Open Thread, 01/28/2108

For various reasons we focus Classical Greece and Rome, but neglect the Hellenistic period, with the exception of the biography of Alexander. If you want to read something besides Alexander to Actium, check Dividing the Spoils.

A heads up, this week on The Insight we’ll be talking to Joe Pickrell of Gencove. The main topic will be DNA and ancestry.

Is the United States the new Saudi Arabia? This stuff is crazy if you read books about “Peak Oil” in the 2000s. Also, I really don’t ever want to hear about this stuff from random guys who read these books and thought they had all the answers ever again.

DNA Geeks is now gearing toward more general STEM and items for children. The 100x LED Microscope for Mobile Devices has been quite popular, and shipping is right now free. Also, we have European vendors for our t-shirts, so shipping is cheaper and faster.

Following many liberals on Twitter has confirmed my right-wing identity, though modified by policy beliefs. In particular, far Left people, such as Matt Stoller, seem to make coherent criticisms of capitalism and what it has wrought. Criticisms which I don’t always have a good answer for.

In contrast, moderate liberals, with their mild platitudes and thin policies are not persuasive, but their adherence to sex/race identity politics and smearing of all those to the Right of them as white supremacists means that it’s pretty obvious all of those who are “Other” need to band together as one when the time comes. We hang together, or we’ll go to the re-education camps separately.

The Follower Factory. This makes sense.

Why Ursula Le Guin Matters.

Nicholas Christakis is being treated pretty unfairly. I don’t expect that he’ll get satisfaction. This isn’t the age for honorable men.

Big Data Comes to Dieting.

The new gnomAD is pretty dope.

Dissecting historical changes of selective pressures in the evolution of human pigmentation. Not sure of the demographic model.

Sarah Haider on Secular Jihadists.

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33 thoughts on “Open Thread, 01/28/2108

  1. In contrast, moderate liberals, with their mild platitudes and thin policies are not persuasive, but their adherence to sex/race identity politics and smearing of all those to the Right of them as white supremacists means that it’s pretty obvious all of those who are “Other” need to band together as one when the time comes. We hang together, or we’ll go to the re-education camps separately.

    As usual, concise and excellent. I wish the so-called alt-right understood this. Unfortunately, they seem intent on “purity-spiraling” and self-marginalizing.

    By the way, I’m a conservative and I find aspects of capitalism distasteful. The problem with some “conservatives” is that they care more about ideas than they do people. Ideas should serve people rather than being their master.

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  2. a follow-up. someone like matt stoller, is someone whose politics are different from mine. and in the 2000s he exhibited a certain smugness. but at this point he seems genuinely sincere about his neo-jeffersonian left-populism. i feel like he believes in his views and their rightness distinct from the power and social prestige they might accrue to him. on the contrary, he’d be more comfortable as a social liberal who neglected economic issues.

    in contrast, certain types of social liberals seem intent on moving to the next revolution when the winds change.

    when it comes to the second type of liberal it’s pretty obvious everything is whom/whom and a matter of social status and power. if you are on the “other team” you are fucked.

    in contrast, i think some far left ppl like stoller are actually making a strong argument because they think it will redound to everyone’s benefit. even people they don’t like.

    i think my taxonomy here is off in terms of moderate vs. far left…but i feel like i saw this with hillary vs bernie. i disagreed with bernie, and thought he was wrong-headed, but he seemed genuinely sincere about his socialism. in contrast, hillary seemed to be heading a *faction*

    anyway, the botton-line is that

    1) i’m probably less ‘classically conservative’ than i was 10 years ago
    20 i feel like i need stick with ‘my own side’ a lot more than i did 10 years ago, cuz i don’t believe in the system to protect me against my political enemies, who seem intent on eradicating all opposition by unpersoning and culturally marginalizing

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  3. “i think my taxonomy here is off in terms of moderate vs. far left”

    I would call it the economic left vs. the identitarian left. “Far left” sounds to me like someone who supports communism or some other heterodox policy, someone like Chomsky. Similarly, “far right” indicates a person with heterodox social policies.

    Stoller and his organization seem to have very moderate views, refreshingly so in comparison to the identitarians. They are able to mention Woodrow Wilson’s policies on their website without adding the now necessary howling about his racism.

