bit confused in the year 1000. There were Hindu rajas in Kabul, which is only marginally considered Indian and more appropriately part of the Persian sphere of influence, and Hindu kings ruled throughout Southeast Asia. The Balinese of Indonesia and the Chams of Vietnam are all that remain of that ancient Hindu international. [9] This is a case where differences in substance and style are so great that I suspect that the clash between Islam and Hinduism was inevitable and a malicious accident of fate. While Muslims assert that there is One God, Hindus will semi-seriously assert 600 million (most Hindus accept that the divine spark exists in everything), Muslims abhor idolatry, while Hindus consider it an acceptable avenue of focusing one's devotion, Muslims make a sincere effort to declare the equality of man before God, while Hinduism's caste crystallized right before the Islamic invasions, and so forth. When the Portuguese came, they were brutal, but generally would leave idols of Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu alone because they thought it might have been Trinity. [10] There are a few Aramaic speaking villages left in Syria, and Syriac and Coptic still exist as liturgical languages. In my understanding, Syriac as a dialect of late Aramaic, though someone can correct me on this. [11] El is the Hebrew version. [12] I'm sorry for using the word cloying, but I'm not going to back away from my own biases. The ancient culture of Iran seems so colorful next to what the Arabs brought in, but that's just my opinion. [13] We speak of needing an "Islamic Reformation." The Muftis of the Sunni world and the Ayatollah's of Iran are based on Western religious motifs, not indigenous ones. Forward is the only way to move, and the reactionary Islamists and liberal secularizers are its two faces. [14] Germany for instance has a "church tax" which one may opt out of. The tax goes to the maintenance of the Protestant and Catholic churches. Evangelical denominations, Jews and Muslims may also receive monies, but consideration is far less in keeping with smaller numbers and marginal historical profile. Also, Protestant in Germany means the coalition of Calvinist and Lutheran churches. [15] Kalmykia is the only Buddhist European state. It is the remnants of a great migration of Western Mongols, Oyrats, who came into the service of the Russian Czars. [16] Though Mesopotamia was ruled by the Sassanid Persian dynasty who were Zoroastrians, most of the populace were Christians of a variety of sects, though most often of the Nestorian tradition, which had strong theological and political differences with the Byzantine church. The Nestorians still existed after the rise of Islam, and the modern Chaldaen/Assyrian community from Iraq are their remnants. Nestorians were aggressive missionaries in central Asia, and many of the tribes that Genghis Khan conquered around 1200 were Nestorian. Southern Mesopotamia had many Jews. [17] Armenia, Ethiopia and the Nubian principalities of the upper Nile were the non-European Christian states during this era. It would not be an exaggeration to say that by 750 Christian and European were already synonymous as they would be until around 1500 when the conversion of the Amerindian peoples began. [18] By centralized, this is a very relative term. But even the loose elective monarchies of Germany were more unitary than the tribal confederations that dominated the scene prior to Christianization. [19] The Catholic Church to some extent interposes the church and its clerics as mediators, but even in the High Middle Ages mystics sparked reforming and charismatic movements, generally drawing from a personal experience with God. No amount of institutional scaffolding can hide that the individual and God are an essential dynamic in Christianity. [20] This incident was sparked by the murder of one of Theosodius' generals by the Thessalonikans on the charge of homosexuality. [21] Please note that Machiavelli was a practicing Catholic. [22] This ancient pagan tendency is also found in Islamic traditions-the Ottoman Sultan was also the Caliph of the Sunni Ummah. [23] Charles found himself a Catholic French wife. This solidified his relations with Europe's most powerful state, but undermined his standing in the eyes of his more radical Protestant subjects. The fact that he wasn't too bright didn't help of course. [24] This is a very relative thing. Protestants were not allowed in Spain, but France had a large Protestant minority (later expelled), while Germany was a patchwork and England still had Catholics and a diverse mix of Protestants. Protestant lords mixed with the Catholic peasantry in Ireland while Ulster was being settled by the Scotch Presbyterians. Poland was pulling away from its brief flirtation with Protestantism. Russia slumbered, as usual. [25] By reactionary, I mean religious conservatism in the sense of the pagan Senator Symmachus, who attempted to maintain the "way of the ancestors" in the face of Christianity. Many European nationalities, especially the Germans, seemed to have had fond memories of the ancestors fueled by the Romantic movement. [26] I don't mean to imply that paganism is naturally racist or nationalist. I do though believe it is more amenable to nationalist manipulations than Christianity-for Christianity as a universal religion simply will not brook excessive parochialism. [27] It seems peculiar, but the muscular Christians of late 19th century wanted to Christianize the Catholic Philippines!

