October 2008

A commenter as Sailer’s linked to this (if the link expires next month maybe this will work, though it doesn’t currently) and it just seemed too weird not to link to. I find it interesting that they don’t present a this-side-bad-that-side-good narrative throughout their website or plug moderation/bipartisanship but rather have some genetic idea of symbiosis. That should link to an earlier article there on r/K selection worth checking out (though I suspect most readers will be less favorable to r). My own belief is that political leanings are substantially heritable but politics is not driven by the selection of alleles. I don’t think America has become more mean-spirited either, I don’t think their surveys are reliable and a lot of their other conjectures strike me as wrong. Oddly enough they didn’t take the genetic war of the sexes as seriously as they should (they even used the same picture so I was sure they’d go for it).

The anti-wack on these sorts of issues is Andrew Gelman. Here is an interesting one from him on American political geography (contrast that with the Neuro guys idea of the eternal north-south divide). Like previous site in the r/K page he muses about the cause of big cities orienting certain ways. Ed Glaeser has a theory for that here.

Kind of update: Razib points to the blog Calculated Exuberance which takes an economic perspective to several topics including (recently at least) theories of regional politics.

A GNXP commenter points to a paper on our four-legged pals. In contrast to wolves, our pampering (“relaxed selection” or selection for tameness rather than healthiness) has allowed them to develop more mitochondrial mutations. This is postulated as having facilitated the great diversity in the species as witnessed by all the different breeds. Of course it’s published by evil James Watson’s evil Cold Springs eugenics lab so maybe you should denounce it or hide. I don’t know much about coyotes, but since they seem to have diverged from wolves well before dogs did I got to thinking about what the cause might have been. It wasn’t domestication, as with dogs. I think they tend to go after smaller game than wolves and are less pack-oriented, but on such scanty knowledge I couldn’t come up with something like Wrangham’s root-theory of human evolution.

Earlier today I was at a sportsman’s club and saw a man shooting clays with his daughter. Right on, keep the tradition alive. They were hispanic, which gives me some hope that things I cherish will survive even if Frank Salter’s nightmare comes true (is that the mindset of a Catholic priest?). He also had his dog with him, cowering by his feet because of the loud gun shots. Not right on. If the dog is running in the field it wouldn’t be so hard on his ears. It was admittedly too hot to leave a dog in the car, but in that case just leave the dog at home. It’ll appreciate your practice when you bring down a bird.

I’d echo much of what Larison says here:

I begin to understand that their complaints were veiled pleas for acceptance.  As I have watched Palinites enthuse about their Joan of Arc, it has occurred to me that they want nothing more than validation for their way of life; criticism of Palin wounds them because they think it is a judgement on how they live.  Likewise, secular conservatives wish to be accepted and validated by their religious confreres.  Even Andrew’s often overwrought and ultimately misguided complaints about so-called “Christianism” are at bottom arguments in favor of the proposition that is is possible to be conservative but critical of religion in politics.

As an irreligious but non-secularist righty I found it a bit odd that people like Sager were ranting about the power of religious conservatives in the GOP that had delivered jack squat to them. Perhaps if I did feel the glow of the Holy Spirit I’d be more sympathetic to Andrew Sullivan. I still regard much of it as just the same silly Dougherty Doctrine (and for the record I don’t think my preferred policies or politics are or would be popular) but I suppose I should have had understood that they’d be pushed to feel that way.

I’d also like to add (I forget if it’s to Schwenkler or Larison) that it’s not merely metropolitan intellectual elites but middle class suburbanites that have been increasingly alienated. I don’t just say that because of my previously expressed fondness for the suburbs but because that’s where the modal American lives and they once served as a synechdoche for the right-wing vote.

A good response to Brooks not linked from Larison & friends is this one at Volokh that I just updated my “political myths and realities” entry with.

I think I read this story before, but it’s good enough that I’ll link to it this time. I was getting kind of bummed by the COBOL-like language I’m learning now, but I’m grateful that at least it’s not assembly (and I only really programmed in assembly with MIPS, not the supposedly hairier but more standard x86 architecture). I may miss out on the sort of wackiness described in the link, but such things are better enjoyed vicariously. Comedy is you falling to your death down an open sewer-hole, tragedy is me getting a papercut.

Testimony from the victim. I already thought he was an awful person who should be in jail and would be were it not for the exclusionary rule, and there is an additional reason untampered by Mark Felt’s J. Edgar Hooverism. Since this is yet again a big issue, I will remind people of my earlier post on guilt by association.

Why does it fall on lefty Glenn Loury to make that point while supposedly conservative John McWhorter thoughtlessly leans with the current political winds? Because Loury is awesome.