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  4. Stoller and his organization seem to have very moderate views, refreshingly so in comparison to the identitarians. They are able to mention Woodrow Wilson’s policies on their website without adding the now necessary howling about his racism.

    well, it basically seems like he/they are focused on affecting change, rather than elevating their status through flogging ppl over ideological purity tests. he was quite frank in his atlantic piece that one of the protagonists against monopoly was a segregationist.

    reality is complicated. the identitarian left (and arguably the alt right) collapse this….

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  5. 20 i feel like i need stick with ‘my own side’ a lot more than i did 10 years ago, cuz i don’t believe in the system to protect me against my political enemies, who seem intent on eradicating all opposition by unpersoning and culturally marginalizing

    I think my comments here show that I’m a pretty principled person. I also don’t believe in being vicious needlessly to my enemies. I believe in being a generous victor, not a cruel one.

    BUT, I have been urging people to pick their (political) side and stick to it, for years.

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  6. Hi Razib,
    In a study of 2004, “Modelling the recent common ancestry of all living humans” authors claim the most recent common ancestry for all humans living now in the world dates 4000 years ago. We’re now in 2018, this model of 2004 is still available ?

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  7. Perhaps the big difference is between the left who focused in relatively popular ideas (like social liberalism) and the left who focused in relatively unpopular ideas (like anti-capitalism)? If you are defending popular ideas, you can appeal to emotion (because there are already many people who agree with you), while if you are defending unpopular ideas and have to try to chage the mind of other people, you have to appeal to reason?

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  8. “reality is complicated. the identitarian left (and arguably the alt right) collapse this….”

    Their view of history, and how human communities have acted and ought to act, is as cartoonish as the most strident evangelical Christians I grew up among.

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  9. Thanks for the tip about “Dividing the Spoils” – I just requested it from my college library. A major theme of my reading over the last 3 years, esp. last year, has been the late Bronze Age, early iron age Palestine and on through the Hellenestic period in ancient Israel. The goal has been to understand the evolution of what apparently began as a royal cult rooted in the west semitic pantheon into pretty much simultaneously both rabbinical Judaism & Christianity: sort of a theological roots tour.

    This was sparked by a number of things, including, I imagine, late middle age – what my much younger sister has termed the extreme outer limits of middle age – but more consciously, a realization that a typical (reflexive, unthinking) view of the Hebrew Scriptures, even among atheist secular Jews (like myself) is that it reflects historical fact. An analog to this is Schliemann’s view of the Iliad as a reasonably accurate historical account. From what I recall of having read it 25 years ago, the early chapters of Paul Johnson’s History of the Jews is typical of this perspective, conflating myth and fact. Since becoming aware of the prima facie silliness of this point of view, I have gone down quite the rabbit hole. Having taken a break of several months from this theme, I look forward to adding this book to the list in the near future.

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  10. I assume that you are not following Quanell X and instead just getting mad at media people like a fox news grandpa.

    I think the problem generally is that journalism is clearly dead as an industry and therefore you have people who build whole careers writing listicles about the problematic language used in Fern Gully. This brand of politics must be engaging sufficient numbers to keep these outlets afloat as well as supported by the corporate powers-that-be.

    This also applies to Democratic politicians as well, who generally have staffers and donors that are college-educated white (women) or middle-class minorities and are more likely to be animated by the issue of the day on twitter. Is it particularly popular or effective for the left to do this? Not really, polls show Bernie Sanders has a higher favorability rating among African-Americans than Oprah or Hillary. I think it is a mistake to refer to that sort of performative grievance as ‘identity politics’.

    I like Stoller but don’t know much of his back story. My personal favorite left economics twitter follow is Matt Bruenig. Bruenig is on the autism spectrum and grew up poor, so he is highly engaged with welfare and inequality without getting particularly emotional about online events.

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  11. I assume that you are not following Quanell X and instead just getting mad at media people like a fox news grandpa.

    they call me a white supremacist. literally. basically, i need to be on the Right no matter my beliefs for self-preservation. the rest is commentary.