Tuesday, September 03, 2002

Lower expectations? The LA TIMES explores (free registration) Berkeley High School's problems with black and Latino depressed achievement. Of course, the People's Republic of Berkeley being what it is, it can't be racism - that only happens in communities filled with hateful white trash and Republicans. My first thought is that the story hints that a student's lack of preparation against the blistering competition is a key problem. Why is this not something that is relevant to the UC system? It doesn't seem like diversity is doing a whole lot of good for the kids in high school, but it's crucial in higher education, no? In addition, the story also talks a bit about Asians, but the big contrast is between whites and blacks & Latinos. Why not talk about how the Asians are doing well despite being oppressed people of color? Maybe there could be some magic secret that one could glean from their performance. This quote confused me:
Despite Berkeley's efforts, some minority parents say the school fails to aggressively challenge students of color and hold them to the same academic standards as others.
Oh, really? If this is what black parents want, I'm all aboard, equal standards for everyone.... I do think some of the problem is lower expectations and culture. Of course, I think there are other realities that we might have to confront.

Afro-nerds This story in the MIT Technology Review is about Ghana and the rise of the "hacker culture" in that country. The link from kind of promised more than what seemed to be there content-wise, but it's better than all the other shitty stories you get out of "Darkest Africa" [1]. I don't see anything in the story to indicate that Accra is a thriving tech hub, or frankly will be anytime soon, but the seeds are there. Though I do wonder about problems like corrosion in a tropical climate without air-conditioning. But it's not like you can't code using crappy a 486 running a *nix distribution. I'm on record as saying that I'm skeptical that Africans can be as good at math as Asians, but I have to also admit that a lot of programming doesn't require much math. And there is going to be a niche for people to take over India's low-end work once that nation starts to move toward more value-added tasks beyond refactoring, debugging & testing or doing Visual Basic!. [1] If there is one professional group that might avoid the AIDS epidemic in Africa, it will be programmers....

Pigskin prognostication Tuesday Morning Quarterback has this to say about football predictions:
All told, of the roughly 300 Super Bowl predictions tracked by TMQ through this period, two were right -- a one-in-150 performance. If you simply placed into a hat the names of the 31 NFL teams that existed in those years and drew a name at random, your odds of predicting the Super Bowl winner would be 1-in-31. This means that in the past three years, professional sportscasters and commentators, possessed with their incredible insider knowledge, have proven themselves five times less likely than random chance to predict the Super Bowl winner.
I think what happens is mob mentality-so everyone picks the same teams based on the same phony reasons. I still think Rams vs. Steelers is a good bet though. If Kordell gets shifted to wide receiver I might be a bit happier in January....

My Revolution Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

My Revolution Quite appropriate.

What revolution are You?
Made by altern_active

posted by godlesscapitalist | 9/03/2002 02:56:00 AM | |

Monday, September 02, 2002

Interracial marriage as panacea? In the second part of my response to Samizdata, I want to deal with Perry's comments on interracial marriage and genetic factors.

Intermarriage amongst races requires no 'campaign', it is a spontaneous social fact. The streets of London suggest that anyone who thinks a 'campaign' to encourage it is required is not just wrong but profoundly so. Miscegenation is a natural consequence of close proximity unless institutional racism prevents it.

First things first: I don’t care whether people engage in interracial marriage (IM) or not, as it’s their business. What I was objecting to was the tone of Dale’s original post, which made it seem like IM was a panacea for the problems of race relations. If IM is held up as the only solution, it’s inevitable that there will be a campaign to promulgate it. I agree that miscegenation is a natural consequence of close proximity in the absence of laws against it. But does that proximity exist in practice? It does in Silicon Valley, where high IQ, law-abiding East Asians, South Asians, and whites work together and have high rates of IM. But the fact that intelligence and criminality are associated with race means that we observe de facto segregation. This causes “white flight” and the formation of ethnic ghettos. Finally, as Razib points out, Perry neglects the fact that the non-white population is Britain is quite small in absolute terms. Thus they have a lower likelihoood of mating with members of their own ethnic group. As minority fractions increase, assimilation via intermarriage decreases.

Many years living in the USA (about 1/3rd of my life) proved to me that significant sections of US society tend to be profoundly racist in ways that have to be experienced by an outsider to be believed. The number of times a black male acquaintance of mine who was attending University in New Jersey was insulted and even assaulted because his girlfriend was white showed me an aspect to US society not many US bloggers like to contemplate.

Perry verges dangerously close to the Tranzi tendency to castigate US society as “racist”. Does irrational racism exist in the United States? Yes. But exhaustive studies have shown that racist attitudes have declined substantially since the bad old days. As for the assault on your black acquaintance, I am quite sorry that this happened and I hope the perpetrators were punished appropriately. But anecdotal evidence does not change the fact that white-on-black violent crime is statistically exceptional, [2] while black-on-white violent crime is not.