UPDATE: That took a long time before realizing I had pasted the wrong link from TAOTP.
So don’t rely on them or try to enlist their assistance. Best to avoid any involvement.

I was looking through retired urologist’s blogroll which led me to this piece of primitivism that I thought stupid. On the upside that linked to this google talk on inertial electrostatic confinement fusion, which releases no neutrons and no radiation (that ought to shut up the anti-nuclear energy hippies). The speaker, Dr. Robert Bussard, seems quite old but is also lively and cracks jokes throughout. The claims he makes for it are quite astounding, and you can skip ahead to about the hour and two minute mark to see him summarize them on the page, including ending the greenhouse effect and smog, the end of water shortages, much cheaper ethanol, the elimination of existing nuclear waste and a number of other things (although the real reason he started work on it was for space travel!). He also claims that existing fossil fuel plants could be easily modified to add this capability. I’m skeptical of some of that, and think he could use some economic lessons on the “resource curse” and the cause of third world poverty. Throughout the talk he gives an interesting tale of stupid mistakes obvious in retrospect (though a whole lot was still over my head) and the trials and tribulations of government contract work. Looking at the comments I see that Bussard died last October, but he succeeded in getting funding, although the problem of needing the kind of expertise only those over 70 learned (vacuum tubes and such) might be harder to surmount as time goes by.

Pop question: name a polyhedron whose vertices have an even number of faces.

Walt & Mearsheimer’s book is actually rather boring and contains plenty of disclaimers. That’s likely the result of how much flak they caught for their original article, although I can’t say it did them any good (on the other hand, what should you expect?). I was expecting something more intentionally controversial, but I think they wanted to project a more sober and mainstream image. There is no discussion of “realist” theory at all, which is surprising as the authors are known for taking that approach to unusual lengths. It is also surprising because the thesis of the book goes against the core assumptions of realism, which they admit in their online reply to critics of their original London Review of Books article:

We concede that the phenomenon described in “The Israel Lobby” is not consistent with realism, but three comments are in order.  First, no social science theory explains all phenomena; there are always important exceptions that must be explained on other grounds.  Second, because realism portrays international politics as a competitive realm where mistakes are penalized, it implies states that are overly swayed by narrow interest groups are likely to undertake policies that turn out to be costly.  Realism cannot explain the lobby’s impact, but it helps us understand its effects.  Third, America’s enormous material power and favorable geopolitical position give it the latitude to act contrary to its interests, even though it would clearly be better off if it behaved differently.  Thus, although realism does not include factors like domestic lobbies, it does help us understand some of the circumstances that give them greater influence.   In any case, whether this particular article was consistent with all of our prior work is not the critical issue at hand, which is whether our claims about the lobby’s influence and its negative impact are correct.

I suppose they should be commended for admitting the limitations of their favored theory, but it would be preferable if they laid out in advance which situations are best analyzed from a realist perspective and which aren’t. I have to say that I agree that the relative immunity of the U.S due to its great power has led it to take stupid risks simply because it could afford to. This would suggest that Israel is more likely to act correctly according to its self-interest because it is in a more precarious situation. The U.S and Israel are both democracies, so perhaps we should expect distortion in the foreign policies of both countries.

I also note that in their reply they list among objections the existence of “plenty of countervailing centres of
power, such as paleoconservatives, Arab and Islamic advocacy groups… and the diplomatic establishment” as well as “the so-called oil lobby (either in the form of oil companies or wealthy Arab oil producers)”. In their book they only mention Arabs/Muslims and oil, in addition to the “military industrial complex”. No mention is made of Michael Neumann’s Victory and Recruitment, which gives a good debunking of many candidates. They rightly make no reference to paleos, because they are completely impotent. The “diplomatic establishment” sounds like something Mencius Moldbug would blame (as parodied here). James Q. Wilson might be a better man for that phenomenon than a realist.

One thing they changed my mind on was Israel’s position on the Iraq war. I had been persuaded by people who said years after the invasion that Israel opposed it because they feared it would empower Iran. The authors show that is a misrepresentation of the past and that while Israel initially was angling for action against Iran, once American neocons got the ball rolling against Iraq (which should indicate that they aren’t receiving instructions from Israel) Israel pushed that forward, with AIPAC being discreet but definite in its support for war. They failed to change my mind on Osama bin Laden’s motivations. Actions speak louder than words, and while plenty of terrorist groups attack Israel, al Qaeda has been absent. That they have attacked “moderate Arab” regimes and the United States supports the importance of their other grievances.

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