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  12. My personal favorite left economics twitter follow is Matt Bruenig. Bruenig is on the autism spectrum and grew up poor, so he is highly engaged with welfare and inequality without getting particularly emotional about online events.

    he’s been pretty involved in online drama back in the day (i am friendly with his wife on twitter).

    in general economic leftism is pretty clear and distinct. one may disagree, but it’s clear what’s going on.

    the identity politics shit is like a slippery eel. one moment ppl are mad that are slut-shaming miley cyrus, the next moment they are mad at cyrus for cultural appropriation (twerking). (that’s a real example btw of someone who i saw do a 180 within a few hours on FB)

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  13. even among atheist secular Jews (like myself)

    cultural background matters. a lot of the ‘athens vs. jerusalem’ debates secular jews still seem to prioritize jerusalem.

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  14. @Marcel Proust: You should check out “How To Read The Bible” by James Kugel. I think you might find it an illuminating read.

    @Razib: The 100x smartphone microscope looks cool. Do you have any direct experience with it?

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  15. Not sure on the meaning of “athens vs. jerusalem”. Based on a very quick google search, and trying to read between the lines, I think you are saying that secular jews who generally valorize reason/rationality too often chuck it overboard when it comes to issues surrounding Israel, and zionism more generally. If it is, “Yup, what else is new?” If this is not what you mean, please correct.

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  16. anyone else getting 500 errors? i wonder if it’s caching+me having admin privs

    I had a couple the other day.

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  17. Razib: The original use of the city names: Athens and Jerusalem is from the political philosopher Leo Strauss:

    Jerusalem and Athens: Some Introductory Reflections
    By Leo Strauss on June 1, 1967
    https://www.commentarymagazine.com/articles/jerusalem-and-athens-some-introductory-reflections/

    “All the hopes that we entertain in the midst of the confusion and dangers of the present are founded, positively or negatively, directly or indirectly, on the experiences of the past. Of these experiences, the broadest and deepest—so far as Western man is concerned—are indicated by the names of two cities: Jerusalem and Athens. Western man became what he is, and is what he is, through the coming together of biblical faith and Greek thought. In order to understand ourselves and to illuminate our trackless way into the future, we must understand Jerusalem and Athens.”

    “… is there a notion, a word that points to the highest that both the Bible and the greatest works of the Greeks claim to convey? There is such a word: wisdom. Not only the Greek philosophers but the Greek poets as well were considered to be wise men, and the Torah is said, in the Torah, to be “your wisdom in the eyes of the nations.” We, then, must try to understand the difference between biblical wisdom and Greek wisdom. We see at once that each of the two claims to be the true wisdom, thus denying to the other its claim to be wisdom in the strict and highest sense. According to the Bible, the beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord; according to the Greek philosophers, the beginning of wisdom is wonder. We are thus compelled from the very beginning to make a choice, to take a stand. Where then do we stand? Confronted by the incompatible claims of Jerusalem and Athens, we are open to both and willing to listen to each. We ourselves are not wise but we wish to become wise. We are seekers for wisdom, ‘philo-sophoi.'”

    Here are two lectures by Strauss on the subject:
    https://leostrausscenter.uchicago.edu/jerusalem-and-athens

    “Between Athens and Jerusalem: Neither philosopher nor prophet alone can sustain the West” by Pierre Manent in February 2012
    https://www.firstthings.com/article/2012/02/between-athens-and-jerusalem

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  18. No 500 errors. I have had issues with trying to connect to the Blog, including a couple after you shifted it out of Insitome, but none really lately. Twinkie’s “the other day” could have been the ones I also had.

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  19. walter, that’s false. goes back to tertullian

    True enough. But you were the one who cited the 1999 book.

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  20. Mr. Sobchak,

    Do you subscribe to this? “… the incompatible claims of Jerusalem and Athens…”

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  21. “the identity politics shit is like a slippery eel. one moment ppl are mad that are slut-shaming miley cyrus, the next moment they are mad at cyrus for cultural appropriation (twerking). (that’s a real example btw of someone who i saw do a 180 within a few hours on FB)”

    There are many internal contradiction within the cultural left (for example, in issues like prostitution or transgenderism), but these example does not seem to be one of them – being “for Miley Cyrus” or “against Miley Cyrus” is not an ideological position; the ideological positions are being “against slut-shaming” and “against cultural appropriation”, and there is any contradiction (or 180 degrees turn) is being simultaneously the two things (I personally think the “cultural appropriation” thing is silly, but this is besides the point).