I do not doubt the factual veracity of the crime figures that Gene Expressions loves to bandy about: I have lived and worked in urban America enough to know the reality. But whilst crime figures prove there are serious problems in Black America, they tell us nothing whatsoever about the causes of those problem. Why look for genetic excuses for what is so obviously a man-made social problem?

First, I don't "love" to mention these figures. I mention them because no one else will, and because they're important. Second, why is this so “obviously” a totally non-genetic problem? I’m loath to rehash the arguments I’ve made time and again, but the evidence that some of the difference between black & white (and male & female) outcomes is due to genetic factors is overwhelming. Some – of course – is due to non-genetic environmental factors, and no reasonable person contests this. [1] You are correct that crime figures alone do not tell us about biology. But there is substantial biological evidence that indicates that criminality is partly influenced by genetic factors. Non-genetic environmental factors do not explain everything. This is true for differences between races AND between sexes. Do you really dispute that men are more prone to violence than women?

I am sure if genetic science existed in immediate aftermath of the Imperial Roman withdrawal from Briton, Roman scientists would have shook their heads and written off the ancient Britons as just genetically inferior to the Romans at sight of social chaos, decaying roads and aqueducts falling into disrepair.

As I said above, geneticists are not so foolish as to look at large-scale statistical evidence alone and conclude that genetic factors predominate. Biochemistry and genetics point to the same fact as the large-scale evidence: criminality is partially genetic. Chemicals don’t lie. Inject some testosterone or take some Zoloft and then tell me genetics does not matter.

Mexico and Brazil are held up as examples of the fallacy of expecting miscegenation to improve racist attitudes, yet that actually proves nothing universal about anything.

It does prove something universal: high rates of interracial marriage do not necessarily lead to a homogeneous race-blind utopia. That was Dale’s implicit claim, and it is refuted by the evidence. [1] Genetically correlated environmental factors include the influence of the parents and the self-selected environment. To give an easy example, it is highly unlikely that any human would linger for long in an anaerobic environment; his genetics would force him to flee. [2] In response to klemps' comment: combine the FBI UCR data on absolute rates with the offender/victim distribution found here, and you can get the ratio of the absolute number of black-on-white crimes to the absolute number of white-on-black crimes. Note that you will want to use a correction term for the fact that the UCR lumps hispanics and whites together as offenders.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 9/02/2002 08:40:00 PM | |

Utopia does not exist Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Utopia does not exist My differences with my esteemed peers at Libertarian Samizdata are both philosophical and practical. Permit me to treat philosophy first, and I assure you I will return to the practical, dealing with Dale's post first. Philosophy First things first: I am not a libertarian. Neo-libertarianism is the closest thing out there to my political views, as it redresses what are (in my opinion) the fatal deficiencies of the US libertarian party: the reflexive hostility to government and the unrealistic streak of romanticized isolationism. [1] But I am not really a neo-libertarian. If I could choose one self descriptive adjective it would be: pragmatic. As a pragmatist, I let facts rather than ideology dictate my choice of policy. Efficiency and results are what matter – not feelings or conventions. If Euro-style socialism somehow provided for a higher median standard of living than US capitalism, I would seriously consider advocating socialism in the United States. [2] If prayers could somehow be shown to have an effect on reality, I would prostrate myself on a regular basis. And if genetics were unimportant or negligible when formulating policy, I would be a determined follower of Locke. But genetics are important. This was Darwin’s conclusion, and it is marvelous in that it is simultaneously radical and unremarkable. No one seriously claims that humans have two ears because of nurture, or that any manner of pampering could enable a dolphin to speak or to solve differential equations. [3] No one denies that Downs’ syndrome is caused by trisomy of the 21st chromosome or that the human XY genotype causes a male phenotype. In these settings the importance of genetics is hardly worth remarking upon; in this sense Darwin’s conclusions are unremarkable. But the conclusions of Darwinism are also radical because they are inimical to the foundations of modern political philosophy:
  • Conservatives hate Darwin because he challenges their belief in divinity.
  • Liberals hate Darwin because he challenges their belief in victimization.
  • Authoritarians hate Darwin because human nature is the last bulwark against extremism.
  • Libertarians hate Darwin because he challenges their belief in individualism.
I wish to focus on the last of these statements today. The “moral core” of libertarianism is the assumption that individuals decide their own destinies. The exaltation of the “John Galt” figure is based upon the supposition that John Galt is responsible for his success. But is he? A moment’s thought reveals that a certain degree of innate intelligence and will is a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for Galt-like success. No individual with a 200 SAT-M score would ever be able to design a Galt engine. Not everyone will be able to live up to the libertarian ideal. Rational thought is computationally expensive and not everyone is capable of it. Thus the groups that libertarians favor - the entrepreneur, the scientist, the engineer – are in a very strong sense partly hereditary groups. [4] And as I’ve explained at some length, these groups correlate with race and sex to a nontrivial degree. [5] Libertarians pride themselves on their rationality, but the fact is that their vision of rugged individualism is just as utopian as the liberals’ dream of a classless society. Both goals founder upon the same fact: humans are not biologically identical. Practicality As a pragmatist, I understand that a libertarian utopia is impossible. I’d much rather have half a loaf in real life than a full loaf in some fantasy world. I recognize that groups have genetic differences and willfully ignoring those differences will not make them go away. [6] This is why I oppose well-meaning but ill-conceived pieces of legislation like the Racial Privacy Initiative. The effect would be ludicrous – I can only compare it to Prince’s name changing. The people-formerly-known-as-Africans would still dominate entertainment and athletics. The people-formerly-known-as-Asians would still be disproportionately present in engineering and violin schools. Describing these groups would require contortions of euphemistic newspeak, and would accomplish nothing more than driving the discussion of racial differences further underground. Perhaps most importantly, doctors, police officers, and scientists recognize that racial differences have consequences. Ignoring them means that people die. It is for this reason that I cannot subscribe to the libertarian utopia that Dale outlines in his post. We both agree that individualism is important for one’s psychological well-being and for the health of the economy. Where we differ is on whether it is ever a good idea to consider groups in the formulation of policy. Let us consider his statements:

