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May 03, 2003

Wait until we're wise....

Dave Appell of Quark Soup reviews Mckibben's book-Bill McKibbean Spanks the Future. Pretty long & informative. Virgina Postrel has a round-up of reviews.

Also, ran across this Jay Manifold post titled Why People Don't Believe the Historical Sciences.

Posted by razib at 01:18 PM | | TrackBack

May 01, 2003

Tough love

A magistrate in Australia has been rebuked for trying to talk some sense into a defendant.

Before passing sentence, Mr Frederick told the defendant: "You're a druggie and you'll die in the gutter . . . I don't believe in that social worker crap . . . You can go to work.

"Seven million of us do it while 14 million like you sit at home watching Days of Our Lives, smoking your crack pipe and using needles, and I'm sick of you sucking us dry.

"Little Johnnie taxes us with all sorts, and now with salt tax and maybe war tax.

"We dicks pay for your life. It's your choice to be a junkie and die in the gutter. No one gives a shit, but you're going to kill that woman who is your mother, damn you to death."

Personally I don't so what's so offensive about what he said. That he is rebuked for saying it is a sign of how much society or at least elite society prefers 'sensitivity' to the harsh truth. Being judgemental is now a worse sin than wasting your life. While I don't agree with drug laws or prostitution laws, he of course had to administer those laws and what he was saying was more moral suasion to get her to change her ways. He was clearly emotional when he let it rip and the reaction was one of one human being who thinks that another human being could do better with her life. If only more judges were as concerned with the people they sentenced.

Posted by jason_s at 06:48 PM | | TrackBack

The neo-con con job?

This article documents the extent to which even some semi-respectable lefty intellectuals like Eric Alterman have descended into anti-neocon paranoia/hysteria. Let me say that I'm making this point as someone who has castigated what I regard as the utopianism of the neo-con foreign policy mavens on my own blog. I also have cited favourably Steve Sailer's criticism of the neocons.

However some of the recent examples of neocon bashing as documented in my first link are worrying because the implied story behind those kinds of criticisms is that there's this cunning Jewish neo-con cabal that has somehow Rasputin-like easily manipulated Bush, Cheney, Condi, et al into a foreign policy which is really about using US lives to destroy Israel's enemies. A more plausible take on events IMHO is that
i) firstly let's get it out of the way - most neocons are Jewish (unless you count Fukuyama and some others like that as neocons) but that's because public intellectuals are disproportionately Jewish. Libertarians are probably also disproportionately Jewish (Mises. Rothbard, Rand, Nozick, the Friedmans) so is libertarianism also a Jewish conspiracy?(there's probably some nut who'll say 'yes')
ii) everyone acts out of a mixture of motives and perhaps even in the process resolve various cognitive dissonances. Of course there are some Jewish neocons who probably do see a more aggressive Middle East strategy as facilitating the long term security of Israel by regime changing its neighbours into liberal democracies. But they probably also believe or have had their prejudices strengthened post S11 that the only way to avoid another S11 is to neutralise sources of terrorist support. Cheney, Condi, Rumsfeld probably also believe the same thing and are not Jewish, far as I know. Godless has made the same kinds of arguments on this blog. I am wary of a more ambitious US military strategy because of so many things that could go wrong but the kind of argument propounded by neocons is not so prima facie implausible that you need a goddamned conspiracy theory to explain its dominance in the Administration.

Finally it's worth noting that the kinds of sinister anti-neocon bashing I've been hearing from parts of the paleoright and the loony left (read: Atrios's comments facilities which while not necessarily referring to ancestry are also fond of this 'sinister cabal' characterisation) is reminiscent of that time not so long ago in Germany when a sinister Jewish cabal was blamed for pushing Germany into war and forcing it to pay reparations.

Update: A reader on the comments facility has accused me of smearing Atrios. Perhaps I was a little careless there - this post was originally inspired by some nutty and violent though not necessarily racist comments about 'sinister cabals pushing the US into war' Godless pointed out were on Atrios' comments facilities. I have amended my original sentence accordingly to refer to Atrios' comments facilities.

Posted by jason_s at 02:29 AM | | TrackBack

April 30, 2003

Chinese censorship

I know that I have at least on regular reader in mainland China which means that GNXP is not blocked. John Jay Ray wants people to pass on the following info:


The Chinese seem to have become really serious about internet censorship in recent months. They re-blocked Blogspot some time ago and lots of other sites are blocked too -- including at least some Lycos and some Yahoo. I have therefore decided to do my tiny bit towards keeping communications open by putting a mirror of my blog up on a site that China does NOT block. I keep all my blog entries as a file so once I have written my blog entries for the day, it takes me only a couple of minutes extra to put them up on a second site. So in future my blog will also be accessible at the following address: http://members.optusnet.com.au/~jonjayray/tripod.html. The site concerned is hosted by my local ISP so it may stay too insignificant to be blocked by China. With ISP hosting, the site is also advertising-free, which is a bit of a bonus. I will also be putting up my “China” postings several hours before I put them on Blogspot. Because Blogspot is so trouble-prone, I do not post there until just after midnight, California time, in the hope that the load and the errors will be minimal then. I would be much obliged if anyone with contacts in China would let them know of the new site. I even have some archives there so people can catch up with what was posted in the last 6 weeks or so.