    In the same way, an economic leftist could be in favor of Swedish high taxes and against Swedish school vouchers, and I not see any ideological contradiction with that (only if we treat politics as a matter of clubistic affiliation, where being for or against Miley Cyrus or for or against Sweden is more important than the issues themselves)

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  22. “Twinkie”

    Most of my posts here are reference materials, just to allow readers to look at other interesting materials. Leo Strauss was an very well known and widely followed intellectual. His writings are dense, thought provoking, and decidedly outside the mainstream (Gramiscian Marxism) of modern American academic thought.

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  23. This is a bit of an aside, but I am engaging in an interesting experiment now.

    My brother (who like myself, has had his genome sequenced) recently downloaded his raw genome and uploaded it on a site I had never heard of (Self Decode). He found that the site gave him an “F” on liver function, because he has a rare variant that increases the risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Soon after he went to a doctor for a physical, and they found out he did indeed have it. The usual treatment for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is to take choline, which is essentially a B vitamin and a sub-component of lecithin. Everyone gets some from their diets, and their bodies also produce some, however, people with fatty liver disease don’t produce enough. Choline supplements completely eliminate the disease.

    Soon after taking the supplement, my brother started losing a significant amount of weight (20 pounds) without changing his diet or exercise. Last time I talked to him he didn’t go into greater detail, but he said he “just keeps losing and losing.” Apparently a peer reviewed study from 2014 found that it dropped body fat percentage by over 10% after only a week of use. It stands to reason that if choline resolves fat deposits in your liver, it also could break down subcutaneous fat deposits.

    Regardless, I decided to take the plunge on the genetic test my brother used, and it turns out I have the bad genetic variant as well. I received choline in the mail on Monday, and have taken two tablets to date. I am currently moderately overweight (I weigh about 185, about 30 pounds more than I should). I will see if it has the same effect on me that it did on my brother.

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  24. Mr. Sobchak,

    I know who Leo Strauss was. When I was a grad student, some of my profs were Straussians. There were even Straussians in the US government during my counter-terrorism years.

    My question was whether YOU subscribe to the idea of incompatibility between “Athens and Jerusalem.”

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  25. My theory about the modern left (it is not original and probably better articulated by people like Stoller): The modern Democrats are very much creatures of the Reagan revolution. They may have opposed it rhetorically or offered softer versions, but the economic policies of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were very much in line with neoliberal economic policies implemented by Reagan (as opposed to Richard “we are all Keynesians” Nixon, who tried to follow the rules created by Democrats in the 30’s and 40’s).

    So on the economic front, the Democrats simply offered concession after concession. In the meanwhile, the Republicans embarked on a culture war, which has been a complete failure. People didn’t like it and it was quite unpopular. You only have to see how rapidly they have surrendered on the issue of gay rights, for example. It’s a complete non-starter.

    But having more or less won these culture wars, the Democrats and their supporters in the cultural sphere escalated it. Now they have become the party of public morality and behavioral policing, It has truly blinded them. For example, in regards to firearms, liberal pundits think they are discussing an object to be regulated while regions with high gun ownership see it as part of their culture, way of life, and even individual self expression, which is something they will fight bitterly to defend.

    Naturally, this opposition isn’t just seen as misinformed or alternative, but wicked, as per the tiresome demonization of white males, who now figure as modern boogey men, or Stalinist era wreckers interfering with the attainment of the inevitable SJW utopia.

    I used to be a pretty cookie cutter liberal democrat. Over the last few years, I have shifted to left economically but at the same time, more culturally nationalist. I am quite fearful that the current environment of cultural hyperventilation and identity politics will lead to a de facto balkanization of the United States (yes, I have read your article in the Jacobite, which articulated this fear well). Even worse is the hypercapitalism where the market is held up as the pinnacle of moral good; it is in my view far more destructive to the nuclear family structure than two scantily clad men dancing on a penis during a Pride parade, since the necessary time and resources required for a stable family life have become luxuries that only the upper middle class and wealthy can take for granted.

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