Individuals matter. Groups do not.

We disagree. In medical, military, scientific, and police considerations, groups do matter. When push comes to shove, we cannot afford to ignore the properties of groups. Do you think women should serve as foot soldiers? Do you think that we should risk a man’s life by giving him an organ transplant from a more distant population group? When lives are on the line, we cannot close our eyes.

Group politics in whatever form it appears is the Tranzi philosophy.

The philosophy you propound has the same philosophical root as the Tranzis: the willful disregard of innate group differences.

If you could absolutely and scientifically prove one group genetically inferior to another you would accomplish nothing except establish that group for eternal victimhood under their philosophy. You succeed in making entire "racial" groups into "the genetically challenged" who then "obviously" must by protected and helped by - you guessed it – government!

I don’t like the loaded terms “inferior” or “superior”. Establishing genetic differences between groups is not meant to prove a group to be “inferior”. Do we consider men inferior to women or vice versa? No – we recognize that they have different and complementary strengths. As for marking a group for “eternal victimhood”, I am quite aware that identification of genetic differences is controversial because people believe that genes are immutable. That’s why I believe that genetic differences will only be acknowledged when genetic engineering is possible – which is soon. I favor regulated free market solutions to genetic engineering – not government intervention. Finally, there seems to be an underlying hostility to scientific inquiry. It seems to me that you are saying: “Don’t look at genetic differences. If you can prove them beyond a reasonable doubt, the consequences will be disastrous”. As I’ve written before, this is the attitude that Galileo confronted. People opposed his science because they were afraid to have the basis of their morality uprooted. Needless to say, the world did not end after Galileo’s revelations were made public.

The libertarian sees a person, not a member of a group, however scientific that grouping is purported to be.

Again, this is not true. When push comes to shove, sometimes you need to look at people as members of groups rather than individuals. Again: Do you think women should serve as foot soldiers? Do you think that we should risk a man’s life by giving him an organ transplant from a more distant population group? If not – WHY not?

Someday there will be enough genetic data from sequencing to calculate the true clusterings in gene space. We may at that time find humaniity is broken into separate point clouds (races)

We already know this. See here.

The rates of interracial marriage in America, if extended over a reasonable time frame, say a thousand years, will lead to a unique "American race". It will not sit at any of the current points in gene space of any of the current "races" It will reside at a unique new spot in that genetic n-space. … If I were to bet on any long term trend, it is that in ten thousand years the ease of travel will have made earth's gene pool rather homogeneous.