Posted by razib at 05:34 AM | | TrackBack

April 29, 2003

English proficiency highest among migrants' children

Obviously we in Australia are doing something right despite our official Multiculturalism policy:

Teenage children of migrants have better language skills than their classmates, while students who have spoken English for less than four years have higher literacy rates than Aboriginal students, according to statewide test results.

The English Language and Literacy Assessment (ELLA) results of year7 and year8 students also suggest that boys are catching up with girls in reading, writing and language skills.

The most notable results are from children of non-English-speaking backgrounds, who performed above the mean in language skills.

Dr Maureen Walsh, a senior lecturer in literacy education at the Australian Catholic University, said children who spoke another language at home had a cognitive advantage with literacy skills.

"Whether it's Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean or Arabic, they have concept development in their first language and that transfers to the second," she said

Posted by jason_s at 07:45 PM | | TrackBack

Technology & England

Ben Sheriff forwarded me a link to an article he wrote on neo-Luddite fears of technology by Prince Charles. Of course blogger permlinks aren't working, so go here and search for "Posted 11:52 PM" and you should get to it. I'm not sanguine about technological disasters-but rather than worry about disasters-to-come we should prepare to ride the tiger as best as we can.

Posted by razib at 06:05 PM | | TrackBack

April 28, 2003

African-American ancestry

Steve Sailer reports on the search for the genetic ancestors of African-Americans. An interesting snippet:

He told UPI that he found, "My female line goes back to Northern Nigeria, the land of the Hausa tribe. I then went to Nigeria and talked to people and learned a lot about the Hausa's culture and tradition. That gave me sense about who I am. In a way, it grounded me."

"Two people there looked like cousins I have -- they even behaved like them!" Kittles laughed. [my emphasis -r]

The human mind is great at making connections and the geneticist in question might not have noticed the similarity of these Hausa to his cousins in physique & personality if he did not already know he had a blood tie to these people-even a distant one. On the other hand-we are often likely to associate mannerisms & behavior to environmental influences, but we should not neglect the importance of genetics on our behavioral patterns, especially when lower level instincts help form higher complexity emergent tendencies.

Posted by razib at 09:14 PM | | TrackBack

Kill 'em before they cause trouble

Economist Steven Levitt has won the prestigious John Bates Clark medal in economics. Levitt's most famous co-written paper is The impact of legalised abortion on crime:

We offer evidence that legalized abortion has contributed significantly to recent crime reductions. Crime began to fall roughly 18 years after abortion legalization. The 5 states that allowed abortion in 1970 experienced declines earlier than the rest of the nation, which legalized in 1973 with Roe v. Wade. States with high abortion rates in the 1970s and 1980s experienced greater crime reductions in the 1990s. In high abortion states, only arrests of those born after abortion legalization fall relative to low abortion states. Legalized abortion appears to account for as much as 50 percent of the recent drop in crime.

Another one of his greatest hits is An economic analysis of a drug selling gang's finances

Update from Razib: Also check the dialogue between Levitt & Steve Sailer in Slate a few years back.

Posted by jason_s at 08:52 PM | | TrackBack

White chix

David Yeagley has an article over at Bad Eagle titled White Women Savior:

But today’s white women savior brings a softer touch. She brings the comfort of the New Age philosophy, which idolizes traditional Indian ways. She brings the financial support from communists who aggrandize Indian failure for subversive, anti-American purposes. She confirms the Indian ‘where he is,’ like modern feminist theologians , completely helpless in her hands, completely dependent on her maternal provision.

But today’s great white woman savior comes to the reservation without Christ, without courage, and without vision. She brings salvation in her own flesh.

Promiscuity often follows in her train, and the effect is viscerally divisive among Indian people. This white woman is a sexual intrusion into the Indian community, and she causes alienation between Indian women and Indian men....

