December 31, 2001
December 29, 2001
December 27, 2001
December 24, 2001
December 16, 2001
Q. I'm a Multiculturalist Pagan. I want to celebrate the shortest day of the year at the exact same moment as all the indigenous peoples on Mother Earth. Exactly when will that moment occur?
A. Never. Unlike Christianity, pagan religions are local. This causes practical problems for politically correct American pagans who want to use the seasons of the sun to commemorate the unity of humanity under nature. Their problem is that nature treats humans very differently depending upon where they live. For example, while Dec. 21 is the shortest day for the Inuit (i.e. Eskimos), it's the longest day for Australian Aborigines. And for Africans living on the equator, it's just another twelve-hour day like all the others. In truth, Winter Solstice celebrations are (gasp) Eurocentric! Or, to be precise, "Nordocentric."
December 13, 2001
Blonde and red hair are favorable mutations for women because they make men notice them more. Fair hair reflects more light than dark hair, so it catches the eye more. Women like shiny jewelry for the same reason.
But, why then doesn't blonde or red hair become universal? Well, it would lose scarcity value if all women had it. But, also, while it's good for your daughters, under pre-modern conditions it was bad for your sons. It tended to hurt males at hunting and war. I recall attending a golf tournament on a sunny day and standing behind the green when a friend asked, "Which players are coming next?" I glanced at the tee 500 yards away, and said, "I can't tell who all is in the next group, but you can definitely see the sunlight glinting off Greg Norman's hair." The Australian pro Norman, who is no doubt of partial Nordic descent judging by his name and appearance, has extremely blonde hair. Fortunately, by now Northwestern Europeans have largely beaten their swords into golf clubs, but in days of yore, Norman's hair would have served disastrously as a beacon calling attention to his presence. Of course, in the Nordic homelands there aren't many terribly sunny days.
Thus, blonde hair becomes more common the farther in Europe you go north, where the sun is low in the sky and the land heavily forested and therefore shady. Within Northern Europe, red hair becomes more prevalent the farther west you go, where, due to the Gulf Stream, the weather is extremely misty. (I'd guess that the Western Irish are around 1/3 red-haired.) So, in Northwest Europe, you can have lots of blondes and redheads because lack of direct sunlight meant that highly visible hair worked well for women, without much penalizing their men folk when hunting or raiding.
In line with this theory, in movie love scenes, the actress almost always has lighter hair and skin color than the actor. This suggests that we still associate fairness with the fair sex. 12/13/01
December 9, 2001
Why do conservative intellectual magazines keep shooting themselves in the foot by attacking Darwin? The magazine with the least to be embarrassed about is National Review. Although it has printed some dopey Creationist stuff, under both former editor John O'Sullivan and current editor Rich Lowry, it has also printed my neo-Darwinian analyses, Still, National Review Online editor Jonah Goldberg offers an important clue into why normally sophisticated conservative editors give the anti-Darwin crowd a platform, in his response to Michael Lind's NYT attack on the Religious Right's influence over the conservative press:
"Let us not forget that Marx and Freud were once established scientific fact as well. And, moreover, let’s see Lind’s friends at Dissent run a negative article about Marx, Freud, or Darwin."
In other words, Jonah thinks that Darwin is sacrosanct on the Left. I suspect this view is common among Right editors. In reality, the Left absolutely hates what Darwin said about human nature. See my NR essay on Edward O. Wilson's Sociobiology for the details. 12/9/01
December 7, 2001
THE TALIBAN'S DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL: All the rest of NATO may have given up on policing their militaries for homosexuals, but the United States can rest easy knowing that one military that still supports U.S. policy is the Taliban. Any consorting with beardless young men in the army is strictly forbidden. This story from the Daily Telegraph tells of a weird and fastidious obsession. - 12/5/2001 11:17:09 PM
Uh, Andy? Please tell us you didn't realize that "consorting with beardless young men in the army" is a euphemism for military men sexually violating 13-17 year-old boys under their command. It's an old Afghan custom. James Michener's informative 1963 novel Caravans refers to it frequently (Here's an amusing excerpt describing Kabul's butch-femme warrior couples, who are the product of Afghan men seldom seeing what a real woman looks like). Call me "weird and fastidious," but on this one issue, I've got to come down on the same side as the Taliban against the alliance of Andy Sullivan and the armed pederasts. 12-7-01
December 5, 2001
First, Russia's major long-term major external threat is a Chinese invasion of Siberia. The situation in the East is getting dicier every decade. The Chinese population will expand to about 1.5 billion before stabilizing. The Russian population is 142 million and dropping with no bottom in sight. Illegal immigration from China to Siberia is slowly tipping the balance with Siberia.