First, I’m not at all opposed to interracial marriage, but it will not create a homogeneous population and it will not calm racial tensions. It seems like the reduction of racial tensions is something you are tacitly hoping for, but one look at Brazil or Mexico should convince you that interracial marriage is no panacea. Second, a thousand year extrapolation is unwarranted. Genetic engineering and cybernetics are in our immediate (<30 years) future, and their effect on race and human differences will be substantial enough to render extrapolation meaningless. Conclusion As far as possible, we should accomodate individualism. It provides economic efficiency and social freedom. But we cannot willfully neglect innate group differences when formulating policy. An ideology that leads us to do so – whether radical nurturism or rugged individualism or divine creationism – will have consequences both costly and lethal. Only an ideologue would believe that women should serve in combat positions, or that organ transplants should be conducted in a race-blind fashion, or that the police should ignore the race profile of perpetrators. Ideology is scant comfort when the bodies begin to pile up. Ignorance is not strength. [1] Perhaps more fundamentally, neo-libertarianism (as I understand it) jettisons the outmoded concept of the non-initiation of force and replaces it with a muscular foreign policy. Just as the paleocon/neocon split was over race, the paleolibertarian/neolibertarian split is over foreign policy. [2] Euro-socialism, of course, is not sustainable without the military shield and scientific engine provided by US capitalism. [3] Conversely, no one seriously contends that (say) Vin Diesel was genetically destined to be famous. Genetic influences are all important in some cases, non-genetic environmental (NGE) influences are paramount in others, and genes and NGE share time in yet others. Those attacked as “genetic determinists” are usually nothing of the sort, as they all acknowledge the role that non-genetic environment plays. [4] For more on the heritability of intelligence and brain structure, see here. (Paul Thompson). [5] By race, I mean genetically clustered groups, but the fact is that our day-to-day understanding of race comports well with the genetic evidence. In other words, while there are exceptions, self identification of race generally matches the molecular data. [6] Genetic engineering might, but that’s a topic I’ve already covered in great detail.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 9/02/2002 06:52:00 PM | |

Free Will Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Free Will I've gotten enough emails about this that I thought I'd publicly address the topic of free will. It's material to my next series of posts, which will be responses to Perry and Dale at Samizdata. My position is that assigning fault to groups for their failures or credit to groups for their successes is a moot point. This is because the fate of groups under controlled circumstances is statistically predictable given their genetics. Individuals, on the other hand, are unpredictable enough that the notion of responsibility is not yet obsolete. (I say "yet" because it is not inconceivable that science might someday predict the future actions of a man given the current chemical state of his body and the conditions of his immediate surroundings.). In any case, while the behavior of an individual may be only somewhat predictable, the fate of groups is far more subject to inference. When a group's fate is predictable along at least some dimensions, their freedom of action decreases in a practical sense. The reduction in degrees of freedom corresponds to an increase in predictability and, eventually, the de facto elimination of free will. After all, free will is only "free" in the sense that it is inherently unpredictable. It is to free agents that we grant credit and condemnation, and if large groups are not truly "free" in the sense of being unpredictable, then such terms are not appropriate.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 9/02/2002 06:43:00 PM | |

Memes & genes, and never the twain shall meet...or shall they? Since the development of H. Sapiens Sapiens about 100,000 years ago culture has been outpacing biology. Culture has been changing at an exponential rate, while our biology has been plodding along [1]. But now, we are on the cusp of a new age where biology is going to be effected by the choices that our culture allows. Man can remake himself and the technological facet of our culture will make that possible. We are nearing an inflection point in our biology analogous to the creative explosion that characterized the transition from "archaic" humans to modern humans. Kind of makes our argument with the Samizdata crowd seem piddling. Oh, and when are you going to post more pictures of Natalija Radic? [1] By culture, I mean technology as well, and we can see that before our very eyes. On the other hand, religion for instance is something that has changing a lot too, and more theological development has probably gone on in say Judaism in the past 200 years than in the past 2,000!