On the specific issue a close friend of mine once told me that a Native American professor had told a potentional graduate student (also Native American) that the sexual opportunities offered at the overwhelmingly white University of Imbler for dark-skinned non-white males were myriad. I once had a black neighbor (there are not many blacks in Imbler-especially non-multiracial blacks) who moved to Eugene from Mississippi who was regularly propositioned by women he did not know at malls (he wasn't very attractive and indicated that he had never had much luck with women in Mississippi). On an individual level this exoticization is not troubling ;)

The problem lay deeper down. Recently I watched a documentary on the disputes surrounding holy sites around the Mt. Shasta area in northern California (about 40 miles or so from where I now live). Apparently nude hippies were lounging around springs and creeks and complaints were being issued by local Native American groups who encountered them on their religious sojourns. I watched as a group of Native American Elders confronted some naked long-haired 20-something white men & women. The Elders explained that the local tribes found nudity at religious sites offensive. The hippies were shocked & appalled and I could see the cognitive dissonance in their eyes-after all, these were people of color who were not supposed to be inhibited by Western patriarchal Judeo-Christian values. One of the bolder hippies responded with some irritation, "But nakedness is beautiful, we're all born that way...." (imagine the characteristic hippie lilt). The argument went back & forth and the hippies were quickly being disabused of their notions of what Native Americans were like-and the Native Americans were irritated at the patronizing tone that these young naked white savages evinced toward them.

This incident encapsulates many of my problems with American society and its tendency to look toward the group and the mythic past as organizing principles. Left-leaning American whites have created a mythology of the noble savage (or rather, reinterpreted it to fit their own political orientation) and become outraged when non-whites do not fit the bill-and to preserve their mythology they often attempt to de-legitimize the non-white individuals in question (a "black conservative" is not authentic). But it also extends to the Right-leaning end of the political spectrum as conservatives lionize a virtuous past that was far more complex than they remember and express ambivelance and some admiration of the moral certainties of Third World cultures [1]. The problem is that many whites forget to look at the trees in the forest, non-whites are individuals with their own selfish needs & wants. In a perfect world race would not matter and black women would not be angered at the sexual competition of white women-but it is not a perfect world and selfish considerations may trump ideals of race-neutralism. Whites, especially liberal whites, often do not face the down-side of the principles that they hold, which to me explains who Ralph Nader's voters in 2000 tended to be affluent white liberal males, the very group for whom righteous espousal of principles is to a great extent the ends (they support affirmative action & welfare, but don't usually directly benefit from it, so can assert that things "need to get worse to get better"). So white women as David Yeagley notes (and some black women have asserted) come into communities that they intend to help, often espousing their own issues, oblivious to the chaos and cultural disruption that they wreak on the individual level because individuals have little importance in their ideology though they loom large in their personal lives.

I am not denying here that race, religion, language and ethnos in general have no utility and importance-but that we are starting to swing too far toward a higher level of identification (gender, race, etc.) away from the liberal ideal of the individual. In the case of Native American (or any race/ethnos) males-they are first and foremost horny guys who will take a sexual opportunity when presented, as individuals, rather than cogs in the wheels of racial harmony. This sort of selfishness can also apply to a higher level of organization as indigenous groups turn against their environmentalist allies when the evil-oil-company offers them a fair shake of the profits. Environmentalists might be shocked-but they never understood that the indigenes have their own material needs and their primary concern was always their physical and social well-being, not a grand vision of a holistic Mother Earth.

Selfishness and imperfection is a human universal.

P.S.: I'm well aware that this sort of blathering is easier for me than most people-I have very little group affinity, whether it be racial or religious, though I would assert I am mildy patriotic. Perhaps honesty is the best policy first-before we can decide where we go on from here.

[1] Conservatives love to talk about how black Americans are more religious and pro-life than their political leadership. As if in the end it somehow changes anything.

Posted by razib at 12:37 PM | | TrackBack

To respond to "Genetic weapons"

Jdt in the comments brings up some issues with genetic weapons that I'd like to address because they contain common misperceptions:

1) A bioweapon targeted at a specific ethnic group wouldn't necessarily require "gene variants that are ONLY present in particular ethnic groups".
Yes it would. Otherwise you're just as likely to slaughter your own people

1b) We would expect a great deal of intergroup variation in genes related to immune function, since past epidemics will have had strong selective effects and different groups have different disease histories.
Wrong. Humanity's immune system is pretty much the same. What differs is what diseases a group has been exposed to, hence the disproportional effects of smallpox on an immunologically naive population like pre-Columbian Amerindians. The Spaniards weren't immune to smallpox primarily because of their genetics, rather it was due to prior exposure to either smallpox or cowpox (Amerindians didn't have cows either). Most of the variations you can attribute to "strong selective effects" have mainly to do with some blood-type distributions.

1c)it doesn't seem at all far-fetched to me that someone could develop a weapon that affects, say, 50% of the enemy and 5% of their own people.
That may be possible. But why bother when you can develop a nuke for far less (the technology already exists) that will kill 100% of the enemy (if used "liberally" enough) and none of your own population (assuming massive first-strike advantage). Oh yeah, that nuclear winter scenario. so what? If they're (enemy dictators for the most part) willing to kill 5% (or likely, more) of their own population, why would they care about a hypothetical nuclear winter?