The main hope for the Russian economy is discovering more natural resources, but each new oilfield or mine in Siberia is an added inducement for a Kuwait-style invasion by the People's Liberation Army. Putin knows his army is terrible and he doesn't have the money to make it much better. And he wants to cut way back on his nukes to save money, at a time when the Chinese are expanding their nuclear war fighting capabilities. Presumably, he'll keep enough nukes to deter the Chinese, but no head of state sleeps well when the main thing preventing invasion is the presumption that he, personally, will initiate an exchange of ICBMs that will result in the deaths of millions of his own people.
There's got to be a better way.
So, if you are Putin, why not start acting like Russia already has a mutual defense pact with the mighty USA? American has been attacked, so Russia is going to its aid. Putin is hoping to build up the presumption that if Russia is attacked by China, therefore America will go to Russia's aid.
Second, I suspect, Putin wants America favor the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation. His major internal threat is from Muslims inside Russia. The defining problem of the Muscovite state over the last half millennium has been the lack of natural borders on the great Eurasian plain. Whereas mountainous Switzerland can remain both small and independent, in the East, size matters. The barriers to expansion are low, but so are the barriers to dissolution. The Russians were content to let Chechnya have its autonomy after the First Chechen War, but constant kidnapping raids by Chechen gangsters into the Muslim but loyal Russian region of Dagestan outraged the Russian people, making possible Putin's Second Chechen War.
Our 1999 attack on Yugoslavia over Kosovo terrified the Russians. Here was the U.S. violating the national sovereignty of a Slavic, Eastern Orthodox-run state (remind you of anybody?), breaking an internationally recognized country apart, handing a big chunk of its lawful territory over to the control of Muslim gangsters and facilitating their ethnic cleansing of the native Slav population, all because America didn't like the tactics being used by the legal government to put down an internal rebellion. Tactics that were no worse than what Putin shortly thereafter found necessary in Chechnya (or, for that matter, that Turkey found necessary in Kurdistan.) This example that American foreign policy can be driven more by the volatile emotions of elites rather than by our national interest suggests that Russia needs to appeal to America's emotions by coming to its aid now.
Third, we're likely to see the revival of the ancient rivalry between Moscow and Istanbul. Turkey's GNP is about two fifth's as large as Russia's, so it's no longer all that one-sided. Plus, the Turks are much tougher warriors than most Middle Eastern Muslims (remember Gallipoli?).
You may have seen the interesting WSJ op-ed by a Turkish writer proposing that the U.S. subsidize Turkey in exporting its version of secularism to the Islamic world. What the Turkish writer wanted in return was the U.S. favoring Turkey extending its sphere of influence to the former Soviet but ethnic Turkish states of Central Asia. The U.S. has long seen Turkey as just about the best that you can hope for from a country with an Islamic population. It's not at all inconceivable that we will shift our Middle Eastern aid from such troublesome "allies" as Egypt, Jordan, Israel, and Saudi Arabia to the much more satisfactory Turkey. Putin is trying to head this Turkish threat off by making these Russian puppet governments in Central Asia cooperate with the U.S. so that we support Putin's hegemony over these potentially oil-rich countries.
I think a lot of my readers are turned off by my reliance on Darwinian logic. So, one of these days I'm going to need to write a full-blown article about "liberal creationism" that will put it all in perspective.