Milk Chocolate Future? In some science fiction the major races remain what they are today. Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy was filled with white people-because after all it was written right after World War II. Asimov fixed this in Forward The Foundation by creating the idea of Easterners, Westerners and Southerners (Asians, whites and blacks, of course we brown people were left out as usual!). It wasn't a major part of the book, but like the insertion of computers, Asimov added racial diversity to keep up with the times. On the other hand, there were those authors that imagined that the future would be filled with golden-skinned people that mixed the different phenotypes of modern-man into a coherent whole. Some, like Ursula K Le Guin populated the future with non-white racially amorphous protagonists. As someone who was non-white myself, I liked this sometimes as it was a good change of pace from the blonde Nordic overman you tended to find in space operas. Of course, in much of science fiction-as Dale Amon would say-race doesn't matter, there are other much more important differences. Genetic engineering and nanotechnology change human physiology so much as to make them a different species in much of the future histories that dominate the mind-space of young geeky males. But what is the short-term scenario likely to be? I think that depends on what country you're talking about. For instance, though larger than it once was, Europe's non-white minority is still smaller than that of the United States. From the CIA WORLD FACTBOOK: United Kingdom Ethnic groups: English 81.5%, Scottish 9.6%, Irish 2.4%, Welsh 1.9%, Ulster 1.8%, West Indian, Indian, Pakistani, and other 2.8% France Religions: Roman Catholic 90%, Protestant 2%, Jewish 1%, Muslim (North African workers) 3%, unaffiliated 4% (France doesn't seem to collect racial data, but Muslim is an indicator, though it leaves out Christian blacks) Germany Ethnic groups: German 91.5%, Turkish 2.4%, other 6.1% (made up largely of Serbo-Croatian, Italian, Russian, Greek, Polish, Spanish) As you can see, the number of visible minorities, though not neglible (and concentrated often in certain urban locales) does not even break 10%. In the United States on the other hand-there is a complicated mess of race and ethnicity-exacerbated by political jockeying. Check out the Census site for detailed information, but anywhere from 70-80% of Americans are white, while 20-30% are non-white. The ambiguity is created by the fact that Latinos are of any race, and often identify as white though most Americans might not recognize them as such. To add to this complication, a white looking Latino in California might identify as non-white, while a brown-skinned Latino in Texas might identify as white because of peculiar regional cultures. Needless to say, there are many non-whites in the United States. As Steve Sailer points out, when there is a critical mass of any race in a given area, they tend to marry each other rather than the surrounding population. Therefore, immigration is in fact discouraging intermarriage in California. I can personally attest that in my home state of Imbler, many of the "black" people I meet are actually racially mixed. This happens because there are so few black people in this state that segregation and assortive mating simply doesn't have a chance to happen. In Britain there is much more 'race mixing' going on. But I think this makes sense-there are simply more chances when the vast majority, not just the majority, of the population, is white. In fact, Britain has a long history of assimilating black folk, as I mentioned on the Samizdata comment boards, they've already assimilated one group of blacks, the men that came back with the British fleets in the 1700s and settled in London's East End and disappeared into the general population. Attitudes are changing, I would be a fool to deny that. But though there will be plenty of blending at the edges, especially from those with common backgrounds (religion, income and schooling), at least in the United States, race will continue to exist for a long time. Experiences in countries like Trinidad, Brazil or South Africa show that mediating mixed-raced castes do exist, but that does not mean that the "primary races" disappear. The fact that racism as an acceptable position is on the wane will accelerate the growth of mediating castes, but I suspect that the primary races will still be around for some time to come simply because they are a good proxy for a lot of cultural traits, and perhaps sexual selection. I believe that Godless is right that race won't disappear because of intermarriage but will be made obsolete by genetic engineering as the vast expanse of our phenotypic possibilites stretch out before our future. Yes-race may become irrelevant, but because of biology - not culture!

A call for user input Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

A call for user input In order to avoid rehashing the same points over and over every time I get into a time-consuming debate, I'd like to begin assembling a master list of every reasonable objection to the positions I've taken here. Easy ones would include statements like "race has no biological meaning", which I've answered many times over. More sophisticated arguments would include questions like "why do Amerindians and Southeast Asians fare poorly in academia while Northeast Asians do well?", which I've also answered in the past. The end goal will be to produce a document that deals with these objections systematically and knits together the scattered posts into a coherent whole. Please voice your comments or suggestions publicly in the comments box or privately by email. Thanks.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 9/02/2002 01:19:00 AM | |

Sunday, September 01, 2002

Isn't this legal? Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Isn't this legal? Why is this an issue?

Arizona State University President Michael Crow vowed Thursday that swift and substantial action would be taken against four fraternities in general and the executive vice president of the student body in particular for their roles in a pornographic video shot on campus last fall. Brian Buck, a 23-year-old business and psychology senior, is one of dozens of male ASU students who appear in Shane's World #29: Frat Row Scavenger Hunt 3. In the professionally produced video, a nude Buck is seen showering with two adult-film actresses and sitting in a limousine next to an actor engaged in a sex act.

Stupid Puritans.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 9/01/2002 06:40:00 AM | |

I'm linking-not really blogging.... OK, you have to check out this little parody of sensitivity to Islam by The Raving Atheist. Here is the introduction:
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission yesterday filed a religious discrimination suit against American Airlines for refusing to hire a Muslim woman, Rania Fneiche, who wanted to wear the terror-inducing Islamic Hijab scarf on the job. According to EEOC spokesman Peter Hanson, the airline failed to make a reasonable accommodation to Fneiche's right to scare the living bejesus out of already jittery airline passengers by donning the Allah-inspired head covering.
I don't know if we can stop the inexorable expansion of the Dar-al-Islam, but hell, we can laugh on our way to damnation can't we?