2) The obvious example is the effect exposure to European diseases had on Amerindian population of North America. There was no doubt a great deal of genetic variation within the population of Amerindians, but what they had in common was not having been exposed to European diseases.
Again, not a genetic effect. This is what happens when an immunologically naive group is exposed to a very special virus (smallpox).

What you're talking about is essentially introducing another disease like small pox to an immunologically naive population (all of humanity). With one crucial exception--that the virus is targeted to SPECIFIC genes present in one ethnic group versus another. Not only that, but these genes need to be present in a good number (20%? 50%? 100%?) of the target population. These genes that cause differences between Pygmies and Eskimos may exist, but between Arabs and Jews? Doubtful.

3) For example, the CCR5-32 allele that confers some protection against AIDS
This gene is found in around 20% of the European population to my recollection.
I suppose this could meet your criteria for a gene-based weapon. Although carpet bombing seems a much cheaper and more reliable weapon.

4)The question of whether or not it's possible is totally seperate from the question of whether or not the Israelis are working on it. Do you have any reason to believe they're not?

Well, considering it's widely known that Israel has nuclear weapons, despite denials or prevarications by the government, I doubt they could keep the massive program required to carry out this program secret. But that's the beauty of conspiracy theories...they're incapable of being disproved

Posted by david at 10:51 AM | | TrackBack

April 27, 2003

Plagues of the 20th century....

non-SARS related disease post. Paul Orwin (back from blogbattical) posts on epidemiology (permlinks not working, go to "Morbidity and Mortality, and Counting the Dead") in response to this Yglesias post lambasting some dude I don't know for arguing for sodomy laws to discourage homosexuality because of the AIDS connection. One thing Orwin asks:

There are a number of infectious diseases, chronic ones especially, which are a major, major problem, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, but also in Southeast Asia, and to a lesser extent, South America (note to self: why not so much South America?).

On the last part-I have two off-the-top-of-the-head thoughts. South America is more advanced and richer than either Africa or Southeast Asia (the latter is debatable). Additionally hominids have a much longer presence in the Old World than in South America so there might be less coevolution between indigenous pathogens and humanity.

Finally-why doesn't Orwin fix the Javascript error already? And is Yglesias a Sephardic Jew? And why did he change his picture to one that looks like he's cruisin' for gals/guys?

Posted by razib at 08:27 PM | | TrackBack

Conscious Blindness

Steve Sailer & Jared Taylor are getting into it over the Racial Privacy Initiative (RPI) over at VDARE. Sailer supports it and Taylor opposes it. GNXPers have various opinions on this topic-I know godless is on the same side on Taylor on this issue while I tepidly back Steve (and tend to justify my position with the same arguments). But something struck me in Taylor's second rebuttal to Sailer (this continues a series). He states:

Whether its sponsors see it this way or not, the RPI is part of an insidious campaign to promote a myth that is even more preposterous than the myth of racial equality in ability: the myth that race does not even exist.

I don't think this is the case-race exists, however you define it, but the government should, when it can, judge individuals as atomic units rather than part of an organic racial whole (and yes, I assert this for gender as well, despite the average differences males and females should be judged as individuals) [1]. Connerly himself is a supporter of the mulitracial movement indicating he does believe that race has some validity & he has stated for the record that the differential racial outcomes of admissions programs should not sway us to change standards, implying that he acknowledges this to be a possibility, and therefore, that race might not be a myth on the level of social & biological organization.

An underlying point is the following question: is the liberal project of individualism tenable? Some on the Right reject it and want a return to a more organic stage in social development, while some of the Left look to a future where an egalitarian utopia does away with the individual and a "holism" is extolled. Liberalism's long-term viability is a serious question. I stand with liberalism, but I don't claim to be able to predict the future, though transhumanism or apocalypse could make this all a moot point.

[1] I am no absolutist and am open to profiling if the cost vs. benefit is weighted heavily toward the benefit. For instance if there were 10 hijackings in the past month where the plane went down and all died, and all 10 hijackers were males of Muslim Bangladeshi origin, I would accept being profiled at the cost of my inconvenience since the upside is so high (or downside depending on how you look at it). On the other hand if said individuals have a marginally greater probability of being shop-lifters, I don't think the the benefit is great enough to countermand the general liberal impulse to treat people as individuals first, and would be a bit irritated if I had to be frisked every time I left a mall shop. This argument is reducto ad absurdum but I am simply trying to get the general principle across. This of course applies to government. I am much more open to prejudice and acturially motivated behavior when it comes to the private sector because of my personal libertarianism.

Posted by razib at 07:54 PM | | TrackBack

Evolution blogs

Jason Malloy has a post on the message board asking about "evolution blogs." Please submit your recs & choices.

Posted by razib at 05:49 PM | | TrackBack