In general, the more sophisticated religious creationists admit that the various kinds of Darwinian selection (artificial, natural, and sexual) work. They don't deny that, say, germs are rapidily evolving under the impact of antibiotics. None of them have a problem with believing that artificial selection can create new breeds of dogs or pigs or whatever. They call this "microevolution" and it's okay with them. What they refuse to believe is that new species can emerge (what they call "macroevolution").
Now, I believe that the concept of "species" is vastly overrated in importance (e.g., lions and tigers can get together and make perfectly fertile little ligers and tions, so are lions and tigers different species or just different races? And, ultimately, what difference does it make?) So, the differences between microevolution and macroevolution seem unimportant to me.
Still, since most of my interests and all of what passes for my expertise are in human subjects rather than lions and tigers, I can pretty much live with smart Creationists who accept microevolution. If you tell me that the modern human species was flat out created ex nihilo 100,000 years ago, and that humans have been genetically diversifying ever since according to the processes of selection, we can go a long way together toward understanding things like race. (I can't of course deal with people who think the Earth was created in 4004 BC and Noah's flood killed the dinosaurs and dug the Grand Canyon - although the concept of racial diversification is at least introduced in the Genesis account of the sons of Noah.)
December 4, 2001
I wrote on Nov. 7: "Imperialism is a serious business requiring a serious foundation. If these plans to conquer and rebuild Iraq and other rogues states, however, are not to prove wholly quixotic, it may well be that the U.S. would have to first lay the groundwork by seizing control of Saudi Arabia and its oil wealth. If America is not willing to take that step, then it should reassess just how committed it is to broadening the war and afterwards overseeing the region." - 12/4/01
Not being invited to too many parties on Embassy Row, I only recently got my first look at Prince Bandar, the notoriously genial Saudi ambassador to the U.S., probably the most successful ambassador of his era. (I did, however, once talk to the guys who installed the James Bond-style security system for his 55,000 sq. ft. mansion above Aspen. In case you're planning to truckbomb his ski house, one word of advice: Don't. You'd be dead before you got 50 feet up the driveway.)
A recent Newsweek ran a photo of Bandar and Colin Powell. They could well be brothers. Since Powell has some Jewish ancestors, he has some Semitic in him too.
Prince Bandar would almost certainly be considered "black" if he was an America (he's at least as black as, say, rapper Ice-T.) The Prince is the illegitimate daughter of a Saudi prince and a "servant" girl. (Since black slavery wasn't outlawed in Arabia until 1962, I'd presume she may have been a slave girl.) I always thought it was ridiculous that when Malcolm X made a pilgrimage to Mecca only two years after the abolition of Saudi slavery, he came back with a vision of racial harmony.
Yet ... Malcolm was on to something. Much of the strength of Islam stems from its universalism. In an ancient part of the world that seems permanently subdivided into hostile clans, it offers a higher philosophy than ethnic nepotism. That was part of the early appeal of the Taliban - the belief that Koranic students would raise Afghanistan above warlordism. Sadly, it turned out there were even worse things than warlordism. - 12/4/01
Now, if you had a picture of the Masai draining blood from the neck of a cow and a caption saying that the Masai live on milk and cow's blood, boys would be interested in that. And if you had a picture of Masai girl on her wedding day and a caption that said that this bride was bought from her father for 40 cows, girls would be interested in that.
Similarly, the Pathan (Pashtun) culture of Afghanistan is strangely fascinating to Western males - Churchill, Kipling, and other Victorians were partly horrified, partly entranced by it. James Michener said that Afghanistan is the one country he would most like to revisit. But everything that's interesting about Pathan life is horribly non-PC, so it's best just to ignore them completely.
Schools can't teach about what other cultures are actually all about, because what they typically are interested in - war, distinct sex roles, patriarchy, sexual jealousy and control of female reproduction, hunting, religion, vengeance, aristocracy, ethnocentrism, etc. - are all things that kids are being taught are what makes the West uniquely bad compared to these very PC other cultures that are being oppressed by the west. I absolutely loved geography in grade school and look how evil I turned out to be.
From the PC perspective, it's much safer to teach abstract mathematics than geography, which is why schools are pretty good at math these days (at least when teaching kids who are genetically capable) and terrible at geography. - 12/4/01