Hunting for our new place in the forest Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Hunting for our new place in the forest It is now late summer, the evening air is just a little colder, a shade nippier. It is a time that portends coming change. Late summer is when I begin to dream of fall. I dream of drifting gold and red leaves, bare branches preparing for the long winter sleep. Oak acorns fall in rhythmic crackles on carpets of dead leaves. In this dream, my head leans against a tree while I listen to the soft patter of snow on the bark. It is as evocative as the sound of drums beating from across the river. Deer drift past the edge of my vision - soundless ghosts in the twilight. A grey doe wanders past the edge of steep draw, momentarily crossing my lane of fire. I draw my bow, the muscles of my arm quivering in the cold. The wind which until now blew against my face suddenly whipped and swirled around. Grey turns into a leaping flash of white, as the doe smells something-not-quite-right and takes off into the safety of dense brush. I let down, breathe harder yet.. a rush of blood clouds my vision, pumping through my brain till my temples throb. I lean back against the tree, the world vanishes. Mostly, I dream of fall. I dream of the soft scent of pine, filtered sunlight through the treetops. I watch my breath in the air. Today, it is wet and ice rims the tree trunks. The treestand is too dangerous to use today as foul winds mutter and scream through the treetops. I sink back into my hastily built blind. My bow shivers in the rain.. "Wet feather", I mutter to myself. "Watch those wet feathers, or you won't be hunting today any more...". The wind picks up, the soft scent of pine is now a harsh mix of pine and cold wet earth. I take deeper breaths. A few acres of lonely woods becomes my universe. In our technocentric world (and one that I revel in otherwise), there is both an increasing disconnect between man and "nature", as well as an increasing number of those who will do anything to regain that connection, be it for brief, fleeting moments at a time. I have often wondered at how the human animal has managed to quite successfully take his species relationship with the natural world from helpless dependance to de-facto control. We are unfortunately, at a particular position in our socio-technological ladder of evolution, where this control is used as an excuse to isolate humans from the natural world. Isolation, driven by guilt over consumptive practices decried by watermelon enviro-activists around the world. Driven also by the fear engendered by the very power of control.. This fear that drives many to attempt to extinguish human activities which require incredibly up-close and personal contact with Nature.. blood, guts and all. Consider hunting. Less a sport, and more of an art form mixed in with science, this ancient and revolutionary human activity is evolving in step with technological advances and its associated social changes. We rarely hunt for food in any serious fashion, except for a fraction of the rural population. Hunting has become not merely a game-management tool, but a very effective ecosystem management tool for forestry departments across much of North America. Absent other predators, humans are the "keystone species" who are responsible for designing, crafting and maintaining large and complex ecosystems. Controlled hunting has managed to keep most forest eco-systems in North America thriving and in balance. Hunting today is awash in high-tech, and much of it has been accepted uncomplainingly by the weekend hunter. Bows today are high-tech machines, cradling carbon-composite arrows mounted with broadheads tested in wind-tunnels. Fiber-optic sights for low-light acquisition. GPS takes you to your hunting spot. IR game finders help you find downed game. Camo-painted 4X4's help you cart the animal to a well-kept butchering station to be eviscerated on its way to your well-stocked suburban freezer. An email later that night to your forest ranger with the animal stats, lat-long of where you made the kill, all goes into a database of tracking information for next years quota. All very precise, all very scientific, and all still somehow exciting and primitive and heart-pounding at the same time. But something is missing. This purely utilitarian view of hunting hides the real reason most sportsmen go afield. Aside from the simple pleasure of being outdoors, I know why I really go out to hunt. I go to hold the balance of life and death in my hands. It is quite simply that. When I draw on a deer, visions of population-management methodologies do not dance in front of my eyes. It is kill, or let live. It is a conscious decision to take or to spare, the life of a prey animal. It is a controlled surrender to one's blood-lust. It is an raw animal emotion that no amount of technology I carry on me can diminish. The best hunters I know freely admit to it. Some even embrace it eagerly even if most are understandably a little coy about the whole thing. This blood lust is also something that disturbs most urban non-hunters the most. It is also what drives the vegan animal rights activist completely batty.. it is an indictment of their philosophy of isolationism and their Lamarckian belief that cultural conditioning against activities like hunting actually stand a chance in hell against our genes. The remarkable ease with which the average modern man (and woman) can relate to hunting once they are given the opportunity to do so demonstrates how thin the veneer of technology and urban civilization is. The almost universal satisfaction gained after a difficult but successful stalk, or a well-planned treestand ambush, demonstrates fully the power of the natural-born predator lurking within each one of us. This predatory instinct is so strong, short of serious genetic re-engineering of the human species to remove these predispositions, we need to recognize, accept and learn to work with this blood lust and hunting instinct latent within us. Anything less would be an opportunity lost, and a deep-set human desire, denied expression. Godless comments: Trust me to pick a few nits with Suman's excellent post:

Hunting today is awash in high-tech...

It's true that modern implements have made hunting even easier. But we shouldn't forget that man's weapons have never been his hands and teeth. The use of technology in hunting - spears, fire, clubs - is as old as homo sapiens itself.

The remarkable ease with which the average modern man (and woman) can relate to hunting

Not to be nitpicky, but I think men are more likely to get "into" hunting than women, for aforementioned primeval reasons. The above might be more accurate if it were "man (and some women)".

This predatory instinct is so strong, short of serious genetic re-engineering of the human species to remove these predispositions, we need to recognize, accept and learn to work with this blood lust and hunting instinct latent within us. Anything less would be an opportunity lost, and a deep-set human desire, denied expression.

Well, most people do manage to go about their day-to-day basis without killing things. And a substantial portion of India goes without even eating meat. So I don't think that we need to hunt to be happy, though I have nothing against people doing it if they want to. While there are instincts programmed into us by the millennia of evolution spent in the hunter-gatherer phase, I don't know that a compulsion to hunt is among them. On the other hand, perhaps televised sports and (nowadays) televised wars provide a vicarious substitute for the violent ancestral lives that we miss. I'm not aware of any society that didn't have some outlet for male aggression, whether it be the Coliseum or the Coliseum. Razib's Muslim perspective (sort of): Hindus might shy away from killing and eating animals-but some of them are OK with butchering Muslims. Actually though, I think brawling is a violent outlet similar to hunting-you tend to find a target you perceive as weaker than you and bait and bite. Is brawling less prevalent or more so in vegetarian areas? I know straight edge youth have a reputation for being violent and rowdy....

Principles of Population Genetics
Genetics of Populations
Molecular Evolution
Quantitative Genetics
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Evolutionary Genetics
Molecular Markers, Natural History, and Evolution
The Genetics of Human Populations
Genetics and Analysis of Quantitative Traits
Epistasis and Evolutionary Process
Evolutionary Human Genetics
Mathematical Models in Biology
Evolutionary Genetics: Case Studies and Concepts
Narrow Roads of Gene Land 1
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Narrow Roads of Gene Land 3
Statistical Methods in Molecular Evolution
The History and Geography of Human Genes
Population Genetics and Microevolutionary Theory
Population Genetics, Molecular Evolution, and the Neutral Theory
Genetical Theory of Natural Selection
Evolution and the Genetics of Populations
Genetics and Origins of Species
Tempo and Mode in Evolution
Causes of Evolution
The Great Human Diasporas
Bones, Stones and Molecules
Natural Selection and Social Theory
Journey of Man
Mapping Human History
The Seven Daughters of Eve
Evolution for Everyone
Why Sex Matters
Mother Nature
Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language
R.A. Fisher, the Life of a Scientist
Sewall Wright and Evolutionary Biology
Origins of Theoretical Population Genetics
A Reason for Everything
The Ancestor's Tale
Dragon Bone Hill
Endless Forms Most Beautiful
The Selfish Gene
Adaptation and Natural Selection
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The Symbolic Species
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Out of Thin Air
Evolutionary Dynamics
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Of Moths and Men
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Religion Explained
In Gods We Trust
Darwin's Cathedral
A Theory of Religion
The Meme Machine
Synaptic Self
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A Separate Creation
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The 10,000 Year Explosion
The Math Gene
Explaining Culture
Origin and Evolution of Cultures
Dawn of Human Culture
The Origins of Virtue
Prehistory of the Mind
The Nurture Assumption
The Moral Animal
Born That Way
No Two Alike
Survival of the Prettiest
The Blank Slate
The g Factor
The Origin Of The Mind
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Before the Dawn
Behavioral Genetics in the Postgenomic Era
The Essential Difference
Geography of Thought
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History of Rome
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The Making of a Christian Aristoracy
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Keepers of the Keys of Heaven
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Europe After Rome
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The Barbarian Conversion
A History of Christianity
God's War
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The Sacred Chain
Divided by the Faith
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Pursuit of Glory
Albion's Seed
From Plato to Nato
China: A New History
China in World History
Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World
Children of the Revolution
When Baghdad Ruled the Muslim World
The Great Arab Conquests
After Tamerlane
A History of Iran
The Horse, the Wheel, and Language
A World History
Guns, Germs, and Steel
The Human Web
Plagues and Peoples
A Concise Economic History of the World
Power and Plenty
A Splendid Exchange
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Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations
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